Submission Tips: Outside the Horror

November 11, 2016


Starting sometime in December, the doors will open to novella submissions (many details yet to figure out, be patient), something I hadn't really thought about initially, but now seems to be a good idea because already there is an audience pre-ordering Unnerving Issue #1, to my great relief.

The Unnerving opening to novellas will be just like the magazine in that it is to be primarily horror, it’s where my interest as a reader lies, it’s what I know best. Unnerving isn’t only horror. Half the books I read (prior to swamping myself in review ARCs) are not horror.

Most of the submissions that came into my inbox were horror, which is good, but at the same point, a few more outside the traditional range of horror would be nice to see in the upcoming submission opening. I’ll try to give a few more hints as to what I didn’t see, but would've liked to see.


Science Fiction: True, some science fiction came in, but often it was of the space opera trope, this could work if it’s a lot closer to Alien than Star Trek, but most weren’t. I’d like to see stories of science fiction more like Ray Bradbury’s The Long Rain (The Illustrated Man). The science of the fiction is lesser to the characters and the world around in this fantastic tale. John Scalzi’s Lock In is another great example; the science is not the tale though the plot fails without it. The Maddaddam trilogy by Margaret Atwood is another wonderful example. Dystopia surrounding genetic manufacture and pharmaceutical advances matters not without the story of a broken heart and the humanity of those ‘lucky’ few chance survivors.


Fantasy: There were very few fantasy stories amid the submissions I received and I understand that fantasy quickly turns to horror when the dark clouds begin rolling in. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a fantasy story of tremendously dark themes and yet never fully pushes into horror. Another example of dark fantasy is Emerald City Blues by Stephen R. Boyett, though into fan-fiction territory, this story works because it is so dark, I read it in a Midnight Graffiti anthology (a mostly not great collection). The juxtaposition of the Land of Oz and nuclear war, addiction and humanity work quite well together. The Pentecostal Home for Flying Children is not overly dark, but it has dark themes and a whole lot’a fantastical elements. Will Clarke tells a hell of a good tale about humanity. (Read in Who Can Save Us Now? a collection.)


Crime:  I do not have crime listed for the fact that people will read that Unnerving is open to it and go no further, thinking instantly, as it often was with gore and other mindless horror stories I received, that I want all crime. I did get some supernatural and if it's any indication, the crime I receive, should I list it open, will be Law & Order city, something I have zero interest in printing. As it goes for police interaction, I do not like them heroically, or even passionate about the job. I like police who’ve aimed higher and settled because they’re as fucked up as everybody else. I like police who lose as often as they succeed. I like police who frown when most of their squad are power abusers. That said, I love a gumshoe, noir-style, not necessarily neo-noir (if you’re a great neo-noir writer, I suggest trying Gamut first, they pay better and the prestige you'd feel getting in there would probably make you smile even in the face of recent political fuckeroos). The Continental-Op by Hammett is a wildly entertaining character. I also enjoy Megan Abbott’s books, even the ones about cheerleaders, as, obviously, high school girls have the capabilities of evil. Kelly Braffet’s Save Yourself, though leaning toward a YA vibe kind of like some of Abbott's stuff, a genre I tend to avoid, is a quality crime story with great characters and even a little play-vampire vibe.


If you write horror and only horror, great, good for you. If not… I realize that there are so many books and stories and my recommended reading lists will never match somebody else’s lists and there’s only so much time, but I suggest at least looking into some of the stories mentioned above if leaning away from horror.


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Powell River, British Columbia, Canada
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