Friday, March 8, 2013

Six Questions for Sam Bellotto Jr., Editor, Perihelion Science Fiction

PerihelionSF publishes "hard" science fiction, that is science and/or technology must be integral to the story. No fantasy. No horror. We also publish science and science fiction related non-fiction. We are a paying market. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?

SB: The primary ingredient I look for is what I describe as “a honking good story.” The writer needs to tell me something that I haven't heard before, and it better be interesting. I don't like the kind of post-Hippie introspective prose being sold way too much these days as science fiction. Well, it ain't. I didn't like it when Afros and bell-bottoms were all the rage. I don't like it now.

I like good writing, crisp writing, careful writing. An abundant use of adjectives, metaphors, and $50 words – purple prose – isn't going to produce a sale. Keep the poetry for poems (which we don't accept, by the way). The best writing is clear and economic.

The best writing is also organic; it comes from the gut. Keep the narration to a minimum. Let the characters and circumstances tell the story. If I can't get the image out of my head of the author pitching me a story as opposed to reading a story, I won't buy it. 

SQF: What are the top three reasons a submission is rejected, other than not fitting into your answers to the above question and why?

SB: It's not really science fiction. It's mainstream fiction that takes place on Mars or in a spaceship. Mars could easily be substituted with New Jersey. The spaceship could as easily be an ocean liner.

It's been done too many times before. Yes, there are hardly any truly original plots around. That's not an excuse. It's how you twist or embellish a traditional plotline that makes the old stuff new again.

It's cluttered. Unnecessarily complex plots develop plot holes. It may be nice that the heroine has a boyfriend, but does his presence advance the story or merely add a few pages of snappy relationship banter? Character development is important, but don't take a time out from the narrative to do so.

SQF: Which of the following statements is true and why? Plot is more important than character. Character is more important than plot. Plot and character are equally important.

SB: Plot and character are equally important. We don't buy too many character studies. On the other hand, if the characters aren't fully fleshed-out, or believable, that will invite a rejection.

SQF: What advice can you offer new authors hoping to publish their first submission in Perihelion?

SB: You might have better luck with a story between 2,000 and 4,000 words, tightly focused, imaginative. Make sure the science is integral to the story. Space stations are futuristic, but if the story can be told as well on board a bullet train, it probably is not for us. 

SQF: Based on your experience as an editor, what have you learned about writing?

SB: Too many people think you can become a writer the way you can learn to ride a bike. It's genetic; it's a talent you are born with. You can work and study to polish that talent, but if it isn't there to begin with, like the vein of ore in the quarry, you'd be better off, and happier I think, in another career. We're not all writers. We're not all baseball players. We're not even all good cooks. 

SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?

SB: Everybody seems to have their own definition of science fiction. How do I define science fiction? I'm still rather fond of the concept I grew up with: that a science fiction story explores the relationship of science with the human condition. “Hard” science fiction involves scientific elements that may not exist yet – time travel, cyborgs, extraterrestrial commerce – but are at least plausible.

Thank you, Sam. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

NEXT POST: 3/12--Six Questions for Mandi M. Lynch, Editor, Ink Monkey Magazine

1 comment:

  1. Sam is right on all counts. It doesn't matter if your grammar is impeccable, there is not a single misspelling in the entire ms, or the size of your vocabulary. If you are not a writer/author, that fact shouts from the page. It can even be a good/great story line, if you have to look for it, it is of no value. I've had a couple of truly wonderful stories come in that were written so badly it made me cry. I worked a deal with the people who had sent them that if they would go along with my rewriting their story, I would publish it. For me to do that, the story has to be something special.

    As far as Sam is concerned, I have worked with Sam and he has published a few of my works. There has been only one on which he didn't have some suggestions or comments and every time, the works were improved. That is the sign of a good editor.