So we bounce from Romance to SF. This month’s Clarkesworld Magazine carries an interview with ten of the top spec fic editors: Patrick Nielsen Hayden from Tor Books and Tor.com, Shawna McCarthy from Realms of Fantasy, John O’Neill from Black Gate magazine, Cat Rambo from Fantasy Magazine, Mike Resnick from Jim Baen’s Universe, Stanley Schmidt from Analog Science Fiction and Fact, Jason Sizemore of Apex Magazine, Gordon Van Gelder of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (my dream would be to be published by them), Sheila Williams from the venerable Asimov’s Science Fiction (I might as well hold out for the winning lottery ticket), and Ann VanderMeer from Weird Tales.
Gordon Van Gelder struck fear in my heart with this comment when asked what he looks for in a short story:
[Freshness] is often the hardest, as I see lots of stories that are skillfully rendered but in the end, they leave me feeling like I’ve read them before (or like they’re too similar to something I’ve read).
WAAAAAAAA!!! This is my nightmare. I feel like I need to read everything out there to avoid this.
This whole interview is a treasure trove of info for writers, whether you write science fiction, fantasy, or anything else. In response to the question for advice to people submitting fiction, McCarthy has this to say:
Don’t include money, candy, condoms, underwear, stamps, four leaf clovers, photos of yourself, photos of your cat or photos of your kids. We have gotten all of these at one time or another. Send it to the right address. Enclose an SASE. Neatness counts. So does spelling. Don’t copy someone else’s work. Sit up straight. Cover your mouth when you cough. Look both ways when you cross the street.
Nielsen Hayden is always amusing, when I’ve read interviews with him (which may only be one other time, but still…). His advice to same question as above:
Read something other than SF. Do something with your life other than struggling to sell SF stories. Sheila Williams, above, rightly recommends that you populate your stories. I’d say you should populate your life. Do some stuff that not all the other striving writers have done. Go out into the world and discover interesting things about how it works. Report back.
Or, alternately, live in a closet and eat cactus. Emily Dickinson barely ever left her room. It really doesn’t matter how you do it. It’s not about writers and editors, it’s about stories and readers.
They discuss what “fit” means for them, why they’d reject a good story, how the business has changed. Anyway, go read the rest of it, great stuff.