Bewildering Stories Editorial
by Don Webb
One of the stories in this issue raises a common problem: How to handle simultaneous submissions?
Now, for readers unfamiliar with editing literary journals like Bewildering Stories, I’ll clarify what is meant by “simultaneous submissions.” The term does not refer to the same story received from two or more authors at the same time. That might happen in the fiction of José Luis Borges or, perhaps, even Stanislaw Lem. Thankfully, it does not happen in real life. At least, it hasn’t happened yet.
Rather, authors often send a submission to several webzines at once, hoping that one of them will accept it. And they don’t much care where it appears or how it looks; their criterion is “immediately if not sooner.” But that has consequences. What if everybody accepts the submission?
Multiple publication is pointless: if a work appears anywhere on the Internet, it's everywhere on the Net as far as indexers such as Google and Yahoo are concerned. Nothing is accomplished by “wallpapering” the Internet with the same story.
How does Bewildering Stories handle the problem? We try to be careful, but it’s hard to catch everything. We have some guidelines:
We do consider simultaneous submissions. If we’re told that a submission has gone to more than one webzine at once, we ask the author to let us know if the submission is accepted elsewhere and, if so, what the author would like us to do. Meanwhile, we proceed normally.
We have received messages like “[Title] has been accepted elsewhere.” And that’s all. That’s it. Honestly, you would be amazed... What now? We haven’t been told to do anything.
If we’ve received no notice of an acceptance elsewhere, we complete the review process and advise the author accordingly. However, we must be circumspect. In cases of acceptance, our Duplicates Detective will conduct a Net search for author, title and keywords to see if the story has already appeared elsewhere. And our editors may decide to exercise the option for submissions from new contributors, as well.
What shall we do about special cases?
Perhaps the most common is the “reprint.” It’s actually quite normal.
Occasionally, we receive revisions of works that have appeared elsewhere on the Net. We will consider them provided we consider the revision substantial and the work has a new title.
Mirror-image case: If a contributor wishes to submit to another webzine or to a print publication a work of theirs that has appeared in Bewildering Stories, what do we have to say about it? Nothing, really. If there is no revision, we would appreciate an acknowledgment as the publication of origin, as a standard courtesy, but all our authors retain reprint rights and may proceed as they see fit.
Sometimes a submission has appeared in a print publication. If it’s a print magazine or journal or is a book that has gone out of print, we consider it “hard to find.” We’ll consider the submission normally but advise the author to include a note about the place and date of first publication and to confirm he or she has retained reprint rights.
Likewise, if a submission has appeared at another webzine but has not been archived, we consider it “out of print” and proceed as above.
We have seen websites that may have archives, but the sites are so poorly designed that it’s impossible to tell. In such cases, we consider the submission “hard to find” and proceed as above.
What about abnormal cases? These occur especially when we discover belatedly that the text has appeared elsewhere. We proceed on a case by case basis.
Normally we defer to prior publication and withdraw acceptance.
But what if the story is a serial that is already under way? That has actually happened. We decided we wanted the story and, as almost always, we found that Bewildering Stories’ presentation made the story more readable. However, that’s no guarantee: in a worst-case scenario, we might spike the story.
What if the story isn’t a serial but is ready to appear a regular issue? We’ll probably spike it. Or, as in one case in issue 643, we may decide to keep the story, especially since we consider our presentation superior, if we do say so, ourselves.
What might contributors take from all this? Bewildering Stories wants to share opportunity fairly. Our review process may call for patience, but it’s well worth it. Meanwhile, please don’t imitate overeager writers who try to gain notoriety by carpet-bombing the Internet with the same story!
Copyright © 2015 by Don Webb for Bewildering Stories