What We’re Looking For
The Baltimore Science Fiction Society is hosting a roundtable panel later this month called “From Slush to Sale: Behind the Scenes at Science Fiction Magazines.”
The panelists are all both short fiction editors and writers. They include Rahul Kanakia (fiction in Clarkesworld; former First Reader for Strange Horizons), Leslie Connor (Asst. Editor for Apex Magazine), Damien Walters Grintalis (fiction in BCS; Assoc. Editor for Electric Velocipede), and our own Scott H. Andrews (fiction in Weird Tales and On Spec; Editor-in-Chief and publisher of BCS).
The panel is February 23rd at 8PM at the Baltimore Science Fiction Society, 3310 East Baltimore Street, Baltimore, MD 21224.
With all the panelists’ short fiction writing and reading experience, especially slush reading, there are sure to be some great nuggets of experience and wisdom. If you’re anywhere in the Mid-Atlantic area, you should consider attending.
07-10-2009, 09:35 AM
Quote: T. Edwards
I’m curious to know what BCS’s stance on very short stories is. I have a few stories that I’m thinking of submitting, but they’re extremely short (around 1000 words). Would their brief nature decrease their chances of being accepted, or is shortness irrelevant?
Thanks for asking. Length is irrelevant to me–I’m only looking for great stories. However, I do often find that for secondary-world types of fantasy, stories of very short lengths don’t have as much depth or richness of setting that I’m looking for. Please feel free to submit them, but know that I think it’s a challenge to build a full world in such a short length.
12-08-2008, 09:32 AM
Quote: M. Arkenberg
Clarification of “Science Fantasy”
Where is the line (as far as BCS is concerned) between Science Fantasy and Science Fiction? How much “technology” is too much; alternatively, how much “magic” is too little?
That’s a great question–thanks for asking.
First, an aside: I personally don’t think “magic” is a necessity for adventure fantasy or a fantasy secondary-world. Lots of worlds have it, but I as a reader find just as much awe in fantastical animals or plants or landscapes or sentient beings. Any of those sorts of thing would make a setting seem fantasy to me.
As for technology, I don’t want anything that feels modern or contemporary or futuristic. Using historical eras of Earth’s past as a guide, I would draw a loose line at the end of the Victorian era or the start of the 20th century. Steam engines, clockwork devices, and early cartridge-based firearms are all present in stories that are forthcoming in BCS this winter. Halloween parties, household electricity, styrofoam cups, anti-aircraft guns, urologists, artificial wormholes, containment fields, blue blazers and brown slacks, movies, television, yuppies, American football, and VW Microbuses are all elements from stories that I’ve rejected in the last month for feeling more modern than I’m looking for.
I also think part of the feel of the technology in a story comes from the characters’ attitudes and vocabulary about it. I sometimes see stories where characters in a low-tech world act or talk like modern people in a high-tech world, making modern assumptions about how societies work when their society doesn’t work that way. So for me, it’s not just the actual technological elements but also the society that contains them and the characters the story is showing in that society.
Basically I’m looking for a pre-modern feel, regardless of the actual time period. I think that feel could exist in a post-apocalyptic Earth, if so much of our technology was destroyed that the societies left over didn’t have advanced tech and didn’t have modern attitudes about it. Dune feels mostly pre-tech to me because the Fremen have very little advanced tech and have non-modern attitudes about it. Jack Vance’s Dying Earth stories have sorcerers flying from planet to planet, but they’re using magic instead of technology, and their attitudes and vocabulary are colored by magic and not by tech.
So that kind of low-tech future setting could give the pre-tech sort of feel I’m looking for. It’s just that the pre-tech feel is more commonly found in bygone eras, whether true historical ones or fantasy ones inspired by them.
Dark Fantasy?August 28, 2008 - 04:34 pmPosted in: Guidelines Questions, What We're Looking For by Scott H. Andrews
08-28-2008, 04:34 PM
I have a guidelines-related question. There’s no mention of whether or not BCS is looking for dark fantasy. If you are, where do you draw the line between dark fantasy and horror?
So long as a story is sufficiently secondary-world and character-driven, I don’t mind dark fantasy or horror fantasy at all.
I didn’t specifically mention them in the guidelines because horror is most often set in the real world or a paranormal version of it, so I wouldn’t be interested in that because of the setting, and “dark fantasy” is often a synonym for horror.
As an example, the story of mine in Weird Tales #347 gets pretty dark, both physically and emotionally, but it is character-driven and set in a pre-tech secondary world. Anything like that would definitely fit what I’m looking for.
Story Scope?July 29, 2008 - 03:36 pmPosted in: Guidelines Questions, What We're Looking For by Scott H. Andrews
07-29-2008, 03:36 PM
Quote: John Arkwright
Tolkien said Middle Earth was a lost age of our Earth–Midgard.
If I have read your magazine’s concept correctly, you are not interested in anything as far removed from our existence as Middle Earth. Is this correct?
Sure, he said that, but that was more his intention than any claim that Middle Earth ever actually existed. :)
Actually, no. I want things that are as far removed from our modern contemporary existence as possible. I want neat, weird, awe-inspiring things that are unlike anything I’ve ever read before.
I’m unlikely to enjoy any setting that is very similar to Middle Earth, but that’s only because I’ve already read two great books set there, written by the man who invented that world. I want stories set in other neat worlds that are just as deep and lush as Middle Earth, but unique in their own ways.
07-29-2008, 03:22 PM
Quote: Chris Modzelewski
I have a quick clarification about your submission guidelines. You specifically mention that “Fairy Tale Fantasy” is probably not right for BCS. I’m wondering what you would characterize as “Fairy Tale Fantasy”?
I’m guessing this includes the obvious Hans Christen Andersen, Grimm, George MacDonald, etc. type of work. But what about more mythopoeic work? For example, would you characterize the likes of Lord Dunsany (especially in his earlier work), HP Lovecraft and many of the Victorian fantastists as “Fairy Tales” (although admittedly of a much darker tone)?
Much of this type of work has a fairy tale structure, but a decidedly different tone, style and theme...
I’d appreciate any clarification you can provide, and I’m looking forward to seeing your issues!
Thanks for the clarification and best of luck,
Thanks very much for posting. Basically, I’m looking for stories that are zoomed in tight on a protagonist who is facing struggles of some kind. I find that fairy tale-style narratives don’t usually provide that, for several reasons.
–The point-of-view in fairy tales is usually distant, with the tone of a narrator telling the story rather than the reader experiencing it along with the character. I prefer the more intimate feel of close points-of-view.
–The plot in fairy tales is often not a large or immediate struggle. For example, many fairy tales take place over decades, with large spans of time in between important events. I prefer a struggle that’s so intense that there can’t be any lapsed time before the character either conquers it or succumbs to it.
There’s a lot of fantasy short fiction these days that uses distant points-of-view and drawn-out plots and a dreamy feel. Those fairy tale-style elements usually prevent a story from feeling gripping and immediate to me.
As for fairy tale structure, I’m not sure exactly what you mean. The quest structure or plot comes from fairy tales, but it has been used the framework for many gripping, immediate tales, like Lord of the Rings and “At the Mountains of Madness.” The “rule of threes,” as writers call it–the escalation of a plot through three incidents of successively more tension–also comes from fairy tales, and it’s such a universal storytelling technique that it’s in movies, fiction, and even jokes.
I think that plot or structure is such a base framework element that it can be adapted to most any type of narrative voice or feel, so I think most any type of plot could work for the type of stories I’m looking for. I also think mythic archetypes, of both plot and character, can be used successfully in most any style of story. It’s more the fairy tale delivery and tone that usually don’t work for me in the types of story I want for Beneath Ceaseless Skies.
07-19-2008, 09:23 AM
Quote: Willow Fagan
I read the submission guidelines, but it wasn’t clear to me if you’d be interested in stories in which characters from the real world enter into secondary worlds. Do such stories fall within the realm of what you’re seeking? Would it depend on how much of the story was focused on the secondary world? Thanks!
That’s a very good question, and something I had not thought about. :)
I think that your initial impression hits on the key–it would depend on how prominent the secondary world was compared to the primary world that the character left. I’m being deliberately vague by saying “prominent”, kind of like your word “focused”; of course, that focus on the setting could be realized in any number of ways: story time spent in that setting, the world’s effect on the protagonist, etc.
For a later answer about “portal” type stories and how they usually don’t quite fit what we’ve been publishing in BCS, see this post from Dec. 2008. Thanks.