Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dedd and Gohn is No More

It is with great regret that I write this, but unfortunately Dedd & Gohn is being discontinued, effective immediately. I have had a great time writing it and hope you had as much fun reading it. Sadly, the artist, Tom Barker, has found himself with multiple personal and professional conflicts and can not draw Dedd & Gohn on a regular basis. I will miss working with him and I will especially miss all the wonderful strips he never got to draw.

Thanks to all the readers who came along for the ride. It was fun, but way too brief.

Edmund R. Schubert
Editor, Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

IGMS in Gardener Dozois’ Year’s Best in SF

From IGMS reader, Jaime Rubin, some kind words from SF Editor-Extraordinaire, Gardener Dozois in his 2010 Year’s Best Science Fiction collection:

The flamboyantly titled Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show, edited by Edmund R. Schubert under the direction of Card himself, had good work by Peter S. Beagle, Mary Robinette Kowal, Ian Creasey, Tim Pratt, Aliette de Bodard, Eugie Foster, Tony Pi, and others, including a number of stories, both reprint and original by Card. Although they publish both SF and fantasy (rarely slipstream) they tend to lean toward fantasy, which tends to be of generally higher quality than their SF.

Six IGMS stories were selected as honorable mentions:

  • “Vanishing” (Peter Beagle, #11)
  • "The Report of a Dubious Creature" (Ian Creasey, #15)
  • "The Urn of Ravalos" (Rebecca Day, #11)
  • "Body Language" (Mary Robinette Kowal, #15)
  • "Aim for the Stars" (Tom Pendergrass, #15)
  • "Tekkai Exhales His Avatar" (Tony Pi, #11)
  • --Scott M. Roberts

    Asst. Editor, IGMS

    Wednesday, July 14, 2010

    The Freak Filter Redux

    A while back, some of the assistant editors for IGMS elaborated on what it takes to make it through the slush pile.  You can find those ruminations here. 

    Our standards haven’t changed, but after 8 months of slushing, I thought I would take a moment to reiterate my point of view when it comes to reading short stories.

    Mo’ Shorter is Mo’ Better

    One author called novelettes the perfect form for speculative fiction—long enough for truly creative world-building and characterization, but short enough to demand some textual snappiness.  As a writer, I completely agree—I love the novelette form. 

    As an assistant editor, though, my feelings toward the longer form are drastically reversed.  I admit it—long stories got no reason

    Well…not quite.  But who can pass up a Randy Newman reference?

    IGMS of course accepts longer works.  But let me tell you—I despair at seeing word counts above 7000.  It’s been my experience that for all the strength of the form, most writers who think they need a novelette  to contain their story are just blabbermouths.  Most of the novelettes I see can be and should be reduced; rarely do I encounter a novelette that is lean.  

    And lean is what you need to make a novelette successful.  Justify the word count—trim your submission until it is svelte.  Selling to pro markets is hard enough; a novelette has to be exceptional to make it through. 

    Go For the Funny Bone

    I’ve said it before: if you want to stand out in the slush pile, be funny.  When John Joseph Adams was reading slush for the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, he made a similar comment.

    Sturm und drang is easy, and so I see a lot of it.  I cherish the funny stories I get.  I love the quirk, the sarcasm, the quick wit. 

    Heaven help me, I also love the puns. 

    Bring It When You Begin It

    Let me quote Sara Ellis, the long-time slush reader for IGMS:

    I love captivating first paragraphs, and dislike impotent last lines. For most short stories, you have two pages to capture my attention. Do not waste these on exposition. Do not throw away first paragraphs with exposition.

    Are you paying attention?  You have two (2) pages to prove your story’s worth. Make them count.

    Accentuate the Positive; Eliminate the Negative

    Sort of.

    Your protagonist doesn’t necessarily have to be likeable.  He doesn’t have to be a saint; she doesn’t have to walk around petting kittens and saving puppies.  I appreciate anti-heroes; I have a fondness for the rapscallion, the brigand, the hard-bitten and cynical protagonist. 

    But don’t make them defeatist.  I’m afraid I have no patience for nihilistic characters.  The story can make the point that life is absurd, capricious, or meaningless; but the character had better be an active participant in her own story, or it’s going to be an exceptionally hard sell.  He’d better be striving for meaning, or for conquest, or for something.   

    Grande Finale

    I’ve read some great stories recently.  Some really great concepts, excellently executed.  Powerful characters, moving conflict, fantastic story-telling…that in the last pages of the story seemed to morph into textual goop.  Or worse, textual sap.

    Maybe you know how frustrating that is.  Maybe you saw A.I.  Or caught the finale of Lost, or Battlestar Galactica.  Terrible endings, all—because they didn’t live up to the promise of excellence that the bulk of the story made. 

    A lot of these stories have the feeling of just ending too quickly—like the author was in a contest or something, and wrote an ending that felt slapdash and hurried.  Or that they tacked a standard, cliche ending on in order to just get it out the door.

    Excise that impulse, authors.  Take your time with the ending; make sure it is worthy of the rest of your story.  As much as I love a good beginning, I love a good ending more because it means the author hasn’t wasted my time.

    --Scott M. Roberts

    Assistant Editor

    Thursday, July 08, 2010

    Another Day in Paradise

    I thought I’d chronicle my day (Tues., July 6, 2010), to give you an idea of what an average day in the life of an editor looks like. Well, an average day in my life as an editor, anyway. I can’t vouch for anyone else.

    Be on the look-out for random moments of high glamour and pizzazz, because they crop up at every turn. Really.

    9:00 a.m. -- Turn on laptop computer. Start by checking emails.

    Email from author. Read his final revisions of short story for next issue of IGMS (author is vacationing in England right now, so process going slowly). Forward final draft of said story to IGMS managing editor (M.E.) for formatting.

    Email from Tom, my artist partner on the comic, Dedd and Gohn. Discuss artwork/final draft of next three comics. After a few tweaks, forward final draft of comics to IGMS M.E. for immediate publication (they should have gone up Monday, but with the 4th of July holiday, we had an extra day).

    9:35 -- Remember that there is still work to be done on business magazine, which has to be done on a different computer. Go turn on other computer and start program (which takes a while to be ready to use because it is such a large program and is installed on a somewhat outdated computer).

    Phone IGMS M.E. to discuss other issues. No answer, leave voice mail.

    Back to laptop. Send email to Peter Beagle’s business manager about status of story Peter is writing for IGMS (deadline looming large). Get down on both knees and pray for prompt response.

    Send email to IGMS web designer about problems on one of the Hatrack pages (several of the people who work for OSC fill multiple roles), make sure he’s aware of problem.

    Read and respond to email from an editor friend pointing out details of a certain book deal for a novel that is similar to one I am writing

    Reply to query from author who subbed story to IGMS.

    9:55 -- Seem to be caught up on emails and phone calls. Time to go check the other computer to see if it’s ready for work on business mag.

    10 -- IGMS M.E. just called; she’s working from home this week, proofing Orson Scott Card’s next novel before it goes to his publisher (again, many of his people filling multiple roles). She and I talked for about 20 minutes, making sure everyone was on the same page so all the necessary work could continue moving forward.

    10:20 -- Back to main computer. Recvd email from proofreader about business magazine pages I sent her last week. Open pdfs on laptop so I can work with her pages side-by-side with other computer that has my magazine editing program.

    Check email on laptop while waiting for something to load on other computer. Reply to email from author friend about marketing idea she had.

    Reply to email from voice actor doing the audio story for the next issue of IGMS; confirm deadline for final recording.

    Send email to Tom containing next five scripts for Dedd and Gohn. Then call him on phone and discuss ways to streamline our process. (So much for being done with phone calls and emails. I think maybe this time I really am.)

    10:35 -- Back to business mag. Currently editing a section called ‘UpFront,’ which is 6 - 8 pages filled with short snippets, each snippet anywhere from 1/3 to a full page long. Everything from entrepreneur profiles to business etiquette to how to write a press release. Lots of tedious detail-work. Details, details, details…

    11:15 -- Curse at crappy computer. The monitor goes blank for no apparent reason, third time it’s happened today, and it’s not even lunch time yet.

    12.55 – It’s over an hour and a half later. I finally broke down, went out, and bought a new computer monitor. It’s been acting up for weeks now and really affecting my productivity. It’s early afternoon now and I’ve got to make up lost time, so this little diary of a day in paradise is going to get cut short. I no longer have the luxury of stopping to record my every action. Gotta go install the new monitor, covert my edited pages for the business magazine into a pdf, forward pdf to my proofreader, and then settle in to read a few IGMS submissions.

    Maybe I’ll try this again later in the week. Maybe…

    Tuesday, July 06, 2010

    An Early Ford Mustang—Eric James Stone

    For many years I have been a member of the Codex Writers, an online writing forum. One of the things we do on Codex is hold Illustration - An Early Ford Mustang[small] writing contests to encourage the writing of new stories.  (IGMS has actually published several stories that came out of Codex contests: James Maxey's "To Know All Things That Are in the Earth" and "Silent as Dust," Tom Pendergrass's "Aim for the Stars," Scott M. Roberts's "The End of the World Pool," and my own "Like Diamond Tears from Emerald Eyes.")

    One of our traditional contests is the Weekend Warrior Contest, which involves writing a flash fiction story each weekend for several weeks.  The story prompts are given out Saturday morning and the story is due Sunday night.

    The prompt that inspired this particular story was this: "Write about a magical vehicle (boat, jet, palanquin, etc) with a secret curse."

    I'm afraid I don't remember the exact though process that led me to the idea of a car that could never be late, but once I had that, the "curse" was a logical consequence of how the magic worked.  I called the story "Early" and submitted it for the contest that weekend.  It did not place in the top three, but I did get some useful comments from the people who read it.

    I revised and expanded the story (it's about 60% longer than it was originally) and took it to my writing groups for feedback. Finally, I submitted it to IGMS, and Edmund bought it, although he wanted a couple more changes that strengthened the story.

    --Eric James Stone