by Jalyn Fiske, Kristen Koopman, and Jean Asselin
As writers ourselves, we understand the energy and passion that goes into writing stories, and we want you to succeed. Paramount to success is reading a market’s guidelines because they let you know: Who we are as a market; What we want for stories; When we are open for submissions; Where we stand on formatting; Why that’s vital; and How to submit.
READ THE GUIDELINES
James Gunn’s Ad Astra publishes mostly science fiction with some fantasy. Both genres are literatures of discontinuity where there is a rupture between the depicted world and the one in which we live. Science fiction is further distinguished by one essential quality: we can trace a path from here to there. James Gunn notes that science fiction “incorporates a belief that the most important aspect of existence is a search for humanity’s origins, its purpose, and its ultimate fate.” Science fiction explores the human condition through the consequences of future changes in the world.
We want to raise our eyes above the horizon, search from the near-reality to the far reaches of the what-if. Publishing for all readers, we welcome stories that show underrepresented groups or from authors who might not always see themselves represented. Note: Stories that perpetuate existing systems of discrimination and demean women or other marginalized groups will be summarily rejected. We seek fiction for online and print publication from new and established writers.
The best way to see the kinds of things we like is to read an issue or two of the journal. As much as we think we know what we want or don’t want, actions speak louder than words.
In general, we are always open for submissions. We currently publish twice a year, around the Vernal (Spring) and Autumnal equinoxes.
KEEP READING THE GUIDELINES
Here is where James Gunn’s Ad Astra’s stands on a story’s vital specifics:
- Original work: Your story must be previously unpublished (whether print, ebook or Web.) No fan fiction; by definition, fan fiction is based on intellectual property that isn’t yours.
- Length: Short stories up to 7,500 words. We’ll consider novelette length, but this is a harder sell. Flash is definitely a hard sell.
- Rates and terms: An honorarium of $50 (U.S.) per story. This grants us one-year exclusive print/electronic rights and non-exclusive reprint rights thereafter.
- Format: Microsoft Word (.doc or .docx) file (do avoid .rtf if you can.) Modern Manuscript format is required. Check https://www.shunn.net/format/story/ for those specifics. Ignoring this standard marks you as either unprofessional or not to be bothered with details, neither of which is a great way to start our relationship. In particular:
- Paragraphs: indent the first lines using the word processor feature instead of tabs. Set extra space before and after paragraphs to zero.
- Font: any widespread serif font (Palatino, Times New Roman, etc.) in 12 points. No Courier, please, for which our eyes thank you kindly.
- Title should be in the font in which the rest of your story is presented: all-caps, bold, large font—equivalent to screaming—are unnecessary.
- Page numbers: they go in the top header on the right side, along with your byline and abridged title.
- NOTE: The time we lose reformatting your story prevents us from getting to the next one in the queue. Some day, that next one may be yours.
READ THESE GUIDELINES, TOO
- No simultaneous submissions, i.e. to us and other markets at the same time. We hate to fall in love with a story, only to see it withdrawn because someone else showed interest. We assume you choose us for a reason and will stick to it.
- No multiple submissions, i.e. sending us more than one story at a time, or a second one before we’ve responded to the first. This ensures everyone gets a fair turn. Wait for a four-week cool down period before submitting again.
- Withdrawal: If you must withdraw your story, please email. We understand that circumstances sometimes make it necessary. Telling us why is appreciated.
How to submit: Use Our Form, which is also essential to our housekeeping. Do not email stories as attachments. Please submit under your legal name (who gets the money) and leave a potential byline (who gets the credit) for the proper place in the manuscript. We read the cover letter after the story; summarizing the story isn’t useful as it won’t influence our decision. Writerly facts such as if you’re published and where are of greater interest.
We aim to respond within sixty days, but that solely depends on traffic. Think of our capacity as a pipeline: its diameter remains the same no matter how the flow increases. Please do not query ([email protected]) until three months have elapsed.
Here, look at this rotating spiral… Your breathing is slowing, your eyelids are getting heavy. You suddenly notice an irresistible urge to…
READ THESE GUIDELINES AS WELL
MUST HAVES (seriously, we won’t consider a story without these):
- Well-written. To us, that means a balance between beautiful language and moving the story forward.
- Speculative elements are central to the plot, meaning that the story could not happen without the novum (the new thingy, the magical powers, etc.).
- Character arcs. The story changes your character because of what happened in it.
- Hopeful or bittersweet resolutions (we get enough doom and gloom in the news). This is why horror is a hard sell with us.
- Inclusive and universal themes.
WANTS (things we’d like to see more of):
- Settings outside the bounds of planet Earth.
- Heartfelt, meaningful messages (without being sappy).
- Quirky, whimsical tone.
- Exploring what it means to be human, to be alive, to live.
- Characters that represent the spectrum of human experience.
- Subverting tropes and story expectations in clever ways (without going full-on experimental).
- Manuscript format redux. Just as ‘said’ (rather than alternatives such as ‘uttered’, ‘spat’, ‘ejaculated’) becomes invisible, the same goes for proper manuscript format. You want it invisible so that your writing will shine through.
HARD SELLS (most likely will make us pass, unless the writing or central idea is inspiring enough to overcome):
- The point-of-view character dies at the end.
- The plot relies on demonstrably wrong science.
- Fairy tales or myths (unless they are unique).
- Sword and sorcery (fantasy + science fiction is your best bet).
- Supernatural (ghost + science fiction is your best bet).
- Horror (psychological + science fiction is your best bet).
ABSOLUTELY NOT (automatic rejection):
- There’s a male main character, and the female character is merely there to show how smart/intelligent/able/awesome/super cool the male is.
- There are no female characters at all, unless there’s a very compelling reason.
- Political soapboxes.
- Flippant or condescending attitudes towards marginalized groups.
- Racist, homophobic, abusive, toxic themes.
- Fan fiction.
- Stories eerily similar to The Expanse or to the current media darling.
These guidelines will be updated as the occasion arises in order to reflect our most current thinking as gatekeepers of a fiction market. As we mentioned in the opening paragraph: we want you to succeed.
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