Friday, February 23, 2018

Six Questions for Josh Hrala, Editor, The Arcanist

The Arcanist publishes literary science fiction/fantasy flash fiction to 1,000 words. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Josh Hrala: We started The Arcanist because we love science fiction and fantasy. We also love ‘high literature,’ too. Because of this, we’ve noticed that ‘high lit’ crowds typically shun genre fiction because they think it isn’t to the same standard as lit fiction.

So, we set out to help change that by offering a new paying market for writers to submit their work. While there are many great SFF magazines and publications out there, being able to offer another place for writers to turn to, especially for shorter works, is important to us.

At the same time, flash fiction is the perfect length for people to read on the bus or when they have a spare moment, which we hope will help us expose more people to SFF who may have shied away from longer pieces.


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

JH: When a submission comes in the first thing we look at is the word count to make sure that the writer followed the rules. This also lets us get a sense of pacing too.

Secondly, we want action or - more accurately - activity. There’s no room for passive characters in flash fiction, which has to move very quickly for a story to take place. In fact, the number one reason we end up rejecting stories is that they aren’t actually stories at all because nothing happens in them. Great settings and a great concept is wonderful, but the story element has to be there for everything to come together.

Finally, I’d say a big thing we examine and debate between ourselves is how the story ends. With flash, there are a few different endings we love. The first is the ‘turn’ ending where the story takes on a new meaning when it ends, which always delights us. The next would be the ‘choice’ ending where the character takes action and we know there is a cost. This is the more traditional short story ending. Either way, the end of a flash story should make us feel something. Whether that something is laughter, terror or love, it doesn’t matter.


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

JH: Either the story is too long and over the word count or nothing actually happens in the story. I touched on this in the last question so I’ll elaborate a little more here.

Quite often we get extremely clever premises submitted where someone thought up an ultra-imaginative world or plot point that impresses us. However, many of these stories stop there at the starting line. Instead of taking us on a character-driven romp through their idea, world, etc they just explain the premise or describe the beautiful setting. Unfortunately, this doesn’t add up to a story and we have to reject them.


SQF: What magazines/zines do you read on a “regular” basis?

JH: I try to keep a pretty wide media diet in general. I read Clarkesworld, Tor, 365 Tomorrows, and a bunch of others. I typically check in and binge read flash sites like Every Day Fiction every once in a while.

I also read a lot of longform stuff like novels, short story collections, and things like that.

My day-to-day online reading typically cycles through The Atlantic, Wired, Electric Literature, Tor, and PopSci.

In general, I’d say that I just try to stay current on everything and it’s a struggle.


SQF: Many editors list erotica, or sex for sex sake, as hard sells. What are hard sells for your publication?

JH: I think a lot of the time ‘sex for sex sake’ is really the editors saying: “this doesn’t progress plot, character or the overall narrative.”

With that in mind, some hard sells for us are meta stories - stories about writing stories - and gratuitous horror stories. Meta stories are typically boring because the act of writing isn’t interesting to read about and comes off more as a cathartic exercise than an actual story. Horror stories, on the other hand, tend to rely on shock value over narrative.

The funny thing is that we’ve accepted both meta stories and gory horror stories, though they are definitely a lot harder to nail down.


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

JH: I’d have to say: “how does someone know they were close to being accepted?”

While it’s not always the case, if you get a written note from an editor with their feedback, you were probably on the cusp of getting accepted. Any editor will tell you that slush piles are daunting. This means that if an editor took the time to write feedback, provide insights, and try to push you in the right direction, you were probably really close and you should try to take their advice. Editors really do want every story to reach its full potential and feedback is always meant to be helpful and encouraging.

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

Friday, February 16, 2018

Six Questions for Eva Wong Nava, Founder/Editor, CarpeArte Journal

CarpeArte Journal publishes flash fiction/articles/essays to 1,500 words and poetry. Each submission needs to be inspired by a work of art (selected by the author or the editor). Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Eva Wong Nava: I started CarpeArte Journal as a platform to publish my own pieces of writing. They range from flash to essays and reviews which have mostly been inspired by art. Each piece of writing on the blog features a piece of artwork which has inspired the story and acts as a segue into the story featured. At the end of each piece, under 'Eva's Comments', I offer a reading of the artwork and an explanation to why the art work is relevant (when possible) to the story. As an art historian, this is one way for me to talk about art and to use art as an inspiration point for story telling, fictional and/or otherwise.

I want to encourage new and emergent voices to the blog; to give other writers a platform for their stories. Writers are inspired by many things, mostly by images, in my view. These images are either embedded in our unconscious and have nothing to do with art at all or they are inspired by quotidian moving images. Many times, an object we see can stay in our dream space for some time before language comes into being.

Writers can submit a piece of art that has inspired their writing or one that s/he feels acts as a visual gateway into their work. They can explain why they've chosen this image which I will add to 'Eva Comments'. Failing that, I also accept writing that has not been accompanied by a piece of artwork. In this case, I will select a piece after reviewing the writing which I feel will segue into the writing. I must say that the pieces of artwork chosen have an art historical value to them. This allows me to relate any art historical information that is relevant to the artwork.


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

EWN: 

Is the writing of quality? Is there literature in the writing?
Does it make me think/reflect on the bigger picture that is life?
Is the writer using language that is original and/or awe-inspiring?


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

EWN:

Bigotry
Misogyny
Racism
Sloppy work that has not been edited
Cliches
and quotes from other authors embedded into the work.

I want to hear the writers' voices in all their rawness and originality.


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

EWN: If a piece is rejected, it is because it doesn't fit in with our style guide. A rejected piece is never about the unworthiness of the writing (I think there is value in every piece of written word) but merely due to personal taste which cannot be accounted for qualitatively, anyway.

Personal taste makes me reject writing that puts others down or language that is offensive; such pieces will be automatically rejected without comments. If I offer comments, it is because I feel that the work can be improved further; it is done with love from one writer to another, not critiquing for the sake of critiquing. A rejection is never about being a failure as a writer but about being more resilient as one; I'm happy to publish re-submitted work as I understand that the submission process can be such a daunting one. In terms of rejection, I have rejected artworks on account of the author not being able to find an appropriate way to credit the owner or artist of the work. This is important to me as an art historian. In this case, I will always find a piece to accompany the writing.


SQF: If CarpeArte Journal had a theme song, what would it be and why?

EWN: Vivo Per Lei by Andrea Bocelli because when one lives with love and passion, all things are possible. (Andrea Becelli's life is an example of this.) Writing is possible when one loves the craft enough to be pulled into it by all forms of words represented by the numerous languages in the world. I especially love the Italian language for its magic and rich tones.

This song is what I play when I start a piece of writing. I let the music linger in the background and allow the words to sink in before I type. This song is playing now as I respond to your questions.


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

EWN: Why is the journal called CarpeArte?

CarpeArte - Seize Art - is a spin on the famous saying CarpeDiem. A Picture Speaks a Thousand Words as the saying goes and that is what inspires me in my writing and I'm sure inspires others too. I want to see art and literature being made accessible to everyone.

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

Friday, February 9, 2018

Six Questions for Charles Christian, Editor, Grievous Angel

Grievous Angel publishes flash fiction to 700 words, poetry to 40 lines, and haiga in the science fiction/fantasy/ horror genre. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Charles Christian: Back in the Noughties I launched a daily poetry zine called Ink Sweat & Tears (I handed it over to another editor a few years ago when I felt it could go no further) but I was conscious that (in the UK at least) SF&F genre poetry was universally ignored by the poetry “establishment.” I’ve always been a fan of flash fiction and I was also conscious (again primarily in the UK) that the market for flash often involved years before you even received a response to a submission. So, on the basis that if you want a job done well, you’d better do it yourself, I set up Grievous Angel - and yes the name is directly pinched from the Gram Parsons album.


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

CC: (1) I’m with Ezra Pound “make it new.” A lot of the poetry is way too samey - or a pastiche (but in a bad way) of something HP Lovecraft or Edgar Allan Poe might have written. The same goes for flash - I feel a lot of authors haven’t read enough to realise their story ideas are not original. I get a lot of stories that are Wikipedia type entries supposedly written in the distant future. Novel the first time I received one - about three years ago - not novel now. We’ve heard it all before. Oh yes, and if you are writing about vampires, you might want to check out Bram Stoker. There is a complaint in the UK - I can’t speak for the US - that there are more people writing poetry than reading it. This may explain the lack of awareness. You need to wow me with new ideas.

(2) Hitting the ground running - with flash you only have 700 words to impress so why waste it with 500 words of discussion with your protagonist’s son about their favourite flavour of ice cream (British English spelling, I’m based in the UK). The reader doesn’t care - just get on with it. In fact it is noticeable that the people who write right up to the 700 word limit (we’ll gloss over the people who don’t read the T&Cs and submit a 15,000 word novella) usually produce a less succinct piece than people who go for short & pithy microfiction length.

(3) A strong ending - once again far too many stories comprise an indifferent story topped off by a lame ending. In fact with some the conclusion of the story is like the punch-line in a joke. Except they aren’t funny and they are usually also unoriginal. Oh, the protagonist is actually dead - or an alien, or a zombie. Flash fiction is not a few hundred words of build-up to a surprise ending - it is a stripped down story and should share all the characteristics of a “proper” story - or at least a full length short story. Motivation. Characterisation. All the stuff they supposedly teach on creative writing MFAs.


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

CC: People who submit a scifaiku and then include a 1000 word bio ALL WRITTEN IN UPPER CASE.

I also find it odd people who clearly keep some kind of anally retentive list of their successes - you know “I have had 284 stories accepted for publication.” I’m not impressed by male writers who write their story from the perspective of a woman while simultaneously revealing they haven’t a clue about female psychology or what makes a woman tick. (I should add that I’ve been married for years and I still don’t understand women). I also dislike stories (almost exclusively from men) in which the entire story appears to be an excuse to offload their grievances about the opposite sex - and it usually ends with the woman dying horridly. I also find a lot of writers cannot write dialogue.

“What do you mean?”
“Well you know, like..”
“Like what dude?”
“Well like dialogue that doesn’t leave the reader losing the will to live."


SQF: What magazines/zines do you read on a “regular” basis?

CC: The only zine I regularly read at the moment is Fantasy & Science Fiction, which has an attractive mix of content. I used to read Black Static and Interzone but they became way too samey. However by way of mitigation, I should point out that last year and again this year I’m a judge for the Arthur C Clarke Best Science Fiction novel award, which means each year I have about 100 x 150,000 words books to read so for my leisure reading I tend to swerve SF&F. (I also chair the judging panel for an annual sci-fi flash fiction competition in the UK - so that means about 500 pieces to vet each spring.)


SQF: If Grievous Angel had a theme song, what would it be and why…

CC: "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" by Pink Floyd (either the "Wish You Were Here" or “Pulse" albums) - (a) because I’ve always liked the Floyd and (b) it is the perfect anthem for all creatives and visionaries - and that means writers and poets.

“Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently.” (Which I know is an advertising slogan!)


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

CC: Why are writers their own worst enemies and so amateurish in their approach? Leaving aside their inability to understand T&Cs - what part of we only pay by PayPal do you not understand? I’m surprised how many clearly haven’t bothered to read Grievous Angel before they submit. We have a certain style - we like subtle humour. We like irony. We never publish slasher/gory/violent horror. I get the feeling many writers are just churning out submissions without considering whether the content is relevant to the publication. AND WHY are writers so poor at social media? Why have a website, blog or Twitter account if you are not going to leverage some benefit from it. We make a big push whenever we publish something new but it is noticeable how few of our published authors take advantage and promote it to their friends, colleagues and tribes. Maybe they don’t have any friends? We don’t have a large budget for promotion and it would be nice if some of our authors would rise to the occasion and spread the word.

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

Friday, February 2, 2018

Six Questions for Vincent L. Byrnes, Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Structural Damage

Structural Damage publishes poetry, fiction, nonfiction, visual art, essays, interviews, and reviews. We live for art that is bold, iconoclastic, and intimate. Read the complete guidelines here, and see what we have previously published.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Vincent L. Byrnes: Hannah Jade and I intended to start the magazine in early 2016. We almost had our first issue ready to go, including these totally adorable pocket issues, but due to an unseen “incident” it had to be put off, then put off again while traveling. We continued to plug the idea to artists and writers we met along the way, and once settling in Hanoi, buying a computer, and getting our lovely friend Jake Edgar on board as an editor, we were able to actually roll.

Its original incarnation in Portland was as a middle ground between zine and pro/literary journal. The goal was to feature the local creatives and give them a constant place to publish their work. We were going to keep cost low by essentially printing everything on one sheet of paper, which would allow us the wide release of a successful magazine.

We love the journal and zine scene in Portland, and other cities across the US, but just wanted it to be easier for people to acquire, follow, and assimilate. Too often those releases feel like you are in a club, which is only awesome if you are a part of the exclusivity. We were hoping to expose people who, at most, absolutely detest art and poetry, to our magazine. Our club, which I suppose it still is, then becomes entirely accessible in a tangible and ethereal form. We also like to think of SD as a cooperative venture. We wanted to start this to give the writers and artists a voice in what we do here. We are open to opinions and referrals and because the magazine is still so new, we rely heavily on the contributors support. Journals need to be something artists can push, jaw, critic, and adore. By having a less stern approach, we hopefully portray SD as something everyone created in one way or another, which I think separates us from the inbred facelessness of some magazines. (Harsh.)

While travelling, the ability to have global contributors and readers was presented as well, which is something increasingly desirable.

All the editors are writers or artists in many forms. After the harrowing experience that is seeking publication, we wanted to extend one more outlet to people, by simply creating a magazine that we would want to be published in.

Important to mention though - SD was also created with the intent to become an indie-press in the future. Because of my own writing, I completely understand how some poems inherently cannot be published alone, even as an excerpt. So this was created with long-term goals of being able to publish long collections, novellas, even novels. We want to be able to publish people who cannot get published elsewhere, not because they are bad, but because there is something so strange about it, or unfortunately they don’t know the right people. You know us. We are the right people.


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

VLB: I want writing that is simply different in one way or another – either through subject or form or voice. The piece doesn’t need to be shipped to me in a puzzle box or anything I guess because I am not as progressive as I should be, but I look for the distinctive and iconoclastic. Work shouldn’t be able to be repeated, or be a repetition unto itself.

Range is something I value immensely in someone’s work as well. If a poet sends in five poems, I hope that they are able to touch as many subjects or tones as possible. I look at a submission as five separate pieces, not as a Part 1-5 – which is totally fine but would be better suited for a collection, rather than print/online publishing among other pieces. So the work should be occupy a zigzagging spectrum or different dimensions.

Lastly, I simply look if the work is advancing, or halting, the growth of the form. Art is at a fucking precarious place in the techno-pomo is dead-end of the world mentality. And I’m not sure what ought to be next or if that thinking is already reductive (probably is) but I feel like we have a grasp of what should be in the future canon. Part of that comes from my own writing and the contemporary writers I love. It’s easy to say we are starting a revolution – but like, we are starting a revolution here. Manifesto to come. Dig it.


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

VLB: I’ll start with the actual email portion of the process. Emails that do not include a bio or a pic destroy me a little inside, but I ultimately get it – I am a stranger and you don’t want me to know your life or what you look like. It just means if I like your work I have to type another sentence in an acceptance letter asking for them. Cool, whatever, but it means you probably didn’t look on our site at previously published works, nor our submission guidelines, so I am already not thrilled before looking at the work, which in turn saddens me even more. What are worse are the emails that almost look like spam. If I think I might get a virus from your submission I am going to be unhappy. This means the email address looks more like a cypher than an actual person’s account, a few links to websites I’ve never heard of, or a .doc that’s simply titled Submission, and “Check this out” as the body of the message. You obviously don’t need to explain in detail what you sent, but some context would be awesome.

In terms of the actual writing, clichés are absolutely forbidden unless used expertly. They completely remove me from the piece and halt any growth the writer has made throughout the piece. It’s like sticking dynamite in the middle of a building. Fucking boom. Writing that makes me painfully aware it is a poem also turns me off. The blood just stops flowing. If your piece reads too earnest, sober, or staid, I think it is boring. Works of art like that are too passive and borderline pitiful, which is the exact opposite way we think art should be created, and certainly not the way it is approached. Artists are still trying to get over that stereotype.


SQF: What magazines/zines do you read on a “regular” basis?

VLB: I have utterly boring answers for this one. 3 AM is probably my favorite, and Paris Review. I have mad respect for Agni, Five Points, Granta, Tin House, n+1. Also shout out to the “alt” newspaper Willamette Week, but not the L.A. Weekly anymore (boycott.) Hanoi has this amazing journal called Ajar that publishes in both Vietnamese and English. They deserve a lot more support.


SQF: Many editors list erotica, or sex for sex sake, as hard sells. What are hard sells for your publication?

VLB: We had a really interesting piece submitted the other day. It had an absolutely wonderful message, and was technically strong, but it used a religious figure as its tragic heroine. I am not opposed to the respectful borrowing of religious idols, presented in an interesting way, like Angels in America, or Jesus’ supporting role in Journal of Albion Moonlight or Swedenborg, but if the work is wholly (ha) based on that denominational tradition or ideal it is nigh impossible to publish for me. Even if Angels in America landed on my desk, having previously not been staged, I probably would pass on it.

Prose that is full-on fantasy is tough for me too. That dis-includes sci-fi though I guess because it’s futuristic, not “of yore,” and also omitted is magical realism, as the fantastical element is not the “point.” I know there are a lot of very successful critical respected fantasy authors, but I can’t get into it. I understand it’s great within it’s genre, but but but. While horror movies are my favorite type of cinema, straight horror fiction gets tiring.

What it boils down to is if it can be considered a genre piece or not.

More erotica might be the key to a devoted reader-base. Thanks.


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

VLB: If Structural Damage gave me a mixtape, what would be on it?

  • Propagandhi - Today’s Empires, Tomorrow’s Ashes
  • Spiritualized - Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space
  • My Bloody Valentine - When You Sleep
  • Bikini Kill – I Like Fucking
  • VU - Lady Godiva’s Operation
  • Sonic Youth - Karen Revisited
  • BROCKHAMPTON - QUEER
  • Jorja Smith – On My Mind
  • Modern Lovers - Hospital
  • Mogwai - Take Me Somewhere Nice
  • The Olivia Tremor Control - I Have Been Floated
  • The Antlers - Sylvia
  • Vince Staples - BagBak
  • Brian Eno - An Ascent
  • Jawbreaker - Boxcar
  • Daniel Johnston - Walking the Cow
  • Cat Power - Enough

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