It is considered bad form to speak ill of one's family in public, and as many who have known and worked with me over the past three years can attest, my feelings toward my e-zines are distinctly paternal. But over the past year—and in particular, the past six months—my struggles with Lacuna have clearly passed out of "adolescent growing pains" and into the territory of "irreconcilable differences."
I began editing Lacuna to remedy the criminal shortage of markets for short historical fiction; the market shortage remains, but it has become quite clear to me that I am not the one to remedy it. The patently pathetic submissions backlog (stories from as early as last December have yet to receive responses) and the barren Twitter account attest that I lack the time and energy, to say nothing of the interest, to edit historical fiction.
This is something I should have known from the beginning. I am a fantasy writer, a fantasy reader, and a fantasy editor. As my list of desiderata on the Lacuna guidelines page suggests, I love historical fiction best when it is flavored with fantasy, folklore, or frightening encounters. I have certainly received my share of moving, beautifully-written submissions that don't deal with speculative elements, and it has been my pleasure to publish them. But when I bring up my e-mail to read today's portion of slush, I inevitably find myself reaching for the magical, the unexpected, the enchanting submissions to Mirror Dance, rather than the more down-to-earth Lacuna.
More than that—as my "do not want" list suggests—I find that I have to steel myself before plunging into the uncomfortable mélange of clichés, stereotypes, and unfortunate implications that makes up a sizeable portion of Lacuna's slush pile. I don't mean to suggest that Mirror Dance is completely free of these, or that most Lacuna submissions contain them; but they are prevalent enough that I have begun to approach slush-reading with dread.
That is the interest component. Now to time and energy. First, historical fiction—by, I suppose, it's very nature—tends to be long. Often too long, and many Lacuna submissions would benefit extremely from cutting 20-30%. But even the tightest, best-written 10,000 word story makes for time-consuming and eye-watering screen reading, as I have learned from considering two or three of them each week. Second, I am entering my final year of undergraduate studies this fall, with the all-important student teaching coming up in spring. It would be frankly dishonest for me to pretend that Lacuna's atrocious response times would not slip even further as my time is divided between work, studies, editing, my own writing career—and my future students, who will deserve and demand the greatest portion of my time and attention.
So…what to do about Lacuna?
I mentioned already the criminal shortage of markets for short historical fiction. While it is not my intention to continue a recreational editing endeavor that has lost most of its pleasure for me, I do not want to close Lacuna. Here, briefly, are my plans for the future of the magazine.
1. Lacuna will publish at least two (possibly three) more issues in its current format on http://lacunajournal.blogspot.com. Submissions for the October 2012 and April 2013 issues will close on August 1, 2012.
2. During the spring semester of 2013, my attention will be devoted to student teaching. Do not expect further announcements regarding the future of Lacuna from January until June of next year.
3.When Lacuna returns, it will be as a themed publication. Since the beginning, I've wanted to put out themed issues of Lacuna, but the bi-annual publishing schedule—not to mention the variety of submissions—has made that wish seem impractical. I have a few solid and many nebulous ideas for the themes, publishing schedule, and format of the new Lacuna; but since its inauguration is over a year in the future, I will publicize the complete details closer to the time when they will be useful to know.
3.5. One of the themes is Shakespeare. Another is Antiquarian Ghost Stories.
Sorry, I can't keep a secret for the life of me. :-)
4. Mirror Dance has always been and will continue to be interested in submissions of historical fiction with fantastical, mythological or folkloric elements. Alternate history where the history is sufficiently "alternate" may also fit our needs; browse our archives and use your best discretion.
5. If you work with or are considering working with a historical fiction magazine that will be open after October 2013, please let me know so I can direct Lacuna's readers (and writers) to you. At this time, I am not looking for anyone to "take over" the operations of Lacuna, since the publication will continue with a similar flavor but different format.
6. If you are a writer with specific questions about how these changes will affect your publication or submission with Lacuna, I am happy to answer them. Please email markenberg at yahoo dot com with the subject "Lacuna Query."
I regret the disappointment and inconvenience these changes may cause. Thank you to the loyal readers, patient submitters, and talented writers who have joined me on the sometimes-rocky journey of the past three years. I look forward to meeting you again, either on Mirror Dance or a new and better Lacuna.
TL;DR version: Regretfully, I lack the time, energy, and interest to continue editing a broadly defined "historical fiction" e-zine. Lacuna will publish an October 2012 and April 2013 issue in its usual format, submissions to which will close on August 1, 2012. Lacuna will return in late 2013 as a themed publication in an as-yet-unspecified format and publishing schedule.