After dithering for a while, I've decided to go forward with the podcast fiction series for a fifth year. The deciding factor (other than "five" being a nice number) was doing the proofreading of the remaining stories for this year and being reminded of the great work that people are entrusting to me to publish. For most of the stories we've included in the podcast, it's reasonable to say that they never would have existed except for having the Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast as a market. That was one of my goals, although I'd also love to help stimulate a larger and more active market for commercial sapphic historical short fiction.
Just as in the last two years, the submission call is also open to certain types of historic fantasy (see the guidelines for a detailed explanation). I didn't happen to buy any historic fantasy stories for 2021, but that wasn't a deliberate choice. It was only that the best stories were all plain history. So don't let that mislead you.
In addition to the primary goal of choosing the best stories, I always have a goal of including a diversity of settings, plots, and characters. As an author, you can use this to your advantage, if you're deciding between several possibilities. Every year, about a third of the submissions are set in the 19th century, and most of those will be set in the UK or USA. So if you set your work somewhere or somewhen else, you already have an advantage in standing out. (Coincidences can happen, though. This year I had to choose between two excellent stories both with prehistoric settings. And while either would have made the cut, I couldn't see buying both of them.)
Another thing that gives your story a leg up (since we're assuming that it has solid writing, reserach, and characterization) is focusing around an interesting and not over-used plot. Find an event or situation that would make a great story on its own and then ask, "How would this be even more interesting if one or more characters were women who loved women?" That isn't to say that you can't get a great story out of circumstances specific to the sapphic condition, but the stories that start out by asking, "what sorts of things happened in history to lesbians" tend to be less varied than ones that start with "what sorts of things happened to people in history" and then add "but what if they happened to lesbians."
Last year I had some agonizing decisions to narrow the choice down to the number I could buy. Try to make my process even more agonizing this year!
The Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast will be open for submissions in January 2022 for short stories in the lesbian historic fiction genre, to be produced in audio format for the podcast, as well as published in text on the website.
What We’re Looking For
Please feel free to publicize this call for submissions.
Use your favorite standard manuscript format for short fiction with the following additions:
If you don’t have a favorite manuscript format, here is a good basic format:
As I will be reading stories electronically, there is no need to include page numbers or a header on each page. (If this is part of your standard format, you don’t need to remove them.)
Notes on Sensitivity
I strongly welcome settings that fall outside the "white English-speaking default". But stories should avoid "exoticizing" the cultural setting or relying on sterotypes or colonial cultural dynamics. What does that mean? A good guideline is to ask, "If someone whose roots are in this culture read the story, would they feel represented or objectified?"
What do I mean by "stories that involve cross-gender motifs should respect trans possibilities"? I mean that if the story includes an assigned-female character who is presenting publicly as male, I should have confidence that you, as the author, have thought about the complexities of gender and sexuality (both in history and for the expected audience). It should be implied that the character would identify as a woman if she had access to modern gender theory, and the way the character is treated should not erase the possibility of other people in the same setting identifying as trans men if they had access to modern gender theory. This is a bit of a long-winded explanation, but I simultaneously want to welcome stories that include cross-gender motifs and avoid stories that could make some of the potential audience feel erased or mislabeled.
A note on transfeminine characters: I am completely open to the inclusion of stories with transfeminine characters who identify as women-loving-women. This is a complicated topic for historic stories, though, as this is not a motif with much known historic grounding before the later 20th/21st century. (In all my research, I've found only one possible, fictional example that was not presented as gender deception for ulterior purposes, and no non-fictional examples of any type that don't involve intersex persons.) If you're submitting this type of story, you may have to work harder than usual on making it work in the historic context.