We have an amazing team here at Uncanny Magazine. We receive thousands of submissions per year. Our wonderful Submissions Editors are the first readers of all of these stories. We thought it would be fun to ask them about their work here since a deluge of submissions will be heading their way as soon as the Uncanny Magazine Kickstarter reaches 100% funded.
Interview by Michi Trota
(You can support the Uncanny Magazine Year Two Kickstarter here.)
What makes a story uncanny to you?
An Uncanny story cannot be trusted. It lures me in, perhaps with an intriguing voice or an interesting use of genre elements, and then it surprises me. It subverts my expectations. An Uncanny story doesn’t take the path less taken; it forges a whole new one that carries my imagination off into the uncharted frontier of new ideas. An Uncanny story reinvents the wheel, and then it inspires me to do the same.
Jennifer R. Albert:
Uncanny stories are many things. They are weird and wonderful, familiar and fresh. They dazzle, delight, unsettle, and affect us. Uncanny stories are the ones you love desperately when you don’t know why, the ones that worm their way into your middle and stick there.
Uncanny stories have something special, a little different, a little skewed. They’re often beautiful; above all else, thoughtful. They’ve heft and depth, even if their flight is delicate. They stay with you. The best come back again and again, resurrected by some small thing, raised up from the subconscious to provoke further digestion. They all possess a germ of importance, regardless of style or content.
To me, what makes a story Uncanny is closely related to what makes a story awesome. And it’s really hard to describe. It starts with the usual things, of course—I can’t stop reading it, even if I really need to go attend to something else urgent; I am surprised while reading, at last once if not more; I feel like I am reading about real people in real places and situations (even if they’re aliens or magical beings or sentient trees).
But an Uncanny story is even more than that. There’s that shiver of recognition, that “Ohhhhh…..” that happens when I recognize that I’m being given a glimpse into an amazing writer’s unique imagination. That glimpse that makes me laugh out loud, or creeps me out. (or both!) An Uncanny story is fun. It’s smart. It’s unique. It’s…well, to borrow an old phrase: “I know it when I see it.”
I have an abiding love for the surreal, the strange, and the beautiful. For me, an Uncanny story is all of those things and more. An Uncanny story is unforgettable. An Uncanny story is thoughtful, and touches on relevant issues creatively. Uncanny stories get my brain moving in unusual ways, and they’re the ones I can’t wait to tell all my friends to read.
Kay Taylor Rea:
Uncanny stories have the bones of SF/F fiction fleshed out with wondrous weirdness. They’re pleasantly odd tales that twist and reshape themselves. They slip past standard genre definitions if you try to pin them down. They turn tired tropes in on themselves and emerge as something shiny and new. They’re odd and clever, sad and sweet, grandly sweeping and breath-stealingly intimate, guilelessly optimistic and rough-edged with realism. Uncanny stories are exactly what you expect right up until they’re not. Uncanny stories make you think, make you dream, and make you flip through the pages to read that great bit one more time.
In order of preference, a story is Uncanny when it’s:
1. Effortlessly takes me out of my day-to-day experience and/or makes me question my day-to-day experience
2. Tone creates a palpable atmosphere/mood but doesn’t hit me over head
3. Authentic characterization
4. Fresh, experimental and unique
To me, an Uncanny story is not any one kind of story; it’s a feeling. So many of my favorite stories in this magazine have had something to do with identity and perception. While the stories are always about other realities, there’s an aura of connectedness and belonging which is relatable to someone who reads speculative stories to understand themselves better. A beauty in the work itself is something I also find; whatever the mood or tone, it’s a short story, told well.
For me, an Uncanny story has an emotional core that wounds or heals — or both at once. It employs the speculative to create that emotional effect. If speculative fiction is about exploring the conceptual possibilities of this and other worlds, Uncanny stories are those which explore sociological, emotional, and connective spaces. Those spaces can be as small as a pocket or as large as a planet; they are always intense.