Coloring Outside the Lines

Genre writers tend to stay within the boundaries of our own ghetto. We envy writers like Jonathan Lethem and Michael Chabon who sometimes publish in places like Asimov’s or get nominated for Hugo awards, but who also show up in New Yorker and on nomination lists for “mainstream” literary awards.


The stories I write definitely have “fantastic” or “speculative” elements, and I’m sure most publications outside the genre have problems with any story that includes impossible elements in a realistic setting, or takes place in the future. Most, but not all. I want to challenge myself to write stories that succeed on both levels, and occasionally test the waters outside the SF/F/H community. This is partly a desire to see what might happen — who knows, I might encounter a receptive editor in one of these places — but my biggest reason is that I want to challenge myself to reach beyond the models and modes of fantastic fiction.


Most recently I’ve submitted a story to Glimmer Train (a large-ish mainstream literary mag, for those of you unfamiliar with it) for one of their contests, and I think I’ll try to do this sort of thing once in a while. I’ll keep shooting for F&SF, Asimov’s, Clarkesworld and the rest too, but I like the challenge of writing something compelling enough on the level of character, story and language to satisfy an editor not predisposed to a story containing a mermaid, an elder god, or a lunar colony. Whether or not I end up in magazines you can find at the corner newsstand (which doesn’t carry any of the little genre digests any more, let alone Interzone or Cemetary Dance), it can only help me become a better writer.


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