Literary-Speculative Issue Guidelines

Please read these guidelines. Following them will greatly improve your chances of our publishing you. Orca pays $25 for publication rights and provides one contributor copy.

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.

Also note: Since we opened to literary-speculative submissions, we’ve received emails from several submitters telling us how great their writing is. Writers, this does not help your chances. Please allow us to make decisions based on the merits of the work itself. Keep in mind we have a team of readers (5, in fact) and successful stories must find favor with at least a majority, and optimally all of us, and that although we are all well trained and experienced in the art of fiction, the process is still highly subjective.

Jump to:   Submission Specs   Translations   Responses   Withdrawals   Payment   Rights

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

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: February issue: Dec. 15; June issue: April 15; October issue: August 15.

* We close for one day after each submission period.

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

Before you submit, it’s important to understand what 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.

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. Please use a readable serif font (Times/Times Roman is preferred) in 12 points. Double space. Indent paragraphs. Minimum one inch margins. Author name and email, and a word count on the top of the first page. Start the story about halfway down the first page, with the title and byline centered above it. Title and page numbers on subsequent pages in the header. 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.

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Translations:

We will consider submissions of translations, provided you can show us written authorization of the translation by the original author, along with the author’s contact information. (Not that we don’t trust you, but we have to be careful when it comes to copyright.)

Responses:

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 orcaliterary@gmail.com if you haven’t heard from us by the stated timelines.

Withdrawals:

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 orcaliterary@gmail.com 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.

Payment:

Payment for publication in Orca is $25, plus one contributor’s copy. We are working to increase the monetary amount. We pay only via PayPal or Zelle, so you have to have an account. We cannot send checks (since our bank account didn’t come with any). If you don’t have a PayPal or Zelle account we can send you extra copies of the journal.

Rights:

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.