If you’re anything like me (e.g., massive nerd and proud of it) then you understand and appreciate comedy’s place in speculative fiction. Whether it’s Gulliver’s creative fire fighting, the glorious camp of a sweaty Shatner locked in a clumsy struggle with a Gorn, the existential angst of Marvin the Paranoid Android, the fact that Fry looks like a gormless James Dean, or the misplaced laughter generated by any Michael Bay film, humour and spec fic simply work together.
Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine (ASIM) has been referred to as Australia’s pulpiest SF magazine, and, just to be clear, there’s nothing pejorative in that statement. According to Sue Bursztynski, ASIM editor, art director and SF writer, ASIM was launched with the intention of projecting a pulpy feel, reminiscent of the golden age of SF. So if you like your SF light, and irreverent with a humerous streak, but still want a story with throbbing forehead veins, then check out the pages of ASIM.
Submissions for ASIM are currently open, so dig out your best spec fic stories, crank up your Douglas Adams-esque wit, and oil up the Flash Gordon camp to a level that would short-circuit Hedonismbot. Full submission details and guidelines are available on the ASIM website.
Speakeasy: Can you tell us a little about how ASIM came about, what the magazine tries to do, and what place it occupies in Australian genre publishing?
ASIM: ASIM has just celebrated its tenth anniversary by publishing its fifty-sixth issue. ASIM first came about when a group of SF fans and writers decided that there wasn’t enough of a market for light speculative fiction and that they should start one. The magazine was launched officially at a Melbourne convention in 2002. The idea was that there should be a distinctly pulpy feel about the magazine, harking back to the golden age of SF. While we don’t publish ONLY humour, we still love it. Currently, we’re the only SF magazine in Australia still producing a paper print edition when everyone else has gone digital. While we see a trend away from paper-based subscriptions, many of our readers still like something they can touch, hold, and receive by mail.
We read our submissions blind, which means that new writers have the same chance of selling us a story as big-name ones; in fact, some writers who are now doing very well, such as NZ writer Doug Van Belle, Writers of the Future winner Ian McHugh, and World Fantasy Award nominee Kathleen Jennings, sold us their first stories. We’ve also got submissions and have published stories by Hugo and Nebula winners, such as Ken Liu, Rachel Swirsky, and Jim C. Hines.
There are three rounds in the ASIM acceptance process; in the first one, a single reader reads and scores the story. If it’s considered good enough by this reader, it is read by two more people who also score the story. If the scores given by all three are good enough, the story goes into the ‘slushpool’ from which editors choose their stories. We don’t keep them for more than a couple of months; we don’t think that’s fair to the authors to have their work languishing with us. Like any other magazine, we get far more submissions than we could ever publish. But stories that got through our slushing system, which we didn’t have room to publish, mostly sell elsewhere, even if we didn’t buy them.
Speakeasy: Since SF covers a fairly broad range of sub-genres can you tell our readers about the types of genre and the tone of works that ASIM likes to publish?
ASIM: We’ll consider any genre of spec fic as long as it’s well-written and doesn’t feature gratuitous violence or sex. We like to publish a good balance – SF, fantasy, horror, poetry. While we do have a soft spot for humour, submissions don’t all have to be funny.
Speakeasy: Are submissions currently open? Obviously, ASIM publishes short fiction; what other types of submission are you currently looking for (e.g., non-fiction, poetry, art, comics, etc.)?
ASIM: Submissions are currently open, though we usually have a break over the Christmas/New Year season – it’s best to check the web site before submitting. We take poetry and non-fiction, though we rarely publish more than one or two poems per issue and usually only one article. The kind of non-fiction we publish is not about writing, but about science and SF, though we often publish interviews with authors. We take art samples which are put on a closed list gallery. If an editor chooses a particular artist from the gallery, the Art Director makes contact and the art is commissioned, whether it’s the cover or a story illustration. No serialised comics, sorry!
Speakeasy: The ASIM website outlines a number of things that you aren’t looking for in terms of submissions (e.g., vampires, werewolves, zombies, contemporary American settings); what are you particularly keen to see right now? Is there anything that you feel is under-represented in submissions at the moment?
ASIM: Actually, we have published stories on ALL of the above and so far, we have had two Bram Stoker Award nominations, one for a story with zombies in it. But we’ve had a lot of submissions on these themes and if you do submit a story on one of these themes, it had better be using a different angle not often seen. We began for the purpose of publishing humorous speculative fiction, but we will look at anything well written. We publish horror fiction, but don’t like anything that is too dark. There is a wide variety of fiction submitted. It’s hard to say what’s under-represented as we have a lot of people reading slush. Any story submitted, however, will have a better chance of reaching the second or third round of readers if it’s well-written and if it’s not a copy of the current flavour of the month.
Speakeasy: To your mind, what makes for great SF submissions? Conversely, what puts you off of a submission?
ASIM: We are more likely to finish reading a story if the author has taken care of grammar, spelling and punctuation. This may make us sound like English teachers (one of us actually is) but it shouldn’t be hard work to read a submission and reading should be about the story, not the grammar and punctuation. I, personally, won’t bother reading past the first page if I have to wade through poor expression.
Please do your research; if your story is SF and gets the science wrong, it will be picked up (we have some scientists in the group). If it’s medieval fantasy, say, and your characters ride their horses all night like furry machines or run around dark unlit streets as if it’s daytime, we’ll pick that up too.
Please don’t send us a story that isn’t spec fic. It doesn’t matter how good it is, if it isn’t SF, fantasy or horror, we won’t buy it. It is all too easy to recognise a story that is an exercise written for someone’s creative writing course and then sent out en masse to every market on the teacher’s list! But we would have had to read it, so please have some consideration.
For a good outline of some the problems with different kinds of story, see this article on our website by Doug Van Belle, who sold us his first story and is now selling books. Do check it out – it’s entertaining as well as useful.
Speakeasy: Can you tell us a little about how you see the state of Australian SF right now?
ASIM: This is an exciting time for Aussie SF. There are plenty of small presses publishing novels and anthologies by both well-known and emerging writers. There is a lot of wonderful spec fic being written in Australia now, and small press can experiment with new ideas and styles in a way that large publishers can’t.
Speakeasy: Are there any exciting developments or opportunities within ASIM, or the broader SF community you’d like to tell our readers about?
ASIM: There are so many formats to be published in at the moment. For example, ASIM is now publishing in print and ebook formats, plus we created our second ‘Best Of’ editions on CD-ROM. When we started publishing, paper-based format was the only possibility open to us.
Speakeasy: Is there anything else you’d like to mention to our readers?
ASIM: As with any other market, we suggest that you get to know our style before submitting to ASIM. Read the guidelines and our issues. Current issues and e-versions of ASIM are quite affordable.
Julian Thumm is a freelance editor and writer. He has degrees from The University of Queensland and The University of Adelaide. He has worked with the Australian Journal of Communication, The University of Queensland Press, and Corporate Communication International through The City University of New York. He is currently based in Brisbane.