News: Issue 7 opens / Some editorial maunderings

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Unidentified Weird Plant LifeIssue 7 is open for submissions!  The GUD staff has been scattered to the four winds this summer (or at least our virtual selves have been), but we're back in gear -- getting Issues 5 (instigated by Kaolin Fire) and 6 (instigated by Debbie Moorhouse) ready for print and starting to collect work for Issue 7 (instigated by me, Julia Bernd).  Here's what the submissions page has to say about what I'm looking for:

Make me think. Add some new texture to my view of reality. Make me reevaluate my assumptions about human nature. Give me something I'll still remember in five years. Something uncommon, something intriguing, subtle, and well-constructed, something I'll want to share with everyone I know.

A bit general, perhaps, but when you get right down to it, we're generalists around here; we care about quality art, not about whether or not the protagonist has tentacles.  When I was combing through my shortlist for Issue 4, the final, most basic questions I asked myself about each piece were ¿Tiene chicha?* and Is it uncommon?

Not that we're averse to having a themed issue now and then, just for fun -- still general with regard to genre and style, but a topic to riff on.  (See Issue 3, the Mechanical Flight issue.)  So I entertained some thoughts about possible themes: Moving water? (Rivers, glaciers, sewer lines...)  Tentacles? (Literal and metaphorical.)  Trees?  But those all seemed pretty bland, much as I love them.  And a lot of the things that really tickle my fancy are either so specific or rare I wasn't sure I could get enough good stuff for even a mildly themed issue (weird plant life, noncanonical gender setups, cheese**...) or so general or vague they'll probably just emerge in my selections anyway.  (For instance, my academic background is in linguistics, and I don't think it's a coincidence that three of the pieces I chose for Issue 4 were by linguists.  But none of them were overtly about language; it's just a way of looking at the world, I guess.)

Of course, if you're a submitter who's reading this blog post, you now have a little bit of bonus information about what things I might have chosen as a theme if I had chosen one.  May it yield fruit!  For a little bit more bonus, and just because I think it's fun, here's some more excerpts from my list of desiderata to keep in mind while slushing for and composing an issue:

- Scoring high on the what-did-we-learn-o-meter
- And/or making my brain move sideways just a bit
- New meanings of beauty, lit-for-genre-and-genre-for-lit, and the other general stuff GUD Magazine is about in the first place
- Will the reader remember it later?
- The Chagall effect: Making me see how someone perceives the world fundamentally differently than I do
- Are the women actual characters?
- Do I feel a need to share it with the world? Do I think the world wants it to be shared with it?
- Variety of genre, theme, style, POV, plot structure, voice, cultural aesthetic...
- If it's published elsewhere and hailed as brilliant, will I regret not having published it, or just say, 'Eh, whatever'?
- Calvino's desiderata: lightness, swiftness, visibility, multiplicity
- ...and so on...

The more I think about all this, the more excited I am to be doing another issue.  I discovered with Issue 4 just how proud one can be of a compilation of art one didn't compose one stroke of oneself; it's a high that could easily become an addiction.  So, Issue 7, here we come!

* The closest translation for this is probably 'Does it have substance?' or, more loosely, 'Is it something you can sink your teeth into?' but neither of those really quite captures it. Ah, lexical semantics!
** I mean that literally. I really like cheese. Unfortunately, few people write about it.

- reddit, digg, facebook, stumbleupon, etc... please! ;)
posted by julia

22 comments; 8 subscribers

Wednesday, August 26, 2009 / 03:51:54
That's a really gorgeous photo of weird plant life. Really. Like living watercolor.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009 / 10:30:56
Like stories by linguists? Don't get my hopes up!
Wednesday, August 26, 2009 / 10:49:32
Indeed, one of my favorite contributors (hrm--they're all favorites, right?).
Wednesday, August 26, 2009 / 12:34:00
I believe that the lovely photo here is the rare "Planticus Twizzlericus"
Wednesday, August 26, 2009 / 20:26:10
Hrm hmmmmhmmm, works by linguists, does that include articles by any chance? Sigh. I think this time around I'm doomed; stories don't write themselves to me (better with complex morphology).
Wednesday, August 26, 2009 / 20:28:22
We have a dearth of articles all around. Yes, please!
Tuesday, September 1, 2009 / 17:43:19
I bet you actually could get a themed issue going around non-canonical gender setups. At least, everyone I know seems to have written such a story...
Tuesday, September 1, 2009 / 18:23:07
Speaking of non-canonical gender setups... September 1st is…-alliance-pride-day-9109/">Outer Alliance Pride Day.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009 / 20:41:45
A friend of mine back in college was a linguist. A rather cunning fellow, he started what remains a successful literary magazine that has followed him from college to college, finally settling in Ohio, I believe.

At the time, I thought *we* were starting a magazine, but, alas, I was mistaken. A *very* cunning linguist, that one.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009 / 23:06:05
Yeah, I wasn't really sure whether noncanonical gender stuff was more a too-done or a too-not-done thing, to be honest, but I figured it had to be one or the other... (Being in San Francisco and the social sciences, I'm tempted to think everyone thinks about that stuff, right? But there's not actually that much out there, punninglinguist's friends notwithstanding...)
Thursday, September 3, 2009 / 19:57:06
Matt: that's especially eerie, because I'm currently in Columbus. (although I never started a magazine)

Julia: It seems to be both: simultaneously a cliche of science fiction and an idea you rarely see done in stories. I guess the problem is that such stories usually fall into two categories: straight gender reversal stories in which the women are tough and pragmatic and the men gush about puppies, or "power corrupts, regardless of sex, and that's all there is to gender." Neither of which are very imaginative. Abigail Nussbaum's written a good discussion of this over in the Strange Horizons review section recently. I recommend you check it out, if you haven't yet.
Thursday, September 3, 2009 / 21:48:08
"although I never started a magazine"

That's because you're a punning linguist, not a cunning linguist.
Friday, September 4, 2009 / 12:01:52
simultaneously a cliche of science fiction
It is more of a cliche in SF TV series / films because a linguist is useful to have around. He (I don't remember a female linguist featured anywhere?) always knows an astounding variety of languages, which allows him to immediately translate an alien language he never encountered. In short, a linguist is a gadget (a.k.a universal translator) only with glasses and a charmingly clueless smile. C.J. Cherryh does a good job with her linguists (being a sorta linguist herself), butnot in a short story as far as I know.
Friday, September 4, 2009 / 12:58:26
grayrose: Oh, I was talking about non-canonical gender setups, not linguists. Though what you're saying is also true! As far as linguists actually doing their thing, I thought Vernor Vinge's "A Deepness in the Sky" did a good job with a linguist character doing actual linguistics (instead of rediscovering the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis).
Friday, September 4, 2009 / 14:44:08
Even better than gender reversals (or power-corrupts-qed) within the human (or human-style) system, it would be cool to see more systems that are just different altogether. (Besides just that you need he, she, and it to make a baby, a la Alien Nation...)

Now that you mention the linguist cliches, though, yes... :) Linguists deciphering an alien Language on the spot marks the author as not knowing the first thing about linguistics. (Also, badly-done attempts at dialect/accents, in case anyone was wondering about other prejudices of mine.) Rediscovering Sapir-Whorf is more like the author probably took Ling 101 to fill a requirement, but that's far better than the former; it may be a bit cliche, but at least it's not totally ignorant. Usually. (Well, OK, I've seen it done pretty badly...) I don't remember what the linguist in Deepness in the Sky was doing, sadly, but I remember not actually wanting to claw my eyes out.

Of course, other editors happening to have other backgrounds would be picky about other things, so probably it's in some cosmic sense unfair to be judgmental about bad linguistics when I might not even recognize, for instance, bad molecular biology... But hey, that's how the chips fall.
Friday, September 4, 2009 / 17:06:49
At the same time, we try to pitch our backgrounds together so that bad tech stuff, bad roman stuff, etc, etc, doesn't get missed, as well.
Friday, September 4, 2009 / 19:35:12
I more meant as opposed to an editor at other magazine who might slush the same story. :) Since, as you say, we try to pool our knowledge within the mag once things get past a first slushing... Of course, it would be ultimately great to have one great Hive Mind of background knowledge among editors everywhere, but once we've gotten that far, we're talking about transforming the human experience, so... Wait, what were we talking about again?
Monday, September 7, 2009 / 14:59:22
There was a bit of handwaving in A Deepness in the Sky, but basically she was deciphering an alien language with what seemed to be sophisticated grammar induction algorithms.

I actually think Sapir-Whorf plots are the worst linguistic clichés, because they reinforce the notion that Sapir-Whorf is the only thing about linguistics that could possibly be interesting enough to hang a story on. Sigh!
Monday, September 7, 2009 / 19:59:15
That is very true. You've convinced me. Let's start a club!

(Of course, there are a lot of women-talk-like-this-and-men-talk-like-that not-actually-facts that people also think are interesting. But it's true writers don't usually try to hang whole stories on them. I'll still join your club!)
Tuesday, September 15, 2009 / 17:58:54
On the contrary, I think mainstream literary writers try to hang stories on that all the time! :D

But yeah, the club. There's so much cool stuff in the language acquisition literature. Someone needs to hang a story on that...

(disclaimer: I have no idea how)
Sunday, October 11, 2009 / 07:46:13
What are your feelings on humor? Very mildly sci-fi-ish yukkity yuks?
Thursday, November 12, 2009 / 06:32:11
Oh wow. Now I really, really want to write a poem about cheese. I love cheese. Speculative, tasty cheese.


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