Lady Sisyphus (ladysisyphus) wrote in bb_shousetsu,
Lady Sisyphus

on deadlines, text with art, and summaries

I hope you're all enjoying the recent enormous issue! I know there's a lot of goodness there, so don't forget to tell authors and artists alike how much you enjoyed their contributions.

There are a couple of pieces of business that have come up in the process of getting this issue live, so here's the scoop in two short and one long points:

1. Here's the way deadlines go: issues will always come out on Mondays. The deadline for authors is the Tuesday before, and that's the deadline we make a big deal about, since most of any given issue is text. However, the Saturday two days before the issue's street date is the deadline for artists, both those submitting illustrations and those contributing standalone pieces. Also, when we say 'Tuesday' and 'Saturday', we pretty much mean 'when we wake up 'Wednesday/Sunday morning', respectively, not straight-up midnight. We try to be as flexible as we can be with getting in as many contributions as possible, so if you ever need extra time meeting a deadline, please email us as soon as you can and let us know so we can work something out.

2. Artists submitting standalone images are now permitted to include text to accompany those images, but there are stipulations: there may not be more than 100 words of free text accompanying an issue, and that text must be submitted by the Tuesday author deadline. Artists that wish to include more than 100 words of text may of course either leave text in a comment to the entry or request a link at the bottom of the entry to a separate post.

3. This issue in particular has raised the issue of the editors' adding warnings, tags, and/or summaries to stories. This is actually not the first time this issue has come up, and we have debated the merits of doing so, but as before, we've come down on the side of no. A significantly lengthier -- and I hope the length shows exactly how much we have indeed thought about it -- argument for this position can be found beneath the cut....

Shousetsu Bang*Bang fashions itself (semi-jokingly) as a Japanese boy love special original manga collection, only in English and mostly without pictures. In practice, however, it's much more of a literary magazine, and those don't provide summaries. The same would be true of a book of short stories, a publication like Playboy that intersperses short fiction with other material, or even the manga anthology in question.

Much of the idea with this project is that you as a reader come into each of these stories knowing little more than the issue theme, the title, and (maybe) the author. Part of the reason authors traditionally publish under pseudonyms is that it clears them of the baggage of previous reputation -- good, bad, or nonexistant. Stories -- and authors -- live and die on their own merits. (This is also part of why leaving positive feedback for the contributers whose works you like is so damn important, but I feel like I've shouted myself blue in the face over that already, so I'll save that soapbox for another time.)

We don't feel taking already-short works of fiction and creating even shorter summaries for them would be effective. Summaries work great for fanfic, because if I tell you that this story is about how (for instance) 'Steve and Tony adopt a baby,' that tells someone in the fandom far more than how this story will be about two men's becoming adoptive fathers. But in the self-contained worlds of original fiction, everything is new and is revealed to the reader in its own time. Authors creating original oneshot stories know that their readers are blank slates, and they therefore plan, prep, and deal out information as is appropriate.

There remains, too, the question of who would do these summaries. Most of the authors -- myself included, to be personal for a moment -- are unenthused about having to summarize their own stories, and asking authors to provide their own would no doubt create summaries of wildly divergent quality, some of which would no doubt be (intentionally or otherwise) unhelpful. However, if we editors are tasked with doing the summaries, that presents the problem of deciding what exactly belongs in one of those summaries. Several stories are predicated on not giving away an important piece of information too early, be that surprise minor or major; to spoil that in a summary is as criminal as making movie trailers that give away the best scenes in the movie. I'd rather have the reader's trust that I, the author, already know what I want to give away and when I want to give it.

Finally, there is nothing to make a story seem more unappetizing than to condense it to simplest possible terms. So many of the stories that s2b2 runs are deliciously subversive, taking tropes and clichés that seem dreadful and overwrought on the surface, and instead making something fantastic and new of them. There are comments in literally every issue along the lines of 'I usually don't like [x], but I like this.' Speaking personally again here, I have a general bias against fantasy, and yet I've read delightful s2b2 fantasy stories I might have passed over had they been labeled as such.

In my experience, a reader can usually tell within the first 1-3 paragraphs whether or not a story is worth reading. I feel the best way to get a sense of what the story's going to be like is to go to the main s2b2 page and look at the excerpts that go above the lj-cut for each story. It's not just a randomly appropriated chunk of text, either -- beeblebabe chooses what goes above the cut of each story as carefully as I curate the order of the whole issue. Speaking of which, we really do intend each issue to be read straight through like a collection -- not jumped around insde. The order the stories go into the issue is not random; it is very deliberately chosen, shifted, shifted, shifted again, and decided on just so I'll stop picking at it.

Traditionally, s2b2 stories have not had warnings, either (except for elves, back in the day), and this is because the range of what constitutes something objectionable is so wide I couldn't possibly hope to cover everything. My own perspective is not universal, and I want neither to have an author complaining that I put a warning someplace it was unwarranted and/or spoiled a twist in the story, nor to have a reader find objectionable something that I had marked as safe. And the range of what might offend is wide: I have run stories where instances of misogyny, racism, cultural appropriation, transphobia, and even homophobia have been more objectionable to me than any piece of fantasy gore could ever be. I am in no way making light of people who have strong reactions to certain things -- rather, I'm saying that I don't want the responsibility of knowing that my insufficiently cautious warnings might give someone a false sense of security. I do believe that if you, as an individual, consistently find specific content an across-the-board dealbreaker, the best thing to do would be to engage the services of a reading buddy whose opinion you trust, one who would know about your personal preferences more than I ever could.

If an author wishes to include a warning because of extreme content, we'll include it, though in most cases I'd strongly discourage doing so. (There was, however, a story this past issue where I feel the author's desire for a warning was called for, and thus we ran with it.)

Now! If there is a dedicated group of people who want to put together summaries, lists of recommendations, tags, archives -- man, go for it! That's fantastic! That's part of what communities like bangbangwhimper are for! We will even link to them from the official issue posts, and I would not be averse to letting some dedicated reviewer read the issue a day or so early in order to create a companion list with more information for those among you who don't like being low-information readers. We'd be thrilled if people would come in and curate their own recommendation lists of stories about vampires, or dads, or Toronto, or whatever. I think it's a fantastic thing if people who are concerned about difficult subject material are willing to share their concerns and opinions with others. Those are the kind of fan things that make us explosively happy, because they do allow another level of engagement and involvement beyond just submitting text or art. This has been, is, and always will be a community project that runs entirely on that magic rocket fuel called love.

But as far as the main community and postings go, we are dedicated to leaving s2b2 primarily the leap-before-you-look adventure that it's always been. I am not your mother, and I won't tell you that you have to take three bites of your asparagus before you can tell me you don't like it. However, what I will say is that s2b2 is a fantastic way to break out of your usual reading habits and venture into territories full of delights you wouldn't have encountered on your own. Don't know what a story is about? Try it! You might not like it. But then again, you might.
Tags: admin, art, editorial
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