In Defense of Our New Living Slush Pile
The Fiction Circus is a small magazine. We are so small that our entire staff fits into one booth at the Sly Fox bar on 2nd Avenue. We are also an unstable magazine. We are constantly changing our opinions, changing our sexes, trying new technology, trying new drugs, playing new games, and starting new fights.

If The New Yorker is a smooth, brilliant, beautiful intellectual who seduces young boys in the dark corners of wood-paneled Midtown bars with gin, poppers, and tales of triumph, then we are like a snaggle-toothed truck-stop vet with Crohn's disease who gets hauled out of Bennigans for refusing to lower his voice while using the payphone for phone sex.


We are more like a band than a magazine, really, which is why we prefer doing shows to holding fundraisers or selling advertisements, which is also why we are always broke.

We are also always broke because our magazine is free and we are not endowed or beholden to anyone. We do not get grants. We do not have an address where you could even send a fruit basket or the stolen "2nd Collection" from your local bishopric.

We also publish the best goddamn short fiction in the whole United States.

However, in order to stay alive and prosper, we need to find a way to maximize our greatest strengths (BEING LOUD, BEING RIGHT, INVENTING NEW SHIT) while minimizing our weaknesses (HAVING NO INTERNS OR STAFF, HAVING NO HONOR OR RESTRAINT).

To this end, we have radically altered the way we are going to handle our short story submissions and approval process. We do not have the infrastructure to keep doing things the way we have been doing them.

This new system will be an experiment, and we suspect that only a magazine as small, angry, and unstable as The Fiction Circus will able to effectively conduct this experiment. We are really, really excited about this experiment, and we hope that you will be, too.

We want to make a living slush pile. We want to turn the slush pile of a reputable fiction magazine into an open forum for discussion, argument, and discovery. We want to make our slush pile a destination for writers and readers.

Please go here to take a look at our new submissions page, and please read the instructions on the right hand side of the page if you are interested in submitting a story to us.

Then come right back and we will tell you why we are doing this.



Let's be honest. Getting published in a free, online literary journal does not mean that suddenly more people will have access to your work. You can build a webpage in minutes and post your short stories there and you would have just as much "distribution" as getting your story published in our magazine. We can pretend that this isn't true, or we can accept it and try to do something else with our time rather than "host text."

Short story magazines are gatekeepers, but more importantly, they are megaphones. There is prestige involved in writing a story that somebody at Harper's is willing to pay for. But if your goal is to GET READ, to get as many eyes on your story as possible, to get your story onto people's iPods and iPhones and laptops, to clutch the arms of scared people on buses, stare into their eyes, and rant about contaminated food and chemtrails, then you want the loudest team of lushes on your side possible to help you spread the word.

Our stories get read. Our stories get read because we push them. Not only do we push them, but they are recorded and illustrated, so they exist in a whole other medium alongside the printed word. If we like your short story, we will do cool shit with it.

However, you need to know that there is no magic (or utility) in conventional publishing anymore. We will be your megaphone, your story mechanic, and your greatest ally. We will not be your distributor or your father.


There will be no back-door deals at The Fiction Circus. If Jhumpa Lahiri wants to publish a story with us, then she will have to fight all the other writers in our submissions queue to get her story recognized.

All of our comments about stories will be right there out in the open. Our criticism and rejections will be a matter of public record, as will our praise and bickering.

People will see what stories we read first and what stories we seem to prefer. People will know our taste and they can love us or hate us for it. We are fallible and mercurial, just like everybody else, and you will see the process in action.


Hopefully, you will read the work of your peers and get to know them. Hopefully, you will form factions and cabals. If you think we need to publish more supernatural romance, then you can gang up on us and let us know.

You will be able to see other writers grow and keep each other motivated and interested. You can also be truly merciless; crushing your enemies and lashing the vulnerable with your acid tongue. It is all only words, after all.

We want to be a community-driven magazine and meet the needs of our readers, even though our inclination is to be a tyrannical polity of Absolute Taste. Hopefully, this new system will temper our ambitions while still ensuring that we publish the best work possible.


One of our most important goals is to help train fiction writers to effectively deliver good stories to the new world.

This means training writers to be meaner, be slicker, and be better than any generation has ever had to be. We are competing against television, against porn, against the internet, against reality, against politics, against depression.

We think that our new submissions model will be a better training tool for writers, and that those who use it will benefit from the crucible of public scrutiny and public dissection.

We are a public magazine, after all! We want people to read literature. Now how are you going to get them to do this? What is your story and what does it do?


Being a fiction e-d-i-t-o-r is a fucking con. We are not smarter than you, nor a better judge of the goodness of a story. We know what we like, but we want to get rid of arbitrary hierarchies in order to make fiction as raw as the radio.

Our best hope is that our new submissions process turns our slush pile into an open, real-time, reality-show street fight. You can vote on stories. You can bury them. Maybe this will effect what we choose to publish. Maybe not.

The very term "submission" has utterly loaded, sadomasochist connotations.

"Please accept my submission."

No! We don't want to accept your submission! We want to honor your dominance of the written word!

With our new living slush pile, we are giving people a place to show off. To make friends, to politick, and to pull stunts. We are trying to create a fiction orgy instead of a fiction BDSM parlor. We are not on top. We are over there, to the side, looking for what we like, making sure that people still write who aren't quite ready to be published, pulling people out of the scrum, hosing them off, and selling them to the world.

So get an account at our website. Start checking it daily. Start submitting stories and critiquing them. When we pass on your story, your story won't disappear. It will still have a life in our slush pile.

We have learned more about the art of writing by dealing with our slush pile than anyone could ever hope to learn from a creative writing course or tiny editor internship. We don't want to hide this awesome tool from you anymore.

We are turning our slush pile loose. Fucking get ready.

Posted by miracle on Fri, 24 Sep 2010 05:05:18 -0500 -- permanent link

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