Friday, August 21, 2020

Six Questions for Filipe Lichtenheld, Editor, Dream of Shadows

Dream of Shadows publishes previously unpublished fantasy and horror stories to 1,500 words. “We particularly like honest and daring stories with strong characters pursuing goals, although we recognise that if a story is good, it's good.” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Filipe Lichtenheld: I always loved reading and figuring out what makes a story work. It was just a natural step from there to wanting to share the stories I enjoyed reading. The magazine started as a way to give a platform to stories that might have been rejected by other markets for not having an uplifting ending. I wanted to give a home to those darker tales.

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

FL: We love a well-crafted story, so we'll look for something with a strong character who has a goal and an obstacle to overcome. If we understand the motivation, we can root for or against the character.

We love strong prose as well. Something that just grabs us. It doesn't necessarily have to be action from the first sentence; it's nice to get a story from a writer who knows how to use words to engage our imagination, and it's even better if the writer can make us feel something.

We also need a story that is about something. It doesn't have to end with a character stating the moral, but we love reading stories that have something to say (whether it is about large or small issues), rather than stories as snapshots of something. Stories about a character selling his soul to win over the love interest and being punished for it, for example, rather than a description of a character in love.

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

FL: It can start with the email. If the attached document is in the wrong format or it's otherwise clear that no time was spent on reading the guidelines, it affects the way we read the submission. Of course, we try to remain neutral and judge a story on its own merits, but we appreciate it if a writer has tried to make our life a little easier.

When it comes to the actual story, we're not too fond of inactive characters. Even if the prose is great and brilliantly describes the protagonist's sad situation, if the character doesn't get up and do something about it, it's not for us. The same applies to second-person narration. It just feels too much like a meditation tape or a roleplaying game.

SQF: What do you look for in the opening paragraph(s)/stanza(s) of a submission?

FL: We look for a strong opening line, a hook that immediately makes us sit up and think, "This is going to be good." That doesn't mean every story has to start with an explosion, but give us an interesting voice or a character with an issue or a question. We also don't want to be confused about who does what and where in the first paragraph, so we look for a character and a world that is clear and makes sense. That doesn't mean we need an info dump about how the character got there right at the beginning; it might just mean limiting the cast at the start, so we're sure whom we're meant to follow in this story, and letting us know where we are.

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

FL: I try to keep up with the daily stories on Daily Science Fiction and 365tomorrows. Sometimes, it's fun if I recognise someone who submitted to Dream of Shadows as well. It's like seeing the guy you went to school with on TV. When it comes to zines, I like Schlock! Webzine.

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

FL: What other opportunities do we offer besides the magazine? We run a contest for Halloween and Easter each year, with the story being published on our website. The Halloween contest is opening in August, so we're looking forward to reading a lot of great submissions. There's more information on the relevant guideline pages of our website.

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

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