Literary-Speculative Issue Guidelines

The Basics:

  • Next Issue: January, 2022
  • Deadline: November 15, 2021
  • Length: up to 8000 words (query if longer)
  • Payment: $50 for short stories, $25 for flash, plus a one-year pdf subscription
  • Submission Fee: $0 for up to 100 submissions per month; or $3
  • Feedback from our readers available for $9

For detailed info, jump to:   Submission Specs   Responses   Feedback Me!   Withdrawals   Payment   Rights   What is Literary-Speculative?  

Submissions for our next Literary-Speculative issue close at midnight on November 15, 2021. Submissions received after that time will be considered for the next issue.

Orca publishes three times a year: the March and November issues are dedicated to literary fiction, and the July issue contains literary speculative work. Beginning in 2022 we will publish a second Literary-Speculative issue; the first one will be in January. 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Unpublished fiction only. This means not released in print or online, including personal blogs, on any site or in any format accessible by the public. 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 (literary short story, literary flash, speculative short story, and speculative flash) per issue. Authors whom we have published should wait one reading cycle before submitting again.

Submissions are open year-round. For our speculative issues 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 15; November issue: September 15, January issue: November 15.


Fee-free Submissions: We’ll respond at the end of each month.

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

Feedback Me!

If you select Feedback Me! Orca will send you our readers’ comments on your submission. The comments will help you see why your story was or wasn’t selected for further consideration. More than just, “it wasn’t a good fit,” the comments will strive to provide constructive criticism and indicate areas of the story that might be revised. In most cases comments will be several paragraphs long. Comments are prepared by at least two readers on the Orca staff, or one senior editor. All comments are reviewed by one of the senior editors prior to your receipt. These submissions are considered expedited, and you should receive a response within two weeks.

Our comments will be based on the portion of the submission actually read. For flash, and for some short stories that will mean the entire story. For other short stories it may be as little as three pages (but never less). Our editorial philosophy is that if a short story has not captured the reader’s interest after three pages, it is not a candidate for publication, and our staff readers can recommend it for decline.

Comments are not intended to start a dialogue about your work, however, and replies to them will not be acknowledged. In rare cases the readers and editors may feel they cannot provide constructive feedback. If this happens the submitter’s payment for this service will be refunded.


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 $50 for short stories (>1000 words), $25 for flash fiction (<1000 words) for publication rights. We also provide a one-year pdf subscription to the journal. Print copies are available at a discount to contributors. 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 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 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.