Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Submissions Update

According to our rough count, we received 468 stories over the course of our submission period. Even allowing for some double-counting due to rewrite requests and stories that needed to be re-sent, that's easily over 450 submissions. We're about three-quarters of the way through reading them, with 110 stories left before we can start making our final decisions.

Since we're going chronologically, we have now responded to all stories sent to us by December 10th. So if you sent a story on or before that date, you should have received a rejection, a hold request, a rewrite request, or an email telling you there was a problem with your submission and inviting you to correct the problem and submit again.

If you submitted a story before 11:59 PM Eastern on December 10th and did not receive a response from us, feel free to send a query to the editors email in the sidebar.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Submissions are now closed

Submissions have closed as of 12 am Eastern on December 26th. Thank you for all the great stories! We'll be reading them and letting you know which stories will make it in as soon as we can.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas!

We hope that you and yours are enjoying the day. As a reminder, Christmas is the last day to submit stories for Mysterion. That means that you have 24 hours to send us your stories.

Friday, December 18, 2015

One week left!

We want to remind everyone that there is only a week left before submissions for Mysterion close. Make sure to send us your stories by December 25th.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Submissions Progress

Remember, submissions close on December 25th. That's a little less than two weeks away. So if you're still planning to send us a submission, make sure to get it to us before the end of Christmas Day.

We have now responded to all stories sent to us by November 24th. So if you sent a story on or before that date, you should have received a rejection, a hold request, a rewrite request, or an email telling you there was a problem with your submission and inviting you to correct the problem and submit again.

If you submitted a story before 11:59 PM Eastern on November 24th and did not receive a response from us, feel free to send a query to the editors email in the sidebar.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

You can pre-order your copy now

We recently added a pre-order page to the website. Right now, the only way to pre-order your copy of the anthology is to support us on Patreon. Pledge $5 or more, and you'll be able to download the DRM-free e-book a month before it's generally available. $25 will get you the paperback, with shipping included. (Pledge amounts will be charged only once, when we produce the anthology, rather than as a monthly campaign).

You may be wondering why you'd want to pre-order our anthology when you don't know what's in it. Unlike us, you haven't had a chance to read any of the over 350 submissions, much less the 37 stories we're excited about and want to publish. That's more than we can currently afford with our story budget, which means that when we get to the end of the submission period and choose what goes into the anthology, we’ll have to reject stories we really like so that we can print the stories we truly love. And this will only get worse, as we find more stories we want to publish and are forced to choose between our favorites.

While we can’t tell you at this point which stories will ultimately make it into the anthology, we really do love the stories we’re already holding. Stories spanning the whole gamut of speculative fiction genres, including medieval fantasy, modern fantasy, post-apocalyptic horror, weird western, far future science fiction, alien planets and alien civilizations, and near future science fiction. Stories that eschew easy answers and instead ask hard questions of the Christian faith, such as: Can you really tell the difference between an angel and a demon? Do demons get a chance at redemption? Do robots have souls? Is it right to turn away from what you need for survival in order to remain true to your beliefs? What revelation might God give to aliens that he hasn't given us? How much choice do you have when you're chosen by God? Would we really want a God who judges in the here and now? If you want to read stories that ask these kinds of questions, where the struggle is more certain than the answer, then we think you'll enjoy our anthology.

One advantage to supporting us on Patreon now instead of waiting until we've announced the final story selection is that it will allow us to publish more of the stories we like, and even pay our authors more. We recently reached our first milestone (and lost it due to a change in how Patreon does its calculations, but we lowered the milestones so we've reached it again). This means the anthology will include one more story than it would have if we hadn't reached our goal. And if we reach the next milestone by January 15th, we'll add a second extra story.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Submissions Progress

We have now responded to all stories sent to us by November 9th. So if you sent a story on or before that date, you should have received a rejection, a hold request, a rewrite request, or an email telling you there was a problem with your submission and inviting you to correct the problem and submit again.

If you submitted a story before 11:59 PM Eastern on November 9th and did not receive a response from us, feel free to send a query to the editors email in the sidebar.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to our American readers! Being 50% American ourselves (and 100% in the US right now), we've been thinking about what we're thankful for.

One thing we're very thankful for is all the support we've received from our friends and readers since we started to put together this anthology. Every encouraging word has helped us through those days when we wondered whether it was worth the effort. We're especially grateful for the 300+ story submissions we've received since opening.

Finally, we'd like to thank everyone who's contributed to Mysterion financially. We have, in fact, an entire page on this website dedicated to thanking those people who are helping to make Mysterion better.  If you'd like to do so as well, you can contribute on our Patreon page at www.patreon.com/EnigmaticMirror.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Submissions progress

We have now responded to all stories sent to us by October 26th. So if you sent a story on or before that date, you should have received a rejection, a hold request, a rewrite request, or an email telling you there was a problem with your submission and inviting you to correct the problem and submit again.

If you submitted a story before 11:59 PM Eastern on October 26th and did not receive a response from us, feel free to send a query to the editors email in the sidebar.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Trends

It's been almost 3 weeks now.  We've received 185 stories, and responded to 107 of them (89 rejections and 18 hold requests).   And we've started to notice a few trends.

We mentioned this in our last post, but as a reminder, we're seeing a lot of reprints, while we have more room for original stories.

In terms of genre, most of the stories we're seeing are either science fiction or what we call, for lack of a better term, spiritual stories. These are stories where the sole speculative element is the manifestation of Christian cosmology: miracles, angels and demons, visions, et cetera.  On the other hand, we've seen only a few horror stories, and very few fantasy stories with magic and fantastical creatures. We really want those to be represented in the anthology, so we're hoping to see more.

We'd also like to see more stories about Christian characters whose faith affects the character or narrative arc in a significant way, especially Christian characters from Asia, Africa, and Latin America.  We've received very few submissions with characters who aren't American or British, and we'd love to be able to publish some stories from other perspectives.  We also really like well-researched historical fantasy.

There are some story concepts that we've seen more than once, and expect that we'll see even more of before the end of the submission period. These aren't necessarily bad concepts (I think we're holding one of almost all of them), but you should know that it's highly unlikely that we'll publish more than one story with the same central conceit, so if you have more than one story you're considering sending, you may want to send the one that's different from these:
  1. Gabriel annunciates to some modern woman
  2. Vampires are concerned for the state of their souls
  3. Satan gets a shot at redemption
  4. Alien converted to Christianity is better at it than the humans
  5. A bad man receives divine punishment
  6. The apocalypse has happened, and it's different than expected
  7. St. Francis tames and/or befriends a mythical creature
  8. Stories about Santa Claus--granted, we were kind of asking for this one by making Christmas our closing day
  9. A physics experiment changes the nature of God and/or ends the world
  10. A Catholic priest is sent by his superiors to disprove a miracle
  11. Allegorical retellings of Bible stories (these are a very hard sell with us)
  12. Deals with the devil
We're getting a lot of stories where angels are the only Christian element.  At least the angels we've seen so far have all been actual supernatural beings rather than dead humans sent back to Earth a la It's a Wonderful Life/Highway to Heaven.  But angels and demons are kind of the vampires and werewolves of Christian cosmology; we'd love to see some of the other concepts that don't get explored as often. Or at least some of the weirder Biblical images of angels, as opposed to the usual magical humans with big wings.

And while it's less likely to affect your chances of getting into the anthology, you may want to reconsider your title if it's any of the following:
  • Centered around a famous Biblical place name (Gethsemane, for instance)
  • "The <city name> Terror"
  • A phrase from a famous Bible verse
  • A famous hymn name
  • A single word title starting with "C"--we're not really sure where this one comes from, but we're seeing a lot of them.
None of these is necessarily a bad name for a story, but we're seeing them a lot and don't want to publish two stories with excessively similar names--though in that case, if we decide we like them both we'll probably ask one or both authors to change the title rather than reject either story outright.

Keep the stories coming!  Everything we receive before the close of the submission period will be considered just as seriously as stories sent on the first day, no matter how many stories we're already holding. We look forward to reading your work.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Submission progress

We have now responded to all stories sent to us on the first day we opened to submissions, October 15th. So if you sent a story on the first day, you should have received a rejection, a hold request, or an email telling you there was a problem with your submission and requesting that you correct the problem and submit again.

If you submitted a story before 11:59 PM Eastern on October 15th and did not receive a response from us, feel free to send a query to the contact email in the sidebar.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Number games

We opened for submissions a week ago, on October 15th. We did receive a few submissions while it was still October 14th here in Boston, which we allowed since it was the fifteenth in most of the rest of the world. In the first week, we received 119 submissions, and sent 25 responses, shown in the graph below.


You can see how the submissions started very high, and then trailed off. Meanwhile, our responses took a while to ramp up, but it looks like we've hit the point where we're sending out responses at about the same rate as we receive submissions, which is where we want to be. Of the responses we've sent out, 23 are rejections and 2 are hold requests (more on that later). The ratio there is somewhat deceptive, though, as it usually takes longer to get to a hold than to a rejection.

Incidentally, we're seeing a lot of reprint submissions. While we're happy to have them, we don't plan for reprints to be more than a quarter of the anthology, so they're a tougher sell than original stories.

There are three of us doing first round (aka slush) reading: Kristin, Donald, and Hannah. If the first reader decides the story won't work, they can go ahead and reject. Probably about two thirds of the stories get rejected at this point. These are not necessarily form rejections; we might really like the story, but decide for some reason that it doesn't work for the anthology. If so, we'll tell the author why it doesn't work and invite them to send more stories.

If a story makes it past the first round, it's promoted, which means that it now needs to be approved by both Donald and Kristin (although, obviously, one of us may have read it in the first round and won't need to read it again). Either may exercise their veto authority, so it's possible it won't make it to both of us. We try to read one promoted story for every two first round stories we read, which helps us get through the first round faster without falling too far behind on the promoted stories.

If we both read the story and think it would work for the anthology, then we will send a hold request to the author. This means that we want to hold the story until submissions close and we select the final set of stories that we want to publish. We don't know yet how many stories we'll be holding--we suspect at least 50, maybe more. This will give us a good selection so we can get the balance we want of reprints and original stories, and of different kinds of stories.

The good news is that if you receive either a rejection or a hold request, you can then send us more stories as long as submissions remain open (one at a time, though!). This does mean that an author may have more than one story held. We're very unlikely to select more than one story from a single author, but if we do hold more than one story, that increases the chance that one of them will be a good fit when we make our final selection for the anthology.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Commissioning cover art for Mysterion

The beautiful cover art now showing as the backdrop to our website was created by the talented Rob Joseph, whose work we discovered on DeviantArt.  We thought people following our project might be interested in a behind-the-scenes look at how the art progressed from initial concept to final image, and that reading about the process might also be helpful for other independent publishers just starting out, or for those interested in self-publishing.

We looked at a lot of artists on DeviantArt.  We wanted to hire someone whose work we loved, whose portfolio included pieces with spiritual themes, and who had a track record of creating art on commission for other clients, ideally including book covers.  While considering various artists, we also started to develop an idea of what we wanted (and didn't want) on our cover.  Nothing too character-focused (no close-ups of artfully posed individuals acting out scenes from not-yet-written stories).  Christian, but not too Christian.  Must identify the book as speculative fiction, without aligning it too closely with any particular sub-genre (no warriors slaying dragons, or spaceships docking at spaceports).

Rob's work fit what we were looking for better than any of the other portfolios we saw, and happily, he was interested in working on our project.  We still weren't sure exactly what we wanted.  But, since several of the images on his website explored or at least hinted at Biblical themes, we thought he might have some good ideas.

Initially, after our suggestion that we work in the concept behind our company name, Rob came up with the idea of a seeker character, an explorer or archaeologist, searching through an ancient temple and finding a mirror that appears to be a portal to some place more beautiful and vibrant than her immediate surroundings.  We thought that could work, and agreed that he should go ahead and do some preliminary sketches.




Here are the first two concepts.  At first, we preferred the image on the left, although we did worry that it might be a bit too monochromatic.  However, the cover designer we've hired to do the lettering and cover layout thought the image on the right would actually make a better cover, especially if we intended to add text to the back.  He felt that the glowing letters on the temple wall would make it difficult to see the light-colored text.

After thinking about it some more, we realized that the main thing we didn't like about the image on the right was the lion head above the portal.  We wanted some aspect of the cover art to hint at Christian symbolism without being too overt, and in one of our first discussions with Rob, lions were one of the many ideas we offered for incorporating subtle Christian iconography.  But how much of that association is due to The Chronicles of Narnia?  We both have considerable admiration for the work of C. S. Lewis, but he casts as long a shadow over the field of Christian speculative fiction as Tolkien casts over epic fantasy.

We told Rob that we wanted to go with the image on the right, but could we replace the lion head above the portal with something like the statues on either side, from the other sketch?  We also wanted more space at the top, so our title didn't end up too small, or obscuring anything important on the illustration.

While Rob was working on the image we'd chosen, he had another idea that he thought might work.





We really liked both images, but had a slight preference for the new concept, and our cover designer agreed.

Finally, after two more revisions, Rob sent us the final image.



We're really excited about it.  We won't try to interpret it for you, but we think it does everything we wanted our cover art to do, and can't wait to see it on our anthology!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

You can support Mysterion!

You may have noticed the "Support Mysterion" graphic in our sidebar.  This links to our Patreon page, where you can support our anthology.

When we first considered doing this anthology, we asked ourselves how much it would cost and how we would pay for it. We answered the second question first: we would pay for it ourselves, out of our own resources. Of course, then we had to figure out whether we could do that, which brought us back to the first question. So we considered the various expenses--paying authors, cover art and design, interior layout and printing--and talked to people we knew in the industry to come up with a rough estimate. Then we asked ourselves whether we could afford it, and the answer was yes, we could.

Having decided that, we next asked whether it was worthwhile to do any fundraising. Raising money would allow us to have a larger story budget. It would let us pay our writers more. It would give people a chance to essentially pre-order our book.

So, even though we're committed to this project whether we receive funding or not, we've decided to give people the chance to help us make it better, in return for a copy of the anthology and other rewards.

We've decided to use Patreon, not for its monthly campaign, but for the campaign that only charges people when something is produced. In this case, if you donate, you will not be charged until we post the actual ebook anthology for you to download. Paperback versions will be shipped out as soon after that as we can manage.

So if you want to see more stories and you want our writers to be paid more, or if you just want to get the ebook for half the retail price, you can go to our Patreon page to pledge now.

Open for submissions

Mysterion is now open for submissions.  If you have a story you'd like to send us, please check out our Submission Guidelines.  And if you want to know what sort of stories we want, read our Theme Guidelines. We look forward to reading your stories.

Submissions will close on December 25th.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Enigmatic Mirror Press

The small independent press producing this anthology--basically Kristin and Donald and whomever they can subcontract work to--now has a name. We're calling ourselves Enigmatic Mirror Press.

This is a reference to 1 Corinthians 13:12, which says, "For now we see through a mirror in darkness, but then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." In Greek, the part that says "through a mirror in darkness" reads:
δι’ ἐσόπτρου ἐν αἰνίγματι
ἐσόπτρου transliterates to esoptrou, and means mirror, while αἰνίγματι transliterates to ainigmati, which means obscurity or darkness; ainigmati is the origin for the English word enigmatic. The verse itself is about the difference between our limited, mortal understanding here in this life, and the truer, fuller understanding that we will have later. In the ancient world, all mirrors obscured, since they relied on polished metal rather than the metal-backed glass of modern mirrors. The difference between the distorted reflection in one of those mirrors and seeing someone face-to-face would have been obvious to the ancient reader. And the imagery reminds us that the understanding we lack is not only of concepts, but also of God, and that we do not yet know him as he fully knows us.

Our anthology's name speaks to the mysterious in the Christian faith; our press's name reminds us of the limits of our understanding--at least for now.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Newsletter

We now have a newsletter. If you want to keep up-to-date on our project, you should sign up.

The idea of the newsletter is not to bombard you with email--we know that some businesses, many of whose newsletters we don't even recall signing up for, will send us advertising email every single day. We're still not sure how Donald ended up on the Victoria's Secret email list, or why anyone needs to get an email hawking underwear every morning.

In any case, we don't plan to send out a newsletter unless we have something new to say: for instance, when we want to reveal the cover art, or announce when submissions open and close, or when we've selected all the stories, or when the anthology is available for purchase. We can't imagine ever sending out more than one or two newsletters in a single week, and most weeks there won't be a newsletter at all.

In short, sign up for the newsletter, and we promise not to bother you unless it's important.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Is Mysterion Christian speculative fiction?

It's a fair question. It depends on what you mean by that. Usually what's meant by Christian fiction are stories written by and for Christians, but that's not what we mean. We're making a particular effort to invite writers from other faith traditions to submit stories. What we're looking for are stories that engage with Christianity. We want stories with Christian characters, themes, and cosmology, that deal with all of them in ways that feel genuine to our experience as Christians, neither sanitizing nor vilifying. As we've been telling our friends, we're looking for Flannery O'Connor more than C. S. Lewis.  The best description of the type of stories we'd like to publish can be found in our Theme Guidelines.

And we're looking for speculative fiction: fantasy, science fiction, horror. Christian publishers have tended to shy away from all of these, for a variety of reasons, but we think that's a mistake. The Bible is full of strange and unexplained stories; there's room for mystery in the Christian experience. There have been some attempts to bridge the gap, including the much missed Midnight Diner (Donald had a story in the Back From the Dead edition). In recent years, small, independent Christian publishers specializing in speculative fiction have started up (Enclave Publishing and Castle Gate Press for novels, Splickety Publishing Group for short fiction). Midnight Diner is closer to what we're trying to accomplish than anything else we can point to, but we're open to a wider range of the speculative fiction universe with our own project, among other differences.

Here are a few of the things that, taken together, make our anthology unique:

First, we are not a for the love or even token payment market. We offer full pro rates at six cents a word.

Second, we know the speculative fiction market fairly well and know where to advertise and whom to talk to in order to bring in writers.

Third, we've read and published in both fields (Christian and speculative fiction), which makes us confident of our ability to choose good stories. We know what we like, and we think you'll like it too.

Finally, times have changed, and the technology and market with them. The cost of doing something like this has never been cheaper, so that most of our costs are not in the printing or the mailing, but the content: the stories themselves and the artwork. Additionally, we can use crowdfunding to raise money to do things that will improve the anthology, using tools that didn't exist even five years ago. (We are, however, committed to publishing the anthology and paying authors at least at our advertised rate, whatever happens with any fundraising campaign we decide to run.)

We'll be posting more as things come together, showing you more of the artwork (if you're reading this post when it goes up, rest assured that the photo in the background is not the cover art), discussing the types of stories we've seen and would like to see, and introducing some of the other people who are working on this project.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Introducing Mysterion

Welcome to the home of an upcoming Christian speculative fiction anthology entitled Mysterion: Rediscovering the Mysteries of the Christian Faith. Mysterion is Greek for mystery and is often used in the Bible to refer to sacred mysteries. While the word was used in the mystery religions for secret doctrines revealed only to initiates, Christianity used it somewhat differently, referring to the things that were once kept secret but are now revealed.  It can also refer to those things revealed but not understood: concepts such as the Incarnation and the Trinity, which cannot be fully understood by mortals. This, we feel, makes the name a good fit for a speculative fiction anthology that seeks to examine the mysterious and unexplained within Creation.

Mysterion will be edited and published by the husband and wife team of Donald S. Crankshaw and Kristin Janz. We pay pro rates (6 cents per word) for original speculative fiction that meaningfully engages with Christianity. We are not yet accepting unsolicited submissions, but will start doing so in October. The completed anthology will be available in both ebook and POD formats. You can find out more about the project here, or take a look at our submission guidelines.

We're just getting started, but we're looking forward to seeing a lot of great stories.