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Kim Wilson
P.O. Box 4145
Hamilton, NJ 08610

E-mail: kim @ writefromhome.com


Speculative Fiction

By Heather V. Long


Science fiction’s main goal is generally not to predict the future, but to extrapolate the present. Science fiction finds itself in a privileged position. It mirrors and engages the very technological age within which our society exists. Writers like Stephen King, Peter F. Hamilton, and David Weber and countless others have paved a creative, diverse and sometimes shocking path which humanity may walk as we continue our relationships with computers.

Writing speculative fiction isn’t as easy as it sounds. Creating a world that exists only within the realm of possibility has its own physics and dimensions that writers who write in the present may not face. Yet, creating a world based on the extrapolation of a “what if?” is exactly what launched the careers of several of the best writers in science fiction today.

Every story starts with an idea. Maybe the story started with boy meets girl. The idea that the boy is from another planet and is investigating life on Earth because they’ve just discovered it, adds an entirely new dimension to the story. Or perhaps, like Stephen King speculated with his story The Running Man, you’re examining the world’s fascination with reality games. Who would have thought that twenty years ago when Stephen King wrote this shocking story that the world WOULD be this fascinated with reality television?

Someone who asked a “what if?” is who.

That’s all speculative fiction really is. Harry Turtledove asked the question, what if the South won the Civil War? The Guns of the South is the answer to that very question. The beauty of speculative fiction is that it allows a writer to not only examine the human condition, but to postulate on where it might be someday or how it might have changed had other events occurred.

Worried that you don’t know what the market will gobble up next? Don’t. Write from the soul, the market is fickle, the soul is eternal. Worried that you don’t know what happens when you step out into the vacuum of space for a few seconds? Don’t. There are lots of writing guides that answer those very questions, including an excellent one by Orson Scott Card. I guarantee you that Peter F. Hamilton must have read some of the excerpts from one of these guides; I found dozens of similar ideas incorporated into his novels on the Reality Dysfunction.

Whether you want to write a romance, a heroic journey or just slapstick comedy, all of these can be written within the confines of speculative fiction. Why? Because the confines of speculative fiction are as boundless as space itself.

So, the next time you find yourself wondering what will happen next, remember, it might be something you can put into speculative fiction.

There are literally hundreds of “what if” questions that can be asked and equally as many answers that can be made. Your mission, if you should choose to accept it, is to speculate and share that speculation with the world.

Some tips on writing speculative fiction short stories and submitting them:

* First write a story!

* Then research the markets. Read sample copies of magazines.

* Print a copy of your story in the standard manuscript form (double-spaced, generous margins).
*
Once you have a completed story, properly formatted, then you are almost done. Select a market to which to submit your story, then:

1.  Prepare a large, self-addressed envelope with sufficient postage for the magazine to return your story to you.

2.  Paperclip your return envelope to the story. No staples!

3.  If there's a good reason to do so—such as that you have some fiction credits you can list, or the magazine you are submitting to requests cover letters—then add a short cover letter. Otherwise I advise sending the manuscript without a cover letter.

4.  Enclose the manuscript and your return envelope in another large envelope (9 x 12 inch— large enough that you don't have to fold the pages in two).

5.  Post the story to the magazine (double-checking that you have the correct editorial address; this is often different from the publisher's address). But DON'T send your only copy of a story. Always keep a backup copy at home.

* To repeat that last point: Never send your only copy of a story. Accidents happen with the post. Editors occasionally spill coffee on manuscripts. Always keep a backup copy.

*  Start writing your next story.

* Whenever a story is rejected, send it out again to another market. Don't let the rejection stop you from working on your next story.
 
* Be persistent. I have heard of people who sold their first submission, but for most new writers rejections far outnumber acceptances. Keep writing and submitting!

* Don't argue with the editor! If an editor takes the time to send specific comments on your story, then learn what you can from the comments, but don't write back to disagree or to defend your story. Editors are very busy people, but not too busy to remember which authors are hard to work with.

* In a related vein, don't send the editor a revised version of your story unless the editor has asked to see a rewrite.
 
* Finally, always have another market in line. If you get back a rejection letter, drop the story off to another market that same day and keep on writing.

Markets:

Absolute Magnitude
Link: http://www.dnapublications.com/absmag/index.htm
DNA Publications
P.O. Box 2988
Radford, VA 24143
Editor: Warren Lapine
Genres: Science Fiction
Word Range: To 25,000 words
Payment: Pays $.03-.05 a word
Frequency: Quarterly

Analog Science Fiction
Link: http://www.analogsf.com
475 Park Avenue South
11th Floor
New York, NY 10016
USA
Editor: Stanley Schmidt
Genres: Science Fiction
Payment: Pays $.04-.06 per word on acceptance
Frequency: Monthly

Black Gate
Link: http://www.blackgate.com
E-Mail: submissions@blackgate.com
New Epoch Press
Attn: Submissions Dept
815 Oak Street
St. Charles, IL 60174
USA
Editor: John O'Neill
Genres: Sword and Sorcery
Payment: We buy first North American serial and electronic publication rights. We pay 6 cents/word for fiction, and 5 cents/word for non-fiction, on acceptance.

Brief Guidelines:
Black Gate publishes epic fantasy fiction at all lengths (including novel excerpts), articles, interviews, news and reviews. We are looking for adventure-oriented fantasy fiction suitable for all ages—including urban fantasy, sword & sorcery, dark fantasy/horror, "magic realism" and romantic fantasy—as long as it is well written and original.


Heather V. Long is a freelance writer who resides in Virginia. When she is not working hard on writing assignments, she is working on quilts and spending time with her husband Scott and daughter Cassidy. Heather also raises horses, manages four dogs, three cats and a tank  full of fish.
 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

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