Friday, November 20, 2020

Six Questions for Jeff Georgeson, Managing Editor, Penumbric Speculative Fiction Magazine

Penumbric generally accepts submissions in the following categories: fiction, poetry, illustration, graphic narrative, animation, music, or combinations of these (e.g., a spoken-word version of a poem). If you have something that fits some other category that can be displayed to advantage on the web, try me; I'll take a look.” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Some readers may recognize the name Penumbric from the early 2000s. I do. Why did you decide to reincarnate this magazine?

Jeff Georgeson: That’s absolutely awesome that you remember it! I reincarnated it because I really missed the magazine. I've worked in publishing in some way pretty much since 8th grade when I worked on my grandmother's small-town weekly newspaper, so no matter how many other projects/fields I've been involved in, there’s always an element of writing/publishing. My proofreading work has lightened up somewhat as my long-term clients have retired or moved on to other things, so I finally had the time to begin Penumbric again.

Beyond that, I really want to do something to help authors and artists—especially diverse authors and artists, and diverse viewpoints—get their work out in front of people. As Penumbric grows, hopefully it can provide a larger platform for them.

Also, I hate all the advertising that ruins one’s experience of most websites these days. I wanted to build something that didn’t have any of that, or any sort of paywall keeping readers away from authors. It’s my job to present authors’ work to readers, not make a quick buck off of clickbait.

And then there’s the selfish bit—I really enjoy putting together the magazine and doing interviews and writing articles and reading and … just learning about things! I hope that comes across in the publication itself.

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

JG: If it’s a written work, that it’s well-crafted, that it says something about the world around us even if it’s set in worlds that have never been, and that it is, in some way, edgy fantasy, horror, and/or science fiction.

By well-crafted I mean more than just proofread—although that is important! The flow, the word choice, the structure, etc. should all work together to create something amazing. Overall, it should be a complete work. I’m not saying it has to have a clear beginning, middle, and end; it just needs to feel complete, somehow. Too often I receive work that’s quite good but feels like a chapter or a scene in a really interesting larger story that hasn’t been given to me.

When I say “about the world around us,” I don’t mean that quite as literally as it sounds. Your work can be about general political ideologies, for example, but I generally wouldn’t want it to be about specific current politicians. 

And “edgy” can be so many things, I don’t want to limit it by giving a definition.

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

JG: Works that are overtly sexual to the point of being pornographic. This hasn’t been much of an issue for this version of Penumbric, but in the old times we started getting a lot of subs that confused “edgy” with “lots of sex—and then more sex.” (So, yes, I guess I am limiting “edgy” just a bit.)

Other than that, work that displays little awareness of different cultures or relies on cultural stereotypes is a no-go.

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

JG: That old trope, “It has to grab me!” If my attention is wandering that quickly, if I’m thinking about the laundry I have to do and what I want for dinner, the sub will have to be that much more brilliant the rest of the way to win me back. And that’s difficult to do.

If yours is the tenth 5,000-word story I’ve read today, what can you do to wake me up, to make me laugh or cry and really care about the words you’ve written, the characters you’ve conjured, the story you’ve felt compelled to tell? If you can do that, then I’m a lucky editor.

SQF: Are there certain types of submissions you’d like to see more of in your slush pile?

JG: That’s a difficult one; we’ve received such a broad range of work already. Really it’s art that we’ve always had less of in terms of submissions. It’d be great to see more animated art as well!

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

JG: Do you give commentary on why you rejected a submission? Yes, we do! We don’t send it right along when we first send a rejection, as that seems a bit presumptive, and some authors don’t want my opinion about their story/poem, which is fair enough. But we’re happy to give feedback, even if most of the time it’s not a line-by-line critique but rather a few pointers in what we feel is the right direction.

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

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