(Revised December 2022)
If you are planning to submit a piece of text, please make sure you’ve read over these guidelines.
As before, there’s a ‘short version’ and a ‘long version’. If you’re old hat at writing for SSBB, read the short version first and see if anything’s new information to you; if something looks odd or you want clarification, find the same section in the long version and read the fuller explanation. If you’re new to this or it’s been a while, definitely read both sections in their entirety, but start with the short answers and then fill in the information gaps with the longer ones.
As always, if you have questions or want clarification on any matter, please ask.
The short version of the guidelines contains the most basic information you need to know if you’re planning on contributing a text submission to Shousetsu Bang*Bang. For more clarification, see each answer’s longer, more detailed counterpart in the second half. PLEASE NOTE: Not sticking to these guidelines is a near-guaranteed way to get your story bounced back to you to fix it.
1. Original fiction only.
2. Previously published stories are not accepted. Authors can submit up to two stories per issue: one written alone, and one co-written.
3. Stories should be between 1500 and 25,000 words long. Stories will not be broken across two or more pages.
4 & 5. Stories should contain explicit queer erotic content. All issues are open to all content.
6. Stories must be complete and self-contained.
7. While they are not strictly required, happy endings are strongly encouraged.
8. Anyone can participate, including people without LiveJournal accounts. Most authors have project-specific pseudonyms, though this is not a requirement.
9. Deadlines are important. Text deadlines are always the Tuesday two weeks before the issue’s publication date. If you foresee any difficulty meeting a specific deadline, tell us as soon as possible.
10. Themes are not mandatory.
11. While it’s always a good idea to sign up, signups are neither necessary nor binding.
1. Use Google Docs if at all possible.
2. If it’s not possible, submissions must be in .doc or .docx, .rtf, or .txt format.
3. Make sure the filename is sufficiently descriptive and includes: story title, your pseudonym, and your LJ name/email handle.
Stories must be formatted for publication on WordPress (the platform we use for our website). This means:
- Indicate section breaks with text of your choice, but do not use hard returns or multiple blank lines.
- Blockquoted text will be rendered in italics whether you want it to or not.
- Smilies become emoticons.
- Stories should be formatted in rich text, not HTML.
If your story includes images, clearly mark their intended locations in the document and make sure they conform to the guidelines for art. If your story has author’s notes/commentary/glossaries/thank-yous, please do not put them in the story itself. Instead, add them to the story’s wiki page/other designated location.
Stories are expected to arrive in near-publication-ready condition. Too many errors in grammar, mechanics, and formatting make the story unacceptable for publication. In general, the technical errors should take the editor no more than half an hour to fix. If the story needs technical attention greater than we editors have time to give, the story will be bounced back to the author to fix before resubmission.
We do our level best to run every story we get as close to the way the author intended it to run as we can. Authors should still expect to receive constructive criticism from the editors.
And here are the more comprehensive guidelines:
1. Original fiction only. Significantly altered versions of other peoples’ characters, thinly veiled real people, and retellings of well-known stories in the public domain are all acceptable so long as the differences are substantial enough to render a significant part of the creative process your own.
It is acceptable to base your SSBB story on someone else’s copyrighted characters, so long as all names and enough worldbuilding details are changed, to the point where someone completely unfamiliar with the copyrighted source material would not feel like anything was missing. Please, no direct reappropriation of text or plot points from a different work, unless permission is given and the original source is credited.
In short, the words you should be keeping in mind are ‘plausible’ and ‘deniability’.
2. Stories should first appear in the SSBB issue to which they belong. Stories may be posted to locked sites for editing and review purposes prior to the issue date, but they should have their public debut on the https://shousetsubangbang.com website. After the issue goes live, you may repost the story publicly wherever you wish — but only after.
Each author may have up to two total contributions (as an author) in an issue. You may submit up to one story where you are the sole author; you may submit up to two stories where you are credited as a co-writer. Stories may have a maximum of two authors.
3. The lower word count limit is 1500 words. The upper word count is 25,000 words. The exception to the latter is our annual December issue, which has no upper limit.
4. Stories should contain explicit queer themes and content. Sex scenes may involve as few or as many participants as the author is comfortable wrangling.
What counts as ‘queer’ is open to interpretation. Keep in mind, however, that this project was made to showcase original m/m stories, and that the audience still comes here for queer and genderqueer content. The less something makes use of these categories, the less well-received it will be here.
The editors will not put content warnings on stories. However, in certain cases, we will accommodate an author’s request to warn for particular strong story content on story posts themselves. Authors may also warn for particular content on a story’s wiki page.
5. Stories should be Not Safe For Work. The point of the exercise is to make things dirty, so let’s not be coy. If you are not comfortable writing an explicit sex scene between two or more participants, this may not be the venue for you. If you like to think in movie ratings, it should be at least something they wouldn’t let teenagers into without a parent or guardian. Don’t worry about making it too pornographic; to date, we’ve never asked someone to dial it back.
6. Stories must be self-contained. Characters/universes/situations from one story may of course reappear elsewhere; however, if a reader has to have read a previous story to understand this one, this story is not self-contained. Each story should be complete and have its own beginning, middle, and ending. Deliberate artistic cliffhangers are acceptable; wandering off in the middle of a story because you’ve run out of room is not.
If you wish to make a note connecting your story to other SSBB stories or works published elsewhere, please do so in the story’s wiki page.
7. While it is not required that all SSBB stories end with a big smile and group hug, that’s the general spirit of this ‘zine. Stories that finish on a down note had better have a strong reason for doing so. On the whole, it’s best to go for the happy-for now or the happily-ever-after. As founder petronia originally put it:
“Shousetsu Bang*Bang is a webzine for original boy’s love oneshot stories, intended as an online, English-language text equivalent of one of those All Yomikiri Bimonthly Summer Special 100 Extra Pages!! manga phonebooks where every story is about the torrid romance of an ordinary schoolboy and his soccer club captain – or a teenaged yakuza boss and his faithful lieutenant – or the prince of an exotic desert country and the emerald-eyed winged bishounen he rescues from the sawtoothed sand monsters of G’or, self-contained in 30 pages and heartwarmingly predictable. Our editorial policy is to dispense with meaning and literary merit and concentrate on cracked-out inconsequential fun. There is a formula, it is paint-by-numbers, and by gum our rainbow crayons will stay within the lines.”
There remains, of course, a great deal of room for literary merit — yet while it is greatly appreciated in practice, it is not considered an essential component to the exercise. If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.
8. There are no prerequisites for participation. We’ve had contributions from published authors, first-time writers, and all types of people in-between.
LiveJournal is our traditional homeland, so in the past, our setup has assumed that contributors have LiveJournal accounts. However, signups now occur on our website, where you can sign up by commenting anonymously or through a number of OpenID options. You will need an account with access to Google Docs.
Authors are invited to create user accounts at our website. Having an account allows an individual to do a number of things, but chief among them is to track comments on stories.
While it is certainly acceptable to post stories under your own name or more well-known pseudonym, part of the fun here is the chance to let your work stand without your best-known identity to prop it up or drag it down (depending). Because this project was originally “intended as an online, English-language text equivalent of one of those All Yomikiri Bimonthly Summer Special 100 Extra Pages!! manga phonebooks” (see above), the running joke has been to adopt strange and sometimes nonsensical Japanese mangaka names, often with silly and equally nonsensical kanji puns. You don’t have to have one of those, but if you see other people with them, that’s why. Regardless of what you choose to call yourself, once you pick it, please stick with it.
9. Issues always come out on a Monday (usually the last Monday of the month). Text submissions are due the Tuesday thirteen days before.
Deadlines are important. Our current turnaround time gives us slightly less than two weeks between final submission date and publication, there’s little time for us to spend editing things that should have been fixed already and even less time for a bounced story to get corrected and re-submitted. Thus, please get your stories in on time. In fact, plan to get them in early; there’s no shame in having a story submitted entire months before the deadline, and submissions are always open. Stories that the editors decide have arrived too late for current issue will be saved for the next issue.
If you foresee any difficulty meeting a specific deadline, please tell us as soon as possible so we can agree on a modified schedule.
10. Themes are a suggestion, not a hard and fast rule. They’re there for inspiration and a sort of issue-wide uniformity, but they’re certainly not mandatory. If you do choose to stick to the theme, you can interpret it as strictly or as loosely as you like; in fact, some of the best stories we’ve ever gotten have been from people who’ve taken some very creative interpretations of the issue themes.
11. Signups will generally appear about two months before an issue’s scheduled publication date. There are many good reasons to sign up, including that finding artists in the signup posts is probably the best way to get your story illustrated.
Signups are non-binding; we will not come chase you down if you don’t have something in by the deadline. Signups are non-mandatory; if you haven’t signed up but still submit something on or before the deadline, we’ll take it.
1. Google Docs is absolutely the editors’ preference for submissions. Create a document, go to ‘share’, click on ‘sharing settings’, and give firstname.lastname@example.org permission to edit — and that’s all there is to it. The reasons this is the editors’ preference are as follows:
- Having a story in Google Docs makes it infinitely easier to edit. We are two editors, and downloading a story, making changes, re-uploading it somewhere, making sure the other editor gets the new version instead of the old one … well, you can see how that could get complicated. But if all the edits are made to a single file on a server somewhere, we both can see all the changes in real time.
- Having a story in Google Docs also makes communication with authors easier. Each document has a Revision History so that authors can see which specific changes have been made. Authors can modify things like the placement of images up to the last minute and can see changes that confirm the editors have received the file. And as is the case with editing, we can be certain that everyone is looking at the same version.
- Notifications from Google Docs never, ever wind up in our spam folder. Once, a story was sent to us as an attachment to an email with minimal unique text and got caught in our spam folder, such that we didn’t see it until the issue was already up. We still feel terrible about this and never ever want it to happen again, but there’s so much spam out there in the world that it’s hard to be sure something hasn’t passed us by. Even if, by some bizarre happening, a notification is spam-filtered or deleted, if a document is shared with the SSBB account, it’s visible in the master list of editable documents. It just plain can’t be lost.
2. If you’re not using Google Docs, submissions must be in Word (.doc or .docx), rich text (.rtf), or plain text (.txt). No HTML files. Submissions should be sent as attachments to emails, not downloads.
3. The title of the story, the author’s penname, and the author’s lj name/email handle should be marked somewhere in the document, whether in the title or on the first line. We want to make sure we’re communicating with the right people about the right things.
1. Entries should be formatted with rich text — i.e., just the way you want them to look. However, not all rich-text formatting works in WordPress and on all browsers. If you have anything more complicated than italics, please contact the editorial staff to make sure formatting is accurate.
2. It is also acceptable to submit stories with HTML elements instead of rich formatting. However, a story should not have both.
3. Odds and ends: You can use whatever text you want to indicate section breaks, but please do not use hard returns or multiple blank lines. Most special characters present no problem, but if one does, we’ll be sure to let you know. <BLOCKQUOTE> has been formatted on WordPress so it appears in big dumb quotation marks, so we’ll convert the text to italics to avoid those. Be warned that unless you take pains to format and/or specify otherwise, any smilies in the text may appear as emoticons when posted on our website (because of WordPress reasons).
4. Smart quotes and smart ellipses are acceptable.
5. If you plan to have images in your story, please indicate where in the story you would like those images. You can leave placeholder text (like PICTURE #1 GOES HERE) in the body of the story itself, or you can describe in an email where you’d like us to place them. All images will be uploaded to the shousetsubangbang.com server. Any image used in a story must conform to the artist guidelines, especially with regards to file type, dimensions, and deadline.
6. If you have any author’s notes/commentary/glossaries/thank-yous, they should be left out of the story and included in the story’s wiki page. Every story will have a link to its wiki page at the end. NOTE: This will be true once the wiki is working again; for now, contributors will have access to a Google Doc.
Writers should be proficient in English. The Writing Aids and Standards post has many helpful links. As we edit, if typographical errors are obvious enough, we will correct them; if we are at all unsure as to what your intent was, we will ask.
As far as content goes, SSBB has an ‘all skate’ policy: if you submit a story and it meets the technical guidelines outlined above, it will be run. As a general rule, we don’t edit for content — largely because the second we start doing that, we become responsible for all the content we do approve. (We have not yet had to reject a story for offensive language/themes; please do not test us on this.) The upshot of this for inexperienced writers is that it makes SSBB a very friendly place for authors who haven’t had a lot of practice writing original fiction (or fiction at all); the upshot for more experienced writers is that it creates a safe place to indulge in cliché and melodrama gleefully and shamelessly.
The primary point of this exercise is not to write the Great American Short Story, but to have a Good Time writing and reading, and what constitutes a Good Time varies from person to person. However, a writer should always be looking to improve, which is why we will also often provide feedback that involves suggestions that we think will improve both a specific story you’ve sent us and your writing overall. While you are not required to implement this kind of feedback — either in that specific story or in general — we have a lot of experience being both writers and readers, and we’ve learned a lot in that time about what makes writing successful.
What’s most important to us is that the story runs the way you, the author, want it to run! But we also want that decision of yours to be an informed one.
The presence of any of the following will get a story bounced back to you immediately:
- insufficient erotic content
- egregiously offensive material
- unnecessary HTML formatting
- copious obvious errors in spelling/grammar/mechanics
- anything that is going to take more than half an hour of proofreading on our part to fix
In short, if we send it back to you and tell you to get it beta-read, get it beta-read. If you’ve already had it beta-read, get a better beta.
Having a story sent back to you is never a indication that you are a bad person and should go away forever! Rather, it means there is something about the story we believe prevents it from meeting SSBB standards, and we would like to give you an opportunity to fix that. If you choose to make the changes according to our recommendations and re-submit the piece, that’ll be great. Similarly, if you decide not to make the changes and just want to let this one go elsewhere quietly, we won’t judge.
Previous posts about the guidelines (some of which contain greater detail about the rationale behind certain decisions): November 2005, May 2007, July 2007, December 2010, and March 2014.