Well, here we are at the end of another one. 2023 has been a busy time at Mythaxis. Despite only inviting stories during three weeks of the year, we received 669 pieces to consider, compared to 603 across 2022’s four week long calls. The decision to increase our pay rate to a pauper-princely 1 cent per word probably had something to do with that; the option of shrinking the submission windows in 2024 to desperately try and hold back the rising tide is a distinct possibility.
So, it’s safe to say we now have more options to sort through and choose from than ever before. And that’s a good thing… but more junk from the LLM-machine as well, unfortunately! I firmly believe that the standard of work we accept remains unchanged – I’m as proud of past years’ issues as I am of this one’s – but while a small increase in pay may not be the difference-maker for writers of quality, it certainly seems to catch the eye of those who let AI do the real work for them.
Nevertheless, satisfied though I am, as 2023 progressed I was struck by an arguable oversight. I love genre fiction in many of its guises, but while that label covers great variety of type and tone we’ve always kept the focus primarily on sf, fantasy, and horror. Of course, that itself is no barrier to authors incorporating other genres – we’ve welcomed romance, comedy, mystery, and many more under the spec-fic umbrella – but there was one limitation in particular that has preyed on my mind.
We’ve certainly featured many stories in which crimes feature strongly, but it’s almost always been within our default context of (let’s call them) the unreal genres. We’ve not actively been seeking out what you might call pure crime fiction, and I’ve increasingly felt that this should change.
I think speculative fiction (be it science fiction, fantasy, or horror) is “special” because, while it allows an author to explore the very same themes as any more conventional treatment might, by abandoning the strict constraints of realism new light can be cast onto otherwise familiar ideas. Transplanting a narrative of loneliness from a real world wilderness to, for example, the infinitely distant depths of space doesn’t make the story proportionally better, but it allows it to be different in a way that isn’t plausible in a more down-to-earth setting.
However, I think unadulterated crime fiction is to an extent also a speculative endeavour. True, it is grounded in a context of realism; no matter how outlandish some of crime fiction’s villains have been, they generally inhabit a world recognisably our own, past or present; but the criminal also breaches a set of constraints: the agreed upon rules of social conduct. The author of crime fiction is therefore presenting speculations on how such challenges to the norm might affect the perpetrators, the victims, even society as a whole (or, indeed, how they might not).
And for the reader, too, there’s a slightly different flavour of escapism at hand with crime than with other fiction of our mundane world. With the unreal, we experience things we couldn’t – with crime, it’s things we wouldn’t.
So, a typically long-winded way of justifying a decision that may already by crystal clear to the probably enormous majority who skipped the editorial (or didn’t even notice its presence) on the way to the stories lying in wait: this is Mythaxis Magazine’s first all crime issue. No scifi, no fantasy, no horror (well, none of the supernatural at least) – just misbehaviours, up and down the scale.
I hope you enjoy this genre of speculation as much as I do.