Report on “State of Short Fiction”

I had the opportunity last night to attend a panel discussion hosted by The Baltimore Science Fiction Society on the “State of Short Fiction.”

Society headquarters is located at 3310 E. Baltimore Street and you’ll know when you are there.  Seriously, the rooms are lined with books by oh-so-familiar authors: Piers Anthony, Lackey, Jordan, McCaffrey. A darlek stands in the corner looking down on the rows of seats (and on humanity).

If anyone knows me, you know my impressive ability to get lost despite the most state-of-the-art nav systems.  But, the panel was star-poweringly-amazing enough to make me leave my house and search out this gathering.


Left to right: Writer Erica Satifka, Jonathan Landen (Daily Science Fiction), Moderator Sarah Pinsker, Scott H. Andrews (Beneath Ceaseless Skies), Neil Clarke (Clarkesworld), Norm Sherman (Drabblecast), Bill Campbell (Mothership)

Here’s the good news:  The panel agreed that the internet has made two huge improvements to the state of short fiction for science fiction and fantasy writers.  The first is the diversity of both characters and authors.  Gender, race, economic status, disabilities, etc. are becoming more equally represented.  International readership and submissions are on the rise.  The second improvement is the internet’s ability to provide information.  Now, more than ever before, writers have access to niche markets that either weren’t around or weren’t easily accessible.

Here’s the bad news:  I let my introvert nature prevent me from proper networking. I listened to the panel, but I should have pushed myself.  Here are the two questions I should have asked:

1)You (editors) told us what you don’t want to see.  What is a topic or area you WOULD like to see in a submitted story?

2) The editors discussed podcasts of their accepted stories.  How often do you let authors read their own work?  Would you consider having an author record their own work.

Yup, I should have raised my hand and not minded when people looked at me (of course you look at the person who is asking the question).  I probably would not have stuttered.  If I did, the moderator (Sarah Pinsker) probably would have just asked me to repeat the question.  And, the information to those two questions would have made me feel like the trip to Baltimore was worth it because I’ve submitted to three of those publications and I would LOVE to be published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies.  LOVE IT.

So, I stayed through the discussion and here’s a fun list of currently overdone submission topics:

Zombies, stories that start in a fantasy tavern, playground with children that is God creating the world, stories that start with waking up, dead body-turned -detective stories.  **It was acknowledged that any of these COULD be published if done excellently and with focus on character.

Anyway, I didn’t ask my questions, but surely I stayed for the reception and shook the hands of these editors in charge of the publications where I would like to see my work find a home?  Yeah….No, I didn’t.  But, you might say, what about Scott Andrews.   Didn’t you recently write a story JUST for Beneath Ceaseless Skies.  Yes, I did.  And I got a personal rejection and an invitation to submit a different story.  How was I going to work that into a conversation without looking like a complete weirdo?  Just ignore that factoid and act all fangirl?  So, I left.

But I have a whole page of notes and I’ll share announcements:  Balticon 48, the Maryland Regional Science Fiction Convention, will be held May 23-26th at the Hunt Valley Inn.  And, you can find the Baltimore Science Fiction Society on Facebook for events and networking.  I’m sure you’ll do a better job than me.

If you were there last night and have anything to add, please write it in the Comments section.  I’d be interested to know what other people in the audience considered ‘highlights.’  If you weren’t there, what are some questions you would have asked the editors?  Help me make a list of questions to take with me to the next panel or conference.