Ares Issue #02 Cover
Every morning I check my eMail box. Experience has taught me that this is a mistake. A better course of action is to burn my house down and run off to live in the woods. Perhaps I am too old to change my ways. So I check my eMail.
I receive several hundred eMail messages each day. Some are ads. Some are status reports. Most are questions from folks who need information too specialized for Google. I thought I would take this opportunity to answer some of the more common ones, here.
How do we gather our fiction?
We are not currently accepting fiction submissions. We accumulated a few hundred more stories than we had the capacity to properly evaluate, and we’re still paying a price for not closing the spigot sooner. There are still dozens of unread stories in the pool, but we get through another pile of them every week. We will open the spigot again. We’ll notify everyone right here before and as it happens. My wild guess as to when is 4Q15.
The process is pretty simple. Authors submit their short stories to our story database. Authors learn that we are accepting fiction when we post notices here and on a number of internet science fiction author forums.
Elsewhere on this website is a link to our submission guidelines. This document describes terms of publishing, acceptable genres, desired story length, etc. If you ever wish Ares to publish one of your stories, find and peruse this document.
How do we select our fiction?
The fiction is read by one or two members of a small group of slush readers. Before issue #01, we were flying a bit by the seat of our collective pants. We had no way of knowing how many stories we would get and how many of those would be good.
Being a practical (read pessimistic) fellow, I expected that we would receive very few stories, and the quality would be generally very poor. Fortunately, that’s not what happened. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened.
I originally asked the slush readers to give each story a typical A through F letter grade, and figured we would publish As, Bs, and some Cs. We received so many stories (600?) so quickly, and the fiction quality was so high, that publishing Cs is out of the question and publishing Bs is unnecessary. We can screen out all of the B through F graded stories and still fill issue 03 through issue 06.
Early on, we committed to some authors who submitted B-graded stories that we would publish their work. We honor that commitment, but as those stories hit the press, only A-graded stories remain in the pool. This means that the general fiction quality in the magazine improves with each issue.
The goal is that, in a few more issues, we will be publishing only A-grade stories.
What percentage of stories make the cut?
Last time we assessed our acceptance rate, we were running at about 7%. We reject 93% of submitted stories.
What kinds of things typically prevent Ares from accepting a story?
Genre is critical, but doesn’t account for many rejections. The story must, must, must adhere to our stated genre list. We are a science fiction magazine. We publish science fiction. Alternate history, like steam punk, and fantasy have a place at the Ares table. Most other subject matters do not.
Punctuation and language use kill a lot of stories. We are not your copy editors. We will fix a couple of casual errors in a story, but we don’t have the time copy edit each accepted submission. Why would we? We have more quality fiction that we can easily manage. That, and the author should have already taken this step. Modern word processing applications have very solid spelling, punctuation, and grammar tools. Use them. If you can’t be bothered to do the copy editing, neither can we.
Stories must have plots. The story should set a scene, carry characters from point A to point B in an interesting fashion, and conclude with some sort of reveal or climax that pays off for the reader. We receive some very inventive stories that are composed with extraordinary care and creativity, but may lack a strong plot line or any sort of denouement that wraps up all of the loose ends.
This last story killer is a tough one to describe. We discourage authors from using story mechanics that are egregiously controversial.
What does that mean? Does Ares shrink from controversy?
We encourage controversy. We encourage avant garde approaches to subject matter and execution. What will kill a story for us is an author delving into one or more of the following excesses:
- Graphic or unnecessary depictions of sadism
- Celebration of broadly perceived enemies of polite society, such as terrorists, racists, etc.
- Precise and complete recipes for dangerous behaviors, such as bomb making
There are probably dozens of possible bullet points here, but we hope you grok where the lines are, why they’re drawn, and how to avoid them. Does that character really have to drop an F-bomb or an N-bomb every third word? To paint a picture of some group as evil, do the members really have to eat live kittens? Seriously?
None of this means that your story can’t have a depiction of a sadistic act or a racist or a recipe for a dangerous behavior.
Don’t be too graphic. A little description gives the reader’s imagination all the tools it needs to build the scene. Silence of the Lambs — good. Human Centipede — bad.
Be careful elevating disrespectful characters and groups. It can be done, but use a deft touch. Gran Torino — good. Triumph of the Will — bad.
Typing all of this out was a bit cathartic, and hopefully provides you with a better framework as to what goes on behind the scenes here.
Thanks for hanging out. I’ll probably gin up another one of these soon.