Editor Interview: Innsmouth Free Press

Q: Describe what you publish in 25 characters or less.

A: Lovecraft, Mythos, horror

Q: What other current publications (or publishers) do you admire most?

A: While I tend to prefer themed anthologies, like those from Permuted Press, and novels, like Roc's supernatural detectives series, I quite like Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. Nature Magazine has a really nice flash series called "Futures". I also like South African zine Something Wicked and British zine Hub, as well as Analog.

Q: If you publish writing, who are your favorite writers? If you publish art, who are your favorite artists?

A: In fiction, I like Lovecraft and Poe, of course, as well as H.G. Wells. Also, Robert Heinlein, Lois McMaster Bujold, Charles Saunders, Tanith Lee, Philip K. Dick, Jessica Amanda Salmonson, Samuel R. Delany, and Joanna Russ. For newer authors, I like Thomas E. Sniegoski and Simon R. Green.
For poetry, I like Poe, Robert Burns, Tennyson, Frost, Adrienne Rich, and Edward Gorey.

Q: What sets your publication apart from others that publish similar material?

A: We are separate from other Lovecraft/Mythos publications in two important ways. First, for our zine and micropress anthologies, we intentionally look for fiction from all over the world, featuring a variety of cultures. Lovecraft, for all his fears and xenophobia, frequently referenced other cultures and set his stories in other countries. You'd be surprised how many non-Americans are writing Mythos. We also like to foster women writers and we look for a variety of protagonists--including women, people of colour, and members of the GLBT community.
Second, our site publishes "Monster Bytes". These are Mythos faux-news items set in a shared universe centered around (but not exclusively set in) Lovecraft's fictional town of Innsmouth, Massachusetts and referencing Lovecraft's Mythos universe.

Q: What is the best advice you can give people who are considering submitting work to your publication?

A: Please, please, please read our zine, first. Our site is free to read, including the fiction issues, and you can always pick up an anthology to see what we take for the press. We do like "weird" in the early-20th-century sense and evocative writing. We don't mind some experimentation, as long as you are exploring Lovecraft's ideas. We would rather get an original take on Mythos than just namedropping. We are not, however, a market for straight science fiction or fantasy--or erotica.
While we do like some tropes (I like mad protags; Silvia is afeared of fungus and body horror), we still want to see original versions. Your protag needs a better reason for going mad than seeing Cthulhu naked in the bathtub. Keep in mind we've also bought about as many scary-pregnancy stories as we're likely to want at this point. Speaking of squicks, we both hate rapefic a whole lot and I have a particular version to gross-outs on the front page. I want to get to know your story, first, have a little build-up, before your characters dump their body fluids all over me.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: Oooh, we try to be open, so we don't like to be too restrictive. Essentially, we look for a submission that fills in a hole we don't have yet. We like to see Lovecraft's concepts explored in unusual settings, with people who aren't the usual suspects.
I will say we don't get nearly enough Sword&Sorcery (Think the darker Conan stories, like "Queen of the Black Coast"). I also like detective mysteries and urban fantasy, in a Lovecraft setting.

Q: What do submitters most often get wrong about your submissions process?

A: Not reading our guidelines or our site. We especially don't like it when we get stuff that is sexist, misogynistic, racist, or homophobic (and we've gotten some doozies). And no, we're not sympathetic to claims that the unexamined ugly stereotype in your story was held in Lovecraft's time because we don't like unexamined ugly stereotypes. Whack that stereotype around a few times and make something new of it. For example, we already get too many subs of uptight white folk in savage native cultures and not enough of stories where the savage native folk are the heroes, or of cultures so removed from ours that both sides are alien to us and our readers.

Q: How much do you want to know about the person submitting to you?

A: Yes, please send a cover letter. We want to know the basics--word count, original or reprint, your contact info. While we won't buy based on your resume alone, we don't mind hearing where else you've published, and your background, either.

Q: If you publish writing, how much of a piece do you read before making the decision to reject it?

A: I have a pattern. I read the first page or two. If I don't like it, I may skip to the end to see if it's any good (I'm picky about endings). If I don't like that, either, the story's a goner. If it's good, I will reconsider. If I like the beginning (story hook, language), I will read through to see if the rest is also good.
I don't generally spend a long time on a sub, so it needs to impress me quickly.

Q: What additional evaluations, if any, does a piece go through before it is accepted?

A: Both Silvia and I have to agree on a story. We tend to be kinder about shorter stories than longer ones. We do take into consideration a story being from an area of the world or on a subject we don't normally get, though it will still need to be good enough to buy, anyway. Sometimes, if we really like the idea, but the execution is rough, we'll ask for a rewrite. If we get something we like near the beginning of a submissions period for an anthology, we may put a hold on it. Otherwise, we usually just say, yes, no, or rewrite request.

Q: What is a day in the life of an editor like for you?

A: I check and answer email first thing. Then I check slush throughout the day. Silvia and I confer every few days over slush, depending on how heavy it is and how much else we're doing that week.

Q: How important do you feel it is for publishers to embrace modern technologies?

A: I think it's very important. Do I still like print books? Yes. Do I think it's important to publish that way? Yes. A lot of people (probably most) still read that way and I think that print will always be an important aspect of reading fiction (if only because it strains your eyes less than reading on a screen). That's where the biggest money still is.
But every new format, every new social network, is a potential new audience. It is usually free to get into new social networks and new formats are generally cheap to produce in. Plus, these new technologies are wide open to the small and maneuverable publishers, who can get in there and establish their own niches before the big guns come in and take over.
And in an age of free email and increasing postage costs, it's stupid for a publisher not to take electronic submissions. Even when you're trying to keep your slush numbers down, you should always make it easy for authors to sub to you. That way, you'll keep your slush fresh with new authors and material.