I love this time of… slush. It’s a lot of reading, sure, but every click to open a file ignites that hope, that wonder of finding a gem within. That’s exciting stuff, getting to read stories from authors we know and those we don’t. There’s true joy in discovering new writers, discovering new storytellers, and getting their tales out into the world.
As is par for the course with a SNAFU open call, I like to write a little sumpin’ sumpin’ about what to expect from the process, discuss theme, and provide some general pointers to make this easier for all involved… <opens arms wide> … and here we are. And just a quick note: this post will be filled with ‘David Rose’ gifs… because, well David Rose.
During our last sub-window, I wrote a post on slush and what we look for, plus a general overview of the process, which will be similar although not the same as most slush piles. That will give you a guide to what we’re looking for when it comes to SNAFU stories in the most general way – remember, be on point with theme.
And this edition is a hell of a theme.
As a mate of mine pointed out, the theme of ‘Holy War’ is a “bold move”, hence the specificity of the guidelines we’ve put together, and the special notes on what we DO NOT WANT. Pay close attention to those because we understand that in light of the theme, things could get ugly. So, in short, if you come at me with your bigotry or misogyny or your white-saviour stories, you’re not going to get a look-in. Period. Write better than that, be better than that.
At its heart, the SNAFU series is action-based military horror with characters that resonate and monsters of the nightmare kind. Tales that linger. We’re not looking for slow-burn stories, we’re not looking for trunk stories either (we can spot those, don’t think we can’t). And when we say ‘military’ that doesn’t limit you to soldiers of the contemporary kind, nor does it confine you to modern or on-world settings. We’ve published everything from Neanderthal hunting parties to far-future sci-fi within the same volume.
What we care about is killer stories told well, and considering our theme, there were tropes we wanted to address that we’d rather not see, and some you shouldn’t send us at all. If the first thing that comes to mind when you hear ‘Holy War’ is the Crusades, then that’s going to be a hard sell. We expect to see a lot of those, though we’d rather not. Same with any story that has Christian didacticism (I’ve seen enough of that in our slush to last me everyone’s lifetime). Same with any white saviour stories – we’re not buying.
We want you to think outside the box with this. Do a little research if you must. Theology has a wide range of belief systems, and faith isn’t limited to popularity. Hell, create your own faith-based doctrine, revive a forgotten one. Don’t limit yourself to a Google search. Light a fire under your imaginarium and see where those sparks take you.
Action. The more the better. Let the bullets fly, give the arrows wing, let the blades sink deep into flesh. Blow some shit up. Get the adrenalin surging, blood pumping. Give us that piss-your-pants fear-filled courage. You know, all the good stuff!
Crank up the volume of your monsters, too. Give us the stuff of your nightmare’s nightmares. Give us dread, existential dread that makes you want to sleep with the light on. Make it loud… or make it quiet. The sneaky-sneak of monsters is just as terrifying as a roar that rattles the bones, sometimes more so.
Speaking of dread, one of the things I want to address here is part of the ‘do not want’ section of the guidelines, and something I saw too damn much of during our last sub-window. Just let me get out my all-caps for this: DO NOT USE RAPE AS A PLOT DEVICE/BACKSTORY!
I’ll say again: DO NOT USE RAPE AS A PLOT DEVICE/BACKSTORY!
This should not be your ‘fall-back’ to show that someone is evil or the villain in your story. If that’s the only way you can think to give a character agency, or to show a reader a particular character is bad, then you need to re-engage your imagination. Also, do not send us that shit. You’re wasting my time and yours. It won’t be published by us. “But, but, but…” I hear you say? No. Just no. This isn’t a debate.
Right, on to the last little bit of info re our slush process. We work in phases. Slush is obvs Phase 1, and where a story is either rejected or moved to a long list. During Phase 2, all stories on the long list are read again, and will be either rejected or moved to the short list. Phase 3 is where we’ll make the final decision on the ToC. No story selections will be made until the AFTER the sub window closes.
We do not provide feedback on stories that are rejected in Phase 1. We may provide limited feedback on stories rejected within Phase 2, depending on workload. Should your story make it to Phase 3 and is rejected, we will provide feedback.
We’re writers too, so we understand what it’s like sitting the other side of the desk. We try to make this process as painless and as seamless as possible. Our decisions aren’t open for debate. Oh, and you cannot reject our rejection (true story), just sayin’.
For those of you unaware, three SNAFU stories appeared in season one of Love, Death & Robots, and some other SNAFU stories have been picked-up for season two. Tim Miller reads our anthologies, so if that doesn’t light a fire under your bum to send us your best work, then… well, then… ahh… SEND US YOUR BEST WORK!