Market Maven, M-BRANESF, and Word Count

A couple of weeks ago I was perusing the February edition of Cynthia Ward’s Market Maven newsletter (e-mail for info: [email protected]). I highly recommend this for anybody who needs to submit stories to spec fic markets but are fairly lazy. I am that type of person and what I like about the Market Maven is that Cynthia does all the legwork in the world of spec fiction so I don’t have to. Once a month (or thereabouts) she sends me (and all her other subscribers) the product of her research. The stuff she comes up with is up to date and even a little gossipy. For instance in February we learned that Clarkesworld has reopened to submissions. [how sweet] Over at Thrilling Tales, there’s no action and nobody is replying to queries. [uh oh, what’s going on over there?]

I’ve found The Market Maven to be a fairly painless way to keep up with the haps in our field. It’s a subject I could care less about, but at the same time feel guilty if I don’t at least try once in a while. The Market Maven is twenty bucks a year and for my money it’s worth it. The downside is that a lot of information comes at you at one time so you have to set aside something like an entire half hour to read the dang thing. Websites come and go in such pre-Cambrian lengths of time.

Not being a particularly aggressive submitter, I usually try to find at least one market in her listing that I simply must submit to, either because it’s perfect for my work or I like the way the author guidelines (AGs) are written.

February’s issue gave me M-BRANESF (http://www.mbranesf.blogspot.com/). This is a new market. It pays, not a lot, but something. MBRANE got my Feb vote because of its stunning AGs. AGs are usually either dry but informative or fun but confusing. The staid stalwarts of the genre have the first type, the young and optimistic kids have the second type. MBRANE’s AGs are informative and at the same time fun. Odd combination. I don’t think they were meant to be fun, but I thought they were hilarious.

For instance, the MBRANE AGs lists the usual submission specs such as genre, word length, submission format. Nothing unusual with that but check out how they listed the simultaneous submission question:

Simul-subs: Yeah, who cares?

That’s just too funny. And brutally honest. Nobody does care. Well, there are some correct and sanctimonious pubs out there that do care and they will blacklist you if you do it. So they say. Their one excuse for not returning individual reject slips is “because of the overwhelming number of submissions” they receive. I find it hard to believe they can keep track of all the author names that have simul-subbed them. How often do people even get caught at that? Maybe if I submitted as much as everyone says we’re supposed to be submitting, I’d see the problem, but to me, really, who cares?

So I got a chuckle and decided I must check out MBRANE’s contents. I got a copy of the March issue and was pleasantly surprised by a well written editorial. Not only was it well written, it actually said something grand. A couple of grand things in fact.

First off, Chris, the editor, discusses the importance of paying for e-content. As an author who gives a lot of her intellectual property away for free, I’m glad somebody is concerned about this. Right now, I have a day job so I can give it all away, but at some point I’m going to have to demand money for this stuff. Hopefully by that time people will realize that nothing in life is free and they’ll be willing to drop a few shekels for online content. Even though it seems there isn’t anything tangible in a writer’s work, there is that writer’s time to consider. After all, the writer could be doing something more lucrative like pushing pulp through the assembly line down at the box factory instead of sitting at a computer screen thinking up entertainment for us. Well, okay, we no longer have any industry in this country, so we don’t really have box factories anymore, so maybe there is nothing else for us to do but sit around and come up with intellectual property to give away for free. I guess that’s why we are all doing it. Not because information wants to be free but because there’s no more box factories.

Chris had something else important to say:

“The medium should not inhibit the content. It
makes me scream when I see writers’ guidelines for
web-based publications that have low word-count
restrictions.”

I don’t want to pass judgment on markets that do have restrictions. I’m so used to low limits that I no longer see them. Everything I write is short now. That’s sad. I’m not really a short writer. But I’ve been trained. I’m sure the training was good for me, but my writing is probably not. At any rate, it’s nice to see an editor concerned about this.

Here’s why: I just recently picked up a copy of Vol. I of The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, 1929-1964. It contains the familiar standards we all love, including some of my favorites (Brown’s Arena, Godwin’s Cold Equations, Moore/Kuttner’s Mimsy were the Borogoves). The very last piece in the collection was a stunning story I hadn’t read before: Roger Zelazny’s A Rose for Ecclesiastes. Zelazny is an incredible talent that I haven’t paid enough attention to. His style is so moody, you have to be in the mood. He’s not a fast read and with so much reading to do, I think I usually pass over him for speedier fare.

As I was reading this beautiful longish story, I wondered if it would even get published today. The story was maybe groundbreaking in its time (martian/human sexual intercourse), but that’s uninteresting to me. The importance of the story lies not in the plot or the characters, but in its style. It was written back in the 60s when good genre writing was just starting to take off. The importance of the story for me lies in the fact that it’s an example of how great, from a literary stand point, science fiction can be. It can tell a weird story and elicit an emotion. It can be far-fetched and painfully realistic at the same time.

When it comes right down to it, why would you want to write any other way?

I’ll tell you why, because the market is looking for 2000 words or less, that’s why.

What a shame.

So I sent MBRANE my 7000 worder, Zara Gets Laid, and now I’m the proud owner of a piece of published erotica. Well, I will be when the June (I think) issue of MBRANE comes out. If you’re in the market for a market, check out MBRANE (http://www.mbranesf.blogspot.com/). At least read the AGs. You’ll get a laugh. Oh, and don’t concern yourself about word count or simul-subbing. Who cares?

Sue Lange
Sue Lange’s bookshelf at Book View Café

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