Today I am interviewing Casey Brown, editor of the relatively new speculative fiction magazine Strangelet.
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DJ: Hey Casey! Thanks for stopping by to do this interview!
Let’s cut right to the chase: tell us a little bit about Strangelet Journal, who you are and what your role is with the magazine.
Casey Brown: Hi DJ, thanks for having me! Strangelet is a small, independent speculative lit magazine founded in 2012 by six Emerson College alumni (5 grad students from the MA Publishing & Writing program and 1 undergrad from the Communications department). Our first issue, Issue 0, came out in September of 2014. In 2015, we published four small issues (~10k words each) and our volume 1 year-end omnibus. This year, we are publishing five small issues and the volume 2 omnibus (we plan to continue that release schedule into the future). We seek to publish the space where literary meets speculative.
As for myself, I’m the founding executive editor and I am an ex-Army, D&D/Pathfinder-playing, racecar driving (sort of), moderate pseudo-Texan who grew up thinking he was going to be an astrophysicist and astronaut (I wanted to be the first person to step on Mars) until he had to take calculus in college. It was while serving as the acting-production editor of Callaloo that I realized I enjoyed working on a literary journal. My biggest literary influences were probably Jean M. Auel, Raymond E. Feist, and Carl Sagan (with dozens of smaller influencers, such as C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Anne McCaffrey, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, Stephen King, Arthur C. Clark, William Gibson, etc.).
DJ: What kind of stories and material can readers expect in each issue?
CB: We kind of hope that readers find prose they didn’t expect in our pages. We love subtly strange, adroitly speculative, weird, and fantastic stuff that, while short, can get you imagining entire new universes. As each issue is about 10k words long, it will contain a few short stories, some poetry, some art, and some flash. We like to keep our small issues as varied as possible to highlight the variety of length and forms that speculative prose can come in. When putting each issue together, I sometimes find unintentional commonalities or themes and I like to tie things together; sometimes a poem, which is good on its own, becomes profound when placed before a particular short story.
DJ: Being an editor, what do you believe makes a good science fiction or fantasy story?
CB: The best stories IMMEDIATELY remove any disbelief you might have that their universe exists. Not by telling you, “Hey, believe this!” but by immersing you so quickly and completely into the narrative that you have no other choice but to lay aside your doubts and just run with it. Great characterization, scene setting, and plot development all do this for me. I, and many workshop instructors, shout “Show! Don’t tell!” until our faces are blue. There’s a reason for that.
DJ: This may be a difficult question to answer, but what are some of your favorite stories to be published in Strangelet Journal?
CB: Oh man, that’s ballsy to ask editors! (laughs) I really, really love “The Summoner” by Colin Wolcott from our Issue 0—which is why it is the very first piece in our very first issue. Just the idea alone, of a lonely asshole of a weatherman summoning an elder god in his attic, just to get help with his weather forecasts, and then drinking beer with it while watching telenovelas, is brilliant. I want Colin to write an entire book about this guy and his lame uses of demon-summoning power!
From Volume 1, Jarod Anderson’s “The Better Angels of Parasites” is short but powerful; that story could be pasted into an episode of The Expanse, or into a William Gibson- or Ridley Scott-esque future, and feel right at home. From this year, coming up in our July issue, Karen Heuler’s piece “After They’ve Gone” is a really smart angle on the alien abduction trope.
DJ: What were some of the inspirations behind staring Strangelet Journal? What did you hope to achieve in starting it?
CB: I pitched the idea of founding a new speculative lit magazine to my friends and classmates after attending AWP 2012 in Chicago. During a panel on whether or not speculative fiction can also be literary (of course it can!), Matt Williamson, editor of the now-defunct (but awesome) Unstuck, begged the audience to create new markets for smart, speculative work as his slush pile was overflowing with publishable material that he did not have room for. Luckily, my friends thought it was a great idea and we quickly got to work on making our vision a reality. We are proud to be a semi-pro market for new and emerging authors as we believe authors should be paid for their published works (we just wish we could pay more!).
DJ: How has the experience been for you since starting the magazine?
CB: It’s been a lot of work, especially the first year—I think we were meeting once a week, in person, despite all having classes and/or full-time jobs. Just hashing out the journal’s name took us a while. Some meetings were lots of fun, others were all about business and getting it done. It’s been very rewarding for me, personally, to work with my friends and the authors; I sometimes offer developmental editing suggestions and the authors have always been great to work with. I’ve come to learn that developmental editing, which I enjoy doing, is one of my strengths as a result of my work on the magazine—so much so that I am embarking on a freelance editing career (cbediting.com). Also, I’ve really enjoyed finding commonalities and themes in very diverse works, which is why there have been more special issues (such as issue 2.1 [January 2016 “Women Writing Women: Transformations”])
DJ: How do you feel Strangelet Journal is doing so far? What are some goals for the magazine in the next coming years, and the distant future?
CB: That we exist is a small miracle as our audience still remains almost too small to support us despite the positive feedback we continue to receive. It’s tough out there for magazines, there are a ton of markets vying for customers’ support. As Neil Clarke (of Clarkesworld) said at Boskone 2016, there are only three markets with paid, full-time staff. For Strangelet to survive and grow, we must get better at marketing ourselves and in getting our authors’ help in marketing their stories, and hence our issues, to their friends and family members. We are publishing GREAT stuff at a killer price; we just need for more people interested in speculative prose to know about us. If we can succeed, my wildest dream is that I want Strangelet to be my full-time job—part of a small publishing empire which publishes my author’s books, pitches their screenplays, and markets them at conventions. In this regard, Bill Campbell of Rosarium Publishing, guest editor of our September issue, is my hero (plus, he’s a great guy).
DJ: Are you currently open to submissions? For what kind of material and until when?
CB: We are normally open for submissions year-round; however, due to the influx of material we received for Bill’s issue, and the ton of screening that occurred as a result, we are giving our screeners and advisory editors a few months off to let them catch up on other projects. We will be re-opening submissions, for graphic, flash, short stories, poetry, art, and even non-fiction (still waiting on that first graduate-level essay that is not a memoir), shortly before Bill’s issue comes out in September.
DJ: If anyone would like to subscribe or support Strangelet Journal, how would they go about doing that?
CB: For as little as $1 per issue, Patreon supporters can get a digital copy of each issue (normally priced at $2.99). https://www.patreon.com/Strangelet?ty=h
DJ: Where can readers find out more about Strangelet Journal?
DJ: Before go, big question: why should readers check out Strangelet Journal, and what separate it from other magazines out there?
CB: You snuck this in at the end! I think readers should check us out if they are looking for speculative prose which is NOT just brain candy. If you want work that will make you stop and digest what you just read, to mull it over and think about it, pick up an issue. I’d recommend picking up a digital copy of one of our volume 2 issues for $2.99, or get Issue 0 for $6.99; if you like it, grab our Volume 1 omnibus and catch up on what we published last year, then catch up on our volume 2 issues. As for what makes us different, I just have to suggest that our readers trust the sensibilities and tastes of our screeners, advisory editors, and, of course, myself. We have no agenda other than to publish really good, really smart, really well-written speculative prose; works which we hope continue to surprise ourselves and our readers with their originality and quality. We only publish about 3% of the submissions we receive, so we are very selective.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
CB: Thank you for having me! May your day be just a bit strange!
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*** Strangelet Volume 2, Issue 4 has just been released TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Issue:
About the Magazine:
After They’ve Gone by Karen Heuler
Concepcion by Adam Breckenridge
Rustles From Within by Victorya Chase
Practical Fairy Tales for Girls Like You by Lauren Spinabelli
Cloud Mountains—How to Climb Them by Michael J. DeLuca
Gox by Boona Daroom
The Woman in White by Cyn Bermudez
TOAD by Luke Spooner / Carrion House
Casey has degrees in History (B.A., Texas A&M Univ.), Creative Writing (B.A., Univ. of Houston), and Publishing and Writing (M.A., Emerson College). An army veteran, he also served as the acting production editor for Callaloo from 2008 to 2009. Casey (NG male human expert 8/fighter 2) is the self-published author of BDKR1: The Unofficial Living Greyhawk Bandit Kingdoms Summary, a work which takes a scholarly approach to documenting an extensive Dungeons & Dragons campaign. He has been domesticated by his rescues, Gryffindor the Maine Coon and Ruby the Treeing Walker Coonhound, and lives with his wife in the Boston area.
Contact Casey if you have questions about Strangelet’s editorial direction, our screening processes, or if you want to query about our possible interest in a work of nonfiction.