Advent Greetings

For those who might not be as familiar with the Christian liturgical calendar, yesterday marked the beginning of Advent, the season during which we prepare to celebrate Jesus's birth at Christmas and look forward to his return.

It's also when Kristin finally stops complaining about how everyone is playing Christmas music and putting up decorations way too early, a season that starts in earnest on November 1st but really shifts into high gear here in the United States right after Thanksgiving. Not that she stops complaining about specific Christmas songs or decorations--that's sort of an all-season thing.

On December 24th, we'll be publishing our last story of 2018, Stephen Case's Orthodox space opera "The Chora Gate," so be sure to stop by again before the end of the month. (We always publish a story on the 4th Monday of each month; if we publish two stories in a given month, the other comes out sometime during the 2nd week.) Stephen's story "When We Were Dead" appeared in the original Mysterion anthology, and he also wrote a review for us of R.A. Lafferty's collection The Man With the Speckled Eyes, earlier this year.

We've started editing the 2019 stories, and hope to able to announce some of them soon. And, although it seems as if we only just cleared the backlog of submissions from July, our January submission window is just around the corner! Be sure to peruse our submission guidelines before sending us something; but as a quick reminder, we're looking for speculative fiction stories of 9000 words or less that engage with Christian themes.

We have lots of commentary on the kinds of stories we want to see. Another thing you might want to keep in mind: we're looking for stories that say something interesting about Christianity. What does that mean, exactly? Well, it's pretty broad. And it doesn't necessarily mean that we have to agree with what your story says about the Christian faith. But, both your editors grew up in evangelical Christian families and made conscious decisions to be Christians themselves before reaching the age of ten (for whatever value of "conscious decision" you think is applicable with young children). We're now in our mid-forties, and both still attend church most weeks. We've heard a lot of sermons, read a lot of theology, and read the entire Bible start to finish multiple times. We've led Bible study groups. We're also both fairly cynical (about lots of things), and have quite a few friends who are atheists, or agnostics, or of different religious traditions, or Christian but in a different way than we are. So, although it would be an exaggeration to say we've heard it all ... we've heard most of it. Or, at least, we've heard most of the standard critiques and defenses of the Christian faith.

Which means: send us something we haven't seen yet. Surprise us. Show us that you understand what it's like to believe (in the Christian faith or in something else) and still have doubts. Tell us stories where it isn't so easy to judge who's on the right side or in the wrong. Avoid simple answers, whether pro- or anti-Christian. We're both Bible nerds, so bonus points for Easter eggs based on textual debates over the correct interpretation of (to choose one example dear to Kristin's heart) δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ. (But negative points for assuming that no Christian is aware of the context of Isaiah 7:14, and that the faith of each of us would crumble if we ever went back and read the entire chapter.) We also like to see stories that show the distinctiveness of particular Christian denominations or groups (vs. the generic "Christian" where we can't even tell if the characters are supposed to be Catholic or Protestant).

One excellent way of figuring out what we're looking for is to go read the stories we published in 2018. Though of course our publication history reflects the intersection of what we want with what authors sent us. We would love to see more stories where the protagonist is not a Catholic priest, more stories about women, and more stories about Christians from minority or non-Western cultures. Also, more horror, more humor, more hard sf, more traditional and historical fantasy, and more stories with lots of action (as Donald puts it, "stories where stuff happens"--we get too many submissions where two people sit down and have a theological or philosophical debate; but you might not notice this from what we've published, since we never actually buy those stories). We're probably not the best market for experimental narrative approaches, or any story where we get to the end and are still confused about what actually happened.

Good luck, and we look forward to reading your stories!

We've also licensed some artwork for 2019, so you'll be seeing something new on our landing page once January rolls around. Currently in inventory, we have images by Dave Dick, Peter Coleborn, and David Furnal. Check out their online portfolios if you want to get some idea of what we like. (Also be sure to visit the site of our 2018 featured artist, Rob Joseph!) We're open to art submissions year-round, but they work differently from fiction submissions. Send us a link to your portfolio (feel free to mention a few works you think we might be especially interested in), and if there's anything we'd like to use, we'll get in touch with you. At this point, we're not commissioning original art for the site; we're only licensing existing pieces. It will probably take several months before you hear from us, as we've now acquired enough artwork to get us through 2019 (unless we get another $37/month in Patreon funding!). But we do look at everything sent to us, eventually.

Art for the site doesn't have to be "Christian", but it does have to be speculative (science fiction, fantasy, horror, or supernatural). While we are interested in seeing Christian-themed art, we are very picky about it, and tend to prefer subtle Christian imagery over, say, three crosses on a hill. Conversely, we're unlikely to license anything featuring pentagrams, demons, iconography from other religions, or nudity. We have no problem with using the work of artists whose portfolios include any or all of these things, and seeing them isn't going to deter us from looking through whatever you've linked us to in search of something we like and think we can use. And it probably goes without saying that we can't use fan art related to material protected by someone else's copyright. (Bible characters are fair game; Disney characters not so much.)

Wishing everyone who celebrates them a blessed Advent and a Merry Christmas; and Happy Holidays to all!

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