Anthology Submissions Update – The Fifth Hundred

July 30, 2012

This week, the Space Chicken is a happy chicken.

It took nearly ten days for us to process 100 more stories. The Space Chicken looked upon the received submissions and saw that they were very good. Well, maybe except for a few.

A whopping thirteen of the stories made it past the first round of reading (as opposed to just nine in the previous round) and two of those thirteen bypassed the third round and sailed on to acceptance. Because they’re awesome.

Of these 100 submissions we sent out 41 form rejections, 57 personal rejections (including round 2 rejections with feedback and comments from multiple readers) and two acceptances.

Of the 517 total submissions received to date, Duotrope is showing 159.

We’ve managed to respond to almost everybody within 24 hours, either with rejection or a round 2 bump. Only a handful of stories took 1-2 days. Maintaining this pace of reading hasn’t been easy, but we’re committed to continue offering fast response times and providing as much personal feedback as possible.

There are now 14 stories accepted into the anthology, totaling a bit under 46,000 words. There are 13 stories in round 3, totaling 24,000 words. So nothing has to be cut. Yet.


Rated R

Both of the stories accepted into the book this week are decidedly NOT appropriate for younger readers. They’re awesome, but we wouldn’t recommend that either be read as a bedtime story. There is some cursing (moderate), sex (not graphic) and other things we don’t want to expose children to. I had to think long and hard about these stories but, ultimately, I decided that good comedy often pushes the boundaries, and I’d rather produce a hilarious volume that might put off a few of the more prudish readers than a toothless, mildly amusing book that’s safe for a thirteen-year-old.
Preview Story

I’ll be posting the entire Jake Kerr’s story very soon, probably toward the end of this week. Watch this space!




Sneak Preview: Love Thy Neighbors by Ken Liu

July 25, 2012

The next story I’m unveiling for Unidentified Funny Objects is “Love Thy Neighbors” by Ken Liu.

Ken’s fiction has appeared in F&SF, Asimov’s, Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, and Clarkesworld, among other places. He has won a Nebula Award  for “The Paper Menagerie” and been nominated for the Hugo and Sturgeon Awards for “The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary,” and several of his stories have been selected for inclusion in various Year’s Best anthologies. He lives near Boston with his family. His website is

I’m a huge fan of Ken’s writing and am very happy to be able to include one of his stories into the book. Here’s a little preview:


McComber: But there are some negative consequences to what you’re doing, aren’t there?

Filip: Negative? We’re saving cuddly and cute creatures! Who doesn’t like more pandas? Everyone loves pandas!

McComber: I think many of our callers feel differently. All right, you’re on.

First Caller: Hi, this is Mary from Waterford, Connecticut. I hate your mutant penguins. There’s a colony of them camped right outside my house, and they smell.

I’ve never seen such aggressive birds. My children can’t play in our yard anymore because they get pecked. You people need to be put in prison.

Filip: Mary, I’m sorry you feel that way. Maybe instead of feeling so entitled to your yard, you can try to make friends with the penguins? Try learning their language. I can recommend some good tapes made by the WikiGenes Foundation.

Second Caller: Hi, this is Jordan from Ansel, New Jersey. Let me tell you, watch these giant pandas dig through garbage for a few weeks, and they don’t seem so cute any more. One of them has even started to steal the tomatoes from my wife’s garden. And that constant mating, right in the street!

I can’t wait till the governor declares panda hunting season.

McComber: Mr. Filip, you’re responsible for the terror of our suburbs: the omnivorous, sex-maniac panda.



Anthology Submissions Update – The Fourth Hundred

July 19, 2012


It took approximately nine days to review 100 more submissions. The overall volume has come down a little and we’re averaging just over 10 subs per day. Of the 100 stories responded to, 43 were form rejections. All others had at least some additional comments from me or the other readers.

Only nine stories out of 100 advanced past the first round (this made the Space Chicken very cranky indeed!) Of those nine stories, I bought one and advanced one more into the third round. The other seven have been rejected by the “death panel.” I also received back a requested rewrite and bought that story, too.

As it stands right now, there are twelve stories accepted into the anthology, totaling approximately 38,000 words. There are 13 stories in round 3, totaling just over 24,000 words.  So there’s still plenty of space, but there’s also around 40 days remaining and I predict a Darwinian struggle among the round 3 stories for a few remaining spots in September.

Duotrope is showing 122 out of the 407 submissions we received to date.

We’re seeing too many:

* Zombie stories, Vampire stories, Demon/Hell stories, Alien Gray stories.

Not that there’s anything wrong with those, but your Zombie story submission will have to be better than all the OTHER zombie story submissions we’re seeing, because we don’t plan to dedicate the book to any one trope. If you have several stories in your inventory, the metagame choice would be to send one that revolves around a less-tired concept.

* Stories that are longer/shorter than what the guidelines ask for.

I don’t mind reading a 4200 word story very much. But when a writer sends it in without asking, that means they either didn’t bother to read the guidelines, or didn’t care. In either case, I’m already predisposed against their story before I begin to read it. Unless its downright brilliant, it will end up in a form rejection pile.
We’re not seeing enough of:

* Flash fiction

Only two of the stories I bought so far are 1000 words or less in length. Only two more flash stories are in round 3 at the moment.  I’d like to see more quality flash, but remember that a flash story should optimally still have a good plot arc.

* Humor

You would think that submitting humor to a humor anthology is a no-brainer. You would be wrong. A great many submissions we get are either mildly humorous or merely upbeat. I want stories that stand a chance of making the reader laugh out loud. Not every story in the anthology is going to be laugh-out-loud funny, but you will have a *far* easier time advancing past the ‘slush’ stage  if yours manages this feat.
Please keep submitting. It will keep the Space Chicken happy, accelerate the next Anthology Submission Update blog post, which you’ve now grown to love and crave, and might possibly net you a rejection like this one.



Anthology Submissions Update – The Third Hundred

July 11, 2012


We breezed through another 100 stories and Space Chicken (above) says this was a bit of a rough batch. Only 7% advanced to the second round, of which I bought one (and will likely be buying another one, pending a rewrite). Yet a third story (which was also a requested rewrite) advanced to round 3, where we now have a total of 11 tales.

I didn’t get a chance to write this post right away, so we’re at 325 submissions total right now. Duotrope is showing 98 of them. So my fourth post will likely be in just a few days.

Sneak Preview: The Alien Invasion As Seen In The Twitter Stream of @dweebless by Jake Kerr

July 10, 2012

Jake Kerr claimed that he isn’t funny.

I kept prodding him to write and submit a story to UFO on Twitter and he said that he wasn’t funny. Others chimed in. Ken Liu said: “How can that be? Your Tweets are funny!”

And that’s when the inspiration struck him.

I woke up to find a story he wrote the night before in my inbox. The entire story was told through Tweets. And it was hilarious. I showed it to the Associate Editors, but I pretty much knew I would be buying it. So when the time came to inform Jake of the good news, I sent him the acceptance message via Twitter. It seemed only fair.



Jake Kerr began writing short fiction in 2010, after fifteen years as a music industry columnist and journalist. In 2011, Lightspeed published his debut story, The Old Equations, in its July issue. The story went on to be finalist for best novelette at the Nebula Awards and shortlisted for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. In 2012, Kerr returned to Lightspeed with a new story and was also published in Fireside Magazine. A graduate of Kenyon College with degrees in English and Psychology, Kerr studied under writer-in-residence Ursula K. Le Guin and Peruvian playwright Alonso Alegria. He is currently working on his first novel. Kerr lives in Dallas, Texas.

This is where I’d normally preview a snippet of Jake’s story. But he and I had a better idea. We will post the entire story — for free — as a preview of the kind of stuff you can expect in UFO, sometime in the next month or so (once the official UFO web site goes live). Watch this space for updates, you don’t want to miss this story!


Anthology Submissions Update – The Second Hundred

July 3, 2012

We have now read over 200 submissions, so I’d like to provide another look at our statistics and process.

I bought three stories from the second 100 subs, now totaling 7. 16% advanced to the second round (as compared to 25% from the first batch).

Three stories from the 2nd 100 advanced to the third round. There are now 10 stories in round 3.

One story each from first and second hundred received a rewrite request and I’m waiting for the authors to decide if they want to make the changes.

There are presently exactly 214 stories either on submission or already responded to at UFO. 71 of them have been recorded on Duotrope.

I’m a huge fan of reading these sort of statistics at other markets, so I hope others will find these updates of interest, as well.


The Meta Rejection

July 2, 2012


Public submissions for UFO opened 48 hours ago and they’re pouring in. I’ve read and responded to nearly 200 submissions so far (which means another statistics post is just around the corner). I’ve been keeping (marginally) sane by talking about the slush process on Twitter.

Many of my fellow writers hang out there, and one of my Twitter buddies is L. Lambert Lawson of Kazka Press. He does this thing where he posts the rejections on his blog. So when he sent me a story which I had to reject, I knew the rejection letter was going to find its way onto the greater Internet, fast. And since I knew this in advance, I had to make it the most epic rejection letter to ever grace his blog.

Did I succeed? You decide. Read a rejection letter in three codas and a poem. The poem is courtesy of Anatoly Belilovsky. It appeared previously on my blog.




Logos for UFO

June 30, 2012

On the heels of revealing the awesome cover for Unidentified Funny Objects I would also like to show off some of the logos which I’m going to be using for UFO Publishing.

This lovable green alien was imagined by Kaolin Fire, a true Renaissance man of the digital age with impressive credits in art, fiction, poetry and game design. He just released TumbleDots, a fast-paced match-3 style game for iPhone and iPad.


This next design comes courtesy of my friend Martin Dare. Martin is a tattoo artist in the NYC area. If you’d like to get inked (perhaps with the lovable one-eyed alien above on your forearm?)  I can put you in touch with him.



This is a modified version of the above logo, to provide the alien with a mode of transportation.

There were a number of other versions from both artists, but these three are my favorites. I can’t decide on just one. But, luckily, I don’t have to. Plenty of opportunities to feature all three across UFO web site and promotional products.


Introducing UFO Cover Art

June 30, 2012

Check out the cover art for Unidentified Funny Objects, created by the incredibly talented Dixon Leavitt:



Fonts, text and names of the features authors may all change — they’re a placeholder for now until the TOC is finalized.

Sneak Preview: Fight Finale From the Near Future! by James Beamon

June 28, 2012

This week I unveil a short story titled “Fight Finale From the Near Future!” by James Beamon.

James Beamon writes because he has to… and he can’t find anything worth watching on TV. But he doesn’t need TV when his wife is a muse and his son is amused by the stuff he makes up. And the cat–well, the cat’s not a fan of speculative fiction but has learned to attack on command. James calls Virginia home but his IT work takes him all over the globe. At the moment he is deployed over in Afghanistan, where he manages to write humor during the brief interludes between missions. Here’s James posing in full battle raiment in front of the Kajacki river valley:

There was an additional benefit for me in accepting James’ submission. As soon as I bought his story, I asked him to join our editorial board and help read and rate incoming submissions. His razor-sharp wit fits in nicely among the varying voices on the reading panel.

Here’s a brief preview of “Fight Finale”:

“You both stand back,” Brody says. He walks carefully across the catwalk. Then he hears the hammer of a gun cock back.

This is a needless gesture, as the only guns that require manually cocking to fire are Old West single-action revolvers.  But he hears it, and cringes despite the fact that anyone who wanted him dead would have killed him already unless their firearm was made before 1890. Brody turns slowly to face his nemesis.

Brody sees M. Vella on the catwalk. Behind the villain, Katya is tied up. M. Vella has left the Observer alone because observing never hurt anybody. Apparently, stealth is also useful for foiling good.

“And now, Agent Omen, I will explain to you my plan’s finer points,” M. Vella sneers as he raises the gun. “I call them hollow points.”

A shot rings out, loud, jarring. Silence follows.