Friday, July 30, 2021

Six Questions for G. E. Butler, Chief Editor, The Fantastic Other

The Fantastic Other publishes fiction to 3,500 words, poetry no longer than 50 lines or three pages, and art. “We are interested in all things fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal, surrealist, fabulist, and magical realist. Show off your weird!” Issues may be themed. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

G. E. Butler: When my colleagues and I graduated from the University of Tampa, we had acquired a rainbow of different writing and reading tastes. However, as we ventured into the world of submitting and publishing, we found that many established journals would not accept works that fell under the umbrella category of “speculative.” The editors of most of these journals had a very specific form of fiction or poetry in mind, which excluded any hints of science fiction or fantasy elements. We founded this magazine with the idea that stories, poetry, and art with fantastic elements (i.e. mythologies, folklore, alternate histories, alien worlds, etc.) can still be both beautiful and literary, and that we would use this space of the internet to celebrate such works. Beyond that, we are also looking for the experimental and the “out there” sort of pieces that might turn off your traditional journal. We had a tumultuous launch, trying to get off the ground in the summer of 2020, right in the midst of an unforeseen pandemic. Since then, we’ve slowly built support and have been blessed with work from some amazingly talented authors.

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

GEB: First, I look to see if the prose itself or that each line of poetry shows good craftwork. I want to see that the writer can be artful with their language and that they are attentive to their spelling and grammar.

Second, I look to see if their submission honors the core tenet of our magazine. Does their piece contain an element of the fantastic? Would it fall into the fantasy, sci-fi, surrealist, or magical realist category? Does it push the boundary of genre? 

Third, I look at the piece as a whole and judge whether it offers a unique perspective, has something important to relay, or does something new and unusual. Basically, does it contribute to the craft? And would it be a positive contribution to our magazine?

There are other things I’ll look at, such as whether the piece speaks to me as a reader and how much I enjoyed it, but those are my three biggest checkmarks. 

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

GEB: Submissions with sloppy spelling and grammar are an immediate turn off and are our most frequent issue. Minor errors here and there are fine, but we want to know that you put thought and attention into your work. Submissions that don’t follow the rules are going to be turned down, as accepting them would be unfair to our other contributors who do follow them. We also want to know that you considered our magazine before sending your work and aren’t just flooding as many inboxes as possible, which becomes obvious if your piece does not follow our theme. Each author is unique, but so is each journal.

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

GEB: I personally look for something that will grab me and pull me into the piece. Coming off with a unique style and a strong voice is always a good start. I also like it when a piece is upfront about what kind of work and genre it is exploring. If you’re writing a dystopian short story about a zombie apocalypse, there’s no need to be coy with us; we love that kind of thing! Keep in mind, these are only my personal preferences. All editors have them, and even the other editors for our magazine might feel differently about your piece.

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

GEB: I think that many publications turn away erotica because it doesn’t set out to do what they’re looking for. That is, erotica usually seeks to appeal to a fantasy inside the reader, rather than use those fantasies to tell us a story about ourselves. I feel the same way when I see violent and edgy writing meant to shock the senses of the reader. It is easy to prompt a visceral reaction when describing gore or abuse, but that alone does not make the piece beautiful or artful. This kind of writing can also be harmful, as there are those who have experienced such traumas and would not want to relive their experiences through a piece of cheap entertainment. That said, both violence and sex are large parts of the human experience, and I believe they have a place in the literary world. Just as I don’t believe that fantasy and science fiction pieces should be snubbed, I won’t turn down a piece for containing sex and/or violence if they are used to tell an insightful story and are respectful towards their subject matter.

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

GEB: I would return to the topic of rejection. What does it mean if we reject your piece, even if you avoided all the previously stated pitfalls? I have been on both sides of this process and have struggled in the past to not take rejections personally or be discouraged. I would like anyone submitting to our magazine to know that I have yet to grow tired of seeing new submissions hit our inbox. I understand how hard it is for an author to share their work, how it opens a level of vulnerability even to an experienced and published writer. Being able to read and discuss our contributors’ work is a delight to us. I want anyone submitting to know that, even if I feel that your work wasn’t the right fit for our magazine or for the particular issue that we’re reading for, I am grateful that you took the time and chance to share your work with us. More often than not, I would like to see an author resubmit with us and try again, and I hope that their work otherwise finds a home.

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

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