Writers Guidelines

Science Fiction Trails issue 12

Writers Guidelines

In 2014 we cancelled Science Fiction Trails We’ve decided to bring it back from the grave.  Issue 11 was our last issue. This was an annual magazine featuring science fiction weird western stories.  A weird western is a story set in the Wild West era but contains speculative fiction elements such as horror or science fiction. 

What we’re looking for.  Stories set between the end of the Civil War and 1900 AD in the western United States. This can include western Canada and northern Mexico The preference will be for active stories.  Unlikely heroes or villains are especially wanted.  Above all else, give us a flavor of the Wild West along with whatever elements you bring to the table. So, stories need some recognizable science fiction. We’re not likely to take straight up fantasy or horror, although you can mix in more than one genre as long as the concept works for the story.

We tend to see too many sheriff stories. There were plenty of other people out west, including merchants, photographers, reporters, ranchers, Indians, miners, soldiers, telegraph operators, saloon keepers and prostitutes. We encourage stories involving these folks.  If you do feel the need for a lawman, make that person interesting—not simply a walking badge. 

Preferred length is 1k to 5k words, although we will accept stories to 8k words. Submissions to weirdwesterns@gmail.com  put sf trails submission in the subject.

Over the years, we’ve noticed some common mistakes a lot of writers make.  We thought we’d mention a few of them. Ships. The names of ships are italicized.  Yep, they are. A lot of folks don’t seem to realize this. Short stories: Titles of short stories are not underlined. They should be put in quotation marks.  Names of plays and books should be italicized, not put in quotes. Few western towns were policed by sheriffs. Incorporated towns in most states are responsible for their own law enforcement and the officials in the western states are usually called town marshals for smaller towns.  Larger cities used the term police, even in the 1800s. (Some eastern states use terms like constable). United States marshals, even back in the 1800s, were primarily responsible for arresting and  transporting federal fugitives, or transporting federal prisoners. They do not deal in routine criminal matters. The Army has its own law enforcement people. They are under the command of an official at a fort or base called a provost marshal. Five card draw poker was not commonly played in the 1800's, though it probably did exist. Stud poker and faro (which is played against a dealer) were the dominant card games. Bourbon is a specific type of whisky that comes only from Kentucky. While a lot of distilled whiskies and such existed in the west, Bourbon was very rare outside major towns like San Francisco or Denver 

If you are writing using a pen name you should disclose who you are on the manuscript–who you really are, as well as the pen name. Misrepresenting yourself as somebody else may be interpreted as fraud.

Payment will be $25 per story for non exclusive rights.  All terms by written contract. We will consider reprints if you disclose the publication history.   We plan to produce both a print and ebook edition. 

If you’re still not clear on what we’re looking for, back issues are available on Amazon.

Submit as an attached file. We prefer RTF or WordPerfect formats. We will accept Word. Please include a word count. Email weirdwesterns at gmail dot com  Before you submit, look over your submission. Have you included full contact info on the first page of the manuscript? That means name, address, email & phone #. Does your manuscript have a word count?  If using an attached file, is the file name similar to the story name?  At the end of your story, did you include the words “The End” or something similar so the editor is certain he has the entire story? If you want italic use italic. If you want bold face use boldface, do not underline. Underlining to get italic goes back to the days when writers used typewriters and compositors actually set type. Those days are mostly over and it’s an antiquated habit. We prefer Times New Roman in 12 point type.

We still see too many writers who think their computer is a typewriter. Use the features like auto indent and page numbering and stop using the tab button to indent paragraphs. This practice is not only antiquated, but makes reformatting and editing difficult. Also, avoid embedding unusual formats or fonts. There is no need to make your manuscript look cute. Simple, plain files. Reading period for this project is June 1–July 31, 2017. Publication date will be late 2017. Email the editor, David B. Riley, at the above address if you have any questions.