Shady Thoughts: Our Writer's Guidelines: An Explanation

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Title: "Shady Thoughts: Our Writer's Guidelines: An Explanation"
Creator: Mary Jean Holmes
Date(s): Summer 1983
Medium: print
Fandom: multi
External Links:
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Shady Thoughts: Our Writer's Guidelines: An Explanation'" is a 1983 essay by Mary Jean Holmes.

It was printed in Shadowstar #11 and is part of the Shady Thoughts essay series.

While the essay in itself is a very detailed description of one zine's tribber guidelines, it is also an interesting view of some language, terms, and attitudes of the time.

Similar Essays


Last issue, I mentioned that the fact that I'd never actually published our writer's guidelines had been painfully drawn to my attention. As the pain's still there, it was suggested to me by a professional editor that I do an editorial, explaining the whys and wherefores of our rules. It sounded like an excellent idea, so here goes.

From the Essay

This introduction is very important, as it has been the greatest of our goals from the very first issue. Anything worth doing is worth doing well, and to that end, we have tried to behave as professionally as circumstances make possible. We are happy to report that virtually all our writers and many of our readers have expressed approval and appreciation of this attitude. It's one of the things that compel us to publish on as regular a quarterly basis as possible; we feel it also shows in the quality of the finished product. It also helps both sides — the contributors and the editors — learn.
1: No stories containing explicit sex will be considered for publication.
2. No stories containing overly graphic or gratuitous violence will be considered for publication; the definitions of 'overly graphic' and 'gratuitous' shall be the decisions of the editorial staff.
3. No overt Mary Su stories will be considered for publication unless they are obvious parodies, or contain substantial other redeeming value, which shall be deter mined by the editor.
5. The editor will, insofar as is humanly possible, leave all matters of major rewriting to the author before the manuscript is formally accepted."
6. All original artwork will be returned to the artist if proper return postage is included by the artist."
7. All manuscripts that are actually published must be retained on filet please submit clear photocopies rather than originals whenever possible."

All of these are mere format and style rules. We are not prudish; we just believe that R and X rated sex and violence have no place in Shadowstar. We retain veto on the matter of violence, because we feel that what is R-rated and gratuitous in one story could be PG and integral to another. For instance: the amount of violence in PG rated Star Wars would be repulsive if injected into something like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs; but then again, the PG-rated bloodshed in Raiders of the Lost Ark while perfectly acceptable in its original setting would have become overly gruesome if used in Star Wars. It's a matter of determining what fits where, and we want to make everything fit as much as possible.

On the matter of point #3: this is merely a matter of preference, a decision we made when we first went to press. We figure that there are enough fanzines in existence who quite happily print all the various Mary Su's to appease those who want to read them. On the other hand, some are so well written, it's easy to ignore the private fantasies, while others are so utterly hilarious, the humor itself is worth the reading. Those, we will happily ~ and eagerly — print.

It may seem at this point that an awful lot is left up to editorial discretion —whim, if you prefer. Perhaps it's so, be we have never regarded this privilege whimsically, and will never intentionally abuse it. We take the editors' duties as seriously as is humanly possible; I myself try to be as merciful as I can, since I know how the experience feels, am familiar with the writer's viewpoint, and know that many fan writers have no aspirations towards professional status. Nonetheless, we will try to treat everyone with professional dignity.

There is a purely mundane side to this point, the side with considerations towards time and expense. With the 'zine coming out every three months, there simply isn't time or money to seek approval on every editing point. One could go broke with postage and/or long-distance phone bills. Since the editor's job is to edit, it can become very difficult if he or she must spend months seeking approval of every minor change. We grant that the individual definition of "minor" can vary wildly, and that, sometimes, more major changes become necessary at a moment's notice, but all are done with the best intentions, and the overall quality of the final product in mind. Editing should therefore never be taken personally, since no editor — to my knowledge — ever intends it that way.
Concerning point #5: this has been employed on many occasions. "Clarify this," "eliminate this," "develop this point," etc. ad nauseam ad infinitum. If the author doesn't want to make the changes asked, he is free to withdraw his submission at this point; if he or she would rather we do the changes for them, that's fine, too. We just want you to know that we try to deal with these things as fairly as possible.

These are self-explanatory, and are matters of practicality. One could again go broke on the postage and, concerning photo-copies — well, it's always wise to retain your original, just in case the Post Offal eats the mail. Also, we retain them in part for editorial reasons, and in part to keep a clear and concrete record that so-and-so did actually submit the manuscript; we wouldn't want to be accused of literary piracy. (We've had, you might notice, some dealings with the less savory sides of 'zine politics; although we've never been directly involved, we've watched the many feuds, and prefer to remain safely outside them.) Finally, if return post age was included with a manuscript which was accepted, the postage will be used to defray the cost of mailing the contributor's copy.

We hope this is perfectly clear, and that we don't come off sounding harsh. We don't intend to be; we just want to see to it that Shadowstar maintains the level of quality for which we have worked so hard.