Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Submit To Swill

Rob Pierce -- we like to refer to him as the man with two verbs for a name -- founded Swill long enough ago so I'd have to look it up. Make it around six years ago. He asked me to help him with it because I was capable of putting together a semi-competent magazine and he knew he could get decent fiction from me.

Rob was sick of fiction that was more interested in being fancy than being fun, and he also packed a serious dose of epater la bourgeoisie. Punk rock was a touchstone. Harlan Ellison's Dangerous Visions series was another. Our goal? To publish stories that wouldn't fit in anywhere else, and to do it so well we could say 'fuck you' to anyone.

I think we've done so.

Swill is a writer's magazine more than a reader's. Welcome to reality -- there is no real popular market for short fiction.

Which is a shame, because short fiction occupies a very important role in our culture. If nothing else, it is the essential training ground of the novelist -- what athletes do in the gym is as important as what they do on the field. And we are devoted to short-form fiction for its own sake.

At Swill, we take care of the fiction. We edit hard, and then proofread paranoiacally. The layout and illustration of the magazine are obsessively crafted to support the writing, to add resonance without affecting meaning. If we take your story, we treat it as well as we possibly can.

This actually compromises the magazine's quality for the reader at times -- it is typical for us to take a certain number of stories each issue not because they blew us away, but because we thought they were fixable. I know that sounds arrogant, but we work with the writers, and we do so out of a dedication to craft. We have never spoken of this, but when something comes in and the writer just needs a boost, it is irresistible to us.

There may be an editing chromosome.

But most of the people we publish have respectable track records. We've even published a writer I was familiar with for years before Swill came along, someone who's been represented on my bookshelf since the early eighties, John Shirley. You want to see him read the story he gave us for issue 4?

Check it out.

I saw this. I saw it on my birthday. I walked away wondering how I could get up on stage myself. Flat-out, that video? It's why I wound up reading at Lip Service. (Joe, I bugged him when I sent him Swill 5.) Here's my post about that night. If you're a regular reader, my! Hasn't my life changed since then?

(And let the plugs roll. Don't be a fool, buy In Extremis. These are my favorites of Shirley's work. There are certain points in my writing where I ask myself if I'm being too gentle with the reader or myself. The two stories I refer to are Joe R. Lansdale's The Night They Missed The Horror Show and I Want To Marry, Says World's Smallest Man, which is in In Extremis. Most people doing work with this kind of focus on transgression come across as faking it. Shirley feels real.)


Swill needs your stories. If you have work that is odd, knotty, ugly, too short, too long, if it is flawed but beautiful, then send it in! Send it in!

We promise to love it just as much as if it were normal.

Caution -- I may accuse you of being a, "dain-bramaged Bukowskabi who's sucking the prose from my head," and Rob may send you personally insulting rejection slips. You can't get Swill love without Swill hate.

(Better, Joe?)


Joe Clifford said...

Oh, you've said "Fuck You" to me more than once...

Sean Craven said...

Yeah, well, you didn't write as well then. We're picky fucks, this is true. Actually, what I told Rob was, "Reject but don't discourage." He came up with the rat-fucked by academia bit all on his own, and we here are all very proud of and his verbal facility, even if he is not always socially progressive in his use of it.

For the record? You got even with exterminator story. I read it, thought, "Tight clean prose, check, sympathetic psycho lead, check, yep, there's the real bad death -- I'm never taking a story like this again because this fucker stone read me. But he wins this one."

And then I found the piece had been taken and I muttered curses for days. I wanted that one.