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Taking Submissions: Silence

March 31

Deadline: March 31st, 2024
Payment: $150 and a contributors copy
Theme: Stories featuring Algernon Blackwood’s ‘Psychic Doctor’

Silence: An Anthology of new stories featuring Algernon Blackwood’s ‘Psychic Doctor’

Edited by Dave Brzeski

PLEASE NOTE: For this project, it is essential that you read or have already read all six of Algernon Blackwood’s John Silence stories from 1908. Five of these were published in John Silence, Physician Extraordinary, and are available to read or download free through Project Gutenberg:

https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/49222.

A sixth story from 1914, ‘A Victim of Higher Space’, is included in the Algernon Blackwood collection, Day and Night Stories, which is also
available to read or download free through Project Gutenberg:

https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/45964.

All of them can be found in Dover’s The Complete John Silence, edited by S.T. Joshi (this is the recommended option) and in various other collections — do try to avoid the assorted sub-standard POD, or Kindle versions that can be be found on Amazon, as they tend to be somewhat typo-ridden

THE CHARACTER
Dr John Silence did not consider himself, or describe himself as, an occult detective. He was a ‘psychic doctor’, seeking to alleviate distress, and to free people from unusual and traumatic situations. He operated as an independent consultant, charging no fees, and was helped by various assistants at different times, usually someone who had at least a basic sensitivity to psychic phenomena. Two of these men are mentioned in the original stories, the earliest one — Hubbard — being a sort of ‘Watson’ to his ‘Holmes’.

His outlook and his abilities are frequently described by Blackwood, sometimes with specific mentions of his own extensive psychic training (without details), his unusual awareness and abilities, and his view on ‘Higher Planes’, the nature of Good and Evil, and the condition of human soul. Unlike Holmes, he recognises the existence of malign psychic forces, though he tends to consider these as part of an orderly universe where logic can still be of value.

SUBMISSIONS
We are seeking new, unpublished stories between six thousand and ten thousand words in length — Blackwood’s original six stories ran between thirteen thousand words, and twenty – seven thousand words, so there i s room for negotiation at the upper end, albeit anything over seventeen thousand words will be a harder sell. For longer stories, you should send a 200 – 300 word pitch before submitting.

  1. Stories should have all the following elements:
    John Silence as a key element. In keeping with the original stories, Silence does not have to be the main protagonist throughout. He may, for example, be the authority of last resort, the deus ex machina who saves the day, the instigator of events, etc. Removal of Silence from the story, on the other hand, should significantly detract from it.
  2. Silence as the canonical psychic doctor in the style that Blackwood envisaged, with the same general nature and modus operandi. Writers are welcome to add to aspects of the character (within sensible limits) but should not deduct from his already stated characteristics.
  3. Setting, societal and technological aspects in keeping with the Edwardian period, or any reasonable period up to the late nineteen thirties, remembering that Silence would be getting on a bit by then.
  4. A decided psychic, paranormal, supernatural or occult problem. Unusual psychological problems or issues may also qualify. Stories about general monster hunting and classic monsters are unlikely to be chosen, unless their approach is particularly innovative and relates to Silence’s established range of activities.

One thing that struck us on rereading the original tales was the sheer diversity in the stories. Smoke, and Flame, Silence’s animal helpers only appear in one story. The narrator isn’t always the same. One story is almost mad science, rather than supernatural, and another has Silence not even turn up until close to the end. So we stress. Do read the Blackwood stories before submitting.

With the above in mind, we welcome a wide range of submissions, including:

  • direct canonical pastiches
  • explorations of Silence’s failings or failed cases
  • imaginative new angles on his consulting work
  • Silence visiting countries not already covered by Blackwood
  • tales of his early life, and how or why he took up his profession
  • crossovers with other historical or literary characters in the public domain
  • crossovers with series characters of your own creation are neither banned, nor encouraged.

We do NOT want time-travel stories, alien Dr Silences, or steampunk. We probably don’t want Lovecraftiana, unless the latter is very clever, subtle and original, in which case we might have a glance. Draw on Blackwood’s general canon and the background work of other period weird fiction authors (Machen, Hope Hodgson, James et al) as required.

TECHNICAL DETAILS

Use any standard 12 point font, and general Shunn guidelines*. Indents by style, not by Tab or Space-bar. Submit in .doc, .docx or .odt format, with your submission attached to your email, not pasted in it. No .pdfs, Google Docs links or anything like that. Please include a brief cover note only — there is no need for bios or achievements at this stage.

Submissions MUST have the subject line Silence – Author’s name – Story title . You can trim your story title down if it’s rather long.
Submissions MUST have the author’s name, email, and the word count of the story included at the
top of the document.

NO REPRINTS; simultaneous submissions are acceptable, but please inform us immediately if your story sells elsewhere.

*Shunn formatting can be found summarised here:

https://www.shunn.net/format/story/all/.

A NOTE ON INCLUSIVITY AND DISCRIMINATION
We welcome stories from writers in all sections of society and from all parts of the world, and we actively encourage contributors from traditionally less-published backgrounds of any nature.
As for the content itself, non-white characters and settings are also welcome, as are stories with LGBTQ+ characters, and those with differing levels of physical ability. It was perfectly possible in Edwardian and 1920/30s Britain to be active and respected whilst also being a feminist, being Black, or being gay, (as just a few examples). Remember that between the turn of the century and 1920, there were probably 10,000 to 20,000 or more Black people living in Britain. There also were many Indian and Chinese professionals, workers and students, visiting Africans, and so on. No token figures, though, please.

Whilst limited situational discrimination may occasionally be relevant in the context of the period – in order to reflect characters’ life histories or traumas – sexism, homophobia, racism etc. in general will not be accepted.

Payment: Authors shall receive a payment of $150, with enough wiggle room to go higher for any longer stories we accept, and a paperback copy of the anthology. The Kickstarter for the book will run in July 2024.

PITCHES AND QUERIES ONLY TO [email protected] BY MARCH 31st, PLEASE. COMPLETED SUBMISSIONS WILL NEED TO BE IN BY MAY 31st.