In this editor’s opinion, the fictionist is best advised to:
– Let the writing be guided by a strong sense of who the (hopefully
somewhat interesting) protagonist is, even if zero time is spent
developing any other characters.
– Keep any speculative (“what if?”) element simple, or take it out
altogether. If the zombies are fast and smart, and the disease
angle never becomes important to the story, then it could almost
certainly be improved by making them regular old human attackers
instead. No reason you can’t still have all the violence and horror
you want, and the end result will be a lot more believable and hit
closer to home. The great news about Pseudopod is that we do run
stories grounded entirely in realism, so you don’t need a speculative
element to sell to us. And as the age-old spec fic writing advice
goes, if the speculative element can be removed without substantially
affecting the story, then it should be.
– Preferably, tell the story using standard past tense, third person,
active voice. Neither second person (the letter or monologue to an inert
“you” represented only when the speaker refers to “you”) nor present
tense exposition are fast routes to more innovative writing, but they are
some of the easiest ways to unintentionally annoy an editor at least a
Nothing is taboo on Pseudopod. Send us your splatterpunk and your
erotic horror. We love sex and violence — just bear in mind that I have
a frail suspension of disbelief, so characters must say and do rational
(not to say always ethical) things unless there’s a reason why not.
With that in mind, go nuts. Have fun with it — you know, in the Addams
Family sense of the word — and we will too.
As for what not to do, I theorize that good writers focus more on
positive examples than negative ones; but having said that, if your
internal critic is just not loud enough for you and you want a shopping
list of what to stay away from, Strange Horizons has already compiled a
list of overdone horror plots.
I, too, have seen all of these quite often. In fact, I have little to
add except to say that it is still possible to sell a story that matches
any one of those patterns — it’s just that actually attempting to do so
may be best considered an advanced exercise left to seasoned
fictionists. If your entire plot and resolution can be summarized in a
simple sentence like one of these at all, it probably wouldn’t hurt to
– Ben Phillips