What Makes an A&A Story?

What makes an Abyss & Apex story? It’s an intangible quality, basically a matter of taste, which is why all authors are wise to read a few back issues of any magazine before submitting to them. But there are some factors that are right in our submissions guidelines that I can quote:

Our mission is to publish the finest in speculative and imaginative fiction and poetry, with special attention to character-driven stories that examine the depths and heights of emotion and motivation from a broad variety of cultural and social perspectives. A&A wants to publish powerful stories with emotions that resonate in our minds and hearts long after a first reading, stories that make us want to read them again and again. We look for the unique: stories that stand out in a genre that pushes the envelope of unusual. We take special delight in detailed world-building: we like slipstream, YA, hypertext fiction, dark fantasy, science fiction puzzle stories, magical realism, hard science fiction, soft science fiction, science fantasy, urban fantasy, military science fiction, ghost stories, space opera, cyberpunk, steampunk . . . there is very little we will not look at, although we have a severe allergy to zombies, elves, retold fairy tales, sports, westerns, vampires, and gratuitous sex and violence. We have no subject/topic preference, beyond a requirement that the work have a speculative element. We are happy to read stories that don’t quite seem to fit elsewhere.

We will consider dark speculative fiction, but we do not publish horror. We won’t publish extremely graphic violent or sexual content or over-the-top gore either; we are turned off by gratuitous foul language. In other words, if the primary purpose of a story is to scare us or make us queasy, we won’t buy it.

First of all, we publish speculative fiction: stories that have an element of something that cannot happen in real life. In our case that means science fiction and fantasy, about 50 percent each. Horror is also considered speculative fiction, but we will not publish horror, although we’ve been known to publish rather dark science fiction and fantasy. To me, horror has a sort of “nothing makes sense, abandon all hope ye who enter here” focus. 

The stories we pick out of the slush pile are ones that linger in the mind, that we can’t get away from. We don’t just publish good stories, we publish outstanding stories. And as the quote from our submissions guidelines states, we are open to all subgenres of SF & F. In fact, I’d go so far as to state that we try to showcase all that science fiction and fantasy can be. It’s not just robots and dragons: we publish everything from superhero origins stories to simple fairy tales or legends of various traditions around the world. Our main criterion is that the reader be entertained.

And this has gotten us into trouble with reviewers who want more literary stories. Entertainment is not fashionable in literary circles. But it seem to be popular with our readers.

– Wendy S. Delmater

P.S. – I’ve a new book out that shares everything that I learned about writing by running A&A for 15+ years. Here’s a link if you’re interested.

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