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.