An Interview with Cat Rambo
Cat Rambo is the fiction editor of the award-winning Fantasy Magazine. She is also a critically-acclaimed speculative fiction author. Her stories have appeared in Asimov’s, Weird Tales, Clarkesworld, and Strange Horizons. Her collaboration with Jeff VanderMeer, The Surgeon’s Tale and Other Stories, appeared in 2007. Her collection of stories, Eyes Like Sky and Coal and Moonlight, was published in 2009. She attended the 2005 Clarion West Writers’ Workshop and is a member of the Codex Writers’ Group, Broad Universe, and a volunteer with Clarion West. Learn more about Cat at www.kittywumpus.net. Redstone Science Fiction will publish a story by Cat Rambo this fall. It is indeed her real name.
Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions for us here at Redstone Science Fiction. You have been an editor with Fantasy Magazine since 2007 and this year it won the Million Writers Award for best online publication. What do you feel are the key factors in producing a quality online publication?
One key factor is picking good stuff! We get about 400-500 submissions per month when we’re open, and sometimes it’s very hard choosing from among those. We also try to publish a mix of voices, both new and old, as well as one that’s diverse and which includes some authors from outside the US as well.
We also try to work with our writers in a way that’s good for both of us, such as running spotlight interviews with authors and providing them with this primer for publicizing their story.
Every writer wants to know what a fiction editor is looking for when they read a story. What are you hoping to see when you read a submission to your magazine?
A story that sticks with me. One of the things I will do is read a batch of stories without making judgements and then go back the next day and see which I remember well. A story needs to have heart and emotion, beyond strong writing.
We never get enough good humor, which may be because humor is one of the hardest things to write.
Following up on that, what advice do you give to writers who are hoping to make a career in writing?
Be persistent. It’s not enough to write, you have to get the stories out and in front of editors. Research markets and find the places that list new ones. Don’t take rejections personally, but get the story right back out there.
Work on your craft. Read good stuff and try to figure out what makes it good. Experiment. Get a good writing group where you’re not the most talented one there and learn from critiquing and being critiqued.
What trends, positive or negative, are you noticing in your submissions and in the speculative fiction field in general?
From the beginning, I’ve seen a lot of retold fairy tales, which generally aren’t doing much new. Some people are doing fun stuff with fairy tales, such as Jim Hines’ new series, but generally it’s been pretty well mined. Lately I’ve seen a lot of stories with Eastern influences, and if you’re going to do that and aren’t familiar with the Eastern culture you’re writing in, you need to do some research, get it -right-, and not just use it as a fancy backdrop.
One of my bugbears in speculative fiction is that, while we see good stories exploring race and gender, there’s a lot fewer talking about class. Do we really need more stories about a King (or Queen) and his/her court? What about the little people?