Category: NEWS

Codex Q&A: Do you ever think a story is great, but not like it personally?

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 ever read a story and think, “Yeah, this is great. Great story, well done, an important story even. But I don’t like it.”

Oh, sure. I don’t like plenty of “important” stories! I can think of any number of classics that seem universally loved yet I don’t connect with them at all, though at the same time I can appreciate why so many other people found them to be excellent.

One of the challenges as an editor is whether or not to publish such stories. Obviously if I *hated* a story I wouldn’t publish it even if it seemed like one of those “important” stories, but in the cases where it’s maybe not quite my cup of tea, but is obviously a good story…that’s where it’s tough. Because at least some readers are reading my magazines and anthologies at least in part because they specifically trust my taste, so if I ever deviate from my completely honest opinion (i.e., trying to guess what other people will like), that’s dangerous territory.

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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: Have you ever rejected a story and then later wished you had bought it?

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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Have you ever rejected a story and then later wished you had bought it when you first had the chance?

I’ve had plenty of second thoughts about stories. In a couple of cases, I rejected the story, and then actually went back to the author and said “Hey, is that still available?” and then ended up publishing it after all. For these cases, it was usually because I couldn’t quite get the story out of my mind, and that, of course, is always a good sign.

On the other hand, I’ve rejected stories that later went on to some critical-acclaim, and I’ve gone back to revisit them and found that I still didn’t like them. I don’t often revisit stories I’ve previously rejected, though.

And on the other hand, I think I’ve actually reprinted a couple of stories that I initially rejected.

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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: When you edit your anthologies how do you decide the order in which to present the stories?

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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When you edit your anthologies, how do you decide the order in which to present the stories? Are there certain “rules of thumb” you follow, such as “open strong, close long”? Is there value to opening or closing the anthology with a piece from a well-known author? Any other tips you’d be willing to share?

I actually just answered this in an interview recently, so I hope you don’t mind me copying and pasting that here:

That’s definitely more of an art than a science and, as a result, is kind of hard to explain the method to my madness. Essentially I do it by feel; I want there to be a certain flow to the anthology, and everything I do is an attempt to achieve that flow. I like to lead off and end the book with two of the strongest stories (with the final story also ideally providing a lot of emotional impact that will resonate with the reader long after they put down the book). I also tend to put one of the other strongest stories somewhere around the middle of the book–what I think of a ‘tentpole’ story. With those three in place, I then go about trying to achieve my desired flow. I think about each story and what it would be like to read that story and then to read the story after that, and so on. Another factor is story length; I find that it’s usually best for the flow of the anthology if you don’t clump too many long stories together, so in my spreadsheet where I have all the stories listed, I have all their word counts there so I can see that as I’m sorting the contents out, and I try to balance out longer stories by running shorter ones afterward. Speaking of my spreadsheet, that’s what I use to actually figure out the order. I just have a column for the table of contents order, and in that column I put a number for the ‘slot’ that story is slated for, that way I can sort the spreadsheet and have it thus put the stories in TOC order.

But yes, opening (and closing) strong is always a good idea. Closing with a bigger name is nice, but not required by any stretch; I think it’s more important to close with a very strong story that will have that emotional impact I mentioned. And in some cases, there are stories that just feel like an appropriate thematic capstone to all of what’s come before in the book.

Ultimately, I’m not really sure how many people actually read anthologies in order, so it kind of often feels like a lot of mental effort wasted. But, hell, they’ve got to go in SOME order, so might as well put them in the best order possible for that Ideal Reader out there who reads anthologies in order. :)

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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: Where do you get the themes for your anthologies 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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You’re editing across the genres in your magazines and your anthologies. Do you have a particular soft-spot for any of those? Or do your anthology themes hit you as our story ideas tend to hit us – out of the blue and with the speed of an out of control semi?

This is an unintended pun-laden statement, for which I apologize, but I guess I would have to say I have a soft spot for hard sf…mainly because it’s so hard to do well. It was my first love in sf, and as my taste has developed, it’s become progressively more difficult for me to find hard sf that I enjoy, but when I do that’s probably my favorite thing.

But my anthology themes do also sometimes come along out of the blue, as you say. Other times, it’ll be something brewing for a long time. Sometimes they come out of a joke that you say aloud and laugh about with friends, and then you think, Wait, that’s actually a good idea.

 

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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 wish you were seeing more of in the slush?

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 wish you were seeing more of in the slush? Particular themes, styles, content, details, settings…?  This doesn’t mean we’ll spam you with those things, but insights like this are always interesting to hear!

Oh, you SAY that, but I totally would get inundated if I specified such things! So because of that I always try to avoid saying much of anything on that topic.

I guess if I’m being more general, it’s safe to say I’d like to see more Hard SF. I never see enough good Hard SF submitted.

Also, I’d be interested in seeing more stories in the 1500-4000 word count range. Seems like I’ve been getting a lot of (good) stories at the upper edge of our word count lately.

 

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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 stories progress through the slush system?

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’m interested in how the editorial process works at Lightspeed. For example: Do you have a big pool of slushers? How do stories progress through the system?

We do have a pretty big team of slush readers; the idea is that by having more on staff, it means that more attention can be devoted to each submission, and there’s less pressure on the readers to plow through everything. And if we’re going to keep to our goal of a 2-day turnaround, we need to have a large team just so the slush process can be flexible for the readers–not everyone has free time to devote every day, of course.

How our system works is:

All the stories come into the submission system and display in the order they are received.

A reader can login to the system and “claim” a submission, to let other readers know to work on something else.

Once the reader has read the submission, they process it by leaving a comment for me explaining what they thought of it and also assigning it a numerical rating on a scale of 1-10.

A score of 6 or higher makes the story a “Recommended,” meaning it goes into my reading pile and I’ll take a look at it. A rating of 5 or lower means that it’s not quite good enough; such stories I may or may not look at, depending on the reader’s comments and/or the author. There are a lot of authors I’ll look at their stories no matter what the reader says about it, just because I’ve read other good stuff by that author, etc.

I send out all the rejection letters myself, so a slush reader can’t accidentally reject something I wanted to look at. It takes a little extra time on my part to handle it that way, but it’s a good safeguard against anything being rejected by mistake.

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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: Have you seen any particular themes or motifs in recent SF/F stories that strike you?

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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This isn’t so much a question as a writer to an editor, but wondering if your TON of reading has given you insight:  Have you seen any particular threads in recent SF/F stories, as far as themes or literary motifs, that strike you? Cultural shifts? In how the speculative elements are handled, for instance.  Things that, looking back, you see are emerging in the SF/F scene of literature since you started editing?

Well, I detect resurgences of themes in the slush pile all the time; that’s one of the ways I identify what theme anthologies to pursue.

Otherwise, I’m not sure how to answer that without, like, doing Doctorate-level research into the last 10 years of my career or something. That kind of complex critical analysis isn’t really my forte, which is one of the reasons I hate writing introductions so much!

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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 are your favorite stories that you’ve published?

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 are your favorite stories that you’ve published? Perhaps, particularly, ones you feel didn’t get accolades/weren’t widely read?

Oh man, that’s almost impossible to answer! Restricting myself to say Lightspeed in 2012 (not counting anything published this year, since any accolades for that stuff is still potentially TK), off the top of my head I’d just say I was surprised that the following stories didn’t get more attention:

“Her Words Like Hunting Vixens Spring,” by Brooke Bolander

“How Many Miles to Babylon?” by Megan Arkenberg

“Family Teeth (Part 6): St. Polycarp’s Home for Happy Wanderers,” by Sarah Langan

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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 consider to be the most unusual story (or stories) you’ve published, and what made them successful?

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 consider to be the most unusual story (or stories) you’ve published –either in terms of character, plot, execution, or structure, and why do you feel it was successful?

“Arvies” by Adam-Troy Castro probably meets all of your criteria, and I think a large part of the reason it was so successful was that it was so unconventional and unlike anything I had ever read, and yet despite all that was a gripping story.

Another unconventional story that comes to mind are Jake Kerr’s “Biographical Fragments of the Life of Julian Prince,” which I think is successful largely because of how the world he built feels SO LARGE, even though the story is under 5000 words long. Another story of Jake’s–“Requiem in the Key of Prose”–is also very unconventional structure-wise, in a very different way.

Otherwise, Kat Howard’s “Choose Your Own Adventure” (Fantasy Magazine) and Vylar Kaftan’s “Civilization” (Brave New Worlds) both use the tropes of the choose-your-own-adventure narrative to great effect. (And Vylar’s story has one of the best last lines I can think of. Out of context it won’t sound like anything special, but in the context of the story it’s perfect.)

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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

Codex Q&A: What do you value most in a story above all else?

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 value most in a story above all else–either in ones submitted to the magazines, or ones you’re just reading for personal pleasure? That thing that makes a story truly stand out to you and stick in your mind long after.

That’s a hard question to answer in general. When I’m first reading a story, what usually grabs me first is the voice or the style. I think looking back on things that stand out in my mind long after…in most cases it’s the concept the makes them most memorable to me, or maybe a great character (or some heartbreaking/tragic/amazing thing the character does). A great last line tends to really stick in my mind as well. (Like the last line of 1984–oh man!).

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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