Writing for the World SF Blog, by fiction editor Sarah Newton

Back in March this year I had the great opportunity to take over from Debbie Moorhouse as fiction editor here at the World SF Blog. In the previous months, Debbie had blazed a trail, publishing short fiction works by authors from all over the globe, and naturally I jumped at the chance to help build this increasingly diverse and stimulating resource for speculative fiction fans everywhere.

The past six months have been filled with inspiring submissions exploring the nature of speculative fiction. In my university days I studied Russian and German literature, and have always loved classics from all around the world; but, like many English language readers, my exposure to non-English language speculative fiction—apart from the obvious canon titles—was always lacking. That’s a crazy situation in our increasingly global society, and one I knew needed remedying. That’s why it’s been a delight every week to read the subs to the World SF Blog, excited that my mind is going to be stretched and reshaped in new and unexpected ways.

For me, that’s what the World SF Blog is about. As writers and readers, we love to be exposed to the wildest flights of fancy about what our world is and could be. Here at the blog, anyone writing in English, regardless of whether it’s their first language and whatever their culture of origin, participates in a polyphony. We publish works by writers of all countries, making the site a constant dialectic, discussing and redefining speculative fiction, exposing, explaining, and working magic with cultural backgrounds, archetypes, perspectives.

That’s an editorial challenge. In a former life I was a translator and interpreter of Russian and Japanese, and I’ve a passion for languages. I’m no stranger to the issues of writing in a language that’s not your first language, or of translating your own language into another. When I edit a native English speaker, I view their writing from the perspective of a native speaker. With a non-English speaker, I find their writing sings with cadences, idioms, and structures of another culture, which it would be a crime to try and shoehorn into a rigorous, native English form. Over the past six months I’ve worked with writers to polish pieces, gently nudge turns of phrase, spellings, and word choices, so that they don’t appear jarring or obscure to the reader’s ear, while at the same time preserving the music and internal harmony of the writer’s own language and culture. Lyricism is an integral part of speculative fiction, and it’s essential to help it express itself fully.

Like the past, the future is a foreign country. But its foreignness is the stuff of our dreams and hopes, and sometimes our nightmares and fears. Whether speculative fiction talks about utopias or dystopias, personal experience or cosmic ideas, it offers suggestions for what our world could or should be. Its role as a forum for debating our future is amazingly powerful. Where are we heading? What kind of world do we want to live in? What decisions should our society be making to secure tomorrow?

In my novel Mindjammer I write about a “Mindscape”—a vast, interstellar repository of human memories and knowledge, to which every person is connected. That’s not just a metaphor: the Mindscape is out there, now, and we all access it every day. Over the past two decades it has mutated from an artefact of top-down cultural patronage into a decentralized, anarchic mass mind. The conscience of the human race is now online, and we as its readers and writers are helping to define it. We can allow cacophony and conflict to proliferate, or synthesis, debate, and exchange.

Blogs like the World SF Blog are the arenas for our many voices, visions, and questions. That’s why I hope you’ll continue to send us your flights of fancy and hard-written dreams. And let us know what you think of the stories, too—I’d love to see readers and writers increasingly use the World SF Blog to discuss the engaging ideas expressed here.

So—what sort of submissions are we looking for? Well, I think it’s important to stress that the “SF” in “World SF” refers to speculative fiction of all kinds, and not just science-fiction. In the past six months I’ve seen tales of psychological horror, magical realism, lyrical post-apocalyptic myth, zombies, werewolves, space colonies, archaeology, mystery, and metaphysics cross my desk—all of which are perfect. I haven’t seen much fiction set in more traditional fantasy environments; but, whatever you submit, the “speculative” should be uppermost—tales of the weird, the fantastic, of “what if” and wonder.

Readers—let us know what you like, what you’d like to see more of, or just ideas you have for the blog. Writers—if you’re out there with a beautiful idea or a story to tell, then send it through. It doesn’t matter which country you’re from—we publish works from the “main” English-speaking countries just as much as we do from those for whom English isn’t a first language. Email us, then sit back and wait a few months for us to reply. We’re blessed with a great number of high quality submissions, and it can take us time to get back to you, but rest assured we’re passionate about speculative fiction, and will give your stories every attention they deserve.

Thanks for making my first six months so stimulating and inspiring. Long may it continue!

Sarah Newton
Fiction Editor, World SF Blog


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