Friday, January 18, 2019

Six Questions for Kerrie Seljak-Byrne, Editor-in-Chief, Augur Magazine

Augur Magazine publishes short stories to 5,000 words, flash fiction to 1,250 words, poetry, and graphic fiction. They focus on bringing together speculative and realist literary fiction, with an emphasis on publishing works from under-represented, diverse, and marginalized creators. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Kerrie Seljak-Byrne: We started Augur for a few reasons. First, there are very few speculative fiction magazines in Canada. You can count them on your fingers—compared to American speculative fiction magazines, of which there’re dozens! We also wanted to bring together speculative fiction and literary fiction—so many magazines take one or the other, or take both but don't explicitly say so. We wanted to be that explicit market.

As a staff of dominantly queer, trans, WOC, and disabled folk, we also wanted to make sure we were making room for others who identified as under-represented, marginalized, or "diverse".

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

KSB: Strong writing. A sense of what the reader should get from the story, or how they should be asking. And we have a specific soft spot for beautiful images.

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

KSB: Anything cookie-cutter, or that reads like many pieces we've seen before. Or anything that ignores our guidelines.

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

KSB: Now defunct, but Shimmer and Liminal were two of my favourite online magazines. I'm also a huge fan of Room Magazine.

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

KSB: We list what we won't accept in our guidelines: gross-out or gratuitously violent pieces, horror that uses neurodivergence or mental health as the horror element, comedy that punches down, stories that are “speculative” because a non-marginalized group suddenly experiences what it’s like to be a marginalized group (e.g. a man “has to live with sexism”, a white woman is suddenly “treated like a woman of colour”), anything that uses sexual trauma/any trauma as a plot device, casual or blatant misogyny/bigotry/racism/etc., or otherwise insensitive pieces.

Pulp fiction is also a hard sell for us. We love genre, and many of us read pulp fantasy fiction, but it isn't usually a match for us.

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

KSB: I would ask about cover letters—a lot of writers seem to struggle with them. I'd suggest that they address their cover letters "Dear Editors”, since they don't know who's reading the piece, and that they include a small amount of information about themselves and their most recent/important publications. We often get cover letters that are exceptionally short and informal, or overly formal and extremely long. There's a middle part there that makes it feel like you're starting a conversation!

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

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