11/2013 - Site no longer available.
microcosms is a Twitter zine publishing speculative fiction, fantasy and horror poetry. Learn more here.
SQF: Why did you start this magazine?
SW: Well, I have penchant for short form speculative poetry—I was co-editor, for three years (2007-2009), of the SFPA’s annual Dwarf Stars Award anthology, which highlights the best short short (10 lines or less) speculative poems of the year. After being asked to pass the baton on to another editor, I wanted to create a new market that specifically published only poems of this nature—scifaiku, as they’re generally called. There are other great markets that include scifaiku such as Scifaikuest and Star*Line as well as other Twitter zines which publish microfiction (some of them speculative) and micropoetry peppered with the occasional speculative pieces, but at the time that I created microcosms there wasn’t a market that was exclusive to short speculative poetry. This was in April of 2010. I chose April because it’s national poetry month in the US and my birthday is April Fool’s Day.
Twitter was a burgeoning social media outlet, and I thought, why not let the nature of its 140 maximum characters work to my advantage as a format for a market for short poetry. Twitter is a free service as well as a way to reach a large audience, so it seemed a perfect match.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a poem and why?
SW: Well I like unique perspectives and, like with traditional haiku, ideas that juxtapose each other—this often works as a sort of “twist ending”—you think that the piece is about a specific subject and then that kireji (cutting word or sometimes punctuation like an em dash) pops in and you’re sent somewhere else entirely. This works especially well when dealing with speculative subjects.
I like humor and, although I publish all types of speculative works, I tend to like stuff with a dark edge.
Below is a sampling of poetry from microcosms.
This was the debut poem by Joanne Merriam:
the locals roll their eyestalks
at our loud English
A beautiful, existential piece from Geoffrey Landis:
the wind, the hand of God,
consequence of words
Another piece I love by Marge Simon, who I debuted with this year:
Everything that could go wrong, did.
My alarm didn't go off, so I slept all day.
Awoke to see the stars disappear,
one by one.
And I occasionally publish something of my own:
Märzen, sauerkraut and
Of course, these all are reformatted to fit the perimeters of Twitter. This is how they look when posted at microcosms:
alien tourists/the locals roll their eyestalks/at our loud English//JM
Three things/invisible:/the wind, the hand of God,/consequence of words/not said//GL
Tuesday://Everything that could go wrong, did./My alarm didn't go off, so I slept all day./Awoke to see the stars disappear,/one by one.//MS
Märzen, sauerkraut and/braaains!/Zombie Oktoberfeast/SMW
SQF: What are the top three reasons a poem is rejected, other than not fitting into your answers to the above question and why?
SW: Because of the limits imposed by the form, it is sort of a specialized market with specific people who know how to write this sort of poetry, so rejections are minimal. The first reason is just the fact that I publish three poems, by one featured author, per week. So if a poet sends me 10 poems for consideration and I pick three, the other seven are technically rejected, I suppose. Another reason is that I receive submissions that are not speculative, or are twitfic instead of poetry.
SQF: Approximately what percentage of your submissions do you accept?
SW: The first year, I tweeted one poem per week day, so approximately 20 poems a month because of that, and the fact that it was a new market, the acceptance rate was easily 75%+ —I actually had to solicit poets to send me stuff. Because of Dwarf Stars, I had a nice list of people to contact to get started. That daily posting became a little hard to keep track of (I posted the same accepted poem twice within a few months), which is why I switched to the one featured poet per week format, which I mentioned in answer #3. I’d say that the % of acceptance is much higher under the new format.
SQF: Will you publish a poem an author posted on a personal blog?
SW: I do publish reprints, but they were usually originally in print markets. I’d probably shy away from stuff from blogs or other Twitter zines only because those particular poems are already easily available to read online.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
SW: Can’t really think of one, although I would like to make a few final comments. First, this is a paying market (at least enough to buy a beer after work as one poet told me she was going to do when I paid her her $3). Also, you don’t need a Twitter account to read microcosms (just click the link: http://twitter.com/#!/microcosms), nor do you need one to submit.
Thank you, Stephen. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.
NEXT POST: 12/01--Six Questions for E. S. Wynn, Editor, Fractal Novels