The Sockdolager is Going on Hiatus

Running a zine is hard, and not for the reasons I thought it would be, and it's also fun, and not for the reasons I thought it would be that, either. For the first three years of the project called The Sockdolager, I did a series of annual invitation-only anthologies, where I hit up friends for fiction, paid them fifty bucks a story, taught myself how to author ebooks, and put 'em on the internet. It was fun and easy.

Then I went to Viable Paradise, and my co-editor Alison went to Clarion West, and we got "serious" about this short fiction thing. Let's open submissions and take this mother quarterly, we decided.

Having by that point done some short-fiction-submission of our own, we had specific ideas of what we wanted to do differently. We wanted to write as many personal rejections as we possibly could (for a while, they were nearly half of our responses). We wanted to aggressively solicit revisions and resubmissions for stories we liked but which in our view needed more work. And we wanted to be as quick with our responses as we possibly could, keeping turnaround times under two weeks if possible, and under a month at most.

With both Alison and I working, this turned out to be just barely doable.

For the majority of The Sockdolager's run as a periodical, we used a meticulously-tagged Gmail inbox as our submission tracking system. Theoretically we were equally responsible for reading slush, but as time went on, it was clear that Alison was doing significantly more of the first-round rejections, in addition to doing 90% of the work on the limited-run print editions we'd decided to make (including those fuckin' baller cover illustrations.)

Late in 2016, Alison had to scale back her involvement in order to focus on drawing the graphic novel she'd sold, which left me as the sole slush reader.

As 2017...happened, it became clear that I was not as good at staying on top of the submission queue as Alison was. Even with a new database-backed submission system and a dedicated tool for writers to check on the status of their submissions within our system—and even after I made the frustrating decision to stop sending personal rejections—it proved impossible for me to keep the average response time for submissions under a month, to say nothing of the elusive two-week goal.

But worse than that for my enthusiasm was the loss of conversation with my co-editor. I had discovered that my favorite day-to-day aspect of editing the zine was talking about submissions with Alison. It was an ongoing discourse about the craft of short fiction from which I learned an enormous amount, and on which I'd come to rely on as a reason to keep reading. Without it, the editorial decision-making process became a lonely chore. Even when I accepted a story, there was no one to enthuse about it to.

Having entirely missed the Spring issue, I closed submissions in early June, and privately made the decision that after the Summer issue was out, The Sockdolager would have to go on indefinite hiatus until circumstances changed.

Which brings us to now.

As usual, I'm incredibly pleased with the latest issue's table of contents. Rolling the Spring and Summer issue's TOCs together resulted in an extra-long collection of fiction, and it feels like we're going out on a bang. Totally coincidentally, the Summer 2017 issue contains no reprints; it's all brand-new to the world. The authors are a good mix of old Sockdolager favorites and new-to-us writers, and it's as rewarding as it's ever been to be pulling the wraps off a new issue. That never does get old.

I've got some ideas for what I'd like to do with the 'Dolager while we're not publishing short fiction. I'd like to polish our submission system into something other publications could use. I'd like to do some writing on the blog, and maybe try and catch up on the over-a-year-behind podcast.

The stories we've published will remain online for as long as I can afford to host them—which barring catastrophe, should be functionally indefinitely.

I want to thank every writer who ever submitted a story to us. We were always keenly aware of how vulnerable it can feel to send your fiction to a stranger who will almost certainly decide they don't like it as much as you do, and a large part of our decision to pause publication is out of our desire to first and foremost do right by those authors we don't publish. The average quality of work we received was always high and it trended higher over time, which we considered a significant honor.

To anyone who read: thank you. To anyone who paid for an issue, thank you and bless you. To be read is, after all, the point of this racket.

Finally I must thank my co-editor Alison Wilgus. It was always her effort that made any of this nonsense possible. Truthfully, the zine is more the result of her work than mine, and however proud I am of how it turned out, she holds claim to a greater share of that pride. If you have ever enjoyed The Big S!, know that it came to you from her editorial pen more than it did mine.

Again, it has been a privilege to publish this zine. I hope to enjoy that privilege again in the future. Until then.

Announcing our guest editor for Winter 2016: Rawles Marie Lumumba

Winter 2016 Special Issue: Women of War

Submission period: August 15th - November 1st

The Sockdolager is thrilled to announce that our eighth issue will be guest edited by author Rawles Marie Lumumba. She offers these thoughts on her chosen theme:

“Women of War” are so often those who have suffered, nameless and forgotten, in the fallout of others’ conflict. But they can also be women who have carved out their own ways to survive and to thrive. Women who have fought their own wars in fields both traditional and extraordinary. Women who are warriors in any or all permutations and conceptions of the word. What is your character’s preferred field of battle and how has she triumphed, persevered, succumbed, or all of the above?

Rawles Marie Lumumba is a Baltimore native, a writer of speculative fiction, and a voracious consumer of narrative in all forms. Her current project is a fantasy novel for teens, and her previous work includes Duskfall, a novella; Media Nocte, which appeared in our own Puzzle Box anthology; and comics scripting for "Avatar: The Last Airbender," since featured in The Lost Adventures. She can be found on Twitter as @rawlesmarie.

In addition to being an excellent storyteller, Rawles has impeccable taste, informed by a deep familiarity with a wide array of genres and mediums. She is a champion of fiction as a tool of social justice and a conduit for joy in equal measures, and we could not be more pleased to have her on the masthead for this issue.

Submissions for this special issue will open on August 15th and close on November 1st.

(Older submissions which are still under consideration as of September 1st will also be considered.)

Coming June 28th: our Summer 2016 Issue!

The debut of our sixth quarterly issue—and the seven brand-new stories therein—is less than a month away. In the meantime, we're thrilled to announce the fantastic lineup of contributing authors.

Rebecca Campbell
Jennifer R. Donohue
Shaenon K. Garrity
Mel Kassel
Michael Milne
Alter S. Reiss
Nathaniel Williams

As always, they'll be available to read for free in their entirety online. But if you'd like to have early access to the issue -- and to help us pay our authors -- you can subscribe to The Sockdolager on Gumroad or Patreon.

Sockdolager Podcast Episode 5: Remember our Winter Issue?

Setting a record for delay between recording (February) and editing (May) -- at last! A new podcast! In which we discuss the final issue of 2015, which included eight fantastic brand-new stories about which we had a great deal to say. Please do laugh at us as we talk about nominating for awards season, a season which concluded several months past.

A bit of news: this summer we will both be at MidAmeriCon II! We definitely want to meet any contributing authors of ours who may be attending, and honestly, we'd love to meet folks who have submitted as well!

We briefly mention the Submissions Grinder in this episode, an excellent resource for short genre fiction writers looking for markets to submit their work to.

And at the end up the episode, we talk a little about our evolving sense of what kinds of stories we're looking for as we read through submissions, and what we're trying to accomplish as a magazine in the short fiction community.

Coming March 22, our Spring 2016 Issue!

In just a few short weeks, we'll debut our first issue of the year, with six new stories and two excellent reprints which we're quite excited to share! 

In the meantime, here's a sneak peak at our lineup:

The Roving Bookstore, by Andrea Corbin
Tofino, by Andrew Neil Gray
Never, by Shane Halbach
Down the Twisting Alleyways, by Kelly Jennings
The Family Ghost, by Rati Mehrotra
As You Were, Aggie, by Rhiannon Rasmussen
Pure and Without Savour, by Deborah Walker
Phasing In, Phasing Out, by Marlee Jane Ward

And remember you can subscribe to us on Gumroad, or via our Patreon! You'll be the first to see our new issues, and you'll help us pay our fantastic writers.

Signal boost: Up and Coming, Stories by the 2016 Campbell-eligible Authors

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer is one of the ways that the SFF prose community recognizes emerging talents. And this year, in order to make it easier for those who nominate for the award to read as widely as possible, SL Huang and Kurt Hunt have put together a fantastic anthology of eligible authors: Up and Coming. The collection includes 230 stories from 120 writers, including several folks whose work has appeared here at The Sockdolager: Charlotte Ashley, Philip Brian Hall, Jason Kimble, Rhiannon Rasmussen, and co-editor Alison Wilgus.

The anthology is free to download, but only until March 31st! So hurry over to their website if you'd like to check it out for yourself!

Sockdolager Podcast Episode 3: Our Fall issue was GREAT

In which we discuss the many things which delighted us about our third issue, and both of us take turns realizing that a major story detail flew right over our heads.

We recorded this back before Christmas but are only now catching up for various Reasons, most of which have to do with streamlining how we edit our episodes. In addition to talking about all of our Fall 2015 stories we also discussed some of the books we enjoyed last year, but ultimately decided to split that off into another episode which we'll be posting later this week.

Read our Fall 2015 issue here!

Show notes:

Mike Reeves-McMillan's Gryphon Clerks novels
The true story of cannibalism on the Mignonette, and the trial which followed
Jason Kimble's other weird west story, Tall, can be read in this anthology
The Sockdolager's 2015 roundup post


Our First Year in Summary, and Further Reading

It's January! That time of year when we all scramble to catch up on our reading before Awards Season begins in earnest!

What We've Been Up To

In 2015, The Sockdolager published 31 stories by 27 authors from around the world, some of them seasoned professionals and others making their first sale. All of them charmed and captivated us with their prose, and we're so glad to have had the opportunity to share fantastic work like this with our readers.

The new stories we featured this year were:

Charge! Love Heart!, by Rhiannon Rasmussen
Panoptes, by Laurence Brothers
Common Knowledge, by A. E. Decker
The Man on the Church Street Omnibus, by Philip Brian Hall
Wearing the Hat, by Mike Reeves-McMillan
Palimpsest, by Frances Rowat
Hadley Full of Hate, by Michael Hernshaw
Zofta, by Jasmine Fahmy
Sigrid Under the Mountain, by Charlotte Ashley
The Road to Babel, by Yaroslav Barsukov
A Fistful of Forever, by Igor Teper
What Happened to Lord Elomar during the Revolution, by Kelly Jennings
Mother Made a Lovely Feast!, by Laura DeHaan
Lock and Key, by Mike Reeves-McMillan
Voice and Silence, by Julia August
The Temple of Thirteen Pleasures, by Laurence Raphael Brothers
Storm on Solar Seas, by T.L. Huchu
Hide Behind, by Jason Kimble
The Will of Parliament, by Charlotte Ashley
Excerpt Regarding the Departed from the Diagnostic and Necromantic Manual, 5th Edition, by Stewart C Baker
Au Ciel Monte, by Aimee Ogden
Stealing the Sun, by Juan Paulo Rafols
Tamers of the Green, by David Steffen
Things my Mother Told Me, by Nelson Stanley
Casualty, by Whitney Bishop
Ars Longa, Amor Brevis, by David Twiddy

(For those of you here on Awards Reading business: all of our fiction is less than 7,500 words long, and thus eligible in the "short story" category)

Other Excellent Things To Read

We consider ourselves quite lucky to have worked with so many talented authors in our first year, and are delighted to say that many of them have had other work published this year! 

Charlotte Ashley
La Héron, Fantasy & Science Fiction (March/April 2015)
The Posthuman Condition, Kaleidotrope
Eleusinian Mysteries, Luna Station Quarterly

Julia August
Soteriology and Stephen Greenwood, The Journal of Unlikely Academia
The Girl who Talked to the Sea, Unsung Stories
Rite of Passage, Kaleidotrope
Durus Amor, Two Words
Unraveling, Lackington's

Laurence Brothers
Innumerate, Daily Science Fiction
(Also podcasted by Far-Fetched Fables)

A.E. Decker
The Falling of the Moon, World Weaver Press (novel)

Laura DeHaan
Apartmentia, Theme of Absence
Theater Amorpheus, Electric Spec

Angela Enos
The Shivering Girls, Body Parts Magazine
Posing for Tarkins, Flapperhouse (co-author)

Philip Brian Hall
The Old Man on the Green, T Gene Davis's Speculative Blog
The Waiting Room, Chilling Ghost Stories, Flame Tree Publishing

Jason Kimble
At Her Fingertips, Betwixt
Broken, Escape Pod
Detritus, Sci Phi Journal
Tall, Twice Upon A Time, Bearded Scribe Press

Aimee Ogden
The Light of the Moon, The Warmth of the Sun, the Strength of the Storm, Frozen Fairy Tales, World Weaver Press
Newton's First Law, Star*Line

Rhiannon Rasmussen
How to Survive the Apocalypse, Zeal
The Hymn of Ordeal, No 23, Women Destroy Science Fiction (audiobook)

Mike Reeves-McMillan
Auckland Allies (novel)
There's a Tattoo, but the Robes Hide ItIn Memory: A Tribute to Sir Terry Pratchett
Axe Stone: Svart Detective, Alternate Hilarities: Hysterical Realms
Something Rich and Strange, Digital Fantasy Fiction
(Also podcasted by The Overcast)
The Well-Presented Manuscript, C-Side Media (non-fiction)

Frances Rowat
Five Drinks in Siltown, Betwixt
Abishag Mary, The Weird Wild West, eSpec Books

David Steffen
Marley and Cratchit, Cast of Wonders (podcast)
Thus Spake Robby, The Overcast (podcast)

David Twiddy
Mea Maxima Culpa, Daily Science Fiction

Deborah Walker
Eve of the White Moon, SQ Mag
Good for Something, Nature
Sister, Dear SisterAlternate Hilarities: Hysterical Realms

John Wiswell
The Terrible, Daily Science Fiction
Bones at the Door, Fireside

Coming September 15th: Our Fall 2015 Issue!

Hello, friends!

In just a couple of weeks we'll be debuting our new issue, with seven brand new stories and one excellent reprint that was revised just for you, our dear readers. The fantastic authors who contributed to this issue are:

Julia August
Laurence Raphael Brothers
Laura DeHaan
Angela Enos
T.L. Huchu
Kelly Jennings
Jason Kimble
Mike Reeves-McMillan

See you again on September 15th!


Sockdolager Podcast Episode 2: Steven Universe

Our new issue will be out in a couple of weeks, but in the meantime we've recorded a Very Special Episode of the podcast in which we talk about our favorite genre television show, Steven Universe.  We discuss why we're excited about SU as a work of speculative fiction, what we feel can be learned from it from the perspective of short fiction writing, and what we're hoping to see going forward. (Full disclosure: there is some yelling about our feelings.)

We ramp up the "spoiler" levels of the podcast as we go, beginning with the basic premise and moving on from there, so if you haven't seen the show at all -- or have started but are trying to decide if you want to watch more -- you can go ahead and listen! We make it extremely clear when we're going to move on to the next spoiler tier.

Some links from the episode (basically all of which contain LARGE SPOILERS!)

The Extended Steven Universe Theme Song from SDCC

Shelby Cragg's lyric comic about Lapis and Jasper suffering at the bottom of the ocean.

Animated fan-video about how Sadie's life is hard, by Kevin Lordi

The Steven Crewniverse Tumblr

We'll be back in September with a normal episode about our actual fiction magazine! (And Steven Universe will ALSO be back in the next few weeks, so now's a great time to catch up! You can watch the show on Hulu, iTunes and Amazon.)

Sockdolager Podcast Episode 1: Catchup, Readercon, and a couple of great books

Thanks to the generous reader support of our Patreon, we'll be recording at least one podcast for every issue of the magazine!

In this first episode, we discuss all of the stories in the first two issues, recount our weekend at Readercon 26, and describe a couple of books we're currently feeling enthused about. 

A few related links of interest:

Spring 2015 Issue
Summer 2015 Issue

Readercon 26 -- panel descriptions and lists of participants

Authors on the discouragement panel:
Susan Jane Bigelow
Michael J. Daley
Scott Edelman
Barbara Krasnoff
Shariann Lewitt

We couldn't find videos for the panels we talked about, but if you're interested in learning more about Ken Liu's thoughts on translation, he's written some great essays on the subject, including:
The "Heroic Translators" Who Reinvented Classic Science Fiction In China
Gathered in Translation

Paul's Book Pick: The Ghost Bride, by Yangsze Choo
Alison's Book Pick: Cold Magic, by Kate Elliot

Apologies for the distortion that pops up in a couple of places. We've edited out as much as we could, and now that we know it's a possibility we'll be on the lookout for it the next time we record.

Coming next week: The Sockdolager's Summer 2015 issue!

Hello, friends!

This week we’re putting the final touches on our Summer issue, which will debut on June 23rd. And in the meantime, we’d like to share the fantastic list of authors whose stories we’ll be featuring!

Charlotte Ashley
Yaroslav Barsukov
Jasmine Fahmy
Michael Hernshaw
Frances Rowat
Igor Teper

& John Wiswell

We could not be more delighted with this issue, and we hope you all enjoy it as much as we have.

More (very!) soon,

Alison & Paul

Coming March 3rd — Our Inaugural Issue!

The debut of our magazine is still a few weeks off, but in the meantime we're excited to share the list of excellent authors who contributed stories to The Sockdolager's first quarterly issue! They are, in alphabetical order:

Stewart C Baker
Laurence Brothers
A. E. Decker
Philip Brian Hall
Jamie Lackey
Rhiannon Rasmussen
Mike Reeves-McMillan
Deborah Walker

We're delighted with every one of these folks and their fiction. Our first issue will go up on Tuesday, March 3rd!


from Paul Starr: So we might as well start.

On November 11, 2013, an anonymous commenter on an obscure fandom blog wrote:

I don’t think it’s entitlement to want to know that someone is reading and enjoying your [work]. Yes, no one “owes” it to the author. No seed is “owed” earth and water and sunshine, either, but getting those things can mean the difference between flourishing and withering. That’s just the way it works.

This has stuck with me.

There are a lot of good reasons not to get into the short genre fiction racket—there's less than no money in it, sometimes it feels like there are more writers of it than there are readers, "everybody" knows that "nobody" reads short fiction—etc., etc., on and on.

But I believe the capital-C Conversation of science fiction, fantasy, and their myriad and difficult-to-classify progeny is an important one. I want to both be a part of it, and to help other people be a part of it.

I love fiction. I've arranged the whole of my career to spend it engaging with fiction: editing it, translating it, writing it. Fiction—genre fiction, nerd fiction in particular—has shaped the course of my life. And every single work I've ever read or watched or listened to had to have someone to believe in it—a beta reader, an editor, a friend or spouse or workshop classmate—for it to reach both its potential and its audience.

I want to be that person. I want to be the first person to believe in a story that's going to change someone's life (or even just improve their day a little). I want to do it for readers and writers alike. For readers, because I'm just arrogant enough to think my taste is pretty good, and for writers, because I want to be the one to water the seed that nobody else is watering. I think there remain languishing unpublished great, important, and fun stories about nonsense like spaceships and wizards and dance clubs on Mars, and I want to be part of bringing them into the world.

I also happen to believe in the future of fiction and books, and I think the best version of that future is one with a vast plurality of independent voices. It's a future I want to be part of; a future I'd like, in some small way, to help shape. As a tiny, independant publication, we can change course with the impunity of an organization with nothing to lose. We can publish on any platform that helps us go where the readers are. Between my own priorities and those of my esteemed co-editor, Alison Wilgus, I'm excited to see what we can come up with, given the freedom to establish an editorial voice unconstrained by exigencies beyond our own tastes and ideals.

We can do it, so we will do it.

In which Alison Wilgus arches an eyebrow at the concept of "Legitimacy"

This blog has stood empty for too long! Introductory Post Time has arrived, and lucky me! I’m going first.

Paul wanted us both to talk a little bit about ourselves, and about why we've decided to pour so much of our time into running a quarterly genre magazine. Short version: my name is Alison! I love stories. I want to help connect people with fiction that they'll care about.

A useful (important?) thing to know about me is that while I've always been a writer, up until recently my professional world was largely confined to comics. And not mainstream superhero comics either. My cohort is mostly graphic novelists and webcomics folks, the sort who started their careers with handmade minicomics and worked their way up to graphic memoir or sprawling online narratives. 

In the world of creator-owned comics, the stigma of self-publishing ranges from slight to nonexistent. Big publishers are great for distribution, for marketing, for getting your work into the hands of more readers than might otherwise discover you. But you don't need to sign with Macmillan or Scholastic to be seen as legitimate. In some cases, really, the opposite is true. Small presses and self publishing are where you find some of the major works of comics "literature." There's a thriving "Comic Arts Fest" scene with dozens of shows focusing on books that people make and distribute themselves. If you've ever been to one of them—SPX, TCAF, MoCCA—then you already know what I mean.

I knew going in that prose was different. There are plenty of self-publishing success stories, particularly in genre, and lots of small token and semi-pro markets with dedicated followings and respected editorial staffs. But over in these parts, it still feels like there's a stark division between "professional" and "amateur”; a creeping feeling that to many folks in the community, you're either a "legitimate" publisher of note or you're little more than a vanity press. 

I post comics to my personal website or print them as hand-stapled minis without even thinking about it. I simultaneously write comics for major publishers and make small stories that I staple on my kitchen table, and I have never once worried that my editor or my friends or my readers would think less of me for it. I have no reason to think that self-publishing a comic would count as a strike against it.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying: a big part of why I agreed to come on as co-editor of The Sockdolager is because I fundamentally don't think that a micro press is any less legitimate than a major one, whatever "legitimate" even means. I think that Paul and I are pretty okay folks with pretty good taste in fiction, and that between the two of us we can put together a collection of awesome stories that people like us would want to read. I believe very strongly in promoting work that I love, and in paying creators as much as I can afford to for the privilege. I believe that a great many "reprint" stories haven't had as large of an audience as they deserve, and I want to help do something to change that. And perhaps most importantly, I believe that small presses have the freedom to champion marginalized voices in ways that are still difficult for larger publishers.

Lots of excellent people have worked for many years to build a vibrant community of upstart prose publications. I very much look forward to joining their ranks.