Monday, January 18, 2016

Reflections 'n Shit 2015 Edition

2015 was the beginning of quite a few things: moving to LA, getting two rat terrier pups, driving on the highway for the first time... So naturally, I wasn't very productive in my writing, though at the same time, I've taken a step back from short story telling. Why? Well, the SFF short story market kinda sucks.

There's been a huge rise in not-editors, who I've dubbed as "story acquisitioners" because all they do is acquire stories; they don't edit, they don't show an interest in helping authors, they're just there because they think they can make a quick buck by buying stories cheap and reselling them. 

Also, would it kill editors to send an email/put up a notice saying their market has closed, or that there's been delays in publication? This one boggles my mind. Communication is so easy these days, and yet still so hard for some it seems. This leads to me having to checks websites and social media to try and determine what's happened, which is futile because nothing gets updated, before sending a query letter. Sometimes my query is answered, sometimes not. Sometimes I get a rejected query letter!

I attribute this all to a lack of respect for writers. Despite putting our trust and stories into these people's hands, we still get shit on. There was a story publication I specifically didn't mention on my blog for this reason. The publisher was two weeks late on payment and gave a very poor excuse, as well as out right lying on the Kickstarter for the anthology, claiming authors would not be paid if stretch goals weren't met. Err, no. The contract says differently. 

Then you got rejections like this:

Unfortunately, it's not quite right for me.  I liked the sense of detail
and mood I felt in the opening situation, but I didn't also get as much
hint or feel for [redacted]'s situation as a character as I needed there
in order for her to seize me; her hopes or fears or drive or stakes in
this story situation of her feeling grumpy about the lazy guards and
skillfully interdicting the assassin and hatching the scheme to use the
assassin to deceive the enemy; who she was and why she was doing these

If anyone were to actually follow this "advise", the intro to their story would be a clunky, info-dumpy slog. You shouldn't have to explain right off the bat your character's motivations; such things come later as the story naturally unfolds, and often you want readers asking who? what? because it means they'll keep reading to find out.

Worst part is, this "advise" came from a SFWA market, so you know some writers (who don't know better) will take this seriously. For me, I exclaimed to Rez: "I quit!" --though not a 100% true, I haven't shown as much interest in short stories. I have, however, been working on my novel, which so far consists of an intro and a dozen or so random scenes. No idea who will publish it, but that hasn't stopped me.

Then there's the current trends of publishing the author first and the story second. I feared as much when this first started with the Destroy! anthology series. Though now I'm viewing the trend as a cash cow for publishers rather than genuine interest to promote anyone who isn't white, male, and straight. But like all trends, they end sooner or later, and CG might be the first.  In CG writer guidelines:

 Crossed Genres strongly encourages submissions from writers who identify as people of color, women, members of the QUILTBAG community, and others who are under-represented in SFF. It is our desire and intent to have diverse representation amongst our contributors and within our content.
Yet publishing/promoting anyone who wasn't white/male/straight didn't seem to help. Like the Destroy! series, they had a successful Kickstarter, but within a year lost 90% of their subscribers, which screams "you're doing it wrong!" And I'm not surprised because only the clinically insane would go out of their way to read stories by a certain subset of the population.  The average reader (and likely the ones with money) just want an entertaining story.

My biggest issue with these types anthologies and magazines is how they peg writers into one role. Women authors can only write female characters with feminist themes; gay authors can only write gay characters dealing with issues of sexuality; black authors can only write black characters and race issues, and so on...

And if you're a straight white male, then you can only write the above!

That's not diversity; that's write by the numbers.

But again, this is all about appearances, what looks good to those who care more about the author than the actual story. Thus the SFF short story market becomes smaller and much less interesting.

If I were to give any sort of unprofessional advice to writers these days, I'd say you're better off bundling your short stories into a collection and self-publish. It may not carry the same prestige, but at least you won't get shit on yourself. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

Short Story: Lessons in Blade and Barrier /Fiction Vortex Serial Box

Figured I'd get to this while the Fiction Vortex Serial Box contest was still active, and post 2015 reflections on a later date.

"Lessons in Blade and Barrier" is a finalist in previously said contest, and I guess my story would be representing the long undervalued Sword & Sorcery genre; and what better way to represent it with anthropomorphized garden fauna set against feudal Japan background. Why anthropomorphized lizard and mantis? You might as well ask, "Why the Ninja Turtles"? To me it's all supposed to be good actiony fun. Best of all, it's free to read!

The blade surged forward, more lightning than steel. The very air went dense with static. Izo tumbled more than dodged, leaped quickly to his feet, but found his balance off. There on the ground was his right forearm, clawed fingers clenching his katana.
“No,” he gasped, throat suddenly dry. This couldn’t be real, just couldn’t. He didn’t feel anything missing. Eyes squeezed shut, he used his left hand to probe where his right forearm should be. His hand came away wet. He put two clawtips to his mouth, tasted iron and salt.
Only then did he cry out.

The winner of the contest goes to have a ten-part serial (and more money), expanding the world/story that the author has established.

However, the contest is a bit broken. After you vote, you can see how many votes each story has, something I think should be hidden, otherwise an author knows how many friends and family to gather to beat the highest number. Last I checked, all I needed was 30+ votes to beat Fly Red Fox. But I don't feel all that compelled to rally 30+ votes, and Fly Red Fox is a pretty decent story.

I do commend Fiction Vortex for trying something new and hope this contest leads to more potential serials, something that I think is quite lacking in most magazines. For me, I don't need a serial to write sequels, though if an editor complains about wanting more characters/world then they should sign me up for a serial! Seriously, there's only so much you can fit in a 3K story.

Contest ends on January 18th, so check it out!