Archive for December, 2007

For those who are on the verge of submitting short stories to Speculative Mystery Iconoclast, I will be post regular/irregular Slush Pile Stats to help submitters get the inside track on what I’ve received in terms of submissions.

Some writers might find this info useful. Generally, these posts will take the form of:

Science Fiction / Mystery = %

Horror / Mystery = %

Fantasy / Mystery = %

Dark Fantasy / Mystery = %

Science Fiction / Horror / Mystery = %

Science Fiction / Fantasy / Mystery = %

Dark Fantasy / Science Fiction / Mystery = %

Iconoclastic Speculative Fiction = %

There might also be some specific notes on popular trope submissions or stories that I haven’t seen. 

Of course, I’m not saying only send a type of story that hasn’t appeared in the slush pile up until that point in time, but use own judgement…

Keep writing and submitting!


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JB Dryden made the comment that television produces more a consistent quality of Speculative fiction than film. That got me asking myself: “why?”

JB went on to mention the tendency of film to grab the nearest Specfic novel as the basis of their projects. Television does the same on occasion, but with a slight difference:

  • TV tends to use the book as a loose basis for the show’s pilot while movies tend to follow the book more closely. Filmmakers often worry about how the book’s fan base will react when Character X doesn’t throw his hat on the table as he does on Page 523 of the novel. TV creators often add elements (e.g. additional characters) to the mix and don’t worry so much about the book fans.

Another point to consider is that TV has it own original Speculative shows that are not based on any books. These shows have produced trends of their own. A few years back, some television critics were discussing shows like Lost, Heroes, and The 4400, to name a few. Well, actually, it was much less of a discussion and more of a shredding and the crux of it went something like this:

These shows won’t ever work, because:

  • There are too many characters;

  • There are too many divergent storylines that don’t seem to have anything do to with each other (in the first few episodes).

Obviously, these critics were wrong, because not only have these shows survived but the number of Specfic shows with similar “problems” has increased during the last couple of years.

However, the success of these “problems” tells us that TV writers (and creators) have realised that:

  1. You can’t underestimate your audience’s intelligence or their ability to process a large amounts of diverse (and/or incomplete) information (as would be the case with too many characters and too many storylines);

  2. Specfic viewers are always looking for something different.

I think the above lessens aren’t just for Movie writers, but for novel and short fiction writers as well.

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It’s five days until the submission window for Issue #1 of Speculative Mystery Iconoclast opens…Pretty exciting, really.

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How do you induce suspension of disbelief in readers of Speculative fiction?

There isn’t really a simple answer to that question, but to illustrate one method I’d like to draw your attention to a former hit Television show called Alias.

When you mention Alias, most television viewers think of an Action Espionage Drama, but the show actually contained a hefty dose of speculative elements. In some respects, it was more speculative than some of the bona fide speculative shows currently on the box.

For example:

  • Milo Rambaldi (a central part of the show that introduced many Science Fiction and Fantasy elements to the plot – driving many of the characters’ motivations)
  • Present time technology (some of which were 100% Science fiction with regard to what’s currently possible)

That’s actually where the trick lies – getting people to accept the fantastic as the everyday. Here are some thoughts on the topic:

  1. Characterization helps in this regard. As previously mentioned, the quest for Rambaldi artefacts drove many of character’s motivation (either as personal obsession or as part of their jobs). During Rambaldi-related assignment, viewers got to see how these character’s minds worked, what principles governed their actions, and how far each would go to reach their goals. If you asked fans of the show to describe the characters Sydney Bristow, Jack Bristow, Arvin Sloane, Sark, Michael Vaughn, using the aforementioned aspects and provide some examples, you would no doubt have in-depth character profiles. The point is that in Alias the speculative often drove characterization.
  2. World-building is also important. In the case of Alias, viewers were immersed in a world temporally and aesthetically identical to our own, but that was different in the respect that the reality of Rambaldi was accepted by individuals, the bad guys, and authoritative entities like the CIA. The possibility of Rambaldi became not just plausible but real.
  3. The speculative must be juxtaposed in relation to the normal elements. For example, Sydney’s relationship with Vaughn, her father, and many of the other characters were at times as complex and turbulent as their assignments.
  4. Information must be shared not dumped – especially speculative information. Alias did quite a good job of avoiding crude info dumps. Instead, the show used briefings, because that’s what organisations in the intelligence community do: they brief those who need to know. At the same time, the briefing room (being a setting associated with serious information exchange) also gave the Speculative elements more believability. In addition, whenever the character Marshall explained some of the above-mentioned advanced technology and got bogged down in jargon, one of the other characters would stop him and in some cases complete the explanation in normal English, if they had the technical knowledge.

There are many other ways to create suspension of disbelief in Speculative Fiction, but I thought this short note would get people thinking about how to learn from other mediums like Television. It does not rot your brain.

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