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Editor Interview: BULL SPEC

This interview is provided for archival purposes. The listing is not currently active.

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

A: Speculative humanity.

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

A: Panverse Publishing, Small Beer Press, GUD, Clarkesworld, Tor, PodCastle, Shimmer, and Thaumatrope.

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

A: Fiction: Terry Bisson and Neal Stephenson. Poetry: Poe, Frost, Lewis Carroll, and Lovecraft.

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

A: A full-size glossy print magazine with a balanced mix of fantasy and science fiction themes and voices, paired with a DRM-free, Creative Commons-licensed PDF download available at a "pay what you want" price. Stories tend to be character-driven, focusing on an element of speculation to reveal a positive, hopeful answer -- even in the darkest places.

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

A: If you are a local writer (in and around Durham, North Carolina, United States) please say so. I try to source about half of my content from the best I can find from local writers. Typos and punctuation issues do not bother me so much, and reading a sample issue probably isn't a big deal, though I certainly wouldn't mind. Ask yourself: what question is this story asking about humanity, or existence, even a fantastical or far-future one? Even if the story goes somewhere dark, is there a glimmer of hope in the answer, or in the way the characters approach or think about the answer? Do my characters spout unnecessary profanities or engage in overly gruesome acts of unnecessary violence?

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: A story which presents its characters with a problem to be solved or question to be answered, and we see the goodness in the characters as they do what is right, even if it is not convenient, comfortable, or safe, toward some larger point which the characters value. Alternatively, an illustrative story which evokes this kind of questioning or problem solving for the reader.

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

A: I'm pretty flexible (plain text in the email or attachments of most kinds, simultaneous submissions, etc.) so there's not too much to get wrong.

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

A: If the writer is local (in and around Durham, North Carolina, United States) I would like to know; if the writer is unpublished I would like to know, as among the other things I am trying to balance in each issue (local writers vs. otherwise, female voices vs. male, Euro-centric vs. otherwise, fantasy vs. science fiction, light vs. dark) is making sure I reach out to and support new writers.

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

A: At least two pages, or through the start of the third scene. I can generally tell within the first few paragraphs, but some writers, particularly new ones, have trouble starting a story, or picking a place to start their story, and encouraging and helping new writers develop is one of the things I'm passionate about. I've been surprised by a couple of stories whose first "introductory" scene did not reflect at all the quality of story and character they went on to bring to life. Though if the first paragraph or scene is offensive to me I will stop reading, of course!

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

A: Being (at least for now) a one-man shop, if I read the story and like it enough to consider it strongly for publication, I'll either accept it right away if I know I have an upcoming spot for it, or, if it is for a couple of issues down the pipeline, hold onto it a bit longer to go into a mix of stories from which I will fill out and balance those upcoming issues. Some very strong stories are just unlucky in that they mirrored too closely another story I have recently published or have already accepted. Summary: Each issue is a balancing act, and so the secondary evaluation after "is this a great story?" is "where can it fit in the next few issues?"

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

A: Hm. Up, make breakfast for the kids and get them ready for school. Kisses and hugs. Get ready for my day job as a software engineer and head to work, generally listening to an audiobook or short fiction podcast on the commute. Work. Lunch. Work. Pick up the kids from school and enter the evening dinner and family time. Get the kids ready for bed. Then with the last hour of life, read and respond to submissions as I can, edit accepted stories, schedule interviews, follow up with bookstores, layout the next issue, ... On a particular story, I try to clear my mind and put away the other stresses and time constraints out there and focus on letting the story come to me. If it doesn't, I try to let the author know where it went wrong for me. If it does, I go back and tag the story with things like "is the author local?" and thematic elements, as well as assigning it a rough score, and let the author know that I'm considering their story. Then I look back at what I have and assemble the right issue for me, building around those stories which made me absolutely stop and say "I must, must, must have this story" and which tend to become the cornerstones of each issue.

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

A: It really depends on the publisher's interests and what kind of readers they are looking for. But as a small press, having small print runs available (e.g. I can print another 100 copies of a magazine issue if I need to) has been the only way I could get started and keep the per-copy price down where I wanted it to be. I've found most of my authors via social networking and all of them via electronic submissions: It just makes sense not to be sending reams of paper around the globe.