Frank Ludlow of Irish SpecFic magazine Albedo One kindly agreed to be intrviewed by Write1Sub1:
W1S1: Tell us about Albedo One and the sort of story you're looking for.
Albedo One is Ireland's best (i.e. only!) magazine dedicated to speculative fiction, though others do pop up now and again and mostly last for just a few issues. We've been established since 1993, and in that time have progressed from being an A5 photocopied and hand-stapled production, to what we are now, A4 with full colour covers, about 60,000 words per issue, and no more hand-stapling! Along the way, we've also managed to win the Best Magazine and Best Publisher Awards from the European Science Fiction Society - not bad for a magazine that relies entirely on volunteers (none of our editors are paid, alas!).
All of our editors are long-time readers of science fiction, fantasy and horror, so we've seen just about everything, and are on the hunt for something that can still surprise us. Often we find that in stories that blend genres, or are otherwise hard to classify.
W1S1: You also run the Aeon Award for speculative short stories. Can you tell us about that?
We started the Aeon Award in 2004 as a way of promoting writers and writing in all the speculative fiction genres, by giving our winners a substantial cash prize and publication in a long-running and respected spec-fic magazine. We also wanted to buck the trend towards more and more writing contests that are clearly predatory in intent (e.g. large entry fees, small prizes, prizes only guaranteed if enough entries are received, or if the author can attend the "award" ceremony, etc.) or at least appear to offer minimal benefit to the writers, and are more about making the organizing body money.
So with the Aeon Award, we offer 3 Grand Prizes, of 1000, 200 and 100 euro, and guaranteed publication in Albedo One. The entry fee is a modest 7.50 euro, and we aim pretty much to just break even. In the event that there is a surplus, we put that straight back into the production of Albedo One, and have been able to also increase our payment rate for stories submitted directly to the magazine. This is an ongoing process and we hope to be able to raise the rates again in the future.
Back to the Aeon Award: the contest is now annual and runs each year from January 1 to November 30. Entries can be submitted at any time between these dates, each year, and there is no bar to entry by nationality or location. Oh, and as a bonus, the winning stories are often translated and published in a variety of prestigious European speculative fiction magazines, such as Galaxy SF (France) and Phase X (Germany). So get those stories submitted!
W1S1: Anything you see too much of in your slush pile?
The usual suspects would be vampires, elves, werewolves, etc., in stories that don't add anything new to the mythology, lore (or science!) of these creatures. But more generally what we see are lots of well-crafted stories, where the writing is fine, but the story just fails to sparkle. Where it lacks just that one last twist or surprise for the reader. My advice is that when you have written a story and polished it up, leave it sitting there for a while, maybe a few months while you work on your next piece, then come back to it fresh and think about that one single change that could elevate the story to another level. Almost always it does exist and is worth seeking.
W1S1: Anything you don't see enough of?
Stories about (or featuring!) vampires, werewolves and elves that blow me away and shame me for my cynicism! Otherwise, what I miss most are really good science fiction submissions, where the science is well thought out (and not just borrowed window-dressing using the latest buzz words). And more importantly, perhaps, where the social implications of any new major technology or development is well thought through and integrated into the world (and presented in a "show not tell" manner - no one wants to read a thinly disguised instruction manual for some new device or technology!!).
W1S1: Do you see any recurring flaws in the submissions you get? And tips for folks thinking of submitting?
I see many submissions that clearly haven't read our submission guidelines - that's always the minimum an author can do to show that they have put commitment into their submission - remember, we're committing time to read and consider your work, often during our lunch breaks or at night after work. I would also recommend that authors buy a copy of our magazine (just 4 euro in pdf or ebook) or look at some of our free stories online (see our Albedo 2.0 Fiction Showcase Series), both to see the type of fiction we like, and to see whether the author themselves feel that their work is a good fit.
W1S1: If you had to pick one speculative fiction book and one speculative fiction film to take to a desert island, which would they be?
Assuming I would be stranded alone on this island, I guess I would have to take a book in which (for company!) the characters leap out - probably one of Philip Jose Farmer's World of Tiers series. Old-school, I know! As for a film, although this choice would probably only increase my sense of isolation given the theme, I would have to take Moon from 2009, directed by Duncan Jones. Only because it has so far defeated my attempts to watch it. Attempt 1, a Christmas DVD gift, in which the film would only play with the Director's Commentary overlain. Attempt 2, streaming the film, during which time (in the first 5 minutes, in fact!) my computer literally goes on fire.
Many thanks, Frank! If you're interested in submitting to this fine magazine, full submission guidelines are here.