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Editor Interview: Bewildering Stories

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

A: Speculative; all genres

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

A: We appreciate other on-line publications' providing an essential service. We consider them colleagues, not competitors. We may sometimes admire particular works if they have an unusually attractive format.

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

A: Our Review Editors could name all the classic authors and many contemporary ones, but that would be pointless. As for our own contributors, Bewildering Stories has well over a thousand, and it would be unfair choose between them.
However, one acknowledgment is in order: Bewildering Stories owes its continued existence to an annotated translation -- the only one in modern English on the Net -- of the original manuscript of Cyrano de Bergerac's novel "The Other World" (1655). But we have plenty else besides.

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

A: Readability. Our readers come first, and by all accounts our authors like our presentation.
Layout: Bewildering Stories has a unique appearance, and the site is very easy to navigate.
Content: Bewildering Stories is an on-line library of fiction and non-fiction ranging from novels to short poetry.
Works in languages other than English: Our "Translations" index lists titles in languages from Chinese and Esperanto to Tatar and Turkish. Stipulation: we need an English version to accompany the original text.
Interaction: Everything in Bewildering Stories is open to discussion in both correspondence and our regular issues. And we have one ironclad editorial rule: we never tell a contributor what all writers hate, with good reason: "It didn't grab me" or the equivalent. Any submission constitutes a request for our opinion. If we can't accept it, we always say why.

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

A: Send it to us.
One title per e-mail, please; that's how we keep track of things.
We prefer plain text. Word-processor attachments are perfectly okay. We don't like PDF files, and WordPerfect can cause problems in rich text format. If we can't open an attachment or we have problems with it, we'll let you know, and we can talk about an alternative.
Read the header of our Submissions guidelines, the part above the page index. The rest of it is a reference work. If we need to refer to any part of the guidelines, we'll include a link to the appropriate section in our correspondence.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: We have no preconceived notions; we like pleasant surprises.

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

A: We can't consider certain things, particularly computer-generated texts, vignettes, micro-fiction and micro-poetry (e.g. haiku, senryu). Other websites accept or even specialize in those genres. If Bewildering Stories considered them, we'd be flooded with submissions; and we'd have to accept them all, because we don't know how to choose between them.
The s- and f-words are proscribed as expletives. Fictional characters can cuss a blue streak, if they need to, but they can't use those words. Honestly, you'd be amazed how many submissions have been improved by applying that rule.

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

A: We consider cover messages a courtesy. We read them with interest but don't require them. A personal bibliography can be of some interest; one never knows where it may lead. But again, it is not required.

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

A: We read all but novels all the way through. Our standard procedure: Each submission is read by two different review readers, who report on it to the Coordinating Editor. If the recommendation is unanimous and the Coordinating Editor concurs, he contacts the author directly. The Managing Editor casts the deciding vote in a split decision.

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

A: Our review readers normally don't have time to read entire novels. The standard procedure is to read sections chosen at random to check for coherence.
If a submission is already accessible elsewhere on the Net, we will probably defer to prior publication. But we do occasionally make exceptions. If in doubt, please ask.

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

A: At Bewildering Stories a week is a day and vice-versa. The Managing Editor has no secretary, alas. Mondays are usually devoted to answering e-mail. Tuesday through Thursday, to putting together the next week's issue and, finally, sending the authors our customary preview notice. Friday through Sunday, to correcting errata, discussing Quarterly Review selections with the Review Board, and making up the Readers' Guide and the Challenge questions. And answering e-mail all the while.

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

A: Bewildering Stories considers only e-mailed submissions. It could not exist at all without "modern" technology, namely the Internet.
As for print on paper versus e-books, we take the long view. Every medium has its advantages and disadvantages. The epic of Gilgamesh would not have existed without clay bricks; nor many works of Antiquity without papyrus; nor literacy without the printing press. An implicit motto of literature is "Spread the word." And, we would add, use the best means at hand. What is "best"? It's every individual's choice.