Here’s a new feature I’m launching on the site. I’ve always enjoyed reading about publications and especially like learning what they are and aren’t looking for. So hope you enjoy this debut with the editors of Shimmer.
Tell us about yourselves and how Shimmer began?
Shimmer is Beth Wodzinski’s fault. She was critiquing a lot and kept seeing stories she liked more than were showing up in the pro magazines. The stories still needed a lot of work–but she had always been interested in editing… One tiny thing leads to another! “Not knowing any better was definitely part of it,” says Beth.
Mary Robinette Kowal was instrumental in the early days and became Shimmer’s first art director. She was also the one who instigated a print edition. E. Catherine Tobler responded to a call for slush readers in 2006. Reading slush led to editing stories, and that led to buying the stories themselves. One thing still leads to another…
What sort of stories do you publish?
Shimmer publishes stories of a speculative nature — science fiction and fantasy, generally with an emphasis on contemporary fantasy. We do skim into historical fantasy doings from time to time. Shimmer prefers stories that focus on their characters and show a full and complete journey.
You publish horror which I know is a tough genre to categorize. Any tips for writers thinking about sending you a horror story? What’s acceptable and what’s not?
Shimmer has dabbled in horror, but what one considers horror another might not. Stories we have published that might qualify are “Food My Father Feeds Me, Love My Husband Shows Me” (A.A. Balaskovits, #14) and “Girl, With Coin” (Damien Angelica Walters, #17), “Love in the Time of Vivisection” (Sunny Moraine , #17).
Shimmer always, no matter what genre, wants a story that is character-oriented. When it comes to horror, we are not a place to send splatterpunk or body horror. Shimmer tends toward psychological horror more than physical–even in “Vivisection,” the horror comes from the thought process, not what is happening to the body.
I know this is a tough question for editors, but if you had to pick one story that you’ve published, one that is the best example of the stories you look for, what would it be?
There is definitely a Shimmery ideal in the world, and if I had to narrow it to one story (focusing on the past year, to give readers a better idea of what we are currently into), I would say it’s K.M. Ferebee’s “The Earth and Everything Under” (#19). It is a story set in the real world, but with tethers into another. It has the lyrical language we tend to lean toward, and characters that change and grow over the course of the story.
Once a writer submits their story how long before they get a yes or no?
We usually respond to writers within three weeks. This is one reason we don’t take simultaneous submissions. Stories that go into the maybe stack can have a longer secondary wait–we always inform authors if the story is being held.
Do you ever give feedback on rejected stories or ask a writer to rewrite and resubmit?
We do try to give feedback with our rejections, though it isn’t as common as it used to be. Rewrite requests are also somewhat rare; if we see a story that is 99.9% Shimmery, and we have an idea how to add that extra something, we do ask for a rewrite, but even these do not guarantee a sale.
Are there any types of stories that you’d like to publish but never seem to find?
We would love to see more stories where women have agency, are shown as actual people, and aren’t used as rapey plot coupons. Stories where women ACT and DO and ARE. We would love to see more diverse stories; stories by and about people of color; stories featuring older protagonists; stories that are not focused on the US or the UK but take a broader look at the world and universe.
What about stories you don’t want to see or common mistakes writers make?
Stories we “don’t want to see” are hard to define; sometimes, we don’t know we’ll fall in love with a story until we see it. “Girl, With Coin” is a good example of that, as it doesn’t actually contain a solid speculative element. We hope writers won’t make the mistake of self-rejecting.
Common mistakes can generally be attributed to writers not reading the guidelines. We see a lot of writers shooting us every story in their inventory in rapid succession, without pausing to think if the story is a good fit for Shimmer. Persistence is awesome–it’s not repeated submissions that are a mistake, but unthinking submissions. Consider the market, read the market, you will improve your chances.