SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?
- Uniqueness. The story has to be something different, something you wouldn't find anywhere else. If it's a take on an old story line, character, plot development, etc., then it has to be a new take. I don't want tired old re-dones.
- Quirkiness. I want it to be weird in some way. If you achieve this one, chances are you'll achieve the first one. But that's not always the case. I have rejected weird stories that were too similar to other stories we've published recently. But if you give us a fresh take on the weird, then we'll likely like it. Quirkiness can be weird, odd, nutty, macabre ... any of those as long as the story doesn't fit into any boxes.
- Well-told. It's got to be quality writing.
SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission (other than the converse of the above)?
AT: Not following guidelines. If I get an e-mail with no attachment, I don't consider it. Another thing is predictability. If I can tell where the story is going, I don't want it. Otherwise, if it's something that would fit into a mainstream market too well, then it's probably not for us. There are some exceptions, but not many.
SQF: You publish a number of series (Biblical Legends Anthology, Flim-Flam Games, Gaslight, and others). Briefly, tell us about them.
AT: BLAS is a series of digital anthologies we publish in all the major e-book formats. Each theme is announced well in advance and writers are asked to tell a weird story based on that theme. More often than not, they are asked to not include Biblical characters though the setting may very well be Biblical. We've published two so far—Garden of Eden and Sulfurings: Tales from Sodom & Gomorrah. Deluge: Stories of Survival and Tragedy is forthcoming. We're taking submissions for Land of Nod right now.
Flashes in the Pan are another name we give to the Flim-Flam Games. It's flash fiction. All stories should be 1,234 words, give or take a baker's dozen. That's just a clever way of saying "keep it short." If it's good and it's only 350 words, we'll still publish it. But we do want at least 300 words. All flash fiction submitted are included in the Flim-Flam Games, which are monthly contests where the winner receives $5. They are themed, but writers don't have to follow the theme. You get points if you do. Winners are chosen partly on the ability of the writer to address the monthly theme, partly on the reading preference of the garden gnomes, and partly on the prorated social media shares the stories get during the month.
Gaslights are news analyses of weird or odd news. We ask writers to find a recent news story that is odd or bizarre in some way and give a short commentary on it. It can be serious commentary, funny commentary, straight up satire, or odd and quirky, but it should be something original.
In Local Legends, we ask writers to blur the lines between the real and imaginary. We want stories about the legends that are told in your neck of the woods. We don't want retellings of popular legends. We want you to tell us the legends that local people tell where you are located. Writers can tell them exactly as they've been told by the locals or they can embellish them. We just want them well-told. E.S. Wynn hit it on the head. We now pay $5 for well-told local legends.
Gnome Bombs are photo bombs of people with garden gnomes. Don't do anything that will get you into trouble, but send us pictures of yourself, or your friends, with garden gnomes. The quirkier the better.
We're soon introducing a new imprint, the name of which hasn't been decided upon. We'll be seeking fictional interviews. These will be interviews between two or more fictional characters. It can be a job interview, a news interview, feature story interview, anything imaginable, but it has to be written in an interview format where there is an interviewer and at least one interviewee. Points for originality.
We're also accepting submissions for novella-length mythologies. I call them Mythicals. We want retellings of popular myths or original mythmaking. Odd characters, bizarre situations, weird tropes ... these will get our attention.
Unless the story is horror-driven, you'll have an easier time getting published at GGP if you make us laugh. If it's absurd, so much the better. For the record, absurd doesn't necessarily mean funny, but it doesn't hurt to elicit a chuckle.
SQF: What magazines do you read?
AT: Magazines? Ha! We're totally digital. These days I am more likely to read an e-book on my Kindle. There are a number of blogs and online journals that I like. Anything by Thunderune Publishing. This includes: Weird Year, Smashed Cat Magazine, Yesteryear Fiction, Farther Stars.
He's got others, but these are my favorite.
I also like Bizarro Central and Bizarro Fiction Magazine. I've recently taken a liking to Broken Pencil Magazine. Back in the day, I liked reading Omni magazine, but they died a while back. There are various and sundry speculative fiction websites and online journals that I visit every now and then.
SQF: What do you have against chickens?
AT: (Chuckles) Nothing, as long as they stay on their side of the fence.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
AT: I think you should have asked, "What are your sources of inspiration?"
There's a fairly complex answer, but I'll try to distill it. First, I grew up in Texas in a typical lower-middle income redneck quasi-Christian family with all the typical dysfunctions. So I'm deeply influenced by the absurdly stupid.
Beyond that, my major literary influences (for fiction) have been: Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Heinlein, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., David Lynch, Franz Kafka, Dr Seuss, and various dystopian authors.
I also like to watch weird TV shows. I grew up watching "The Twilight Zone" and "Tales from the Crypt." These days I like "The Walking Dead" (but I don't write about zombies and aren't likely to accept zombie stories at GGP) and anything you'll find on the H2 channel. I particularly like hearing about all the wacky ancient alien theories.
I've always loved a good story. From Homer to Quentin Tarantino, my heroes have always been the people who make us laugh, cry, and want to kill our mothers.
Cult leaders, strong cultish personalities, cultic groups, mind control, the supernatural and the preternatural, serial killers, absurdity, fall-on-the-floor humor ... these are just some of the things that I find inspiring. And chickens. I love chickens.
Thank you, Allen. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.
NEXT POST: Six Questions for Rebecca Starks, Editor-in-Chief, Mud Season Review