We’re taking a blog break for the remainder of 2020, and for our last blog post of the year, we thought some of you might be interested in our submissions statistics for the year. As you will see, we’re nowhere near getting as many submissions as many of the SFFH pro or even semi-pro mags and, we assume, less than even some of the smallest established presses. But we are brand new, looking for a specific kind of story in a longer format, so it is unlikely that many writers will have such a story just hanging out on their hard drives. We remain optimistic that we will continue to publish important, high-quality climate stories housed in beautiful books in 2021 and beyond.
We received a total of 36 manuscripts in 2020. We accepted 4 of those submissions from our slush pile, and 1 submission is still pending. We issued 4 opportunities to Revise & Resubmit; 2 authors took us up on that offer.
Genre & Length Breakdown
Of the 36 manuscripts, the genre breakdown was as follows:
- Science Fiction – 19
- Fantasy – 9
- Horror – 4
- Literary – 1
- Non-fiction essay collection – 1
- Short story collection – 1
- Thriller – 1
The length of our submissions breaks down as follows:
- Novella – 27
- Collection – 2
- Novel – 7
Of the four manuscripts we accepted for publication in 2020 and 2021, 2 are fantasy, 1 is science fiction, and 1 is horror. 3 are novellas, and 1 is a short novel.
This section is tricky because we didn’t ask people to identify their particular demographics in their cover letters, but some people included some details about themselves if relevant to the manuscript. Most people included contact information in Shunn format, hence we have country of residence information. In 2020 writers sent us stories from the following countries:
- The United States – 24
- Canada – 6
- UK – 1
- Holland – 1
- India – 2
- Sri Lanka – 1
- Egypt – 1
While we did not ask people to reveal their gender identity, sometimes writers shared this information in relation to their story. As not all writers did share this information, some assumptions were made when compiling the following list of submissions broken down by gender identity:
- Men – 19
- Women – 15
- Non-binary trans people – 2
Likewise, some authors shared race/ethnicity information. Because some writers did not disclose, the “white” category may be artificially inflated. That breakdown is as follows:
- White – 30
- Black – 1
- Latinx – 1
- Indigenous – 1
- South Asian – 2
- East Asian – 1
Even if the “white” category is artificially inflated, it’s clear that Stelliform needs to do more outreach to BIPOC writers in 2021. We are currently closed to submissions for all except for Canadian BIPOC and that will continue — though perhaps we will open to global BIPOC at some point. When we closed our general submissions, we (perhaps predictably) received far fewer manuscripts, indicating that the problem may be getting the word out in the right places. One acquisition strategy we started somewhat late in the year was to solicit and commission writers we admire (which has not yet borne tangible fruit, but exciting talks are underway) and we will continue to focus our outreach on BIPOC writers and their stories in the coming year. A secondary part of that strategy will be to continue seeking out amazing SFFH and literary climate stories by BIPOC writers and reviewing those stories on our blog.
2020, that’s a wrap! For a year that was and continues to be pretty hellish, we did ok — good, even. We’ll do even better in 2021.
Happy holidays to those of you celebrating. See you in January!
Since we started the press in January, we’ve been working on populating the blog with reviews of our favourite science fiction, fantasy, and horror. These reviews focus on environmental content, or content that offers a different perspective on non-human life and our relation to it, or the social structures that contribute to human as well as ecological damage. The reviews helped to give readers and writers an idea of the kinds of stories we like, which was especially important when we didn’t have any books yet published. But the reviews are also a service to our community. We want the stories we love to find readers; and writing about them contributes to a critical mass of awareness about great SFFH stories.
In this post we’re recapping all the reviews we posted in 2020, organized by date (earliest to latest) and type of review.
- “Lanny Boykin Rises Up Singing” by Jess Barber (published in Reckoning 2 in 2018)
- “Eclipse our Sins” by Tlotlo Tsamaase (published in Clarkesworld 159, 2019)
- “More Sea Than Tar” by Osahon Ize-Iyamu (published in Reckoning 3 in 2019)
- “The Ones Who Stay and Fight” by N.K. Jemesin (published in Jemesin’s collection How Long ‘Til Black Future Month in 2018)
- “Hello, Hello” by Seanan McGuire (published in Lightspeed in 2019, and Future Visions in 2015)
- E.I. Richardson’s “A Good Mother” (published in Syntax and Salt)
- Kelly Robson’s Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach
- Rivers Solomon’s The Deep (with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes)
- Brooke Bolander’s The Only Harmless Great Thing
- P. Djèlí Clark’s The Black God’s Drums
- Margaret Killjoy’s The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion
- Kathleen Jennings’ Flyaway
- Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora (Volume One)
- Reckoning 4
Long Reviews: Selena Middleton and Kristen Shaw Discuss Books They Loved
Reckoning 4: Cities, a collection of creative writing (including short stories, poems, and essays) on environmental justice, was edited by Arkady Martine and Danika Dinsmore. The volume opens with Martine’s introduction in which she professes her love of the urban and its structures. These structures are increasingly embattled by climate change. Martine laments the heat which cracks concrete, the floods which seep into the cracks. Her editorial voice like a cry of grief, she presents the stories, essays, and poems of Reckoning 4 as a balm. Not only comfort, but also retribution and the re-creation of exquisite hybrid forms.
This review will focus on some of the short stories of the collection, though the poems provide poignant moments in which the reader catches their breath between narratives. The nonfiction essays, such as the final solarpunk manifesto from Commando Jugendstil, make tangible connections between the material present and a speculative future. The volume is worth reading in order; it is an experience that is exquisitely curated.
The Last Good Time to Be Alive
“The Last Good Time to Be Alive” by Waverly SM is about flooding in the towns that surround London. SM’s story even-handedly switches from text logs between two queer characters, “antediluvian” (Marlo) and “ZRI” (Zuri Emmanuel), and a second-person narrative which places the reader firmly into Zuri’s perspective. The form and structure of this story bolsters a tender, emotional narrative in which Marlo and Zuri struggle with fear for their physical safety, a desire to be safe together, and Zuri’s attachment to the idea of home as safety despite the flood which creeps toward the second floor of Zuri’s house over the course of the story. The text chat especially provides an anchor to love and care, expressed through quaint, anachronistic emoticons as well as written language. The text chat represents an intense and motivating feeling that compels Zuri to risk her life — as she tries to be better and braver than she feels she is — when a child falls into the flood waters across the street from her house. Waverly SM’s characters demonstrate a profound depth of care, an unassailable attachment to those they love, despite the fact that they are embattled by tangible climate change instability.
Thank You For Your Patience
If you’ve read Rebecca Campbell’s other climate change focused fiction (such as “An Important Failure” in the August 2020 issue of Clarkesworld), the scope of this story will feel familiar. Campbell simultaneously drills deep into human relationships and feelings, that which connects us to others, bringing to the fore the ways that both oppressive systems and climate change threaten those connections. In “Thank You For Your Patience” Campbell’s protagonist — Mark, a “floater” with Westermorgan’s IT call centre — discovers that a dropped call with a woman on the West Coast was caused by an unprecedented earthquake. That he was connected to this woman in her final moments motivates Mark to evaluate his relationships to other people in his life and how they might be impacted by the earthquake and ensuing tsunami.
Mark’s care for the people he encounters in his day (even though he rarely has face-to-face contact with them) butts up against the ways Westermorgan infringes upon the personal freedom and comfort of its employees. That the story explores the intersections of corporate structures, ecological systems, and human care in a time of crisis creates pervasive tension and strong emotional resonance. Mark’s struggle to do the right thing — that is, to care and act on that care — while constrained by these systems sends a powerful message about the ways that our own systems prevent us from reacting appropriately to both the immediate crises and the longer emergency of climate change.
Billy Ray’s Small Appliance Rehabilitation
In “Billy Ray’s Small Appliance Rehabilitation,” author Geoffrey W. Cole describes a society in which affluent Grahamites live in a gated community which allows them to separate themselves from the ways in which the world around them disintegrates, hybridizes, and changes. They hire Billy Ray and his partner David to “rehabilitate” modern technology, creating a diminished facsimile of gadgets from the early 20th century, a time when technology was still “holy.” While the protagonist, Billy Ray, understands the Grahamites from his outsider’s perspective — he was raised outside the Revelation compound but attended a Grahamite school — his partner David is a Grahamite from an affluent family, raised with regressive views about purity and perfection, who is struggling to reconcile a discovery about his birth to his inherited ideology. At its core, this story is about the ability of love — and the real physical labour that must accompany love in long-term relationships — to forge new kinds of belonging in worlds that often seem to be the antithesis of the word. But it’s also about the limitations of human connection in the face of vast, historical systems of oppression.
This entire volume is worth reading in order; editors Arkady Martine and Danika Dinsmore have created an experience which allows the reader to breathe through both pain and joy. Some favourites not previously mentioned are the lovely, frightening, and surreal “Dead Horse Club” by Jude Wetherell, the harrowing “Growing Roots” by Alan Bao, and the sweet and hopeful “Aluminum Hearts” by Sydney Rossman-Reich.
We highly recommend Reckoning 4 for its powerful and unique ecological perspective and your own reading pleasure.
If you’re nominating for the Hugo and Nebula Awards for 2020, consider Stelliform’s first two novellas: DEPART, DEPART! by Sim Kern, and NIGHT ROLL by Michael J. DeLuca. Read more about these books and their reception below.
Depart, Depart! by Sim Kern
Kern’s novella received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, which you can read here.
When an unprecedented hurricane devastates the city of Houston, Noah Mishner finds shelter in the Dallas Mavericks’ basketball arena. Though he finds community among other queer refugees, Noah fears his trans and Jewish identities put him at risk with certain “capital-T” Texans. His fears take form when he starts seeing visions of his great-grandfather Abe, who fled Nazi Germany as a boy. As the climate crisis intensifies and conditions in the shelter deteriorate, Abe’s ghost grows more powerful. Ultimately, Noah must decide whether he can trust his ancestor — and whether he’s willing to sacrifice his identity and community in order to survive.
Night Roll by Michael J. DeLuca
DeLuca’s novella received a recommended book review from Locus Magazine, which you can read here.
New mother and climate refugee Aileen Dupree has been abandoned by her partner in post-industrial Detroit. Her neighbor, Virgil, comes to her rescue, bringing useful cast-offs and much needed friendship. Virgil is Aileen’s only connection to the outside world, a refuge for an insomniac newcomer who is overwhelmed by the turn her life has taken. But then Virgil borrows Aileen’s prized possession — a chrome and leather, royal blue fourteen-speed bike — and disappears. Aileen doesn’t know if Virgil’s disappearance is an accident or another abandonment.
When she ventures out to look for answers, Aileen hears strange stories of the Elf, a timeless being that has always fought the colonizers and capitalists of Detroit, and now leads the Night Roll on a frantic race through the city’s disintegrating streets. It is up to Aileen to bring Virgil back to his friends and family. But what can the Elf teach her about her new life? And what must she pay for that knowledge?
Both novellas are available for purchase here, or wherever books are sold.
This post is the last in our “Faves” series, in which the Stelliform team discusses some of their most beloved eco- and related fictions. In Part 1, Stelliform Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, Selena Middleton wrote about her love for Hopkinson’s Midnight Robber, Cherie Dimaline’s Empire of Wild, and others. In Part 2, Kristen Shaw and Rae Stoltenkamp wrote about Brooke Bolander’s The Only Harmless Great Thing (which we also reviewed here), Octavia Butler’s The Parable of the Sower, and more.
In this series finale, our Publishing Consultant and occasional proofreader Jacqueline Langille writes about her favourite eco-focused books and films, and what she has learned from the prevalent motif of the unforgiving environment in science fiction.
The Unforgiving Environment
by Jacqueline Langille
While eco-fiction may be labelled a super-genre by some critics, I have mainly read such stories in the realm of science fiction, from Dune by Frank Herbert (1965) to Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (2003). My most recent “favorite book” happens to be eco-sci-fi: Semiosis by Sue Burke (2018). In that novel, which I’ve recommended to everyone I’ve ever spoken to since its publication, the human characters have fled to the stars in search of a new environment to colonize after ecological disasters on Earth. I love this story because no matter how well the humans, in their hubris, prepare to take over a new world, it’s when they build a strong relationship with the local plant life that they are not overcome by this unforgiving environment. They find constant jeopardy in any relation they try to establish with their food sources and their competitors on the planet Pax, and they must rely on other sentient and mobile beings to achieve any sort of longevity, never mind finding peace.
My other favourite eco-fiction examples also feature unforgiving environments, albeit more urban with fewer animal elements, such as the silo habitat in Wool by Hugh Howey (2011) or a decaying dome city in Antarctica in Our Lady of the Ice by Cassandra Rose Clarke (2015). Beyond urban or ice, a liquid world represents one of the most inhospitable habitats for humans, air-breathers and not-great-floaters that we are, and this unforgiving environment is explored with relish in the movie Waterworld (1995). Kevin Costner’s loner tries to survive and adapt, yet his life gains meaning and purpose only when he builds relationships with other humans and shares his skills for living in and on the water. The ecology of Waterworld, its focus on the relationships between human animals and their environment, with some humans continuing to be destructive of course, is why I love that movie (even though its running time is much too long at 135 minutes).
Modern action movies and myth-makers of old tend to focus on great deeds, but the books I enjoy most focus on the relationships. In the best books, I feel like an ecologist discovering how all these relationships work, between characters, within their environment, among the most alien of cultures and planets that human authors can imagine. As I dove into the setting of City of Pearl by Karen Traviss (2004), I knew I had found another unforgiving environment to love. While the human colonizers seem to be making a go of it on a new planet, the hostile elements surface in the plot when they realize they are not alone on this world (more human hubris). And they are not in charge (eek! did I give too much away?). Writing about this book makes me want to order the entire series and live inside that place until next spring.
Evolution by Stephen Baxter (2003), another book I’ve recommended to almost everyone I know, may not fit into the more basic definition of eco-fiction, but the entire planet is our ecosystem, and the history of the planet covers so much more than human relationships with that environment, so it definitely fits. A collection of vignettes about mammals and sentient creatures surviving in various unforgiving Earth environments, this book covers +500 million years (trust me, it’s not confusing when you’re immersed in it). Fiction can help me understand concepts that I know intellectually but that I really don’t take into my core. The previous examples of eco-fiction, along with James Howard Kunstler’s The Long Emergency (2006) helped me understand that humanity’s one chance to survive, let alone thrive, exists in our capacity to build resilient relationships with each other and with our environment. From Evolution, I received an understanding that the before-humans phase of this planet lasted many millions of years, and the after-humans phase will last many hundreds of millions of years too. And that’s okay. If we fail to acknowledge how crucial our relationship with our natural world is and we fail to thrive in this unforgiving environment, it’s tragic and terrible to ponder for future generations of humans, but it’s also okay. It’s only hubris.
Revisit the Series:
Check out Stelliform’s favourite books: