Digital-SF Magazine is an online only publication of science fiction stories; issues are formatted for the Kindle reader. All stories are sold on consignment. Learn more here.
SQF: Why did you start this magazine?
AB: Hmm. Money? Fame? Hubris? Glib answers aside, I see a niche that needs filling. There are never enough venues for short stories, science fiction or otherwise. At the same time, electronic readers, such as Kindle, Nook, and their smartphone apps, are proliferating. Why not bring them together? While self-publishing of eBook novels has gone beyond anything the old ‘vanity press’ could have dreamed of, short stories and novelettes still need a venue. And writers can always benefit from the services of an editor. So with that in mind, Digital-SF Magazine was born.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?
One - A good story. Something about the story has to be engaging. Either the story begs to be told, or the characters are so life-like that you want to read about them, or the images of new places or new things are so compelling that you want to learn more about them.
Two – It needs to be science fiction. Our guidelines spell out what that means for Digital-SF. But in brief, it’s stories about science- or technology-based conflict, stories taking place in speculative times and/or places, or drama that takes place with ray-guns and rocket ships.
Three – Good writing. Good spelling, grammar, and syntax. Consistent style. An editor can and will tweak the use of punctuation and fonts (such as quotation marks, italics, ellipses), but if the author's style of writing is sloppy or inconsistent, it can be very hard on the reader.
SQF: What common mistakes do you encounter that turn you off to a submission?
AB: No story to the story. It’s all too common to see beginning writers string together a series of descriptions and dialogs that don’t seem to go anywhere. Also, personal narratives. They may look like first person narratives, but they sound like excerpts from a personal diary. Good first person narratives can be very engaging, and some diarists have filled their pages with high prose. But poor writing is just poor writing. And of course, what really tweaks my tea kettle is a really good story, that just isn’t science fiction. I love the story, but Digital-SF is about ‘SF.’
SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a submission?
AB: I always try to give some positive comment about a submission. And if the submission could be usable with just a little more work, I’ll make those comments. But I don’t want to get into the role of unsolicited mentor. There are many good places to go to share stories and get them critiqued. But that should be done before they are submitted for publication. And to be honest, just because I don’t find a story suitable, it doesn’t mean it’s bad, or that some other publication won’t like it.
SQF: Based on your experience as an editor, what have you learned about writing?
AB: Well, you need a story; you need something you want to tell. And you need skill to write down the story. That takes practice. Surprisingly, there are fewer stories out there than one would think. But well told stories, even if they have been told before, are well worth the reading.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
AB: Ask, “Why do writers need editors?” I would answer that writers often forget about the trees when they are planting a forest. Their vision is already alive in their head. For the reader, it has to grow. An editor gets to see it grow, and will notice if there is barren ground (missing plot elements) or badly planted trees (grammar, syntax, etc.). Together, great things can happen.
Thank you, Alan. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.
NEXT POST: 5/28--Six Questions for Paul McQuade, Editor-in-chief, Ekto Magazine