Thursday, August 5, 2010

Arkham Tales magazine

  • Zine: Arkham Tales 
  • Editor(s): Nathan Shumate 
  • Pay Rate: 1 cent per word 
  • Response Time: As soon as we can get to it – honest!  (Usually about 3-4 weeks.) 
  • Reading Period: Year round. 
  • Description: A PDF magazine of weird fiction encompassing pulp adventure, weird horror (including Lovecraftian influence, obviously), the supernatural and the fantastic. 
  • Submission Guidelines:


1) What authors do you enjoy, and why does their writing captivate you?
It’s too predictable to say that I like Lovecraft, so I won’t.  (Wait, I just did.  Dammit.)  I really enjoy all kinds of writers, from Robert E. Howard to Raymond Carver to Orson Scott Card to Robert B. Parker, as long as they’re confident in their use of the language and the art of the storyteller.

2) What are your favorite genres? Which genres would you like to see incorporated into submissions to this market?
Personally, I enjoy all of the traditionally “male” genres: SF, horror, adventure, detective, suspense, etc.  As far as submissions go, everything should have that dark fantastic touch that defines them as “weird fiction,” but I would like to see more stories which successfully combine science fiction elements with that “weird” feeling.

3) What settings most intrigue you? Ordinary or exotic locales? Real or fantasy? Past, present, or future?
Any setting can be intriguing if it is imbued by the author’s voice with depth and connection to the story.  I don’t think I’ve ever rejected a story because of setting, but I’ve never accepted one because of story either.

4) Explain the type of pacing you enjoy, e.g. slow building to fast, fast throughout, etc.
Abraham Lincoln, when asked how long a man’s legs should be, said they should be long enough to reach the ground.  Pacing is like that; a story’s pacing should be consonant with the story it’s trying to tell.  I’ve rejected stories because they’ve tried to throw as much plot at the reader in the fewest number of words, and I’ve rejected stories because they took a simple idea worth a short-short and padded it far beyond its manageable length.  If a writer can convince me in the story that the pacing he chose is the best way to tell that story, I’ll go with it.

5) What types of characters appeal to you the most? Any examples?
I like to see a variety of characters.  Some stories are built almost entirely on the strength and novelty of the main character; others use a generic stand-in for the author (Lovecraft did this a lot) who remains almost featureless.  A rule of thumb: the less well-defined the character, the stronger the events around him need to be—a plain character in an unimpressive plot doesn’t work for anyone.

6) Is there a specific tone you'd like to set in your publication? What kind of voices grab you and keep you enthralled? Any examples?
“Weird” is a hard focus to explain. In general, it means that there has to be something to the stone both fantastic and slightly dark or alien, and this should be reflected in the tone or voice.  I’ll let you in on a secret: the author’s voice is the single most important factor to an acceptance at Arkham Tales.  If the story hasn’t convinced me within three pages or so that the author knows and loves the English language and uses it with enough confident to keep me reading, even though I don’t really know what the story is about yet, I’ll move on to something else.

With that said, there’s no single voice that can or should be the “house style” for our magazine.  We want variety; the unifying element is that the author’s voice should be strong and confident and evocative.  Look at that list of authors earlier; Robert E. Howard and Robert B. Parker are worlds apart in their writing style, but what they both have in common is a consistent and strong writer’s voice.

7) What is your policy for vulgarity, violence, and sexual content? Any taboos?
My main policy is, “Don’t try to shock me.”  I don’t look for splatterpunk; I find that kind of gonzo excess numbing and counterproductive.  Don’t try to “sexy up” your story with excess, because I’d much rather be unsettled than grossed out.

8) What kind of themes are you seeking most in submissions to this market? In general, what themes interest you?
Probably the closest thing to a common theme behind Arkham Tales is the one Lovecraft articulated, that realization of humanity’s infinitesimal place in the cosmos can be maddening in its overwhelming scope.  That said, I don’t want to turn the magazine into a nihilistic dirge-fest; voice and tone are a lot more important than a single theme.

9) Overall, do you prefer downbeat or upbeat endings?
I don’t have anything against upbeat endings as such, but I know as well as you do that authors often engineer them because the hero is expected to win, and thus the author cheats on the protagonist’s behalf.  On the other hand, too many downbeat endings try to involve a shock or twist that is obvious from the opening page.  The ending, happy or sad, grows out of the story that leads up to it; rather than an upbeat or downbeat ending, make sure you have the right ending.

10) Any last advice for submitters to this market? Any critical dos or don’ts?
I have a long list of pet peeves (I much prefer past tense to present, I can’t abide changing the viewpoint character in the middle of a scene, and I don’t want to wade through three opening pages that are stuffed with dull exposition and background), but here’s the primary point:  I want confident storytellers who know how to tell a story and why they told this particular story the way they told it.  You can have the greatest story idea and the best ending, but if the prose is clunky and uncertain, then your idea won’t show through your words and I’ll never get as far as reading your ending.

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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

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