You Can’t Judge a Pulp by its Pitch

With our own open submission period fast approach, and in light of Corey McCleery’s post on the short story he’s writing for a Superversive anthology, I feel that I need to issue some clarifications on just what it is we’re looking for as a magazine that has had the attention of the Pulp Revolution.

First, I feel it’s important to point out that Cirsova was doing what Cirsova was doing prior to folks talking about a Pulp Revolution, and we intent do continue doing what we’ve been doing regardless of what directions either the folks involved in the Pulp Revolution movement do or what the Superversive movement does in response.

A lot of folks have said “I’ve got this great idea for X where Y happens in Z; there will be plenty of Q and T!” and I’ve absolutely encouraged people to write them.

But the thing is, a Pulp is much more than its pitch. A lot of pulp stories, when you try to distill their plots down to a sentence or two, come across as the wildest, most off-the-wall gonzo nonsense you can dream up. Except when you actually read the stories, they’re not only internally consistent, they often take themselves and the wild situations therein fairly seriously. While there might be some humor, the elements in the stories are usually not played for laughs. And I think that’s part of where we differ from some of the “Retro-Pulp”/”New Pulp” stuff, in that we’re not using the aesthetic for kitsch or playing it for laughs. It’s a very difficult concept to get across. It’s also why I think it’s worthwhile to show by example, which is why I strongly recommend folks read the pulps (particularly those that I’ve reviewed, because they are literally the context I’ve been using and measuring other stories against) and read previous issues of Cirsova to get an idea of just what I’m looking for.

Now, why did I bring up McCleery’s post?

Well, in addition to trying to define Superversive in his post, and trying to show that they are not mutually exclusive, he gives a pitch for his story that he is advertising as being a Superversive Pulp story:

It’s about a man, a man confronted with the injustices of a tyrannical usurper trying to slay the woman he loves, and to defend her, he becomes something greater than he is, using self-discipline and training to go from a plain warrior to someone of unmatched prowess. He’s morally straight and kind, but has courage in the face of incredible adversity, won’t shirk from trouble because it’s, well, trouble, and also refuses to do the wrong thing when that would make life easier, but compromise his conscience. Right there, that checks off two boxes listed above (Aspiring/Inspiring and Heroic).

He travels the world I have made, sees wonders, sees beauties unearthly. He goes into the most dangerous of places, and grows stronger for it.

He is guided by virtue, and eventually meets up with some other characters, many of whom are morally questionable. Through their interaction with him, these characters become more selfless, virtuous, and heroic themselves, and go from morally grey to heroes (there’s the Aspiring/Inspiring). In this world, there’s a clear line denoting what is good and bad, and that the evil usurper is bad, a cutthroat despot who isn’t scared to shed innocent blood (and she does this out of envy and desire for power, not because she was abused as a child or was a psychopath). Good is good, bad is bad, and while the hero isn’t %100 good, he aspires to be good (thus, the Virtuous box is checked).

And ultimately, the hero fights to restore the throne to the rightful ruler, and does so. He is not a pawn of chance, incapable of making his own decisions. He decides, and those choices have consequences. His actions have an effect, and he doesn’t react to the world, but proactively acts (thus fulfilling the Decisive category). And lastly, I’m not deconstructing ideals of heroism or other healthy cultural paradigms (thus fulfilling the Non-Subversive category).

So, I’m writing a Superversive story, one that will be published in a magazine.

Here’s the catch. It’s being published in Astounding Frontiers, Superversive SF’s pulp revival magazine. The description above is accurate, but focuses on the Superversive themes, not the pulp.

My story is about a soldier, charged with guarding the elegant and demure Space Princess, scion of a star (She kind of glows). He teams up with a stoic yet wise Void-wielding pseudo-Buddhist attack monk lizard alien man, a rough-and-tumble yet oddly maternal cyborg techno-necromancer (who’s art is drawn from Daoist philosophy), a giant crustaceanoid barbarian who’s bulletproof and very violent, and the crustaceanoid barbarian’s love, a sorceress insectoid-alien who is refined and demure (as refined and demure as an insectoid lady of high breeding level can be).

He flies in a ship that sails through the ether, and goes from a soldier to a sorcerer-knight who wields the ether and the Void, among other powers. He breaks into the vault of the imperial sorcerers to plunder its knowledge, and fights the horrendous beast that lurks in the heart of a sun. There’s travelling through the myriad avenues of death, Way Cool armor forged from the substanceless Void, action and heroism aplenty.

My story has battles on space ships, duels to the death, a classic romance, and a Space Princess, ethereal and beautiful. It has sorcery used alongside laser cannons and futuristic technology, where a battle can take place with scrambler beams or ether blades. Settings include the deadly library of sorcery, an ancient temple, and ruins of an M.C. Escher palace that is suspended in the heart of a hollow sun. It looks at genre distinctions and laughs in their face.

Now, a couple of things about this. This is a pitch. It gives you an idea of what the story will be about, but there’s no way to know whether this story is going to be any good or not. Also, that’s a LOT to try to cram into a short story*. Awhile back, I made a one sentence pitch for Schuyler Hernstrom’s The First American as an example of how it could be done (“Lizardmen stole a barb caveman’s dame, so he goes to a wizard who is an astronaut who gene-splices him and gives him a shotgun so he can rescue his dame from the lizardmen”), and that was a novella length work into which all of they X, Y, and Z were crammed. Another thing, I don’t know what deal McCleery has with the Superversives for their publication, so this is in regards to our publication, not theirs or anyone else’s, but as a general rule, unless you’ve finished writing your story, submitted it to me, and I’ve paid you for it, don’t say “here is the story I’m writing that will be published in Cirsova”, regardless of whether I’ve told you that your elevator pitch sounds awesome. That hasn’t happened yet, but it’s something I felt worth pointing out.

But back to pitches. What sounds great in a pitch needs to work out on the page. We’re not specifically looking for gonzo or how crazy and wild you can write a story. There may be a mistaken notion about the Pulp Revolution that to them Pulp is like some kind of Mountain Dew commercial, skiing down a mountain, chased by laser wolves, and screaming “PULP!” A lot of us make joke about that sort of thing, but that’s more about the bants than it is the serious business of writing and critiquing stoires. As for Cirsova, we are not the silly magazine that publishes silly and extreme stories for the sake of silliness and extremity. We’re looking for GOOD stories that are well written and have the potential to be entertaining to readers who enjoy action and romance. Ultimately, that is a far stronger consideration for whether we will acquire a story than whether it falls into a Superversive rubric or a Pulp rubric or a Pulp Revolution rubric, straw or otherwise.

*:Note – Corey’s pointed out that his pitch is for a serial; this is stuff that you CAN work into something longer, like a serial format. For our own submission purposes, since we only take serial works on special basis and by request only (please do not ask), we recommend only cramming in as much as you can reasonably work into 5000-7500 words without spreading your story too thin.

2018 Submissions, Updating Guidelines, New Pulp Rev Anthologies, and Hugo Stuff

I’ve noticed that with minor rants on twitter, I tend to have less blog fodder, because the thinks come out as shallow thinks in a couple tweets, which get it out of my system, rather than deep thinks which end up as blog posts.

Anyway, Issue 5 is out the door, and barring any of customer support issues I have to deal with, we’ve put it behind us and ready to move onto what needs to be done for issue 6. I’ll have a physical proof today or tomorrow to do my markups on, so we’re well on track, which brings us to the next thing.

2018 Submissions!

I’ve updated our submissions page with some additional criteria and guidelines.

Our submissions will be open from June 1st to July 15th.

Please do not send us anything before June 1st! We might lose it, and you don’t want that to happen. If you’ve got something you’ve been holding onto, polish it. Polish it good, and try to make sure that it meets those standard manuscript formatting requirements (it helps more than someone who’s never tried to edit a magazine might realize).

Our rates have not changed; we still pay 0.01 per word with an additional 0.01 bonus on the first 2.5k words ($50 for 2.5k, $75 for 5k, $100 for 7.5K, etc).

We’ll be buying roughly 120K words of content for 2018.

New Anthologies

We don’t have anything to do with these directly, but they’re pretty exciting and feature some Cirsova contributors and our friends.

Misha Burnett is putting together a 21st Century Thrilling Adventure anthology (yes, I know the blog post has a different title; I’m going by the G+ group’s name). Previously, Misha Burnett pulled together the Eldritch Earth Geophysical Society and collaborated with Cirsova to release those stories in our most recent issue, so you can be sure that the awesome-potential for this new anthology is really high.

Also, in response to something of a challenge regarding some bluster over the Five Fates anthology, Jesse Abraham Lucas has decided to put together an answer to it from the less well established voices in Pulp Revolution. This will be an underground anthology featuring voices from the underground of a movement which itself is underground. Chew on that, hipsters! This one is still in the brainstorming stages, but it could be really great!

Hugo Awards Stuff
We just got our instructions on what we need to do to put together our Hugo Voter Packet, so we’re in the process of getting that assembled.

A few things I’ve noticed:

  • A Hugo nod only got us a negligible day-one spike in traffic; it pales in comparison to the time someone linked to us in Larry Correia’s blog comments.
  • Media really doesn’t seem that interested in the Hugos; other than sharing the standard press release, coverage has been “LOL, Stix Hiscock!” and “Hey, these Marvel comics that are supposedly not selling well got nominations, so they’re actually doing great, right?” The relatively low vote bar for a nomination isn’t the greatest indicator of sales numbers or profitability, lemme tell ya!
  • The biggest media outlets in the state we’re based in didn’t even pick up the press release.

Still, the Voter packet is a huge deal for us. I’d estimate our readership at somewhere between 150-200. Even if only a tiny fraction of the Worldcon membership gives us a look, that’s a chance to hugely expand our readership.

I don’t have any illusions about our chances and would not be surprised if we get nuked for no other reason than being on Vox Day’s list. We weren’t on the original Rabid Puppies list, which should be no surprise, since we really don’t publish the sort of stuff that’s in his wheelhouse, but Jeffro and some other folks put in a good word for us. However we ended up with a nomination, I’m just happy to be here.

If you want to support us in the Hugo Awards contest, you can do so by becoming a Worldcon member. I won’t make any appeal to try to convince folks who just aren’t interested in or don’t want to support Worldcon to do so just to vote for us, but we’re participating, because to change things, one has to participate.

If you want to support the magazine itself, the best ways to do so are buying copies (Amazon, Lulu) or advertising with us. If you’ve read the magazine, please leave reviews!

 

If You Have Questions, We Have Answers (Interview Roundup)

*Stickied Post

If you’ve just found out about Cirsova from our Hugo Nomination, hi! If you’d like to know more about us, who we are, and what we do, a great place to start would be these interviews we’ve done over the last few months.

Red Sun Magazine – Interview with Cirsova Magazine

Nya Reads -EDITOR INTERVIEW – ‘CIRSOVA HEROIC FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION MAGAZINE’

Castalia House (Scott Cole) – A Conversation With P. Alexander: Cirsova Magazine

Chris Lansdown – Cirsova Magazine

Jon Del Arroz – Interview with Cirsova Magazine Editor P. Alexander

Nya Designs – EDITORS TALK DESIGN #1 – P. ALEXANDER, CIRSOVA MAGAZINE

Sexy Space Princesses and Super Starship Battles! (Geek Gab, Episode 66!) (Audio)

Or, you can always ask questions here! We’re always happy to field questions!

Attempting to Define the Pulp Revolution: What It Is and What It Is Not

The “Pulp Revolution” seems to be met with confusion, misunderstanding and conflation when those unfamiliar with what is going on first catch wind of it. As such, I wanted to try to define and explain some of what the Pulp Revolution is and is not to dispel some of those misunderstandings. I’d like to disclaim that Cirsova Magazine is NOT the Pulp Revolution (it’s much bigger than us), though we are happy to be a part of it, with many friends and writers who are involved to varying degrees. 

The Pulp Revolution is not a genre or a subgenre.

The Pulp Revolution is not about reprints or rehashes. We are writing and creating new things every day.

The Pulp Revolution is apolitical and international. There are writers and readers from all walks of life and all political persuasions – the Pulp Revolution only cares about great storytelling.

Pulp Revolution is not a rebranding of the Sad Puppies. Some of us got drawn into the maelstrom of fandom politics when Sad Puppies 3 blew up and caught our attention, but at this point, we’re doing our own thing independent of Sad PuppiesTM. In fact, I daresay that the Mad Genius Club might be happier without us being associated with them.

We also aren’t just a rebranding of modern pulp (New Pulp/Pulp Revival). Those cats are doing what they do largely apart from us. To my knowledge, there’s been very little if any crossover influence between the New Pulp/Pulp Revival crowd and the Pulp Revolution folks.

We are not using the term “Pulp” as a substitute for “classic SF” pre 1990. Various folks involved with the Pulp Revolution may have slightly different definitions, but I’m talking about the literal pulp format (not the digest mags), and in terms of influence, I’m specifically looking at a handful of titles that published stories that influence MY acquisition guidelines (Planet Stories, Weird Tales, Thrilling Wonder Stories, and Argosy, if you need some specifics).

We are not using the pulps to recapture kitsch; we are not using the pulps as a trope-mine. What we are doing is going back to some of the exemplary authors from that period and using them as a starting point. Not to ape them, but because we love them – we love the stories they told, the characters they brought to life, and the vivid colors in which they painted the exciting futures and worlds of the unknown.

We are not hell bent on re-inhabiting the past; we are using it as a launching point to go off in new directions. We do not ignore nor do we deny the influence of writers who are not from the pulp eras.

The Pulp Revolution today has only a tenuous link to the ‘pulp revolution’ of the 70s. That pulp revolution was part of the climate that inspired things like D&D by bringing a bunch of pulp writers who had fallen into semi-obscurity back into the forefront via paperback reprints, pastiches and homages. But that was 40 years ago. That was a generation ago. Many of us were not even alive in 70s, much less old enough to been a part of that resurgent wave of fiction. Do not assume that because people got interested in the pulps 40 years ago that everything is all good and people don’t need to get interested in the pulps again. There was not an unbroken cultural continuity that kept those works and authors in the public conscious. Do not assume that we are only talking about Burroughs, Howard or Lovecraft. Do not assume that because you have old works sitting on your shelf that people today know about them or worse that new people do not need to be told about them or should not be excited about them.

I am curious what lessons we are relearning that we do not need to relearn. Of course authors are going to write what they want to write – that is why we are supporting those who do who also happen to be writing the stories we love. Many writers involved have been writing for years, yes. The Pulp Revolution itself is more defined by the surge of excitement among these authors’ shared reader-base, who have come together to celebrate and encourage what they are doing.

But we have already been done. We are pointless. We will cease being a thing after a relatively short time. We can safely be ignored.

We Did It! Cirsova 3 & 4 Funded!

We raised over $3,000 in pre-orders for our 3rd Kickstarter! That should be enough to pull together two issues in 2017.

Additionally, we’ve got some really cool stuff that will be sneaking their way into issues 3 & 4! We had just enough space to squeeze The Space Witch, a short piece by Schuyler Hernstrom, into issue 3, and we are looking to acquire My Name is John Carter Pt. 3 by James Hutchings to stick in Issue 4 so our readers won’t have had to wait an entire year for the next part of his ongoing retelling of A Princess of Mars. That’ll put us at a total of 330 pages of Fiction for the second half of 2016!

We will have additional details as they come, and very soon folks will be able to download their digital rewards.  In the meantime, Issue 2 is free all this week (M-F) on Amazon to celebrate, and, because of how the two versions got their own listings, will be free next week (M-F) as well!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1161542777/cirsova-sff-pulp-zine-issues-3-and-4

Last Week for a Big Push!

It’s the last week of our Kickstarter for issues 3 & 4! We’ve been hovering around just $200 shy of our goal as backers tinker with their pledge levels down the final stretch.  To be safe, I’d like to see us well up over our $2500 goal so no last second surprises sink the ship.

Some things to consider:

-Backing for $1 gets you 3 issues

-Backing for $3 gets you all 4 of our 2016 issues

-We have a track record of delivering pledge rewards within about a month of the Kickstarter’s end date (two weeks for funds to process and about two weeks for fulfilled items to arrive.

-By those who have read us, we are considered one of the best new ongoing SFF publications on the market.

Please help us clear this hurdle so we’ll have funds to keep going in 2017!