The following market report on the anthology, Future Lovecraft, as well as the follow-up interview are courtesy of Market Scoops by D.L. Snell.
Anthology: Future Lovecraft
Publisher: Innsmouth Free Press
Editors: Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles
Pay Rate: Penny a word, Canadian
Response Time: Final selections announced at the end of July.
Reading Period: May-June 2011
Description: Science fiction meets Lovecraft.
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?
SMG: Aside from Lovecraft? If you’re talking science fiction, I’d say I really liked C.L. Moore’s space opera stories about Northwest Smith. I’d be interested in seeing a Jirel of Joiry-like character in space. I like almost anything Tanith Lee writes. She’s quite versatile. James Tiptree, Jr., loved some of her stuff like “Love Is the Plan the Plan Is Death.” Horror of all stripes. There’s a story called “Sticks” by Karl Edward Wagner that still scares the crap out of me. It’s probably one of the best Lovecraftian stories I’ve read.
PRS: Beyond (obviously) being a Lovecraft fan, I’ve always been a fan of the classic “feminist” authors: C.L. Moore for her Jirel of Joiry stuff, Leigh Brackett for her Mars and interplanetary stories, Tanith Lee for pretty much anything, Joanna Russ for her Alys sword and sorcery, Lois McMaster Bujold for the Vorkosigan saga. But I also love Charles R. Saunders for his Dossouye stories, Robert Heinlein (though I tend to prefer the earlier stuff, before he got long-winded and preachy), Samuel R. Delaney for Babel 17, Theodore Sturgeon, Poe (of course), Philip K. Dick, Robert E. Howard, Stephen King, Alfred Bester for The Stars My Destination. I think my favourite short story ever is “Fondly Fahrenheit.” But I think the scariest short story (at least in SF) I’ve ever read is Asimov’s “Nightfall.” And lately, I’ve been getting into Thomas Sniegoski for his angels and Simon R. Green for his edgy detective protag in London’s Darkside.
2. What are your favorite genres? Which genres would you like to see incorporated into submissions to this market?
SMG: Future Lovecraft is looking for stories that combine Lovecraftian horror with science fiction. We want all types of science fiction, from space opera to cyberpunk. I’d like to see some biopunk in there. Personally, I am very fond of magic realism, but that’s neither here nor there for this anthology.
PRS: Oh, damn, do I have to pick? Look, if it’s genre, I’m there. Pretty much anything but “literary” or what I call “pseudo-genre”. There’s nothing worse than a pretentious author who hates a genre and then writes something in it, not having a clue about the tropes and clichés, and thinks what he/she wrote is God’s gift to the genre. I won’t name names, but I’m sure we can all think of a few. Anyway, my tastes vary a lot, but I guess I’d go with horror and mystery, SF and then fantasy, if I had to choose. Romance isn’t my favourite, but I won’t turn up my nose at a good cross-genre (like romance/urban fantasy) or historical romance, and have been known to review a few for the zine.
For the antho, I’d like to see some cosmic horror that doesn’t take place in the usual locations. Space opera, otherworldly living cities that have been built upon for ten thousand years. Stuff in the Oort Cloud, stuff on the Moon. I want to see stuff like that. I’ve also thought that some future steampunk would be fun in Lovecraft’s world. You could go so far into the future that you have that feudal, dying-sun, Brian Aldiss vibe going.
3. What settings most intrigue you? Ordinary or exotic locales? Real or fantasy? Past, present, or future?
SMG: Honestly, it depends on the anthology. For this one, we are looking for anything set in the future, be it near future or far future. We both like to explore unusual settings. Why should aliens only land in the United States? Why not in New Delhi? There are many vast locations which would be great for science fiction stories and are often passed over.
PRS: Non-western settings, mostly. In this antho, we’re looking for future. I tend to like real and somewhat gritty, but nicely written. Not really into near-future postapocalyptic, to be honest. It’s lazy and a bit self-indulgent.
4. Explain the type of pacing you enjoy, e.g. slow building to fast, fast throughout, etc.
SMG: Again, it depends on the story. I’m partial to a slow build, but it better build to something. Very often we see good stories that are just too bloated. They’re 1,000 or more words longer than they ought to be. The longer it is, the better it ought to be. I appreciate compact, well-told flash fiction.
PRS: You need to grab me in the beginning — a strong image, quirky/beautiful language, a unique setting or culture, something original like that — and you need to have a strong ending. Too often, we get stuff that peters out. Not every story has to end unhappily or with a big twist, but spare me long epilogues. Which is not to say interesting things need not happen in the middle, just that I’m okay with non-standard story structure as long as you begin and end well and have worth-reading stuff in the middle.
I will warn you that, in addition to my being naturally more impatient than Silvia regarding pacing, I also read the story with an eye to the fact that I’ll be copy editing the thing very soon. And if that prospect fills me with dread, I won’t be going thumbs-up on your tale.
5. What types of characters appeal to you the most? Any examples?
SMG: Again, it depends. I don’t like reading about annoying characters. The teenage yuppies who are being chased by monsters is … ugh. I want compelling people that keep me reading. I’d like to see more regular people. We get a lot of rich and upper-class characters. Where are the people who work in the factories? They can also have interesting stories.
I’d be happy to see more heroic characters who do the right thing without being corny. Also, complex characters who are multi-faceted, smart and cunning without being total ass-hats.
PRS: Probably my favourite character type is the mentally disturbed protagonist who is dangerous to himself and others, but is sympathetic and active, even heroic, in dealing with the storyline while essentially cracking up. Delapore from “The Rats in the Walls,” Blake in “The Haunter of the Dark,” Vandaleur in “Fondly Fahrenheit,” Dean Winchester in Supernatural. Like that. However, you should avoid “weak” protags, especially if they’re female (Alyx in Picnic on Paradise, I want to see. “The Yellow Wallpaper, part 17,” no). Your protag should be an otherwise vivid, even strong, personality who has an excellent reason (or maybe 12) for losing his mind. No “I saw Cthulhu naked in the bathtub and it drove me insane” stories.
More women who aren’t young, beautiful and stupid, and/or being chased by evil boyfriends would be nice, too. Ditto with Silvia on the lack of regular folk. We need more of those. What’s up with all the rich, white folk in our slush, sometimes? We need more people from non-western cultures who are both sympathetic and not white folk in drag. We got far too many stories for Historical Lovecraft, especially, where a white man (usually from Victorian England) visits a “savage” culture and borderline-racist shenanigans ensue. That’s just lazy writing and a refusal to get inside the head of a different culture. There’s a place for Outsider/Colonial fiction, sure, but not every freakin’ story. I sure hope we won’t get the Spaceman Spiff version of that.
And for those who send us stories set in Ye Old Road Eyeland or some twee Cape Cod, look, Silvia and I have both spent many years in that area and half my relatives are Old New England. So, if you don’t know the area well enough to give us something more original than Hollywood New England, just don’t. Set your story somewhere you know well enough to do originally, with characters that aren’t cardboard.
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?
SMG: We are open to all kinds of tones and voices. I don’t mind experimentation and will read a lot of weird stuff if it keeps me entertained.
PRS: Ditto. And I’m going to say this straight out — I LIKE unusual POVs. Just remember you have to do them well, because head-hopping simply because you never thought out your POV is annoying. Head-hopping because your protag is a crazy guy with a crazy, serial-killing android, now, that can be lots of fun.
7. What is your policy for vulgarity, violence, and sexual content? Any taboos?
SMG: If it fits the story, it’s fine. Torture porn is not going to do it for us. There has to be something more than just shock value in a submission. Plus, there is very little you can do to shock us due to the sheer amount of stories we’ve both read. With that said, we are not a market for erotica.
PRS: We’ve bought stuff with profanity, quite a lot of violence and weird sexual shenanigans going on. I will say, though, that I’ve not much enjoyed subs that begin right off with the characters shedding body fluids, and continuing on with “look at my booger!” grossness. Please don’t start the story with the protag peeing on my shoes and cursing me out. We’ve only just met. Ditto on torture porn, which is boring and not really horror, in my mind.
Regarding sexual content, I don’t care as long as it fits the story. I will say, though, that I am even less fond of rape motifs than Silvia (and she’s not fond of it) and rape-as-hot-sex makes me very angry. We’ve bought a few stories that had rape in them, but it tended to be offstage and something where we bought the story in spite of the presence of rape in it. It’s a squick for us. Plus, tentacles in non-standard places scare Silvia and not in a good way.
8. What kind of themes are you seeking most in submissions to this market? In general, what themes interest you?
SMG: We’re very open. We’d like to see stuff that strays from the default settings. Stuff that interests me: the integration of machines with biological parts, parasitism, space opera with smart and capable heroines, tales that create a sense of dread. Insanity and obsession. Body horror. Lovecraft had a lot of sci-fi in his stories and you can milk him for tons of inspiration, from the brain cylinders to that Tillinghast device.
PRS: I’d love to see some space opera. I don’t think we ever get that. Insanity, definitely. Body snatcher type stuff, too. It would be really fun to see some of Lovecraft’s SF stuff projected into the future. Like, what would happen if a probe like Voyager ran across the Mi-Go? Whatever happened to The Shining Trapezohedron? What are the physics involved with, say, trying to predict the appearance of Hounds of Tindalos? Like that. People tend to forget that an awful lot of Lovecraft’s horror was also SF.
9. Overall, do you prefer downbeat or upbeat endings?
SMG: Lovecraft is pretty downbeat, but we don’t mind straying from that mold.
PRS: Normally, I like to see a protag survive a story. However, horror can be a bit different and a lot of Lovecraft is pretty bleak. I will say that you should avoid writing a lazy downbeat ending. Upbeat and still horrific is hard, but it’s also more original. “Everybody dies” has already been done a million times. I especially dislike downbeat endings where an outcast protag dies and order (corrupt or otherwise) is restored. That’s just cynical. Give me a sympathetic monster as your protag and have him/her live to monster another day. Don’t be afraid to leave things in a mess.
10. Any last advice for submitters to this market? Any critical do’s or do not’s?
SMG: Please include a cover letter with a word count. It’s your virtual handshake and the word count is very important to me once I’m inputting stuff into our spreadsheets and I need all the basic information without having to dig for it. If you don’t have writing credits, please don’t put stuff just for the sake of stuff. It’s fine to say here’s the story and it’s 5,000 words rather than drafting a long justification of why you haven’t sold a story. Don’t be afraid to try wild, different stuff that strays from the old school Lovecraft. The anthology is called Future Lovecraft, after all. We are accepting submissions in English, Spanish and French. We are also looking at poetry. We’ll look at reprints, but include original publication information.
PRS: Cover letter with your contact info (not your phone number), word count, story title, author, whether the story’s an original or reprint. The story itself should have your contact info and word count in the top left-hand corner, and start with your title and byline. No, putting the title as your file name is NOT enough. William Shunn is your friend, people. We want the usual standard format (though you don’t need to double-space between sentences).