Friday, October 2, 2015

Six Questions For Casey Brown, Executive Editor, Strangelet

Strangelet is a journal of speculative fiction that publishes fiction, poetry, nonfiction, graphic stories/comics, and artwork. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Casey Brown: Back in 2012, several grad students in Emerson's MA Publishing & Writing program, myself included, attended the AWP conference in Chicago. One of the panels that I attended was titled “Beyond Pulp—The Futuristic and Fantastic as Literary Fiction.” During this panel Matt Williamson, one of the panelists and editor of the fantastic annual Unstuck (now defunct, alas), impressed upon us the lack of journals which catered to the well-crafted, yet bizarre, fantastical, magical, speculative, or just plain weird. Unstuck, he said, was receiving far more publishable stories than it could handle. Matt practically begged the audience to start literary genre journals. A huge fan of smart, weird flash and short fiction, I then pitched the idea of a new literary genre rag to several of my grad student friends; luckily, they agreed that it was a fantastic idea. The journal would have two purposes: one to support new and emerging genre authors by providing a venue for their publication; and it would serve as an outlet to allow us to use the skills and passions we each had for publishing that were not otherwise being used in our day-to-day jobs.

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

CB: I personally look for uniqueness of concept, show-don't-tell, well-crafted descriptions of characters and scene, and drama (tension) that brings the characters to life. Not necessarily in that order. Sorry, I know those are four things instead of three but those are the four things I find to be most important. I'm continually blown away by the unique stories that get past our screeners and advisory editors and end up in my virtual pile. A pet peeve of mine is show-don't-tell; I want to be immersed in the world the story is set in. Regarding character and scene descriptions, I do feel like this is a neglected area of short and flash fiction; so many authors have a great concept for a short story but they shoehorn it into being flash—by that I mean they try to trim it down to be so precisely about a single moment in a character's life that they don't tell us anything else about that character. This can be very powerful in flash but it is, in my opinion, overdone in short fiction. And finally, regarding drama, I want to see that characters' actions have consequences; that they learn, grow, fail, die, evolve, regret, succeed, and/or fuck up.

SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?

CB: For fiction: Scene without drama. Drama without scene. Too much exposition. However, it's pretty rare for a story to reach me that I reject without asking for a revised submission. When it comes to nonfiction, I want proper graduate-level essays, not personal anecdotes.

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

CB: Sometimes. If a story has passed our initial screeners and was read by our advisory editor(s), and if it's rejected at that stage, I might, depending on the editor's feedback, share that commentary with the author (especially if one or both of the editors thought there was something to the piece but that it would require too much revising to be a good fit for us). I will also sometimes share my thoughts if a piece gets to me and I reject it. Hopefully our feedback proves useful and helps the author find a home for his piece (or she revises it and re-submits it to us).

SQF: To date, you’ve published two issues, What has surprised you the most about editing a magazine?

CB: Two things: 1) the quality of some of the work we have received despite the fact that we are so new and small, 2) how hard it is to get the word out about what we are doing.

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

CB: Hahaha, that's cheating! I guess the question would be: What's the future hold for Strangelet? And the answer would be: I hope I don't know!

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

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