Reality Skimming

Reality Skimming

Reality Skimming promotes optimistic SF -- stories that inspire us to fight the good fight for another day. Committment to larger projects, the writer's sense of mission, joy of reading, the creative campfire of the SF community and the love of deserving protagonists are celebrated. We believe in heroes and striving to be what we believe in. It is also a news hub for content related to the Okal Rel Saga written by Lynda Williams.


Interview with Doug Smith

Doug Smith

"Doug Smith is, quite simply, the finest short-story writer Canada has ever produced in the science fiction and fantasy genres, and he's also the most prolific. His stories are a treasure trove of riches that will touch your heart while making you think."

Robert J. Sawyer, Hugo Award-winning author of Hominids and FlashForward.

Douglas Smith is an award-winning Canadian author of speculative fiction, with over a hundred short story publications in thirty countries and two dozen languages.

His collections include Chimerascope (2010) and Impossibilia (2008), as well as the translated fantasy collection, La Danse des Esprits (France, 2011). His first novel, The Wolf at the End of the World, will be released in 2013.

Doug has twice won Canada's Aurora Award, and has been a finalist for the international John W. Campbell Award, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Bookies Award, Canada's juried Sunburst Award, and France's juried Prix Masterton and Prix Bob Morane.

A multi-award winning film based on Doug's story "By Her Hand, She Draws You Down" will be released on DVD this year, and other films based on his stories are in the works. Doug's website is and he tweets at

Interviewed by Tegan Lott

What originally brought forth your idea for your "Foreign Market List"?

I honestly can't remember how long I've had the FML up and running, but it would have started around 2000. I was selling my short fiction regularly by then and was also selling some reprints. Somewhere I came across a reference to a German anthology series that was looking for stories, including stories originally published in English, which would be translated at no cost. I sent them two stories, which they accepted for two separate anthologies, one SF and one fantasy

This got me interested in foreign language markets for my stories, so I started to research how many might be out there. The industry magazine, Locus, ran articles periodically reporting on the current state of science fiction and fantasy in other countries, and these articles often mentioned local short fiction markets in those countries. From there and from Google, I gradually built a list of the various non-English short fiction genre markets around the world.

Since I found it useful, I assumed that other writers might as well. I was also looking for something to add some extra value to my website, so once the list grew to a sizeable number of markets, I added it as a feature to my site. Having it on the website also brings the advantage that writers and editors regularly provide me with updates, additions, corrections to the information on the FML, so everyone gains since the list is kept as current and accurate as possible, thanks to all the various interested parties.

How does this "Foreign Market List" work? What, in your eyes is it achieving?

I'll answer the second question first. When considering potential markets for short fiction, most writers overlook the many non-English language genre magazines and anthologies published around the world. The list helps them find those markets and sell to them.

If you're a writer, perhaps you're wondering why you'd want to submit to a market that publishes in a foreign language, especially if you can’t read that language. Well, foreign short fiction sales bring multiple benefits to a writer.

First, it simply can't hurt your public profile to have your work published in thirty languages and two dozen countries (my personal total). This exposure broadens your audience of readers. If you write novels as well as short fiction (or plan to), a resume of short story sales in non-English markets can assist in foreign rights sales for your longer work, as can the relationships and contacts that you'll build with foreign publishers, editors, translators, and illustrators.

As an example of this, when I began the FML, I sold a number of stories to a dark fantasy magazine, Ténèbres, in France. The editor, Benoit Domis, told me that one day he would like to publish a translated collection of my fantasy stories. This finally came about in 2011 when he formed his own small press, Dreampress, and published my collection, La Danse des Esprits. That collection was a finalist for France's juried Prix Masterton and Prix Bob Morane earlier this year.

One of my Aurora Award wins also came directly from submitting to Ténèbres, as I was able to submit the translation of my story "Spirit Dance" to the fine French-Canadian magazine, Solaris, which only accepts stories in French.

And, of course, anything you make from these sales is found money. Yes, you'll generally get less for foreign reprints than you did for selling first rights to a professional English market, but remember that you can sell your reprints in multiple languages. My foreign language sales have ranged from $30 to $300 per story, averaging about $100 per sale – so with sales to several foreign markets, you can easily pick up an additional few hundred dollars per story.

Also, if you're a beginning writer, there's the fun factor--the chance to see your name alongside of some of the biggest names in fiction. Even when I was starting out writing short fiction, my foreign language sales let my name appear with the likes of Steven King, Neil Gaiman, Larry Niven, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Mike Resnick, Tanith Lee, Neal Stephenson, Orson Scott Card, Frank Herbert, not to mention James Branch Cabell and H.P. Lovecraft. Plus, as an added bonus, many foreign magazines will also include beautiful illustrations for your story that you won't get in even the pro English markets and which make a great visual addition to your website.

As for how the FML works, it's pretty straightforward. The FML lists over seventy active markets in thirty countries, arranged by country, with a country index. Each market contains information such as their website, editor and contact information, pay rates, what types of fiction they publish, preferred word lengths, and submission instructions.

I also include a suggested strategy as part of the FML site, advising writes on how to choose a market and also how to choose what they submit to these markets.

Here are the rules that I follow:

Rule 1: Never submit a story to a foreign language market until you have first sold it to an English-language market.

Many of the top English genre fiction markets have foreign language editions or will ask for an option on foreign language rights. Selling a story to a non-English market first could jeopardize a more prestigious and lucrative English first-rights sale. In addition, it’s a lot easier to sell to a foreign language market if your story has the credentials of a major English market.

So that means you are looking for non-English markets that will accept reprints of stories that have appeared in an English market somewhere in the world. That immediately limits your choices.

Rule 2: You are looking for markets that will accept unsolicited submissions.

Although most foreign language magazines publish reprints from English markets, many select those stories themselves from a review of the top magazines such as Asimovs' or the Magazine of F&SF, after which they will approach the author or editor directly. Alternatively, some foreign markets have an agreement with the top NA magazines to reprint selected stories (which is why some top English pro markets purchase foreign language rights). Regardless, these markets don’t accept direct submissions from an author. You may still end up with your story in these magazines, but you have no control over the decision, beyond writing a great story and selling it to a top English market.

Rule 3: Unless you are multi-lingual, you are looking for markets that accept submissions in English and will translate your story at no cost to you.

In my experience, any market that accepts submissions in English will translate at no cost. Some markets, however, will accept reprints and unsolicited submissions (rules 1 and 2), but only in the language of the magazine.

So the above discussion leads us to my definition of a valid foreign language market:

A market that accepts unsolicited submissions in English of stories that first appeared in English language markets, and translates them at no cost to the author.

The FML makes it easy to identify valid markets, by flagging them as follows:

  • $$$ – Confirmed valid market (paying)
  • YES – Confirmed valid market (no pay or pays in copies)

The FML also includes "non-valid" markets (so you don't waste time submitting to a market that you may have heard of) as follows:

  • NO – Market exists but does NOT accept unsolicited subs in English
  • DEAD – Dead market
  • ??? – Market under investigation or questionable

Most of these markets take submissions by email, but writers should check the market's FML entry for how to attach their story (text in body, type of file attachment, etc.), and they should follow the same rules as when submitting to an English market in a foreign country: proper manuscript format, cover letter or email, and for postal submissions, an SAE with two IRC’s. Some of the markets that only take postal submissions will at least reply via email, so you can save on those expensive IRC’s. Payment is generally in USD or in Euros for most of these markets, and many of the paying markets now provide a PayPal option.

However, selling to foreign markets does come with some problems. Payment logistics can sometimes be challenging. Some markets will pay only in local currency or via bank transfer, both of which involve banking fees. Some of the larger markets require the author to submit an invoice to their payables department before they'll issue a cheque (a cheque usually drawn on a foreign bank, which is not easy to cash even in a large North American city). Some will also deduct a local income tax withholding amount from the payment.

Response times can also be very long. But remember that you can submit simultaneously to several of these markets since the rights that they purchase are specific to their language and don’t conflict with other foreign markets. In addition, most will respond to email queries regarding the status of your submission.

Communication with the editor can also sometimes be challenging. Many of these editors have excellent written English skills, but some do not. However, in most of the latter cases, the magazine will employ a foreign language acquisition editor, so these difficulties tend to be the exception.

Language can also be a barrier to staying current with any of these markets. The FML includes links to the web sites for most of the magazines, but these sites are generally not in English. Fortunately, I receive regular updates from many of the editors or from submitting authors regarding changes in a foreign language market, and then post these to the FML.

Remember also that these markets face the same challenge in staying alive as do English language genre magazines. Many (even the paying ones) are run on a for-the-love basis, so production schedules can vary wildly, as can the time frame for receiving your payment and contributor copies. And some will have short lifetimes. I've had about a dozen foreign languages sales where the story was never published because the market folded. Out of those sales, I've also unfortunately had three situations where I had to involve the SFWA grievance committee to extract payment for a published story. I've only had one situation where I was never paid, but in that case, neither were the editor or the translators.

What sort of interests/ skills do you have outside of Science Fiction and this Market List?

My wife and I live north of Toronto, and we have two grown sons and a beautiful granddaughter, all of whom are close by. I work for a large professional services firm as an IT executive, a job that requires extensive global travel, which gives me a chance to see a lot of places and cultures around the world, which I really enjoy. I'm an avid cyclist, moviegoer, reader, bridge player, and fan of all things in the Whedonverse, especially Buffy.


ORU Artifact #28: Michelle Milburn shared her very first draft

The Okal Rel Universe has inspired many beautiful, curious, fun and touching moments, objects and re-mixes or interpretations over the years. This page celebrates them one by one. Found one that should be here? Tell us about it for the finder's reward of the month. Send your discovery to [email protected]

On November 5, 2012 Michelle Milburn shares with Lynda Williams

Idea Alivda

Nov 5, 2012, Michelle Milburn shared this very first draft of the cover idea for Part 9: Holy War with Lynda Williams. Alivda D'Ander D'Aur Lor'Vrel in a the context of a rel-fighter shakeup was the decision for subject matter. From this early draft, Michelle worked up the final cover with publisher Brian Hades. ETA for Part 9: Holy War is in 2013.


Golden Souls by Lynda Williams – Post 30

Golden Souls 30

Golden Souls by Lynda Williams, is a story of Amel's envoy period. Illustrations are by Richard Bartrop.


“If Amel is a Soul of Light,” Ril said, in agonized misery, “he must have been degraded beyond all hope of sanity in the UnderDocks on Gelion!”

Ril's grief seemed too large for her to endure. But Dela rejected her certainly. Amel was damaged, yes, but not destroyed. His light had touched her in his guarded smiles.

Suddenly, Dela caught her breath. She pushed Ril from her needing to look her into her eyes, instead. "Ril!” she exclaimed, excitedly. “I know why the Emperor's daughter became The Sacrifice! Why it was necessary!"

Ril stared, her mouth still contorted and her eyes red-lined.

Dela willed faith and hope back into her friend. “The Family of Light has not deserted us,” she said, squeezing Ril’s arms. “The Sacrifice went to Gelion so that Amel could come back to us as he is, now. A bit Vrellish. And less fragile than a purely Golden Demish Fahandlin.”

"Do you really think Amel is …" Ril sniffled, and pawed at Dela's arms. "That he could be …and has not been driven mad by all he’s suffered?"

"We Goldens can be tougher than we look," Dela soothed as she gathered Ril against her with fresh confidence in her resolve. Even the portraits on the wall from the Golden canon seemed to look down in approval and recognize her for their own. “We can be surprisingly strong.”

"Oh Dela, my Princess," Ril's face slowly cleared of its deep burden. "Could I it be that we are blessed, and not cursed, in his coming here?"

“Of course we are!” Dela was struck by a disquieting thought. "But I don’t know how these things work. Since he doesn't seem to know, yet, that he is a Soul of Light, reborn, and possibly even Fahanlin himself — do we have to tell him?"

Neither woman spoke for long seconds. Then Dela decided, “We can think about it later. Tea, first!”

Golden Souls 30

Optimistic SF by Michelle Murrain

Ethics in SF: A series of interviews, articles and debates on the Reality Skimming blog, hosted by Lynda Williams, author of the Okal Rel Saga.

Michelle MurrainMichelle Murrain is a science fiction writer who has published six novels. Her novels are hard science fiction, but incorporate social, political, and spiritual topics. Michelle also works as a nonprofit web developer, and has been a neuroscientist and professor. She lives in Northern California.

Why I Write Optimistic SF

Optimistic speculative fiction is, to me, fiction which explores our better nature, as well as explores how to deal with our shadows in a way that can lead to positive change.

I am at heart, an optimist, although I do feel often deeply troubled by the state of the human race. My work never glosses over those aspects, and is never "polyanna". But my plot arcs are generally stories of transformation - of individuals, groups, and societies. And, in general, although tumultuous and sometimes violent, those transformations are toward the greater good.

I'm not against dystopia - in fact, the novel I'm working on now starts out in a dystopic future. In some ways, describing and delving into dystopia is a way to show the way forward in a sense. Octavia Butler did this brilliantly in "Parable of the Sower" and "Parable of the Talents." Showing the logical result of current human actions isn't pessimistic - it's realistic. The question is then, what do you do with that? Many authors show positive transformation out of dystopic, or simply difficult scenarios.

The thing I think I love the best about SF, is that you really get to ask big questions, in really big ways. That (besides getting to play with futuristic technology) is why I write science fiction. And since we get to ask the big questions - why not answer them in ways that help people see the good that's possible. and help them see where we could really get to, if we had the will. I think that's why a lot of people really love Star Trek - it portrays a future where so much of what we are burdened with today has been solved, but there is always more to grapple with.


A Post Attention Span World By Baron Dave Romm

Ethics in SF: A series of interviews, articles and debates on the Reality Skimming blog, hosted by Lynda Williams, author of the Okal Rel Saga.

Baron Dave Romm

Baron Dave Romm

The Baron Romm: In His Own Words

I was born, which seemed like a good idea at the time. Since then I have been a fanzine publisher, masseur, radio producer, html instructor, futurist and ad hoc dilettante.

Shockwave Radio Theater was a weekly science fiction humor program which aired for nearly thirty years in Minneapolis, MN. We did original humor, played odd music, and anything else we wanted to do. I wrote/produced/acted in perhaps two dozen live stage shows. I interviewed quite a few interesting people from Dr. Demento to Gov. Jesse Ventura.

Indeed, when Ventura got to be governor, I declared that politics was a subset of science fiction humor. A degree of political awareness and futurism had always been present in my writing, and I leaped into it whole hog. I covered the 2008 Republican National Convention for KFAI-FM, and continue to talk to politicians and write political essays. And be snarky on various social media.

I live with Carole Vandal in Minneapolis on the site of the old Nicollet Baseball Park. I'm on the Condo Association and police Crime and Drug Committee. My latest project has been to document the street repairs for Nicollet Avenue. They're repaving the road for the first time since they slapped asphalt over the streetcar tracks in 1954.

I love living in the future.

A Post-Attention Span World

By Baron Dave Romm

Right now, we live in a post-attention span world. We have to multitask, and pay attention to a lot of things at the same time. If we're not liveblogging an event (observing, typing and answering feedback) we're talking on the phone while driving (or texting), holding IM conversations with many people at once, or simply have multiple windows open to flip back and forth at will.

It's not necessary, or even desirable, to remember what happened a hundred years ago. Or yesterday. We have politicians who deny ever saying things we have on video tape, and people believe them. In the latest presidential campaign, a Republican pollster proudly claimed, "We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers". Facts and memory didn't matter to their campaign. We have virtually everything anyone has ever written on the internet and easy ways to check on facts but most people just type the first damn thing that comes to mind. The previous Facebook comment by an obvious troll is more likely to affect your viewpoint than a reasoned book by an expert.

Finding out the truth, or at least researching the interplay of ideas, is easier today than at any time in human history, and we don't do it. Maybe people don't have the 15 seconds it would take to verify or deny a fact. Maybe people just don't want to do the typing with their fingers. Or maybe they just want to get back to Angry Birds.

When Alvin Toffler wrote "Future Shock" in 1970, he posited that people couldn't keep up with change. He was right. Now, forty years on, that change and many others have come and been superseded. We have all the information in the world, and not enough time. If no more books were written or music recorded or movies released, you couldn't, in one lifetime, experience all there is out there right now. We have to manage the moment. We have to manage flow. I called this "present shock" for "You're Riding The Shockwave", a play for Shockwave Radio Theater, in 1995, so I've been watching this phenomena grow even before the web became the backbone of existence for many.

Since the dawn of civilization, information access and flow has always been increasing, and always met with doubters.

When writing was invented, some people were against it. They were worried that direct personal communication would be compromised. They were worried that keeping track of debts and time spent on a project would limit how much one could talk someone into bending the rules. They were worried that there was was no way to tell the difference between words written by an authority (such as G_d) and some random schlub with a quill.

And they were right. All this happened.

When the printing press was invented, some people were against it. They were worried that the masses would read scripture without benefit of clergy. They were worried that people wouldn't use the memory palace technique and be able to keep a large amount of information in their head. They were worried that the democratization of knowledge would reduce the power of guilds and clan-based societies.

And they were right. All this happened.

When television was invented, some people were against it. They were worried that we would have a short attention span. They were worried that parents would use the boob tube as an electronic baby sitter. They were worried that the pablum would outweigh intellectual programs and people would just waste time. They were worried that we would have a short attention span.

And they were right. All this happened.

When the internet was invented and made easy to use by the World Wide Web., some people were against it. They were worried that the wrong people would have access to information. They were worried how easy it was to pretend to be someone you're not. They were worried about theft and fraud on a massive scale. They were worried that the speed of communication would make people stay at their computers watching the world go by.

And they were right. All this happened.

When devices using the internet got small and numerous enough and social networks connected hundreds of millions of people at once, some people were against it. They were worried that no one would have any time when they were out of touch. They were worried that conversation would take place 140 characters at a time. They were worried that people would play games on their phones while in social settings. They were worried that people would prefer to be online than meet real people.

And they were right. All this happened.

Of course, all these developments came with major advantages, and few would say that a pre-literate culture is better than our instant-gratification culture. But some would.

Change always happens, even to the amount and accessibility of knowledge. But what is different today is the rate of change.

As with all the increases in breadth and speed of knowledge available, we will adapt. Privacy may not go away, but we'll have to live with the embarrassing thing we did as a child, or the asinine post we made yesterday. Academic research may not be replaced by Twitter feeds, but we'll divide our thoughts into smaller and more easily 'liked' memes. Fact checking may not be completely replaced with bald-faced lies, but people will still vote with their sphincters and not with their heads.

Idiots predate and transcend social media. But in an online world where every post, status update or comment carries the same weight, the idiots rule. We sort of figured out how to adapt to a world with writing, then to a world with the printing press, they a world with television and, barely, a world with the internet. We really haven't come to terms with how social media should be integrated into how we run our lives.

As individuals, we haven't caught up with how technology has changed our relationship to other people. I have no doubt we will, but we're not there yet.

I'll leave you with a few observations on the same subject from wise men several Present Shocks ago:

"Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men." -- Martin Luther King Jr.

"It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer. " -- Albert Einstein

Your Turn: Comment with your own reaction to the questions.


ORU Artifact #27 – ‘Tis the Season

The Okal Rel Universe has inspired many beautiful, curious, fun and touching moments, objects and re-mixes or interpretations over the years. This page celebrates them one by one. Found one that should be here? Tell us about it for the finder's reward of the month. Send your discovery to [email protected]

Okal Rel Dressed for the Holidays

Christmas Header 2012

In fall of 2012, web developer David Juniper rennovated the Okal Rel website and associated blog, Reality Skimming. He also dressed up the banner with a Christmas bow and later with fireworks for the New Year. An auspitious beginning for the year Lynda Williams finishes the ten-novel Okal Rel Saga! And the "story" stream on Reality Skimming opens a third outlet for fiction set in the Okal Rel Universe.

New Year's Header 2013
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