- Antho: DISTANT REALMS
- Editor(s): Lance Schonberg
- Pay rate: $100
- Response Time: 1-2 weeks
- Deadline: 31 March 2010
- Description: Novella-length fantasy stories between 20 and 30,000 words
- Submission Guidelines: dwdr.wordpress.com
1) What authors do you enjoy and what is it about their writing that captivates you?
The names that jump to my lips are probably familiar to a lot of genre readers: Guy Gavriel Kay, Terry Pratchett, Lois McMaster Bujold, C.J. Cherryh, Robert J. Sawyer. The things they have in common are their abilities to create interesting or unusual characters and drag them through stories that force growth and change while still being entertaining.
But in the last couple of years I’ve discovered a lot of smaller press authors as well, telling stories just as fun and compelling. The internet is making it a lot easier to find new and interesting people to read and listen to. Philippa Ballantine, Greg van Eekhout, Scott Sigler, Rhiannon Frater, Nathan Lowell.
And we’re in the early days of a Golden Age for short fiction. Picking out a fraction of the short stories I’ve enjoyed recently would take a lot of time and space. There’s more good short fiction being run today than I could ever hope to get to.
2) What are your favorite genres? Which of these genres would you like to see incorporated into submissions to this market?
Fantasy and Science Fiction. I do some horror and humour as well, both reading and writing, but “Distant Realms” is a Fantasy anthology so that’s really what I’m looking for here. My definition of Fantasy is fairly broad, so when in doubt, send it.
3) What settings most intrigue you? Ordinary or exotic locales? Real or fantasy? Past, present, or future?
Whatever serves the story. I know that’s kind of a vague answer, but I don’t want to say I’m bored with such and such a setting or locale just in case someone has the best story ever written and then doesn’t send it to me because that’s where it’s set. I try never to let my own preconceptions get in the way of enjoying a good story.
4) Explain the type of pacing you enjoy, e.g. slow building to fast, fast throughout, etc.
Pacing depends on both the length and nature of the story, but again the answer is going to be whatever works best. Fair warning, though: by the time you get to novella lengths, careening from scene to scene is hard to maintain. Sometimes you have to slow down for a bit and let me almost catch my breath before pushing me over the next cliff.
5) What types of characters appeal to you the most? Any examples?
Complicated, realistic characters. Two dimensional cut-outs get old fast, and if I can’t care about any of the characters, I have a hard time caring about the story. I don’t expect to know the main POV character’s life history, but I do need to know more about them than a basic physical description. They need to have hopes and dreams and fears, just like those of us in the real world.
6) What is your policy for vulgarity and sexual content? (Question by Ralph Robert Moore)
Does it serve the story?
Too much swearing can rob the words of power and effect, but there are people who talk like that, so it can be legitimate to have a character who does, too. But if everyone in the story swears constantly, it gets tiring.
Do your main characters sleep with whoever’s handy every chance they get? Chances are, some of that activity is gratuitous. Like anything else in the story, sex needs to do something to advance some part of it, character, scene, or plot. If it doesn’t, then why is it there?
7) Horror and violence can be blatant or suggestive. Which one do you prefer and why?
Suggestive. Or maybe blatant. Or both. It’s going to depend a lot on the situation. Don’t show me what the monster’s doing until you’re ready to have it wreck the city/eat the main characters/whatever, but feel free to show me the gory results of its work. On the other side of things, it’s hard to write a battlefield sequence without a little blood and guts and maybe the odd flying limb or head. Every story is different and every scene is different. I think things tend to work out best if you only show the reader what they really need to see.
8) In fiction and in life, what do you find most horrific?
Violence against children. This may stem from being a parent, but I can’t think of anything that turns me off faster. Hearing about a child murder or an Amber Alert on the news makes me want to find my kids and make sure they’re okay. As a reader, I’m less interested in being disturbed than being entertained or made to think. As an editor, doing nasty things to children “on screen” isn’t going to endear the story to me. I’ve stopped watching TV shows and put down otherwise good books for this. It needs to be crucial to the story or a character’s motivation, and even then I find it tough to stomach.
9) In general, do you prefer downbeat or upbeat endings?
Satisfying. Whether the possible future for whoever survived is good or bad doesn’t matter so much as an ending that flows logically from the rest of the story. If boy gets girl/boy/amorphous alien life form, that’s fine, as long as it fits the story, but don’t pull a happy ending out of your butt. Turning that around, if everyone’s dead on the last page, that needs to fit, too. When I’m finished reading, I want to think, “Yeah, that works.”
10) What are the top three things submitters to this market should avoid?
- Passive voice drives me nuts. I get tired of reading about how Bob was standing, was watching, was twiddling his thumbs very quickly. Bob stood, he watched, he twiddled his thumbs. Things happen, even if they aren’t very exciting things. I don’t have anything against the verb To Be, but if it’s your main verb with a lot of –ings scattered around, it might be time to let your writing become a little more active.
- Over-writing. Make every word count, whatever your story length. “The plane went down, trailing smoke behind it.” Where else would the smoke be? In the same vein, a lot of dialogue tags are unnecessary. If you’ve just told me Sabrina stared at Michael while she spoke, tacking “she said” on the end is a waste of keystrokes.
- Too many POV characters. Telling the story through too many sets of eyes dilutes things and makes it hard for your reader to get attached to any one character--and I want to get attached to the characters. It makes the story much more enjoyable.
Sometimes it’s the little things that just add up to the point where they’re overriding an otherwise good story, things that some extra proofreading would fix: typos, spelling and grammatical errors, misused homonyms. Never, ever trust your spell checker. It lies.
Sometimes it’s bigger things, like all the characters having the same voice, magical (and unjustified) leaps in understanding or ability to get the protagonist out of a tight corner, or the protagonist doing something completely contrary to their presented character to force the story in a certain direction. Reality doesn’t have to, but fiction needs to make sense.
12) If you reject a story, how open are you to a revised version, or do you only want revisions upon request? (Question by Martel)
Generally, if I want a rewrite I’ll request it, but that’s normally going to be part of the publication process. By the time I ask for something to be changed, it will be because I’ve decided I want to include it in the anthology but feel it needs to be tweaked in some way.
I suppose it never hurts to ask, but if I’ve said something like, “I wish you the best of luck finding a home for the story elsewhere,” you can probably figure out what the answer will be.
13) Describe a story you’ve recently accepted or short-listed. What made it stand out from the slush pile?
I recently shortlisted a story I’d consider labelling a Secret History, something that fictionalizes real events and speculates a little deeper, but in a way that doesn’t interfere how history actually played out. It took a moment in time I wasn’t familiar with and breathed life into what might otherwise have been dry, dusty characters. And it was fun.
14) What trait are you seeking most in submissions to this market?
Entertain me. Give me at least one character I can care about and a plot that always has me wanting to know what comes next. Weak or boring characters make it hard to get attached to anyone, and it doesn’t matter how interesting the characters are if nothing happens to them and they don’t do anything.
15) Any last advice for submitters to this market?
Don’t try to do too much. A 20-30,000 word novella gives you a lot of space to play with, but if you find yourself compressing events to squeeze the story into the length guidelines, maybe it’s time to reconsider how long it needs to be. For “Distant Worlds”, I rejected several stories because they really needed to be novel-length. I haven’t read one of those yet for “Distant Realms”, but it won’t surprise me when I do.
For more scoops, go to marketscoops.blogspot.com.
D.L. Snell writes with Permuted Press. He edited Dr. Kim Paffenroth twice, John Dies at the End once, and provided a constructive critique to Joe McKinney on his next major novel after Dead City. You can shoot D.L. Snell in the head at www.exit66.net.
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