Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Interview with Sue Babcock of Liquid Imagination

"Liquid Imagination is where audio, visual and literary arts bleed together as one," accepting fantasy, science fiction, and horror, as well as literary fiction.

Today we're honored to have editor Sue Babcock join us for an insightful interview.

W1S1:  First off, how would you describe your role(s) at Liquid Imagination?

I switch hats a lot at Liquid Imagination – many jobs are rolled up into one position we call Managing Editor. It’s a mix of Master Sergeant, Webmaster, Illustrator, Editor (for literary fiction), and Business Manager. I have the great pleasure of working with some of the finest people in the industry, people who put the contributor ahead of their own egos. This attitude is exhibited at all levels: with John “JAM” Arthur Miller (Publisher), Kevin Wallis (fiction editor), Chrissy Davis (poetry editor), Brandon Rucker (flash editor), Bob Eccles (voice talent), Jack Rogers (artist), and our two new additions of Jezzy Wolf (book reviewer) and Stephen Roberts (book reviewer and assistant publisher).

W1S1:  What are the top three things you look for in a story?

Intensity, wonder and great characterization.

Intensity: I love stories that engage me on an emotional level. Intensity must flow naturally from the action, characterization and plot so that I don’t feel manipulated. I want to be awed by the strength, the wickedness, the forgiveness or gentleness of the characters, by the intensity of the characters feelings and resolve, by the action and the risks the main character take. I want the author to have risked something, to have allowed the reader into his or her most private world where the soul and heart merge together.

Wonder: Stories must make me think, make me wonder “what if” or “if only,” engage me and keep me reading. I love being astounded by twists and knowledge that flows from the pages as easily as it flows through history. I love to feel the wonder of the characters’ actions and feelings.

Great characterization: Stories with great plots but flat characters leave me saddened by wasted potential. Characters should live and breathe, should be rounded with good traits interwoven with faults. Even the antagonist should have something the reader can appreciate.  No one is all good or all bad, and I love characters in stories that reflect this complexity.

W1S1:  Typically, what makes the difference between a story's acceptance or rejection?

If a story has the pieces discussed in Question 2, then theme, story structure, hook, ending and style will play into the equation – which isn’t so much of an equation as a subjective feeling. We are willing to work on some of these issues with the author. If, for example, the story has a great theme but the ending is weak, we’ll work with willing authors to see if we can come to some kind of mutual resolution. However, if I find poor grammar and spelling, or confusing plots with clichés or incomplete conclusions, or if the submission doesn’t meet our guidelines in major ways, these stories will be rejected. I feel that these issues are often the result of poor workshopping and editing, as if the author didn’t care enough about the story or our publication. These indications of antipathy turn me off to the story faster than anything else.

W1S1:  What new stories/themes/genres would you like to see submitted to Liquid Imagination this year?

Liquid Imagination takes a broad spectrum of stories already – speculative fiction, literary fiction, flash, and poetry. We are considering some special themed issues, such as an issue dedicated to transformations, whether they be physical (i.e., shape shifters), emotional, or metaphorical transformations. We haven’t set a schedule for the themed issues yet, though. I’d also love to have a category for experimental writing, for writing that take risks beyond the standard “rules” we often talk about.

W1S1:  If you could change anything about the publishing industry today, what would it be?

I love a good story, and it seems that good stories are often overlooked for safe stories; good storytelling is shoved aside for stories that adhere to strict rules. I’d love to see the industry take more risks in what is published.

We are on the cusp of a new era in publishing as we move from print into the electronic and digital realms. So many opportunities, so much potential, exists in this transition, and I hope the industry responds with open arms. In digital publishing we can combine stories with audio, images and animations to enhance the experience. Print is static; digital can bring the world to life in ways that allow imagination to flow—and that is what Liquid Imagination is all about.

W1S1:  Thanks, Sue!

So for all of your Write1Sub1ers out there who just might have a story to submit, go check out the Liquid Imagination submission guidelines here. And if you'd like to check out the stories in their most recent issue, go here.


  1. I love how there is a growing market for audio spec fic short stories. I feel like we're returning to the old days of the radio play, which is really exciting for both writers and short story fans. Thanks for the great interview, Milo and Sue.

  2. Hi, Sue,

    Everyone don't forget to check out the Liquid Imaginaton/David Farland Daily Kick competition.

  3. Great interview. And a great venue. I love markets that grow, continually evolving into better publications. As an emergent voice in poetry, that is important to me.


  4. Anonymous7/20/2011

    Awesome interview, great questions AND great answers. My favorite part is "cusp of a new era."

    John "JAM" Arthur Miller

  5. You can read additional interviews from the folks at Liquid Imagination here --

  6. Wonderful insight into Liquid Imagination and the new potentials of our age. I'm a big fan of what they're doing.

  7. Great interview, Sue !