Award-Winning Editor of Clarkesworld Magazine, Forever Magazine, The Best Science Fiction of the Year, and More

Author: Neil Clarke Page 2 of 192

2022 Submissions by Length and Genre and Volume

When I updated the submissions system, I created a few new reports for story length and genre distribution, so the second in my 2022 submissions data dive will focus there.

We accept submissions of short stories (up to 7500 words), novelettes (7500-17500 words), and short novellas (17500-22000 words). Here’s a look submissions opened in 2022 by month:

I noticed that our inventory of novelettes was a bit shorter than normal in late September. The small growth in October is a direct result of call I put out on social media, but it was a very temporary effect.

And here’s how 2022 looks in comparison to previous years:

This graph clearly demonstrates when we’ve increased our word count limits, but it also confirms my suspicions about the downturn in novelettes. We’ll probably have to put out regular calls for more novelettes until this corrects itself. I would actually like to see this grow by more than a few percentage points in 2023.

Now let’s look at submissions opened by genre:

You can barely see them, but there are tiny spots of Horror in there. Those are people who ignored our guidelines, a warning on the old submissions page, and submitted a story anyway. Other typically includes a bunch of things we don’t publish, but is sometimes used by authors of magical realism stories when they can’t bring themselves to call it Fantasy. Blends are covered by SFF (Science Fiction blended with Fantasy), SFH (Science Fiction with Horror), and FH (Fantasy with Horror, or Dark Fantasy). Science Fiction was the most popular genre for our submissions in 2022.

Let’s compare 2022 to previous years:

Once upon a time, we did accept horror submissions. You can clearly see that ended in 2018. (A shrinking because it happened during 2018 and a virtual absence after.) From that point forward, Other and Dark Fantasy grew a little bigger. Some of that was caused by the redistribution of the percentages, but the majority of it can be attributed to some authors ignoring the guidelines. (They thought we wouldn’t  notice when they hid horror in there.) Eliminating horror submissions did result in a decrease in submissions, so it was only a small percentage that decided to play that game.

Here’s a look at submissions opened by year:

Prior to 2018, we had annual increases in submission volume. You can see how eliminating horror impacted submissions in 2018 and 2019. (Most of the authors submitting horror at the time stuck to their genre, so declines of this amount were anticipated.) Courtesy of the pandemic, 2020 was a wild year for submissions and an anomaly in the data. 2021 and 2022 appear to demonstrate a return to stability and slow growth in submissions. There were some changes though… but that’s a story for next time.

Submissions by Country 2022

I’ll start this year’s dive into Clarkesworld Magazine submissions data with a by-country analysis. This builds on graphs I shared last year.

Note: Country data is determined by the originating IP address, which can obviously lead to some errors. For example, an American author living in Canada will be listed under Canada and a Chinese author living in China, but using a VPN located in Germany would be listed under Germany. Country names are provided by a third party database we use to process this data.

61.8% of all submissions came from the USA. It’s hard to tell in the graph, but it just beats 2020’s low of 62.04%. The number of submissions from the USA grew in 2022, but the rest of the world grew more quickly. We have actively encouraged submissions from around the world, but I do believe that part of this trend is natural growth. Unfortunately, we seem to be the only publication reporting this kind of data, so I have no way to verify that theory.

India and Australia continue to fight for 4th and 5th place, with Australia taking back 4th after losing it last year. Both countries increased in their total submissions in 2022. Australia just grew more.

The number of countries participating showed considerable growth over the prior year and showed the largest growth of all the blocks.

As I have noted previously, I dislike having to group 140+ countries into “other” the numbers for many of them are so small that they become practically invisible on the graph. Graphing them together also allows me to demonstrate their collective importance, despite their individual size.

Why do we care? The US represents around 4.25% of the global population and 61.8% of our submissions. I believe that to get the best stories for our readers, we have to cast the widest possible net. That means we’re going to periodically shake the trees to encourage more writers to submit their work, particularly those in groups we’re not seeing participation from in the slush pile. We’re not discouraging submissions from the US or looking to favor people from outside the US or any other group. These efforts do not determine or shape what we will accept. They influence what we can accept. They create opportunities for us to discover something we might have otherwise missed out on. On principle, we do not solicit stories. Every story in the slush pile is given the same opportunity. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you’ve accomplished previously, or where you are from.

Here’s a little more detail that breaks the top 15 (16 because of a tie) countries by submission volume.

Similar charts for previous years can be found in last year’s report.


We saw a significant increase in plagiarism and AI-written stories, particularly towards the end of 2022. The overwhelming majority of these submissions are originating from three countries. The above data does not include those submissions, but may still be impacted by works we did not immediately identify as either. As the tools enabling these behaviors become more sophisticated, casual detection will decline and identification will become more time-consuming. The number of rejected, but undetected, works in violation will grow.

Anything seriously considered for publication is checked far more thoroughly than a rejected work. Anyone caught in violation is permanently banned from submitting.

A little more about the first week

One of the metrics I use for whether or not the Spanish Language Project is successful is by comparing it to previous year’s data. Is it changing the profile of the submissions we have received in the past?

Just over 98% of the authors participating have never submitted a story to us before the window opened.

First week submission totals compared to submissions received in all of 2022:

Country 1st Week 2022 Difference
Spain 135 63 +72
Mexico 37 33 +4
Cuba 22 3 +19
Chile 21 11 +10
Argentina 20 18 +2

If anyone had any doubts about the negative impact of a language barrier on the submissions process, this data should put that to rest.

One Week Into the Spanish Submissions Window

For most people, the above information will be enough, but before going into how things are working, I thought it might be a good time to recap the journey so far:

The Spanish Language Submissions Project was conceived in 2020 as COVID raged through NJ. The original outline described in my November 2020 editorial at Clarkesworld was remarkably close to the final plan, with the exception of the planned implementation date of “sometime in the second half of 2021.”

In January 2021, I ended up in the hospital with kidney stones. Hundreds of them. I spent more than half of the year checking in and out of hospitals as they attempted to remove the stones (it’s slightly more complicated than stones, but that is another story) and not cause too much stress to my body (a 2012 heart attack caused extensive damage that complicates any medical procedure).

In April 2021, my editorial updated everyone on the situation. I optimistically reported, “By this point in the year, I expected to have our Spanish language team fully assembled and making progress on the prep work that would allow us to launch mid-year. None of that has been able to happen and I can’t see assembling the team before my next medical procedure. To that end, I’ve pushed my timetable for the Spanish submission window back to September, but October may be more realistic.”

My medical issues continued months longer than the doctors expected and didn’t come to a close until August. By this point, I had many projects that had been delayed and deferred. October 2021’s editorial acknowledged that this project was in that pile, but apparently learned my lesson and avoided specifying a timetable.

By April 2022, I had managed to complete some of the necessary updates to the submission software. The editorial provided the following update: “This project is also crucial to my ability to launch and support the long-delayed Spanish Language Submissions project. At present, I’m coding the final pieces of those upgrades and hope to move onto final testing in late April. If all goes well, I’ll place the system in production at Clarkesworld in May. Assuming that the testing and shakedown period goes well, I can start assembling the project team and preparing the guidelines this summer.”

Soon after, I began reaching out to the long list of people that had expressed interest in helping with the project (slush readers, translators, etc.) to get a sense of who was still available, what their interests were, and began to build a team. In May, many of them were invited to join a private Discord server for the project. The first piece was to translate the interface to the submission system, guidelines, and our standard emails. This was more-or-less completed by November.

In August 2022, I put out a call for slush readers in a post that outlined what was expected of them. I then stated that “this month, I will start training our Spanish language team on English language submissions.” Other issues came up and that was pushed back to October.

In a September 2022 editorial, I noted: “For the last few months, I’ve been working on various aspects of the Spanish Language Submission Window project we announced some time ago… The exhaustion has temporarily lifted and I feel like I have the energy to push through the remaining challenges.”

From October 2022 through January 15, 2023, slush readers trained by reading English language submissions. When I say trained, I mean they were evaluated and advised. Every slush reader provides a summary and notes on their reaction to the story. For the first month, I read everything they do, so I can evaluate their summaries, criticisms, and compliments. This is as much about me learning their style as it is about them learning mine. If they recommend a story and I disagree, they get notes. If they reject a story and I like it, they get notes. By January, I felt as though we knew enough about each other’s taste. We were ready. I trust and understand their instincts. That is essential no matter what language you are working in.

Not everyone that applied was invited to the training phase. We have an application-based process with a questionnaire that I use to assemble a team with a specific variety of attributes. I don’t want everyone to be the same. Variety in taste is important. If someone wasn’t selected (and we had far more volunteers than we could use) it might have been that we already had one or two people with significant overlap on the team. In retrospect, I probably should have accepted 2-3 more people into training as we had three drop out after the process started. (That’s above average.) Ultimately, three slush readers completed training.

In my November 2022 editorial, we officially announced the dates for the project and began spreading the word on social media, through various people involved in the project and their connections, and via authors we had worked with. Q&A live video sessions were held with ALCiFF in Chile and Pórtico – AEFCFT in Spain. (If other region SF writer’s groups want to do something, I’m happy to see if we can work something out.)


So how is this working?

On January 15th, we opened Spanish language submissions and our slush readers dug in. Early submitters were likely to get very quick responses, but the volume was higher than expected (yay!) and the response time has lengthened as a result. (This is why I think we should have had more people in training.) Some of the authors that have had stories rejected have already submitted a second one. (For this window, authors must wait 72 hours after a rejection before submitting another story.)

If a slush reader’s comments on a Spanish language story feel off or particularly nitpicky, it will be passed to another for a second opinion. Normally, I’d be the second reader in those cases, but since I can’t read Spanish, this is one of our operational adjustments. I can (and have) also looked at machine-translated versions of a story. It’s a terrible substitute, but supplemented by comments (and discussion) from those that have been able to read it properly, those disadvantages can be evened out.

If a story moves into the second round, the entire slush team is welcome to read a story and give their thoughts. We’ll have some discussion on the merits and any flaws before I make a final call. It’s not a group decision, though their opinions (as I’ve come to understand their strengths and weaknesses during training) and feedback are valued and respected, I still might disagree that the story is right for us.  (In English, I reject the majority of what is passed up to me and so far, this is mapping out to be the same.)

Those five “close” stories are the first five that have been passed up and put through that second round process. I’m only reporting the rejections here. There are other stories in the second round that we are still discussing and at least one that will likely end in an acceptance. (I always take slightly longer with those.)  At that point, the translators will be consulted.

Overall, I’m happy with how things are working. I would have liked to have seen a more equal distribution in the countries represented, but we’re operating in new territory here. As we’ve discovered with English language submissions, just being open or saying you are isn’t enough. It takes sustained effort to gain trust and recognition within any community. That takes time and sometimes, a more concrete demonstration of your commitment, which publishing Spanish translations will assist us with.

Three weeks to go. Guidelines for those interested in submitted a science fiction story in Spanish are here.

Clarkesworld 2022 Stories and Cover Art

Here are the stories and cover art published in Clarkesworld Magazine’s 2022 issues:

Short Stories



Cover Art

Clarkesworld Gift Subscriptions

One year digital subscriptions to Clarkesworld Magazine can be gifted from the following sites:

ClarkesworldCitizens – Our direct subscription site. (Gift subscriptions are clearly marked. Our system will prompt you for additional information about your recipient before the order is completed.)

Weightless Books – An online independent bookseller. (After you add some ebooks to your cart, you’ll see a checkbox labeled “This is a gift order” just above the Checkout button. Check that box and complete your purchase.)

Page 2 of 192

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén