Category: NEWS

Codex Q&A: What aspects of stories do you find easiest to fix?

In July 2013, I served as the “editor-in-residence” for the Codex Writing Group, which meant basically I was asking a month-long AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) interview. With Codex’s permission, I’m re-posting the Q&As here on my blog. The questions were all provided by members of Codex.

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Are there aspects of stories that you find easy to fix? Clearly, an amazing story arc with grammatical errors is worth accepting as it will take no time to fix it up. But what types of problems are worth a rewrite request as opposed to just moving on?

I think for me, it’s usually something character related. Like the plot and world building is there, and grabbed me, but then there’s something about the character that doesn’t quite work, but I really liked the other elements and so it seems like something that can be saved. I’m not sure how often that’s the case, though; it’s pretty hard to generalize about something like that.

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HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!!

From October 1 – October 31, I’ll be running a Kickstarter campaign for a new project called HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!!, an anthology of improbable, futuristic, magical, & alternate-world crowdfunding projects. Please check it out, consider backing it, and, if you’re so inclined, spread the word!

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Codex Q&A: What do you think it means for fiction to be accessible?

In July 2013, I served as the “editor-in-residence” for the Codex Writing Group, which meant basically I was asking a month-long AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) interview. With Codex’s permission, I’m re-posting the Q&As here on my blog. The questions were all provided by members of Codex.

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What do you think it means for fiction to be accessible, though that’s probably not an easy question to answer.

Mostly I ask myself: Do you need the equivalent of a Master’s Degree in Science Fiction Studies to understand the story? If so, then it’s not particularly accessible. It might be brilliant to those steeped in genre literature, but newcomers to the SF/F sphere will bounce off it, hard.

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HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!!

From October 1 – October 31, I’ll be running a Kickstarter campaign for a new project called HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!!, an anthology of improbable, futuristic, magical, & alternate-world crowdfunding projects. Please check it out, consider backing it, and, if you’re so inclined, spread the word!

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Codex Q&A: How do you decided if anthology topics are marketable or too “niche”?

In July 2013, I served as the “editor-in-residence” for the Codex Writing Group, which meant basically I was asking a month-long AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) interview. With Codex’s permission, I’m re-posting the Q&As here on my blog. The questions were all provided by members of Codex.

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In deciding on themes or central concepts for anthologies, have you ever had an idea that you really loved but set aside because you felt it was too “niche” to be successful? How do you decide what topics are more marketable versus which ones might just appeal to too narrow an audience to be worth the effort?

Oh, I’ve definitely come up with ideas that I would love to do but they seemed too niche. Could be that Kickstarter will pave the way for that since you can sort of test the waters to see if it’s worth doing. If it IS too niche it probably won’t fund, and there you go.

As for how I decide, I mostly just study the market and talk to my agent about it. It’s more of a going with your gut sort of thing, though there is some studying of sales numbers and trends.

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HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!!

From October 1 – October 31, I’ll be running a Kickstarter campaign for a new project called HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!!, an anthology of improbable, futuristic, magical, & alternate-world crowdfunding projects. Please check it out, consider backing it, and, if you’re so inclined, spread the word!

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Codex Q&A: How would you characterize Lightspeed’s readership?

In July 2013, I served as the “editor-in-residence” for the Codex Writing Group, which meant basically I was asking a month-long AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) interview. With Codex’s permission, I’m re-posting the Q&As here on my blog. The questions were all provided by members of Codex.

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How would you characterize Lightspeed‘s readership (beyond the demographics on the advertising page)? How would you say they differ, on average, from the readers of other genre magazines? Do there seem to be definite clusters of taste among the readership – distinct groups of SF-centric and fantasy-centric readers, perhaps, or of literary and non-literary stories?

I don’t really know how to answer this question, I’m afraid! One of the reasons did a reader survey in the first place–and am now doing one again–is to get to know the readership a little better, but those kinds of comparisons you’re asking about…I’m not even sure how one could figure that out. I am kind of curious what our readers would say is the magazine that is most like Lightspeed. That would have been a good survey question.

In the current one, I did ask people what their favorite SF/F fiction magazine was, though, so that may give me some idea. I think the numbers are so spread out as to be statistically insignificant, but if these are accurate, Lightspeed readers are most likely to enjoy the following magazines in the following order of preference:

Clarkesworld
Tor.com
Asimov’s
F&SF
Beneath Ceaseless Skies
Analog

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HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!!

From October 1 – October 31, I’ll be running a Kickstarter campaign for a new project called HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!!, an anthology of improbable, futuristic, magical, & alternate-world crowdfunding projects. Please check it out, consider backing it, and, if you’re so inclined, spread the word!

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Codex Q&A: How do you select reprints for Lightspeed?

In July 2013, I served as the “editor-in-residence” for the Codex Writing Group, which meant basically I was asking a month-long AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) interview. With Codex’s permission, I’m re-posting the Q&As here on my blog. The questions were all provided by members of Codex.

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How do you select reprints for Lightspeed?  Do you avoid reprints that are already available online? Is an older story better than a newer story?

I do typically avoid reprints that are already online, though it depends where it is online and how recently it was posted, as I have made some exceptions. Sometimes, if it’s just on an author’s website, I’ll ask them if they wouldn’t mind taking it down, and then just linking to Lightspeed instead. Or else I’ll look for something else by that author if I feel like the story in question has had too much online exposure.

Earlier this year, I brought on Rich Horton, editor of the Prime Books Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy series, to help me hunt down reprints. So he generally pokes around on his own and also responds to various requests from me, like if I need more fantasy reprints (or SF as the case may be), or I need more reprints by women, etc.

Older is not necessarily better than newer, but the age of a story is often a factor, as it where it appeared. For instance, I’m not terribly likely to reprint something that appeared in F&SF this year or last year (except maybe under special circumstances), but I’d definitely reprint something from this year or last year that appeared in an anthology.

I’ve actually often run “near-simultaneous reprints” of stories from new anthologies on a number of occasions. (One–“Golden Apples” by Sophia McDougall–just went up this week, in fact.) I really like those, because my Lightspeed readers get a “reprint” story that is as “fresh” as an original, and the anthology gets a little extra exposure out of the deal, so it’s a win-win. (And of course the author gets a little extra money!)

Other factors:

Notability of the writer is a factor, because well-known/established writers help draw people to the magazine, and having them on board as reprints frees me up to publish more original stories by writers who are unknown or still up and coming.

Rare/obscure stories are nice because, like with the near-simul reprints, the chances my readers have read the stories already are slim.

Otherwise, of course, we’re just looking for good stories.

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HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!!

From October 1 – October 31, I’ll be running a Kickstarter campaign for a new project called HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!!, an anthology of improbable, futuristic, magical, & alternate-world crowdfunding projects. Please check it out, consider backing it, and, if you’re so inclined, spread the word!

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Codex Q&A: Do you keep a “Black List” of authors you won’t buy stories from?

In July 2013, I served as the “editor-in-residence” for the Codex Writing Group, which meant basically I was asking a month-long AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) interview. With Codex’s permission, I’m re-posting the Q&As here on my blog. The questions were all provided by members of Codex.

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Do you keep a “Black List” of authors you won’t buy stories from? If so, what does it take to get on it? Exactly how far does the Editorial Cabal stretch? Do you all share a single Black List in Google Drive, or do you keep your own?

No, no black list! (But please don’t let that encourage you to be an A-hole to me because you know I won’t black list you for it.)

For example, though, there was an author who railed pretty hard against one of the stories I published in Lightspeed–publicly, in the comments–and this is a guy who has published in places like F&SF (not sure where else off the top of my head). Not a name you’d probably recognize, but clearly someone who has made some inroads at publishing. And when I say “rail against a story,” I mean RAIL–he was in full-on troll mode, calling, in numerous posts, both the author an idiot for writing it and me an idiot for publishing it. Shortly after that happened, he submitted a story to Lightspeed.

A lot of people would be tempted to put someone like that on a black list, but I don’t believe in that. In fact, when this guy has submitted stories to me since then, I’ve actually gone out of my way to make sure that I was being fair. In one case, I remember, I had a couple different assistants/readers read the ms. to weigh in on it, just to confirm that it wasn’t just some lingering subconscious resentment on my part affecting my editorial decision.

I’ve never really heard about modern day, professional editors keeping black lists. Well, except I think Nick Mamatas may have banned people from submitting to Clarkesworld back when he was editor there, if they violated certain guidelines (like if they argued with a rejection letter). I guess that’s a black list. But I can’t think of anything else like that. Like when I was at F&SF, we had more than our fair share of troll-writers over the years, and Gordon, too, was always careful to not let personal stuff interfere with the editorial decision.

I mean, given I’ll publish stories by authors whose beliefs (political and otherwise) I vehemently disagree with — and I have, on several occasions — it seems silly to even consider refusing to work with someone because they were an asshole to me online, or they violated something in my guidelines. Because, really, what does any of that have to do with the story? As an editor, I feel like I have to separate the art from the artist. (At the same time, though, I respect a reader’s choice to NOT do that.)

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HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!!

From October 1 – October 31, I’ll be running a Kickstarter campaign for a new project called HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!!, an anthology of improbable, futuristic, magical, & alternate-world crowdfunding projects. Please check it out, consider backing it, and, if you’re so inclined, spread the word!

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Codex Q&A: Do you accept stories that are close to perfection, or already perfect?

In July 2013, I served as the “editor-in-residence” for the Codex Writing Group, which meant basically I was asking a month-long AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) interview. With Codex’s permission, I’m re-posting the Q&As here on my blog. The questions were all provided by members of Codex.

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I’d like to hear a bit about your acceptance-revision process. Do you purchase perfection or close-to-perfection, and what kind of time do you spend helping the story ascend to its next level of existence?

More often than not, I purchase stories that are ready, as-is, for publication. I will only buy a story if I’d be comfortable running it 100% as it was submitted. Of course I will make editorial suggestions along the way, but they will all be optional if I liked it enough to buy it. If I liked a story but had some edits I thought were critical, I would ask for a rewrite first, and ensure that the critical issue I perceived was corrected before accepting the story.

There are some cases where I do end up making editorial suggestions that are more complicated [for example] after accepting a story, but even in that case I would have been fine running it as it originally appeared; it’s just that when I started editing it, I thought I saw a way to make it better, so I suggested it. Other times I put authors through pretty drastic rewrites before accepting the story. But both cases are exceedingly rare. There’s so much good stuff being written these days that, in most cases, if something’s not quite there, it makes sense to just pass on it and look for something else. It’s usually only when there’s something I really love but is maybe a bit broken that I spend that kind of time and energy on a story.

Jake Kerr: Above John highlights my Lightspeed story “Requiem in the Key of Prose” as intense edits after purchase. There was actually a lot of back and forth during the rewrite and resubmit process. In other words, until it was right, John didn’t buy it. 

Ah, you’re totally right! I forgot about that. Well, it’s a good case study to show to what extent I’ll work with an author to help get a story right. :)

Kerr: I honestly can’t remember, but I do think we did some after purchase edits on “Biographical Fragments,” mostly in regards to that one interview section and the placement of a couple of sections for narrative effect.

Yeah, we did some editing on that one but I’m pretty sure it was after I bought it.

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HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!!

From October 1 – October 31, I’ll be running a Kickstarter campaign for a new project called HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!!, an anthology of improbable, futuristic, magical, & alternate-world crowdfunding projects. Please check it out, consider backing it, and, if you’re so inclined, spread the word!

 

 

 

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Codex Q&A: How useful do you think Heinlein’s Rules are for writers?

In July 2013, I served as the “editor-in-residence” for the Codex Writing Group, which meant basically I was asking a month-long AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) interview. With Codex’s permission, I’m re-posting the Q&As here on my blog. The questions were all provided by members of Codex.

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How useful do you think Heinlein’s Rules are for writers?

Well, rules 1 and 2 seem pretty on point and obvious. Yes, you have to write. Yes, you have to finish what you write. Obviously! I think the other three are a little more questionable.

Rule 3: I mean, hey, maybe if you’re Robert Heinlein and you churn out sterling first drafts, that’s great–you’re brilliant and are sure to be a success and a future grandmaster. But most people need to revise, and it seems pretty ridiculous to suggest otherwise. Robert J. Sawyer’s slight revision to that rule–“Don’t tinker with your story endlessly”–is much more on point, and may have been what Heinlein meant, but, I mean, come on, dude–PHRASING. But getting to your other question–sure: how much a writer needs to revise will depend where they are in their career, and what kind of writer they are. Some writers produce very good first drafts; other writers produce gibberish first drafts that can only be made into stories after careful pruning and cultivating.

Rule 4: You MUST put your story to market? Well, yes, if you want to sell it, but maybe you wrote a terrible story. If you have reason to believe you wrote a terrible story–say your writer’s group is telling you so–you don’t necessarily want to put that to market. I mean, as I said elsewhere in this thread, editors aren’t going to give up on a writer because they submitted a bunch of bad stories (or I won’t anyway), but you basically get one shot to submit each story to a market, so if you burn up your chance to submit your story to Asimov’s when it was in some terrible proto-stage of its development, then boom–your chance to send that story to Asimov’s is gone forever. (Well, probably.) But see what I mean?

Rule 5: You must keep your story on the market until it is sold. Well, I don’t necessarily agree with that either. Some stories should be trunked, plain and simple; because the worst thing in the world is not that your trunk-worthy story gets rejected by every editor in the field–it’s that your trunk-worthy story GETS PUBLISHED, and there’s a non-zero chance that will happen if you keep it on the market forever.

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HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!!

From October 1 – October 31, I’ll be running a Kickstarter campaign for a new project called HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!!, an anthology of improbable, futuristic, magical, & alternate-world crowdfunding projects. Please check it out, consider backing it, and, if you’re so inclined, spread the word!

 

 

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Codex Q&A: What makes a writer go from being unpublishable to publishable?

In July 2013, I served as the “editor-in-residence” for the Codex Writing Group, which meant basically I was asking a month-long AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) interview. With Codex’s permission, I’m re-posting the Q&As here on my blog. The questions were all provided by members of Codex.

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You say there are a couple of occasions where you rejected a ton of stuff by a particular writer, only to see them turn a corner creatively, and all of a sudden you like a lot of their work.  That’s very intriguing. What has turning the corner looked like in these situations? Is it usually a matter of the writer getting better at voice, dialog, description, structure, or other matters of craft, or is there something more basic that kicks in?

I’m not really sure! I wish I could offer a more useful response, as I can see why it would be a very interesting thing for writers to know. I expect to figure it out I’d have to spend a lot of time analyzing the writer’s previous work and comparing it to the new work to determine what it is that changed. And of course that would only be possible if the writer’s other work was published elsewhere. I can think of a few examples where the writer was indeed publishing elsewhere, but his/her stuff never worked for me, so I could feasibly conduct that inquiry, but frankly I don’t think I have the tools for that particular experiment!

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HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!!

From October 1 – October 31, I’ll be running a Kickstarter campaign for a new project called HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!!, an anthology of improbable, futuristic, magical, & alternate-world crowdfunding projects. Please check it out, consider backing it, and, if you’re so inclined, spread the word!

 

 

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Codex Q&A: Will you forgive me for every terrible story I’ve sent to Lightspeed?

In July 2013, I served as the “editor-in-residence” for the Codex Writing Group, which meant basically I was asking a month-long AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) interview. With Codex’s permission, I’m re-posting the Q&As here on my blog. The questions were all provided by members of Codex.

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Your publication has quickly become my favorite sf/f venue and I join the chorus of admiration here for your efficiency and professionalism.

All I really want to ask is your forgiveness for every terrible story I’ve ever sent to Lightspeed. Hopefully I will repay your efforts with one worthy of your time at some point — I’ve got a few pro sales under my belt now, so I’m optimistic that I’m slowly emerging from the category of “hopeless aspirant” (grin).

Anyway, thanks again for the magic you work with Lightspeed, and of course for stopping by here!

You are forgiven, my son. Go with Crom.

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HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!!

From October 1 – October 31, I’ll be running a Kickstarter campaign for a new project called HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!!, an anthology of improbable, futuristic, magical, & alternate-world crowdfunding projects. Please check it out, consider backing it, and, if you’re so inclined, spread the word!

Read More