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LHMPodcast - The 2022 Fiction Line-up

Wednesday, February 9, 2022 - 08:06

The contracts are all in, so it's time to announce the full 2022 Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast fiction line-up!

Our January story, already broadcast, was:

  • "Palio" by Gwen Katz - horseracing politics and flirtation in 17th century Siena

The four stories we just bought (in no particular order, as the schedule isn't set yet) are:

  • "A Farce to Suit the New Girl" by Rebecca Fraimow - set among a Jewish theater company in late 19th century St. Petersburg
  • "From the Bird's Nest" by Jennifer Nestojko - a gentle episotolary story of claiming one's life in 19th century New England
  • "The Wolf that Sings on the Moutain" by Miyuki Jane Pinckard - rivalry and supernatural danger in Heian era Japan
  • "The Sprits of Cabassus" by Ursula Whitcher - curses, ghosts, and religious tourism in 4th century Cappadocia

It's always interesting to see the themes that emerge in each year's submissions, both those chosen and those not. Ghosts appeared several times. The performing arts were a noticeable presence, with singers, actors, and music hall performers. Several submissions were set in religious communities. The distribution in era was fairly similar to previous years, but with an unexpected cluster in the 17th century. (Yes, it's one of my favorite centuries--were people playing to that?) Geographic distribution was also similar to previous years with a heavy focus on North America and the British Isles. (I've never received a submission set in South America, and only one set in Africa if you don't count Ancient Egypt.) In the first three years of the fiction series, most of the submissions came in during the last week of January, but last year and this one there was a fairly steady flow throughout the month. Much easier on my nerves!

So for those of you thinking ahead to submitting next year, what is it that catches my eye and makes it to the final round? The first hurdle is simply "good writing". Prose that is not only competently written but that uses language in skillful ways. The writing should paint a vivid picture and it should be clear that every word and sentence was chosen to create the desired effect. If you're a beginning writer, the place to put your energy is in learning and practicing your basic writing skills. Plotting, characterization, and background research are relatively easy to pick up and are can be fixed in revisions. But solid writing chops are essential to make it in the door. They require work and practice and, ideally, good critique partners.

The next hurdle is that the central character(s) of the story should clearly fit the lesbian/sapphic theme in some way and should do so in a way that rings true to their historic context. I'm kind of picky on that point. I don't want modern personalities dressed up in costume on a stage. And, needless to say, the historic setting itself should also ring true. I can enjoy playing fast and loose with history as much as the next person, but it's not what I'm looking for in this series.

After that, the considerations become more flexible. I tend to be drawn to stories that are "a story" rather than a character sketch or a slice of life. I like an episode where the central character changes in some way in response to the events. But I hope I'm open to a diversity of narrative structures, not all of which have that pattern. I generally hold to the notion that a story should come to an end rather than merely stopping, and that stories should have an underlying meaning and theme that real life doesn't always have. And, in general, I prefer stories in which all the characters--even villains--have complex lives and personalities rather than simply fulfilling a functional role. They don't all have to be likeable or pleasant, but they should make sense.

The ultimate consideration--and the one that can be the hardest on authors--is that I want to buy a reasonably balanced diversity of stories in terms of setting, era, and plot. If I get four fabulous stories about late 17th century sword-wielding opera singers who rescue their girlfriends from convents, I'm still only going to buy one of them in any given year. (Though if I ever did get four fabulous stories on that theme in a single year, I might suggest kickstarting an anthology!)

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