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Archive for November, 2007

Currently closed to all submissions

WRITER’S GUIDELINES 

 

WHAT TO SUBMIT: 

Fiction:Speculative Mystery Iconoclast is a new PDF magazine that is looking for exceptional, unpublished stories (between 2000 and 6000 words) that fall into two categories: 

 

1] Speculative Mystery:These are stories that contain elements of both Speculative fiction as well as Mystery. Following this guideline, submissions should form one of the following variants: 

  • Science Fiction / Mystery
  • Supernatural Horror / Mystery
  • Fantasy / Mystery
  • Dark Fantasy / Mystery
  • Science Fiction / Supernatural Horror / Mystery
  • Science Fiction / Fantasy / Mystery
  • Dark Fantasy / Science Fiction / Mystery

 These tales should focus on questions of who-dunnit, how-dunnit, why-dunnit, or combinations thereof. Authors should also note that Mystery is not limited to the Crime genre. For example, tales may involve Archaeological / Historical / Scientific mysteries that have researchers as protagonists instead of cops, private eyes, or amateur sleuths. 

 

2] Iconoclastic Speculative Fiction:These are stories that (either in part OR as the focus of the story) reveal what really inspired a tale from mythology OR what really happened during a historical event OR what really drives a particular phenomenon OR what’s really causing a current circumstance (for example, why we haven’t made contact with aliens yet). Feel free to use Science Fiction, Supernatural Horror, Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, or a mix of these genres in your real explanations. 

 

Remember, beyond the quality of the writing, plot and logical consistency is important. Make us believe and then make us wonder…  

 

WHAT NOT TO SUBMIT: 

  • No Reprints
  • No poetry
  • No Flash fiction (for now)
  • No Magical Realism
  • No stories with excessive gore or erotic elements that are not integral to the plot
  • No stories where the protagonist wakes up and realises that it was all a dream or where the speculative elements are all in his / her head
  • No child abuse stories
  • No stories containing copyrighted characters or fan-fiction
  • No clichés like P.I. stories that begin with a detective sitting at his desk, then a sultry dame with ‘legs for days’ walks into his office
  • No clichés from Science Fiction, Supernatural Horror, and Fantasy tropes, either. Please.
  • No trunk stories

If you really want to get a good idea of the type of fiction we publish, feel free to buy a copy at http://www.specmystery.com/buy.html.

 

RIGHTS: 

We ask for First World Electronic Rights for 120 days, the right to archive your story, Non-exclusive Audio rights, as well as Non-exclusive Anthology Rights.  

 

PAYMENT: 

Payment for fiction is a flat rate of US$20 per story. Additionally, contributors receive a free copy of the issue in which their stories appear. Payment is made in US currency via MoneyGram upon publication.

 

We are also not opposed to authors donating a story to our magazine or including an author’s complete writing bibliography and synopsis of an upcoming novel as payment. Please query first if this option interests you. 

 

Speculative Mystery Iconoclast is published quarterly in PDF format and we aim to submit every issue to reviewers at Tangent, IROSF, and The Fix.  

 

HOW TO SUBMIT: 

 

Email your story to specmysticon (at) yahoo (dot) com as a Word doc attachment. Put “SUBMISSION: STORY TITLE” in the subject of the email. Stories must be typed according to Standard Manuscript Format (double spaced, 12 point Courier, with last name / keyword(s) from title / page number on each page of the manuscript, one inch margins, and underline to denote italics). 

 

No simultaneous or multiple submissions or reprints will be accepted.No postal submissions will be accepted. 

Submission window:

All-year-round!

 

We try to maintain a response time of up to two and a half months – usually a lot sooner.  Remember to check out these guidelines regularly for any changes and the blog for tips and slushpile updates.

 

ARTIST GUIDELINES 

Speculative Mystery Iconoclast only accepts colour cover artwork at this time.  Please note that each cover is not linked to any particular story contained within the issue itself but rather to the feel of the fiction we aim to publish. Therefore, artwork should be visually consistent with a speculative theme – anything that you imagine might be in the realms of the genres listed in the fiction guidelines above.   

 

As with the fiction guidelines, no depictions of gore or sexual content will be accepted. 

 

Email your artwork submission in .jpeg format (300 DPI) as an attachment. Put “ART SUBMISSION: YOUR NAME” in the subject of the email. Send to specmysticon (at) yahoo (dot) com and we will get back to you. 

 

If accepted, you will be asked to send a brief bio (up to 100 words) telling our readers who you are, where you’re from, and where they can find your art. 

 

RIGHTS: 

 

We ask for First World Electronic Rights for 120 days and the right to archive your artwork. You may publish the artwork after the 120-day period has elapsed. 

 

PAYMENT: 

 

Payment for artwork is a flat rate of US$20 per cover. Additionally, contributing artists receive a free copy of that specific issue. The issue will also feature the brief bio as mentioned above. Payment is made in US currency via MoneyGram upon publication. 

 

NOT SURE YOUR ART HITS THE MARK?

 

If you have an online portfolio, send us an email with your details and a link to your portfolio. If you don’t have an online portfolio, simply email your details plus 2 to 3 samples as j-peg attachments. In both cases, put “ART QUERY: YOUR NAME” in the subject of the email. Send to specmysticon (at) yahoo (dot) com and we will get back to you. Remember to sign all your artwork. Send only finished, original artwork.

 

Note: A well-polished look for all covers is what we want.

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In my previous post, I mentioned my short story featuring a Technological Singularity in a historical setting. I thought it would be a good spark for a discussion on inspiration. 

Firstly, I should make it clear that I didn’t set out to write about a technological Singularity in ancient times. It was more a case of me wanting to write a short story based on one of my other interests: Archaeology. 

Specifically, I wanted to posit a SF solution to an Archaeological “what-happened-back-then?” mystery as well as use themes of ‘temporal arrogance’ (specifically, thinking that the present is the pinnacle of all scientific progress since the dawn of civilization) and ‘cyclical knowledge development’ (in this context, discovering/formulating new knowledge [previously unknown in the present] and being unaware that the idea or concept was already being used in the distant past). 

Now, you might say, “Hey, but the present is the pinnacle of all scientific progress.” 

Well, in the annals of archaeology, there are some examples of evidence to the contrary. For example:

  • Some of the interior building blocks of the Egyptian Pyramids are cut with such precision that they can only be reproduced by modern lasers (and in some instances the lasers came off second best).
  • The Minoans developed a system of indoor plumbing, but after their empire fell, the later Greek empire couldn’t reproduce the technology during centuries of their reign. It was only centuries after the Greeks, during the Roman Empire, that a similar indoor plumbing was developed.
  • The Mahabharata, India’s most sacred and ancient texts, speak of weapons that produce all of the after-effects of modern-day radioactivity – brilliant lightning filled the air, victims crumbled to ash or burnt beyond recognition, survivors from the surrounds found that their hair and nails fell out, food became toxic, unborn children died in their mother’s wombs, sand became vitrified, etc. Whether you believe these events really occurred or that the Mahabharata are simply religious allegories or the world’s first Science Fiction stories, these tales point to two possibilities. 1) Pretty vivid and ahead-of-their-time imaginations; 2) A lack of knowledge preservation (recording) among ancient people.

 The point is: Perfectly linear scientific progress appears to be a myth.  Apparently, progress didn’t occur in a straight, rising line – there were some huge dips and even some earlier peaks (in some respects, some as high as so-called modern times).  

An interesting aside: The Indian texts describe climate-altering weapons. The US government has undertaken the task of researching such a possibility in Alaska – it’s called HAARP (High-frequency Active Auroral Research Project). A military application of the research would enable a weapon to make targeted weather alterations – just like in the ancient Indian texts. 

Back to our feature rambling session:I have a background in Science (the approach), so I’m always trying to explain things that as yet have no explanation. Enter the aforementioned Archaeological mystery. Without going into too much detail, conventional explanations just didn’t solve the mystery adequately, because there was no Archaeological evidence supporting any of these explanations. So, with my Specfic writer’s hat on, I decided to go the way of the ancient texts and NOT limit myself to the “this solely belongs in this era” mentality, which would’ve cut down the number of possible explanations dramatically. Basically, I didn’t allow my own preconceptions and temporal prejudices dictate what I could write. 

Then, it hit me: A singularity would explain the lack of evidence supporting the alternate explanations! Not only that, but it also took care of another plot thread I’d been weaving into the tale. The solution was simple and elegant – everything Science strives towards. My theory fit the data (evidence).  

That’s just one of the ways our other interests can inspire a story or story solution.

Stay inspired!

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Sometimes I take a vacation from cyberspace and when I come back I do a lot of ‘bulk-blog-reading’. Well, I’ve been away from the blogosphere for a few days (blame the hectic pace of life), but since my return I’ve come across an interesting post at www.sheerspeculation.com/blog by JB Drydenco. It was a response to http://mundane-sf.blogspot.com/2007/10/why-do-science-fiction-writers-make.html .

The little I know about the HARDLINE mundane-sf people (I don’t want to call them a movement – hopefully, they’re not a movement yet) is that they want SF to be constrained by the science of today and yesterday but NOT be expanded by the science of tomorrow or possibility (OR extreme extrapolations of today’s knowledge).

I have to agree with most of Drydenco’s sentiments with regards to this group. I’d also like to read their Manifesto…Whichever way one slices their hard-to-pin-down stance, these Mundane-sf people seem to want to limit the scope of SF (one of the qualities that makes it appealing to both writers and readers). Some writers (mostly mainstream) say that there are only a few hundred original (untold) stories left to be told in Mainstream fiction (because they have to wait for the future and anything new to become the present), but several million original (untold) stories remain in Speculative fiction. If Mundane-SFers (new word) had their way the latter number would be greatly reduced.

We should probably start a counter-movement called ‘Imaginative-SF’J

I mean, really, what’s next?

  • Mundane Heroic Fantasy; or
  • Mundane High Fantasy; or
  • Mundane Sword & Sorcery? J

I wonder what the Mundane-SF folks would make of a recent story of mine: It featured a Technological Singularity in a historical setting.  They would probably not approve… J

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 I just read Hub magazine # 30 (available in PDF and other formats at www.hub-mag.co.uk). In it, an interesting editorial by Alasdair Stuart entitled ‘The Banquo Effect’ reflects upon the UPHEAVAL in the world of specific print mags (or at least, the BIG 3) and quite sensibly points to the various successes of online specific venues – particularly those that give away fiction for free or use non-traditional formats (read: everything not written on a piece of bark).

Off-at-a-tangent Aside: Speaking of “non-traditional” formats, the inventors of PDF must’ve been blessed with second sight or uncommon foresight, because Portable Document Format is successful as a result of exactly that: It’s portable. Still, PDF has been around for ages. So, there’s no excuse for a print mag to NOT exploit its advantages (at substantial lower costs). IMHO, PDF doesn’t really suffer from the “don’t like reading it onscreen” syndrome as much as other e-formats and even if it does (for individual readers) – nothing is lost during printing.

Back to our main feature rant presentation: Mister Stuart goes on to list many other online venues with innovative formats like Escapepod, Pseudopod (a bit of a plug for himself there), 365tomorrows.com (free flash fiction venue), and (probably most telling) points to Cory “I have a plan” Doctorow and John “Whatever” Scalzi (two of the big BIG 3 debaters) who have both given away entire novels for free.

Three points came a-screaming down the mountain:

1] If you make it free, they will buy. (This makes a lot of marketing sense.)

2] Specfic is the new Mainstream (if you look at most mediums of fiction entertainment – tv, movies, etc.)

3] The BIG 3 may be going down, but the (innovative) rest of Specfic is going up.

My favourite part of the editorial was this line:

“Stop worrying about how small the campfires are getting and go and make your own.”

Maybe it was the fact that Stuart pointed to the big instigator of the BIG 3 debate (that lovable rascal Warren Ellis) as a Comic Book author, but the debate reminded me of what happened in the comic book world in the early to mid 1990s.

Up until that point, the popular comic industry was a duopoly: As a writer or artist, you either worked for Marvel Comics or for DC Comics. You would often see someone working for Marvel exclusively for four years and then he / she’d move to DC for another long spell. You never saw someone working for both at the same time.

The most talented of these writers and artists commanded million dollar deals, but at a price:

1] They would never own any of the characters they created. Sometimes, they would not receive credit for creating those characters.

2] There were limits on their creativity in terms of what they could explore and create.

3] They had to adhere to the ‘comics code’ (a code that governed the level of violence, profanity, sexual suggestion contained within comic books).

In 1992 (or 1993, can’t remember exactly), some of those highly paid writer/artist guys bit the two hands that fed them and had held their leashes: They started five or six (memory fading) comic book studios, dedicated to creating their own comic books, and promoted themselves collectively under the name Image Comics. Image was different in terms of the entertainment it produced. In addition, Image more actively recruited new writing and artistic talent. In fact, a fair percentage of their creative talent were recruited at cons (something that DC and Marvel didn’t encourage).

“Those little punks!” the comic book establishment said.

“But we paid them big bucks!” Marvel said, puzzled by the founding of Image.

“But it’s an honour to work for DC Comics…” DC said.

What followed was a period of unknown variety and choice for the comic reader as well as unknown levels of competition for Comics’ BIG 2. So much so that DC killed off Superman and replaced Batman to draw readers back to the fold. Marvel tried similar things with flagship titles like the X-men and Spiderman comic books.

A lot of the innovative comic books of today would not be gracing the shelves if the “palace revolution” hadn’t taken place.

If we pull the above actions and reactions into the world Specfic short fiction, we can sketch a similar picture. Although the crises are different, some interesting parallels emerge.

Assume:

New competition (Image comics) = New (?) competition (online magazines)

BIG 2 (DC Comics & Marvel Comics) = BIG 3 (Asimov’s, Analog, and F&SF)

Note: The BIG 3 Specfic Mags could also be called the BIG 2 since Asimov’s and Analog are both owned by Dell Magazines (for those of you who want to get technical).

Compared to the comics giants DC and Marvel, I’m not sure that Asimov’s, Analog, or Fantasy & Science Fiction are as quick to react or even realise that there is a problem. Also, the above industry parallels ‘key’ asks whether new competition is really new or has just been ignored for too long. This brings up the fact that the BIG 3 (or 2) haven’t been a duopoly for decades and the online zines have simply emphasized the point. However, the BIG 3 (or 2) still act like they are the dominant forces in the Specfic short fiction market place.

Adapt or die…

An interesting aside: Warren Ellis often works for more than one comic book company at the same time. So, he benefited greatly from the Image revolution. In fact, in terms of being prolific, he is comics industry’s equivalent of Jay Lake and Mike Resnick (put together) and comics are huge collaborative efforts that need to be planned in advance and slotted into larger streams of continuity. Where does he find the time?

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Check this out

Everyone who knows me knows that I prefer reading short fiction anthologies rather than novels.

My reasons:

1. I like getting 15-plus stories for the price of one long one.

2. If the plot or writing (or insert any aspect) of a novel sucks, the whole novel sucks for me. However, if  plot or writing (or insert any aspect) of a short story sucks, there are 14-plus other stories in an anthology that can make up for it. Similarly, if I like 4 out of 15 plus stories in an anthology, then the anthology gets a passing grade from me. However, if I like 4 out of 15 chapters of a novel, then the novel gets a failing grade from me.

So, rarely does a novel get me excited. This one has got me more than a tad interested and  this one I haven’t read yet or more precisely it hasn’t even been written yet…

This author is participating in Nanowrimo and I have a bit of a intellectual crush on her – at least, I hope she’s a her 🙂

Anyhoo, she said the folks at Nanawrimo HQ advised her to tell as many people online to “guilt her into finishing.” After her novel title got me so excited, I decided to do my small bit to help her in the above “motivational” respect.

I believe in playing fair. So, here’s the novel title that’s got me so aroused (excuse the lack of a better word)… Drumroll Please!:

“The Dispicable Slush Pile Outsourcing Conspiracy”

I believe that all writers should read it (on the strength of its title alone and because she mentioned something about posting part of it).

Tell her I sent you!

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Over the past few days everywhere you look in the genre blogosphere, Specfic lovers (writers, readers, and editors) have been talking about the decline in the circulation figures of the BIG THREE.

For those of you new to the genre digests, the Big Three are:

  • Asimov’s;
  • Analog;
  • Fantasy & Science Fiction (F&SF)

Although, for the last few years, I’ve read several interviews that replace F&SF with other publications such as Realms of Fantasy. Perhaps, it’s a sign that F&SF is the one that in the most danger.

Anyhoo, people are asking:

  • Why is it happening?
  • What can be done?
  • Should something be done?

Here’s my two cents…

Why?

·        Editorial unwillingness to find and service a niche;

·        Print format and associated distribution problems;

·        No e-subs. What does this have to do with declining sales? Well, many would-be subscribers are writers. Many writers have grown tired of the stone-age ‘postal submissions only’ mentality of the Big Three;

What can be done?

  • Bold moves like having guest editors for two issues. And not just regular editors. How about having some of the genre’s superstar / visionary writers play editor. Imagine people like Neil Gaiman or even Stephen King sending out acceptances for F&SF or Asimov’s or Analog. This would be a big drawing card for those not currently reading the big three.
  • Accept E-subs (at least during a limited window – perhaps, two periods of two weeks during the year.)
  • Posting sample stories on revamped sites.

Should something be done?

  • By the mags themselves? Yes.
  • Everyone else (readers and writers) should decide for themselves.

Well, that’s my opinion (subject to change). I was getting too preachy anyway 🙂

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