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Sunday, August 31, 2014

A CLOSER LOOK AT ON SPEC EDITOR, BRENT JANS

On Spec Cover by Dan O'Driscoll
AS I DID WITH EILEEN BELL AND CONSTANTINE KAOUKAKIS, I put the following questions to new editor, Brent Jans. 

1). What kinds of stories appeal to you most? Do you lean towards a particular type of story or style? I’m a big fan of Urban Fantasy, so I love stories set in our world (or even a future world) with a fantastic or mythological aspect. For me, those types of stories harken back to early fairy-tales in that they have the potential to teach us about ourselves and our world by contrasting it with the fantastic. Moonheart, by Charles de Lint, was my earliest exposure to the genre. It has continued to set the bar for what I consider to be good writing, not just in Urban Fantasy but for speculative fiction in general.

In more general terms, I tend to like stories with strong characters - not necessarily characters I like, but characters that make their presence known. I love well-written first person narrative; when it's done right it can be like listening to a friend tell you a story. I also tend to like stories that sound good when read out loud. I will sometimes read books or stories to people. I can always tell when a writer didn’t read their work aloud before submitting it.

2). What types of stories don't appeal to you? What are your pet peeves, writing-wise? Characters that go nowhere. If your protagonist is the same at the end as he/she/it was at the start, then you didn’t tell a story. There seems to be a trend towards focusing on mood, detail, and setting these days. Nothing wrong with that, as long as you remember to tell me a story while you’re at it. If you don’t have a protagonist, or if your protagonist is just a mannequin upon which to hang your fantastically moody setting, then you don’t have a story. At best, you have a compelling writing exercise which I’ll be happy to read if/when you turn it into a story.

3). What advice would you give to a writer submitting to us? Follow the submission guidelines. If I’m staring at a list-filled screen of submissions I have to get through, I am looking for any excuse to lighten my workload. If you didn’t follow our guidelines (over word count, didn’t follow formatting instructions, and so on) you’ve given me that excuse. At this point you might think, “What a lazy jerk!” but how well you follow the submission guidelines gives me a glimpse of how you’ll be to work with as we go through the editing process. Don’t disqualify yourself. If any of the guidelines don’t make sense to you, please contact us. We want your stories, so we’re happy to answer questions.

4). Please list any credits you'd like mentioned (ie. book pubs, editing/publishing involvement), followed by a small bio: Brent Jans is the most junior of editors for On Spec Magazine and a lifelong, unapologetic sci-fi and fantasy geek. He’s that guy you know who re-reads The Lord of the Rings every year, yes, including The Silmarillion. When not copy-editing, proofing, maintaining the website, or dipping his toe into the slush pile for On Spec, he freelances as an editor for independent game publishers (such as Mystic Ages Publishing’s Foreign Element RPG), as well as Wayfinder, a long-running fan publication for the Pathfinder RPG. Brent is a devout gamer, keeping the faith for over thirty years by playing more tabletop games than you might think possible.

Thanks, Brent. It's great to have you as part of our team. For those of you who have been reading these posts, you can see we are a very diverse bunch at On Spec, which is a good thing for both readers and writers. If you haven't checked the rest of us out already, the links below are an indication of what we personally like and don't like to see in the slush:
For Barry Hammond (poetry) 
and for myself, Susan MacGregor.)

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