Start a Revolution: Final Submissions Update

I’m tying all of these updates to the guidelines page for whichever anthology they’re written for (at the bottom of the page), so all the updates are listed together for easy reference.

Given all the things that have been on my proverbial plate over the last little while, and are still ongoing, I’ve not until now had a chance to sit down and write the final submissions update for Start a Revolution. And it seems appropriate at this point, given that the anthology’s final ToC has been compiled and the layout built and delivered to the publisher, that I talk about both the submissions to the anthology (as a totality) and the makeup of the final book in this update.

Both of which — in terms of numbers, the approaches employed, the things people were willing (and in some cases weren’t) to address in their submissions, and the spread of genres (and states between) people wrote in — were a fascinating look at the way people understand QUILTBAG fiction.

It’s a fairly complex thing, QUILTBAG fiction. An inordinate amount of it kicking around that, as I noted in the last Submissions Update, has as tendency to fall back on the “This QUILTBAG story shall be about my being QUILTBAG and naught else” manner of storytelling which furthers the field (literature as a whole in this case) not at all. But there’s a fair amount of QUILTBAG storytelling that it absolutely, brutally raw in its willingness to look at how being QUILTBAG functions as a normalized part of everything else that makes up a narrative, real or fictional — engaging in all of the terms and identities understood as part of that acronym (and the other terms not named directly, but which are understood to be included as well).

The submissions were, in many ways, reflective of both of the approaches named above. Though the final book fared better in terms of covering a wider range of identities and self-definitions than did the general submissions, if you take the latter as an aggregate set of data.

Now, before we jump directly into the numbers, it’s worth noting that I have only partial data with which to work. I did not demand that anyone provide personal information, but offered that if people were willing to provide theirs then I would use it (anonymously) to talk about the ebb and flow of various elements of identity and self-definition in the submissions.

Many people were willing to provide statistical information (including the spread of information Canadian arts councils, at various levels, use to discern what aspects of the Canadian population they are addressing with their grants, and use that voluntary information to figure out how better to address the underrepresented portions of Canadian arts communities they are not yet reaching effectively enough). But it’s only a partial data set, so everything that follows is a reasonable reflection of the actual submissions state. Though, obviously, for the breakdown of the final book, I do have a somewhat more accurate depiction of the statistical information.

The General Submissions Pool

Given that the anthology call was somewhat narrower than many (via the larger focus on Canadian-authored content, the QUILTBAG requirement, and the further narrowing of focus via the “revolution” requirement), the number of submissions was always going to be smaller than that for other anthologies.

So it wasn’t really all that surprising that I only received 98 submissions for this anthology, with several authors submitting multiple stories over the course of the open call. I will also note that 2 stories were withdrawn over the course of the open call, though I am still counting them against the total submissions count, and applying their statistical information in all other respects to this discussion.

That number includes initially solicited stories, including my reprint requests, which collectively account for 10 of those submissions. I had solicited several other authors initially, but none of the others were able to commit to a story given other commitments already in place. Or in one or two instances I never heard back, which could be for any number of reasons. (Though I usually just assume it’s because people are really busy when that happens.)

And, technically, there are another 3 stories that came in in the open call that could qualify as a form of solicitation, since I had talked with two of those authors about stories they were writing/had written (in at least one case for something else), and indicated that I did want to see those stories. And the third author was someone I had not initially solicited, but did do so after they had seen the call very late and both of us were interested in their writing a story for the book.

So it is possible to consider there having been a total of 13 solicitations for the book, which did definitely have an effect on the final makeup of the anthology. Not least of all because it means I was able to shape the book tonally largely from the outset by going to authors whose style or approach to storytelling I wanted to inform the resulting narrative. (Which is, generally, one of the better arguments for soliciting at least part of a book’s contents.)

We’ll set a discussion of solicitations aside momentarily, however, in order to address the totality of the submissions as regards a monthly breakdown initially, and then work our way on to other aspects of the general submissions.

And re the monthly breakdown, I will preface it by noting that this call did not reflect the normal nature of an anthology call’s submissions waves. Normally, an anthology receives a fair flood of stories immediately after opening (a mix of trunk stories, stories not written for the anthology but that fit theme anyway, and stories that the authors wrote specifically for the call and have been chomping at the bit to send in), then you get a lull of submissions around the middle of the call, and another flood of stories immediately before the anthology call closes. In the case of Start a Revolution, the submissions were actually fairly steady all the way through the three month open call, with:

29 submissions in January
25 submissions in February
38 submissions in March

There were another 6 submissions post-closure. 5 of those solicits, and the other story submitted after the close was quite good, actually, it just didn’t work tonally for the book I was putting together. Which was true of a number of the stories in the general submissions.

Even though those monthly breakdown numbers would make it seem that there was a slight bump in March, the higher total number of submissions in March was actually rather evenly distributed. And the largest single day of submissions was a tie between January 1st and March 31st, with 6 submissions coming in both days.

And though the submissions patterns were unusual, the country representation was rather what was expected.

Any anthology not specifically restricted to call by country that American writers then hear about is going to have a larger number of US submissions. This call was no exception. The breakdown by country of authors submitting (reflecting country of current residence rather than strict nationality or combination of nationalities, and noting that several of the authors counted below submitted multiple stories and I’m counting submissions rather than authors) is as follows:

47 (US), 38 (CA), 6 (UK), 3 (NZ), 1 (TH), 1 (HU), 1 (AU), 1 (RU)

(If you’re curious about the actual number of individual authors submitting in relation to the above, rather than charting by stories submitted, just lower the US number to 42, and bump the Canadian number to 39.)

Obviously, with a call requiring 90% Canadian content (though I did end up breaking that number in the end for a whole host of reasons I’ll not go into here), that submission spread made things decidedly tricky. Which is another reason one solicits authors, in case anyone was curious.

Now, in terms of personal identifications and volunteered information proffered along with submissions, there are several different aspects to address.

First, is the understanding of how people chose to self-identify along the QUILTBAG spectrum. The terms I received in regard to that, in no particular order, were: queer, bi (also use of bisexual), poly, gay, asexual, pan (also use of pansexual), genderfluid, lesbian, gender variant, QUILTBAG (no specification), bigendered, genderqueer, non-binary, and ftm (referencing *Trans).

Which is quite a fair spread of definitions. Many of those terms appearing together in various combinations.

And while I’ll not be going into specific, nor numeric, breakdowns of how terms occurred measured against specific submissions, I will note that 32 (about ~33%) of the submissions included some form of self-identification including at least one of the above terms.

That breakdown actually factors into how we discuss gender in the submissions as well. There were a number of people who self-identified as either male or female (and I’m counting the *Trans authors for this, as regards their self-identified gender, as one should), but in order to further protect the anonymity of everyone who identified along QUILTBAG self-identifications in some way relating to gender, but not along binary notions, I’m treating those numbers as a collective category (so the third category includes self-identifications such as genderfluid, genderqueer, gender neutral, non-binary, and so on). I note this because there are far more than three possible gender compositions, and so the following is a rudimentary breakdown, at best, of submissions by gender:

45 M / 45 F / 8 (GF/GN/NG/NB)

A breakdown of authors by gender would look slightly different, because of the multiple submissions. Counting by individual authors:

41 M / 45 F / 8 (GF/GN/NG/NB)

So while on a total submissions basis, male/female submissions were directly equivalent, more women actually submitted stories, though the numbers are still close. (And though one of the submissions was co-written by two women, another female author submitted two stories, which would be why the female-authored count in the second gender breakdown doesn’t appear to change.)

The second thing to address with regard to the statistical information provided is in relation to PoC designations, Aboriginal status (in multiple respects), and New Generation (30 or under) writers. Again, as not everyone volunteered information on this front, this is a reasonable representation of the numbers.

There were some 8 submissions by PoC writers, another 5 submissions from Aboriginal (various designations) writers, and 17 submissions from New Generation writers (with that number bumping up to 18 if we account for the co-authored story).

Start a Revolution

The breakdown for Start a Revolution is somewhat shorter. And you can see the final ToC here, for reference.

There are 16 stories in Start a Revolution. 10 of them direct solicitations, another 3 indirect or subsequent solicitations. The co-authored story made it into the anthology, and was one of three stories pulled from the open call. Which is a touch brutal in the end, but I had thought early on that there might be some potential issues getting Canadian stories for this at the calibre I needed them if I left things entirely up to the open call, principally because there’s a much smaller pool of Canadian writers writing QUILTBAG fiction than American writers doing the same, and I was mindful of the 90% Canadian content requirement from the time I started in on this endeavour.

A content cap which I ended up having to break anyway, in the end. Though it led to the creation of an absolutely gorgeous book.

Speaking to that book, the statistical breakdown on it does not actively reflect the statistical breakdown of the general submissions pool. Consider the following:

Start a Revolution has 12 stories authored by women, 3 by men, and 1 by an author who falls along the GF/GN/NG/NB axis. So ~75% of the stories in the book are written by women, ~19% by men, and ~6% by GF/GN/NG/NB authors. And if you’re counting by individual contributors, rather than by story, the numbers are: ~77% authored by women, ~18% by men, and ~5% by GF/GN/NG/NB authors.

The breakdown of authors by country of origin too, rather obviously (given the requirement of having mostly Canadian fiction in the book), does not reflect the general submissions pool. The final distribution of authors by nationality is as follows:

14 (CA), 2 (US), 1 (TH).

Some of the Canadian authors are currently residing elsewhere, and citizenship was just easier to track for the purposes of this breakdown, whereas country of residence was an easier metric in the general breakdown (since I don’t know the full distribution of nationalities for all the authors who submitted stories in the open call).

The final anthology also contains 4 stories by PoC writers, bringing that total up to 25%, as compared with the 8% present in the general submissions pool. And though there are no Aboriginal-authored stories in the final anthology (something to do better with next time on my part), there are a whole lot of New Generation authors in the book. At least 6. (Might be 7. Still need to check into that for the statistical declarations that will need to be made later on.) So at least 36% of the book is directly reflective of the next generation of writers working in the field. And I will note that that divide is actually fairly arbitrary, especially in this case as several more of the authors are just a couple years out of being considered New Generation writers. So if you consider the number of writers who are still, and who are just past, New Generation status, something closer to 50% of the book is authored by younger writers, and those just starting to make their mark on the industry.

And, actually, that latter notion leads to another statistic I find quite interesting: I took about 4 stories from writers who had either no previous fiction publications, or who had at least one publication forthcoming elsewhere but no fiction in print yet. Some with fiction pending in short story form, others with novel length work pending. It’s an interesting thing for a quarter of the book one has put together to be a showcase for new and upcoming writers. In addition to everything else going on with it.

All told, it is a fascinating book. And, yes, having put it together I’m somewhat biased. But I really rather suspect I’m not going to be alone in that assertion once the book is out in the world.

I will also note that there is an interesting consistency to be found in the submissions piles of the various Exile Editions anthologies Silvia Moreno-Garcia (for both Dead North and Fractured) and I have been putting together so far. In Silvia’s case, the breakdowns have been as follows:

And I’ll be very curious to see if that holds true for David Nickle and Claude Lalumière’s New Canadian Noir as well.

I suppose only time will tell.

In the meantime, I want to again say thank you to everyone who submitted their work for consideration for Start a Revolution. There were a number of excellent stories that I couldn’t take for a variety of reasons, but I appreciated the opportunity to read everything sent. And I certainly hope a majority of those of you reading this are planning on sending stories for consideration in This Patchwork Flesh. I’d ideally like to have a larger pool of submissions to work with for that one (and I’d especially like to see more submissions from Canadian writers this time round), so by all means feel free to send stories my way for that.

If anyone would like to offer comments or thoughts on this discussion, by all means use the Comments field below. And if anyone has questions about This Patchwork Flesh you can feel free to ask them in the Comments field on the Guidelines page for that book.

And, of course, I expect all of you to rush out and buy copies of Start a Revolution the moment it becomes available for purchase next Spring :p

Incidentally, if anyone I haven’t already talked to about this is interested in reviewing a copy of Start a Revolution closer to the release (and once I actually have review copies available to distribute) let me know. Can reach me re that via e-mail at adarkandterriblebeauty@gmail.com.

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