Submission Guidelines for StarShipSofa
StarShipSofa is currently open for submissions from December 14 to January 14. Any submissions outside this period will be deleted unread.
What is StarShipSofa?
I’m glad you asked.
We’re the first podcast to ever be nominated for the Hugo award, which we won in 2010. We have been subsequently nominated in 2011, 2012 and 2013. We’ve run weekly since 2006, playing the poetry, articles, interviews and science fiction from all corners of the universe. Combined with our sister websites Far Fetched Fables and Tales to Terrify under the District of Wonders, we rake in roughly 150,000+ downloads per month.
We’ve had the opportunity to podcast fiction by Neil Gaiman, Harry Harrison, David Brin, Ted Chiang, Karen Joy Fowler, Joe Haldeman, Alistair Reynolds, Gene Wolfe, Stephen Donaldson, Kage Baker and many more. I have personally have the privilege of directly working with George R. R. Martin, William Gibson, Kim Stanley Robinson, Robin Hobb, Norman Sprinrad, Peter Watts and others, producing audio adaptations of their work.
Our authors include Hugo, Nebula, Bram Stoker, Locus, Shirley Jackson, BSFA, Man Booker Prize, World Fantasy award winners and nominees, and stories played on the show have also won or been nominated for the aforementioned awards. Our narrators include actors, theatre performers, directors, script writers, and others. For our full list of authors, narrators and interviewees, check out our archives.
What do we want?
In a word: science-fiction. From the soft, social science fiction to the weird pulpy stuff to the vigorous hard SF and YA adventure. We welcome all sub-genres and all variety of punks in all their colours. From high-octane action to quiet philosophical stories, we’re after it all.
The exception is that the SF element must be the backbone of the story. It cannot be an afterthought, or simple window dressing. It can be subtle, but it has to be the story’s foundation. If you take away the speculative element and the story still stands, then it’s not science-fiction and it is not for us.
The only thing we don’t want are fantasy and supernatural horror stories. Those go to Far Fetched Fables and Tales to Terrify. Genre labels are loose and can bleed together, but if the coal in the story’s engine is magic or supernatural based, we don’t want it. But if there are science-based elements, however soft, then it can be considered. If in doubt, send.
What we don’t see enough of
* Space Opera – Show us a galaxy full of richness and goodness, the sort we want to get lost in. Give us Dyson spheres, insane biotech, galactic societies on a grand scale and a universe of endless possibilities, teeming with alien aliens and packed full of outlandish societies in the vein of Iain M. Banks, Elizabeth Moon and Peter F. Hamilton.
* Dark Humour/Satire – Our world is an absurd, insane and nonsensical one, and sometimes the best thing to do is ridicule it, especially when it comes to politics and society, something that Black Mirror executes with nuance. Think along the lines of Irvine Welsh and Chuck Palahniuk. There is not a single thing in this world that cannot be mocked, ridiculed, satirized, or criticized, and we want to see your twisted futures with no limits. No one is safe. We want jokes black as pitch. The more sicker, morbid and offensive the better.
* Stories set outside of America – Science-fiction is about broading our scope. Expanding our vision to the stars, and escaping the norm. Not every future needs to be dominated by the big ol’ USA, and we’re absolutely interested in seeing a future set in another culture or location. What if Japan was overrun by AIs? What would a space station run by Russia look like? What if India was the first to set up a colony on another planet? What if aliens and humans lived side by side in an Afrofuturistic West Africa? Ian McDonald, Paolo Bacigalupi and Aliette de Bodard are fantastic examples of doing this well.
* Military SF – The blaze of bullets, high-powered armor and alien worlds. Sign us up.
* Sci-fi horror – According to Ellen Datlow, horror is more than a genre: it’s a tone, one that has a foothold in every genre. Often nihilistic and absolutely horrifying, we want to see the darker side of science-fiction. In this case, the science is more important than the horror. Pure supernatural horror does not belong here, but we’d love to see your abandoned space stations, nightmarish planets and mysterious aliens. Try us.
However, we’re absolutely open to everything and this should certainly not be a checklist. Send what you have and we’ll check it out. We want the best stories from any subgenre, period. Ultimately the best way to get a feel for what we want is to listen to the podcast itself. We favour rich world building, tight prose, complex characters, engaging dialogue and strong pacing, however you define it.
Although we will consider all types of SF, second person is a very tough sell, as are stories that are preachy and didactic in nature. We’re not the place for fanfiction, fetishistic torture-porn or total erotica (more stuff on that below). We don’t take well to gimmicky stories that lack a narrative, and as for stories about werewolves, zombies, vampires…don’t even get us started. Seriously. It won’t end well.
Fiction should be free to explore any themes it wishes to, and that means going to some very dark places. There are no label warnings on any of our stories, and we are not interested in censorship or refraining from anything controversial. There are no levels to the amount of violence, themes, sex, swearing, drugs, or otherwise adult themes in our stories. Our stories range from the heart-warming adventure to horrifically dark splatterpunk. We’re all adults here, and nothing is taboo. We want stories that reflect every aspect of the human condition, however twisted. However, we are not an erotica market, and torture porn is unlikely to impress us. Whatever you’re sending, just make sure it’s thematically justified.
What to send?
We only run reprints on StarShipSofa. No original work at this current time. We do not consider anything self-published, published at a vanity press, or at a FTL (for the love) market. We are absolutely interested in seeing work published at semi-pro or higher venues. Examples of included markets are here. If you were paid for the story, then it’s fair game. We are especially interested in seeing stories published in print anthologies, or stories not available publicly online for free. Please mention where the work was originally published in your cover letter.
However, we cannot take any stories that have been previously published in audio. If the fine folk at EscapePod, Podcastle, Pseudopod, Drabblecast, etc, have picked you up, then we can’t use it. This does not include anthologized audio books. If in doubt, query.
Story length runs up to 15,000 words. Flash fiction is finicky, but we do take it. The sweet spot is between 5000-10,000 words, but we want (and need!) stories within the entire range.
Multiple and simultaneous submissions
You can send up to three stories at once, but in separate emails please. Sim-subs are also allowed (as long as they’re not to another podcast), but please tell us if another market gets to you first.
Rights and payment
We do not pay (although that will hopefully change later next year), and thus require only nonexclusive one time audio rights to pubcast your story.
How to send
Please send your science fiction short stories to firstname.lastname@example.org, attached as .doc files. Use standard manuscript formatting (12-point, Times New Roman, double-spaced). Please include a bio and the venue where your story was originally published. We will try to respond within thirty days, but we will aim for a much shorter time. Query within sixty. The longer we hold your story, the better your chances. Please do not re-submit rejected stories, or argue with rejections letters. Make sure to log your submission on the Grinder.
To get a feel for what we’re truly after, give our podcast a listen. And if you could support the show, that would be marvelous. Paying you our contributors would be a dream come true. Let’s make that happen. Our Patreon page is here.
Good luck! We look forward to reading your submissions.