Okay, writers–the post you’ve all been waiting for: “What is this guy looking for in the submissions, and what will give me the best chance of selling him a story?”
So here’s what I want, and (perhaps just as important) what I don’t want–but one caveat! I am speaking only for myself here. My co-editor, Tony Pi, will have his own thoughts on what he’ll be looking for. But he has great taste, so I’m sure we’ll end up with some really hard choices between the best-of-the-best stories.
What I want
- Stories that follow the theme, obviously: In GAME ON!, we’re looking for unique science fiction and fantasy takes on games, game playing, and games in culture. A game or games—real or imagined from across all of time and space—should be central to the story in some fashion.
- Stories that look at how games and gaming reflect or comment on character and or society, history, etc. The story should be about a character or characters, not just the game. Think of the game as a lens.
- Bonus points for unique/unexpected takes on theme. Surprise and delight me with your creativity and cleverness! I’d really love to see takes on the theme that I would never have thought of in a million years.
- Real world games. I went over some the other day. And if you think of ones I missed, so much the better!
- Amongst real-world games, I welcome authors writing about non-Western games and little-known games (for example, games popular only regionally, or games from the past that aren’t played much anymore, such as the card game Whist from the 18th and 19th Century, or the ancient Egyptian game of senet from ~3100 BC). What’s unique that you can bring to the theme? Show me something no one else is going to.
- Made-up and invented games from both science fiction and fantasy perspectives. I’m especially keen on seeing these! Stories could take place in our world (or a version thereof), in the far future, on an alien planet, or in the deepest magical forest or most exotic fantasy setting. What games do aliens play? What games entertain the fey? And what do they show us about those cultures and creatures?
- Clever takes on proprietary games that we can’t use by name for copyright and legal reasons. Riff on a game we all know! If you send me a well-written, engaging story that is a wink and a nod to, say, Monopoly or Clue but which cleverly never references anything that could get us served with a cease-and-desist letter from Milton Bradley, you will definitely have my attention. Look at Matthew Johnson’s story “Heroic Measures” from his collection Irregular Verbs and Other Stories for a story that is clearly about Superman without ever mentioning Superman. It is an example of a wonderfully written, character-driven story that pulls this trick off beautifully.
- Action and adventure and a sense of wonder are most welcome. But also give me characters I care about and who I can live the story through.
- We will probably be getting a lot of fantasy—which is great! But I’m definitely going to want to include science fiction in this collection, so that might increase your odds of acceptance (given SF will likely be a smaller pool). Send me stories that are anywhere from “soft”, more sociological science fiction to “hard”, nuts-and-bolts of physics type of science fiction.
- I really hope to find some humorous stories that make me laugh. Bonus points if the story makes some clever commentary or makes me think.
- A positive outlook. This doesn’t have to be true for every story, but I’d like it at least a ray of light here and there in the collection. We’ve all lived through a lot of real-world downers over the last number of years and while I like a good sad or melancholy ending as much as anybody, I do find myself drawn especially to something hopeful or positive or—dare I say it?—stories with a happy ending.
What I don’t want
- Anything that would be traditionally considered a sport. So no football, no rollerball, etc. Editors’ discretion will trump any argument here about what does or doesn’t count as a sport, thank you.
- Stories that center around the same specific games our anchor authors have chosen.
- Stories that are just thinly veiled explanations of how to play a game, even a made-up one. The secret is you don’t really need to know much about the rules of a particular game to have a story that involves a game. See my related post about the game Strategema in Star Trek: The Next Generation for an example. We want character, and plot, and conflict, and action, and change. Will leave the rulebooks to Hoyle’s.
- There’s the potential for a lot of “space chess” or “fantasy poker” type stories, so if that’s your plan, okay, but it had better be The Best version of such a story ever written because we’ll only take a max of one of each. Likewise, with traditional playing card games of all kinds—we won’t want to fill the book just with stories about Hearts, Bridge, etc. And one of our anchor stories is already about euchre, so…
- Dark or horror stories are fine but be warned: I’m not going to be super receptive to exceedingly violent stories or stories focused on gore or splatterpunk. But give me creepy, unnerving, unsettling stories that make the hairs on the back of my next stand up and make me not want to turn out the lights before bed? Yes, please!