What We're Looking For
I have good news and bad news for you.
The good news is that this is a market to try stories which cross genres. We don't care about genres. We care about originality, creativity, and story craftsmanship. We won't pigeonhole a story into this or that category. All we care about is that it blows our socks off and makes us glad to have read it.
The bad news is, "Dark Energy" doesn't refer to "dark" fiction or horror. It's the name of a real force which is of great mystery to scientists. Dark energy is very bizarre, and it defies logic. That's why we chose it as the name of our web site.
That being said, I'll warn you right now that sending us standard horror fiction will get you a rejection slip. However, if your horror story is very different, and we've never seen anything like it before, and it has a positive message at the end, there may be a slim chance we'll like it.
We are a speculative fiction market. Not straight horror, and not dark fiction.
We are particularly fond of End Of The World type stories, and never see enough of them. Stories dealing with hard science, and also stories dealing with religion, are both of particular interest to us.
We'd also like to see more experimental stories, and mainstream stories that have a strange angle to them ... like something's a bit off. Think Twilight Zone. Think Donnie Darko.
Above all, what we're looking for are stories that are 100% character driven. Stories that draw us in to the character so much we really don't care what the genre is. A story that really goes behind the curtain, deep into the well, and taps into that dark energy that's inside all of us.
As to story length, keep in mind that your readers will be reading your stories online. The fact is, not many people enjoy reading a long manuscript on a computer screen. Anything 10,000 words and above will be stretching it, but if you feel you have something we must see, despite the length, go ahead and submit it.
We are not looking for reprints, but if you have a story that's only appeared somewhere for a short period of time, or was published in small press with limited circulation, we'll still consider it equally.
Don't Want Anything written using characters or settings that are not entirely your own creation. We don't want stories featuring Star Trek, Star Wars, Babylon-5, The Wizard of Oz, or anything like that. There are specific underground markets for this type of thing and that's where you need to send it.
Note: This doesn't include historical figures, or characters that have been in the public domain for a long time. They're fair game.
We are not looking for pornographic stories. Not that we don't like it, it just doesn't belong in Dark Energy SF. You can try us with something that has an erotic edge to it, but, nothing really overboard. Kids have access to this website.
Also, please, nothing overtly grotesque and disgusting unless it absolutely has to be that way for the story to work.
Dark Energy Speculative Fiction is a market whose sole purpose is to award exposure to new and little-known talent. We pay a flat $20 fee for each story accepted, and it comes out of our own pockets. We know isn't a whole lot, but it's better than a poke in the eye.
Also, each story will be presented with a PayPal donations button, so that readers may tip the writer directly. So, in a way, there is the possibility of more remuneration, but nothing is guaranteed. Dark Energy SF will not keep any of the donated money for expenses, etc. This publication is not out to make money. It's not even a goal. We only want to reward talent and entertain readers. Period.
Note: PayPal, however, may get a percentage of each donation before it reaches the author. It's the price of doing business with PayPal.
We are seeking web-publishing rights only, and after the story is cycled into the Archive section, we'll reassign these rights back to the author upon request. You are free to continue marketing your story in other venues as you see fit.
All stories will appear with a copyright notice attributed to the author.
The author retains the right to request removal of his/her story after it is moved into the Archive section.
How To Submit
Please, NO SIMULTANEOUS SUBMISSIONS, and only one story at a time.
Use standard manuscript formatting, and save the file in RTF format. Simply attach this file to an email and send it, with a brief note or cover letter, to: firstname.lastname@example.org
This is important: Put the words "FICTION SUBMISSION" in the subject field. If you don't, we won't see it. The SPAM filter will have sent it directly to the trash. Also, make sure to include a current, working email address on your manuscript.
When writing your cover letter, you don't have to address it to anyone in particular. "Dear Editor," will work perfectly.
Because of the non-existent budget and dependence upon free mail services, some submissions may be lost. If you haven't heard back from us within 45 days, assume it didn't reach us, and send it again. Also, if your email bounces back with an error, it's probably because our inbox is full and the current editor hasn't yet had a chance to download all the manuscripts. Try again in a few days, and if that doesn't work, contact us directly at via the Contacts Page.
How Often Do You Publish?
The problem with emulating a magazine on the Internet is that you start trying to force the publication into issues and volumes which, if you think about it, doesn't translate well. This is a new medium. It's not paper. It doesn't "go to press."
So how often do we publish? Continuously. It can change from day to day. This is not a magazine, and it's not an eZine. It's a website.
So when you get your story accepted, it will be put up in the current stories list. After a story is up for a month or so, it will be put into the archive. Or, if you wish, deleted.
Reasons for Rejections
Like all other publications, we reject manuscripts for the following reasons:
* No hook at the beginning. It's your job, as writer, to grab your reader's attention right up front and not let go until the final line of the story. If you haven't caught our attention by the third paragraph, we're not going to read any further.
* Failed suspension of belief. It's also your job as writer to give us cause to suspend our disbelief. Douglas Adams, for example, got us to accept the most ridiculous, impossible things, and we did it gladly. You too must accomplish this.
* Lack of empathy for characters. Your readers have to care about your characters, or at least have a strong vested interest in seeing them die horribly. One or the other. If not, the mind wanders, the story gets put down, and the TV goes on.
* Bad story arc. Your story must have a beginning, middle, and end. If you're raising your eyebrows at this, then come read our slush pile. You'll be shocked at how many are just a beginning, or just a beginning and middle, or just an ending. A story, no matter what genre, requires a problem and a resolution. The resolution must come somehow, directly or indirectly, from the actions of the protagonist.
* Basic lack of writing skill. No real need to elaborate on this, is there? To be a writer, you simply have to keep writing. Even the horrid early stories are practice, and that's what all writers need. Lots of practice!
Remember that even Stephen King collected a huge pile of rejection slips while he was learning the craft. Just because we don't like a particular story doesn't mean someone else won't like it. It also doesn't mean we won't like your next story.
Never take it personally. If you are to become a professional writer, this must be your mantra. The road you've chosen is a gauntlet of rejection that you must endeavor to ignore, and continue traveling.
Do You Give Feedback?
We really don't have the time to critique stories. If you want a critique, join a writers group, either locally or on the web. Critters.org is a good one to try.
Generally, if we're rejecting a story, all you'll receive is a nice little note thanking you for sending it to us. However, if you put in the code words "Be Brutally Honest" in your cover letter, then we will be.
NOTE: It is considered bad form to respond to a rejection, even if it's a thank you. The only proper way to respond to an editor's rejection is to send another story.
Stories are the children of a writer. It's hard to see flaws in your own children. You love them too much. It hurts when others reject them.
Put the story away and don't look at it for a long time. Write several more stories. Then take that one out and look at it again. Whoa! The parts you loved are now terrible, and the parts you didn't like are the good parts. It's because time has given you perspective.
Fix it and then send it out again. And again. And again.
And remember to give us a try every once in a while.
Jerry J. Davis, Publisher
William Ledbetter, Associate Publisher
Dark Energy SF