Thursday, June 10, 2010

Speculative Fiction

The cover art--called, I think The Curse-- of the latest issue of Electric Spec.

The following post by editor Betsy Dornbusch (aka Sex Scenes at Starbucks) is part of a blog tour to promote the quarterly. Something I'm very glad to do--especially since the issue also includes an interview with me about Dark and Disorderly!

Again, cut and paste proved impossible, so any typos are mine.

Editors spend a lot of time spouting off about what writers do wrong. For one, it's really easy to pick out what's wrong. It's tougher to see what's working and why. I think it's important to know how to do both. And, if I can be blunt: bitching about writer's wrongs are a fuckin' bummer. So without wasting a ton of words (I'd rather you spend your time reading Electric Spec!) I thought I'd point out why the stories in our latest issue made the cut.

First up is "Streetwise" by Phil Emory. This is a story we bought early in the year when we committed to going quarterly. I edited it, and I liked it even better upon second and third reading. Why did we choose it? The story takes the trope of cloning and mines the emotions around it. Emory bares his protag and lets him look ugly and pathetic, but he gains a sort of everyman nobility. He also uses setting and voice to enhance and strengthen his premise.

"A Cold Day in Crisis" by Matthew Sandborn Smith. What can I say? I love me some conspiracy-laden anti-hero-driven urban fantasy. What made it stand out is character, character, character though. The conspiracy is a subplot compared to the characters and their personalities and problems. As a bonus, they get problems they didn't even know they had. Very cleverly wrought, this one.

"Lee Harvey's Assistants" is by Mark D. West. To me, the first line sets it apart. It stages the premise and makes me want to read on: As it did every time, the crowd on the grassy knoll was milling about in the brilliant sunlight, two or three deep in spots, waiting for the motorcade to appear. See what West did there? With the first phrase he puts a twist on an iconic American event, with enough detail to remind those of us who've seen the footage where we are. More importantly to a speculative fiction reader or editor, the mere mention of time spurs hope that we might get to hitchhike the 4th dimension.

"Wings More than Wishes" by Steele Tyler Filipec is a steampunk tale, and, honestly, we don't see a great deal of steampunk. It uses the reliable old bane Religion to battle progress in a steampunk setting and puts the tale squarely on the shoulders of the guy with the most to ponder. The writing has elegance, the voice fits the scene, and Filipec uses details (again! I sense a trend...) to draw us into the world.

"Identity Theft" by Greg M. Hall is another story I edited. It's more a straight fantasy, though it has some modern edges like a curious con man and gender issues that never occurred to medieval kings and queens. By the third paragraph, we know our protag is up to his armpits in fusty magicians and an emperor who likes to swing an axe when in a foul mood. We guess early that the protag will have to solve a nasty problem or lose his head. Good stakes, ornery characters, and a sense of humor with this one drove it through the voting process.

These stories do one other thing: they grabbed us on the first page. In these days of 140 character fiction, I'm guessing you have about as much time as it takes for a YouTube video to load to grab and hold readers' attention.

Betsy's Bio:

Betsy Dornbusch splits her time between Boulder and Grand lake, Colorado. Her short fiction has appeared in print and online venues asuch as Sinister Tales, Big Pulp and Spinetingler. She has a novella out with Whiskey Creek Press, another forthcoming, and serves as an editor for Electric Spec. In her free time, she snowboards and pretends to be a soccer mom( nobody's buying the soccer mom bit though.)


laughingwolf said...

good stuff, betsy :)

Betsy Dornbusch said...

Thanks Wolfie.

Thanks, too, Bernita. Cross-linking commencing...

Bernita said...

'Tis, isn't it, LW!
One too seldom has the chance to see an editor's thought processes.

Glad to, Betsy.
A nice verity of stories. Hope you get more steampunk submissions in the future- it's an engaging sub-genre.

Lauren said...

Those all sound very intriguing...especially the last two. Talking about steampunk and a bit off topic, I'm sorry, but do you know of any good full length steampunk novels?

Bernita said...

Lauren, isn't "His(Her?) Majesty's Dragon" a steampunk novel?
Think I saw somewhere this morning-but can't remember where- that it was available for a free download for a short time.
Perhaps someone here will know of titles.

raine said...

Thanks for the info.
Always interesting to see what hooks an editor. :)

Charles Gramlich said...

I just got a steampunk novel called "Pinion." It looks pretty good but I haven't read it yet.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I know a YA novel, which is City of Ember and the sequels. Kids say they are awesome. The movie But I'm not as well read in steampunk as I'd like.

fairyhedgehog said...

"Identity Theft" sounds fun. I like gender issues and humour in my speculative fiction!

Barbara Martin said...

This is a great post, to see the inner thoughts of why an editor chose a particular story. Thank you, Betsy and Bernita.

Anonymous said...

That cover is story in itself!

sex scenes at starbucks, said...

Thanks, guys!