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Editor Interview: The Drabblecast

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

A: Weird and Strange Stories

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

A: The Escape Artists podcasts will always hold a special place in my heart. Escapepod, the word's most widely distributed Science Fiction podcast, originally inspired me to to start the Drabblecast. My time over there as Chief Editor for 4 years following Mur Lafferty was an honor and joy-- all of the Escape Artists podcasts have their own unique type of charisma and they're all willing to push boundaries and try new things while also paying homage to the greats of the past.
I have a lot of respect for Beneath Ceaseless Skies as well. As both the editor and main audio producer of Drabblecast, I'm a real obsessive compulsive nerd when it comes to top-notch production quality, and Scott Andrews, editor over at BCS is the same way. You can listen to any episode and immediately tell that they not only publish great fantasy-- they publish great _sounding_ fantasy.

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

A: My favorite writers are the ones who have written my favorite stories, so I'll approach the question from a story-based angle.
"The One Who Waits" by Ray Bradbury is, in my opinion, one of the great quintessential science fiction stories of all time. That, along with Martian Chronicles and so many others makes Bradbury one of my favorite writers in terms of short stories.
"The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth" locks down Roger Zelazny as one of my favorite writers.
I don't want to orbit around classic writers exclusively, so I'll finish that category off with James Tiptree Jr. because of how much I love "A Momentary Taste of Being." Alice Bradley Sheldon lived one of the most fascinating lives a person could live.
In terms of today's writers, I'm a big fan of Patrick Rothfuss for fantasy because of his Kingkiller Chronicle. Really hope he finishes that third book. And for modern SF, it's almost impossible to pick a favorite Ted Chiang story. Chiang is the guy writing the most moving, remarkable science fiction of our age.

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

A: The Drabblecast doesn't care about story genre as much as it's interested in stories that slink around outside those lines. Our tagline is "Strange Stories by Strange Authors for Strange Listeners." We publish Weird fiction which, by definition, is practically indefinable. Stories that _feel_ different, for whatever reason, is our bread and butter. The other thing that we're big on, as an audio podcast, is production quality and the craft of storytelling. We have very high standards when it comes to narration, episode art, recording equipment, and unfortunately you don't always see fiction podcasts holding to the same consistent levels of quality in delivery that great stories deserve. We frequently take great effort in incorporating music and custom soundscapes, with the overall goal of creating a full, magical experience that works synergistically with the story to create something that the listener will never forget. I don't know many other podcasts that focus on some of these areas like we do.

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

A: Follow the submission guidelines, and be a generally nice and patient person. Look, if you're submitting a story that we love, it's going to get bought. I promise you those same rules apply to every other market you submit to, and the story we pass on might very well be the story that the next market falls in love with-- and vice versa. It happens all the time. That's not an excuse to not always be revising and improving your craft, but the simple truth is that good stories will get bought, and "good" is often a subjective thing. The only way to self sabotage yourself aside from not always striving to improve and put words on paper, is get your story dumped because you didn't bother reading the submission guidelines, or deciding for some reason or other to be a jerk. Editors and slush staff are people too, and a lot of them are volunteers. And we're definitely all always behind in our email. Being gracious, professional and understanding goes a lot farther than people sometimes think in this industry.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: A story that makes me laugh out loud, start to tear up or cringe in a good way. The perfect hat trick is nailing all three in one story.

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

A: Writers often forget to include the publication history of the story they are submitting. It's important that the editorial staff knows if the story is an original or a reprint, and if it's a reprint when and where it has been published already.

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

A: I absolutely do not care about cover letters. I think they're a waste of everyones time. Any editor is lying to you if they say that previous publication credits don't matter to some degree, but they don't need to drawn out in some long cover letter. List 3 or 4 previous publications in a short, single paragraph.

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

A: Editors that receive a significant amount of submissions every day are likely not able to read every piece to the end. I think it's an editor's responsibility to continue reading the story if the story is continuing to draw you in. Being busy, stressed out or distracted isn't ever an excuse to dump a good story in the reject plate just to get it off your plate. That being said, if a story isn't working for you as an editor, it's not going to work for the market that you represent, and we all know you can sometimes tell fairly early on if a story isn't working for you. Personally, if a story is landing in that space with me and pushing against my intuition, I'll still always flip towards the end and read the last page. There have been occasional instances when the insights gained from the tone change or plot wrap up in the final pages have made me go back and reconsider the story from where I left off.

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

A: For the Drabblecast we evaluate if the story will work well in audio as well. A fantastic story will still get passed on if it's really married to the page and doesn't work as well when read out loud. Other than that, no.

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

A: The Drabblecast has two talented Associate Editors, Samantha Henderson and Sandra Odell, who are both accomplished writers, and they split the bulk of first reads with new submissions. They pass stories on to me that they recommend for further consideration. Ideally all three of us will agree on a story, and that has almost always been the case.

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

A: I think publishers and editorial teams need to identify optimal systems that work for their circumstances and set up. I can't imagine many scenarios where those systems don't involve modern technologies like electronic submission software, print on demand publishing, and many others. If there are publishers still left that insist on being antiquated and exclusively married to "traditional" methods, I imagine their Gutenberg presses are currently printing their obituaries.

Q: How much do you edit an accepted piece prior to publication?

A: This is probably subjective based on different editorial cultures. At the Drabblecast, we probably publish 90% of our stories as submitted. Most often if there are substantive edits and proofing process engaged it has to do with adapting the story to be more compatible in spoken audio. Stories that require a significant amount of revision due to copy edits and technical problems will not wind up working their way to consideration.

Q: Do you nominate work you've published for any national or international awards?

A: Currently the Drabblecast does not and has not the past 10 years since starting. I might be interested in helping promote an author win an award on a beautiful story that first appeared in our market, but as a business, the winning large awards is not our goal or part of our general values.