Writing: Demographics of Tesseracts 17

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

Tesseracts 17 from Edge Publications, will be out this fall with tales from Canadian writers that spans all times and places.

Okay, I said I would give a breakdown of the types of stories and the areas that people submitted from for Tesseracts 17. Since this was a open theme, stories could be any subgenre of speculative fiction or poetry. From what I could tell we received more stories than most Tesseracts anthologies of the past. The submission window was six months long, which was  a bit too long in my view.

Steve Vernon and I live on opposites coasts and have never met, though we’ve co-judged before and I asked him to do an introduction to my reprint collection Embers Against the Fallen, so we communicated through Facebook as well as using Dropbox to record entries and leave our comments. And let me tell you, some of them will be kept in lockdown in a tight metal box until the very Earth explodes. You see, when we’re leaving comments and have read the fiftieth submission of the day and are tired and have seen yet another timid wife and brutish husband tale or yet another zombie munching its way through humanity, we tend to leave snide and very cutting remarks that we would never forward to the author. (I did once do so by accident while editing for Chizine and I was mortified. The author took it with good grace and luckily I wasn’t that horrible–I apologized though.) But some are very funny, and that Steve, he’s downright hilarious and sardonic.

Anyways, (cough) I would like to think that Steve is still speaking to me though I believe I drove him crazy with my highly organized, extremely color-coded (colors!), tab-enhanced Excel spreadsheet. I’m very visual and I like being able to find the Alberta entries at a glance or the Quebec ones. Steve was probably left spinning in a psychedelic haze more than once. But in the end, we worked fairly well together and were probably about 80% unanimous on our decisions. The closer we got to the final choices the more we varied in some ways. If I was editing alone, not all of these tales and poems would have been my final selection, nor Steve’s, but we compromised.

On top of that, we had to balance between provinces and territories (for those not from Canada, we have ten provinces and three territories). Other aspects to watch for were making sure there weren’t all male or all female authors, that we had some new authors as well as experienced. In that regard, it was relatively easy to get a balance of genders as the final pieces we chose were already pretty evenly divided. And while we would have needed to re-balance if all the stories were fantasy and only one or two SF, it turned out we could live with what we had though it wasn’t half and half, but then, more fantasy is published in general these days than SF. Last, but not least, we also had to consider how the stories and poems fit together. We had some very good ghost stories but then it’s a popular trope and this wasn’t a ghost anthology. We also had some very good (and not so good) werewolf stories, as well as vampires, zombies and other reanimated creatures, but again, it wasn’t an undead anthology.

There were stories that were brilliant but we just couldn’t take too many fairy, or alien, or wendigo, etc. tales. Some of the pieces we rejected made me weep at having to let them go and I would have loved to do a subsidiary anthology of all the ones that got away (that would be a great title). Brian allowed us 100,000 words for the anthology. We scrimped and squeezed and hardcore edited some submissions down to their extra tasty, crunchy essence. I held two poems past the bitter end but Brian said, no room at the inn. In fact, we probably went over the word limit since we never included the author bios in our final count. That final number, including my introduction and Steve’s afterword, came to 99,441 words, more or less.

All of these factors made it trickier to edit than, say a theme-anchored anthology on dumptrucks or space dumptrucks. But in a way, it was interesting to see what Canadian (meaning born here, living here now, or born here and living abroad) writers would send if they could send anything at all. Tesseracts 17 paid close to (even a little more than) what other anthologies pay so it was on par there. The nice long submission window meant that some people sent us their trunk stories right off the bat. The early birds got a chance to send in rewrites, if we were holding the stories, or could try again if we rejected.  Those that came later in the final flood month didn’t get that luxury unless we were holding into the third round of reading.

I’ll start with the easy demographics. These may not be completely accurate. I became too busy to do this earlier and a couple of months have passed. But here we have the totals. I will try to give a breakdown of types of stories on another day. We received:

  • 449 individual submissions
  • 104 individual poems (The poetry number might be slightly off because I can’t quite tell if some were poems or not.)
  • 340 stories of varying lengths

Further breakdowns:

  • 4 poems were accepted
  • 25 stories were accepted
  • 14 accepted pieces were by women
  • 15 accepted pieces were by men
  • 305 individuals submitted
  • 139 women submitted (approx. as some names began with initials or could be male or female, additionally one translation was writer and translator were female)
  • 166 men submitted (approx. as some names began with initials or could be male or female, additionally two translations were male writer, female translator, which I included here but could be part of the women [141])
  • 5 was the highest number of stories submitted by one person
  • 15 was the highest number of poems submitted by one person
  • 16 was the highest number of individual submissions by one person
  • 3 translations were sent (female translator; 2 male, 1 female writer)
  • 4 collaborations were sent (including the 3 translations)
  • 1 story was rejected unread because it came in near to 10,000 words, far past the specifications on the guidelines
  • 2 stories came in that were not speculative: 1 was a history of Wounded Knee. The other was excellent and we would have taken it if we could have found one speculative element. It was very Canadian too. (You know who you are.)
  • 1 submission was neither read nor rejected because the person did not read the guidelines, sent us a story chapter,  wanted our address to send us buckets of other chapters and when we said to reread the guidelines, he said “reread my submission.” Sorry, buckaroo, in this case you pissed off the editors.
  • 2 people submitted far more than the allotted number of stories/poems allowed at one time. While the guidelines stipulated no more than 5 poems or 1 story, and although we were pretty grumpy about this, we actually read them all. The authors who did this should have known better because they were pros but hey, I’ve made mistakes as well.
  • 1 author got to submit just past the window closing because she had sent an email querying and saying she thought something had gone wrong.
  • 1 author did not get to submit past the submission window because it was over two weeks past the deadline and we just couldn’t .
  • 1 author sent a submission without the story attached. Since it was past the closing deadline, we rejected the non-submission (included in the above numbers)
  • 3 authors sent in stories with track changes and their editing included. This certainly did not put them onto the winning track. Writers, yes, edit and proofread your stories but get rid of track changes when you’re submitting.

We also had a few first time authors. In some cases these stories take more editing to polish them but we had a mandate to have some new or first time writers. We had chosen one story and sent an acceptance, conditional upon working with us and rewriting. We never heard from that young author. If this was me, even at the stage of having published stories and poems,I would have seriously worked with and responded to the editor.

We asked for several rewrites early on, when we were still holding stories and poems but the deadline hadn’t been reached. Of the rewrites, we did take a few pieces. Other writers, once we had accepted the pieces, had to do rewrites or edits. We did at least three edits on some pieces as Steve and I would each go over them, thus catching things that were missed or didn’t quite flow. One poet chose not to go with a second rewrite, which was unfortunate. Authors should remember that they do not have to take every edit an editor suggests but they then have to argue why they don’t think the edit makes the piece stronger. There is leeway for discussion and when that far along the track, an editor isn’t asking for two rewrites if they plan on rejecting the piece.

Still, we all have our own ways of dealing with writing and editing. I will try to come back with a second post that will delve into the breakdown of writers by province and territory, and the types of stories we received. Again, it’s been a while since I read these so this will be the least accurate and most subjective breakdown of all.

Tesseracts 17 is due for release on October 1.

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9 Comments

Filed under art, entertainment, fantasy, horror, poetry, Publishing, science fiction, Writing

9 responses to “Writing: Demographics of Tesseracts 17

  1. Barb Galler-Smith

    Extremely interesting! Thanks for the post!

  2. Thanks, that was extremely interesting.
    Although I haven’t done it (yet) I can see how it would be easy to send in the track changes version of a manuscript because we all make the idiot mistake of labeling our versions things like “Final Version” or “Dec 20 version” and it’s easy to forget which final version or which version on Dec 20 had the track changes and which was the final final version.
    Similarly, the failure to revise a story could be someone who still thinks of each of their words as sacred and untouchable, or it could as easily be a newbie who doesn’t understand the ‘revise and resubmit’ category and just saw ‘reject’, interpreting the ‘revise’ section as ‘advice for the future’. Sadly, I regularly encounter both kinds among my students.

    • colleenanderson

      Actually, Robert we were too explicit for people to presume one of the other. Saying, We’re holding this for now. However we found X and Y a little weak. If you would like to revise it, you can resubmit it before the deadline to give it a better chance, or you can submit something new.

      We also rejected stories and gave suggestions on what might be revise when they submit elsewhere. Having edited for a couple of magazines I’ve learned we must be clear in telling a writer whether they can or cannot resubmit and that we must say, this is rejected; you are free to submit it elsewhere. People do get confused and sometimes read between the lines.As to sacred words, well we’ve all had those moments and either sell our pieces elsewhere or learn to let some fly free from the stories. And yes, we all make mistakes, whether we’re new or experienced, because, well, we’re human. :-/

  3. Fascinating to see this breakdown, and I can hardly wait to see the breakdown by province/area!
    As for the “track changes” blunder — ouch. I’ve done that before! Never again. I have actually switched to writing with Scrivener, so (I hope) I won’t have that again.
    And, finally, I would like to say that I really, really appreciated the specific notes, comments, and suggestions from both you and Steve on my work. Even though I work as a copy editor and have done some substantive editing, when it’s your own writing being marked up it’s completely different! So it was interesting to see what you flagged — whether a misused word, bland language, or flat-out logic fails.
    I will say one thing about Track Changes that drove me absolutely nuts when rewriting. I had forgotten that when it’s on, Word counts ALL the words in the document in the displayed word count. So as I cut, and revised, and cut more, that damn Word count was not going down to the required limit — in fact it was growing! I slowly began to despair until I went to print off a clean copy without the comments/changes visible, and voilà — it was in the ballpark (in fact I had cut too much). I spruced up some of the pedestrian prose and came closer to the word count I needed… ending up with a better story, I think.
    If I ever needed a(nother) reminder of what careful editing can do for a story, I got one.

    • colleenanderson

      Thanks, David. Yes, track changes can be a pain that way. I actually don’t use it very often when doing my own stories. More, I cut and paste pieces into another document or highlight them.

      And I don’t think there is a writer in the world, no matter how good they are, who can’t benefit from an editor and another set of eyes. I wish I had a captive minion who was there for every process. 🙂

  4. Reblogged this on Confessions of a Geek Queen and commented:
    Reblogged from Colleen Anderson.

  5. Jason Barrett

    It is really exciting to be part of this anthology. Since I was one of those new authors, Steve and Colleen had to provide me with a lot of guidance. I appreciate their help and patience.

  6. Pingback: Born in ’76: A call for submissions | Write on the World

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