16 September 2010

Getting Science Fiction And Fantasy Published In New Zealand. Part 1: Short Fiction

This is a post for NZ Speculative Fiction Blogging Week.

At Au Contraire, I gave a talk about getting speculative fiction published in New Zealand. This and the following post are an attempt to capture what I said at the workshop, and later said I would write up for SpecFicNZ. Part 1 focuses on short fiction. Part 2 will look at novels.

I am sure to have missed various things, so please give details of additional publishers and markets in the comments.

I'm in no way suggesting that speculative fiction writers should confine their efforts to submitting stories in New Zealand - but there are lots of guides to submitting to overseas markets, so you check these out if that's where you want to concentrate your efforts.

Finally, I'm concentrating here on fiction written for adults, rather that written for the YA/MG/children's markets.

Magazines

There is one currently active magazine market for short speculative fiction (and poetry) that I know of in New Zealand: Semaphore Magazine. Semaphore Magazine is published quarterly, with an annual anthology. It pays for short fiction and poetry. Editor Marie Hodgkinson says "I want to further increase the proportion of work written by New Zealanders that is published in the magazine, with particular regard to the representation of non-Pakeha and LGBQT writers".

Other paying sf magazine markets, like Prima Storia, appear to have come and gone. If you know of any others that are active, please let me know.

The good news is that it is possible to get speculative fiction published in several New Zealand literary magazines. JAAM, Sport, Bravado and Turbine have all published stories that can be considered speculative fiction, and Landfall's recent themed issue on utopias and dystopias skirted similar territory.

Having said that, you probably wouldn't get too far submitting that 9000-word interplanetary war story based on the latest developments on black hole physics to a New Zealand literary magazine, or for that matter your Xena-meets-Spartacus fanfic (though I'm there with bells on!). The softer, near-future end of SF; SF satires; urban fantasy; and stories which show an awareness of their own telling are more likely to appeal. If in doubt, add more irony - one writer told me that he sold two previously rejected stories to NZ literary magazines by retelling them in an ironic manner.

Competitions

SF and fantasy will be a tough sell to most of the big New Zealand short story competitions, which tend to favour heads-down, no-nonsense mimetic realism, but the fiction section of the annual Royal Society of New Zealand Manhire Prize for Creative Science Writing has to be worth a crack - though this year's deadline has just passed. Bugger!

Your chances of doing well in a competition are strongly correlated with who's doing the judging. Check out what the judge writes, and what types of fiction they say they like, and then decide whether it's worth submitting. (Of course, in a large competition, your story may have to survive a filtering process before it reaches the named judge.)

Anthologies

By their nature, anthologies are intermittent - other than the annual Best New Zealand Fiction series - so you have to keep a weather eye out for submission guidelines. I've had a number of stories published in New Zealand anthologies over the years: my first two published stories were in an anthology of sf stories for NZ secondary schools (though most of the stories had originally been written for an adult audience), and a new-writers' anthology.

There have been occasional anthologies of New Zealand speculative fiction, such as Rutherford's Dreams, and this year there's a brand-new entrant in the field: A Foreign Country: New Zealand Speculative Fiction, published by Random Static. Random Static say that another short story anthology isn't on their immediate horizon, but they will be looking to publish novellas.

I'll return to Random Static when I cover markets for novels.

Just as the identity of the judge is the most important thing to know in a competition, so the name and inclinations of the editor are the most important thing to know when considering a submission to a general fiction anthology. Have they written SF or fantasy or horror, or anything that isn't set in our consensus reality? Have they said nice things about speculative fiction? Have they included speculative fiction stories in previous anthologies?

Do the research, and then go for it.

Collections

You'll be doing very well to get an entire collection of speculative fiction published by a mainstream New Zealand publisher. My recent collection Transported is about 1/3 sf and fantasy, and I think that hurt it with some mainstream reviewers (though others liked the mix).

However, in the publishing industry, all is in flux. As with any other aspect of publishing, you need to keep your ear to the ground, your eyes peeled, your shoulder to the grindstone, and in general contort yourself in strange ways to get the best picture of what's going on and where the opportunities are.

"Hah!", you might be thinking, "I don't even get out of bed for less than 80,000 words". In that case, stick around for Part 2, where I'll look at the options for getting speculative fiction at novel length published in New Zealand.

9 comments:

Amanda said...

Not sure what National Radio's approach or acceptance of spec is, but they do run a lot of short stories.

Submission guidelines at this link:

http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/drama/dramainfo/short_story_guidelines

I think I may submit to them, even just to feel out their receptiveness to spec.

Tim Jones said...

Thanks, Amanda! It's definitely worth a go - I know a comparatively new writer (not spec fic) who had a story accepted there recently.

Debbie Cowens said...

Great post with some useful publishing opportunities pointed out. It's fantastic that Kiwi writers to have some excellent local places to try as well as submitting overseas.

AJ Ponder said...

Great post - did you deliberately coincide it with Spec-Fic week?

Tim Jones said...

Thanks, Alicia! Yes, I did - there's a wee note to that effect at the top, but I must admit it is rather hidden.

rippatton said...

Tim,
Great summation of the fantastic workshop you did at the Con. I am eagerly awaiting Part 2.

Also, hoping we can post this as a permanent article on the SpecFicNZ website. Let me know if that is okey-dokey.

Tim Jones said...

Thanks, Ripley. Part 2 is mostly written - I just need a spare half-hour or so, when my brain isn't too fried, to finish it off. You are definitely welcome to post both parts on the SpecFicNZ site - I meant to email you to this effect, but (like a lot of other things this month) I didn't get round to it...

KayEm said...

If part 1 is anything to go by, Tim, am eagerly awaiting part 2. Very useful info. And am enjoying your short stories, especially When the delightful Ms Quigley Came Walking. Like your quirky style. Perfect blend of SF and reality. Wish the ending could've been a bit more stretched out.

Tim Jones said...

Thanks so much, KayEm - I'm glad you are enjoying "Transported".

Re "When She Came Walking" - the ending was always the part of that story I was least satisfied with. When Strange Horizons kindly accepted the story, they requested a number of editing changes, and one of them was to tighten up the end of the story, which, they felt, went on too long beyond the climax. Your comment makes me want to go back and take another look at the original ending!

The good news - at least, I hope it's good news - is that I have an idea for a novel set in the world of this story - but I need to get my current novel finished first.

Speaking of novels, I enjoyed finding out about yours!