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Editor Interview: Metaphorosis Magazine

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

A: Beautifully written SFF.

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

A: In book publishing, I think Tor has been doing a phenomenal job in recent years.

In magazines, I think Clarkesworld’s stories are moving and strange, Beneath Ceaseless Skies has great, imaginative worlds and gives good feedback, and Shimmer has excellent writing. had a lot of great writing, though we’ll see how that changes now that they’ve stopped accepting submissions.

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

A: Roger Zelazny and Jack Vance – they each used language beautifully, and in very different ways. Zelazny’s writing is poetic and beautiful; Vance’s writing is ornate and mannered, but incredibly fun.

Aside from those two, Patricia Mckillip’s writing is gentle and romantic, George R. R. Martin’s short stories are heart-breaking, and A.A. Attanasio’s writing is intelligent and aspirational.

Also Arthur C. Clark, Richard Adams, Richard Llewellyn, Ursula K. Le Guin, Walter M. Miller, Jr., Richard Cowper, Theodore Sturgeon, Samuel Delany, James Thurber, Orson Scott Card, K. J. Parker, Robin Hobb, Julie Czerneda, Sean Stewart, Mari Ness, Ken Liu, Oliver Buckram, Fran Wilde,.. I could go on and on.

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

A: For readers – we offer beautiful writing, but with a wide range of tones and settings. There are some magazines that have great prose, but where every piece starts to feel the same. We aim for greater diversity while preserving quality.

For writers – we’re quick, we’re personal, and we’re willing to work closely with you to make your story the best it can be.

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

A: Make sure you have an actual story. It’s surprising how often we get vignettes, scenes, [what feel like] excerpts, or just skeletons supporting a clever idea. What I’m looking for is a full-fledged story that says something to me. Bang-up action adventure can be a lot of fun, but it’s not what we do at Metaphorosis.

I want characters who feel and think and who make me feel and think – stories that stay with me, so that I’m still pondering them a week later.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: It’s beautifully written, with characters who are doing something they care about.

And it's vegan.

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

A: Until I buy a story, I don’t care who the submitter is. I don’t need to know their background, their address, their membership in this or that organization, or anything else. We’ve tried to eliminate opportunities to provide that information, but people insist on putting it in. Please don’t. All we look at is your story. Anything else is just distraction.

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

A: I don’t want to know anything about submitters. Literally. Our submissions process has no place to put a cover letter, and that’s deliberate. We started with anonymized submissions, which is my preference. A fair number of people either made a mistake, or couldn’t be bothered, and left their names in the submission (especially if it was a ‘known’ name). We didn’t reject the non-anonymized stories, and eventually we did a survey of submitters. Most didn’t care about anonymization, so we’ve dropped it for the time being. I think it’s likely we’ll bring it back eventually.

The fact is that I just don’t care who the writer is unless I’ve decided to buy their story. Some people insist on appending a bio to the end of their story. I don’t need it. A fair number of people note in their submissions that they’re SFWA members. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with the information; their story is what it is, and I’m just as happy to buy from an unknown as I am from someone with a track record.

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

A: I read every piece to the end, because we give feedback to anyone who wants it. I can generally tell if a piece won’t work within the first paragraph or two – those generally have weak prose. Some pieces I can tell I don’t want by somewhere in the middle – often the character hasn’t engaged me. Others I can’t be sure until the end – a lot of stories peter out or just forget to have a resolution.

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

A: I use a reverse slush-reader system. That is, I read everything first. If there’s a piece I like, I run it by my slush-readers – people who like very different work than I do. I don’t always follow their advice, but their input helps me think through what the strengths and weaknesses of a story are.

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

A: Reading, revising, and administration.

I aim to read every story within a day of submission. Depending on what else I’m doing, that generally means a long session in the morning or evening. I read through a story, taking notes on what works and doesn’t – usually in abbreviated form. We use Submittable, so if I don’t want the story, I label it ‘Reject’ or ‘Reject-encourage’, and the system preps a form rejection. I add comments at the end about the prose, where in the story I made the decision, and what I think is wrong with the story. Sometimes I suggest specific areas to change. For people who request no feedback, there’s a ‘Reject-no feedback’ option. I fire the letter off, archive the story and that’s that.

If I like a story, but think it needs work, I label it ‘Maybe’ and send it to the slush-readers. Within a couple of days, I’ll send the next notice, which is usually a ‘Reject-rewrite’ letter giving the author the option to send a new version if they choose to. A very few stories I buy pretty much as is, and they get an Accept letter.

My favorite part of the process is the revision process. For writers who choose to submit a rewrite, I encourage them to get in touch with me early on. Usually that means me asking them what it is they’re trying to say. Most writers don’t think about it that way; I don’t when I’m writing. But I want to know what story they’re trying to tell – what they think the story is about, how they want readers to feel, etc. Once I know that, we’ll usually have a series of exchanges about the story, and a back and forth of new versions and comments – usually about four versions.

When I accept a story, there’s another form letter – that’s when I request bios, ask 1 interview question, send a contract, etc. As soon as I get the signed contract, I send the payment out. Then there’s formatting, scheduling, posting, etc. I have a spreadsheet that helps keep everything organized.
We post new artwork every month, and I’m much more verbal than graphic, so it takes time to develop something that reflects one or more of the stories from the month, and looks decent. If you’re a graphic artist looking to be our volunteer Art Director, there’s a 'Contact us' page on the website. We’d love to hear from you.

So that’s the roundup – reading stories every day, working on revisions, doing admin, and preparing the occasional artwork.

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

A: We’re an entirely online magazine, so we certainly have embraced technology, but it’s a means to an end. Our purpose is to find and publish beautifully crafted stories. The internet has made that quite a bit easier, but the core concept would work just as well in book form. On the other hand, all of our current workflow is electronic, which is far less resource-intensive than a physical magazine would be, so environmentally, that’s a plus.