Friday, February 9, 2018

Six Questions for Charles Christian, Editor, Grievous Angel

Grievous Angel ceased publication as of 7/31/2018.

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

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.

1 comment:

  1. As a writer and reader, I love Griveous Angel.
    It’s short, rarely sweet and often haunting.
    I’m also suprized, and not suprized that there are a lot of writers who aren’t readers out there- not a winning combination.