Speculative Fiction Markets
Speculative fiction is everything that falls on the fantastic end of the sliding scale between realistic and fantasy. This includes stories that straddle the line between different genres like fantasy, science fiction and horror.
A key ingredient to any speculative story is conflict. This can include conflict within your characters or large scale conflict in the setting.
The science fiction genre takes our current realities and bends, twists and contorts them into a reimagined reality. It allows writers to imagine the possible and to explore humanity’s future in a new, alternative reality. This is where you’ll find stories of time travel, teleportation, genetic engineering, body morphing and the like.
These ideas often lead to moral parables and philosophical tales that satirize or challenge conventional beliefs, institutions or social practices by positing radically different societies or alternative worlds. They are similar to literary fables, the moral stories of folklore and classical legend that predated modern science fiction.
One market that straddles the line between speculative fiction and science fiction is Electric Spec, which pays $20 for every story it publishes. They accept sci-fi, fantasy, slipstream and other types of speculative fiction between 250 and 7,000 words in length. Their writer’s guidelines can be found here. The well-established Science Fiction magazine Asimov’s also has a speculative fiction section and pays 8 cents per word.
There are more short story markets devoted to fantasy than ever before. This is partly because of the proliferation of fantasy-inspired TV, movies and books (think J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter, George R.R Martin’s A Game of Thrones and Brandon Sanderson’s The Stormlight Archive).
While science fiction tends to focus on technology or natural scenarios that could realistically exist in the future, fantasy often takes place in imaginary worlds, featuring implausible supernatural or magical elements such as wizards, elfs, dragons and trolls. This is a big market for writers with imagination and talent, especially when it’s done well.
For example, a prestigious fantasy magazine like Asimov’s wants character-orientated stories up to 25,000 words long, paying 8-12 cents per word on acceptance. They’re also looking for slipstream, hypertext and puzzle stories. See their detailed submission requirements here. Then there’s a publisher like PodCastle that’s currently open for submissions of fiction “that centers Black, Brown and Indigenous cultures, histories, belief systems, philosophies and perspectives.”
Horror is a genre of fiction that focuses on terrifying stories that incite fear. It can be a subgenre of fantasy, or it can include elements from other genres such as science fiction, alternative history or even contemporary themes like serial killers or slashers. Horror can also include dark themes that explore darker social issues and primal fears, like racism in Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017).
Horror stories often feature monstrous others, which can be supernatural entities like ghosts, vampires or werewolves, or they may be mundane, such as psychopathic and cruel murderers. They can also involve modern interpretations of folklore, medieval beliefs or occult ritual practices.
Electric Spec accepts all genres, including SF and fantasy, as long as the story contains a speculative element. They are especially interested in stories that explore the theme of queerness, and they pay $0.01/word for submissions under 17,500 words. See their guidelines here. They are open for themed submissions during January and July, and unthemed submissions throughout the year.
The weird subgenre of speculative fiction includes ghost stories, dark fantasy tales, and other supernatural stories. Its themes are often based on human fear of the unknown, exploration of the human psyche, and blurring of lines between different dimensions or realities.
It’s a good market, especially if you can break away from the cliches of traditional vampires, werewolves, and zombies that saturate mainstream fiction. Weird fiction can take those cliches and twist them into new and interesting tales that are more than just mindless entertainment.
A lot of the time, weird fiction combines science fiction, fantasy, and horror in a brain explosion of hybrid vigor. This type of writing is sometimes called slipstream or magic realist literature. It’s fiction that could pass as a normal literary story, except for the fantastic elements. It’s a genre that has a big future potential. This is largely due to the fact that our current world seems strange and exotic enough to be worth exploring in fiction.