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Editor Interview: Utopia Science Fiction Magazine

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

A: Utopian fiction

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

A: As a science-fiction fan all my life, I think I gravitate naturally to publications like Clarksworld, Analog, Isaac Asimov. Outside the magazine world Tor. The work they publish is original, wonderful, captivating, imaginative...

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

A: My favorite writers and there's an ever mutating list as I remember and forget and rediscover authors definitely has the classics on it, Larry Niven, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov - but it also includes a lot of golden-age writers like Edmond Hamilton, William Tell, James Blish and so many others. David Gerrold is another. I gravitate towards the older style of writing subconsciously I think. Really there's so many great authors out there - that I can't name them all without feeling like I'm leaving out someone important, Ken Liu, for example

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

A: We have a very distinct focus on optimistic stories, Utopian stories. We publish stories which focus on hope, that give us a future we really can't wait to dive into and live in and make a reality. And in a world saturated with dystopia, with post-apocolyptic, I think it's very important that hope and positivity stay alive. That's the focus of our magazine. I think it's more then possible to have conflict, drama, and positivity all in the same story.

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

A: It's said by every editor and publisher everywhere and I'm sure it's dismissed just as quickly - but don't dismiss it. Read a copy (or a sample copy) of our magazine - get an idea of the kinds of stories, poems, science articles we accept. A little preliminary research can never hurt. Second best advice is consider , does your story embody hope or positivity? If it does, you're on the right track and you should send it in.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: The ideal submission has been edited before submission so it isn't riddled with typos. It's a story set in a future where everything isn't bleak and robots, backed with science fiction where exploration and interaction with the world around any character reflects some unique observation or exploration of a part of human nature. Or, it's a vividly painted world that has the same affect when reading it as you get when you look up at the perfect starry night sky. That sense of wonder and awe. If your story can evoke wonder, that puts you light-hours ahead of the competition.
If the story is reminiscent of Edmond Hamilton, or James Blish, or one of the golden age writers, that's a plus too

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

A: They send in stories of worlds that are framed like a Utopia, but are actually a Dystopia. Or even more frequently, they send in stories that don't have good endings. They're neat, trim, and the complexity of human figures are forgotten. The end comes suddenly like a guillotine, but the author hasn't said everything they need to say. It doesn't serve as a launch pad for the reader to imagine what happens next it just kind of fizzles and reading it it's very clear that the story isn't there or hasn't finished.

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

A: Previous publications are nice, but they don't bare anything as to whether the story your submitting can stand on its own. So, I like to see some credentials- if they've published in science fiction magazines, or been nominated for awards. Blogs and websites are helpful if the submitter has them, but please don't send me a cover letter with a list of 18 stories you've published, or self-published novels. I won't read it anyway.
If you write a story about biology and you are a biologist- tell me that.

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

A: The first thing I do when a submission appears is I read the entire piece and I make initial notes on what stands out to me, if anything, what seems to work and doesn't. if I'm liking it, I put it aside. The next day I read through it again, looking deeply at the story, the meaning of the story, and other more technical things. If at the end of that I can survive reading it again- I usually accept it. If not, I usually have a good idea as to why it won't work and I can tell the author what I liked and didn't like.
If I don't like it on the first read I wait a couple of days and try again. Sometimes I find I've changed my mind about a piece, so it's always good to read things twice. Then it's a matter of deciding of the pieces I like and work well, which ones I have room to fit in the magazine. Sometimes I really like reading a piece and it's well written, but there's simply no place for it to fit in the issue or the next three issues so I have to reject it. I always try to remind people it's not the end if I reject something, it just means it wasn't a good fit for me or the magazine and there's plenty of opportunity out there to find someone who will accept and publish it. I don't like to see people discouraged.

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

A: The author always gets to okay the final edits. Absolutely. I do not want to have to do a lot of editing. When an author submits a story it should already have been edited several times by the author. I get too many submissions with typos that could easily be fixed if an author took the time to look over their submission a couple times before submitting it. When I edit a story, I go through paragraph by paragraph and I look at the science, the mechanics. For example, a character has enough charge in their engine to make it 100 meters, but the distance between these two features on the moon is actually 400 meters. I look at word structure "this sentence sounds awkward" or "You repeat the same word three times in the same paragraph." among other things, like two character names are too similar sounding.

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

A: Where possible I do nominate published work for awards. Last year we submitted a few nominations to the Pushcart prize for example. We try to nominate poetry for the Best of Net anthology