July 14th, 2006

Editorial Musings--Issue Three

Hey Folks,

It's the middle of the month, which means it's time for more Editorial Musings. Since my plea to Barbarienne to teach me how to do that shortening feature on these interviews went ignored, this musing shall once again be of an ungodly length. So anyway, this month's interview will be taking with Edmund R. Schubert.

Bio:

Edmund R. Schubert loves stories. Always has; always will. When he was in the second grade, his teacher would bribe him with trips to the library to get him to do his math and science. Little has changed since then.

Hired as editor of Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show (http://www.InterGalacticMedicineShow.com) in June, 2006, Edmund's fiction has been published over thirty times in the past four years, with stories appearing in magazines and anthologies in the U.S., Canada, and England. Notable recent publications include "Legwork" in the 20th anniversary issue of Hardboiled mystery magazine (Summer '05), "Trill and the Beanstalk" in the premiere issue of Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show (Oct. '05), “The River Is Forever” as an audio production by www.MechMuse.com (Feb. ’06), and as Featured Writer in Futures Mystery Anthology (May '06) with "Good With Directions".

Additionally, in 2004, Edmund's story, "Unfathomed," won first prize in Lynx Eye's 8th Annual Captivating Beginnings Contest, and "Reality Check On Register Two" was included in StorySouth’s list of Notable Stories. In 2005 "I Have To Go Now" was selected by the editors of The Writers Post Journal for inclusion in their annual "Best of 2005" issue (published Feb. '06).

His novel, The Legend of Dreaming Creek, is scheduled to be released in trade paperback in June of 2007 by LBF Books.
He also writes non-fiction, and is executive editor of a quarterly business magazine, North Carolina Career Network Magazine. He writes an occasional newspaper column for the Greensboro News & Record, and a monthly non-fiction column for The Horror Library (www.HorrorLibrary.net).

Despite all this, Edmund still maintains that his greatest achievement was when the underground newspaper he published in college made him the subject of a professor's lecture -- in abnormal psychology.
His fiction web-site is: www.edmundrschubert.com and his new blog can be found at www.SideShowFreaks.blogspot.com/

1. How did you end up becoming the new editor for Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show?

There was a phone-in contest and I was caller #9. Caller #8 got to be Scott’s new gardener, which is what I was really aiming for. But sometimes you have to take what you get and make the most of it.


2. What are your responsibilities as editor?

To a degree the job is still evolving, and I suspect it will continue to do so for a while. But my primary responsibility is to go through the stories that make it out of the slush pile, pick the ones that will be published, and organize each issue into something that will make for an overall reading experience people will enjoy. There’s a longer answer, but it’s not nearly as interesting.


3. What has the editorial transition been like?

Challenging right now, mainly because I’m trying to juggle the editorial calendars for two magazines at once. On the other hand, it has forced me to really focus and get organized, so it’s been helpful, too.

Scott and I met once early on and went though a stack of stories. I told him which I liked and which I didn’t, and why or why not. He agreed with my assessments and pretty much said, “Okay, it’s yours. Go get ‘em.” I have to confess to being nervous when I showed him the first story I thought we should buy – a story called “Xoco’s Fire” by Oliver Dale – but when Scott looked it over and said, “Yeah, I’d have bought this in a heartbeat - if I had had time to read it,” I knew things were going to work out.


4. Now that OSC has handed off the editorial reins, how much involvement does he have with the magazine?


Scott has made it clear that he still wants to be involved in the selection of the art. He hasn’t said so directly, but I suspect that’s because the art is something he simply enjoys very much. In the midst of all his responsibilities, he wants to hang on to something that is a source of pleasure to him.

However, he has directly said that he expects me to leave my fingerprints all over future issues of IGMS, and that I need to think of myself not as a surrogate Orson Scott Card, but as the editor who molds and shapes IGMS. So his involvement with the selection of stories is going to be limited to those times when a story happens to come across his desk and really captures his attention – at which point he’ll say, “Ed, publish this” and I’ll say, “Yes, sir!”

Actually, he and I have had conversations about that possibility – him discovering a particular story – and we might run such stories in IGMS under a banner that says, “Uncle Orson’s Pick” or something like that. It may not happen more than once a year, but if it does it will be noted.


5. No two editors ever have the exact same tastes. How much do you expect the content of the magazine to change with your hand guiding it?


If Scott and I didn’t, at a certain level, see eye to eye, he wouldn’t have hired me in the first place. So neither of us have any concerns that I’m going to run off into the weeds and do something peculiar. On the other hand, as much as I feel a responsibility to represent Scott and his tastes well, nothing is going to change the fact that some stories will speak to me and some will not. And the ones that do are the ones I’m going to publish. How much or how little that will change the magazine is something only time will tell.


6. What sorts of stories would you recommend writers to send along for consideration? What sorts would you advise against?

InterGalactic Medicine Show publishes all sorts of fiction, as long as it contains an element of the fantastic (and it’s a fantastic story). Hard or soft SF is fine; contemporary or high fantasy. Tales of the weird. Even the odd ghost story or light horror would be okay.

Our submission guidelines say “PG-13,” but I hope no one thinks that means they can’t write about challenging subject matter. We want challenging subject matter; we’re just not interested in gore or sex or profanity. Most stories I’ve seen that include those elements would be just as provocative – if not more so – without them.


7. What makes this magazine different from Baen’s Universe, the other online spec magazine to which one must subscribe in order to read the stories?


Given that Jim Baen just passed away, I’m going to take this opportunity to express my condolences to his family and many friends, and leave it at that. I wish them the best.


8. Personally, I love to blab on and on about my slush discoveries. What about you? Any authors or stories you’ve discovered that you’d like to mention?


I can’t claim to have discovered him because he had already had a couple of stories accepted by Asimov’s, but James Maxey is a writer who I believe the world will be hearing a lot from. Within a few days of being hired to edit IGMS I was on the phone asking him if a particular story he wrote (“To Know All Things That Are In The Earth”) was available. It wasn’t at the moment, but eventually I managed to get a hold of it. (The process involved a drunken money, a half naked bottle of tequila, a beautiful woman with a banana, and a video camera. To say any more would be tactless and I won’t subject James to that.) But I think James is an immensely talented writer who we’ll all be hearing from on a regular basis.

I was also particularly impressed with a story I found in the pile passed along by assistant editor, Sara Ellis, called “The Box of Beautiful Things.” It’s by a British writer named Brian Dolton, and I was particularly struck by this story. In a very short space Dolton painted a beautiful picture involving an intriguing character, and then did something that was at once completely unexpected, yet completely logical. You asked earlier about the kind of stories I like, and “The Box of Beautiful Things” is a perfect example of just that.

Both of these stories will be in the next issue (along with “Xoco’s Fire,” which I mentioned earlier, and Tim Pratt’s “Dream Engine”).

Rick Novy’s “The Adjoa Gambit” is the only story left over from Scott’s selections, so you’re very quickly going to get a look at the kinds of stories you can expect from me.


9. Who are some of your favorite authors, both in and outside of the genre?


My top favorites are Mark Twain, Ray Bradbury, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and John Steinbeck. All four write wonderfully and tell great stories. The art of story-telling is not the same thing as the art of writing well, but I think those four do both better than anyone else.

I’m also, to a slightly lesser degree, a big fan of Stephen King (his early stuff, anyway) and Orson Scott Card (and you know I’m not sucking up here, since I put Scott in the second-tier of favorites). But I think those two authors are some of the best pure storytellers around. I think they both consistently choose to use a very simple, direct style in their stories so as to put themselves in the background (“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain,” said The Wizard of Oz) to make the reader pay attention to the tale.

And frankly that’s what I’m looking to publish in IGMS. I think so many magazines - and consequently so many writers - have gotten obsessed with the ‘writing’ that they’ve forgotten about storytelling. That’s sad, because that’s what readers want. They want stories. As much as writers and publishers bemoan the shrinking readership of many magazines, I think they are the ones to blame for the current state of things by forgetting the importance of the story.

I was recently talking with a certain fantasy magazine editor (I’m not going to name names; I’m too new at this to burn bridges already), but he told me that he was planning on emphasizing the writer’s styles in his magazine. He said was encouraging a lot of college students to submit because they had such great ‘style’ and didn’t even know it. Maybe I am going to burn some bridges here, but I’ve got to tell you, I’ve met very few folks who I didn’t think were ruined as writers by MFA programs. Absolutely ruined.

Am I saying that style and quality of writing aren’t important? Not at all. A writer’s style is very important – just look at my list of all-time favorite writers – but if you look at that list, you’ll also see that those are writers who never forgot to tell their readers a story.


10. What is your favorite part about working at IGMS?

What’s not my favorite part? It’s a dream job and I count my blessing every day that I have it.


11. What are your pet peeves as an editor?

Not enough cash with submissions. Don’t writers realize the way to get published is to slip large amounts of cash in their SASEs?

Really, it’s a little early to have pet peeves. I may have a different answer six months or a year from now, but at the moment I’m still having too much fun to be peeved about anything.


12. On average, how many submissions a month does your magazine receive?


As of May it was down to about 100 per month. It used to be higher, but the slow response times have - understandably - affected some writer’s willingness to submit to IGMS. I expect that number to go back up once the next issue comes out (in August) and people know the response time will reliably be in the 60 to 90 day range.


13. What percentage is science fiction vs. fantasy?


It’s a little early for me to have an accurate picture of that. At first blush I’d say something in the 60% - 40% range, with a slight preponderance of Fantasy. But that’s a very preliminary estimate.


14. I know you’re still new to the magazine, but can you give us an idea of what percentage of science fiction vs. fantasy is being accepted for publication?


I’m trying for a balance, of course. The plan is four fantasy stories (with a blend of high fantasy and contemporary fantasy), and three SF stories. Add Scott’s “Ender” tale to the count and that makes four and four. Those numbers will vary a bit, of course, but that’s the plan.


15. I know you work as the editor to another magazine. Have these experiences proven helpful at all with IGMS?

Yes and no. (Pretty insightful, eh?)

Seriously… On the one hand, I’m sure my experience as executive editor of a business magazine helped me land the job as editor of IGMS in the first place. NC Career Network Magazine is based in Greensboro, where Scott lives, and I know he had seen the magazine before calling me about taking over IGMS. And there are certain things that translate from fiction to non-fiction, i.e. presenting a balance of content, working with writers to help them fine tune their work, circulation concerns and other issues related to the business-side of all magazines, etc.

But on the other hand, fiction and non-fiction are very different animals. Technically they may be related, but they’re not the same. No where near. The people doing the writing are different kinds of writers; and the readers, the ultimate reason for putting the magazine out, are looking for a different kind of experience, so in some respects I’m starting from scratch.


16. Do you have additional editorial aspirations?


At the moment, if anyone else asked me to edit anything, I’d probably smack them. But that’s today. Tomorrow? Who knows; I do enjoy the editorial process...


17. I know that you also write speculative fiction. Has working at IGMS helped your writing at all?


Oh yes. Working on IGMS has absolutely helped my writing. If nothing else, seeing how many good stories are out there has made me realize how important it is to do everything possible to take your work to the highest level you can. Being ‘good’ is no where near good enough, and seeing this first-hand has really energized me – no, it has really forced me - to step up the quality of what I write. Whether I succeed in that or not remains to be seen, but editing IGMS has definitely been to my advantage as a writer.


Thanks so much for your time.

Thanks for the opportunity.


Links of interest:

http://www.InterGalacticMedicineShow.com

http://www.EdmundRSchubert.com



So, big thanks to Edmund for a great interview, and be certain to check out his/Orson Scott Card's webzine. And also, stay tuned for next month when I interview ???