February 18, 2012

What kind of stories do you print?

That is a question that we get quite a bit from authors looking to submit and people that find out about us. For our first few issues, it was the three of us self-publishing, so even though the stories were different in genre, they all...worked together in their strangeness, their departure from the realistic. It's part of why we use the name Here Be Monsters -- our stories flirt with the edges of the map.
But, as it turns out, it's difficult to convey that feeling to other people. In our first calls for submissions, we asked for any genre, and HBM was referred to as an anthology of fiction. We spoke about what we liked in some places, and authors could look through the book to get a feel for what we did, but we weren't advertising ourselves as the place for weird stories, or stories of any particular kind. We did this both because we didn't have a succinct way of saying exactly what we were looking for, and because we wanted as many submissions as possible.

When we approached Issue 6, we tried to focus in a bit, and we started calling it a speculative fiction anthology. This term is (slightly) more common than "genre fiction", which we'd used occasionally before. But we also tried to be more up-front with what our anthology was about. Both here on the blog and in our calls for submissions to writing groups and publications. I don't know if we've yet gotten to the right balance though. I still think there is a nicer way to show what we do that we haven't found yet.

For me, this balance means the most in terms of the writers and readers we attract. If we were called a Sci-Fi/Fantasy anthology (which we've never really been, but we do publish a fair amount of those genres) would we scare away readers of more "serious" fiction? And would we still get stellar stories like Ben Lemieux's "Grace" or Molly Lynch's "USS Roosevelt"? And what if we went the other way and put ourselves out there as simply straight "fiction"? Would we receive bizarre and fantastic stories like "Hungry Hungry Ed" or "If the Mountain Won't Come to Mohammed"? I love the variety and quality that we've been able to get with this issue, so I feel like the other writers out there understood what we were akwardly trying to say about the kind of book that this is. I just hope we can maintain the balance and get better at expressing it to people that don't know about us.

You'd think dealing with words all the time would make me better at this, but there is a certain something (or combination of somethings) that just makes a story click with Here Be Monsters. It's hard to describe, but it is undeniable (and exciting) when we find one of those. It makes me very happy to print them and share them with people.

-- Alex

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