15 Oct 2021

Science Fiction and Fantasy Fridays: PLANET SCUMM Issue #11: Snake Eyes + Interview with Managing Editor Tyler Berd


Science Fiction and Fantasy Fridays introduces readers who are unfamiliar with the Adult SF/F genre to books, authors, and discussions all about the vast expanse of the world of Adult SF/F!
Today is a special post for Science Fiction and Fantasy Fridays as I am interviewing Tyler Berd, the managing editor of PLANET SCUMM!

PLANET SCUMM is a tri-annual Science Fiction magazine published by Spark & Fizz Books.

Born out of reverence for the bizarre science fiction magazines of the pulp era, our short story anthologies showcase collections of original fiction by international authors. We cherish the genre as an open forum for philosophy, anxieties, and thought experiments. We are proud to emphasize the central role of artwork in sci-fi and are committed to working with and supporting independent illustrators.

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Guest Editor: Hailey Piper
Series: Planet Scumm Issue #11
Source: Copy from Publisher
Publisher: Spark & Fizz Books
Publication Date: Summer 2021

Snake Eyes (Planet Scumm #11) features eight SFF stories by both exciting up-and-comers and established authors like Lindsay King-Miller (author of Ask a Queer Chick: A Guide to Sex, Love, and Life for Girls who Dig Girls) and environmental journalist, Sim Kern. Stories of star ghosts, love in the time of climate catastrophe, childbirth in space, and more fascinating flights of imagination await the lucky reader. 

Submissions for this issue of Planet Scumm were limited to authors who are femme, nonbinary, and/or trans. A guest editorial team helmed by horror novelist Hailey Piper curated this stellar collection of SFF.  All stories were lovingly illustrated by Maura McGonagle, who also did the sunshiney cover art. While staying true to the pulpy roots of the magazine, this issue lives in its own aesthetic space that merges humor and heartbreak, prophecy and dreamscapes, plant zombies in outer space and a cephalopodic sorority sister. The book spans eight fully formed narrative voices as they take us through the past, the future, and the eternal. 
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this issue and chose to review it. This in no way impacts my opinion.

Truthfully, I receive a lot of requests for reviews, especially for Science Fiction and Fantasy Fridays. But none of them have positively impacted me the way that Planet Scumm's Issue #11 have. This was such a unique collection of stories, curated by a guest editor Hailey Piper. I already know that I want to read the rest of the issues and subscribe to this magazine.

A unique look at speculative fiction, each story brought something different and interesting to the genre. Too often I find myself thinking "okay but I've read this already" when I read short stories, but these all felt so different from one another - and from anything I had ever read before.

I so thoroughly enjoyed A DEFIANCE OF VIOLINS by Ana Gardner that looked at what happens if we have brain implants - and how we can resist what is given to us rather than what we can create. I wanted so much more from this (and so many other) stories, but I also felt satisfied while reading them all.

If you are looking for a new and fresh take on this genre, but want to dip your toes in, I highly recommend picking up a copy of PLANET SCUMM! (Or you can enter the giveaway below!)

Describe Planet Scumm in 10 words or less.

Tyler Berd: Stellar source for mind-stretching, lovingly-illustrated, pulp science fiction.

What has been the most inspiring piece submitted to Planet Scumm for the most recent issue? Overall?

Tyler Berd: We publish a fair amount of doom and gloom, but there are two bittersweet pieces of clifi that I find inspiring. From the current issue (#11), there’s Sim Kern’s “Real Sugar is Hard to Find.” Way back in Issue #4, we all took a special shine to a story called “Rewilder” by Ty Loomis.

In both stories, humanity is split into a more-comfortable citizenry who live within domed cities, and those who make life work out in the elements. Both have dystopian governments taking aggressive, dictatorial action against climate change in different visions of ecofascism. In “Rewilder,” the conflict revolves around bringing some healing to the land and some meaning to the protagonist’s life. “Real Sugar” has a more intimate scope, imagining characters and relationships we can recognize as they struggle to do something special for someone they love. Sim Kern works with plot elements of poverty and crime in a way that is nuanced, dignified, and centers the human universal of familial love. Both stories balance the very scary and real threat of climate change with the assurance that there will be lives worth living as long as there are humans around to live them. 

How do you ensure content is relevant to your audience?

Tyler Berd: Our ultra-czar (amorphous alien blob mascot) Scummy Scum is our primary audience, and mercifully we are finding a growing collective of humans that share his taste. A good issue of Planet Scumm has something creepy, something funny, and lots of thought-provoking science fiction. I consider a strong, stylish voice and a satisfying ending hallmarks of a ‘Scumm story. Schlocky sci-fi tropes are fine if used creatively, but any reliance on crusty, prejudicial stereotypes is a dealbreaker. Lastly, when it comes to story selection, it is about the collection as much as the individual stories. When we do our jobs right, an issue of Planet Scumm is greater than the sum of its parts.

How do you curate content so that it amplifies voices in the speculative fiction space?

Tyler Berd: We noticed a lack of representation in our slush pile--most of the authors sending in stories were men and we felt that sameness of perspective made the magazine less compelling and was out of step with our ideals. For our most recent issue, Snake Eyes (#11), we limited submissions to authors who are femme, n/b, or trans and, stewarded by guest editor Hailey Piper, it came out amazing! I think doing a specific call helped us introduce ourselves as interested readers to some authors who may not have heard about us otherwise. The takeaway is, if you want your magazine to be more diverse, then do something about it. 

What should authors who wish to submit to Planet Scumm know about the process or what you are looking for?

Tyler Berd: Planet Scumm exists in this retrofuturist space where we love the schlock and strangeness of early pulp sci fi, but we also are very much interested in work that belongs to the 21st century. Also, our EIC Sean is a bit of a hardliner about cop-out endings, so if your story ends with someone waking up or about to open the door to an unwritten climax, maybe don’t send that one. 

What suggestions do you offer to writers who are starting to hone their craft?

Tyler Berd: Apply the same passion and discipline that drive your writing to your reading. Also, don’t self-reject! Over 95% of the responses we send are rejection letters, and the heavy hitters, like Clarkesworld, reject over 99% of submitted stories. Embrace rejection as a nonnegotiable part of the process. All of your favorite authors have been rejected. 

What can we expect in the next issue?

Tyler Berd: Our next issue has a loose "body" theme. It's always nice when a theme develops organically as we winnow down to our final story selection, and this time we found ourselves drawn to pieces that interrogate bodies in one way or another. We're especially happy that the collection we've put together includes many different takes on that theme. There's body horror, of course, and several stories that address the role technology has in shaping, and controlling, our understanding of the body. But the issue is also really funny! And, just as important, it’s hopeful about how we can continue to explore and redefine what our bodies mean to us. 

Have you read this one? What was your favourite part?

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