Literary-Speculative Issue Guidelines

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Please note that when you submit your work to Orca, you’re adding yourself to our contact list and, thus, consenting to receive our monthly Mailchimp newsletter in your email. The newsletter is very brief, and contains info about issues, deadlines, and our monthly blog. You can remove yourself from the list by using the Unsubscribe link.

Orca publishes three times a year: the March and November issues are dedicated to literary fiction, and the July issue contains literary speculative work. See the Literary issue guidelines here.

Subscribers can submit to us for free, even when the free portal is closed, by emailing. Please include your subscriber number.

Submission Specs:

Unpublished fiction only: Up to 3 flash fictions of less than 1000 words each in one document, or 1 short story up to 8000 words. Times/Times Roman 12 point is preferred. A word count is appreciated. Submit via our Submittable portal only. No email or postal submissions please. Simultaneous submissions are expected and encouraged.

Please submit no more than once in each category (short story, flash) per issue. Authors whom we have published should wait one reading cycle before submitting again.

Submissions are open year-round. We accept submissions of short fiction only. Orca is fee free for up to 100 submissions a month, which is what is covered in the Submittable plan we pay for. After that we charge the standard $3, which helps us pay our published writers. We encourage writers who can afford the fee to support those who can’t by selecting the pay option. Submission deadlines: March issue: Jan. 31; July issue: May 30; November issue: September 30.


Fee-free Submissions: We’ll respond at the end of the submission period.

Paid Submissions: We’ll respond as soon as we can, usually within a month.

If the story is not for us, you’ll get a form rejection (it’s a nice one, though). If we thought the story had merit, but it didn’t make the cut, we’ll probably write a personal note.

If you don’t hear from us within the timelines above, your story is still under consideration for an upcoming issue. But feel free to contact us at if you haven’t heard from us by the stated timelines.


Should you need to withdraw a full submission, please do so using your Submittable account. If you are only withdrawing a part of your submission (such as a single flash piece from a multi-story document), email us at and let us know.

Do not withdraw your story if you only intend to make changes to it. Instead contact us through Submittable or via email, and we will mark your submission as Open for Editing. You can then upload a revised story.


Orca pays $25-$50 for publication rights, depending on story length and quality. We also provide a one-year pdf subscription to the journal. Print copies are available at a discount. We pay only via PayPal or Zelle, so you have to have an account. We cannot send checks.


Upon acceptance, Orca requests first North American Serial Rights and First Digital Publication Rights. All rights revert to the author upon publication. We ask that if the work is reprinted in a collection or anthology that you indicate Orca, A Literary Journal as the original publisher in your acknowledgments.
NOTE: The rights above mean that once the issue is published, the rights to the work return to you. After we publish your work it can only be marketed as a reprint, which limits the number of markets that will accept it, and drastically reduces the pay rate it can receive. Writers of speculative fiction are advised to carefully consider our pay rate and exposure potential before submitting to us.

What do we mean by Literary and Speculative?

Literary: A style of writing in which the focus is on language and character, and plot is often secondary. A literary story is about ideas. It has an overarching theme distinct from the narrative and a leitmotif running through it. It treats its characters as real human beings and not as props to move espouse an author’s opinion or to simply move the plot forward. It approaches language as art: a literary writer pays attention to every sentence, every word.

Speculative: The term “speculative” has been employed by writers and editors to connote works from a variety of genres, such as science fiction, fantasy, horror, dystopian, space opera, and similar subjects. All of those genres are welcome, but for Orca we want submissions that adhere more closely to the original sense of the word, which is to consider what might be, instead of what is. Therefore speculative writing could concern an alternative political structure, an ecological future, certainly alternate history, and maybe even a romance. Think “Black Mirror.” Think what if…

As we hope you can see, both definitions pay particular attention to the idea behind the story. Good literary speculative fiction has its basis in concepts that are larger (often much larger) than the story itself, and seeks to examine one aspect of it, and how that aspect affects the story’s characters.

Important: We are not looking for writing that relies on traditional genre tropes. We do not consider that imaginative.

For examples of this type of writing see work by Ted Chiang, Kelly Link, Jorge Luis Borges, Ursula K. LeGuin, Julio Cortázar, and Margaret Atwood.

It’s our hope that the short stories and flash fiction in our Lit-Spec issue will combine the best of both styles of writing.