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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Stupefying Stories Update #3 or so

Update: Wednesday, 8/3/11
Thank you for your interest. We are now CLOSED to submissions for the October (Halloween) edition of STUPEFYING STORIES. The snowdogs were very, very, busy and blessed us with a large pile of manuscripts at the last possible moment, so we will be spending this week digging through them and figuring out what to keep and what to throw back. If you don't hear from us right away, that's a promising sign.

The Halloween edition may be closed, but the publication calendar rolls on. Beginning sometime in mid-September (exact date TBD), we will start reading submissions for STUPEFYING STORIES #3, scheduled for January 2012 and provisionally titled, The Future: What the Hell Happened?

More details will be posted as they become available.

Initial Post: Sunday, 7/24/11
Just a quick reminder that we are still accepting submissions for Stupefying Stories 2, tentatively subtitled, "Stories to Scare Your Socks Off." To date we've received a goodly number of stories, of widely varying quality, which was not unexpected, but...

A question, if I may. To be honest, what I've really been surprised by is how good so many of the submissions are. I know it's been a while since I've been on the front lines of the fiction magazine submission fight, but is it really that bad out there for writers, now? That even a really marginal market like Stupefying Stories looks like it's worth a try?

Anyway, keep those stories coming, folks. We are reading 'em (almost) as fast as they come in and will start making decisions and sending feedback in the next few days.

Oh, and a note from the Department of One More Thing: we've received a lot of queries on this subject, so my resistance has finally collapsed. Okay, we will consider poetry submissions. (Oh, I'm going to regret this.)


An Update to the Update: Monday, 7/25/11
In response to further email: yes, we're willing to consider reprint rights. However, we will give first preference to previously unpublished stories, and secondary preference to stories previously unpublished in North America. If your story has been anthologized six times already, it's probably time to step aside and let someone else take a turn in the limelight.

No, I don't care about your background. In fact, if you know anything at all about me, you'd know that sending in a story accompanied by a four-page cover letter listing your degrees and academic credentials is probably the least effective way to impress me. I care about one thing only: this story, which you are letting me read today.

So no, unless there is something in your background that gives you special insight into the subject matter of this particular story — e.g., "Having worked my way through college as an Ama pearl diver, I'm very familiar with free-diving in the waters off Okinawa" — I really do not care how old you are, where you went to school, what gender you are, who you do or don't choose to have sex with, what you eat or what you wear, or what your personal, political, religious, or socioeconomic beliefs are. I care only about whether or not your story is a good read.

And no, my reaction to this story today does not in any way prejudice my reaction to the next story you might send me tomorrow. Which also answers another common question: if you have more than one story that you'd like to submit, do not feel that you need to wait for our response to your first submission before sending us additional submissions.

Then again, burying us under a mountain of manuscripts is certain to draw considerable attention of the negative variety. So try to stick to putting only your two or three best feet forward, okay?

Finally, what are our criteria for deciding what's a good story?

[Reaction shot: arched eyebrow, baffled expression]

In the immortal words of Dr. Peter Venkman, "I'm fuzzy on this whole good/bad thing." If we knew exactly what always makes a good story, we could write up a design spec and job out writing them to sweatshops in Malaysia. No, what I want you to do is to show me a story that impresses me. Give me a story I can respect. I am perfectly capable of admiring — and publishing — a story that I don't actually enjoy reading, particularly if it's one that dazzles the daylights out of one of my associate editors. (No, we do not all share one common and uniform sense of taste. That's why I keep them around; to hear other opinions.) So trying to guess what I might like, based on whichever of my stories or novels you may have read, is a mistake.

I already know how I write. What I want you to do is show me how good your story can be.

Any more questions?

Another Update to the Update: Tuesday, 7/26/11
As I read through the submissions, though, I am beginning to wonder one thing. Where's the science fiction horror? There's more to scary stories than vampires, werewolves, zombies, and serial killers, folks.

Where are the terrifying tech stories? Ray Bradbury's "The Veldt" was a masterpiece of the idiom. Where are its updated heirs? Where are the changeling stories? Speaking as a parent, there is nothing more terrifying than thinking there's something wrong with your kid. Where's the next Jerome Bixby's "It's a Good Life?"

In a sense, Mary Shelley was the great-grandmother of us all, and probably one-third of the accumulated body of literature in the field could be classed as Variations on the Theme of Frankenstein. With all the life-transforming technologies that are hitting the doctor's offices and the farmer's fields these days, where did those stories go? And where are the horrific alien encounter stories? Never mind H. G. Well's The War of the Worlds (variations on which account for another third of the accumulated volume of the body of literature in the field); where's the successor to Damon Knight's, "To Serve Man?"

Must I assign Richard Matheson's short story collection, I Am Legend, as required reading before we do this again next year?

Good story ideas are all around us, folks. Just this morning, in the newspaper, I read the obit for Robert Ettinger, the guy who invented the still-unperfected idea of cryogenic suspension. The obit adds:
Ettinger's frozen body is being stored in a vat of liquid nitrogen at a nondescript building outside Detroit, home to more than 100 fellow immortalists — including his mother and two wives — who are awaiting revival.
If that isn't a slow-pitch softball of a setup for a horror story, I don't know what is.

Finally, a personal note: I come from the land of Ed Gein and Jeffrey Dahmer, and my retired cop brother-in-law is still thanking God he wasn't on the first team that went into Dahmer's apartment. So, stories about sexually abused children who grow up to become psycho serial killers really have to work uphill to get my attention.

But hey, there's an idea. KTown? Is Ed Gein: The Musical out on DVD yet? Think we can get the producer to buy a full-page ad?

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