Category Archives: log

“You know I don’t like rhetorical questions in my personal life”

Scrap lines of dialogue, waiting to one day find a home or be forgotten.

Sometimes I think writing is just something I resort to so I can fix the leaking holes in my memory.


Abyss and Apex and Disappointment

Hello all!

I missed a week due to travelling India, but I’ll be posting more in general in the future to make up for that.

Last night, I received a disappointment, and over the past 12 hours it’s led me to something of a paradigm shift.

Science Fiction Short Story magazines. They aren’t many of them left. And they’re important. They form the traditional gateway into the industry. They’re still in many ways used as the gatekeepers of quality. And they know exactly what they want, and they aren’t expanding.

Like much of the publishing industry, they are in a state of chaos that borders on existential crisis, and like much of the world around us today, no one has any idea what the hell to replace them with and how that’s going to work – me included, but I’m going to have to find a solution whether I like it or not.

Today’s case study: Abyss and Apex

Now plenty of these magazines have short submission windows. Veeeeeery short submission windows. As in, they’re basically trying to make it as difficult as possible to submit to them. They do this to filter out the lightweights, and I accept that. It takes a careful degree of planning to successfully meet their submission window. And so that brings us to last night, my phone calendar informing me that Abyss and Apex has opened.

Their schedule looks like this:

  • first week of November 2016 CANCELLED
  • First week of February 2017 FLASH ONLY
  • first week of May 2017
  • first week of August 2017

I’m sure you can see the problems here immediately.

After the August 2016 submission, I waited patiently for November. It was cancelled. Ok, these things happen. I set my patient wait for February 2017. A six month wait, not exactly minor, but sadly not atypical for this sort of business. And now, I learn that February 2017 has abruptly been closed to all but Flash fiction. I will not be able to submit my work to this. My carefully co-ordinated wait has been for nothing.

I don’t think Abyss and Apex are doing this through any fault or laziness of their own. I think they just have too many damn stories, and not enough sales or funds to justify publishing more. Indeed, that’s just a wider symptom of the industry as a whole. Abyss and Apex was always one of my top choices, their published work matches my style very closely and I’m a big fan of their work. It’s been suggested before that if the short story magazine market is dying, why would I frantically be trying to join such a sinking ship?

Part of me wonders if my current approach stems from some degree of nostalgia for the traditional publishing processes, or anxiety over the alternative routes to acceptance.

But I think this is a turning point for me. I’ve long been falling out of favor with searching for magazine formats for my short stories, and moving closer to the  concept of releasing anthologies of my own. Of course, getting an anthology published as an unknown author is still another set of tough challenges, but it’s starting to look more feasible that keeping the fiction magazine industry alive on artificial life support.

My short stories are great, and I have no doubt they will one day have a life of their own somewhere, some year in the future. But I think I would be surprised now if it happens in an old school magazine, like our classic SF ancestors before us…

On to a new and dizzying unknown future, friends! Good luck out there



Writers Log – Stardate 87635.1

Well I made a big effort and finally overcame Legion, completing the rewrite in two days. Some of the new material will need another layer of polish, but it’s gone back to First Readers now. I really made every scene sharp eventually. It felt good to push my limits, to be faced with serious problems. Elements of dialogue got moved from the back to the front, from the front to the middle, broken up and stuck back together. One odd thing that occurs is that, well, the characters come across as a little crazier in this new version, somehow faintly manic. I do usually write about insane people, but these two characters were about as normal as my characters get. Maybe that was their weakness? It’s made me consider if unhinged characters are what I do well, I should consider that a strength and work to use it. I’ll need to make sure every story I produce is at least at this quality level. This process has to become a new standard.

The day after, I returned to story 8, Grandfather, also known as Cenobite. I hit that sucker with a herculean effort, forging 1800 words of fresh material and planning out plenty more. I’ll do a bit more before I sleep tonight. I’ve hit a cycle of producing new written material every day. I was watching TV afterwards and actually had to keep pausing it to write new lines that came to me. The production of writing as an involuntary compulsion. Its the pure form I aspire to, and it’s what brought me here.

At the risk of sounding morose, something brought back memories of the way I left university today, and it got me thinking about my self esteem. I don’t have any doubts about my personal style and value anymore, but I do consider myself a failure. You can be great and still be a failure, one is a mark of quality, the other of achievement. I was very committed, and it hurt a lot to be ultimately defeated, as I was in my degree. I’ve realised before I’ll always feel like a failure, until I get published, till I have a new achievement with which I can dismiss those years. On that date, I think a lot of sadness will be erased. There’s only one way to get there, and it never stops.

Writer’s Log – Stardate 49713.4

Working on the heavy re-write of Legion today. It’s a big task, 6000 words to be not only edited but significantly improved through any means necessary. I devised a solid list of ideas, but the implementation is still gonna be taken on a sentence by sentence basis. Tis the creative business. Just got to hope magic comes out of the other side. Frankly this is starting to strain my patience just a little bit. We’re on edit 4 now, and the tweaks will need checking so an edit 5 is likely. Hence the high workload, try and get it done quick. I had high hopes for this story, but the first reader had scathing views on its writing style. I need to make it much more interesting to read, probably through making the characters much more worth caring about. I suppose it’s the vague challenges that are the most interesting?