Earlier this week, I received a phone call informing me that my final submission to the Writers of the Future contest (first quarter 2018) had been selected as a finalist. However, after contemplating the information that past winners have shared about the contest in recent weeks, I have withdrawn my finalist story from consideration.
I would not judge anyone for their past (or future) decisions to be involved in the contest, whether or not they act(ed) out of ignorance. After all, many writers – myself included – have long treated this contest as a normal fixture of our community. I hope my choice will help encourage others to reexamine that assumption.
For myself, no award is worth supporting an organization that has hurt and misused so many friends, fellow authors, illustrators, and human beings.
[Updated April 25 with more links in the footnote.]
As of today, I’ve made a small change to how we at Escape Pod choose our rejection letters.
In short, rejection letter type now reflects where the story got in our editorial pipeline. The criteria for Tiers 1&2 have been updated, so that now:
- Tier 1: Rejected by Associate Editor (first reader)
- Tier 2: Rejected by Assistant Editor (me)
- Tier 3: Rejected during Assistant Editor Second Pass
- Tier 4: Rejected by Co-Editors
Note that, as a result, we will be sending more Tier 1’s than in the past. We have tweaked its text accordingly.
Now more than ever, tier is not an estimate of story quality. “Who detected that the story wouldn’t be a fit for Escape Pod” is not highly correlated with the (subjective) question of “how close the story came to fitting.”
If you miss having some subjective opinion in your rejection letter, fear not! We continue to provide personalized rejections whenever possible for original story submissions.
If you want to learn more, including how to identify which tier you received, check out my full Submissions and Rejetomany post.
Now that the Kindle version is out, it’s time to crow about my latest publication: Toward Lands Uncharted, my fantasy story about a spy and diplomat who must try and protect her conquered nation from the capricious power of imperial border-magic.
It’s available in the Mind Candy anthology, the first publication from the small publisher Myriad Paradigm. I warn you, the cover art is… lacking. But new art is coming down the pipeline, so consider this a collector’s edition! And the story lineup is the same no matter what, full of great early-career professional writers like myself.
This story began in a writing exercise for Mary Robinette Kowal’s Short Story Intensive workshop in summer 2016. My core idea was the Censor of Maps: someone who changes maps, and in doing so, rewrites the nations beneath. Not so fictional at all, since it’s inspired by the Sykes-Picot agreement, where an imperial power made a single callous decision that builds and destroys nations. (Hardly the only instance of such a thing.) But need a speculative/magical element in my historical fiction, so I made the political into the literal: a magic that erases nations, places, and peoples.
I very nearly named this story “Sic Hunt Draconis:” here be dragons. The unknown spaces, the fears and possibilities we write into the uncharted spaces of our lives. But it would’ve been a terrible bait-and-switch to use that title in a story with no actual dragons!
I hit a writer milestone yesterday, though a sad one it is. You see, about a month ago, I had another short story accepted at a professional SFF magazine! I was just waiting on the contract to make it official, and then tell you all about my delightful Fairy Gentrification story. The eldritch diner with the portal between worlds was torn down for condos years ago – but there’s one last fairy chevalier stranded in this world, seeking out the owners’ son.
But, alas, it is not to be. Because the magazine has died, with my story in its casket.
It’s a unique frustration, especially since this story has tried so far and long to find a home. On what may be its last shot at professional publication, it succeeded – only to get rug, floor, and foundations pulled out from under it. From failure, to victory, to failure again after so long. Rejection never feels good, which makes this a brand new kind of unpleasantness because it wasn’t a rejection. And yet: no story.
At least with a rejection, I know some part of the failure was mine. I can take responsibility, determine causality, try to learn from it and do better next time. But there’s not much I can do to prevent a magazine from folding under me.
Alas. I’ll sell other stories, though maybe never this one. Perhaps the right anthology will open up someday. Until then, the portal shall remain buried beneath the condominiums of the Lower East Side.
February is upon us, and with it, the publication of my short story Where the Anchor Lies at Beneath Ceaseless Skies! The long anticipated Sentient Battleship Graveyard Propagandist Love Story.
This is a piece of science fantasy, right on the strange and fuzzy borderline between genres. It’s a secondary world, and all of the mechanisms are fantastic/magical, but their implementation and culture feels quite modern. It’s definitely a “sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology” situation.
A few more thoughts and discussion below. No major spoilers, but let’s be careful anyways, yes?
So, technically the Sentient Battleship Graveyard Romance Propaganda story comes out next month… but if you want early access, you can read it right now by ordering the Beneath Ceaseless Skies Science-Fantasy Double Issue! You get a weird and hopefully-wonderful story from me, full of propagandist-generals and the grandeur of the past – and stories by the inestimable Yoon Ha Lee and Maurice Broadus, all for $1.99!
If your cashflow is weak, be not afraid – stay tuned here for announcements & story notes in mid-February when the online free version comes out!
Contracts are signed, so I’m thrilled to announce that my short story, “Toward Lands Uncharted,” will appear in Mind Candy Volume 1, the inaugural anthology from Myriad Paradigm publishing!
This is a brand-new publisher, but they’re professional-rate, and they’ve got a great lineup for Volume 1. The anthology concept is right up my alley: intricacies and alterations of the mind, strange psychologies and mental oddities. The anthology is mostly science fiction, but my contribution is a fantasy story. I wrote the first draft during one of Mary Robinette Kowal’s Short Story Intensive workshops, around the concept of someone with the job or title Censor of Maps.
In the real world, the drawing of borders like the Sykes-Picot line are often an exercise of blithe and terrible power. But what if that power went beyond the political, into reality itself?
Delightful news! My short story “Where the Anchor Lies” has been bought by Beneath Ceaseless Skies for their 2018 Science Fantasy month!
BCS is one of my favorite online magazines, and I’ve been hoping for quite a long time to sell something there. This is a worthy tale, I think, and I hope you’ll all agree when the time comes. I refer to it as my Sentient Battleship Romance, but in truth it’s more of a Sentient Battleship Graveyard Love Story (Inspired By Kellyanne Conway).
I am confident it’ll be the best Sentient Battleship Graveyard Love Story (Inspired By Kellyanne Conway) you read in all of 2018!
I found a brand new milestone to hit: first international translation! My August story from Compelling Science Fiction, The Setting of the Sun, has been translated into Vietnamese for the fanzine SFVN by Bao La. If you want to see what Winder looks like in Vietnamese, take a look at SFVN số 12!
Rather, not “The Setting of the Sun,” but “Mặt trời biến mất!“
I’ve run into two exciting new websites in the last week, both related to short stories of science fiction & fantasy. Perhaps some of you out there can enjoy, or even contribute to, one or both sites!
First up is Curious Fictions, a new online aggregator for short SFF fiction. It’s got a searchable database of stories that have all appeared in professional-quality markets, and the option for readers to pay as they go, tip-jar style. If you’re an author with qualifying stories, the setup process is as simple as can be – and if you’re a reader, perhaps you’ll find some new stories to love!
Second is SFFreviews.com, a new website for reviews of short SFF fiction. They’ve got a distributed model, where volunteers sign up to write short reviews of the stories at one favorite magazine. This could be a great place to learn about brand new stories (unlike the reprints at Curious Fictions), or if you want to share the love and expand the conversation, you could sign up to review one of the magazines they’re still looking to cover!