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Submission Guidelines

Last updated: 1 October 2018

Stupefying Stories is now CLOSED to unsolicited submissions
Our 2018 open reading period is over. Stupefying Stories is now closed to unsolicited short fiction submissions until April of 2019. We will continue to consider novel and novella proposals, but please, query first before sending any manuscripts.

All stories currently in the submissions pipeline will be given full and proper consideration. We expect to be finished with sending acceptances, rejections, and contracts by October 15. In the meantime, your patience is appreciated. After October 15 we expect to be focused on book production, but if you’ve submitted a story to us this year and haven’t heard from us by then, please query.

We may be putting out a call later this year for submissions for a theme anthology that we’re considering developing, but those plans aren’t finalized yet. Watch this web site for more information.

Finally, to the hundreds of writers who submitted a story to us in 2018 that we didn’t accept: thanks for giving us a chance to consider your work, and see you next Spring!

Sincerely,
Bruce Bethke
editor, Stupefying Stories

Who We Are
Edited by award-winning science fiction writer Bruce Bethke, STUPEFYING STORIES is a bold attempt to grow a new general-interest science fiction and fantasy magazine from the ground up. Right now we are a small-press, semi-pro, payment-on-publication market publishing on a somewhat erratic schedule, but our goal is to grow to become a regular monthly magazine that pays professional rates on acceptance—

And here’s the radical part. We want to do this not by chasing after foundation grants, asking people to contribute to our Kickstarter or GoFundMe campaigns, or begging passers-by to put spare change in our Patreon tip jar, but by selling lots of books and magazines.

Sounds pretty crazy, doesn’t it?

What We Publish
Genres: Science fiction, fantasy, and horror, in roughly that order of preference.

Venues: STUPEFYING STORIES magazine and the Saturday SHOWCASE feature on our website.

Length: Generally, from flash fiction up to 10,000 words. We will consider longer novelettes and novellas, but space for longer works is limited, so please query first before sending anything longer than 10,000 words.

Original Novels: We do publish original novels through our parent company, Rampant Loon Media, but do not read unsolicited novel manuscripts. Please query first. See further information below.

Reprints: We do not publish reprints. There is one exception to this rule: see further information below.

TIP: The best way to see what we like to publish, of course, is to buy and read a few issues of our magazine. If you have a Kindle or Kindle Reader app and a subscription to Kindle Unlimited, it’s free. If you don’t have a Kindle, the next best way is to click on the SHOWCASE link in the left column and read a good sampling of the stories you’ll find there. What we’ve published in the past is not necessarily a foolproof guide to what we’d like to publish in the future, but it’s a good place to start.    

What We Buy and What We Pay
Rights: Worldwide English-language first serial rights, for publication in both print and electronic formats.

Base word rate: 1.5 cents (USD) per word.

Flash fiction: For stories up to 1,000 words in length, we pay a flat rate of $15.00.

Cover bonus: For stories selected to be magazine cover stories, we pay a bonus of $50.00 USD.

When we pay: On publication.

2018 Open Reading Period
This year we are open to unsolicited submissions from April 1, 2018 through September 30, 2018. After September 30 we will be closed to unsolicited submissions until April 1, 2019. Unsolicited submissions received between October 1, 2018 and March 31, 2019, will be rejected unread.

Submissions already received and in the queue as of midnight on September 30 will be given our full and proper consideration.

How to Submit a Short Story
We accept electronic submissions only. Submit your story as an attachment to an email message sent to submissions@rampantloonmedia.com.

CRUCIAL CONSIDERATIONS!
We consider one story at a time. Once you’ve submitted a story to us, please wait until we respond to your submission before sending us another story. If you send submissions en masse, we will reject them en masse.

• ABSOLUTELY NO SIMULTANEOUS SUBMISSIONS!
If you cannot do us the courtesy of sending your submission exclusively to us, don’t send it at all.
No reprints. Seriously, we do not publish reprints. Don’t send them to us.
Exception: We will consider publishing a reprint if and only if it is a translation of a story that was not previously published in the English language. If you have such a story, send it to us as a normal submission and note the previous publication. Do not (as has been done) up-end your entire bin of published stories on us and ask us to pick the ones we like.  
• By sending us a submission, you agree to let us put your email address on our mailing list. While we promise never to sell our mailing list to anyone else, if you do not want to be on our mailing list, don’t send a submission to us.  

• Send submissions and queries to submissions@rampantloonmedia.com only. Over the years we have had a plethora of other email addresses, but these are all outdated now. If you’ve found another email address for us somewhere, don’t use it, as it most likely goes straight to /dev/null.

• We prefer submissions in .docx, .doc, and .rtf format, in roughly that order. We can handle .odt files if necessary, but they have proven troublesome, so we’ll be happier if you re-save your story in .rtf format. We cannot handle other formats such as Apple Pages files, so don’t send them.

• Do not send submissions as links to cloud or file-sharing sites. Submissions sent as links to file-sharing sites are deleted unread.

• The name of our publication is STUPEFYING STORIES. Stupefy with an “e” means to stun, astonish, or astound. Stupify with an “i” means to make stupid. Address your submission to STUPIFYING STORIES and it will be dead on arrival.

• Kindly remember that everyone here is a volunteer, working purely for love of the SF/F genre and the short story format. While we’d really like to pay our staff, right now we’re plowing everything we make back into paying our authors and artists more. If you want us to become a better-paying market, and along the way help the wonderful people who make this magazine possible, tell your friends about us. HELP US GROW!  

After You Submit a Short Story
New policy, effective 21 June 2018
Within 72 hours of your submission, you should receive an email message telling you that we received it and providing you with the tracking number assigned to the story when it came in. If you do not receive this acknowledgement-of-receipt message, please query, as it most likely means we never received your submission.
Assuming you did receive the acknowledgement message, should you need to query about the status of your submission, please include the tracking number, as it makes it much easier for us to find your story in our files.
After we receive your story, it’s immediately forwarded to our first readers. Within 30 days you should receive a message telling you either a.) we can’t use your story at this time, or b.) it’s being held for further consideration. If you have not heard from us within 30 days, please query, as this most likely means either it’s stuck somewhere in the evaluation pipeline or you did not receive our reply.
DO NOT (as has been done) sit waiting patiently for six months or more, wishing and hoping to get our reply to a submission we never received. That never works.
Helpful Hint: If you receive our message telling you that your submission is being held over for further consideration, this means we like your writing and probably would not be averse to seeing more of it. In this case, and this case only, the “one story at a time” rule is waived and it’s okay for you to send us another story to look at while we’re still considering the first one. We might just wind up accepting both.     

How to Submit a Novel
We do not consider unsolicited novel manuscripts. If you want to submit your novel to us, please send a query first to submissions@rampantloonmedia.com. If we like your proposal, we’ll ask to see a partial and outline; if we like the partial and think your book looks like something that might fit well into our lineup and budget, we’ll ask to see the completed manuscript.

At this time we are not interested in reprinting previously published novels. However, over the years we have amassed considerable expertise in converting existing books to ebook and print-on-demand content, and if you would like our help in converting your rights-reverted novel into a ready-to-self-publish property, we’re willing to talk.

One More Time: Our Email Address Is...
submissions@rampantloonmedia.com

If you’ve found another email address for us somewhere, don’t use it, as it most likely is no longer in use.
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Ten Tips for Improving the Odds
by Bruce Bethke and the Fearless Slush Pile Reader Corps
We receive a lot of submissions, most of which go straight into the first-round form rejection bin. Here are some tips to help you rise above the common slush and improve your chances of selling to us. 
1. Make sure your story is as finished and as polished as it can be. 
We’re in the business of publishing fiction, not of teaching people how to write. Much as we’d love to give every author who submits to us a detailed critique of his or her story, complete with advice on how to rewrite it in order to make it publishable, we just plain don’t have the time to do so. Therefore, before you hit send, make sure you’re putting your best foot (or hoof, claw, tentacle, or pseudopod, as the case may be) forward.
2. Remember to delete Comments and turn off Track Changes.
On a regular basis we receive manuscripts that contain not only the story, but also all the comments embedded in the story file by the other members of the author’s writing group. While these are sometimes hilarious, this probably is not the effect you want to achieve.
3. Make sure you’re sending us the story you want us to consider.
We continue to be surprised by the number of nice cover letters that arrive with no story attached. After that, the next-strangest things that show up in our inbox are cover letters that don’t match the attached file. We’ve seen authors reference one title in the email subject line, another in the body of the cover letter, a third in the name of the story file, and a fourth in the actual story itself. When we’re confused as to whether you meant to send us the story you actually sent us, our default response is to hit reject.
4. Make sure you’re sending your story to us.
Every week we receive submissions addressed to other editors and other publications. These go straight into the form rejection bin.
5. Keep your cover letter short and to the point.
Remember, we buy stories, not resumes, college transcripts, or publication histories. What we like to see in a cover letter is something interesting about you as a person that will make us more interested in reading your story. Please don’t send us a cover letter loaded with links to everywhere you’ve ever been published or had your fiction reviewed: above a certain threshold our email system tags link-laden messages as junk email and automatically deletes them.

If you’re a returning previous contributor, then yes, please mention that. Stories from authors we’ve published before go straight to the top of the to-read pile.
6. Learn and use standard manuscript formatting.
While we’re not absolute sticklers for common formatting conventions, especially as they differ from country to country and we’ve bought some of our favorite stories from authors who live in countries where the local conventions are quite different from U.S. standards, it really helps if you submit your story in something recognizably close to “standard” formatting. In particular, your manuscript should:

• Have your real name, mailing address, and email address on the first page.

• Have a slug line in the page header giving the title (or at least a key word from the title), your name (or at least your last name), and the page number.

• Have double-spaced body text.

• End with “The End” or something like it. Seriously, nothing brings a slush pile reading session to a screaming halt like someone getting to the bottom of the last page of a manuscript and asking, “Is this it? Where’s the rest of the story?”

Again, we’re not absolute sticklers on formatting issues, but William Shunn’s article on manuscript preparation is a good place to start.
7. Remember to include an ending.
Few things are as frustrating as reading a story that is just brilliant for the first twenty-one pages and then either ends in mid-air or collapses into a puddle of meaningless goo on page 22. Remember, a short story is not a scene, a vignette, or an excerpt from your novel-in-progress: it’s a complete and self-contained narrative with its own story arc. To paraphrase Mickey Spillane: it may be the beginning of your story that gets someone interested in reading it, but it’s the ending that determines whether they want to read anything else by you. (Or in the case of an editor: whether they want to buy and publish your story in the first place.)
8. Remember to include at least one character.
We don’t require that stories have heroes who emerge victorious, but your story should have at least one character who engages the reader on some kind of significant emotional level. It can be positive or negative—the reader can be rooting for the character to succeed, crying when the character fails, or sincerely hoping the character really gets his/her/its just deserts (never underestimate the power of schadenfreude)—but travelogues, history lectures, “Encyclopedia Galactica” entries, and stories about boring characters who do boring things for boring reasons (or worse, do nothing at all) or repugnant characters who do revolting things to other repugnant characters for repellent reasons (or worse, no reason at all) leave us cold.
9. Mind the pandering.
Many great literary careers have begun with a reader throwing a book or magazine down in disgust and saying, “Geez, even I can write better than that!” Note that the operative expression here is “better than,” not “just as badly as.” Your readers are giving you a very valuable commodity: their time. You should not reward them by returning contempt for their intelligence—especially if what you’re writing is a parody or spoof of some other much-beloved literary property.
10. Keep an eye on the submission guidelines.
Editors don’t post submission guidelines because they have delusions of godhood; they do so in order to save writers wasted effort and themselves wasted time. Editors truly do want to see more stories that fit their publication’s needs, and to give more attention to the writers who create those stories. Therefore it’s a good idea to read the posted submission guidelines—and then to read them again, from time to time. Guidelines can and do change, and an editor can go from “Please send me more zombie stories” to “Please God, no more damn zombie stories!” overnight.
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The Secret 11th Tip
by Bruce Bethke alone

As your reward for having read this far, here’s the secret 11th Tip. People in the SF/F world know of me as a writer, but in the real world I work in supercomputer software R&D and my best and oldest friends are a mixed bag of engineers, rocket scientists (my old college roommate’s A.I. software is still crawling around inside a rover on the surface of Mars), musicians, poets—and one nationally syndicated political cartoonist. Not sure how he got in there.

What this means to you as a writer is that I would really love to publish a lot more hard science fiction, somewhat less fantasy, and much less horror than we have been publishing thus far, but before I can do so I have to see it, and thus far I’m just not seeing much good hard SF in my inbox. I’m seeing a lot of hard SF-flavored product—stories by people who clearly have good chops as writers and storytellers, and a good understanding of character development and all that—but the science in them is like something out of a grade school textbook written in 1965.

If you can write good, modern, hard science fiction stories that reflect an understanding of contemporary science and technology, not the vision of science and technology that was enshrined in the science fiction of decades ago, I’d love to hear from you.

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Twelve Stories That Are Nearly Impossible To Sell To Us Right Now

These are not forbidden topics, but you should know that we see a lot of stories like these, so yours will have to be pretty amazingly awesomely brilliant in order to stand out from the crowd.

1. Gory, gut-churning horror.
It’s still possible to sell us a really top-notch horror story, but there are a lot of writers tilling these same fields and fresh ideas have become scarce. Lately we’ve been seeing a lot of stories by writers who seem to think the way to breathe new life into horror is by mixing copious amounts of vomit and excrement in along with all the blood and viscera, and they send us stories that don’t so much frighten as nauseate. We tag these stories “WGAM” — for “Would Gag A Maggot” — and put ‘em straight in the Form Rejection bin.
2. Paranormal romance.
While we are in theory still open to it, we’ve seen far too many self-identified paranormal romance stories that are better described as fang-porn. If your literary model is Lady Chatterly’s Lover, we’ll save you time and pass on it now.
3. Imitation Tolkien
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. An elf, a dwarf, and a wizard walk into a tavern. The barkeep says...

Oh, never mind what the barkeep says, we don’t care. Yes, we loved The Lord of the Rings. Yes, we’ve played a lot of Dungeons & Dragons. Yes, we understand that Terry Brooks made a very lucrative career of writing Imitation Tolkien, and in point of fact some of our close friends made very good money cranking out Dragonlance books back in the 1980s. The point is, we have seen so many, many, many Imitation Tolkien stories we grow glassy-eyed the moment dwarf lord Grimdark Neckbeard sets down his tankard of ale, looks across the table at 18th-level wizard Verdigris the Green, and growls, “Elves. I don’t like working with elves.”

If you don’t have a deep emotional attachment to stories set in the world of Lower Middle Earth, why not try writing fantasy that borrows from some other body of folklore? There’s a world full of it out there, waiting to be explored.

Because after all, as we all know, “Elves Are Douchebags.”
4. Anachronistic noir mashups.
While we’re on the subject, there’s another idea we’ve seen done to death: the fantastic (or magical, supernatural, mythological, etc., etc.) character who looks the part, and lives in a suitably fantastic (magical, etc., etc.) world, but speaks and acts as if he or she is a wise-cracking detective straight out of a Philip Marlowe story. The authors of these stories seem to find the idea incredibly fresh and amusing. We’re glad someone does.
5. Thinly disguised Star Trek fan fic.
We’ve always received tons of this stuff, but lately we’ve been seeing a lot of Star Trek: Voyager fan fic in particular. If your story is pure 1940s pulp but your brass-balled starship captain is a woman, the cerebral second-in-command is black, and the comic-relief Irishman is now Asian, we’ll say “The Janeway is strong in this one” and stick it in the Form Rejection bin.
6. Serial killer stories.
There’s a subset of writers who have been ruined by watching too many slasher and splatter movies and seem to believe that including a serial killer makes it horror. It doesn’t. We’ve seen hundreds of such stories, and stories about serial killers who pile up the corpses for no reason other than that they’re serial killers are a snore.

The investigating cop who’s actually the serial killer? Been done. The first-person interior monologue of the serial killer? Been done. The serial killer who considers his crime scenes artwork? Been done. The little kid who was physically and/or sexually abused as a child and subsequently grows up to be a serial killer? Been done, been done, been done, been done...
7. “Military” hard SF stories, if...
We see a depressing number of “military” hard SF stories from people who clearly don’t know jack shit about things military and whose entire knowledge of the subject seems to come from playing a lot of Call of Duty.

If you feel inclined to write this type of fiction, please, do your research. There are plenty of good history and reference books out there: John Keegan and Stephen Ambrose are good places to start. Then there are all of Tom Clancy’s non-fiction books, which provide a good sense of what it’s like to actually be in the modern military (and presumably, in a future military, until a radical new paradigm comes along).

The source materials are out there. Read them. We have.
8. Speaking of shit...
We’re no prudes, but a few well-chosen earthy Anglo-Saxon expressions go a long way. I’ve worked alongside longshoremen, sailors, Teamsters, and hard-core bikers, and for some reason some fiction writers seem to feel the need to prove they can out-swear them all. Toughest motherf**ker in the poetry class, I guess.

In any case, if your story opens with a barrage of f-bombs and s-bombs on page 1, we’re unlikely to make it to page 2.

Addendum: In particular, we’ve seen a lot of lame-ass superhero/supervillain stories lately that seem to take their cue from Deadpool, with p.o.v. characters who break the fourth wall, swear like longshoremen, observe and comment on the famous and popular heroes who inhabit their story world and find them all to be arrogant and stupid jerks, and blunder through stories that pile graphic violence on top of graphic violence and in which the villain often as not turns out to be the unwitting hero.

As one of our first readers wrote in her report on one such manuscript: “First there’s some bloody graphic violence, then there’s more graphic violence, and then there’s more. This is just a series of extremely violent vignettes with no story and no point.”
9. “Battle Royale” stories.
We loved “Arena,” by Fredric Brown. We can even tolerate the half-assed adaptation of it that showed up 50 years ago on the original Star Trek, despite the fact that Roddenberry changed all the important details to make it cheaper to film and completely rewrote the ending. Still, Brown’s story was first published in 1944, and after three-quarters of a century of reading and watching variations on this story—the most recent being The Hunger Games—well, can’t we all just agree that the “Battle Royale” story idea has earned a few decades of well-deserved retirement?
10. SF/F rewrites of famous stories.
Yes, we know, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies sold a kajillion copies. And yes, sometimes it’s a fun idea. “Heart of Dorkness” remains one of my all-time favorites out of all the hundreds of stories we’ve published. But...
Well, let’s face it: we caught a lot of flack for publishing “The Ransom of Princess Starshine” in #17 and “The Old Man and the C” in #19. Ergo, we’re declaring a moratorium on such stories, at least for the time being.
11. ...especially Dracula.
People have been writing and rewriting variations on Bram Stoker’s Dracula since at least the 1920s. Put a stake in it already. If you must write a vampire story—and it’s debatable whether anyone must—at least try to come up with an original idea. If you can’t do that—well, then we’ll refer you to “The Van Helsing Women’s Shelter,” and if that doesn’t work, we’ll have no choice but to send in Sebastian Kane.
12. Anything involving Jack the Ripper.
Finally (we hope), we don’t ever want to see another story involving Jack the Ripper. No more Jack the Ripper Meets Dracula, Jack the Ripper Meets Dr. Frankenstein, Jack the Ripper Meets the Wolfman, Jack the Ripper Meets Sherlock Holmes, Jack the Ripper Meets Mr. Hyde—they’ve all been done and they all stink. Jack the Ripper, Blade Runner, a time traveler tracking down and retiring replicants who’ve escaped through a time portal to Victorian London: been done. Jack the Ripper, action hero, on the trail of a homicidal alien that’s implanting monstrous embryos in prostitutes: been done. Jack the Ripper, Terminator, who’s gone back through time to Victorian London to find and kill Sarah Connor’s great-grandmother—

Hmm. Hold on a minute. I think I need to phone my agent...
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1 comment:

Unknown said...

Sebastian Kane will always be at Mr. Bethke's disposal.