Fiction Inferno: The literary magazine that burns you up

Fiction Inferno

The Literary Magazine That Makes You Hot

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Hey! Welcome to the Blog of Eternal Damnation! Here's where you will see all the latest crap about the Web's hottest Speculative Fiction ezine, Bambi's Eschatological Underpinnings. And every now and again, just for sport, we just might include a little bit about Fiction Inferno: the Literary Magazine that Burns You Up.

Sunday, June 30, 2002

We got a winnnah!

First Place goes to

Kristy Legassie

Second Place awarded to:

Lynn Bey

For a list of all the runners-up, go to Fiction Inferno Contest Results

Whew! What a rush! Now I can get back to my regular schedule of drinking, debauchery, and despair....

posted by Max E. Keele 10:56 AM

Saturday, June 29, 2002

Oooh, this is so exciting! Gonna make the final determinations in the Very Short Fiction Competition today, and email the winners. I'll make an announcement on the website Sunday night. The response to this contest was just phenomenal. I had no idea that there was so much interest in tiny little bitty tales out there. Just might have to do something more regular in this regard. Stay tuned....

posted by Max E. Keele 9:19 AM

Thursday, June 27, 2002

My pal Bob Urell just asked me to contribute an article to the writer's site he and some other guys are building, Milk of Medusa. This is cool. He's already got some writers committed to this that I seriously admire, so I am pumped. Don't know just yet what I'm gonna do, but it's gonna be a gas.

posted by Max E. Keele 10:07 AM

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

There it was, just lying in the street. No name on it or nothing. So of course I grabbed it. I ain't proud and I ain't dumb. You just don't see these things lying around for the taking all that often, you know? It was kind of dirty, so I brushed it off and shoved it into my shirt. Right up against my gut like that it was all warm like and a little bit well, throbby. But felt kind of good, you know? So I just humped it back to the crib, looking over both shoulders the whole time. Did anybody see? I started thinking up stories to tell if anybody asked me about it. You know, like I was just taking it back to the rightful owners, or, sorry I thought it was mine, or, what's it your business? Wouldn't you know it? Not more'n a block from the crib, I run into the guy that lost it. Oh I could tell it was his, all right. Like there was this big damn hole in his manifestation, you know? So he says kind of lost like "You seen anything belonging to me around here?" and I says "Fuck off asshole" and just try to blow past him, but he grabs my arm and says all whiny "I know you have it; give it back to me," and I says "Let go of me, shithead, or I'll break your fucking spirit," and then he doubles up and starts crying, and then I killed him and went home. I mean, nothing personal, you know? Just finders keepers, that's all. And I think I need it more than he did. You know?

posted by Max E. Keele 7:40 AM

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

A few notes on email submission formatting....

  • Always put the word "Submission" followed by your title in the subject area of the email, i.e., Submission: "Surfing with a Nosebleed"
  • Always put your name and contact information at the top of the email, then the title of the story followed by the name you want to use as the author. You'd be surprised by how many stories I've gotten with no name at all.
  • Always end your story with a few spaces and the word end. It is not always obvious.
  • If your submission is an RTF attachment, tell me that in the cover letter.
  • Never use a colored background, or fancy font, or dancing-monkeys-animated-signature. Those things DO get my attention, but if you only knew what I was saying....
  • Always format a text submission (whether an attachment or pasted into the email) with no paragraph indents. Use a line break between paragraphs, just like this blog.
  • Courier, Times, Arial. Only those. And in that order of preference.
  • If you use Word and then convert to text format, please look your submission over carefully before hitting "Send." Bill Gates is the Devil Himself, and likes to insert odd, random characters into the text just to frighten me.

I'm not saying these few simple suggestions will get you published, but at least you won't be pissing off the editor quite so much.

Of course, every publication has their own particular rules. You should always read the submission guidelines before submitting, and follow them scrupulously. If nothing else, this tells the editor that you respect them as much as you expect them to respect you.


posted by Max E. Keele 7:05 AM

Saturday, June 22, 2002

Been thinking about this After-Life stuff.

And I know it sounds ridiculous, but I now am quite certain I know how it works, and guess what? It breaks no rules of physics and doesn't require a Supreme Being of any sort. That's right, I know exactly what life after death is, and how it works, and how YOU can determine your own salvation. But I'm not going to tell you. Oh no. This is one secret I'm keeping.

Well, maybe I'll write a book....


posted by Max E. Keele 8:25 PM

Friday, June 21, 2002

Yeeeeeehaaa! Not just Friday, but the longest Friday for the next 7 or so years! Yeeee haaaaa! Let's get drunk, naked, and crazy! You with me? Party like it's 1999! Right On! Far out!

Well, as soon as work's over, anyway. But boy, then you better believe I'm gonna howl.

Actually, I was thinking a cocktail, a movie, a cute chick who happens to be my wife, and a big leather couch. At my age, that's close enough.


posted by Max E. Keele 10:14 AM

Thursday, June 20, 2002

Today's topic is the poor misunderstood Modifier.

Surely you remember modifiers..... those adverbs and adjectives that--when used properly--add flavor and interest to your writing. However, just like herbs and spices, too much modifying can be a nasty thing. For example, the following from the case files of Herb Spice, P.I.:

Herb slapped the goon with his pistol, then turned to face the mob at the end of the bar.

Short, to the point, not a single adverb or adjective. Now try it like this:

Herb niftily slapped the gaping, bald-headed fat goon with his huge flat black automatic .45 caliber pistol, then turned silkily to face the grim, tough, mewling mob at the far southern end of the less-than-trendy smoke-filled stanky bar.

So, which reads better? Not withstanding the fact that I overdid it some, I think that the overuse of modifying words is worse than none at all. And I have seen entire stories written more like the second example than the first. Drives me nuts, actually. I'm not trying to imply that you should never use modifers at all. Just think of them as spices. A little bit, judiciously applied, might make as much difference as adding a little basil to the tomato sauce.

One last shot at it:

Herb slapped the goon with his .45, then turned to face the mewling mob at the end of the bar.

In the one case, I've replaced a common noun with a more specific one, and supplied just a soupcon of adjective. Still prefer the second example? TOO BAD, CLASS DISMISSED.

Bon appetit!

posted by Max E. Keele 10:15 AM

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

I wrote a short story once that was personal and clever and I liked it a lot. But it just wasn't quite right. So I tweaked it a bit. And then I liked it better. So I showed it to a workshop, and they said they liked it, and they had many suggestions. So I rewrote it. And I liked it even better. Then I sent it to a few magazines, and they said they liked it, but it wasn't quite right. So I rewrote it again. And still, it grew better. The story was, by this time, a very good story. It was filled with poetic language and clever insight, and unique phrases, and beautiful characters that developed in interesting ways. But it still wasn't quite right. So I hacked it to pieces and started over and rewrote it and rewrote it and rewrote it and turned it into a poem and turned it back into a story and cut and edited and changed and morphed it. And now it is a total piece of shit. I hate it. I hope I never set eyes on it again.


The fine art of self-editing all boils down to this:

Know when to quit.

later on,

posted by Max E. Keele 10:11 AM

Monday, June 17, 2002

I need a vacation.

posted by Max E. Keele 1:11 PM

Sunday, June 16, 2002

There is a very good chance that I'll get caught up on submissions through the First of April today. If I do, then I will start looking at the Very Short Fiction Competition entries. I'm looking forward to that. There are a Whole Lot of 'em and I expect many will be fun.

BTW, this blog thing is pretty amazing. Since I began this pointless drivel a total of 168 people have found their way to Fiction Inferno from here. That 168 people have visited this blog at all is weird enough, but to think that there may have been repeat visitors and that not everyone who stops by clicks through to the magazine and that who knows how many people have developed this peculiar obsession to read the pointless drivel of a complete stranger....

Well, it just boggles the mind, that's all.

Had a wonderful dinner at our favorite Italian restaurant here in Eugene. Everything I've had there has been excellent. The swordfish last night was suburb, likewise the wine. If you ever find yourself out this way, you could do a lot worse than Beppi & Gianni's.


posted by Max E. Keele 10:41 AM

Saturday, June 15, 2002

Hey, I found the actual cover letter mentioned in the previous post! This was the fateful little darling:

Dear Editor

Please consider this manuscript for your magazine.

Although virtually unknown in U.S. literary circles, my list of credits includes "The Return of Esmerelda", published in the 1985 Spring/Summer edition of The Downunder Review, "Surfing With a Nosebleed", in October 1985's Hogkiss, and the novella "Fantasies in a Tunnel of Light", which won the 1986 Schroeder Award for short fiction.

Truthfully, I am embarrassed to find myself resorting to this form of narcissistic pandering, but it has been suggested to me that, here in America, this is how it's done.


M. E. Keele

p.s. If you should decide to allow this yarn to slip through your fingers, please dispose of it in a suitable recepticle. Use the SASE to send me some tactful little note relating the story of its demise. Thanks.

And what did we learn from all this? My original conclusion was that, yes, it was just as all beginning writers feared. Having a long list of credits actually does influence editors. I have since mellowed in that cynical view. Now I believe that cover letters written in an Australian accent are the key to getting published.

Over and out.

posted by Max E. Keele 9:59 AM

Thursday, June 13, 2002

Let me tell you the story of my first publication.

It was way back in the eighties. I had been submitting stories to print magazines for a couple of years, without success. Out of frustration combined with a determination to mark my 100th rejection with something memorable, I submitted a story to four magazines with the following conceit:

That the cover letter was part of the fictional whole.

It read something like: "While new to American literary markets, I've published numerous stories in Australian publications such as Down Under Review, and Uncle Ralph's Digest. My short story "Surfing with a Nosebleed" won the prestigious Margorie Wilson Prize and the novella "Fantasies in a Tunnel of Light" was first runner-up for the Southern Cross in fiction for 1983."

I received three quick rejections and promptly forgot about the whole sordid affair. Five months later, I came across the entry in my logs and decided (out of shame, mostly) to send a query. Two more months pass.

One Saturday morning, before coffee, the phone rings. "Mr. Keele?" says the phone.

"Yup," says I.

"This is Fiction International," says the phone, "and we need a biographical statement. I can just use this one if you prefer."

"Huh?" says I.

"We're publishing your story 'Punk Jesus' and I need you to approve the bio."

"Huh?" I repeats, with a few extra ?????s, "I don't know anything about that."

A looooooonnnnnng pause. "Oh. You mean nobody's spoken to you?"


"Well, we are. It's in blue-line already."

"Were you people planning to tell me?" I asks, without thinking how defensive it might make the phone.

"Well, yes," says the phone, defensively. "Is it going to be a problem?"

"No," I admit, "I'd be pleased to see my story in your magazine."

An audible whooosh of relaxed air. "Okay, then. Why don't I just go with this copy for the bio, then....." and then I heard another whoosh, this one going the other direction. "Hey," says the phone. "I thought you'd have an Australian accent....."

By now, I am already considering breaking the "No Cocktails Before 10 a.m. Rule." And then I remember. Oh oh. Once again, the art of fiction-telling comes to the rescue. "Well you see," I says, "I'm really from the States, but I lived Down Under for a number of years."

"I see," says the phone. "So I'll just use the bio we've got, then, all right?"

Gods. I have a vision of a press conference 30 years later, after the Pulitzer people discover the fraud I've committed. "Uhm. I'd really rather you didn't use that," I says, thinking fast. "You see, I had to leave Australia rather suddenly, and it might be a tad uncomfortable if the authorities there somehow connected me with the author of 'Surfing with a Nosebleed.'" And I went on and on for about 14 minutes, and by the end of it, I'm quite certain that the unlucky bastard (probably an assistant editor) was making plans to change his major.

By the way, the biographic sketch for "Punk Jesus" read something like "M. E. Keele is currently finishing his undergraduate studies at the University of Utah."

And that, as they say, is that. Sayonara!

posted by Max E. Keele 1:02 PM

Wednesday, June 12, 2002

What, you want entertainment?

The hell with that, man. I'm not here to be your freakin' sideshow. I don't care about your ennui, you ass. You can just play with yourself, if you're that bored. Screw this. I'm outa here. I don't have to take this, you know. I got prospects. This sucks. You can just bite my shiny metal butt-ocks. Bull. Total bull. Just forget the whole damn thing. Blow it out your cake hole. You think I need this? Fokkin' a-holes.

Hey, where ya going? I didn't mean you.....

posted by Max E. Keele 10:15 AM

Tuesday, June 11, 2002

I want to be famous.

That's right, famous. I want everybody in the entire world to know the name Max E.Keele.

But I don't want to be recognized by anybody.

Thus, I write.

I think Thomas Pynchon has an awesome career model. Write one utterly brilliant novel or so per decade, do absolutely NO promotion, never even let your publisher know what you really look like.

buh-bye, xaM

posted by Max E. Keele 10:13 AM

Monday, June 10, 2002

Damn. You turn your back for ONE MINUTE and it's Monday again.

posted by Max E. Keele 6:53 AM

Sunday, June 09, 2002

Bought two new stories yesterday for the Fall issue. I love that part of this publishing thing. What could be better than telling somebody their hard work, their art is appreciated to the point that some stranger will give them money just to share it with others? Cool, huh?

What did these stories have that some of the others didn't? Main thing is I liked 'em, and thought they would look good in the Fall Issue of Fiction Inferno. They are both excellent stories, of course, but they also stood out as original, polished, and daring. And they both accomplished something meaningful without being melodramatic or pedantic or humorless. Fact, they're both kind of funny. Make me laff, and you gonna win.

Just you wait until Halloween. Then you'll see. Oh, yeah, you'll see all right....

Okay, gotta go now and tell some other equally deserving writers "no thanks." I guess you have to have both. Be seeing you.

posted by Max E. Keele 8:42 AM

Friday, June 07, 2002

Oh yeah. You gotta like Fridays.

This just in:

"The message is that there are no knowns. There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns, that is to say there are things we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- things we do not know we don't know. So when we do the best we can and we pull all this information together, and we then say 'well, that's basically what we see as the situation', that is really only the known knowns and the known unknowns. And each year we discover a few more of those unknown unknowns." --Donald Rumsfeld, 06-06-02, Brussels

Sort of explains a lot, really.

posted by Max E. Keele 6:48 AM

Thursday, June 06, 2002

Quick poll:

How many of you think that it's possible to make a living writing fiction? Not talking about a good living, mind you, just a living.

Let's find the value for N or the number of $ generated into the pockets of authors writing fiction.

The Max Equation (my apologies to Drake) is usually written: N = (B * b1 * b2 * m * m2) * r

B: Number of booklength ms written in a given year
b1: % purchased for publication
b2: % actually published
m: % marketed effectively
m2: % sold
r: royalty %

N represents the amount of money available to the writers of fiction in a given year. Assume that Stephen King gets half. Divide what's left by the number of people writing a book length ms in that year (ba). This leaves N/2/ba. Playing with this equation leads me to the belief that:

In Fact I could make a living writing fiction!

If only I could live on $.0003 per year......


posted by Max E. Keele 1:29 PM

Wednesday, June 05, 2002

Jeeze. Just noticed that I've been spelling "Manhattan" "Manhatten". And I call myself an editor. Hmmmpth.


3 oz. Wild Turkey 101
1 oz. Sweet Vermouth
1/4 tsp. Angostura Bitters
1 Tbs. Ruby port

Fill a cocktail shaker or large glass half full of cracked ice. Cracked ice is perfect. It has lots of surface area to cool quickly without much melting. Crushed ice melts too much. Whole ice doesn't cool very quickly. Add liquid ingredients. Stir gently, or swirl a few times. Do not shake. Shaking will "bruise" your MaxManhattan, much as it would Max himself. Strain into a well-chilled martini glass. Garnish with maraschino cherry and lemon rind twist. (Twist the lemon rind with your fingers and rub it around the rim of the glass, then drop it inside.)

Now sit back and savor your creation. But always drink responsibly. Which is to say, enjoy yourself, but if you happen to enjoy your MaxManhattan just before taking the wheel of a Peterbilt full of radioactive waste, don't blame me.

posted by Max E. Keele 6:51 AM

Tuesday, June 04, 2002

Once, a long time ago, there wasn't anything to do, so me and some pals went down to this frozen lake, and got pretty high, and ate about three dozen donuts, and started hiking across the ice, and when it make loud cracking noises we got all scared like, and then somebody, Joe, I think, came up with this cool idea, and so we found a big freaking rock and carried it out onto the lake and we would throw it ahead of us because if the ice was thin then it would go through but we would be okay--of course, being really stoned I don't think it even occured to anybody that the added weight of that damned rock was more likely to put the whole lot of us down into the cold dark scary wet than to do us any good, but anyway, we didn't fall through so I guess it turned out to be a pretty brilliant idea, you know?

Secret MaxManhattan Ingredient: xlskdfl234la-f9aaaaajdl.sdfa, asdf214, 23a;k312 ladf.

Well, of course it's in code. I told you it was a secret! Oh okay. But you really got to want it....

Secret MaxManhattan Ingredient: One tablespoon of a decent quality ruby port. I've been using Fonseca Bin 27. Just don't get too cheap. Cheap port is nasty.

Tomorrow, instructions! Slainte!

posted by Max E. Keele 7:07 AM

Monday, June 03, 2002

Bloggin' hell. Monday again.

MaxManhattan Ingredient #3: Angostoura Bitters. About a teaspoon.

CHECK THAT. I mean, one-quarter of a teaspoon. Or you got yourself one Very Bitter MaxManhattan. Jeez. I hate Mondays.

Next up, the Secret Ingredient! Skoal!

posted by Max E. Keele 6:51 AM

Saturday, June 01, 2002

Read a couple of submitted stories not too long ago that were well-written, thoughtful tales filled with interesting characters and quality prose. The problem? Dialogue's what cost these stories a possible sale. The art of realistic-sounding dialogue that's still readable is a lot harder than it looks.

The trouble is that Real and Realistic-sounding are two very different things. Next time you're at the coffee shop try writing down an overheard conversation just exactly as it is spoken, complete with "hmm," and "like," and "um." Get at least 500 words. That is a Real Dialogue. Now look at it and try to figure how the hell you'd make any sense of that in the context of a story. It probably reads like gibberish. In real life, people talk weird.

So let's try for Realistic. Realistic dialogue is taking that Real stuff you have and trying to make it work by imitating the essense of the way readers think people talk. That is, you're after the perception of dialogue, not an actual copy of it. You want to advance your plot, and build your characters, and never once let the reader think "That was the author trying to sound like a 40-year old inner city black librarian, not the character being a 40-year old inner city black librarian."

Using vernacular is especially tricky. James Joyce is considered by most to have done that best, yet, nobody can read his damn books.

"Wahl thann, me boyo, wheer will ya be gayin?"

That was fun to write, but looks like an author trying too hard, and sounds like crap when you read it out loud. Ah, there it is, then. Just stumbled across the secret to good dialogue! Read It Out Loud. Even better, let somebody else read it out loud. My preference is to try for a speaker's cadence and vocabulary and let the reader supply the accents and pronounciations.

"Well then, my boy, where will you be going?"

Better? I like it better. And since this is MY BLOG, that one is better. It rings with verisimilitude, which is Today's Big Word, and means "the appearance of truth." Which, as we all know, is the Florida State Election Board's motto.

Class dismissed.

MaxManhatten Ingredient #2: Sweet Vermouth, any decent Italian brand (Martini & Rossi will be fine). One ounce per serving.

Stay tuned for more! L'chaim!

posted by Max E. Keele 10:26 AM

Experimental Exposure Level Detector. If this counter reads 99,999 or higher, you have been exposed to a level of mutagenic particle emission that should cause priapism in men and low-level continuous orgasm in women. Please let me know if this is a problem for anyone.

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