Today we're honored to welcome writer, editor, and founder of Cold Fusion Media, Nathan Shumate, to tell us about his exceptionally weird anthology series, Arcane.
W1S1: First off, how would you describe the Arcane anthology series?
W1S1: What do you like best about editing this series?
You means aside from crushing the tender and fragile souls of all those authors whose stories I reject? I like discovering that a story that I know nothing about, from a writer that I've never heard of, is terrific.
W1S1: What would you say are the top three things you look for in a story?
Number one is facility with the language. I'm coming to this story with no intro or warm-up; the writer needs to convince me that he/she is comfortable using the English language so I'll let my hackles fall and allow myself to be pulled along.
Number two is an awareness (on the author's part) of the story's originality or novelty. I don't think that complete originality should be any writer's goal (or at least, any entertaining storyteller's—if you want to be a James Joycean darling of professional academia, go for it); any story will bear some sort of resemblance to stories that have been told before, because that's what stories ARE: events which have been arranged into or related in a recognizable pattern. But understand that a story's debt to precedents is not what makes the story great. I have accepted Lovecraftian stories, for instance, and werewolf stories, but not BECAUSE they were Lovecraftian or werewolf stories, but because they used the familiar elements as springboards to something unfamiliar. It's the stories which are just "same old vampire/werewolf/whatever" stories (and for some reason, vampires and werewolves seem particularly prone to getting the "more of the same" treatment) that get tossed aside with an eyeroll.
W1S1: Typically, what makes the difference between a story's acceptance or rejection?
90% of stories are rejected within the first 2-3 pages. (I did the math.) Either the author simply doesn't demonstrate a facility with the tools of the trade, i.e., the English language—and if there's any place you want to be able to show off your compositional skills, it's right at the start—or there's too much "pre-story" here. Sometimes inexperienced writers believe that there's stuff which a reader MUST know before they get to the "good stuff," the equivalent of eating your broccoli before you can have any of the steak. But a story should be engaging EVEN IF there's necessary exposition before anything happens (a dubious proposition in itself). I shouldn't need to convince myself that I'll be glad to have read page two by the time I get to page ten; I should be glad to be reading page two while I'm reading page two.
W1S1: When does the next Arcane submissions window open? What fresh ideas/themes would you like to see submitted to Arcane?
The submission window for the next volume opens in mid-summer. I don't have a wishlist as such, but I'm being drawn more and more to stories that show the influence of "the New Weird"—which, despite it's being sort of a non-movement movement, is characterized to me as involving counterintuitive but internally consistent settings or milieus. Beyond that, make your prose sing.
W1S1: Thanks, Nathan!