Special Call for Submissions: Steampunk Universe

Much like the award-winning anthology Steampunk World, Steampunk Universe will be a multicultural anthology of steampunk stories. But this time, the anthology will focus on characters who do not identify as abled or neurotypical.1

This call for submissions is aimed particularly at marginalized writers, especially those who are identify as members of a minority, LGBTQ, and particularly those themselves who do not identify as abled or neurotypical.

Stories are due by June 1, 2016 to steampunkuniverseantho@gmail.com. Ideally, decisions will be made by July 1, and the anthology will be crowdfunded shortly thereafter. Writers will be paid $.06/word for original stories. I’m not looking for reprints at this time. Deadline extensions will not be granted. Your story should be submitted in Standard Manuscript Format (please check and double-check that your name and email address are on the first page!) as an email attachment in .doc, .docx or .rtf format. The subject of your message should read [Submission: Story Title by Author Name]. If your submission doesn’t conform to these specifications it may be deleted unread.

What I’m looking for:

  • Your story should take place in a non-White and preferably non-Anglophone culture.
  • Your story should contain and have as a focus a character with at least one disability. It should be a major element of the story. I want to explore how steampunk technology changes the lives of people who are aneurotypical or disabled, for better or for worse. I’d love to see characters who are also members of other marginalized groups (such as LGBTQ characters).
  • Your story should contain steampunk elements. I get a lot of submissions with steampunk exoskeletons and dirigibles, but not many with spaceships or submarines. I’d really like authors to stretch themselves and instead of just writing alternate history, set the story in a parallel universe or on another planet. Read Tobias Buckell’s excellent story “Love Comes to Abyssal City” for an example.
  • I have already committed to stories taking place in North America, England, and China. While we may commit to more stories featuring other cultures in those regions, we strongly encourage you to explore stories that take place in the diverse cultures of Central/South America, Asia, and Africa.2

I’m unlikely to buy stories that:

  • Feature a disability as a superpower, such as the trope of the autistic super-detective.
  • Feature characters with prosthetic limbs, steam-powered hearts, or who are blind (I already have stories featuring these elements)
  • Involve the protagonist bravely sacrificing himself/herself at the end of the story so the characters without disabilities can survive (seriously, this is becoming a cliché)
  • Are longer than 5,000 words (bonus points if you can keep it under 4,000)
  • Contain graphic sex or violence, rape, women in refrigerators, etc. If the content of your story means you wouldn’t be comfortable reading it to your eleven-year-old, don’t submit it to me.
  • Have only magical elements and no technological ones. I love a good gaslamp fantasy, but this is not the market for it. I want gadgets and goggles!

The fastest way to get responses to questions is on Twitter. Questions may be directed to @steampunkpanda or @AlliterationInk. The best way to tell what kind of story I am likely to buy is to read Steampunk World.

1 So what happened to the original term here? Long story short, we were attempting to use a positive and inclusive term. We failed in that effort. After a lengthy discussion, the wording above was settled upon as a far better one that is inclusive, not demeaning, and respectful of the community.
2 This wording has been changed to emphasize that we are looking to maximize diversity from all regions and peoples in the limited space we have, not minimize or erase any group.

– Steven Saus, publisher

20 thoughts on “Special Call for Submissions: Steampunk Universe

  1. Does advanced age qualify as an exceptionality? Older writers often feel marginalized by the main-stream writer community just as aging people (especially women) are marginalized by society.

  2. You stated that the story should not be set in north america, or contain north american characters, but are first nations and native american characters in a pre-columbian setting also out?

    • I stated I would be unlikely to buy a story set in North America because I already have a couple of stories under consideration that take place in North America (including a story with Native American characters). However, that doesn’t mean there’s zero chance I won’t buy another story set in North America. I will consider anything you send me and there’s always a possibility I’ll make an exception if the story’s really amazing. I encourage you to write about the characters and setting that most speak to you and that you feel passionately about. That will come through.

  3. Are you still doing this? I’m interested in writing about autistic protagonists. I’ve had articles published in magazines regarding Asperger’s, plus I also write lots of RPG stuff.

  4. I have an idea for this, but I don’t feel that I fit the marginalized writers group (white, mid-20’s girl with an English degree. I would be writing the story for my step-daughter who is special needs. Can I still submit?

    • It’s up to you whether you feel comfortable submitting. If you feel that your story would be a good fit for the anthology, you’re welcome send it. I’m especially interested in stories by marginalized writers, but I’ll consider anything I receive.

  5. Have the selection decisions been made and chosen been notified? If so and a submission was not responded to, when is it acceptable to inquiry for a response?

    • I have read all the submissions and I’m currently making decisions. Everyone should hear in the next week or two, but please give me until the end of July before you query. Thanks.

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