As I did with Robin Carson, here are the same questions I put to Barb Galler-Smith. Barb has been a Fiction Editor with On Spec Magazine since 2008:
1). What kinds of stories appeal to you most? Do you lean towards a particular type of story or style?
I especially like science-based stories and stories with realistic aliens who are not just people dressed up in rubber suits. A story can be either science fiction or space fantasy, but it must end with a positive emotional impact. I don't mean the end needs to be lovey-dovey or that the good guy wins; I mean that the end must be a logical one and it must satisfy, so I can say, "Yup, that's just right." As for style, I like it straightforward. Exquisite prose can woo me, but only if the story has a real engagement factor. A character without some kind of conflict that keeps him from getting what he wants will not work for me. I love getting to the end and saying, "Wow. That ended perfectly." I also like plot and characters in interesting settings. Lately, I've been drawn to stories based upon non-European myths.
2). What types of stories don't appeal to you? What are your pet peeves, writing-wise?
Most unappealing: stories with gratuitous violence, unnecessary gore, vulgarity (I will not read past the C-word unless it's in a context in which it's appropriate–that's never happened), or sexism, or racism for its own sake. I want a story, not a bunch of expletives that add up to nothing more than shock-value.
I am disappointed by stories that start strongly with a gripping first paragraph, and then back up to explain how the protagonist got where he was. If you need a back-story that's too big to tuck into the narrative, you're not writing a short story. I'm also not fond of present tense. If an opening is strong enough for me to read three or four paragraphs before I realize it's in present tense, the author has used it properly. Since I've been with On Spec, that's happened to me twice.
Not so much a peeve is my desire for a complete story, usually with a middle. I hate HAITEs–Here’s An Idea, The End. Too many come across my desk. No development of plot or character means 'no sale' to me, no matter how well-written the story is. Worse than that is a really good story that ends without a clear resolution. I'm left scratching my head and muttering, "WTF?"
3). What advice would you give to a writer submitting to us?
Make sure we are the right market. Child protagonists are a hard sell to us, and we will never buy anything, no matter how fabulous, if it doesn't have at least a hint of a speculative element integral to the story.
Just tell the best story you can. Then make sure your punctuation and grammar are right. A lot of errors will get past me if I am engaged in the story, but there are a few things that will pull me out: wrong word usage, getting facts wrong (especially getting the science wrong), and too many fragments that suggest the author is unable to write a simple sentence.
4). Please list any credits you'd like mentioned (ie. book pubs, editing/publishing involvement), followed by a small bio:
I've had a great working life: I've been a wildlife biologist, a librarian, a Humane Educator, a quarterly magazine editor, a science and language arts teacher, and a writer. I have both short and long fiction credits. My novels (in collaboration with US author Josh Langston) include an historical fantasy trilogy, The Druids Saga: "Druids" (2009), "Captives" (2011), and "Warriors" (forthcoming, August, 2013), through Edge Books Publisher, and, just for a change, a contemporary romantic comedy called "Under Saint Owain's Rock".
Barb's Bio: Barb Galler-Smith loves all things science, living things, and history. And of course Shakespeare and her Super Spouse. They're all shiny.
Next Post: Barry Hammond, On Spec Poetry Editor