Just the other week, Noel Chidwick and Mark Toner, the co-founders of Shoreline of Infinity, an SF magazine which is run from Edinburgh, announced that they’d be “stepping off the Shoreline of Infinity Spaceship” so that they could spend more time on their own creative projects and with their families.
After the announcement, there was a flurry of ‘thank you’s and well-wishes on social media, but I felt that I wanted to say more on the matter, hence this post.
You see, good SF magazine editors are rare beings indeed and, often, their work goes unnoticed. (In general, good editors are invisible because they do their work with such skill that their helping hand isn’t noticed, but as soon as a reader spots an infelicity in the text, the editor gets all the blame!) But back to them being rare beings… you see, not only do they have to be well-read and understand the genre, having imbibed the classics, but to also have an idea of where the genre is right now and where it’s headed and, importantly, what niche their SF magazine might fill. They also have to be confident enough in their own taste in fiction such that they can carve out a unique voice for their magazine, and to be brave enough to publish fiction, non-fiction, poetry and art that will not only entertain readers but also challenge them on all sorts of levels, perhaps even causing them to think outside of their own worldview. Lastly, as anyone who’s ever run a small, independent business/press knows, they also have to be incredibly hardworking, professional and 100% committed to the project for it to be a success. I’d say that both Noel and Mark have accomplished all that and more, and I wish them all the best for the future.
But going from the big to the little picture, I did want to say how personally grateful I am to have had a number of stories published in Shoreline of Infinity. Back in 2017, when I first met Noel at Fantasycon we had a chat about indie press publishing and feeling invisible (!) and, of course, the magazine. He mentioned a flash fiction competition he was running, and I filed the information away and, later, decided to enter a ‘something’. That ‘something’ was ‘ATU334 the Wise’ which was a runner-up in their first ever competition and later ended up on episode zero of their Soundwave podcast (if you have a spare few minutes, do have a listen at just before 20 minutes along, the reader is just wonderful!). After that, I was fortunate enough to have three more stories: ‘Songs from the Wood’, ‘The Cyclops’ and ‘Minotaur/Mindtour’ chosen for publication in issues 15, 19 and 30. (‘The Cyclops’ being reprinted in Best of British Science Fiction 2020, edited by Donna Scott who has a great eye for putting together exciting, challenging and wildly differing SF anthologies.)
So just when I was beginning to find my “voice” as an SF writer, I happened to encounter this wonderful up-and-coming magazine, and as luck would have it, Noel happened to like my weird mash-ups of SF, fairy tales and folklore.
And since then I’ve guest-edited an issue of Shoreline of Infinity myself, pulling together the rather stunning-looking issue 32 (its theme being – you guessed it – ‘SF fairy tales). I’ve also enjoyed doing some Q&As with indie publishers which have been included in various issues. Indie publishers really are rather brilliant and I think they deserve to have more of a spotlight shone on them.
But where’s all this headed? Well, in addition to this post being a thank you to both Noel and Mark, I also wanted to offer some encouragement to newer writers of short fiction. The world of SF magazines is weird and wonderful, but it’s also a place which can be mightily disheartening. My stories have had (and continue to have) whole rocketfuls of rejections (and for the sake of transparency I do want to say that three of those short story and poetry rejections were from Shoreline as well). And that’s, in the main, because there are a huge number of SF writers wanting to be published by only a handful of SF magazines, the top ones being the ones that come with the most payment and kudos. But you know what, keep going. And in addition to the usual ‘keep going’ advice, I’d also say that for me, if I feel a story is working (and my beta readers like it) I’ll keep sending it out until it finds a home. Indeed, just the other week I had a fantastical flash fiction piece accepted which I’d been sending out since 2016. I loved the story but it just hadn’t found its right home. But it was a case of being sixteenth-time lucky! Sometimes, though, I’ll know deep-down that a story isn’t working. And if feedback from my beta readers is mixed then I’ll give it a serious rewrite and send it out again (or perhaps leave it in a drawer indefinitely).
So… keep refining your stories and honing your craft, because one day your story will meet with an editor at just the right time, and they’ll love it and they’ll want to publish it, and it’ll make you feel like you’ve won the lottery. And in the meantime, keep supporting the magazines you love and want to be published in. Subscribe when you can afford to or buy the odd single issue; read, or listen to, the material they make freely available. Tell others about the stories you’ve read and loved. One day, who knows, someone will be talking about how much they loved your story.
Good luck and all the best to the new team who are taking Shoreline of Infinity into its new incarnation. And many thanks again to Noel and Mark for all their hard work and generous support of creatives. So long, and thanks for all the fish!