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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Markets for Our Writing » Analog SF Tips

   
Author Topic: Analog SF Tips
Osiris
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Hi,

Not sure how many have subbed to Analog here, but I found that their form rejection goes a bit above and beyond the standard one, so I thought I'd post it here in the event some would find it helpful. Skipping the 'we don't want your story part', the letter then lists some common reasons why Analog rejects manuscripts:

quote:
—Since Analog is a science fiction magazine, we consider only science fiction stories—that is, stories in which some aspect of realistic science or technology plays an integral part. We do not publish fantasy or stories in which the science is only peripheral.
—Science fiction readers are problem solvers! Stories with downbeat endings, in which the characters have no hope of solving their problems, are strongly disliked by Analog readers. In a good SF story, the characters strive to solve their problems—and even if they fail in the end, they go down fighting, not whimpering.
—Good fiction demands strong, believable characters who face powerful, intriguing problems. Without these, there is no story, no matter how fascinating the ideas or scientific background may be.
—Some plot ideas have been so overworked that it’s virtually impossible to wring a fresh story from them. These include “scientific” retellings of biblical tales, time travelers who unwittingly change their world when traveling into the past, UFO stories, and stories in which the “alien” world turns out to be Earth.
—Write about what you know. Analog writers should be able to do sufficient research to get their facts straight, and they should be keen enough observers of people to write realistically about them.
—Please don’t ask for individual criticism. With hundreds of submissions per month, it is physically impossible to answer them all personally. Many writing errors are quite subtle, and extremely difficult to define clearly in a sentence or two.


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Robert Nowall
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Been a subscriber since 1973...and they're the first place I ever submitted to...but though I'm in general agreement with the notion of pitching one's wares to fit the market, I'm stuck with the problem of Analog being one of the handful of print markets that publishes stuff that remotely resembles what I turn out. There's no way I could call it a precise fit.

I mean, I wouldn't send them straight fantasy, but if the story I've turned out seems science-fictiony to me, I'll take my chances and send it in.

(I've never gotten anything resembling a personal response from Stan Schmidt's term as editor---I got a couple of signed rejection slips in the Ben Bova era, but I've done better elsewhere. Something I used to do with my manuscripts may have been obliquely mentioned in an editorial, though.)

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LDWriter2
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I do the same as Robert. With the same results or lack thereof. WIth the exception of " Something I used to do with my manuscripts may have been obliquely mentioned in an editorial, though".

But I know mine usually fit most or all of what they want. With the possible exception of the overworked plot ideas.

Which might mean it's my writing.

[ March 11, 2012, 08:52 PM: Message edited by: LDWriter2 ]

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Merlion-Emrys
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Well, I don't really write sci fi but even if I did...or when I do...that third line makes me unlikely to submit to them. Statements involving "Without X, there is no story" really really rub me the wrong way. They might be one of the "big three" but that doesn't make them arbiters of the definition of what is or isn't a story...only of what is or isn't a story they'd publish.
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Robert Nowall
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Also the "second and third things." I've come to realize my characters are passive, though I like to think they have a hand in solving their problems, they're often solved for them. But that's more something to discuss in the writing forum.

(I could probably pull a bunch of stories out of Analog that violate this rule, at least from the Campbell and Bova eras...)

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LDWriter2
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Well for me since the context is what Analog wants I assumed the third line meant stories for Analog or the current editor.
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Crystal Stevens
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After reading what they're looking for makes me think I ought to start submitting to them. My current WotF entry, my story that I'm putting the finishing touches on, and the one I'm just starting all fall within those guidelines.

If my current entry doesn't win this time around in the WotF, I'm going to submit it to Analog and see what happens.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by Merlion-Emrys:
Well, I don't really write sci fi but even if I did...or when I do...that third line makes me unlikely to submit to them. Statements involving "Without X, there is no story" really really rub me the wrong way. They might be one of the "big three" but that doesn't make them arbiters of the definition of what is or isn't a story...only of what is or isn't a story they'd publish.

If I may offer an alternate interpretation of that requirement?

I think what ANALOG is saying is that certain elements need to be integral to the story, in that, if you remove them, the story just doesn't work.

There is a kind of "science fiction" that is basically a western in which the six-shooters have all been translated into rayguns, and the horses have all been translated into spaceships, and so on, but there isn't anything that makes the story uniquely science fiction--it's just a translation from another kind of story. This, I submit, is what ANALOG is warning against.

(I once wrote an analysis of the first STAR WARS movie in response to those who were claiming it was just "a western in space" in which I discussed how everything might translate into an actual western, and it wasn't easy. The only thing I could come up with for the Death Star was John Wayne's WAR WAGON, and the droid were a bit of a challenge. I ended up deciding that any "western" you translated from STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE would be more like WILD, WILD WEST, which was actually a kind of steampunk science fiction set in the Old West.)

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rcmann
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I have a problem with those who claim to be purists in the field of science fiction. As someone who has been reading science fiction for more than forty years, and who has seen many things that were labeled as "pure fantasy" when they were first proposed, eventually become routine parts of daily life, I aver that the line between sci-fi and sci-fantasy is often in the eye of the beholder. Which is fine and dandy, except when the beholder gets arrogant about it.
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Robert Nowall
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There was a lengthy comment-slash-diatribe in a couple-years-ago collection by George Railroad Martin about what's called the "call a rabbit a smeerp" school of SF writing...by-and-large, his (SF) stories fell into that category...and, in the 1970s, he was a mainstay of Analog, which was where I ran into Martin first. (I sure do miss Martin's SF...)

*****

I've come to think of Star Wars, the first movie, as half-western, half World-War-II movie, with a dose of Kurosawa's samauri movies thrown in as well. The plot derives from The Hidden Fortress---openly admitted by George Lucas. The scenes on Luke Skywalker's home planet remind me of both John Ford's work and the spaghetti westerns. The Death Star fighting was more like, say The Dirty Dozen or one of those fighter pilot movies.

*****

Should'a mentioned, too, that I've got a story at Analog right now. If past patterns hold, it's probably in the mail back to me right now.

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rcmann
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It irks me somewhat, and I won't mention which publication(s) I am thinking of, how some people seem to think that they are above their raising. Trashy space operas, wild flights of fancy, blood soaked sword and socery were the root stock of the genre that eventually grw to become sci-fi and fantasy. Yet to read the comments by some current editors/writers, such "trash" is not fit to grace the esteemed pages of their refined periodicals.

Plllllt!

They can keep their refined periodicals, and I will keep my money. Instead I will browse the used book stores for a dog eared copy of the original Conan, or Eric John Stark, or one of Heinleins early works. It is not astonishing to me that the print magazine business is hurting.

Honestly, when you pick up a a selectiony of what is being printed now, and dig out a random selection of what was printed in the fifties and sixties, the contrast is striking. It isn't the quality of the writing was any better, it wasn't. But the stories were more *fun to read*.

Lately, I have discovered that a substantial number of the sci-fi stories I pick up are simply to self-important, and top heavy with deep meaning and literary angst for me to gag them down. No oeefense to anyone who loves that kind of stuff intended. But I read for pleasure, and I take no pleasure from that kind of .... stuff. It provides me with approximately as much joy as being forced to read Silas Marner did when I was in high school. It feels like a penalty term in study hall. Damn that.

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Robert Nowall
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I read my first issue of Analog in 1972, subscribed in 1973...and, really, I think one reason I'm less satisfied with what's printed in there---in fact, why I rarely read more than a little in an issue---is that, after all this time, I'm less easily dazzled than I was when I was younger. (There was one in Analog I read a few months ago...well, the opening seemed so awful I didn't read past it.)

Is it just a case of been evicted from Paradise by advancing age? Or are the stories really less good than they were in the 1970s and 1980s? Someday I'll have to sit down and reread my crumbling back issues and see if there's a difference between then and now...but on the other hand, I could just "get a charge" from them from my remembering what it was like reading them...

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rcmann
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There is a real difference, in my opinion. And again, in my opinion it is not a case of the writing being inferior. The writing quality in today's magazines is, if anything, significantly superior to the quality of the old pulp days, and even many of the classic novels. What they lack is the fearless sense of wonder, the willingness to not care about what anyone thinks of them. So many stories today seem to have been written, or to have been edited down by, people who are so concerned with being accepted by the intelligentisia that they are no longer paying attention to the bright eyed youngsters who are the prime market for their product. In my opinion, the mainstreat critics, the intelligentsia, the "literary" crowd are invariably wrong when it comes to assessing worth and quality. These are the kinds of people who thought Shakespeare was a lowbrow nobody, they sneered at Mark Twain as an upstart wannabe, they laughed at science fiction and mystery magazines when they first got started as being irrelevant. In the nineteenth century, these snobs called the cheap, popular reading material of their day "penny dreadfuls".

Does anyone remember who those critics were today? Nope. They are gone into the dust of well-deserved oblivion, while the lowbrow wannabes that they sneered at are immortalized. because they wrote lowbrow trash that normal people take pleasure from.

I admit, I am not the bright eyed youngster I was. I wont feel that sense of wonder when I pick up a Andre Norton that I haven't read before. because there aren't any that I havent read before. But I could still feel that sense of wonder if someone else wrote a similar space adventure type story, with the same fearless lunge into the unexplored reaches of imagination that she was so adept at making.

But I seriously doubt that Norton, or Howard, or a lot of the authors that made me love this genre wouldbe accepted by the snobs who put out the modern stuff. I may be wrong. I hope I am just a crotchety old fart in a bad mood.

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Robert Nowall
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I did think the "literati" writers kinda took over F & SF (which was literary-minded to begin with), and also Asimov's...but Analog seems kinda free of it with rare exceptions, even now.

I'm in agreement about literary snobs and snobbery...though some of 'em seem to embrace the works of the long departed. (Some recent volumes of Robert E. Howard take exalted notions about the purity of his texts to extremes...and look down their noses at the efforts of L. Sprague de Camp to keep it all before the reader.)

Most of the writers I really liked are dead now, and hardly anything new of theirs turns up...the last new-to-me Heinlein I turned up was a battered reprint of Destination Moon, and I don't think I've seen any new-to-me Asimov fiction since his death.

On the other hand...Silverberg and Pohl are still around as of last report, and occasionally put out something new---and there's a lot of both I haven't read, so there's hope. Also at least one each of Thomas Burnett Swann and Edgar Pangborn that I haven't read because I haven't found copies, but someday, someday...

*****

Yet on the other other hand...I tangentally mentioned the difference between me-then and me-now in relating to stories...I've found that sometimes stories I read back then, even liked, that I just didn't get---I didn't understand what they were about and where they were going.

For example, there's a recently-completed "Complete Short Works of Theodore Sturgeon" set of books, which I got one by one as they appeared...one of them reprinted the original "Baby Is Three," which I liked but didn't understand when I read it as a teenager...but, when I read it that time, some thirty years after, I got it---it was as clear to me as plate glass this time.

I think Sturgeon, and possibly a lot of these other writers, were really writing for adults, the mature audience---not the sex and raunch kind of adult writing, but the kind one has to have some experience of the world to understand and to relate to.

*****

Nothing of which has much to do with the original post, about Analog's reasons for rejection.

I do think "write what you know" can't be all there is---since most of the stories in Analog, and all of SF for that matter, take place in settings and milieu that the writers can't have personally experienced, for rather obvious reasons. I can see extrapolation from what one knows, but can't see "write what you know" as the be-all and end-all of SF...

(Frankly, I'm not interested in writing about what I know---except for the paycheck, my job isn't that interesting, and the rest of my life experience even at my advanced age isn't that much to brag about.)

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Crystal Stevens
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But Robert; Regardless of what you do for a living, everyone interacts with the people they work with. Their personalities, their quirks, their views on world and local affairs, what they think of their co-workers and relationships with others, etc.

I will be the first to admit that all my present day stories that take place on Earth are based on the area I live in, but they're not about my job or what I do on a day-to-day basis. Talk about boring. But it's easier to write about the type of people and the area they live in by modeling it after the people and the area I know best. Mainly a rural farm setting and small towns and the kind of people who live there. I've spent my entire life around these people and this type of environment. It's rich in its diversity, character, and background. All kinds of people live and work here. All I add is a little imagination or a scientific oddity, and I have a story that sounds very plausible because of how well I know my characters and where they've lived. That's writing what you know regardless if it's present day or way in the future or on another planet. You write what you know by adapting it to these new places or unusual situations.

I sure hope I haven't been preaching to the choir, but this is how I see it.

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rcmann
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Mentioning R.E. Howard brought something to mind. One story he wrote had Conan resting in a cheap Inn near the edge of town. He wakes up to find a cannibal in the room with him, kills the guy, and realizes that the Innkeeper set him like a rabbit in a pen. Being Conan, he snarls like a wolf and dashes outside with the express intention of gutting the Innkeeper.

No angst, no breast beating, no sinking into woe over the human condition. No desperate search for meaning in a lonely world. He just wants to see the color of the guy's liver.

On the way he runs into a girl, who turns out to be the queen-type person of the city-state. He almost seduces her, but she resists at the last minute. He rides away, and she is miffed at his lack of disappointment. Then it ends with him laughing and tossing the treasure that she has been searching for all night.

I have been trying to think of the last time I ran into *that kind* of MC in a story. One who wasn't torn apart by self-doubt and a deep sense of futility. I MISS CONAN! I miss Solomon Kane. I miss all the larger than life heroes that ran rampant through those stories, riding the pulsing waves of pure passion and never giving a damn about introspection.

Where can I find someone who is still willing to publish those?

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Robert Nowall
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Well, if you miss the pulps so much, there's always the Adventure House print-on-demand reprints:

http://www.adventurehouse.com/

...where you can be transported back to that era with a copy that won't crumble in your hands when you turn the pages. (Some of 'em are available through Amazon as well.)

*****

Oh, the people make for interesting copy---it's the job itself that's as interesting as watching grass grow. (I do seem to have picked up a lot of "idiot bosses" all along the way, though.)

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rcmann
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Thanks for the link. But I already have the old stuff. I was moaning and and whining about the lack of new trash to read. I'm quite certain that today's market would love it as well as yesteryear did, as witness the popularity of trashy adventure movies and tv shows. I just don't think that today's print PTB are in the mood to mess with it. A shame. My kids loved the old stuff. Especially my daughter.
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Robert Nowall
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Somewhat limited time yesterday prevented me from going into detail...I do what I can to observe and interact with people, but there are those who say I'm a bit dense in that area. A lot of this observation / interaction plays back into my fiction work, making it, I hope, better.

But as for the job as a theme...well, it's a soul-crushing experience that leaves me physically and spiritually exhausted, with the recent addition of worrying about whether the rug is about to be pulled out from under me.

It's nothing I want to write about---or read, for that matter. I don't, say, want to extrapolate it into the future and write one of those dystopian downers.

Besides, it's unnecessary. When I do look through Analog (remember this whole thing started discussing Analog and their submission standards?) I find a lot of stories that I know cannot be based on any sort of direct experience of the situation. Extrapolation, yeah, but I can't rule out escapism, either.

(I have, lately, started passing my stuff through a "smell test," seeing if I was writing about something I know. A few years ago I decided to rule out writing about military organizations, having never been in one. (No, my current work doesn't resemble a military organization in any way that matters---we're strictly civilians.) A couple months ago, I decided medical procedures and facilities were also off-limits. My most recent story has someone who's a teacher; I've only been a student so I fudge this by not actually showing her teaching. So I look for things that I can research a few things about, that seem interesting things to do, that I can have someone do in a story.)

*****

quote:
Where can I find someone who is still willing to publish those?
You could write one yourself and see if any publisher will take it.
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