The following market report on the magazine, Basement Stories, as well as the follow-up interview are courtesy of Market Scoops by D.L. Snell.
Zine: Basement Stories Magazine
Editors: Carol Kirkman and James Dent
Pay Rate: 1¢ / word (fiction and nonfiction), $10 flat (poetry)
Response Time: Hopefully less than 30 days. Query if longer.
Deadline: Reading period for Issue 2: July 1 – September 1
Description: A science fiction, fantasy, and horror ‘zine about the extraordinary in the ordinary, the wonderful, and the fantastic. (More in the guidelines)
Note: Horror author D.L. Snell conducted the following interview to give writers a better idea of what the editors of this specific market are seeking; however, most editors are open to ideas outside of the preferences discussed here, as long as they fit the basic submission guidelines.
1) What authors do you enjoy, and why does their writing captivate you?
I am in awe of short fiction writers like Ted Chiang and Tim Pratt who, in a very limited space, are able to create memorable characters and settings while still saying something significant. The short story “Impossible Dreams” by Tim Pratt made me look at movies in an entirely different way. But I also like stories that are just beautifully weird, like anything by Becca de la Rosa, and some of Neil Gaiman’s short stories – that kind of thing isn’t necessarily sustainable over a whole novel’s length work, but in short doses lyrical madness is amazing.
2) What are your favorite genres? Which genres would you like to see incorporated into submissions to this market?
I’m a fan of all the subgenres under the umbrella of Speculative Fiction – cyberpunk, urban fantasy, space operas, whatever. The only genre I really can’t stand is Sword and Sorcery, or at least, those stories and books that seem to be copy/pasted from Mr. Tolkein. I don’t know if I wasn’t exposed to Lord of the Rings young enough or if I’m just too impatient to keep all of the different clans in The Game of Thrones straight, but S&S just never rubbed me the right way. I think there are ways to do great big, sweeping, epic fantasy right – examples would be N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, or Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora.
I’d really like to see – and I’m not entirely clear if this is a genre or not – more time travel stories, because I love love love time travel, as well as more hard science fiction.
3) What settings most intrigue you? Ordinary or exotic locales? Real or fantasy? Past, present, or future?
I tend to not like any fiction in historical locales, if only because I’m an amateur history buff and my inner know-it-all starts searching for historical inaccuracies, which can really impede my enjoyment of the story. By all means, though, give it a shot if you think you’ve got your facts straight.
Beyond that, I’m game for pretty much any setting. I love both fantastical and ordinary locales, set in both the present and the future, though I’m always really interested to see what people are going to do when they set their stories in the future. A concrete setting can really make a story feel richer and more exciting.
4) Explain the type of pacing you enjoy, e.g. slow building to fast, fast throughout, etc.
I like stories that start off with a bang, that demand my attention and never let go. Which is to say, I think, that I’m much more of a fan of fast paced stories.
5) What types of characters appeal to you the most? Any examples?
Religion, appearance, creed, gender, orientation – none of it matters, as long as you make me care about them. I cannot emphasize that enough.
6) Is there a specific tone you’d like to set in your publication? What kind of voices grab you and keep you enthralled? Any examples?
What I really want to capture with Basement Stories is that sense of impossibility, of wonder and excitement and dread, that comes out of well told fantastic tales. I want to believe six impossible things before breakfast.
This doesn’t mean I’m not looking for darker stories, that every story has to have a childlike sense of joy. But I want stories that bring out the extraordinary in the ordinary, that make people laugh or think or cry, that suck them away from their cubicle or desk or bedroom and make them live in another world, for a brief time.
7) What is your policy for vulgarity, violence, and sexual content? Any taboos?
The only taboo I have is racial slurs. It’s one of the few things that will make me just walk away from a story. Other than that, go for it, as long as the swearing or sex or explosions is in service of the story, and not purely to titillate or shock.
8) What kind of themes are you seeking most in submissions to this market? In general, what themes interest you?
I think speculative fiction has always been, since its inception, about The Big Questions. Why are we here? What does it mean to be human? What do technological changes occurring now mean for the future? Will we have a future? In particular, work that addresses our humanity, what makes us human as opposed to alien life forms or magical creatures or artificial intelligence. That being said, I’d look at anything with any theme, as long as it’s interesting.
9) Overall, do you prefer downbeat or upbeat endings?
I like endings that I will remember years and years later, though I do have a soft spot for downbeat endings. A good example: “The Cold Equations” by Tom Godwin. I read that story once when I was young and my brain was still squishy, and I remembered the ending perfectly, for years, long after I’d forgotten the title or author.
But more importantly, and this is something I feel a little silly saying, your story should have an ending. Just because the fiction you are writing is short, it should still have a definite conclusion, not just a sudden stopping point. A successful ending can make a good story magnificent, just as a lack of an ending can easily lead to rejection.
10) Any last advice for submitters to this market? Any critical dos or don’ts?
Spend time on your titles – they’re the suit your stories wear to their job interview. A good title can make the story.
This might seem kind of obvious, but make something happen in your story – let the characters be changed by the events of your story, let it have impact. And let the story have an impact on your reader. Stories matter.
On a less serious note, we’re always looking for more visual art. I always, when I’m reading magazines, wish there was more of a visual aspect, so if you’ve got it, please send it.