Why Anonymous Submissions Are a Bad Idea

January 6, 2018

The new year brings fresh opportunities and projects. New magazines and anthologies are being launched, and some of them are embracing anonymous submissions in what has become somewhat of a trend lately. “We want to democratize the submission process,” those editors and publishers say. “We want the new authors to stand a better chance against headliners. We want authors from historically disadvantaged groups and backgrounds to enjoy an equal playing field.” All of those are worthy goals. Problem is, anonymous submissions accomplish none of those things.

Once upon a time I, too, was a proponent of anonymous submissions, but that is no longer the case. When I started editing UFO anthologies, I used semi-anonymous submissions for several years. The reasons were generally good ones — to judge each story purely on its merit, and not to let the Big Names and shiny publication credits sway my readers one way or another… but the more experience I gained as an editor, the less I liked anonymous subs. My reasons sounded good but the logic behind them didn’t stand up to scrutiny. Every editor must make their own decisions on this, but here are just a few reasons why I’m glad to no longer use this system (from least to most important.)

1) I trust myself more.

Early on, I was worried that publication credits and other accolades might sway me as an editor, but I quickly discovered that none of that matters. The only thing that matters is the story. An amazing writer whose work I’m a huge fan of can write a story I won’t like and won’t publish, while someone with no impressive credits whose submissions I’ve been rejecting for years might craft a tale I instantly fall in love with. Moreover, I’m far more excited about submissions from brand-new, previously unpublished writers than from almost anybody else, because I want to be the one to discover the next big talent in our field. I suspect most editors worth their salt — whatever their position on anonymous subs — feel the same way.

2) Anonymous submissions do not truly level the playing field.

Many (though not all) of the stories from Really Big Names published in various magazines are solicited directly from the authors or their agents. Most of those magazines do not anonymize submissions. The ones that do, tend to be newer venues, still looking to make their mark, and authors seeking to be published there probably won’t compete with too many Big Name writers anyway.

3) Neopro writers don’t like them.

Some of the writers who actively submit their short fiction but are good enough to be at least a little picky about their venues tend to push venues that require them to reformat their document in any way further down their submission hierarchy. Creating an anonymous version of the story file doesn’t sound like a lot of work, and it isn’t, but when you’re shuffling a lot of submissions around you tend to want to just send the same file out until someone buys it. Venues that require anything non-standard may become overlooked or at least left for last, thus somewhat lowering their chances at acquiring a good story because other editors will get their chance at it first.

4) Anonymous submissions can actually disadvantage stories written by minorities, foreign authors, and especially translations.

There are certain liberties an author that belongs to a community might be able to take that another author probably shouldn’t. My copy editor once sent notes asking James Beamon to tone down the Ebonics spoken by a magical sword in one of his stories. James responded by e-mailing her a photo of himself. 🙂 There was at least one other time where my team (which is pretty diverse) pointed out a somewhat-insensitive use of a racial stereotype in a story that I might have missed as a reader, and that at least one of them wasn’t super comfortable with since in this case, the author’s background did not align with that culture/background. We discussed the situation at length and I made the author aware of the team’s findings. The author was able to make the necessary changes and we accepted the story.

When we read a story in a vacuum (as we do with an anonymous submission) we’re missing out on what might be important cultural context. A Native American author writing a Native American character should be trusted more with their portrayal of such a character than an author of another background. It doesn’t mean that someone else can’t write a great Native American character, but I feel that, if an author has a close personal relationship to something they’re writing about and wishes to let us know this in their cover letter, we should take this information into consideration when evaluating the story.

This is especially true of translations or stories written outside of the traditional Western culture. Russian stories, for example, tend not to open with a strong hook. The Russian writing style wasn’t influenced by Hemingway nearly as much as English writing has been. Most stories tend to take their time, immersing the reader in the setting of the story rather than dunking them into the tale in media res. So if I want to ever publish Russian translations that aren’t intentionally written to imitate an American story, I should probably know that I’m reading a translation and make certain allowances. I’m also willing to make allowances for how well the story flows before edits, if it’s a translation or a story by an author for whom English is a second language.

As an author, I have no problem with making anonymous submissions (beyond the minor inconvenience factor described above.) If an editor feels the system is helpful and works for them for any reason, that’s fine. But as an editor, I don’t foresee using them again in the future, and I encourage other editors to consider their reasons carefully before electing to utilize this method of reviewing submissions.

#SFWAPro

 

Advertisements

The Golem of Deneb Seven Cover!

November 30, 2017

Here are the e-book and print final covers for The Golem of Deneb Seven and Other Stories in all their glory! Art by M. Wayne Miller and cover design by Holly Heisey, who is absolutely amazing at this cover thing (as you can probably tell by looking at these:

 

 

 

And here, for comparison is the original artwork used in creating the cover:

 

The kickstarter campaign for this book has reached full funding and it will be coming out in May. As I write this post, there are still a couple of hours left to back the campaign if you wish to do so!

#SFWAPro

 


The Golem of Deneb Seven and Other Stories

November 7, 2017

I just launched a campaign to fund my second collection, The Golem of Deneb Seven and Other Stories. If you’ve enjoyed my writing, I hope you will take a look. (And if you’re primarily familiar with my work as an editor, there are sample stories linked there that will give you a taste of what my own writing is like.)

This book will include approximately 30 short stories, including the following:

• Refugees with a salvaged mech suit find that family ties are stronger than armor.

• Two artificial intelligences in love turn the world into their playground.

• Modern-day Dante is guided through hell by the ghost of Bob Marley.

• Ancient gods and monsters stalk the halls of a 1920s night club.

• A young woman must save her planet by committing an act of terror.

• In the rekindled space race between the United States, Russia, and India, the winner might be the nation willing to sacrifice the most.

Please take a look for yourself:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/776571295/the-golem-of-deneb-seven-and-other-stories

#SFWAPro

 


UFO6 is live!

October 4, 2017

Unidentified Funny Objects 6 ebook is live on Amazon! Print books can be preordered and will be delivered next week.

We’ll be doing a book launch at Capclave this weekend together with friends who are also releasing great books. We’ve set up a Facebook group for this event here:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1898658783787701

David Walton’s The Genius Plague is a a near-future thriller in the best traditions of Michael Creighton. I was fortunate enough to read an advance copy of this book and highly recommend it!

When Parallel Lives meet by Mike Resnick, Lezli Robyn, and Larry Hodges is a far-future alien contact story, and while I haven’t yet read it, I’ve read previous Resnick/Robyn collaborations and expect it to be a treat!

#SFWAPro

There will also be a discounted bundle of all three books you can buy (and get signed!) at the launch!

 


UFO6 Table of Contents

June 15, 2017

UFO6 will include 20 humorous SF/F short stories and will be published in October 2017. The following is the finalized table of contents for this book:

Foreword by Alex Shvartsman
“A Game of Goblins” by Jim C. Hines
“The Breakdown of Parasite/Host Relationship” by Paul R. Hardy
“From This She Makes a Living?” by Esther Friesner
“Twenty-Nine Responses to Inquiries About My Craigslist Post: Alien Spaceship for Sale $200, You Haul” by Tina Connolly
“Tyler the Snot Elemental Scours the Newspaper, Searching for Change” by Zach Shephard
“Agent of Chaos” by Jack Campbell
“Display of Affection” by P. J. Sambeaux
“The Great Manhattan Eat-Off” by Mike Resnick
“An Evil Opportunity Employer” by Lawrence Watt-Evans
“Common Scents” by Jody Lynn Nye
“A Mountain Man and a Cat Walk into a Bar” by Alan Dean Foster
“Lost and Found” by Laura Resnick
“A Crawlspace Full of Prizes” by Bill Ferris
“Return to Sender” by Melissa Mead
“The Friendly Necromancer” by Rod M. Santos
“An Open Letter to the Sentient AI Who Has Announced Its Intention to Take Over the Earth” by Ken Liu
“Approved Expense” by David Vierling
“Alexander Outland: Space Jockey” by Gini Koch
“Dear Joyce” by Langley Hyde
“Impress Me, Then We’ll Talk About the Money” by Tatiana Ivanova (translated from Russian by Alex Shvartsman)

#SFWAPro

 


Cover and TOC reveal – The Cackle of Cthulhu

May 22, 2017

The Cackle of Cthulhu, an anthology of Lovecraftian humor, is forthcoming from Baen Books in January, 2018.

It will include the following stories:

“The Shunned Trailer” by Esther Friesner

“The Captain in Yellow” by David Vaughan

“My Little Old One” by Jody Lynn Nye

“Tales of a Fourth Grade Shoggoth” by Kevin Wetmore

“Friday Night at Brazee’s” by Mike Resnick

“To Whatever” by Shaenon K. Garrity

“The Doom that Came to Providence” by Brian Trent

“Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma” by Alex Shvartsman

“The Call of the Pancake Factory” by Ken Liu

“The Innsmouth of the South” by Rachael K. Jones

“WWRD” by Yvonne Navarro

“In the Employee Manual of Madness” by G. Scott Huggins

“Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar” by Neil Gaiman

“HP and Me” by Gini Koch

“The Greatest Leader” by Aidan Doyle

“But Someone’s God to Do It!” by Konstantine Paradias

“Call of the Uncopyrighted Intellectual Property” by Amanda Helms

“Cthulhu, P. I.” by Laura Resnick

“A Stiff Bargain” by Matt Mikalatos

“The Shadow Over My Dorm Room” by Laura Pearlman

“The Tingling Madness” by Lucy Snyder

“The Girl Who Loved Cthulhu” by Nick Mamatas

#SFWApro

 


Canopus Award Nomination and Storybundle

April 12, 2017

I’m thrilled to find myself on the list of Canopus-nominated works for the second time! Canopus is an award for excellence in interstellar writing and it’s given out by 100 Year Starship think tank. I’m in really good company, too. Last year I lost to Ken Liu, who is nominated as a translator in a different category. But this year I will most likely be losing to Alastair Reynolds or perhaps a number of other really awesome nominees. This is one of those “I’m definitely honored to be nominated” situations. 🙂

The nominated story is “Whom He May Devour” and it was published in Nautilus. You can read it for free by clicking on the link.

You can read the 2016-2017 Canopus nominees announcement press release here.

Another cool thing is that UFO1 is included in the SFWA Sci-Fi Storybundle along with all the other great books listed above.

This is my first experience with Storybundle but it’s a very cool model where you can pay what you want to get these books and you get to decide what portion goes to the authors and what to Storybundle itself, and whether a cut gets donated to SFWA. Check it out!

#SFWAPro