S2B2 for Beginners
So you want to submit to Shousetsu Bang*Bang (that's great!), but you're not entirely sure about something about the whole deal (that's normal!). You're looking in the right place! The point of this page is to expand upon the Quick Answers from the POV of someone who turned in a story on a lark a few years back and then neglected to stop.
Your basic checklist for a story is as follows:
- between 1500 and 23000 words
- contains at least one instance of explicit gay sex ("gay" in this case meaning presumed-cisgender male/male)
- involves original characters
- has not previously been published (online or otherwise) elsewhere
That's it! Happy endings (whether ever-after or for-now) are encouraged but not mandatory; October issues in particular tend to skew towards spooky themes which don't always end well for the protagonists.
Special Issues swap out the explicit M/M sex for explicit F/F sex but are otherwise identical in scope.
Big Bang year-enders go by the same standards as a typical issue, save that the 23,000-word limit is waived (see below). The lower limit is still 1500 words and shorter submissions are just as welcome; most Big Bangs have a smattering of both long and short stories.
Artist Specials are M/M issues focused on standalone illustrations and original comics. They do not contain prose-only entries.
Yes, And is a safe haven for any other form of non-heteronormative sexuality, and has in the past been used to present bisexuality, polyamory, genderfluidity, characters from all over the transgender and nonbinary spectrum, and whatever the hell is going on in Dinner at Dido's. There's even been PIV sex presented in an extraordinarily queer manner! It's meant to be a chance for authors and artists to color well outside the lines of regular S2B2 issues while still being able to share their work with an established audience.
Shousetsu Bang*Bang does not monetize any stories submitted to it and all copyright resides with the creator(s). You are welcome to repost, rewrite, redraw, remix, publish for profit, put banana stickers on, or otherwise use your works however you like once they have appeared in an S2B2 issue.
Each text submission must be at least 1,500 words long, and no longer than about 23,000 words. As S2B2 is determined to honor its LiveJournal roots, this means that a story has an upper limit of two LJ entries' worth of text; one LJ entry is 64,000 characters, and at least 150 characters of that must be reserved for author credit. If a story is illustrated or otherwise formatted, any HTML used also counts against the character total. So long as it's between the provided thresholds, story length has no influence on whether or not a work is accepted!
If a story is more than 64K characters long, you will also need to note where it should be broken into sections. Works that are only over by a few characters are encouraged to look for words to snip instead of having to make a second page for a single sentence!
The exception to the upper limit is the year-end "Big Bang" issue, in which stories can be as long as the author can bear to write them provided they don't require excessive corrections.
S2B2 is first and foremost a smut rag. Sometimes this means the stories chug along, have a porn break, then get back to what they were doing; sometimes this means they're nothing but frantic humping for a few thousand words. Many times it's something in between. Exactly why the characters--however many are involved, because there is not a hard limit of two in spite of this being the default--end up banging each other can be for whatever reason!
Fading to black (in lieu of writing at least one sex scene, anyway) is against the spirit of the exercise, no matter how strongly sexual activity is implied. Somewhere down the line, someone's gotta touch a dick.
The most common issue with submitted sex scenes is that they're prone to being 300 words of euphamisms. Sex does not need to be very long, but it does need to be detailed in some way. It could be bodice-ripping purple prose, or crude and raunchy, or overly-clinical with a smattering of coy language, or nothing but profanity; so long as it's clear what's going on and you're making a genuine attempt to appeal to their audience, you're good to go! As Shousetsu Bang*Bang has many different readers who can be visiting for many different reasons, an "audience" can be extremely niche, and that's just fine.
Naturally, it's reasonable for authors to want to indulge in kinky or somehow fantastical sex in their stories. Works have run in the past with not-quite-human characters, BDSM themes, creative use of technology or magic, and more tentacles than you'd expect. So long as they're within the realm of S2B2's general positive attitude, there's almost certainly someone out there who's going to be introduced to a whole new wonderful world by your weird smut.
On Original Characters
"Original" is a word that may or may not have air quotes around it. It can mean that a story is a standalone work using worlds and characters hitherto unseen, or it can mean it's about the forbidden love between Arachno-Man and that metal-tentacled mastermind, the Squidly Scholar. A plot can be as off-the-wall or by-the-numbers as you'd like. You can even revisit characters you created for previous stories, so long as each story is self-contained!
Fiction not tied to an existing fanbase sometimes has a devil of a time finding readers online, so Shousetsu Bang*Bang is a fine place to show off your work in a place other people can get to it (as the 2014 year-end analytics can show us).
On Literary Merit
Your typical S2B2 story doesn't need to be anything more than a coherent sex scene with a beginning, middle, and end. It can be fluffy, serious, polite, crude, intricately-plotted personal work or a fun quickie inspired by your favorite video game characters (see above re: originality). So long as it matches the sexy gay, it fits.
The webzine was originally created with the goal of housing nearly-disposable formula-embracing boys'-love stories, especially for AUs that stray so far from the original material they might as well just switch some letters around and pretend to be their own animal entirely. While the average submission skews in a different direction these days, this type of content is by no means discouraged; weird but enthusiastic crackfic will always have a home in Shousetsu Bang*Bang's halls.
In short: put as much thought into it as you want to. So long as it's finished, you're probably most of the way there already.
Themes are always announced the previous year along with the next round of deadlines, Big Bang issues tend not to have them, and so long as a story meets the basic requirements for acceptance it can be light years away from the stated theme and still be accepted. Themes are meant to be a jumping-off point to inspire creators, not a straitjacket, though it's something of an S2B2 tradition for people to interpret a stated theme creatively.
But again, they're optional.
Work submitted to S2B2 is going to be previewed by the editorial staff (consisting of one or more humans and zero or more reptiloids) before being deemed fit to run. This process can be very intimidating for new writers or artists, but fear not! The staff wants your content and wants you to succeed. Editing is there so submissions go out in their metaphorical Sunday best.
It's a good idea to have at least one other person read over your work before you submit it to help catch typos and give feedback on how the story flows. Each issue signup generally has a related post or thread where you can look for people to help you out here; some folks are much more comfortable contributing to Shousetsu Bang*Bang by refining other people's work, in fact!
You can request the level of critique provided for your story if you so desire. While the editors don't pull punches if they believe something is a major issue for a submission, they're happy to tone down the depth of any provided criticisms if a creator is nervous about or sensitive to having their works dissected; if you're worried about someone being harsh to your beautiful new baby, be sure to mention you'd prefer gentler feedback in your submission email. Similarly, if you want deep, thorough critique, ask and you shall receive.
It is entirely reasonable for a story to require several passes if it's got particularly tricky spots in it. Never feel as though someone finding a misspelled word, odd turn of phrase, or plot point that feels like it's going nowhere is a failure on your part! It's an editor's (and beta reader's) job to help you find the rough spots your brain smooths over due to familiarity.
Sometimes you're going to be advised to change things in ways you simply don't agree with. Give yourself time to think these over, but unless you've been explicitly told the story just can't run unless you fix X or Y, take heart that most critique is suggestions and advice, not the Word of God. Sometimes you'll get feedback you simply won't be able to use in your current work; just save it for next time and you'll do fine.
As mentioned in the "Literary Merit" section, in the past the project acquired a bit of an unfounded reputation for being focused on High Art Man Porn and sneering at anything that was, shall we say, original-recipe ephemeral fiction. This is thankfully not the case: your stories are not going to receive any fiercer editing if you happen to provide something with a marshmallow center, nor will something So Sad And Meaningful be given a pass based on the gravity of its plot alone. Write what you want to.
No work is unsalvageable, and the more you do the thing the more comfortable you'll be doing the thing. Have fun, and I can't wait to see what you create!