Storyhack is a new short fiction magazine, which is up on kickstarter now. I read their free Issue 0 which is available on their website, and have backed this kickstarter project as it’s got some of my favorite short fiction writers involved: Jay Barnson, Jon Mollison, and David J West to name a few. It’s also got a contribution by David Boop who’s quite the veteran in the industry and has his own weird west anthology coming out soon. I’ve blasted the short fiction market lately, and that’s largely because of a lack of fun projects out there that has torpedoed the market. Storyhack fills the void left by some of the old guard publications, and is worthy of support as it’s one of the few sources out there seeking to fix the market. I backed their first issue, which is up on Kickstarter now, and sat down to talk with their editor, Bryce Beattie:
Hey Bryce, thanks for taking the time to talk to me. If you have a
quick pitch for Storyhack for my readers, what would that be?
StoryHack Action & Adventure is a modern day pulp showcasing stories in
a variety of genres that embrace the passion and pace of yesteryear’s
A magazine so epic a 12 year old boy would stop playing his new XBox
just to read it.
What’s your background with the SF/F genres?
As a youth I started into fantasy with Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain
Chronicles, then moved on to Tolkien, then everything by Terry Brooks. I
was an adult before I tasted the sweet melancholy of sword & sorcery. I
know I read more, but I only really remember 2 science fiction works as
a youth: I, Robot (to which I thought: Gee, that’s interesting) and
Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars books.
Of course, I’ve been a SF/F fanboy in other media as well most of my
life. I got some pretty sweet Yoda undies after Return of the Jedi came out.
The pulp influences kind of drifted in here and there throughout my
life. One Christmas I got a couple of sets of old time radio shows on
tape. The Shadow was one, and a variety of hard boiled detectives was
another. That’s when I started seeking out detective pulps.
Years later I got a first generation ereader but didn’t have much
spending cash, so I was always on the lookout for fun public domain
stuff. At some site or the other (probably blackmask.com or gutenberg) I
discovered Robert E. Howard (What? Conan was books first?) and Edgar
Rice Burroughs. My mind was blown. Those stories had more life and vigor
in them than anything I had read before. At some point a religious
leader pointed me toward Doc E. E. Smith (thanks, Blaine!)
Who would you consider your favorites in the genre, past or present
and who do you strive to produce like?
Classic stuff first:
As you might expect, I love everything I’ve ever laid eyes on by Robert
E. Howard. Besides the easily recognizable stuff like Conan and Solomon
Kane, I dig the supernatural horror Conrad & Kirowan stories, the Sailor
Steve Costigan fight stories, the westerns, all of it.
Reading A Princess of Mars is actually what made me want to start
writing. So Edgar Rice Burroughs will always be a favorite. Confession:
I’ve read most of the Barsoom books, as well as a couple of the
Pellucidar series. However, I have never read the original Tarzan, which
is a sin I intend to repent of this year.
And when I get sick and depressed, my go to reading is a stack of Doc
Savage reprints I bought a decade ago at a local used book shop.
There’s a lot of current genre authors that I would consider pulp. I
think Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files are a lot of fun and match the pulp
ethos very well – a hard working, competent lead with a moral code
getting into bizarre trouble in scenes of bombastic action.
Gregg Taylor is another modern favorite. His work is filled with
mystery, action, great character moments, and most of all fun. His main
two series are the chronicles of a Shadow-esque superhero called The Red
Panda, and the hard boiled detective tales of Black Jack Justice.
Gregg’s written & recorded over 200 individual radio theater episodes,
several comics, and 7 novels. I think he nails the style about as well
as anyone. Plus, he’s helped keep the pulp torch lit for at least 12 years.
David J West has written some very inventive stuff. Many of his old west
stories feature a fictional version of the colorful real-life Mormon
gunslinger Orrin Porter Rockwell. I’m excited to read his upcoming sword
& sorcery team novels.
And who do I want to produce like?
The Shadow, because that was twice a month and sold like crazy. Can you
imagine how much work that must have been? Adventure, because it covered
so many types of story. Planet Stories for the covers and
imagination-widening fiction. Apparently I want it all.
Were you influenced or moved to action on this by Jeffro Johnson’s
Appendix N last year? It looks like you’ve connected with a lot of the
authors who are in the #PulpRevolution movement surrounding it.
It actually happened the other way around for me. I learned of Appendix
N by way of the of the PulpRev authors I was meeting.
How did you find the authors for Storyhack?
I posted on the sites where I knew to post calls for submission, but the
first big push came when Daddy Warpig caught wind and tweeted it, then
Jeffro included it in a sensor sweep over at Castalia. I didn’t even
know Castalia House existed until like a week later. Seriously, though,
I owe those two big time. Guys, if you’re ever in town, look me up and
I’ll smoke you a pork shoulder or something.
Were there submissions or was this an invitation?
Open submissions. I received and read about 100 of them. I had no idea
how hard it would be to pare down to the few I could afford buying, or
how thirsty the authors of pulp are for publication.
Any funny stories about anyone involved?
In the funny “strange” department, I ended up choosing 3 authors who are
also from Utah, only one of which I knew lived here (David J West) when
I chose. I actually accepted Jay Barnson’s story in person. I kind of
doubt I’ll ever get that chance again. But I plan on doing this a long
time, so you never know.
I also had one author include a rather long stream of consciousness
cover letter asking me if I would please, please, please read and
consider the story even though it was submitted four and a half hours
after the midnight deadline. Two hours later this author sent a follow
up basically saying “Oops, please excuse my pleading, I just realized
the deadline is tomorrow.” That story made it in.
If you could make Storyhack revered as one pulp magazine of the past,
what would that be and why?
That’s a hard one to nail down. Weird Tales is certainly a contender, as
it inspires copycats to this day and shows no signs of slowing down. But
then the Shadow has near complete cultural awareness. Even folks too
stodgy to consider touching a pulp magazine have heard of him, and thus
the magazine. The Doc Savage tales were pretty much the template for
every action hero since. In the end, though, I’ll go with Amazing
Stories, which basically birthed the genre of Space Opera by publishing
Skylark of Space and Lensman. I think I’d like to give birth to a genre.
Hey, a guy can dream, right?
What do you think of the current short fiction market, and what do you
think needs to be done to get more people interested in reading short
I think there’s a need right now that is not being met.
The short fiction market is narrow. Even the biggest name magazines only
publish across couple of genres. And really, they only print a tiny
subset of those genres. That was actually the direct impetus for me
launching this project. I couldn’t find anyone publishing the kind of
shorts I was writing (and wanted to read.)
That being said, this only reveals immense opportunity. Yes, there are
some things to learn if you want to put out a ‘zine, but you don’t have
to pay for a 3,000 copy print run. You don’t have to sell xeroxed copies
out of the back of a station wagon at cons. You can do the technical
stuff basically for free if you are willing to learn how. And you can
put your baby on a digital shelf at the world’s largest book retailer.
People today are busy, sure. That means an awful lot of them only really
have time for shorter fiction. Short stories can fill that bus ride into
the office or that quiet minute before the kids get out of bed again.
There are also many in the up and coming generation that simply are not
interested in reading flowery think pieces masquerading as fiction. But
if they’re given a chance to find action and romance and imagination and
excitement in a story, they’ll be hooked for life.
As far as what needs to be done to get readers into short fiction again?
One, there needs to be people willing to try out this publishing thing
without copying the current industry big names. Instead they need to be
publishing stories that _regular_ people will actually want to read. Can
you imagine a fast food line cook, a plumber, or a bored-to-tears file
clerk picking up a magazine that should be subtitled “SciFi with
Literary Predilections?” Neither can I. So would they want to read?
Well, take a look at what they’re watching: Summer blockbuster action
movies, sword fighting vikings, power-hungry kings, superheroes in
peril, CIA agents racing the clock, that kind of fare.
Two, the word must spread like a cold, person to person. We are
inundated with advertising today, and the vast majority is just white
noise getting filtered out. But a recommendation from a friend? That’s
how people find new things to try. So once you find something you like,
you have to share it. Without being a jerk. That’s the only way pulp
will spread again.
Bonus third thing: Parents, read to your freaking kids.
What’s next when this successfully funds?
Once I get Issue 1 funded and fulfilled, I’ll set up some form of
per-issue subscription and continue publishing fun yarns. I expect to
still need to pony up a few bucks to fund the next couple of issues as
subscriptions increase and StoryHack gets established.
But the long term “next” is simply more and better. I’ll get better at
editing, layout, marketing, and all the background business stuff that
goes into making a sustainable magazine. As reach and sales increase,
that’ll mean more fiction per issue and more money for the authors. I’d
like to add an audio edition as well.
Thanks so much for the interview, and your support of the magazine!
Again you can back Storyhack here and make this a reality!