Fantastic Stories of the Imagination is now in its third year of publication. We’ve published fifteen issues of great fiction, reviews, and articles such as Nisi Shawl’s widely-read History of Black Science Fiction. We’ve paid our writers one of the highest rates in the genre and our readership has grown with every issue.
We have thousands of readers—but the magazine is not yet profitable. We’ve tried various ways to bring in revenue, but the results have not been what we hoped for. FSI exists because Wilder Publications, and our publisher, Warren Lapine, believes in the importance of short fiction. We’re proud of our work and want to continue to build our readership, but a recent downturn in book sales means Wilder can’t continue publishing the magazine at the current burn rate.
Wilder will continue to fund the magazine, but only if the community can bear some of the cost of maintaining a free-to-read, SFWA qualifying, professional-paying, always-open short fiction market.
To this end we’ve created a Patreon page. If Fantastic Stories can reach $1,000 per month in Patreon donations in the next few months, Wilder Publications will underwrite the remainder of the costs of the magazine indefinitely while we develop new revenue models.
So it’s up to the community. If you want Fantastic Stories to continue, please contribute. We love doing this work and we think its worth the effort. We hope our readers think so too.
By Brian Sammons and Lynne Jamneck
Lots of Hardy Boys books as a kid and a series of Afrikaans books called Trompie and Saartjie, the latter kind of the South African incarnation of Pippie Longstocking (Trompie was the boys’ version). I read Stephen King and Dean Koontz from about the age of 11/12. Used to scare the crap out of myself (“We all float down here!”) but I couldn’t help it. My mom used to give me her adult library cards to get them out, because you only used to get adult cards at about 16. My mom is cool.
When did your love affair with books begin and what led to it?
I’ve always liked my own company; never felt an intense need for having other people around (though I seem to have become more social over the past few years). I just remember always loving books. Here was an object that told a story, and I could interpret that story in whatever way I chose. No-one else could interrupt and say “No, the duck was white, not blue!” What more could you want?
What led you to start creating your own stories and books?
The idea of telling my own stories was terribly exciting. I started seriously considering this around the age of 17. What’s the psychology behind wanting people’s attention like that? Reading a book is a significant commitment. You’re letting yourself be led blindly, and though you can sometimes guess where a story is headed, it’s still kind of no-man’s land, you know? It’s a big risk you’re taking! You might even meet some blue ducks. Something about that sort of commitment appeals to me.
by Victor LaValle
H.P. Lovecraft spent almost his whole damn life in Providence, Rhode Island. Born and raised into an insular family, young Howard could be described, generously, as sheltered. Then along came Sonia Greene, writer, hat-designer, single-mother, and Jew, she and Lovecraft fell for each other and married in 1924. Lovecraft was thirty-three, Greene forty. Greene moved Lovecraft down to Brooklyn to live with her and supported him financially, but eventually she lost her job, budgets got tighter, and they moved to cheaper parts of the borough.
by Rebecca McFarland Kyle
I’ve always dreamt of meeting Peter S. Beagle. The Last Unicorn and Inkeeper’s Song are two of my all-time favorite novels. When he offered a writer’s workshop at a nearby convention, I signed up immediately hoping he could give my career the kick in the pants it needed.
I looked at my body of work and nothing seemed worthy. The deadline to submit my 5,000 words fast approached.
About a week before the submission was due, I had a dream. Persephone hadn’t gotten called to bring Spring to the Upperworld for years and she was taking matters into her own hands. She convinced her cousin, Eurydice, who hadn’t gotten word of her husband Orpheus for years and still grieved his loss, to come with her. They climbed up into the Badlands, a vastly different world than the one they’d last walked — and quickly had to adjust to the Wild West.
I had no idea where the dream came from. I’ve been a fan of Greek mythology since I was introduced to Bullfinch’s Mythology in fifth grade. I hadn’t seen anything related to the characters in year, but I have studied lucid dreaming and used the concept to write scenes before. I scribbled down the dream as fast as I could. Big surprise the dream story came in at almost precisely the 5,000 word limit for the workshop.
As you can imagine, I didn’t sleep too well the night before the workshop. I was grateful we’d have individual sessions instead of a class. If my hero didn’t like my sub, I’d hear it alone. Instead of talking immediately about my work, Peter Beagle mused about Persephone herself, the connected mythos, and how her story still resonated with the world. I took notes furiously, unsure of what to think.
“What did you think about the sub?”
“It feels like a novel,” he smiled and handed the papers back without a red mark on them.
I sat there and mouth-breathed. Okay, I’d gotten the dream whole cloth, but nothing else since.
“How do I write it?”
“Let the characters tell their story.”
Easy for him to say. He hadn’t had such a vivid dream and scribbled the thing down in a notepad from the nightstand at 3:00AM and then heard nothing since! Still, I went home and re-read the excerpt as well as my notes of what he’d said.
What would happen next?
No surprise that Peter Beagle’s notes actually helped me get back into the storyline. At the time, they didn’t seem related to the writing on the page. Like all great teachers, he was gently directing me in the path I should take for the rest of the story.
I finished the book two years later — with help from some amazing beta readers. I turned it in on Christmas Eve, just a week before the publisher’s annual submission deadline was over. She notified me that she’d received the submission, read and liked the first chapter, and would be reading it over the next several weeks as time permitted.
I was shocked to receive an acceptance letter the day after Christmas. My publisher said she’d started the book and couldn’t stop reading, so she was buying Fanny & Dice. That was the best Christmas present I’ve ever gotten!
If you think the hard part was over then, you’re wrong. At that point, I had to do final edits and start thinking of promotions. For a generally shy person, I found this phase the hardest of all.
I was fortunate: the four authors I asked to blurb me all readily agreed to help launch a freshman author and blushing fangirl. They all provided kind words to include with my book and helpful advice.
Fanny & Dice launched at Mile High Con this past Halloween. I can’t say I’ve taken the world by storm, but I wasn’t aiming specifically at that. My goal was to tell the characters’ stories and hopefully to find fans who love them as much as I enjoyed writing about them.
Awe filled me when I realized how close to the mark I’d come. While visiting my favorite aunt at an assisted-living center, I encountered an octogenarian who’d immigrated from Greece in her childhood. This tiny woman filled the hallway with her luminous presence. She strode everywhere with her head held high, intelligent eyes bright and studying the world. When she introduced herself, she offered up two-syllable given and surnames.
“But that’s not my real name,” she said with a grin after I worked to pronounce her name as she had. She spoke two names which resonated with the blue sky and sea of her homeland. “They shortened my name so Americans could pronounce it.”
Right then, I learned her real name and I realized I had hit on something very real and true from most immigrant’s experience. Readers have already asked if there will be sequels. Perhaps Eurydice will sage into a luminous lady who walks the world with determination and grace.
Born on Friday 13, Rebecca developed an early love for the unusual. She currently lives between the Smoky and Cumberland mountains with her husband and four cats. Her first novel, Fanny & Dice, was released on Halloween Day 2015 and there are several more in the works. To learn more, visit her website: http://rmkyle.abckyle.com.
By Doug Dandridge
Exodus was the second book ever that I wrote intentionally for self-publication. Let me backtrack just a bit on that. I have been writing novels and short stories since 1996. At first they were pretty awful. They got better as I wrote more. The secret to becoming good enough that people want to buy your work is not really a secret. Everyone who has made it to that place has learned it the hard way. You get good enough to sell by writing, a lot. I garnered a lot of rejection letters. The letters got better, but I still wasn’t a selling writer. In 2010 I decided to try something different. I had read years before that a famous agent said that Space Opera was dead, but it didn’t seem that way to this reader. After all, David Weber and John Ringo had huge followings. So I decided to write an epic Space Opera/Military Science Fiction series and publish it myself.
This was a departure from what I had been doing. I had written about sixteen novel length works by this time, some good enough to publish, and many now self-published. All that I have self-published since embarking on that venture have received for the most part very good reviews, if not exceptional sales. All had been written as stand alones, because that was what the publishers wanted, but all were left open for sequels, because that was what the publishers wanted. Exodus was to be a long series from the outset. I could only hope that each would sell a thousand copies or so to make the series worth continuing. I had no idea. I settled on the name Exodus, then added the Empires at War subtitle because I didn’t want people to think it was a bible story. I later learned at a workshop that I had picked the perfect title keywords for military scifi.
I planned the series for about six months before I started writing. I wanted something I would love to read. Much of military scifi seemed to have a lot of lead up to the action, then boom, the action was over, or it was skipped over and we went directly to the aftermath. As an amateur military historian, I wanted to read about the battles, not the aftermath. I also wanted to avoid a lot of the common tropes of scifi, while making everything as accurate as possible as far as the science and tech went. Of course I was going to have some McGuffins, FTL, inertial compensators and the like. But I wanted the basic science to be right. With that in mind, I developed my Universe. I wanted a human Empire far enough from the space we know now that I could do what I wanted with the distribution of star systems and planets. I used the idea of humankind fleeing an alien menace and reestablishing themselves ten thousand light years from Sol. I have always loved Harry Turtledove, and used his template of lots of characters to tell a big story, and what could be larger than a war across thousands of light years. I copied techniques from Jim Butcher and R A Salvatore to cover the action. And then I started writing.
That year was my most productive, writing two hundred thousand words each of Exodus and my fantasy series Refuge, as well as most of three other novels, all while working full time. Exodus finished at two hundred and ten thousand words, and I decided it was much too long for a single eBook. Later I would split it into books one and two, and rewrite sections to make them more or less complete novels on their own. If I could do it over today I would have put in more work making them almost stand alones, each with their own part of the story to tell. When I started my Machine War spinoff series I did just that. It was all a learning process, and I’m still learning.
I put my novel The Deep Dark Well, written in 2005, on free promotion at Amazon and gave away forty-one hundred of them. Two months later I put out my first Exodus book. I said I would be happy if I had sold a thousand of them, and I did, in the first month. Exodus 2 came out two months later, and I was selling three hundred books a day on Amazon in January of 2013. Two months later I quit my day job and became a full time author. In the last three years I have published twelve books in the Exodus Universe, nine in the Empires at War series, two in Machine Wars, and one in Tales of the Empire, a series of books telling some of the stories going on in the rest of the Empire, both before and during the war. I have sold about a hundred thousand books across the line, compared with fifty thousand of all of my other books. Along the way I have made some changes, sometimes based on fan requests, sometimes just because they made sense to me. The technology is constantly evolving, and the stories evolve along with it.