The following market report on Dark Discoveries Magazine, as well as the follow-up interview are courtesy of Market Scoops by D.L. Snell.
Magazine: Dark Discoveries
Editors: James R. Beach (Publisher/Editor-in-chief), Jason V Brock (Managing Editor)
Pay Rate: $.05 a word for stories from 500 words up to 5000 words (maximum $250.00). Payment within 60 days of publication
Response Time: 3-4 months (only query after 4 months)
Deadline: October 1st through June 1st annually (closed between that time period)
Description: Looking for well-written, powerful, original ideas and new twists on old Horror conventions. Must be in the Horror/Dark Fantasy and Dark Mystery veins.
Complete Guidelines: Writer’s 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 what is it about their writing that captivates you?
I like a wide variety of authors – Aickman, Ballard, Beaumont, Bloch, Borges, Bradbury, Braunbeck, Brown, Brunner, Campbell, Collier, Dick, Ellison, Farmer, Farris, Gorman, Grant, Irving, Jackson, James, Kafka, Ketchum, King, Lansdale, Leiber, Ligotti, Lovecraft, Machen, Matheson, Morrell, Nolan, Oates, Piccirilli, Shirley, Straub, Sturgeon, Tem, Thompson, Wagner, Wellman, Woolrich – you name it! I think the unifying thing is that they all examine the darker side of the human condition at times and write strong, compelling fiction that keeps you reading. I tend to lean towards stories with strong characters, are well-written, have solid plots and make you think about them afterwards or feel something emotionally.
2) What are your favorite genres? Which of these genres would you like to see incorporated into submissions to this market?
Although I tend to read a lot in the horror genre, I don’t limit myself to that and read in various other fields – Science Fiction, Mystery, Mainstream, etc. I like nonfiction also – everything from history to psychology. I like to read about the lives of certain fiction writers as well and often times find them more interesting than their work honestly.
One of the things we’ve stayed away from in the past was Lovecraftian/Cthuhlu stories. I like this sort of thing myself if it’s well done and has an original angle, etc. (Ramsey Campbell, Ligotti, Wilum Pugmire, etc. are perfect examples), but we didn’t run much of it in DD in the past as there were a number of other publications devoted to that. Sadly, now they are gone. So we decided to do an issue towards the topic of Lovecraft this last fall. Even then, we chose to focus more on the overall influence on pop culture, rather than just doing the usual HPL influenced fiction and art. Needless to say, we are open to running more stories in this style in the future.
We’re also incorporating a bit more Science Fiction into Dark Discoveries to appeal to more readers. Push the boundaries a bit. We did a 50th anniversary Twilight Zone special this last summer, which featured: Richard Matheson, George Clayton Johnson, Earl Hamner, William F. Nolan, John Tomerlin, Marc Scott Zicree, Roger Anker, (my DD managing editor/art director) Jason V Brock and others. Although TZ is probably known more as a SF series, it really was a Fantasy one and much of it was quite dark. We ran a few stories in the issue much in the latter vein, but still managed to attract a wider audience by not limiting it to just “Horror”. We also did a cover on the lighter, more humorous side just to push that edge a bit more.
3) What settings most intrigue you? Ordinary or exotic locales? Real or fantasy? Past, present, or future?
I like stories in any type of setting really. I’m open to all options as far as that goes. My only stipulation is that they fall on the creepier side one way or the other. My co-editor Jason (who helps me shape the issues and helps me decide on a number of the “maybe” stories) is much the same in that he likes a wide variety of styles and settings, and tends to lean towards the darker side of things, but he’s also pushed me quite a bit to expand my horizons and I’m thankful for it.
4) Explain the type of pacing you enjoy, e.g. slow building to fast, fast throughout, etc.
I enjoy both a fast-paced, action-oriented tale as well as a slower, more subtle approach. My only real requirement is that the story is well-written and compels me to read on.
5) What types of characters appeal to you the most? Any examples?
I’m open to various types of characters. Strong, faulted, intelligent, etc. as long as they are convincing. I need to believe the character is real or I won’t invest anything emotionally in them. One type I do tend to like a lot is the unreliable narrator if it’s done well.
6) What is your policy for vulgarity and sexual content? (Question by Ralph Robert Moore)
I’m not against it as long as it fits the story. I like and have published stories both very violent and sexual but it must be imperative to the story. One of my favorite novels is Philip Jose Farmer’s Image of the Beast/Blown–which was very controversial in its day and still quite extreme now. But it’s all very integral to the plot.
Another common mistake is too much profanity in a story. One thing that really doesn’t work is to have a character swearing in their mind. We might think something like that on a rare occasion, but usually this comes out in conversation. Personally I don’t care much for stories that feature child or animal abuse or rape unless it’s imperative to the plot. Even then, there are only a couple of times I have run anything like this and it was handled well in those cases. I don’t like stories that seem to glorify violence in an almost pornographic way.
7) Horror and violence can be blatant or suggestive. Which one do you prefer and why?
I like both if it fits the story. What I don’t like is when someone sends me a story with a tacked on violent ending, or sequence just to make it horrific and the story is obviously not that type at all. In the same sense, I don’t like when someone shies away from showing it. Sometimes it is necessary to the plot and characters.
8) In fiction and in life, what do you find most horrific?
There’s not much that scares me a lot anymore in fiction honestly, but some stories still can get under my skin a bit. I think what happens in our normal lives can be scarier – The death of a wife, husband, child, brother, etc. Losing your house or job. Not achieving your goals in life. The stories that touch on those things in the realm of fiction are usually more disturbing to me. It’s hard to be scared by Frankenstein’s monster too much nowadays when John Wayne Gacy might live next door or be teaching your kid at school.
9) In general, do you prefer downbeat or upbeat endings?
I’m fine with both. One thing I don’t like is when someone tacks on an upbeat ending instead of leaving it downbeat when it should be. I like ambiguous endings as well. I don’t think intelligent readers need everything spelled out. Sometimes forming our own conclusions is better.
10) What are the top three things submitters to this market should avoid?
Clichés. Well-worn themes. I rarely publish the usual, overdone monster, zombie, vampire and serial killer stories. I have published a couple in that vein but always try and pick ones that have a fresh premise, strong author voice or unique outlook.
11) What commonalities are among the stories you’ve rejected? Is there a particular aspect authors seem to get wrong? (Question by Martel)
Weak openings, bad characterization, weak plots, bad grammar, etc. – the usual suspects. There are numerous occasions where I thought a story was very well-written, but just didn’t fit Dark Discoveries. It was Sword & Sorcery, too Science Fiction, straight mystery, etc. and they didn’t have any strong elements of Dark Fantasy at all. I also tend to stay away from the antiquated style of narrative that many of the classic masters used to great effect, but often times seems outdated in this day and age.
Quite commonly, the problem is a lack of familiarity with markets. Sending stories to a magazine or publisher that the writer has never read anything by. Nobody is required to purchase a subscription to Dark Discoveries or anything (although we do appreciate it!), but it’s not a bad idea to at least pick up a copy or two of a publication you plan to submit to. Other than that your chances are reduced considerably as no publisher or editor is exactly alike and tastes do vary.
12) If you reject a story, how open are you to a revised version, or do you only want revisions upon request? (Question by Martel)
If we reject a story on the basis that it’s not the right fit, then we don’t want to see it again. If it’s a case that the story needs work, we feel that it can be fixed and are interested in seeing it again–we always let the writer know that. Often times after a story is accepted, Jason and I will still go through it and do some edits, etc. that are necessary, but we always make sure the writer is okay with it before publication. Honestly, Dark Discoveries is much better edited than it was in the past. Jason is a strong editor with great instincts, and Bill Nolan (also a great editor) has helped quite a bit as well. Both have also pushed me to become a better hands-on editor, and not just another “compiler”.
13) Describe a story you’ve recently accepted or short-listed. What made it stand out from the slush pile?
A couple of stories recently accepted are by newer writers, Richard Payne and Paul Bens Jr., who attended the Borderlands Boot Camp (with teachers such as David Morrell, F. Paul Wilson, Jack Ketchum, Douglas Clegg, etc.). They submitted to DD in the past, but weren’t quite ready yet. They made leaps and bounds as far as their writing ability after attending this workshop.
One story is a bit of a concentration camp nightmare with an overt sexual-obsession theme and the other a unique tale about a homeless man who finds a tinkerbell-like fairy, that turns out to be something tied into his post-war trauma. Both are a bit different than we usually publish in DD, but both are very strong tales.
Another story accepted is by a great up-and-coming writer Gene O’Neil about ominous graffiti that we will be running in our summer Fantastic Artists issue. This is a direct theme and is an example of the type of story we will be looking for to be in upcoming issues. We aren’t locked into this, but do like to incorporate some stories which fit our topics.
14) What trait are you seeking most in submissions to this market?
Again, just well-written, compelling stories. We’re open to various styles and themes, but with an eye towards certain focuses.
15) Any last advice for submitters to this market?
Give us your best! Dark Discoveries has stepped up its game to move from a small press publication to a pro market and the bar has gotten even higher. We run fiction and nonfiction by numerous well-known and established authors, but are still open to great new writers. Here’s your chance to rub shoulders with masters of the craft. Check us out at: Dark Discoveries