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Digital Fiction and Leicester Zombies

PrintE-mail Written by Kris Griffin Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Digital Jazz - by Kris Griffin


What propels me to sit for hours and write my Starburst column? Actually scratch that. What propels me to leave writing my Starburst column until 48 hours before the deadline when I had 4 weeks to do it? I was the same in school, working away until the early hours trying to hit a deadline on a project that I'd been given 2 months earlier. I'm one hell of a procrastinator. Although I love to write I'll do anything but knuckle down and actually do it. We've explored previously the need to have a voice and that's all very well for those of us who can expunge our soul in 140 characters, a short blog or a 2000 word column but what about those who need more?

The real storytellers that's who. Storytelling isn't just about throwing words of wisdom out there and it isn't, to an extent, trying to convince others that you are right in a tide of oncoming opinion. Storytelling is crafting a narrative that entertains, inspires, educates and provokes emotion. With publishers not willing to take a risk on an unknown voice, getting your story published these days is hard. We explored the digital publishing revolution last time. But where does the aspiring author go to cut their teeth? Especially the science fiction, fantasy or horror author's who are wrongly considered the misfits of the publishing world. I offer the opinion that genre authors are the ground-breakers and the forerunners to the rest of the publishing industry. Where the rest of the industry fears to tread these authors blaze the trail, they take risks and do what comes naturally, tell stories. They have a deep set desire to be read but aren't driven by Man Booker Prizes (@manbookerprize), financial gain or an appearance on the Richard (@richardm56) and Judy Book Club. But sometimes they achieve it anyway.

In the early days of genre publishing authors like Stephen King and Isaac Asimov got their break in journals, short story collections and news-shelf magazines. Up until recently these opportunities have mostly dried up unless you were willing to submit your latest zombie story to Women's Weekly magazine in the hope that it would either slip through the gap! Or the editor wishes to scare the bejesus out of her comfortable readers. The ePublishing revolution has once again opened up opportunities for genre authors. It is allowing them to get their words read. We always knew the web catered for genre and niche but this leant towards your particular fetish; meaning you could connect with fellow nappy wearers globally. As I've said before the rise of the nerd is staggering. In fact the majority of new nerds don't fit the stereotype and are often drawn to genres, and comic-con, because it offers intelligent, emotional and innovative content. In the column this month we'll look at where you can get your digital fix of genre fiction and explore the reach of these new worlds.

The people who ensured Leicester is the first official zombie ready city in the UK brings Terror4Fun (@ZombieEdUK), a brilliant online zombie resource. Their mission statement is to, “Raise the quality of zombies across the globe”. Even typing this is slightly surreal but they proudly organise zombie events in the UK and support zombie film production internationally. They will teach zombie make up, enable fans to appear in zombie films and provide free downloadable make up guides. All this can be found on the website at http://www.terror4fun.com/. Of course all this is complemented by the statutory galleries, film and book reviews and details of up and coming zombie events. This genre never fails to amaze me.

Leicester zombie
Zombie in Leicester. Nuff said

The innovative Zombie Times which is released bi-monthly has been running since 2008 and currently reaches over 12,000 readers. To put the readership in context the legendary NME (@nmemagazine) magazine currently only has 29,000, albeit paying, readers. To draw 12,000 readers from a very niche sector is an incredible achievement.

The magazine can be downloaded from the website as a PDF making it OK to read on a Kindle or other e-reading device. The content is witty and entertaining and a joy to read. I found myself genuinely interested, so much so I've subscribed and have downloaded the back issues to my Kindle. I'd love to read some fan fiction in the newsletter; it's an area that drools creativity. I'm sure there are willing authors out there ready to contribute and have their work read by the 12,000 undead followers. I also feel that for the magazine to truly achieve the next step it needs to be optimised for eReader format.

Clarkesworld Magazine (@clarkesworld) is the 2010 and 2011 winner of the Hugo Award (@TheHugoAwards) for best semiprozine. It is a monthly science fiction and fantasy magazine that was first published in October 2006. Each issue contains at least two pieces of original fiction from new and established authors. All of the original fiction appearing in the magazine is collected in an annual anthology series, REALMS, and published in trade paperback and hardcover. Clarkesworld is available for sale in Epub (Nook, Sony, Kobo, Apple, etc.) and Mobi/Kindle format.

The quality of the content of Clarkesworld Magazine is staggering. The articles are challenging and the stories of the highest quality and the covers are simply magnificent, it took a good 30 minutes just to choose the examples here. With 873 Kindle pages in issue 54 it is hard to see myself reading much else every month, I'm not sure this is such a bad thing.

Clarkesworld Magazine #31         Clarkesworld magazine #46
Beautiful magazine covers for Clarkesworld #31 and #46

The appearance is extremely professional and needs to be considering they are appealing to a global audience. They accept and pay for submissions and the guidelines can be found on the website at http://www.clarkesworldmagazine.com/. The Facebook page at www.facebook.com/clarkesworld is also bursting with community spirit and endeavour. Completing the digital media offering Clarkesworld also have a fantastic podcast that provides audio readings of some of the stories from the magazine. Again not to be missed and well worth subscribing through iTunes.

Clarkesworld is a good place to be and many magazine and publishing companies could learn lessons from what is undoubtedly one of the very best science fiction and fantasy brands out there. I cannot recommend this publication enough.

Spinetinglers (@Spinetinglers) provides a much more homespun approach to fiction but where content is king these ghost, horror and scary stories are impressive. The site can be found at http://www.sinetinglers.co.uk/ and all content found within. There is also an active Facebook page. Every month you can read five original stories from new voices in horror fiction and the writers can win a prize by submitting their work. The writing is generally of good quality and an excellent opportunity to showcase work and win money. The site also offers reviews and news although this doesn't add to the appeal of the site. I'd like the owner to make more of the fiction offering, making the site easier to navigate and perhaps providing some detail about the concept and how long it has been running for. They have made a good start by collating all of the winning stories in the year into an anthology. I hope the next stage would be to release this anthology as an eBook because, like many, I would download it. I think there are many good things about Spinetinglers and I look forward to seeing the next stage of development.

Lightspeed (@lightspeedmag) is an online magazine, found at http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/, focusing exclusively on science fiction. No subject is off-limits and they actively encourage their writers to take chances with their fiction and push the envelope. The monthly publication brings a mix of original and reprinted stories and features a variety of authors from bestsellers and award-winners to new voices. Lightspeed was nominated for a Hugo Award in 2011 and stories from Lightspeed have been nominated for the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award. Lightspeed also features a variety of non-fiction features and Q&As with authors that go behind-the-scenes of their stories. The regular publication schedule each month includes two pieces of original fiction and two fiction reprints, along with four non-fiction articles.

Lightspeed Magazine August 2011
Lightspeed Magazine cover August 2011

What I really admire is that the content can be read for free online or downloaded in a collated eBook format each month for £2.14. This shows faith in the material and I'd be more than happy to pay for content this high in quality in a published format. In particular I would recommend the Anne McCaffrey story Velvet Fields, a wonderful piece by one of the world's greatest authors. This story is also featured on the podcast that turns many of the stories into audio versions. A very welcome addition.

It is clear from the very talented staff working on Lightspeed it is a labour of love, for us, the casual reader is it a veritable treasure trove of intergalactic words.

Fantasy Magazine (@fantasymagazine) is from the same talented team of people that publish Lightspeed. Here, at www.fantasymagazine.com, you can expect to see all types of fantasy: high fantasy, contemporary urban tales, surrealism, magical realism, science fantasy, folktales and anything and everything in between. The model follows a very similar successful structure to Lightspeed and once again the content is first class. This is not a genre I have a huge interest in, although I love Tolkien and am captivated by the Game of Thrones TV series. As I read some of the articles and stories I was genuinely drawn in. Already rolling along on issue 53 there are clearly many more stories to tell and many more readers like me to convert.

Fantasy Magazine #52
Fantasy Magazine #52 - a simply stunning piece of artwork

In a similar format to Lightspeed Magazine and Fantasy Magazine, Apex Magazine (@apexmag) offers content for free on the website but has a paid-for collated monthly service. Apex Magazine is an online prose and poetry magazine of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and mash-ups of all three. The monthly content, found at http://www.apex-magazine.com/, brings a mix of originals and reprints, interspersed with interviews and non-fiction. They have published many of the top short form writers working today: Mary Robinette Kowal, Saladin Ahmed, Genevieve Valentine, Amal El-Mohtar, Forrest Aguirre, Nick Matamas, Theodora Goss, Nalo Hopkinson, Eugie Foster, Cat Rambo, Jeff VanderMeer, Seanan McGuire, and Jennifer Pelland. Worth noting that they have also presented the first professional work of amazing new writers such as Indrapramit Das, T.J. Weyler, Kathryn Weaver, Kelly Barnhill, Douglas F. Warrick, and Jeremy R. Butler. With a roster like this they are certainly putting the talent front and centre.

Apex Magazine placed two stories in the 2010 Nebula Award category of Best Short Story; another was a finalist for the Million Writers Award. Selected submissions are paid for and a successful submission will clearly put you in very good company. I enjoyed the content and the poetry, although not to my taste, was an interesting addition. There is a rather underdeveloped Facebook page and I notice that comments and feedback are not as great in number than some other publications. Not that this matters Apex Magazine is yet another fine addition to genre publishing with room for growth.

Apex Magazine
Apex Magazine Cover #27

Many of these publications all feature a very similar structure and it is clear that it is a successful one and has bred success. I've been surprised at the breadth of content available and by the high standards of production. It's been a pleasure researching these publications and a wonderful experience to read their words. I just hope there is enough room on my Kindle to keep up-to-date with them all. I'm already planning a follow up article to cover more publications and hopefully more emerging talent from the UK marketplace. If you know of a publication or write for one please contact me. I'd also love to know readership numbers and growth patterns, I hope you share my interest, and I'll look to bringing this information to the column too.

Of course I'd be remiss to forget our very own Starburst Magazine who has a growing collection of original fiction writing. Who knows where this may lead? Perhaps a quarterly offshoot sold on the Kindle competing against some of the heavy hitters. That's the joy of being there near the start, we don't know where things will lead us but we do know it'll be a great ride and the opportunities are endless.

Until next time.

FONASHEK!

@kristhescript

kris.griffin@starburstmagazine.com

Kris Griffin finds himself in the realm of Kidderminster, UK. He writes, shoots and scores (on occasion). He loves Doctor Who, his Kindle, intelligent movies, Twitter, and Richard Burton. He can normally be found dancing the night away, with The Mavericks no less, or working the day job that pays the bills.


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