We are not yet accepting submissions. Please do not send stories at this time.
Shadows and Masks is a professional, paying literary magazine of 48-64 pages, published quarterly in PDF and print formats. We are accepting submissions for fiction, poetry and articles for future publication. Fiction should be between 5,000 and 8,000 words. Poetry should be one page maximum. Articles should be 2,000 words at the longest. Please check back often, as these guidelines are subject to change.
The magazine is dedicated to the classic pulp tradition. This does not mean, however, that we only accept two-fisted adventure stories. The pulps encompassed a wide range of genres and styles. Are you a writer of space-opera science fiction? You could find a home here. Swords and sorcery are welcome as well. Horror, be it modern, Gothic or cosmic, is more than welcome in our pages. Steampunk is also accepted here. The hardboiled noir detective is part and parcel of what we do, as is the western both mundane and weird. Feel free to bend genres--mixing detectives with horror is a time-honored tradition, and the more creative and original you get, the better off you'll be. In general, if your fiction is in a genre and style that could have appeared in one of the old pulps, it may be welcome here. This includes powered characters along the lines of "street-level" superheroes.
What we are looking for is engaging, well written fiction with punchy dialogue, strong and memorable characters, a fast and relentless pace and great page-turning qualities. I should feel the need to finish your entire tale in one sitting. Period pieces set between the late 1800s and mid-20th century are more than welcome, but fiction set in the modern day is also acceptable here. We are looking more at genre, theme, feel and style than historical eras. Consider modern authors like Kelley Armstrong, Jim Butcher and Neil Gaiman. All three of these writers have exceptionally divergent styles, but all write fiction that could be considered as descended from the pulp greats like Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Lester Dent, Edgar Allen Poe, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Dashell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and H.P. Lovecraft.
Poetry entries are much more subjective in terms of what we're looking for. They should have concrete imagery and paint atmosphere with words the way an artist paints a scene with paint. Rhyming poetry is perfectly acceptable so long as it is not cheesy or of a "sing-song" quality. With good poetry you're looking for an economy of words. Be clever and creative in your use of line breaks, meter and rhythm. Say and show the most with the fewest words possible. We are not interested in prose poetry.
Non-fiction articles must have some relation to the subject matter at hand. Have an idea for trends in horror media? What about the latest science fiction works? Articles on the history of the pulps, particularly focused on specific genres, will be welcome here, as will those looking at the resurgence in modern popular literature. Book and film reviews are welcome, though we are unlikely to publish exceptionally negative reviews which amount to little more than rants about how much you hated a property, nor will we consider raving reviews which have no concrete praises, but simply sing about how great something was. Again, keep your writing crisp and interesting and don't be afraid to write in an informal voice. This is not a scholarly journal and overly dry writing is not likely to be accepted.
What We Don't Want
Understanding what is not acceptable is sometimes more valuable than understanding what is. To that end, here are a few things for which we are expressly not looking:
- High fantasy in the Tolkien vein. As a general rule if your fiction includes elves, dwarves, gnomes and orcs, it's probably not for SHAMA. We are looking for swords and sorcery tales like those of Howard, Smith, Carter and their ilk. Lost civilizations, gritty heroes and dark magic.
- Hard Sci-Fi is not what we're looking for. We welcome space opera and planetary romance like you'd find from Edgar Rice Burroughs or Robert A. Heinlein.
- Romantic, misunderstood vampires and monsters are well overdone and just not appropriate here.
- Literary fiction is not at home in our pages. We are nether a confessionals magazine nor an outlet for experimental prose. We are firmly at home being a genre publication, though our list of genres is expansive.
- Comic strips, though part of the early pulps, aren't something we can get into at this point. Your superheroes are welcome, but present their exploits in prose and keep them street level and gritty.
- Graphic Sex and Violence are not going to get you published here. You can be visceral and gritty without describing entrails and sex acts in lurid detail. Keep it PG-13 or bordering on R, but not crossing the line. We're looking to entertain, not shock and disgust
- Overly flowery prose isn't the way to go. Again, keep it punchy, engaging and fast-paced. The more you can say with the fewest words, the better you are. For goodness' sake, avoid adverbs like the plague, especially if they end in "-ly".
- Long works: we are not looking for novel-length submissions. While we are not opposed to serializing longer works over multiple issues, if you have a story you think would suit us in this fashion, send a 1-page query letter outlining the story and explaining why you think SHAMA is a good fit for it. Also include with your letter sample of the novel itself in the form of the first 5,000 words (you can go a few words over if you need to finish a sentence). Understand that we are going to be extremely selective about longer works, and you may be sabotaging yourself by not just going with a short story.
- Other peoples' characters. While SHAMA may occasionally reprint a public domain classic pulp tale, we do not welcome stories using established characters or settings, even if said characters appear to be public domain. We are not interested in the further exploits of Wilbur Whateley, and though stories inspired by Lovecraft's mythos may be accepted, we have to take great care to ensure you are using only public domain materials.
Examples of pitfalls in this area: Howard's Conan stories are in the public domain; the character, the places and even the term "Hyborian Age" are trademarked by Conan Properties, LLC. Burroughs' Barsoom books--the first seven of them--may be in the public domain, but the character of John Carter as well as other characters and Barsoom itself, are all trademarked by another entity. The concept of Hastur and The Yellow Sign may have been created by Chambers and be public domain, but their common usage is completely different and the property of another entity. We cannot take your word for it that you know a given property is public domain, so save yourself the trouble and keep it 100% original.
Payment and Rights
SHAMA is a professional, paying outlet for fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Here is how our rights and payment break down.
When we accept a story for publication, the copyright and ownership of that story remains with you, the author. We pay you only for first North American Serial and Reprint Rights, meaning that the story you are submitting has not been published anywhere else, nor is scheduled to be published anywhere else. After we publish the work, you are then free to have anyone else reprint it as you like, but we retain the nonexclusive rights to reuse it for our own reprints at no additional payment in the future (meaning you cannot assign exclusive rights to anyone else). You will always receive credit for any reprint and a contributory copy of any issue in which your story is reprinted, providing we have current contact information to get in touch with you.
Stories accepted for publication will receive compensation as follows:
- Fiction: $150 for a short story of 5,000 - 8,000 words.
- Nonfiction: $75 for an article of 1,000-2,000 words.
- Poetry: $50 for a poem of up to a single page.
Contributors will also receive a print and PDF contributor's copy of the issue in which their work appears. All payment is rendered upon publication, not acceptance.
We are aware that there are higher paying markets out there, but SHAMA is a very small press publication and is not able to negotiate higher fees at this point in time. We can arrange for you to purchase additional print copies of the magazine at cost (your price is the same as ours to print).
Submissions Format and Process
All submissions should be double-spaced in Times New Roman, 12-point font. Internal italics to emphasize words are acceptable; please do not use different typefaces, fonts or the like or format your story in any other way. If we accept it for publication, you may then work with us for any formatting requests you would like to see implemented. We have to strip all formatting out to lay out the document, and when we have to handle too much of that it creates more work and delays.
The top right corner of each page should have the first main word of the story's title and the page number (i.e. if your story is entitled, "The Mysterious Mask," each page's header at the top right corner should read "Mysterious / 1."
Include the author's name, address, telephone number and email address as well as the title on a cover page. Include the title again on the first page of the story. Do not include author's name or contact information anywhere in the main body of the document after the title page.
Submissions must be in Microsoft Word (.doc or .docx) or Rich Text Format (.rtf). Any other format will be rejected unread. PDF is not acceptable, nor is Open Doc format.
Send all submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please follow these guidelines to the letter. We will reject out of hand, any manuscript that does not follow them exactly as outlined here.
The Review Process
The reason we ask you to only include your information on the title page is that we use a double blind review process, where a managing editor receives your file and removes your contact information before passing it on to our readers, who will recommend or not recommend the story to the editor, who then makes a final decision. The managing editor will then return the decision to the writer. The entire process can take a month or more, so please be patient while awaiting our response. This is to keep our review process fair so that the only thing that goes into our decision is the quality of your work and its suitability for our magazine.
If You Are Accepted
You'll receive a note from us congratulating you on acceptance. This note may or may not include the issue in which we expect to publish your tale--it depends on how backed up we are at the given time. If we do not provide a date immediately, we will contact you as soon as your story is scheduled for publication.
At this point you will also receive a standard freelancer contract and agreement. You must sign, date and return this agreement to us before we can publish your story. At this time we are doing all business by email so the contract will have to be signed, scanned and emailed back to us, preferably in .pdf format. If snail mail is your only option, we can work out an arrangement.
If You Are Refused
We make an effort to inform everyone of our decision as quickly as possible, but please understand due to the volume of submissions we receive, we cannot give personal feedback on every story, nor can we respond to requests for specific feedback as to why you were not accepted.