Still Recovering (again)

I thought I’d be better by now, but it’s looking like my prior health issues are impacting my recovery from this cold. It’s become fairly easy to draw lines from my heart issues and a prior case of pneumonia to the lingering cough and fatigue, so I’ve been taking it easy. At least I can look at a screen again without the letters beginning to move. I did get out for a bit this weekend, but even just standing around talking wiped me out.

Today I managed to get some work on my pending mountain of email and slush. I know I owe more than a few people responses, but it’s going to take a bit of time with my current energy levels. I’ll get to the rest as I can, but I know not to push myself or I’ll just make things worse.

Radio Silence

It’s been a rough couple of weeks in our house. A mean little bug has been taking us out one-by-one. Fortunately, it waits until the previous host is better before striking the next. It came home with my oldest and by the time it moved onto his brother, I knew the right medications to bring it to its knees. Unfortunately, it jumped to me next and none of those medications are on my “allowed” list. I’ve had to take the scenic route through death slime valley.

The worst appears to be over, but with pieces still sitting in my chest, it could be a few days before I’m back to 100%. This was probably the worst cold I’ve had since my heart attack and the only one that has really triggered any real concern on my part. It’s serving as a reminder that my life isn’t as it was before. Just trying to do some simple tasks yesterday quickly tossed me back on the couch, exhausted. Reminds me a lot of those first days out of the hospital. Just need to take it easy. Nothing needs to be done today.

It’s Alive! Best Science Fiction of the Year Volume 2

While I was attending ICFA, The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume 2 started shipping from Amazon and other bookstores. I just returned home and found a few boxes of them waiting for me.

If you’ve ordered a copy, THANK  YOU! I hope you enjoy it.

If you haven’t and are wondering where to get it, I’ve linked to the bookstore I know about here. Ebook editions will be released on the 4th. The print edition shipped early.

The Year in Slush: 2016

Recently, an author on twitter asked me what the point of submitting to Clarkesworld when the acceptance rate is around 3%. Two things immediately came to mind:

1. If you pay attention to the odds, you’ll go insane

I keep finding myself having to explain quantitive vs. qualititive processes. If you think of submissions as a quantitative process (believing slush pile stats to be your odds of being published), then the skill or talent of the author and the story itself have absolutely no value in the decision. The selection process might as well be a lottery that assumes every story is equal to the next.

I have data that confirms a minimum of 15,000 different authors submitting stories to multiple markets over the past three years. Even with the short fiction market as over-saturated with venues as it is–an argument I make based on the size of the reading community that can sustain it–there aren’t enough slots for every story written. No one is guaranteed a spot.

While every story is given the same chance to prove itself, getting published involves a qualitative evaluation for those few open slots. That evaluation will be different for every editor and their rejection or acceptance of a story is an assessment of that story’s value to that specific market at that specific time. Sure, chance can play a role in being rejected–for example, when an editor already has a very similar story in inventory–but being accepted always requires talent. (Being rejected does not imply the inverse–a lack of talent.) If you believe you have talent, ignore slush pile statistics. They are the devil on your shoulder telling you to give up/you’re not good enough.

Oh and if you have a hard time believing you are good enough, volunteer to read slush somewhere for a while. Aside from gaining some interesting insights into writing and the state of the field, you’ll quickly discover how much better or worse you are than the majority of authors submitting stories. I haven’t met anyone who ended up thinking they were worse.

2. His rejection rate was wrong

Ok, if you are an author and still reading, I think we’ve established that you are potentially self-destructive.

The rate of 3% has never been true at Clarkesworld. That’s closer to the percentage of people who receive the near-miss top-tier rejection letters. If you get one of these, we’ve seen something in your work that makes us think you have a good shot at being published with us some day. If you’ve received multiples, you are skating around the edges of what we want and need to shake things up a little. If you get a lot of these, I’m probably now recognizing your name in slush and will inevitably try to push you in the right direction.

The actual acceptance rate for 2016 was 0.41%. That’s up slightly from 2015, but we saw some late-year declines in submissions that appear to line-up with the presidential election. December had the highest monthly acceptance rate: 0.83%. The lowest was September, which had none. Combined, the authors of the stories we accepted in 2016 accrued 434 rejections over their entire history of submitting stories to us.

Slush Pile by Genre

39.54% Science Fiction
26.57% Fantasy
9.22% Horror
8.80% Fantasy/Horror
7.23% Science Fiction/Fantasy
5.26% Science Fiction/Horror
3.38% Other

Accepted Stories by Genre

76.47% Science Fiction
1.96% Fantasy
15.69% Science Fiction/Fantasy
5.88% Science Fiction/Horror

What does this mean? Essentially, it’s a snapshot of the types of stories that most appealed to me based on what I received in 2016. I’m always hesitant to post data like this because it can cause an unnatural shift in the submissions we receive. If I suddenly declared “I love robot stories,” I’d inevitably get flooded with robot stories and find myself hating them. Unfortunately, the inverse is not true. I can scream “DON’T SEND ME ZOMBIE STORIES!” to some people’s faces and they’ll still do it. That should say something about writer psychology, but I’m not sure what.

In the end, don’t write what you think I want. That’s a likely path to boring me. Write what you want, throw it at my wall, and I’ll see if it sticks. Don’t let the numbers psych you out. If you’ve made it this far, they probably don’t apply to you.

Reading Period: More Human Than Human

More Human Than Human is a reprint anthology focused on the theme of androids, replicants, and other artificial humanoids that will be published by Night Shade Books in trade paperback, ebook, and (maybe) audio editions in late 2017.

What am I looking for

  • Previously published science fiction stories between 3000 and 25000 words in length.
  • Stories must include androids, replicants, etc. as a major character or plot element.

What I don’t want

  • Stories outside the stated word count
  • Poetry
  • Fantasy
  • Original stories (this is a reprint anthology, send originals to Clarkesworld)
  • Zombies (yeah, they are always on the list)

Payment and Required rights

  • If accepted, payment of one cent/word will be issued on receipt of signed contract . Pro-rata share of royalties issued twice per year (if additional payment is due).
  • Non-exclusive English language rights for print, digital, and audio editions required.

Reading Period, Response Times, ANd How to SUbmit

  • Open for submissions through 3/20/2017.
  • May make up to five concurrent submissions.
  • Acceptance and rejection letters will be emailed sometime before April 5, 2017.
  • Cover letter should include original publication information of the story.
  • All submissions must be made through my anthology submissions system at: http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/anthology/

Recommending Stories

If you would like to recommend a story that you have not written, please post it in the comments section of this post.

Questions

If you have questions, email neil(at)clarkesworldmagazine.com.