Friday, September 5, 2014

Six Questions for Dash, Editor, Expanded Horizons

The mission of Expanded Horizons is to increase diversity in speculative fiction and to create a venue for the authentic expression of under-represented voices in the genre. The magazine publishes fiction and nonfiction to 6000 words and artwork. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Dash: I started Expanded Horizons in 2008 in order to help increase diversity in the speculative fiction genre. While there are other publications that believe in and support diversity, and while there are many more such magazines today, I was unaware of any speculative fiction magazine at the time that had diversity as the core of their mission.

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

Dash: First, I look for submissions which fit with our mission and fit within the scope of what we publish, i.e. that the submission is speculative fiction (or an essay about speculative fiction), that it fits within our word count (unless it’s art), and that it either a) is by an author from an under-represented background, or b) is about a protagonist of an under-represented background.

Second, I look at how well-written a submission is: world-building, plot, character development, use of language, originality of ideas, and other things. I look for authenticity of voice, e.g. does the author share the same background as the under-represented characters in the story? If not, has the author worked closely with people from that background in order to construct and tell the story?

Third, I look for stories (usually by people of under-represented backgrounds themselves) that challenge stereotypes and other “single stories” that are dominant in the field of speculative fiction (and often in the broader culture as well). I want stories that expand our horizons!

SQF: What do you want authors to know about the submissions you reject and how authors should respond to comments?

Dash: Authors should take the time to read the guidelines and some of our back issues before submitting to the magazine. All of our back issues are available for free on the site. We make these back issues available for free, in part, so that authors can get a good sense of the work we have published in the past, as a predictor of work we will accept in the future.

We have also tagged all of our stories by topic, so that authors of a story with a particular theme can see examples of works we have published before that share that same theme. If authors have questions about whether their work is a fit for us, they should query before submitting.

I cannot respond to every submission with a personalized rejection letter. However, when I do, I would like authors to think carefully about my comments on their story. Sometimes I offer feedback on the world-building, characterization, plot, and other technical aspects of a work. Other times I point out problematic ways in which their story presents women and/or minorities, e.g. the trend that stories with female “protagonists” too often feature viewpoint characters who take no meaningful actions nor make any decisions in the entire story (and then sometimes, are rescued by men). Many authors who write such stories have never reflected on the passivity of their female characters.

Authors should respond to feedback and criticism professionally and courteously.

Also, please note that a rejection letter with feedback is not a re-write request, unless explicitly specified.

SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a submission?

Dash: I provide feedback on about half of the stories I receive. This number may be higher or lower depending on how much time I have.

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

Dash: I’ve learned to be more thoughtful, reflective and informed about what I read. For example, I’ve learned to more thoughtfully distinguish between stories written by people from under-represented backgrounds and experiences, and stories written “about” people like them by authors who may never have even met someone from that particular group, who are working solely off of media representations and the like. I’ve developed a deeper appreciation for why this distinction is important.

I’ve also become much more familiar with common stereotypes, especially those which are limiting of and damaging to minority groups, and I like to think I’ve learned a great deal about how these stereotypes can be avoided and subverted.

I’ve also learned about how dynamics of privilege play out in writing and publishing, and how these dynamics often work (intentionally or unintentionally) to silence or marginalize people from under-represented backgrounds. It’s not a level playing field out there.

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


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

NEXT POST: 9/12--Six Questions for Ujjwal Dey, Editor,

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