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.

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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!

 

Cirsova Receives Hugo Nomination for Best Semi-Pro Zine!

It is incredibly difficult to convey just how hard it’s been to keep this under my hat for the last couple of weeks. I’ve been so excited that I just wanted to scream.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us and made this possible! If I name names, I know I’ll forget folks, so I’ll try to cover everyone as best I can. Thank you to my fellow bloggers at Castalia House, thank you to the Alt-Furry crew for putting us on Sad Pookas, thank you to the folks on Pulp Twitter, thanks to everyone who follows and reads the blog, thanks to the friends and family who’ve supported us, and especially thanks to all of our readers and contributors – without you, we’d be just another WordPress site!

I probably won’t be able to make it up to Finland this year, but if any local Helsinki black metal musicians plan on attending Worldcon, I’d be thrilled to have you to accept the award on our behalf!

Issue 5 Going Out to Backers – Submissions Pre-Announcement

Issue 5 has been sent to all backers who’ve backed for physical copies (minus those still getting their surveys in).

Plan is still for the ebook version to go live on the 31st. If you missed the Kickstarter, you can still pre-order here:

If you want to get in on next year’s Cirsova, get writing and get editing. We WILL have a very brief open submissions period from June to July. Space will be very limited, so I recommend writing shorter pieces (5000-7500 words). I’ll post more specific guidelines closer to when we’re ready to open, but for now the following should suffice:

Do Send:

  • action driven stories
  • stuff with space ships
  • stuff with swords
  • stuff with rayguns
  • stuff with dashing heroes
  • stuff with daring dames

Don’t Send:

  • thinky stories where nothing happens
  • math problems or engineering troubleshooting disguised as fiction*
  • stuff with elves

We pay semi-pro rates of 1 cent per word with a bonus of an additional 1 cent per word on the first 2500 words. Payment is on acceptance for exclusive rights for one calendar year from the date of the publication.

*:we do accept “Hard” Science Fiction, just make sure that it’s something like Karl Gallagher’s Torchship or Paul Ernst’s Raid on the Termites (.

Cirsova Pre-Orders for 2017

Many of you know the routine by now. For those who don’t, here’s the scoop! We are using Kickstarter to take pre-orders and sell subscriptions for our 2017 issues. As usual, all stories have been paid for.   Our cover artists are paid. Layout is more or less done, and Issue 5 is already in the hands of our copy editors.

What do we have in store for 2017?

Our Spring issue (Cirsova #5) primarily features stories from Misha Burnett’s Eldritch Earth Geophysical Society, a writing group devoted to telling Burroughsian adventure stories set on a pre-historic Lovecraftian Earth. Expect unspeakable monsters from the stars, cultists, sorcerers, lizardmen, crabmen, fishmen (and fishwomen) and every manner of daring rogue! Also, Adrian Cole’s Witchfinder Arrul Voruum investigates the lingering evil in Karkesh in an all new Dream Lords story, Michael Tierney cooks up a historical fantasy with Bears of 1812, and Lynn Rushlau tells of daring escape in Through the Star-Thorn Maze.  Plus, the latest installment in James Hutchings’ My Name is John Carter.

Cover art by Benjamin A. Rodriguez.

issue-5-front-cover

Novella  

  • The First American, by Schuyler Hernstrom

Short Stories

  • In the Gloaming O My Darling, by Misha Burnett
  • War of the Ruby/Shapes in the Fog, by Brian K. Lowe
  • Beyond the Great Divide, by S.H. Mansouri
  • Darla of Deodanth, by Louise Sorensen
  • The Queen of Shadows, by Jay Barnson
  • A Killing in Karkesh, by Adrian Cole
  • Through the Star-Thorn Maze, by Lynn Rushlau
  • The Bears of 1812, by Michael Tierney

Poetry

  • My Name is John Carter (Part 4), by James Hutchings

Our Fall Issue (Cirsova #6) will feature the usual array of exciting SFF goodness, including the return of a few characters introduced to our readers in previous issues; Strongjohn picks up on Triton where At the Feet of Neptune’s Queen left off, Thompson’s adventurer Captain Anchor Brown pursues a mysterious god-beast deep in the wilds, present meets past in the Sacred City as Cole continues his  Dream Lords saga, plus more Othan! We’ve also got some Raygun Romance from Spencer Hart & Tyler Young, and the start of a brand new Sword & Sorcery series by Jim Breyfogle.

Cover art by Ku Kuru Yo.

Issue 6 Cover 1 front only.png

Novelettes

  • The Last Job on Harz, by Tyler Young
  • Magelords of Ruach, by Abraham Strongjohn

Short Stories

  • The Battlefield of Keres, by Jim Breyfogle
  • Tear Down the Stars, by Adrian Cole
  • Temple of the Beast, by Hal Thompson
  • Death on the Moon, by Spencer Hart
  • Othan, Vandal, by Kurt Magnus

Essay

  • TBA

We have simplified our offerings a bit, focusing on those previous pledge levels that were most popular. Both 2017 issues will be approximately the same page-count, so there will not be an issue of one item having a substantially different unit cost as was the case with our winter issue.

We will be attempting to sell advertisement again through Kickstarter. To simplify things, anyone pledging for a advertising slot can add to their pledge at whatever level they would like to back to include physical copies. To keep matters simple, advertisers buying ads through Kickstarter do not need to worry about shipping costs if they are outside the US. You want the back cover ad and both softcover copies? Just pledge $120, and we’ll sent them anywhere in the world at no extra charge.

If you want adspace in both issues, pledge for #5 and double your pledged amount.

1/4 Page – 3.5″ w x 4.5″ h 300 DPI

Back Cover – 7-8″ w x 8.75″ h 300 DPI

Please prepare ad images as high res .PNG or .TIF files.

Advertisements for Issue 5 should be sent to no later than one week after the end of the Kickstarter.

Risks and challenges

Like our last pre-order Kickstarter, backers are taking a bigger gamble, as they will be pledging for two issues which will not be sent right away.

However, Cirsova has a proven track record of delivering in a timely manner, adhering to our release schedule.

As in the past, all story content is paid for. Our volunteers have been doing wonderful turn-around work on deep pass copy-edits, and I expect them to continue doing so.

While things are still on an upward track for us, our coffers did hit empty after making 2017 acquisitions. Still, it’s all paid for and we don’t have any expenses that will prevent the issues from being completed. Rest assured that following the success of this Kickstarter we will have funds to cover all expenses related to fulfilling backer rewards. However, we WILL need to go above and beyond our goals for 2017 subscriptions to remain viable as a semi-pro paying market into 2018.