This is my first time reading slush, and it’s lovely to see all the fantastic submissions pouring in. And ¡Ay, caramba!, I’ve come across some ripping stories. It’s an absolute joy to see this talent blooming, by both new authors and established authors alike.
I’ve already sent out a handful of acceptances, as well as a few rejections. Sending a rejection sucks just as much as receiving one, and I always try to pin-point what I personally didn’t like about the submission, or my reason for rejecting it. Remember, it’s just my opinion, and someone’s already picked it up, so you’re already on the right track.
But please, do remember to follow the guidelines. I’ve had a few submissions where the original publication venue is not listed, it’s addressed to “dear editor(s)” (despite the fact that my name is on the email address itself, and last time I checked I don’t have a double, as much as I’d like one). The latter I can forgive, but the former I cannot. I need to know if it was self-published by a vanity press, or if Ellen Datlow picked it up for her Tor anthology. It makes a big difference, and I will not read the work unless you follow these guidelines. Yes, it sucks, but I don’t have the time to trace its origin when I’ve got another 50 submissions from people who did follow the guidelines. It’s not fair on anyone. But overall I’ve had nothing but fantastic work and marvelous people, so keep that up.
This is the way I sort out the submissions. When the stories come in, I read from the earliest sent. I keep reading, and sometimes I’ll know immediately that this is a story I cannot let go, and I’ll email over the acceptance. Other times I’ll sadly have to send over a rejection immediately, as the story is not what I’m looking for. But most of the time, I’ll read the story and like it, and move it to the “Maybe/further consideration pile”. This means your story has a fighting chance, but I need to weigh it up amoungst the other submissions in the pile and decide against those merits. So basically, if you haven’t heard from me, you’ve moved to the maybe pile. The longer I hold on, the better. And I’m getting a lot of submissions, sometimes clocking it at 18,000 words, and for the most part can’t justify a response unless I’ve gotten to the end.
So, that’s it from Szal towers for now. Keep those submissions rollin’ and I’ll have an answer for you…sooner or later.
– Jeremy Szal
As you may remember, StarShipSofa recently released a podcast of a story by George R. R. Martin, written in the 70s with a severely limited print run, but you can find more about that and how we got it here. But the night of launch, the entire podcast net exploded. Neil Gaiman retweeted and promoted us. Podcastle retweeted and promoted us. So did Drabblecast, Pseudopod, Apex Magazine, Jo Fletcher books, the Roundtable podcast, Cast of Wonders, Tor books, and countless other (big!) authors. Boing blogged about us, so did SFF Audio, and even Westeros org posted it, making connections to the podcasted story and the world of A Song of Ice and Fire, drawing links between the two.
We quite literally all together were given the stage in front of millions and millions of virtual viewers. Neil Gaiman himself is scraping 2.5 million twitter followers alone, let alone a publishing house like Jo Fletcher books! We had a mountain of people helping us out and giving their thoughts. We’ve shifted several thousand downloads, possibly reaching into the tens of thousands by now. A lot of people had an input on that.
Oh, and George R. R. Martin himself
Yep. Mr. Martin actually went to his blog here and promoted the episode, also adding “Check it out for yourself. It’s free, and I thought they did a nice job.”
Not only did GRRM take the time to speak with me and allow us to use his story while Season 5 was AIRING (even as I type this the finale is being prepared for viewing on TV), but he also went of his way to promote the episode and praise it as well. Meaning that he listened to, at the very least, a part of our production.
I said this on the blog, but I’ll say it here again. I first read ASoIaF when I was 13 or so, and the show a few years later when it came out. His worlds, his characters, his prose and complete mastery of world-building, plot and the English language has captivated and inspired me for more than half a decade. To get recognition (and praise) from him, and approval of the job we did, means so much to me I can’t even put it into words. That story he wrote all those years ago is part of his memory (he even put his mood as “nostalgic” on the post), something very precious to him. He could have refused to give us the story, and he could have been disgusted with what we did to it. But he didn’t, and he wasn’t, and that fact alone, coupled with how he stole away the time to express his approval, is by far the highlight of my writing slash editing career. His work means so much to me, and has done so much for publishing and fantasy, the genre I love, so having be given the honour of working with him and on his story has humbled us all very, very much.
Thank you GRRM. Thank you Nick for the narration. Thank you Tony. Thank you everyone who helped promote the episode. Thank you all the fans. Thank you all the listeners. Thank you.
How did this happen?
I’m glad you asked.
Getting this story was far from easy. In fact, it’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. GRRM is a household name, and the idea that a little scruffy guy like me, (19 years old at that) could possibly work with him, or even get a response from him, was always a long shot.
But I told myself it didn’t matter. I looked up a handful of his older stories, selected the one best suited for our podcast, and one that was unique, that being “The Men of Greywater Station”, first published in 1976, and shot over multiple requests. I basically told him who we were and what we did, gave him a pitch for adapting the story, then resigned to never hearing a thing from him. I mean, this is the guy who’s responsible for the multimillion dollar franchise, Game of Thrones. He’s basically the guy’s turned epic fantasy mainstream, sold millions of books, conned the term sexposition, and gotten countless fans weeping and moaning for the next installment of his series. Long story short: he’s the biggest writer working today, period. What hope in hell did I have?
Then one day, in the middle of my university lecture, GRRM responded. He wanted to know what sort of audio adaption it would be and how we’d do it. After scraping my brains off the ceiling, I told him the details. We talked a bit, straightened a few things out, and then he gave me the green light/go ahead. We had a George R. R. Martin story!
Only there was one problem: both the story (and the collection it appears in) are out of print (and have been since the 70s), and have never appeared online. Ever. I went back to him about this, and he offered to send me one of his own copies, or failing that, a carbon copy of the story.
So I gave him my address and that was that. Nick (our narrator) went ahead and bought the book himself, and did a smashing job of the narration. And now StarShipSofa has officially had the honour and privilege of adapting a story by King George R. R. Martin, Lord of the Literary SF/F kingdom and protector of the realm. Not only that, but this is the FIRST TIME the story has ever been online, or even available to the public, since the 1970s. No electronic file exists publicly, and certainly no audio version. Until now.
You can find the podcast here, and get some details on the episode and more, here:
I still remember reading the books for the first time watching the HBO TV series when it came out, being both thrilled and awed, horrified and swept away. I’ve been an avid fans for so many years, and at my age, with such little experience, to have had the honour of working with Mr. Martin and being entrusted with a little piece of his literary heart and soul to do it justice…no words can ever cover that. None. Ever.
So thank you, Mr. Martin. Thank you.
So, me and Tony have been teasing this one out over the last couple of weeks. Something MASSIVE will be docking at the StarShipSofa. What, may you ask? That, I cannot say. However, I can tell you that it includes one of the biggest and coolest authors of modern SF/F today. It was bloody hard even reaching out to them, and negotiating was akin to walking on a tightrope made out of dental floss.
But I managed to secure a story from them, and I’m over the moon, man. And so is Tony, believe me. And our narrator, Nick Camm did a cracking job of the story. He always does, but he put everything he had into it.
And I can also tell you that getting the green light was only half the deal. Getting hold of the story was another matter entirely. It was extremely unconventional, and all four of us, (that being me, Tony, Nick and the author in question) had to work hard to get it done. But now it’s complete and I’m super stoked to hear the response.
Come on, tell us, I can hear you whining. Nope. Sorry, no go. Approximately only five or six people are aware of what’s coming, and we plan to keep it that way. Yes, it really is that big. I can guarantee with my life that you know this author and the work that they’ve done. But my lips are sealed.
Look out for it on Wednesday! June 3rd will be the day!
I was interviewed for Stuart Flynn’s blog about my work as an assistant editor for StarShipSofa. I probably said something I shouldn’t have, but that’s part of the fun.
Originally posted on SCy-Fy: the blog of S. C. Flynn:
It’s almost closing time at the pub and I’m still trading beers with Jeremy Szal, assistant editor of Hugo award-winning podcast StarShipSofa.
SCy-Fy: Jeremy, I guess we should finally start this interview before they throw us out. How do you prepare for a show?
JS: There’s a lot to it, actually. If I happen across a story I like, I contact the author to get permission for audio rights – if it’s a submission, this part is obviously skipped. If I get the green light, I find an appropriate narrator to match the story. I take it to them, and if they accept the job, I give them a timeframe. After nagging and following up, usually with not so thinly-veiled threats – bringing a dog into the equation works well – I get the episode file back. I listen to it to make sure the quality is up to…
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Some days I love uni. I love going there, meeting up with friends, attending great lectures, having lunch together and (sometimes) finding that spot where I can bathe in the winter sun and read a book.
And other times I really, really hate it. Replace really with an expletive and you get the general gist of it. Droll lectures, horrendous readings to do, completely impractical ways in which you’re taught to write (I’d like to think I’ve got SOME notion of how to kick a story into shape, but apparently I either need to take drugs, be extremely political, or just try to re-revolutionize the entire process of penning a story in order to make something of value), amoung countless other things.
Oh yeah, then there’s the work load.
I’ve got so much end of semester work to do it’s like I’ve got weights fastened to my feet. I just came off a four-day film shoot, which in all honesty, was incredibly fun (but incredibly difficult, with brutally long days). And now I’ve got almost 12,000 words in essay questions to write up, assignments to hand in, summaries to scratch together, and more stuff that I’ve probably forgotten about. Hell, I’ve even delayed buying my Playstation 4 until I can clear all this work off my desk.
But frankly, it’s not the difficultly of the work that’s strenuous. It’s the mental-space that it takes up. The 3500 word essay looming over you might not be that hard of a job to knock into something comprehensible, but it’s just all cramming in my brain, occupying space that I honestly don’t have room for. There’s agents to query, novels to write (I’m half-way through my 4th one), short stories to write and submit, copy edits to go over, reviews to write up, people to contact, interviews to conduct, stories to solicit, and so much more. Again, none of this is particularly difficult. It’s just the mental space that it occupies. The straw that broke the camel’s back. And there are a lot of straws on my back.
I’m sure I’m going to miss university when I’m done. Hell, I’m sort of not looking forward to it already. I’ve enjoyed the three years I’ve spent there, and it’s going to be so hard to walk away. But at the end of the day, I’ll be damned if I choose to go to a lecture instead of querying an agent, or tightening a chapter on a novel. I’ve got so many things I want to do and catch up with, so many projects to start and finish, but I need to shut them out just for a little while longer while I wrap all this up. I wish I didn’t have to, but since when does anyone always get what they want? And I’m not entirely sure anyone should.
I’ll be hanging in there.
Well. This is a little late. Half a week, to be exact. But as they say, better late than never, eh?
Anyway, a few days ago my first professional story was published by Nature magazine over on their Physics subdivision. There’s a link there, but I’ll give you another one here, because I’m awesome like that.
This is my first professional level, SWFA-level publication, and so far the results have been incredible. Getting a pro sale at 19 is cool enough, but the amount of work and effort my editors and publicists have gone to has been incredible. I’ve had tweets all week, cover art, blog posts on the story behind the story, and even excerpts posted.
I’ve had bad editors. I’ve had good editors. And then there are these guys – the sort that extend the hand and take incredibly good care of you. I can’t thank Colin and the team over to Nature enough for picking me up and buying my story. And to be published under Pan Macmillan, too!
And then, there’s the cover art.
Seriously, that’s some really, really awesome stuff. And as I said, they’ve been shooting out tweets like these all week…
…and I hadn’t even seen the physical copy of the magazine yet! Speaking of which, if you’re interested in chasing it up, it’s in Nature Physics: May 2015, Volume 11 No 5
But anyway, do check it out. I’ve had some feedback – both from fellow writers (who I admire very much) and randoms online, and I’ve been overwhelmed by their kind words. And to be published in Nature…I’m never getting over that. In fact, I know a veteran SF writer who told me he knew nuclear physicists and other scientists who would sell their own grandmothers into slavery to get a shot at being published in Nature.
Well, my granny had better learn how to swing a pickaxe, or she won’t last long in those mines!
I’ve been quiet about this for the past week, but I can’t keep the lid on any longer.
Exactly one week ago, I signed a contract for a short story, selling it to a magazine. Which magazine, may you ask? That magazine would be Nature magazine, published by Nature Publishing Group, a division of PAN MACMILLAN/TOR!
I won’t lie, my jaw smacked the desk when I saw that Nature had accepted my story. At 19 years old, I sold fiction to a magazine published by a division of one of “Big Five”.
So, I scrapped my brains off the wall and popped a beer in the fridge to celebrate (it was first thing in the morning, and even by Australian standards that’s a tad early). Then I saw that Nature publishes anthologies with names like Arthur C. Clarke, Stephen Baxter, Philip K. Dick and others, and that Nature is the most cited science journal in the world, with over 3 million visitors to the website per month.
And I scrubbed my brains from the ceiling one more time. I seriously couldn’t believe it. Even now, it’s a little surreal. Hell, even family, teachers and people I barely know, who don’t even read science-fiction (some don’t even read at all) know about Nature magazine.
There are no words that can express just how riveted I feel. My editor has been phenomenal in making the story the best it could possibly be. I’ve seen the page proofs and artwork, and I love it.
But I’m not getting side tracked. This is the first step in a long, long journey that I won’t be quitting any time soon.
Look for my story in a future issue. For me, I’m back to my editing and writing. And who knows? Maybe I’ll sell another story with them in the future.
Actually, scratch that. You can bet that I will.
Before we get started, I’d like to clarify one or two things. Yes, I am aware of all the controversy that’s been going on this year. No, I did not get involved in it. I am not a member of WorldCon, and I did not vote. And quite honestly, the sort of books I read rarely, rarely get covered in the Hugos, with the exception of The Wind-Up Girl (which I loved) and A Song of Ice and Fire.
So, rather than name everything I disagreed with, I’m going to highlight the ones I thought worthy of being there. There’s enough negativity in the world, and I’d rather not get into pointless debates. I don’t have the time for that, and I’m here to have fun, not make enemies. Life is too short for that.
Anyway, the full list of awards is here, incase you wanted to check them out. Here are my highlights:
Abyss and Apex: Very well deserved. I’ve enjoyed almost every story I’ve read of theirs. They’re an exceptional magazine, publishing marvelous stories, and it’s great to see them on here.
Andromeda Space In-Flight Magazine: Now this one is excellent. Based down in the tiny corner of the world that is Australia, they’re one of the last surviving SF/F magazines down here that still publishes regularly in print. PRINT! Not to mention that they have one of the best submission systems I’ve seen for any magazine ever, and the high quality of their stories, their place on this list is very well deserved.
Beneath Ceaseless Skies: I adore this magazine. One of the few on the market that actually (consistently) publishes high/epic/medieval fantasy, their fiction is free to read online and pays their contributors very well. If I could get published by any venue, it would be this one. I’m a fan and always will be.
Anne Sowards: She’s the acquisitions editor for Ace and Roc/Penguin, and she’s brilliant. She edits a colossal range of marvelous books and series and it’s great to see her on this list. Picking what books to publish is no easy task, but she does it. A round of applause!
Black Gate: I’ve been a long-time reader of this publication, and although they no longer publish fiction, it’s still great to check them out and read up on fantasy news and the like. Glad to see them on here.
Laura J. Mixon: She’s only written one major piece that I’m aware of, but that alone makes her worthy of being on here. I won’t say more than that.
Game of Thrones: “The Mountain and the Viper”: It’s Game of Throne, what do you expect? If this doesn’t win I’ll take the black. I mean that half-seriously.
Almost everything on the Dramatic Presentation (long form) list: Guardians of the Galaxy, Edge of Tomorrow, Interstellar….great films. It’s going to be hard picking between them!
Anyway, that’s about it. I haven’t read any of the short stories, novelettes, novella, or novels on this list, something that’s seriously going to need to change! Otherwise, I’m more or less pleased with the works that I’ve noted. It will be interesting to see the outcome in August!
I’ve been quite in the last few weeks, mainly because I’ve been very, very busy. I’m back at university for my final year, I’m writing a new novel (and sending queries for another), writing short stories, writing reviews, and going over editorial suggestions sent it by my fantastic editors. And then there’s StarShipSofa, which is a mountain of work, but one that I’m happy to do.
And this isn’t even taking into consideration all my university work, and boy, there’s a ton of it.
It’s almost ironic, really. I’m sitting in a “Creative Writing” lecture, listening to my teacher warble on about document writing, metafiction and the blurring of nonfiction and fiction through experimental prose and what have you, and I’m sitting with my friend/beta reader, exchanging feedback for novels and sending stories to magazines. By the time my teacher starts reading out from a “book”, I’m busy signing a contract and going over suggested edits made by one of my many editors.
I hate to say it, but writing and reading short stories (as well as novels, of course!), listening to podcasts and reading author blogs, has taught me more than any lecture ever has. And to top it off, this is all practical. Most of university content is not. I’m telling you now, no lecture has showed me how to write a query letter, or how to format a manuscript, or how to submit a short story. I learned that all on my own.
But long story short (heh) I’m ridiculously busy, and it’s killing me. The only reason I can even type this out is before I’m printing out pages of a reading that I have to do an assessment on. I’ve glanced at it, and I honestly want to cry. It baffles me that people can actually cook up this garbage, let alone think it’s so profound that we as students should study it. And this isn’t fiction. Oh no, that would be too easy. This is about film philosophy and film psychology, the incredibly dense stuff. It’s a bleeding nightmare.
And I just want it to be over.
So I’m going to go back to it now. This is my last year and I’m going to charge my way through it if I have to. But if I do happen to get an agent, I’d be willing to drop everything immediately and give it my all. It’s just getting to that point.
But until then, I’ll be suffering through this…