Monday, January 26, 2009

Thought Crime Experiments

This is, as the name implies, an experiment. I want to put together an online anthology of high-quality speculative fiction. I've budgeted USD1000 to buy five short stories for USD200 each. I've written and critiqued speculative fiction for years, but this is the first time I've put up money for it.

What's the difference between giving a story a positive review and actually buying it? I want to see how difficult it is to find five stories I like enough to buy. Once I've chosen five, I'll publish them here, under a Creative Commons license.

Since this project just started and there is no additional information about it, I assume you're interested in the...

Submission Guidelines

Send your story to Include the story as an attachment. I prefer plain text, but any document format is fine. If you want to, you can mention your publication credits, your name, etc., but all I need to start with is the story and your email address. If I buy the story, I'll need to get in contact with you anyway.

In general, I'd prefer you send me a story you've already written and pounded the pavement for and acquired a couple rejection slips for.

Legalities: I'm buying the first electronic rights, and the right to publish your story under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Sharealike license (here's my reasoning). I want the stories I buy to first show up on this website, but once they're published I want them to circulate.

There are a number of reasons why writers don't usually solicit other writers' writing, but the big one for me is legal liability. I don't want you to sue me if you send me a story that includes a poisoned croissant, and ten years later I write a story that includes an exploding cupcake. On the other hand, it would be stupid to make you promise never to sue for any reason just so I'll look at your story. So instead of making you sign some indemnification clause with your submission, I ask that you submit your story in the same professional spirit that prevails in a writing group or workshop.

I've never done anything like this before, but nor am I some fly-by-night shyster. I've written two nonfiction books for O'Reilly and I've run this website for over ten years. I'm bound to run into problems doing this, but I want to work with you in good faith to create something incredible.

The usual boilerplate: send only one story at a time, don't send a story that's currently being considered by someone else, don't send a story that's already been bought or published.

Deadline: Let's say March 31st, 2009. If I get five must-buy stories before then, I'll cut it short so as not to string anyone along. If I haven't bought five stories by then, I'll extend the deadline or run whatever stories I have bought. If I promise to buy your story and then cancel the project or otherwise can't follow through, I'll pay you a kill fee of $75.

Length: My overriding concern is "is this worth two hundred bucks?" I'm not going to buy a flash piece for $200, and you wouldn't be happy getting $200 for your novella. So let's say between three and ten thousand words.

Genre: I like science fiction at lot, especially science fiction set within fifty years of the present. It's not as likely I'd pay $200 for a fantasy story, but if you've got a fantasy story set between 1959 and 2059, send it in. I'm not going to pay $200 for a horror story, unless it's a really original parody or something.

More specifically, I like stories that engage with the pop culture of the past, present, or future. I like stories that use the alien to illuminate the everyday, or vice versa. I like hard SF that requires a degree to understand, provided it's the computer science degree I actually have. I like farcical ridiculous gonzo pastiche. I also like space aliens.

If you don't have anything that you think I'll like, send me something anyway. The worst that can happen is I'll say no


Deborah Owen said...

This sounds like a great idea and I wish you all the best. I don't know why some writers wouldn't jump on this with both hands and feet. Best wishes. Deborah Owen

Sumana said...

FYI, we changed the deadline on this anthology to Feb. 15th, so submissions are now closed.

-Sumana Harihareswara