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.


Why SF #12: Colleen Anderson

Why SF? Asking kindred spirits in the SF community the story of why they give back and create forward.

ColleenAndersonColleen Anderson's fiction and poetry have appeared in over 100 publications with recent work in Over the Brink, Polu Texni and Heroic Fantasy Quarterly. She is a two time Aurora Award finalist in poetry. As well, she edits poetry and fiction for CZP, and is co-editing Tesseracts 17. New work will be coming out in Bull Spec, Bibliotheca Fantastica, Fantastic Frontiers, Artifacts and Relics, Deep Cuts, and Chilling Tales 2.

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.~Nelson Mandela

Interviewed by Tegan Lott

1)Steve Vernon and yourself will be editing Tesseract 17. What do you hope to include in "Speculating Canada From Coast to Coast to Coast"?

Tesseracts is a distinctly Canadian anthology, which means it reflects the diversity of Canadian writing. If any Tesseracts should do this, Tesseracts 17 is the one. From Coast to Coast to Coast should include writers from all regions. While we will look at quality first, we want more than stories from Ontario. We're less likely to take stories of the same old tropes, unless there's a unique twist, so sending your best writing will give you a better chance.

I would love to see stories from the Maritimes, and the territories, from writers of all cultures. So far, I think we've only received one from those areas. Canada is a large country where climate and land often dominate us. This theme comes out in movies and stories. I think we may have some of those, as well as hopefully stories that embrace the uniqueness of Canada, whether that's through Wendigo,Sasquatch and Ogopogo (or some other made up myth) or through traversing the wilderness in new ways, or politics with a twist.

Lest we be flooded with sasquatch stories, I'd like to see true diversity in the poetry and fiction we receive; everything from Steampunk and ancient lands, to space-faring and nano-tech. From horror to humour, I hope we'll have a true rainbow of tales, and excellent writing in all of them.

2) Why, in particular, did you decide to edit Tesseracts 17?

The Tesseracts anthologies are put out by Edge Publishing. Every year Brian Hades chooses editors and the themes for the yearly anthology. Brian approached me at When Words Collide and mentioned there had been complaints of too much focus on Ontario (sorry, guys) so he wanted to make sure that this Tesseracts reflects all of Canada. I'm not sure but I think many of the past editors have also been from Ontario or Quebec.

Brian chose Steve and I, partly because we are on opposite coasts, and we have enough of a track record of publications, editing and judging. Steve and I co-edited the Rannu poetry competition last year, as he was the previous year's winner and I was the runner-up.

For me, personally, I've wanted to edit an anthology for a long time. Rhea Rose and I tried to sell an idea to Brian a while back, so this has been a long-term goal. Of course I love to write, but I want to help shape the face of speculative fiction, and support writers. If I could afford it I'd do my own anthology as well.

3) How are personally involved in the writing and poetic community?

I'm part of SF Canada and our e-list allows for a virtual community. I've never met Steve Vernon in the flesh but we know each other to a degree, and I asked him to do an introduction for my reprint collection Embers Amongst the Fallen. SFC gives me a chance to talk writing with others across Canada. I'm also part of HWA (the Horror Writers Association) but I haven't been able to explore that community as much. And of course I go to a couple of conventions when I can.

I don't do as many readings as I used to in Vancouver but I'm thinking it might be time to re-energize that. Toronto has a very large and vibrant writing community, and they seem to always have readings and launches and other writing related events.

Here in Vancouver, there are only the pricey writers festivals and a few readings that are not always well advertised. Vancouver has been accused of being a no-fun city and a cultural black hole. The arts struggle here and I'm not sure it's because of size.

I'm thinking I might start out with holding writer cocktail parties and then maybe finding a suitable venue for doing some readings. Something is needed to bring writers together and we have very little. Vancouver is so laid back that we'll never have a world-class convention (WFC, WHC, Worldcon) because no one wants to organize.

I also run my blog where I talk about writing among other topics. Like I said above, if I could get the money together I'd do an anthology, partly so I could support the writing community, and help new authors. I also edit for Chizine, as poetry editor (with Carolyn Clink) for the online magazine, and as a slush reader for manuscripts. I always try to give some constructive advice if I reject a story because, as a writer, I know how hard it is to be published and how thankful I was any time I received a clue as to what wasn't working in my story.

Who knows. Writing and editing are my life and I would love to immerse myself even more in the community so the future will evolve with what I'll do.


ORU Artifact #7: Okal Rel Fan Club on Deviant Art

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]

Mel, Angie, Catherine and Tegan started a collection of ORU pictures on Deviant Art circum 2008-9. Below is a snapshot showing the logo-banner Mel created, in the upper lefthand corner, which rotates through three images. See:

Snapshot of Okal Rel Fan Club on Deviant Art

Snapshot of Okal Rel Fan Club on Deviant Art


Why SF #3: Michael Matheson on the Friends of Merril Short Story Contest

Why SF? Asking kindred spirits in the SF community the story of why they give back and create forward.

Michael Matheson is a writer, editor, and sometime lecturer. A submissions editor with Apex Magazine, and a book reviewer for ChiZine, Innsmouth Free Press, and The Globe and Mail, he is also the editor of the Friends of the Merril Collection newsmagazine Sol Rising. As a writer he has work published or forthcoming in several venues, including the Lovecraft eZine, One Buck Horror, and the anthologies Future Lovecraft, Chilling Tales 2, and The Mark of the Beast.

He maintains an online presence at his blog, A Dark and Terrible Beauty, which can be found at

Interviewed by Tegan Lott

Tell us about the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest

The Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest is a way to accomplish several goals. On one hand, it's a method of creating exposure, and helping to fundraise for, the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy - which is a special collection of the Toronto Public Library System, and the largest, (at 72,000 items and growing) as well as the most comprehensive, collection of its kind in North America. On the other hand, the contest is an opportunity for writers at any stage of their career, from established pros to those who've never tried writing a story before, to enter an inexpensive contest and get some feedback on their work (we're looking into being able to do more of this going forward since time constraints made it almost impossible the first time out), and have a chance at winning a cash prize. It's also a great opportunity for entrants who make it to the final round of the contest to have their work read by some of the best Canadian editors and writers in the speculative fiction field (and me).

Actually, I'd like to think our final judges panel was one of the reasons we had such excellent turnout for the inaugural contest year. And with Leah Bobet, Sandra Kasturi, Mike Kelly, and Chris Szego making up four of the five judges on the panel, it's little wonder that we had so many entries. Taken together, the members of our final judges panel make up a great cross-section of individuals who all split their time between writing and editing, in one fashion or another, in the speculative fiction field - and all of whom, I might add, have a wide breadth of knowledge and insight into the state of that field from their differing perspectives as publishers, editors, and booksellers.

And, of course, though things went exceedingly well in our first year, we're hoping to run an even better contest going forward. Given everything we learned in that inaugural year, and all the feedback we've received so far (and still hope to receive), we're looking at every aspect of the contest's infrastructure with an eye to seeing how we can improve the contest year to year. We're also looking at restructuring with an eye to seeing what we can fix in the immediate future. Everything from the nature of the prizes to contest administration is under scrutiny, and we hope to have a very strong slate of changes and "upgrades" to the contest in place before the start of the coming 2012-2013 contest year. We've talked about some of the changes we're already going to be instituting, or are leaning toward, here: And we'll be talking about other changes on the contest website as we confirm them.

Describe your role and involvement in the Friends of the Merril

I wear a couple of different hats working with the Friends of the Merril Collection. I've been editing the Friends of the Merril Collection newsmagazine, Sol Rising, since midway through 2010, and I help out in whatever other capacities arise that I'm able to provide assistance with. And, of course, with the advent of the FoMSSC I've been acting as contest administrator for that, as well as doing the slush wrangling, and acting as one of the final panel judges.

What prompts a project like this, and what makes it worthwhile for the Friends of the Merril to support writers in this fashion?

The story behind the genesis of the FoMSSC involves a fair amount of internal discussion among the Friends, and conversations I had with others outside of the Friends as well. It was actually a fairly convoluted genesis, simply because a project like this goes through several developmental stages between its inception and the point at which everything starts coming together and actually has a hope in hell of getting off the ground. I won't go into the whole long history here, but it's easy enough to state where this started, which was that I was looking for a way to open up the Friends' activities to directly supporting the generation of new speculative fiction. Obviously, the Merril Collection itself is a venue for writers, readers, editors, academics, and others with an interest in, obsession with, or avocation to speculative fiction, but the Friends had never really had an opportunity to give specific impetus to getting people to write their own new fiction beyond basic inspirations. The closest the Friends have ever come is through supporting, and creating programming to highlight, the instances in which the Merril Collection has hosted Writer in Residence programs for speculative fiction writers like Judith Merril, Robert Sawyer, and, most recently, Karl Schroeder.

We started out with a twofold idea at the core of running the FoMSSC: give writers a new venue for getting feedback and/or payment for their work, and generate exposure for the Merril itself. Certainly, the initial concept of how we were going to do that has changed radically, but I think in the end we found the best possible venue for doing this - especially since using an external website to do so has allowed us a somewhat more global outreach than we were actually expecting to receive, which is a benefit in and of itself.

And it must also be said that though part of what we're doing is inherently monetarily based (the Friends, as a body, exist in order to support and promote the Merril Collection, and the FoMSSC is in part a fundraising effort - there's really no other way to spin that) the larger goal of the contest is to expose writers who don't yet have access to the speculative fiction community to the wider body; to blow the door off its hinges. There's a thriving world of fans and craftspeople to be had in the speculative fiction field, and, granted, like any diffuse body it has its issues, but the field, and the people in it, have so much to offer. The Friends want to give people a place to find themselves, and through the running of this contest we're hopefully going to be able to get not just new writers, but those with a general interest in speculative fiction as well, to seek out places like the Merril, and local and far-flung conventions, and all manner of other organizations that promote a love of literacy and the extraordinary ideas that linger beyond the borders of the ordinary. We're doing this because it's the right thing to do. Because everyone deserves that moment of exultation when you find not just the place that exists for you beyond the borders you thought you knew, but a home there as well.

What is it that you're looking for in short stories submitted that would be different from, say, a longer, or even novel length, work, and what kinds of approaches are most effective at the length the contest is working with?

There are an inordinate number of ways to approach the writing of a short story; there's no right or wrong way, though there are elements and techniques that work better than others. But in a contest format, given the fairly short length of entries we're working with (5,000 words for sure, possibly larger, in the 2012-2013 contest), the stories need to be tightly executed, well-conceived, and fully-rounded to make an impact.

The main difference between the short form we're working with, and the longer form (novel length) is that the higher the word count you work with the more opportunities there are to explore the world in which the story takes place and the characters who move through it. In a short story everything serves the central theme; there simply isn't room to explore more than a small handful of aspects of the world you're creating at that length. Interestingly though, with the entries for the last contest, and also with the stories that I see as a submissions editor at Apex (where the maximum allowable word count is also 5,000), where most writers tend to go wrong with the short story form isn't trying to put too much in, but conversely leaving too much out: both venues receive a lot abstracts or sketches that start scratching out the ideas of the piece, but never really show us the whole of it.

A strong, captivating story is built around a central idea. But that idea has to be reinforced by other elements. Even in flash fiction, which we actually saw a fair amount of in the 2011-2012 contest, there has to be some sense of the character(s) we're following, or if we're not working primarily with characters then we need some way to interact with the ideas that are being explored. At the length we allow, strong characterization and plot-driven work is probably going to be the best approach, especially for newer writers who don't yet have a bag of learned tricks to call on. Truthfully, we're looking forward to seeing some experimental work in the coming year's entries, and I absolutely don't want to put any kind of restraint on the fiction coming in, but for a story to make it out of the slush pile there has to be something special about it - and as long as there is you can go about that any way you want.

In the end though, no matter what tricks, techniques, or choices for form (or lack there of) you apply to your story, the following is worth remembering. Effective and compelling speculative fiction stories are separated from ineffective ones by several key elements: the quality of prose, how intriguing the core concepts are, and whether or not in the end we care about what has happened. If you can carry the reader through the story with you, have them invest in the work and honestly care about what happens to your three-dimensional characters, that's the sign of a damn good story.

Now go write.


ORU Artifact #2: Michelle Milburn Art Book p 1-2

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]

Michelle Milburn created the layouts for the first Okal Rel Universe art book for use at Chicon 7 in 2012. The art book was made possible by ORU patron Kathy Plett. David Lott is facilitating its production, and it will taken to Chicon 7 by Angela and Tegan Lott. The ORU is grateful to Bobbie DuFault for the invite to Chicon 7.

ORU Art Book by Michelle Milburn - page 1-2

Chicon 7 ORU Art Book by Michelle Milburn - page 1-2

Page 1-2 of the first ORU art book. Character is Kath in novella Kath, holding baby Vondar. Origin: a page of print art book made possible by Kathy Plett and put together by Michelle Milburn, featuring the work of Michelle Milburn, Richard Bartrop, Brianna Thomas and Yukari Yamamoto.

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