Sunday, October 18, 2015

Si Fi Shalt Nots

I’m constantly getting fascinating emails from my friend Jeff Walden and I’d decided that perhaps the public might benefit from his words of wisdom. On a personal note I am so tempted to write a story that incorporates all of these “hard sells.” But that’s just my rebel nature.

So, here is Jeff’s latest email:


I came across the ebook science fiction magazine Clarkesworld. Their submission page includes the following Thou Shalt Nots, which I found educative and amusing. And I was so counting on doing that story about a talking cat who wields a talking sword…

I’ve never heard the term “trunk story,” but I imagine that it’s a tale you wrote years ago and have kept in a trunk for a long, long time (solely to prevent yellowing of the paper, of course). Now you are dusting it off. So, here’s a question: When does a story that you wrote a while ago and that you have been sending around become a “trunk story?” Is there an accepted period of time between now and the last go-round that relegates it to the status of trunk? And would a race of intelligent elephants…

Though no particular setting, theme, or plot is anathema to us [Clarkesworld], the following are likely hard sells:

  • zombies or zombie-wannabes (seriously, I'm not kidding)
  • sexy vampires, wanton werewolves, wicked witches, or demonic children
  • stories about rapists, murderers, child abusers, or cannibals
  • stories where the climax is dependent on the spilling of intestines
  • stories in which a milquetoast civilian government is depicted as the sole obstacle to either catching some depraved criminal or to an uncomplicated military victory
  • stories where the Republicans, or Democrats, or Libertarians, or the Spartacist League, etc. take over the world and either save or ruin it
  • stories in which the words "thou" or "thine" appear
  • talking cats or swords
  • stories where FTL travel or time travel is as easy as is it on television shows or movies
  • stories that depend on some vestigial belief in Judeo-Christian mythology in order to be frightening (i.e., Cain and Abel are vampires, the End Times are a' comin', Communion wine turns to Christ's literal blood and it's HIV positive, Satan's gonna getcha, etc.)
  • stories about young kids playing in some field and discovering ANYTHING. (a body, an alien craft, Excalibur, ANYTHING).
  • stories about the stuff we all read in Scientific American three months ago
  • stories about your RPG character's adventures
  • "funny" stories that depend on, or even include, puns
  • stories where the protagonist is either widely despised or widely admired simply because he or she is just so smart and/or strange
  • stories that take place within an artsy-fartsy bohemia as written by an author who has clearly never experienced one
  • stories originally intended for someone's upcoming theme anthology or issue (everyone is sending those out, wait a while)
  • your trunk stories

Jeff Walden

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