Sold “The Snake King Sells Out” to Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show

Years of looking at the bibliographies of up-and-coming authors have taught me that in the science fiction world, there are three main groupings of markets. The first grouping contains the online mags: Lightspeed, Clarkesworld, Apex, and Strange Horizons. In the second group are the digest mags whose stories hew more closely to core 90s-style humanist SF: Asimov’s and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. And the third group holds the remnants of the Golden Age, stories that are more idea- or adventure-driven: Writers of the Future, AnalogOrson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, and the now-closed Jim Baen’s Universe. The fantasy groupings are a little different, but to a large extent, these groupings even hold for those stories.

Authors can sell novels, hit best-seller lists, and win awards without ever breaking out of their grouping. A good example is Catherynne Valente. She’s a fairly prolific short story writer whose stories are a massive influence on the world of contemporary fantasy and sci-fi, but I don’t think she’s ever published a story in any of the group two or three magazines.

Which really doesn’t mean anything, of course. The three groups differ primarily because they have different audiences. In order to be a successful author, you don’t need to appeal to multiple audiences…you just need to find your audience; and Cat Valente has clearly managed to do that. Or we can look at Ted Chiang, who’s never really published a story in groups one or three. Or Eric James Stone, who hasn’t really published a story in groups one or two (except for a reprint in Apex in 2009).

All I’m really saying is that with this story sale, I’m now a cross-group author. Woot.

This story was at IGMS for 143 days before I queried (about three weeks ago). My query shook loose a revision request (editor Edmund Schubert wanted to see a different ending). Ten days after I submitted the revision, he accepted the story.

This is probably my most-revised story. I polished it up to what I thought was perfection and sent it out (to Apex) about a year ago, and then submitted it to a workshop class (with Nick Mamatas, in Berkeley), where he told me it was too long (and that the ending was bad). I went through it really exhaustively, cutting about a thousand words and polishing it up to perfection again, only to have to do a third round of revision before I could actually sell it.

I’m really happy about this. I’ve done two revision requests before (for Shimmer and Strange Horizons), and after failing to sell the stories, I’d become somewhat cynical about the whole request-for-revision game. But now I suppose my faith in sunshine and love and puppydogs has been restored. It’s also always good to sell to a new market. And this is my tenth pro sale, so I can cross that off my goals list as well. The story should appear in May.

12 thoughts on “Sold “The Snake King Sells Out” to Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      Thanks! Yeah. It’s been good times. Have you heard from Marvin Kaye on when your stories are coming out? It’d be awesome to read them!

  1. Carson

    Congrats on your sale.

    You’ve described group 2 as ‘90’s humanist sci-fi, group 3 as the remants of the Golden Age, but haven’t really described group1 aside from ‘online’. How would you describe the stories the online group publishes?

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      I’m too close to group 1. I wasn’t sure I could describe it in a way that wouldn’t make the other groups sound bad =)

      I would say that group one contains postmodern science fiction: stories in which the trappings of science fiction are used more for aesthetic reasons than in order to speculate about the future or about the human condition–stories that are science fiction in the same way that _The Naked Lunch_ or _The Road_ are science fiction. But, of course, that’s more true for some stories (and some magazines) than for others. I’ve seen some fairly Asimovs-type SF stories in both Lightspeed and Clarkesworld.

    2. R. H. Kanakia

      And, of course, all of this kind of taxonomy is a little futile, in the end, since there are so many exceptions.

  2. Frank Bishop

    You get 13 or 14 more congrats from me, tops.

    So “The Snake King Sells Out” was the most revision intensive story you have written? How far away from what you originally visioned did you end up?

    I just recently started submitting to some magazines and have collected some rejections. I have a few revision requests that didn’t pan out and one pending, I’m curious if I am the only one that finds myself wandering a little off the road I originally wrote.

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      The premise, characters, setting, and plot didn’t change too much during any of the rounds of revision. What mostly changed is that during the second round I cut about 1000 words (out of a 3800 word story) including several entire scenes. And during the rewrite for IGMS I changed the ending to something that was substantively similar but a little bit more definitive and hopeful (which entailed rewriting the last 1/3rd of the story for a net addition of about 800 words).

      Once I write the last word of a story and mark the first draft as being complete, it’s fairly rare for me to make structural changes to a story (i.e. change its premise, characters, setting, or plot). Usually, at that point most of my editing is to either reduce words, layer in some additional meaning, and/or change the ending. However, before the first full draft is finished, I often complete multiple rewrites during which the premise, plot, and characters can change fairly drastically. I don’t consider that to be revision, though. I think of it as being part of the drafting promise.

      Oh, and thanks for the congratulations!

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      Oh that’s a good one! It’s surprisingly hard to find early career folks who’ve sold to all three. I just spent a moment googling likely suspects (Ken Liu, Tony Pi), but had no luck.

  3. przteszt

    “The fantasy groupings are a little different, but to a large extent, these groupings even hold for those stories.”

    What do you mean by “a little different”? How would you group fantasy markets?

    BTW congrats on the sale to Redstone SF, I’m looking forward to reading the story! I’ll probably review it too, since I tend to review Redstone stories these days… (I just complained about the previous issue the other day. ^^; )

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      Hey there, always good to see a new commenter! I said, “A little different” mostly because I don’t really have as good of a sense of the aesthetic axes that define fantasy. I have a feeling that these groupings are still somewhat meaningful, but I didn’t really want to commit to them in the same way that I am willing to commit to them with regards to science fiction. In my (limited) reading, I think that Lightspeed’s fantasy offerings are more like F&SF’s than its SF offerings are. I think Apex, Clarkesworld, and Strange Horizons still form a group. Lightspeed and F&SF form a group. And WoTF and IGMS form a group. I’m not really sure where to place Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Sometimes it seems a little aesthetically conservative to me, but alot of people really seem to admire and respect it’s fiction, so I think I need to read it more before I can pass judgment. Actually, I need to read them all a bit more before I can pass judgment (at least on the Fantasy side).

      Oh, and thanks for the congratulations. I hope you enjoy the story.

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