Silvia Moreno-Garcia is currently crowdfunding her first novel, Young Blood, about Mexican narco vampires. Her short stories have appeared in places such as The Book of Cthulhu and Imaginarium 2012: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing . Her first collection, This Strange Way of Dying, is out this year. In 2011, Silvia won the Carter V. Cooper Memorial Prize (in the Emerging Writer category). She was also a finalist for the Manchester Fiction Prize. She blogs at silviamoreno-garcia.com and Tweets as @silviamg.
by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
I always feel uncomfortable when people start bickering about whether literary fiction or speculative fiction is better. It’s like watching your parents fight at the dinner table. There is really no need to build brick walls around each category, though we are often eager to do so.
Recently, I was Guest of Honor at Keycon in Winnipeg. Talking to some aspiring writers, it became clear that the idea of boundaries between lit and spec is pretty strong, and sadly it keeps readers from sampling interesting material and writers from finding good homes for their short stories. Because literary magazines do publish speculative fiction.
Quickly, some definitions I am applying:
- Literary fiction is interested in both realism and the internal experience of their characters.
- Speculative fiction encompasses any fiction with fantastical or futuristic elements, thus, unreality. The external experience dominates.
It’s easy to see cross-pollinations, books that we could shelve as speculative and literary, popping up in recent years. The reasons for this have been explained from the economical (genre sells) to cultural shifts (the importance of pop cultural references in younger readers lives). Some examples of literary/speculative books: Justin Cronin’s The Passage is post-apocalyptic fiction; The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova deals with vampires; Red Moon by Benjamin Percy which tackles werewolves; Colson Whitehead’s Zone One, includes zombies, etc. And thus, it’s not impossible to sell spec fic to literary publishers (how they package and market it, well, that’ll vary).
Of course, you probably won’t sell space opera to Grain, but you also wouldn’t sell the internal musings of a college professor having an affair with his student to Asimov’s. Speculative fiction published in literary magazines or journals will have some of that realism and internal experiences I mentioned. Fiction that sits comfortable in Shimmer, Bull Spec or Clarkesworld could find a potential buyer in other non-genre publications, as it seems to have some of the “feel” literary publishers want.
A little while back, Tin House produced a Weird Science issue. The publisher of my first collection, This Strange Way of Dying, and my first solo anthology, Dead North, is a literary publisher with little knowledge of the speculative market, though I managed to convince him Canadian zombies would make for an excellent book. Similarly, Chadwick Ginther, author of Thunder Road, ended up publishing a Norse-inspired mythology book through a press dedicated to literary books and mysteries (Ravenstone Books, an imprint of Turnstone Press).
Why should you look at literary markets as potential homes for your stories? Well, if you write stories that have that “feel,” it simply means a broader number of homes for your stories. Pay rates vary, of course, but there are a good number of publications which do the much-desired pro and semi-pro rates. Other do token. Research, as usual.
Recent literary magazines I recall publishing zombie stories (and I’m focusing on zombies because I recently worked on a zombie-themed antho):
- Indiana Review, a non-profit literary magazine maintained and edited by the Indiana University graduate students. “Another Zombie Story” by Susan McCarty takes place in a post zombie-apocalypse gated community.
- Granta, founded in 1889 by students at Cambridge University had a horror issue in 2011 which included ” The Colonel’s Son” by Roberto Bolaño (zombies). The online edition included Robert Coover reading his story “Vampire,” about blood, addiction and sex.
- Barrelhouse, an independent non-profit literary organization with an interest in pop culture. The 2011 spring issues included Matt Willmott’s “After the Zombies Came” and Tim McDonald’s “Unnatural Disasters,” which would classify as science fiction (many people begin to sign up for voluntary lobotomies). Their latest issue focuses on superheroes.
Of course, I’m not saying you ought to write for these markets. You probably shouldn’t write for any market in particular. But if you do write stuff that can comfortably jump between categories, why not give it a try?
Editor’s Note: There is still some time left on Silvia’s Young Blood crowd funding project. Stop by and check it out! In the meantime, here’s the trailer.