Tales From The Magician’s Skull: Open Call for Submissions
Listen Well, Mortal Dogs!
If you wish to submit a tale to The Magician’s Skull, you must pay heed, unless you wish to consign your story to rejection and immolation!
My magazine is devoted to the greatest of all genres, sword-and-sorcery. If you don’t know what that term means, I am unlikely to appreciate your prose, but I am informed that you may find a definition of the genre by clicking here.
Tales From the Magician’s Skull is currently printed twice yearly and pays 4 cents a word upon acceptance.
If I find your tale worthy, my minions will purchase select rights so we may publish the story. You retain the copyright.
When Will You Open for Submissions?
January 22, 2021 – April 1, 2021
My minions will open their portals to receive your submissions for a limited time during 2021. They will accept your electronic manuscripts beginning with the sacred birth date of the founder of sword-and-sorcery, Robert E. Howard, and ending with that day sacred to all fools. Watch this space for news regarding activation of the submission portals!
I now relinquish control of this instructional document to my chief editorial minion. Pay him heed!
We accept e-mail submissions only, in .rtf, standard manuscript format. I.E. double-spaced, with title and contact information and all that on the first page. If you’re not familiar with standard manuscript format, please look it up.
The subject line of your email needs to be structured as follows:
Submission – [fiction] – [title] – [your last name]. For example: Submission – Fiction – The Skull’s Day Out – Goodman
If you want to tell us who you are and provide some publishing history, drop it into your e-mail, but it’s not necessary. We really just want to show the Skull some great fiction.
NO SIMULTANEOUS SUBMISSIONS. NO REPRINTS. NO MULTIPLE SUBMISSIONS.
High End: We’ll take stories up to 10,000 words, and might even go over, but we REALLY have to be in love with it if we do. If this is your first time submitting to us, you probably ought to send us something under 10k. Like maybe 6k or lower.
Low End: We have a really limited tolerance for flash fiction, thought we might consider it if it’s truly amazing and on point. Otherwise you’d better send an entire story.
What We LOVE
Sword-and-sorcery, heroic fiction, sword-and-soul, swashbucklers, and the like. Tales of adventure shot through with elements of horror and magic. Give us interesting people doing interesting things for interesting reasons in fascinating places.
- Show us inventive new worlds with exciting vistas, and interesting new cultures, races, and monsters.
- Introduce us to compelling characters.
- Give us mystery, and horror, and please, oh please, give us forward momentum.
- We want characters who act, rather than those who are acted upon.
- We want a sense of wonder, not hopelessness. We want lost cities and gleaming treasures and forgotten lands.
- We want bold characters seizing life and taking chances.
- Keep any sexual stuff to PG-13, about what you would have seen in foundational tales of the genre by Robert E. Howard, Leigh Brackett, the early Lankhmar stories of Fritz Leiber, and so on.
What we DON’T LIKE
- Stories with rape, graphic sex, sexual violence, underage sex, children being hurt, or anything too close to “real life horror.” We are parents, and we want to publish stories our families can be proud of.
- Parody stories and comic sendups. It’s hard enough to get good sword-and-sorcery noticed and printed. We don’t need parody.
- Stories where everything’s bleak, everything’s covered in crap, and everyone’s a jerk.
- Characters who spend too much time in their head and whiiiiine all the time.
- Stories that are write-ups of role-playing adventures. Just… no.
- Fan fiction. We might dig some of it, but we don’t publish it. If you don’t own the character and setting, we don’t want it.
- Dwarves, elves, hobbits, half-orcs and all that – basically anything that feels like it walked out of a Player’s Handbook of any flavor. If you’ve got an elf or a dwarf of some other fairytale creature, breathe your own life into it so that it doesn’t feel bog standard, or we won’t be interested. We might even be really annoyed, but more likely you’ll just depress us.
- Stories that refer to classes of characters that appear in anyone’s Player’s Handbook. Again, no.
- Stories that start in a tavern. It’s just barely possible we might dig a story that starts in a tavern, but if your characters meet there and then go on an adventure together none of us are going to read past the first few paragraphs.
- We love action, but action without us caring about the characters bores us. Don’t bore us.
- Stories that have a really big button agenda. If you have a message, cool, because we like subtext and have feelings about things, some of them strongly. But if you’re not so subtly beating the reader over the head with your pet philosophy, your story will be immolated.
- We’re not remotely interested in stories that promote racism and sexism. That’s not to say you can’t have conflicts in your stories between people of different lands who hate each other, or that you can’t have sexy characters sashaying about or lifting weights and being admired for it, we just don’t want to see all men or women looked down upon as stupid or useless, or a minority that actually exists in the real world—or its obvious fantasy analog—derided.
- Don’t overwhelm us in violence. Save the blow-by-blow combats for climactic moments.
- Stories with traditional horror tropes. Shambling brain-eating zombies, say, or vampires.
- Stories with dwarven or elven detectives will be immolated.
- Stories need to be standalone. Never, ever, send us the first few chapters of your novel.
- Don’t frontload your backstories. If the backstory is complicated, simplify it, or reveal it gradually as the story unfolds.
- Don’t TELL us how cool your characters are. Show them BEING COOL.
- We aren’t big fans of stories in present tense.
Questions? Contact email@example.com. Remember, the submission window isn’t open until the dates specified above!
BE WARNED: Submissions prior to this will arouse the wrath of the Skull himself!