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[GUEST POST] How to Create a Sci-Fi Magazine by Shane R. Collins and Danielle Rose

A few months ago, in a galaxy not far away…

Step One: The Background

I was washing dishes in my underwear one morning when I thought, “Hey! Why don’t I start my own writing magazine?” Over the last three years, I had worked as an editor for a few different university journals and then with Static Movement, an anthology publisher. I realized that I knew how the business worked: I knew how to get talented stories; I knew how to start a website, how to write submission guidelines, and how to format a proof for print. But more importantly, I had an idea, the foundation for any beginning publishing company.

There are dozens of excellent science fiction and fantasy magazines out there that publish inspiring short stories and imaginative poetry. Naturally, I wanted to do this, too, but I wanted to take a step further. I realized that to break into this crowded market, I needed to give the reader more—I needed to give them something they couldn’t find in these other writing magazines.

Step Two: The Idea

My vision was to create a magazine that catered to the speculative writer and reader: I wanted to create the type of magazine that I would want to read. But it wasn’t just about me: I wanted to create exactly what READERS wanted. So in addition to finding short fiction and poetry from both up-and-coming and established writers, I wanted to add interviews with some of the field’s most talented authors. Because I knew most readers want to be writers. I wanted to interview a range of writers: from fledgling to bestselling. Because these are writers you can relate to and writers you aspire to be.

Besides fiction, poetry, and author interviews, I knew I had to throw in some movie madness, because let’s face it: almost everyone enjoys a good film or two. I wanted to make sure that I had the best reviews of the latest speculative Hollywood Blockbusters and Independent films.

I think it’s also important to reward writers for their work, so hosting annual writing contests for fiction, poetry, and artwork seemed to be a must. Informing readers about upcoming speculative conventions and workshops and including the occasional essay describing speculative writing and how to craft it was also at the top of my list.

By this time, I finally figured it out; I had my dream. I envisioned redesigning what a science fiction and fantasy magazine could do—and to push it to The Speculative Edge. Now I just needed a team to make it happen.

Step Three: The Team

I loved to read both fiction and poetry, but I had never edited poetry. I also didn’t have much experience writing it. Chloe Viner, however, had a colorful publishing history. Her poems have appeared in dozens of markets and her first chapbook, Naked Under an Umbrella, was published in 2011 by the renowned Finishing Line Press. (She is also my girlfriend and happened to be sweeping the floor while I had my “dishwashing epiphany.” I ran the idea by her, she loved it, and The Speculative Edge sprang from our minds like Athena from Zeus.)

While working for Static Movement, I published two wonderful short stories by Danielle Rose. As my tour of duty there was nearing its end, she came on board as the newest contributing editor. I told her about the project, and she was excited to help anyway she could. Danielle’s eagerness and enthusiasm were unmatched, and I was delighted to make her the third editor. She will be editing many of our themed issues, as well as helping to judge our contests. She is also our marketing and promotional mastermind (the final very important step in the process).

To give our magazine the Edge it needed, I needed to find a couple of regular contributors to make sure I got the monthly, perceptive reviews I required. Several years ago, there was a film blog I read often called Inside the Briefcase where two critics—John Carney and Kyle James Kernan—gave insightful and honest reviews on movies they’d seen. I emailed them, and they were excited about the project. Now, they’ve joined forces once again and have found a new home within these pages.

And last—but not least—we needed someone who could reliably and consistently provide honest, thoughtful, and insightful book reviews. And then, Trevor Henkel fell from the sky—or at least from Facebook. Young, eager, and well-read, Trevor tosses back speculative novels like the cast of the Jersey Shore do Jaeger and Red Bull. With my background, idea, and staff ready, we had only one step left in the process to starting our own publishing company: we needed writers.

Step Four: Marketing

Without writers willing to submit their pieces and without readers eager to dive into the pages of the magazine, The Speculative Edge would crumble. Luckily, we live in an era where social media has dominated the planet, making it incredibly easy to reach out to potential stars. After creating a website, a Facebook, and a Twitter, submissions began to pour in. But we knew that not all writers were on the web, so we talked to local colleges, coffee shop owners, and writing groups. Eventually, we were able to plaster a poster on just about every street corner from Dartmouth, New Hampshire to Kenosha, Wisconsin, allowing our submission inboxes to burst with the best speculative writing we have ever read.

Starting your own publishing company is a long, trying experience, but if you play your cards right and if you follow four simple steps, you can create some innovative, original, and thought provoking material—something with character, with a personality, but stays organic: to evolve and grow over time.

Shane R. Collins
The Speculative Edge