Interview with Jennifer Parsons of Luna Station Quarterly

Hi, peeps!

Lookie here. I’m joined today by pixel-slinger Jennifer Parsons, the editor and publisher of free ezine Luna Station Quarterly, which publishes a Very Large Array of women who write speculative fiction.

In addition to her work at LSQ, Jennifer is a web designer and spec fic writer her own self. You can find out more about her stories and novels here. You can also find out more about her here and here. And you can see the latest issue of LSQ here.

In other words, Jennifer is neck-deep in spec fic! Some of you know that I’m a spec fic fan as well as writer, so I thought it would be neato bandito to have a sit-down with Jennifer and chat spec fic and LSQ (full disclosure: I currently serve as an assistant editor at LSQ). Maybe some of you will find it up your alley for either submitting your work or adding it to your “cool reads” basket. So let’s go see what’s up with LSQ and Jennifer Parsons!

ANDI: Hi, Jennifer. Thanks so much for joining us here at Women and Words. So tell us a bit about what Luna Station Quarterly is and what types of fiction you publish.

JENNIFER: I’d love to! Luna Station Quarterly is an online magazine with a mission of promoting women speculative fiction writers. It doesn’t matter if this is your first publishing credit or if you have tons of awards. All that matters is telling a good, satisfying story. We consider any story that currently falls under the vague moniker of “speculative fiction”, so SF, fantasy, a bit of horror, steampunk, fairy tales, etc. We publish short stories because, frankly, in this internet age it blows my mind that great fiction that takes no longer to read than a blog article hasn’t caught on.

ANDI: Excellent! Got that, readers? Newbies and established writers can submit to LSQ for consideration. And did you see the varied genres that fall under spec fic? MMMM HMMMM. Just sayin’. And I agree with you, Jennifer. Great short fiction is a good way to spend a few minutes. So how about a bit of background on LSQ. Did you wake up in the middle of the night one night and just knew you had to do it? Did you come across a bag of magic fairy dust that compelled you to start it? Inquiring minds want to know!

JENNIFER: Ooh! I wish it was fairy dust! That would have been much more interesting! We’re just finishing up year four (4! yay!), so I have to think back a bit. I had started my writing career in fan fiction.

ANDI: Way cool! We’ve got some writers and readers who haunt the Women and Words corridors who are either fans of fanfic or, in the case of writers, got their start that way.

JENNIFER: During that period, I learned a lot about writing and also learned that the vast, vast majority of fan fic is written by women. There was a particular flavor to the stories they all wrote, a kind of heart-centered thread that wove through the community, even when it was an action piece.
I took that with me when I was brave enough to start writing original fiction, but noticed that in many cases, the passion and energy I was accustomed to was missing. Then I noted there were significantly fewer women listed as the byline of what I was reading. I’m not saying that men can’t write passionate, energetic tales. I’m just saying women tend to write with a different energy.

ANDI: I tend to agree. I think there is a whole different energy to writing done by women versus that done by men. So there you were, a woman doing genre fiction. What did you notice about some of the venues you encountered as a possibility for your work?

JENNIFER: As I started submitting stories to other publications, I searched for something that would scratch an itch at the back of my head. There were a number of women-oriented mags, but they were very literary focused and usually stated that genre fiction wasn’t welcome. There was a gap there and it bugged me.

So, I took stock of the skills I had under my belt. I’m a web designer and developer by trade, had done a fair amount of editing during my fan fic days, already had hosting for my web work, and I was unemployed and had the time. Recipe for a magazine, if there ever was one. I bought a domain name, built a website, and got myself listed on Duotrope and Ralan. And the rest is history.

ANDI: So basically, you had a nice stash of ingredients ready to launch you on this project. That’s a bag of awesome, seems to me. And for readers not in the know, Duotrope and Ralan are major market listings for spec fic. Which leads me to my next question! Some people might not understand that the umbrella “speculative fiction” encompasses a whole lot of genres, including sci fi, fantasy, paranormal, steampunk, alt-history, and the like.

With that in mind, does LSQ have particular “favorites” in spec fic, or are you open to virtually any type of spec fic? Is there perhaps some spec fic that you just won’t publish?

JENNIFER: We’re open to anything, genre-wise, if its well written, engaging, has strong characters, etc. You know, a good all-around story. I’m personally partial to fairy and folk tales (not retellings, but original and new ones) and space opera. [Andi is way stoked about THIS!] The other editors have their favorites, too, so if it’s speculative it’s likely to find an audience within the editorial team.

ANDI: Anything you haven’t seen much of?

JENNIFER: I’m surprised how little vampire fiction we’ve gotten, which is fine as I think the poor beasts need a rest. I have yet to come across a story I wouldn’t publish based on a speculative element. Often it’s unpolished writing or lack of a speculative feel that earns a rejection. If the plot is overly cliché, that’s not so great either, unless the rest of the writing bowls us over.

ANDI: Not much vampire fic? Huh. Y’know, I’m wondering, though, if it’s because of a misunderstanding as to what spec fic is. Spec fic does, after all, include paranormal angles. Something else that I’ve noticed over the years is that it seems not a lot of women write some of the spec fic genres. That is, genres like space opera (which I have a bias toward because I write it) and what we might call “hard sci fi.” I do see lots of women writing fantasy and paranormal, as well as steampunk. Why do you suppose women haven’t taken to sci fi like they have other genres in spec fic?

JENNIFER: Whew, tough question that goes deeper than just storytelling, I think. From what I’ve seen, women have been pushed to the margins in the sciences, their intelligence undermined by society. So, many women don’t have the training readily available to do the research required to write “hard” sci-fi. Also, hard sci-fi has often been labeled a “fiction of ideas”, and in my experience, women tend to read stories that are “fiction of the heart”. Unfortunately for hard SF, that label is a misnomer as the best of that genre actually focuses on the human heart/emotions and how we react to technology and the effects of the natural world around us. It is, in fact, as much a fiction of the heart as any other tale, when done well.

ANDI: I’m glad you said that, because I think women readers tend to avoid hard sci fi because there’s a belief that it’s about men with gadgets, and that it’s written mostly by men. With gadgets. But there are some fine women hard sci fi writers who just don’t get the props. Lois McMaster Bujold, for example, who’s won the Nebula and the Hugo for best novel four times. And Ursula K. Leguin, who wrote that astounding gender-bender, The Left Hand of Darkness. She’s won four Nebulas, two Hugos, and a bunch of other awards. And what about Octavia Butler and Andre Norton? Butler’s Fledgling was mind-blowing! But talk a bit about that gadget and tech aspect of hard sci fi.

JENNIFER: I think, taking a broader scope, hard SF is becoming more and more difficult to write for everyone. Technology is moving so fast that many authors are struggling to speculate on the future and writing about the present is tough, as the technology, etc. you’re writing about could be obsolete by the time the book or story is published.

ANDI: Out of curiosity, what do you think would encourage girls to get into sci fi like some of us did?

JENNIFER: Getting girls interested in the sciences when they are young would be a great start. Also, I’m not the one to write it, but we need some modern classics that would challenge them and appeal to them. I remember reading Dragonriders of Pern as a young teenager and loving it, but when I reread it last year the misogyny in it made my liberal hurt. It’s got all the science fiction elements, but I wouldn’t hand it to a young girl to read nowadays.

ANDI: I did the same thing. Loved the Pern series as a ‘tween, then re-read some a couple years ago and. . .well, not so much, for the reason you said.

JENNIFER: I still think SF is important, though, as the world is moving so fast that it makes your head spin. It would be great if there was a way to give girls the kind of perspective on the world I got from those stories. In other words, I don’t have a great answer, but this is a good and important question we should be asking.

ANDI: Something else that’s interesting to me is how some genres of spec fic have been more welcoming, it seems, of LGBTQI authors, characters, and plots than perhaps other genres yet not so much of women in general. Do you agree with that and if so, why might that be?

JENNIFER: I think it’s a very mixed bag. There are pockets of people who love LGBTQI characters or women or POC (like we do at LSQ) and there are definitely pockets of people who, frankly, need to join this century. The internet provides a place where you can truly customize your experience and your life, so getting people out of their comfort zones is tricky.

The origins of this divide, as far as I can see, partly depends on the age of the genre. Steampunk — the way we know it today — is pretty young whereas hard SF is more old guard. As genres develop, they tend to evolve a certain flavor and, correct or not, breaking out of the tropes of the genre is not easy. When people sit down to read a fantasy book, they have a certain idea of what they’re going to expect. I think it’s getting better, though, and for now it’s a chance to take advantage of the shortcomings in a genre by being able to play in the margins and break the rules a bit.

ANDI: After all, isn’t that what spec fic is all about? Pushing boundaries? Exploring all kinds of issues? I’m amazed at how hidebound some of it can be. At any rate, you and I read a lot of spec fic, obviously, so we’ve seen a lot of the classic formulas and also new takes on old formulas and new stuff in general. What are some of the current trends you’re seeing in spec fic?

JENNIFER: Hmm. Honestly, I see a lot of everything. I think the current trend, if you can call it that, is anything goes. Because LSQ is not focused on any one genre, we see a lot of different things. It’s rather reassuring because from where I sit, speculative fiction looks damn healthy. People are playing in all kinds of genres and it just makes everything richer. All that said, occasionally, there will be a theme that develops on an individual issue. Without intending it, last year we had an issue that was creepy story heavy and earlier this year we had one that was filled with mostly bird stories. That’s more of what I see, a rolling trend driven by something outside publishing popularity.

ANDI: Which brings us to submissions! We’ve talked genres. Let’s talk mechanics. For our readers, what are some of the things you want authors to be aware of when they’re preparing a story for consideration at LSQ?

JENNIFER: I would suggest first that authors be sure to read the LSQ guidelines thoroughly. That goes for any other magazine you’re submitting to, as well. Most problems are avoided simply by reading the guidelines. [Andi is nodding her head so hard right now she looks like a bobblehead doll]

Also, PROOFREAD. Have someone you trust proofread, and then ask another person to proofread as well. Too many typos and grammar gaffs makes it appear that you don’t care enough about your story to present it well. [Andi has bobbleheaded so hard her neck hurts]

ANDI: So is LSQ a paying market? Or a “for the love” venue?

JENNIFER: We’ve actually been a paying market since the beginning of the year. LSQ authors are currently paid from donations and ebook sales (and my own pocket). I’m working with a distributor for the ebooks to hopefully get some more exposure and sales. I’ve also got plans for the future that try to avoid advertising, but still bring in some more passive income to cover costs. I’m also working on LSQ’s parent press, Luna Station Press, to put out great books and allow the profits to bolster the quarterly.

ANDI: Excellent! What other plans do you have for the ezine? Long-term? Short-term? And what’s your ultimate vision for LSQ?

JENNIFER: Oh, I always have plans! Loads of them! In the short term, I’m currently redesigning and rebuilding the website. It’s way overdue for a face lift and there are a lot of features I want to add to the site. I’m also looking into ways to bring in more funds to cover current and future costs.

That leads into the long term plans. I want to keep increasing the amount I pay out to authors. My goal is to eventually be able to pay pro rates. Additionally, I’m working on expanding our social media presence to better spread the word about the great stories we’re publishing and writers who send us their tales. I would love to start taking a LSQ table to cons, too.

My long term vision? It’s simple, but flexible. Keep growing the LSQ community and support more women authors and do it even better. This means more stuff on the blog, ways authors can promote their other projects, and putting out great stories quarter after quarter.

ANDI: Well, that sounds like a big bowl of awesome for spec fic fans! And writers, consider LSQ as your next venue for your spec fic story. Thanks, Jennifer, for stopping by! Catch you online. 🙂

And to you, dear readers, happy Friday!

6 comments

  1. I didn’t understand some of what you talked about in here. I just started reading spec fic about a year ago. I never thought I would like it, but everything I’ve read so far, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. I am slowly learning more about it, so this was enjoyable reading.

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  2. […] Some of you know that in addition to the writing stuff, I’m also an assistant editor over at Luna Station Quarterly, an ezine that publishes spec fic (short stories) by women. They’re always interested in finding new writers as well as established, so if you write spec fic (and that encompasses sci fi, fantasy, paranormal, fairy-tale-ish), consider them as a venue for your work. If you read spec fic or you’re interested in some fine short fiction in the genre, maybe add LSQ to your go-to sites for that. You can read an interview I did with LSQ’s founder and editor, Jennifer Parsons, here. […]

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