The following market report on the anthology, Unspeakable Horror 2, as well as the follow-up interview are courtesy of Market Scoops by D.L. Snell.
Anthology: Extreme Planets
Editors: David Conyers, David Kernot and Jeff Harris
Pay Rate: US 3¢/word plus three copies
Response Time: Acceptances after closing date. Rejects during and after submission period.
Reading Period: Until 30 June 2012
Description: A science fiction anthology of short stories set on or about alien worlds that push the limits of what we believe is possible in a planetary environment. To be published by Chaosium Inc.
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 why does their writing captivate you?
The science fiction authors that I have enjoyed whose ideas and style are relevant to the Extreme Planets anthology include Alastair Reynolds, Iain M. Banks, Greg Egan, Peter F. Hamilton, David Brin, Neal Asher, Ken Macleod, Charles Stross, Stephen Baxter, Robert Reed and Greg Bear. These authors can write tales with a pace, have good characters and most of all leave me with a sense of wonder. When I finish reading their works I feel like the universe is bigger and more wondrous than I had ever imagined, and that the scale of space is just huge. They also get the science and technology right, creating believable futures.
2. What are your favorite genres? Which genres would you like to see incorporated into submissions to this market?
I like thrillers, stories with a sense of will or won’t the protagonist get through to the end of the story in one piece after facing numerous obstacles, dangers and antagonists out to stop them. I also like a sense of adventure. For example, in Extreme Planets, a story might involve a group of planetary explorers working together to determine the best way to alter a planet’s atmosphere to make it breathable for them. This might be an okay story on its own, but if there was a time frame to solve the problem because the only air recycler on their spaceship has failed, and that someone in the team is deliberately sabotaging their efforts, then this adds extra tension, pace and mystery that a story would otherwise lack. We’ve set story lengths up to 10,000 words so authors get the opportunity to play with and develop their ideas.
3. What settings most intrigue you? Ordinary or exotic locales? Real or fantasy? Past, present, or future?
This is an anthology about planets that push the boundaries of what is possible in an alien environment, so my co-editors (David Kernot and Jeff Harris) are looking for stories set on or about these kinds of worlds, what it would be like for humans to observe, explore or live there (or fight wars or plunder its resources for that matter), and how the environment might affect any life that might have evolved there. So if this is an anthology about alien worlds, then we want far future science fiction stories involving spaceships (or equivalent) and the technology that goes with it, or the technology to observe these worlds from afar. Technology similarly needs to be sufficiently developed to create a believable future.
We are also interested in stories about pantropy (re-engineering humans to survive in alien environments) and terraforming.
We are not interested in steampunk or fantasy extreme worlds.
4. Explain the type of pacing you enjoy, e.g. slow building to fast, fast throughout, etc.
I want to see action unfolding as the story is being told, not recounts of what has happened in the past, or detailed essays as to why the characters are where they are or how technology works. Details like that should come out in the narrative. Lastly, I want to see dialogue. Stories without any dialogue at all really don’t work for us. And stories have a pace, don’t get bogged down with too much description when it is not needed and don’t race through scenes that need a little more description to set the scene.
5. What types of characters appeal to you the most? Any examples?
Science fiction is about problem solving, so I want characters that at least try to solve problems facing them. They may not succeed but I want to see them give it a go. Protagonists hold more appeal to readers when they are active, not passive. They don’t wait for things to happen, or for someone else to take the lead, they drive the action themselves. If a spaceship is going to crash into a black hole, then the main character in this particular story is the one working very hard to ensure this rather unpleasant end doesn’t come to be, even though she or he might be faced by a whole host of secondary events or characters, willingly or unwillingly, trying to see her or him fail.
Also, I like characters that care about something, and stand up for what they believe in. I like characters that are also human, in that they have failings as much as they have positive traits. I like to see characters evolve, learn something about themselves and come out the other end of a story as a better person.
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?
I said earlier I like the thriller style, where there is a sense of action and danger. I like stories where I am compelled to turn the next page because I want to know what happens next. I want to be surprised by twists and turns that I didn’t see coming.
I’m a huge fan of Alastair Reynolds – now he knows how to write a story with pace and energy that grabs my attention. If submitters can write a story as good as his, then they will be in for sure.
7. What is your policy for vulgarity, violence, and sexual content? Any taboos?
Violence towards children and minors will be extremely hard to sell. Vulgarity, violence or sexual content just for the sake of shock value isn’t appropriate. I don’t care if your story has words like ‘fuck’ in it, or there are sex scenes or bloody demises of characters, but we’re not after gory horror tales either. There is one main rule to follow: make vulgarity, violence and sexual content appropriate to the story. If in doubt, less is definitely preferable to more. Implication is better than graphic description.
8. What kind of themes are you seeking most in submissions to this market? In general, what themes interest you?
Simply, we want stories about the most bizarre but plausible (in a science fiction setting) world that can be imagined. Then we want to see what life is like on these worlds and how humans would survive there, or stories about observing or discovering these worlds.
There are so many speculative worlds out there, both in science and science fiction literature. We want stories about super-sized ocean worlds with sea hundreds of kilometers thick and deeper layers of hot ice, carbon worlds with diamond mountains and petrochemical seas, iron worlds with extreme magnetic fields and alien life forms that have evolved with iron in their biochemical makeup, and planets with super gravities and atmospheres so thick it is like walking in liquid. But we’re also keen to see artificial worlds along the same vein as Larry Niven’s Ringworld, the lattice structure in Alastair Reynold’s Pushing Ice, artificial Jupiter sized spaceships like Robert Reed’s Marrow, Shellworlds like in Iain M. Bank’s Matter, Alderson Disks like in Charles Stross’ “Missile Gap,” and anything else anyone out there has the imagination to conjure up.
9. Overall, do you prefer downbeat or upbeat endings?
Don’t care, so long as I’m dragged into the story because I’m enjoying it and I want to see how it ends. Protagonists should fight the good fight. Sometimes they win and sometimes they lose. The main criterion is that they fight for what they believe in.
10. Any last advice for submitters to this market? Any critical do’s or do not’s?
Be a fan and avid reader of science fiction, otherwise you are unlikely to understand the nuances that make the genre what it is, and what we are looking for. Also, read current works out there, because science fiction changes a lot, even in a decade. Some good examples of recommended reading are Asimov’s Interzone and Analog magazines, and anthologies such as The New Space Opera by Gardner Dozois and Jonathan Strahan, and Mindblowing SF by Mike Ashley, but there are plenty of other examples out there, such as the works by authors I recommended earlier. Also, science magazines like Cosmos, New Scientists and Scientific America also have lots of great articles to kick-start the imagination.
A critical point: if your only understanding of science fiction comes from watching science fiction movies and television series, then you are doing yourself a huge disservice, because the ideas in the visual media pale in comparison to the ideas in the literature and are about 50 years behind in their concepts. If this is your only influence, your stories will look amateurish in comparison to those who read in the genre.
Critical do not’s, that’s easy. Ensure that your story does not include any of the following: vampires, elves, fairies, werewolves, unicorns, magic, religious stories where god is a real person, Lovecraftian monsters, medieval settings, immortal godlike humans calling themselves ‘Thor’ or equivalent, superhero stories and stories set in universes with a similar set-up to Star Wars, Star Trek, etc. No horror unless it is a science fiction story with horrific elements, and no fantasy.
Very few science fiction anthologies appear in the open submission market, so we ask authors to make their work count. We want good science fiction stories about worlds that push the limit of what we think is possible.
One last note, we will consider reprints from professional authors, but they are going to be really hard to sell if we get really good original tales to compare them against. Query if you think you have a reprint story for us, we won’t discount them. Query if you have any idea that you think might interest us.