Category: NEWS

Codex Q&A: Have you ever read anything “so bad it’s good”?

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 get a ton of stories, and stories are stories, regardless of format. I know I’ve seen some really bad movies, movies so bad that they actually became good movies for reasons the producers never intended. Have you ever run across a story so utterly bad that it actually crossed the event horizon into good?

I’m probably the wrong person to ask about that, as I’m not one of those people who can really enjoy the “so bad they’re good” movies. Not typically, at least. I mean, maybe if I get a room full of friends who are making fun of it to make it bearable, it could be fun. But when you’re reading a story, how likely is it that you’ll have a peanut gallery to mock it as you’re reading it?

That said, I’ve certainly read stories that were so bad that they were amusing in some way, and I remember them to this day because of that. But I couldn’t say that those stories crossed the line over into being good (or publishable).

I should hasten to say that my answer here applies only to me and my editorial point of view. I’m sure there are books and stories out there that are terrible, and the people who love them will even acknowledge they’re terrible, but they love them anyway.

Oh, and have you ever been confused with JJ Abrams by someone?

I’m not sure if that’s ever ACTUALLY happened, but I’ve had my suspicions a couple of times. I joked that I should totally change my byline to J.J. Adams though to help foster that confusion. Like we should do a new edition of my FEDERATIONS anthology (with lots of lens flare on the cover) and make my byline J.J. Adams and see if it sells any better.

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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 often do you request stories from specific authors?

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 see, on occasion, sales in which you requested a story from the author directly. How often does this happen? How do you choose (and how open are you about) who to invite? And, how many of those direct requests end up as rejections?

There is a pretty large number of writers who I have approached directly about submitting stories, though most of the time it’s just a general nudge to let them know/remind them that we’re around and we’d love to see something by them.

Much rarer is when (for Lightspeed), I request an author write some specific type of story for me. For example, I asked Ken Liu to write me a dystopian story (“The Perfect Match”) because I was releasing the 2nd edition of BRAVE NEW WORLDS, and I wanted to get something new that I could add to the book and simul-pub in Lightspeed. I also specifically asked Sarah Langan to write me a SF-Horror hybrid story back in the early days of the magazine, when we did our October 2010 Horror issue of Lightspeed. (I had one SF-horror story in inventory, and had my reprints lined up, but I needed another original SF-Horror story to round out the horror issue.)

As to how often are such stories accepted–I’m not sure of percentages, but I’d say pretty often. That’s not to say I never reject them; I certainly do sometimes. But most of the time if I reached out to you personally, you’ve written at least one thing that I really, really liked, and so I have good reason to suspect that something else you write would be to my liking as well.

As to how I decide… it’s mostly about figuring out which authors I wish would send me stuff but haven’t been, and nagging them enough until they do. :)

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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’s the experience of reading a story you decide to buy like?

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’s the experience of reading a story that you decide to buy like? It probably varies, but what are the more common things? Do you get to the end and realize you were completely immersed in the story? Are you thinking analytically about it as you read? Does it feel more like reading for pleasure than editing work? How many times do you tend to re-read or ask for other opinions before you buy?

It does vary, of course, but usually it’s like you say: It feels like reading for pleasure. That’s the goal: To forget I’m even working. I don’t really think about the story analytically as I read, at least not more so than any reader does; I don’t edit it on the fly in my head as I go along or anything, though occasionally I’ll come across something in an otherwise good story that I think should be tweaked that I just pick up right away on first read, and I’ll jot a note down.

Sometimes I read a story and I know right away when I’m done with it that I want to buy it, so I do–usually immediately. Like I’ll go right to the computer and issue the acceptance right away. Other times, I’m not 100% sure about a story, so I need to re-read it; in those cases I usually ask my staff for some second opinions in the meanwhile since I usually won’t re-read the story right away (both because I have other things to do and also it’s usually best to give it a little time so I can approach the story as freshly as possible on the second read). As for how many people I ask to read the story, that can vary quite a bit, depending on how much trouble I’m having making up my mind about a story. I also tend to ask for lots of second opinions when an author sends me a story whose work I USUALLY like, but for some reason this one wasn’t quite connecting with me and so I want to see what other people think of it, because maybe it’s just me.

Answering some of these questions gets a little tricky because I can think of some examples for some things that might be handy for providing context, but then I worry that if I say something bad about an unnamed story, every author I’ve published will assume I was talking about them and feel terrible (or vice versa, which I suppose isn’t the WORST thing in the world, but still it seems like a cruel game to play!).

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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: Does being published in the semi-pro market doom ones chances of being published in 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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I have heard – and read in an interview of Mike Resnick – that editors frown upon writers who have published works in the semi-pro market. He stated, “…you do your reputation and your future absolutely no service by appearing in non-professional or semi-professional markets.” And later added, “Appearing in a semi-pro or free market is a public declaration that your story couldn’t compete in the economic marketplace, and the very best thing you can hope for is that no professional editor you wish to sell ever becomes aware of it.”

Is this commonly accepted belief? I understand why you would prefer to publish works from authors who have proven they can draw an audience but would you steer clear of a writer whose portfolio is filled with several, less-than-pro-paying publications but only a few professional or SFWA recognized sales? Would a cover letter with semi-pro sales credentials doom my chances, with Lightspeed or with other editors you play pinochle with on the weekends?

I can only speak for myself–well, and for Gordon and F&SF more or less–but where an author has published previously isn’t a factor to me. I actually, generally, will have read the story and at least partially made up my mind about it before I get around to reading the cover letter, so chances are good I won’t even know your history when I’m making my decision.

Take a look at the copyright page of some of my reprint anthologies; there’s plenty of stories in those that appeared in small or out of the way venues. Or take a look at some of the reprints I’ve run in Lightspeed for that matter; while LS reprints are typically from more well-known authors, we have reprinted some material from small/obscure venues as well. So if I don’t hold it against a STORY where it first appeared, it would be pretty silly to hold it against the AUTHOR for having published in such places. Likewise, I don’t judge authors for choosing to go the self-publishing route.

So, like I said, I can only really speak for Gordon and myself, but I don’t BELIEVE that Resnick’s view is a common one amongst current pro editors. I think most people fall more into my camp.

All that said, while I don’t think editors generally will judge you for your past publications, I do think there may be SOMETHING to what Resnick is saying, but pertaining to READERS rather than editors. Where I think his advice goes wrong is that he is making a blanket generalization about small/semipro markets. But the thing is, there’s definitely no harm publishing in GOOD semipro markets, but there is potentially harm publishing in POOR ones. You have to imagine that every story you publish may be the first story of yours a reader reads, and so I think writers sometimes need to ask themselves if there’s a good reason why their story didn’t get bought at the various top markets. Ultimately, I think you have to put your faith in the editors of the markets you’re submitting to, that they will only select a story for publication if it’s of high quality; that’s where market selection becomes so important. Not all markets are created equal, so it’s a matter of finding editors whose taste resonates with your own, and who you are confident will put out a quality product, and you can feel confident that if they published your story, then you’ll be happy with that being your first foot forward with every potential reader out there.

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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 form negative/positive opinions of writers who submit multiple times?

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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Editors get familiar with certain names on submissions, and form opinions on who is getting close and who they hope will succeed. Do you also form negative opinions of writers who submit, and assume they’re never going to write something you like?

I’m sure editors do, on occasion. I have in the past…and then been proven wrong. I never GAVE UP on them, mind you, but I can certainly think of a few writers who I thought would never write anything I’d like. But I can think of a couple of occasions where I had rejected a ton of stuff by the writer only to then eventually find something I liked. In some cases, the writer turned some corner creatively and all of a sudden I like basically everything I’ve read since buying that first one; in other cases, I still don’t like most of what the author sends, but at least there was that one where we matched up.

I try to avoid forming that kind of negative association as much as possible as it serves no good purpose. Ultimately, though, I think the only writers at risk of that kind of thing are people who are extremely prolific. Like–if you reject a writer 50 times in a year, several years in a row, it would be really hard to not think it was hopeless. There’s probably also a greater risk when the editor is reading the slush him/herself, like when I was an assistant editor at F&SF.

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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 think podcasting will influence the short story? How?

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 think podcasting is going to somehow influence the short story, and if so how? More dialogue? Less? No weird formatting or wordplay or epistolary work? For example, over at Star Ship Sofa, they recently had Jack Vance’s “The Moon Moth” and I’m sure listening to Josh Roseman’s wonderful narration/singing (the story involves a planet where speech is sung instead of spoken) is quite a different experience than reading the original.

I can see that happening, but probably not for everyone–it’s likely only to affect people like yourself who really find podcasts interesting. I think the biggest area that might be influenced would be just in the rhythm of the language. One of the best things you can do as a writer is to try to read your work aloud, to make sure that the sentences flow properly, because it’s very easy to construct a sentence that might be grammatically correct but isn’t really the easiest thing to parse. I’m sure people like Neil Gaiman consider his prose so that it will sound just as good on the page as it would being read aloud.

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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: Are certain stories better suited to online/print publication?

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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Since you edit both online and “print” (for whatever value print is these days), do you think there’s a certain type of story that’s better suited for an online magazine? Or is there a certain “look” for a story that’s better online (or print)? In other words, do you think the medium makes a difference to a story?

Not really, not if you’re talking about fairly typical, traditional narratives. Obviously we can all think of experimental type things that might be better suited to the web (hyperfiction, etc.), but that goes the other way too — text that requires a lot of formatting manipulation tends to work a little better in print, where the “display” is not fluid.

There are probably stories that will be MORE SUCCESSFUL if published online, due to the potential viral nature of having things freely available on the internet, as opposed to something that you’d have to find and buy in a store (or order). But that doesn’t really make the experience of the story any better (except for the author, if it goes viral, I guess).

P.S. Any advice on on living with a writer?

Here is my two-fold piece of advice:

1. Remind your writer of the things they’ve accomplished often, even if they were very recent as they tend to quickly forget such things.

2. Keep your writer well-stocked in wine/chocolate/coffee/vice-of-choice.

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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: Which type of story is more likely to succeed with 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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Which is more likely to succeed with you? A superbly written story on a well-worn subject, or a competently written story on a more original subject?

FALSE DICHOTOMY!

Um, that is, you know, either way, 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

Codex Q&A: As an edior, what turns you off, what do you see too much of?

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 turns you off as an editor or what do you see too much of? Especially as it relates to Nightmare submissions.

I don’t like to point to specifics like that because although I may GENERALLY dislike a particular trope or whatever, I might like the BEST EXAMPLE of that kind of thing. And I don’t want to say something in an interview, or on my guidelines page, that I don’t like X, and then have the writer who wrote the best example of X not submit it to me because they read that.

With Nightmare, I will admit that I’ve been close a couple of times to adding something to our guidelines about how we’re not interested in rape fantasies, because boy howdy do we see a lot of those.

Case in point, though: I also contemplated saying something about “torture porn.” But at least one person referred to a story I published called “Chop Shop” as torture porn, so if I had put in my guidelines that I’m not interested in torture porn, would I have missed out on that story? (I don’t happen to agree that it’s torture porn, but that’s beside the point.)

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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: When working with different editors, do you find the experiences to be different or similar?

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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Douglas Cohen: You’ve had a chance to co-edit anthologies with two different people, one being myself, on Oz Reimagined and the other being Daniel H. Wilson, on your forthcoming Robot Uprisings anthology. Obviously the content for these two projects could not be more different (except for that one Oz story with the cyborg, I guess), but in terms of working with another editor, did you find these two experiences to be completely different or more or less the same?

It was more or less the same. You and I worked together really well, and the same was true of Daniel and I. With Daniel, I wasn’t sure at first how involved he’d want to be as an editor; I figured that he would want to mostly just consult on author invitations and would want to weigh in on acceptances/rejections, etc. I figured his primary contribution, really, would be advising the authors on robot science since he’s a professional roboticist. But he ended up being a full partner on the project, and he basically did everything I did on the book. (I think the only thing he didn’t do that I did was sending out the contracts and payments, just because it was easier for one person to do that.) Also, Daniel and I agreed editorially about pretty much everything–I think we had one or two minor disagreements on the merits of stories–so it was a very smooth collaboration.

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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