Another middle of the month must mean another issue of Editorial Musings. This month's guest will be Paul G. Tremblay:
How did you end up working for Fantasy Magazine?
Through my short story collection (both versions) COMPOSITIONS FOR THE YOUNG AND OLD, I've had a good working relationship with Sean Wallace. In early January of 2006, and shortly after accepting my short story "It's Against the Law to Feed the Ducks" for the second issue of FANTASY MAGAZINE, he asked my opinion of some submissions. That grew into a conversation about editing in general, and then into an offer of the assistant editor's position. At the time, I was still editing for CHIZINE and was quite happy doing so. However, the opportunity to work for a print market, one with fiction ideals very similar to mine, one that had a very broad and inclusive view of genre, and one that was just starting up was a challenge that appealed to me. And to be frank, the significant pay raise offered by Sean held great appeal as well. Yes, the truth is out: speculative fiction editors and writers are in it for the cash and glory!
What are your responsibilities there as Assistant Editor?
For issues 3 and 4, I read all the unsolicited submissions and created a maybe file out of the stories I thought would be good fits for our magazine. Sean then read the maybe stories and we'd discuss which ones we were to accept. With December's issue 5, I was promoted to co-editor. My slush responsibilities haven't changed all that much. Now we collaborate on TOC order and choices. I wrote the introductory editorial for issue 5. And I've been doing more direct work with the writers in terms of edits as well.
What kinds of stories would you advise authors to send to Fantasy Magazine? What sorts of stories would you advise against?
We want stories that mix literary ideals within the very broad fantasy genre. So I'm looking for stories strong in style, character, symbol; stories that go deeper than the concept and plot. Ideally, we want stories that will evoke an emotional reaction from the reader, stories that have something to say. Honestly, concept and plot are my last consideration when I read a story. Most any writer can come up with an intriguing concept, but can they make it come to life with real characters or say something new via a creative or experimental narrative?
Consequently, don't send us stories that are all concept. Don't send trope-heavy stories. Unicorns and faeries and mermaids and wizards are going to be very tough sells.
On average, how many stories a month are sent to Fantasy Magazine?
We've been getting between 120-150 stories a month.
I once offhandedly said to you that Fantasy Magazine represents competition for the magazine I work at, Realms of Fantasy. You replied that Fantasy Magazine publishes different types of stories than Realms of Fantasy. I think potential readers and contributors would be curious as to how you think these magazines differ in fiction content. Could you elaborate on this?
Oh, did I say that? Heh.
I like to think that the genre is broad enough and healthy enough to support the myriad of markets including FANTASY. I honestly don't see it as being in competition with other markets (I will concede the business manager and publisher might. heh), just as myself as a writer, I don't see myself in competition with other writers in terms of works sold or agents acquired. I can't control what other markets (or other writers) do, I can only control the product that has been assigned my responsibility. It's my job to find and maintain a readership for our kind of story, not to compete with other markets. I hope I'm making sense. I think we'd be doomed to failure if we were to worry extensively about what other markets are doing. We need to be focused and true to our own vision (the one I outlined in question 3) and purpose. That's a full time job as it is.
Also, I think my offhand answer to your offhand question reflects a certain amount of editorial ego on my part. With me at a new gig, of course I come in thinking I'm going to find great stories and be new and edgy and different from the other well-established markets. It's only natural. I don't think any editor, new or old, goes into a project thinking, "I'm going to buy the same kind of stories editor Z buys for Market Q."
Before you started working at Fantasy Magazine, you were also the assistant editor at Chizine, an online magazine that publishes horror & dark fantasy. Could you tell us how you started here?
I'll try not to set the way-back machine to too-way-back: Early in my writing career I was fortunate enough to be given a great mentor in Steve Eller, via the HWA's mentor program. Steve was one of the original editors of CHIZINE and foolish enough to teach me everything he knew. Heh. I owe a huge debt to Steve (who is still a friend and mentor, even if he did move to Seattle). Anyway, let's try to cut this a little short. I won the 2002 CHI/LEISURE short fiction contest (David Niall Wilson, Mort Castle, Patricia Lee Macomber were the judges) with "The Laughing Man Meets Little Cat." Steve was planning on stepping down as editor around the same time. El presidente Brett A. Savory (<lj user=jackyoniga>) really liked my story and with the strength of Steve's recommendation, I got the gig.
Can you give us an idea of how many submissions per month were sent to Chizine during your time there?
During my time at CHIZINE, the pay rate went from 3 cents a word, to 5 cents, and then at the very end of my time, to 7 cents. With each raise in pay, we saw a rise in submission rate. Go figure, right. On average, the number of submission was similar to what I see at FANTASY, maybe a shade more.
Having worked as assistant editor for two well-known publications that deal with speculative fiction in the short form, could you give us an idea of how your editorial process differed between these publications?
Coming to FANTASY, I thought I would have to greatly adjust my story-meter, but I really haven't had to. I'm extremely fortunate in that at both markets the editors/publishers and I share a common vision and passion for the stories we want to publish. While, obviously, there's a difference in genre content between CHIZINE and FANTASY, both markets value literary ideals and sensibility as well as the genre elements.
What about the processes for the editors of these two publications? Any differences there?
The mechanics of the FANTASY slush reading process I described earlier is quite similar to how we approached submissions for CHIZINE. Maybe pile and all that, with the maybes discussed among the other fiction editors and
Brett Savory making the final decisions.
Otherwise, Savory swears a lot more than Wallace does. I do miss the swearing..
Personally, I love to blab on and on about my slush discoveries. What about you? Any stories you've discovered for either (or both) publications you'd like to tell us about?
Oh sure. I'm always proud of stories that I was fortunate enough to read making it to publication. And I'm always particularly excited to buy a story from authors who are making their first sale, which has happened at both markets. CHIZINE's stories come solely from the general submission queue. No invites or wringers. At FANTASY we cull stories from invites, but the bulk still comes from the general submission pile.
Favorite stories? Jeeze, there's too many to name. I'll just go with a couple recent stories, from Issue 4 of FANTASY: "Mosquito Story," by A. M. Muffaz and "Why the Balloon Man Floats Away," by Stephanie Campisi. Both stories are strange and memorable and hold up to multiple reads.
What are your pet peeves as an editor?
I have a lot. Heh. Heroic dialogue never fails to roll my eyes, twist endings involving unmasked tropes (vampires, werewolves, faeries, etc), hmm extend that to twist ending in general, stories in which the genre element does not further the story. My nit-pick pet peeve is the use of could/began (ie. 'Skippy began to run' instead of 'Skippy ran,' or 'Skippy could eat the dynamite,' instead of 'Skippy ate the dynamite.'), or any phrasing that unnecessarily increases the distance between the reader and the story.
Who are some of your favorite authors, both in and outside of the genre?
As an editor, two of my favorite writers I've had the opportunity to work with (and I/we have purchased multiple stories from) are Hannah Wolf Bowen and Marly Youmans. My earliest favorites/influences include some of the genre standards; Stephen King, Clive Barker, Kurt Vonnegut, Harlan Ellison, and Joyce Carol Oates. More recently, my favorites and must-reads include Stewart O'Nan, Kelly Link, Will Christopher Baer, Jonathan Safran Foer, Aimee Bender, Kurt Vonnegut, and Jonathan Lethem.
Do you have any additional editorial aspirations?
I wouldn't say no to a head-editor's gig, or editor of an original anthology.
You've also accomplished quite a bit as a writer. Has your editorial work helped your writing at all?
Absolutely. Everything I read helps my writing, even the less-than successful stories. Learning what doesn't work in fiction is as important a lesson as what does work. My work as an editor builds my critical-reading muscles and continues to sharpen my focus and vision of fiction: what works, what doesn't, what needs to be said, what has been said already and how, etc.
Does the writer in you have any non-editorial advice for the hordes of scribes out there?
Read. Read, read, read, and read out of genre. While there are obvious benefits and reasons to have a least a working knowledge of a genre's literary history, it's as important to read and learn from outside the genre. Welcome and mix new ideas and presentations and viewpoints.
Also, don't shamelessly promote yourself. Like this: Go read my new short story, <a href="http://www.chizine.com/teacher
Thanks so much for your time.
Thank you, Doug. A true pleasure.