Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Interview with Sam Bellotto Jr. of Perihelion SF



Perihelion SF has published several stories by Write1Sub1 folks in the past. Sam Bellotto Jr, editor of the magazine, kindly agreed to be interviewed by Write1Sub1. Here's what he had to say:


W1S1: Tell us about Perihelion and the sort of story you're looking for.
"Perihelion" was originally established by myself and Eric M. Jones (now the contributing editor) in 1967. It was a print magazine, of course. But print was extremely expensive and funding difficult to obtain for two kids fresh out of college. After seven issues, I was forced to discontinue the publication. I'd always wanted to restart it as soon as conditions became favorable.

In the meantime, I pursued a career as a journalist, editor, writer, in New York City for almost 40 years.

I retired in 2012. That, plus the ease of producing Internet-based magazines, finally did give me the perfect environment to bring back "Perihelion." Eric was also enthusiastic about helping with a webzine.

Briefly, we seek what I like to call "honking good stories" as opposed to exercises in writing as a fine art. Don't misunderstand. The stories must be well-written. But the plot takes precedent over literary quality. I like strong characterization, realistic dialog, and a tight narrative. A short story isn't a novel. The best short stories crystallize a moment, and don't require pages and pages of expositional setup.

Let me emphasize that we are science fiction, not speculative fiction. The effect of science upon the human condition should be stressed. This doesn't mean only rocketships, aliens, and time machines. Archaeology, mathematics, and chemistry are sciences, too. The science must be integral to the story, whether the story is about a genetically modified potato that can grow anywhere and how that would impact humanity, or an impending gamma ray burst that threatens to fry our planet.


W1S1: Anything you see too much of in your slush pile?
Trying to cram a novel into a short story. As I previously mentioned, a good short story describes a pivotal moment in the characters' lives. If your story needs to relate an entire timeline of disparate events, multiple plot threads, and a legion of characters, it probably isn't a short story. It's a novel.

Also, too many writers lack the ability to produce a satisfying ending. You can't leave the reader holding the bag, wondering what just happened, or what is going to happen that isn't told. The first chapter of a projected novel is not a short story.

I also get submissions from authors who boast that the manuscript is part of a story series, set in the same universe, with the same characters. That is well and good; the problem is that, usually, to understand what in blazes is happening, you have to read most of the other stories in the series!

And one final piece of advice (a commandment really): Do not take ten pages to get to the beginning of your story!


W1S1: Anything you don't see enough of?
Unconventional storytelling. Thinking outside of the box. It's true that there are none (or few) wholly original plots under the sun. That's okay. The skill is how you twist the visitor-from-another-planet trope, or time travel tale.


W1S1: Do you see any recurring flaws in the submissions you get? And tips for folks thinking of submitting?
Other than what I have previously mentioned, sloppy proofreading is a turn-off. Please proofread your manuscripts carefully and submit them in proper manuscript format; that is, double spaced, inch margins all
around, page numbers, byline and email address on every page.


W1S1: If you had to pick one Science Fiction book and one Science Fiction film to take to a desert island, which would they be?
I prefer the short story format. As I don't publish novels, that's probably a good thing. So I'd likely take an anthology. In my estimation, Stanley Kubrick made two of the finest science fiction films ever: "2001: A Space Odyssey," and "A Clockwork Orange."



Thanks, Sam! If you're interested in submitting, full guidelines for Perihelion are here.

2 comments:

  1. Gulp. I found myself in this comment: "Trying to cram a novel into a short story. As I previously mentioned, a good short story describes a pivotal moment in the characters' lives. If your story needs to relate an entire timeline of disparate events, multiple plot threads, and a legion of characters, it probably isn't a short story. It's a novel." Good to remember.

    I didn't know about the original launch of Perihelion SF in 1967! That's pretty awesome. I'm glad you had the opportunity to bring it back.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes, something I'm guilty of, too. Sometimes I write flash fiction that could really be a novel...

    ReplyDelete