Posted on February 7, 2008 by Monica Valentinelli
Whether you have tried to publish one piece of fiction or 100, chances are you visited Ralan.com’s SpecFic and Humor Webstravaganza for better listings of publishers than the Writer’s Market has to offer. In this interview, we hear from Ralan himself about his work and the thoughts behind offering free information for all writers to access.
If you’re not familiar with the site, Ralan does offer this invaluable information for free and survives off of donations and the kindness of others. This massive source of publishers, webzines and contests features everything from Weird Tales to Ralan’s Flash Fiction Contest. So sit back and hear from the man behind Ralan.com about his fiction, freelancing and other projects.
When did you realize you wanted to write genre fiction?
I was eight-years-old when I read my first speculative fiction book, the first of Hugh Lofting’s Dr. Doolittle series. I began writing simple, childish stories at once — mostly copies of what I read. My reading graduated to Verne, Wells, Bradbury, and finally Heinlein who remains my all-time favorite author. In the late 1960s I started submitting speculative stories to the likes of the Saturday Evening Post, Harper’s, Playboy, Atlantic Monthly, and the New Yorker just because I saw names in them like Bradbury and Heinlein. I collected quite an impressive pile of rejections, some of them with personal comments, but no sales, of course. Then life intervened and my typewriter sat forgotten.
In 1993, during a long illness, I began to write again on an old portable, manual typewriter with Danish keys. The setup was so completely different than one with English keys that my college learned touch-typing skills were confounded. I returned to two-finger typing and wrote my first novel, “The Search for Power,” which I recently had professionally edited After that we bought our first computer and I began writing short stories on it.
How is writing horror short fiction different from writing other short stories?
Other than the fact that a horror story should scare the reader, I don’t find much difference. The horror I’ve written varies from humorous (“Tunnels”) to deeply serious (“A Healthy Breath of Morn”). All of them tend to blend horror with other genres, so I wouldn’t really classify myself as a horror writer. It’s an element I use in my speculative fiction.
What made you decide to blend fantasy and science fiction with horror in your work?
I don’t think I ever decided it. It just happened. I’d get a story idea that involved two or more genres and I wrote them. I never considered that I was doing anything different, the idea simply demanded it.
How did Ralan.com get started?
As I re-started submitting short stories in the early 90s (I had first tried my hand at this in my teens and early twenties), I found a real lack of market listings, publishing news, and resources. I subscribed to Writers Digest, which cost a fortune for delivery to the frozen wastes of Scandinavia and bought their yearly Writer’s Market. But I found out the hard way that: 1.) their listings for speculative markets were limited, and 2.) many were badly out of date.
I wrote for guidelines to every magazine I could find. As my collection of GLs grew I began putting them into an electronic form I could rifle through quickly, separating them into non-paying, paying, and semi- and pro markets. I also got online around that time and searched out new markets and writing resources as they began to come online. I taught myself how to program HTML.
In November 1996 I felt I had enough material for a Speculative Fiction Market web site. My reason for going online was to help other writers like myself; those stuck in far away places with little or no information about writing, manuscript formatting, or how to find markets. I’ve always visualized my target user as someone in an underdeveloped country, who has to walk long distances to use a computer. At that time, I called my web site “Ralan’s Home on the Web.” Soon other writers were contacting me with tips on markets and resources — and the thing just grew. In 1998, I started mailing out a monthly newsletter to all the editors or publishers of the publications I listed and to writers who joined my mailing list. That list now goes out to over 2000 people every month as Ralan’s Monthly Report.
What made you decide to offer horror markets on Ralan.com for other writers?
As recounted above, I started what is now Ralan’s SpecFic & Humor Webstravaganza (www.ralan.com) for my own use. Since some of my stories contained elements of, or were mostly, horror, I naturally included markets for them. When I went online they came along too.
Anything else you’d like to let our FlamesRising.com visitors know about?
Yes. My first book has just been released! It’s a fantasy (only one genre in this story) adventure novelette, with a full-color cover and 6 interior illustrations by the talented artist (and online friend) Jesse Bunch. Jesse did illustrations for my contests every year and she was the first one I thought of for this. Her work is fantastic.
The book, “TALES OF WEUPP: Little People Must Surrender,” is a trade paperback for readers of ALL ages. It is hopefully the first of many Tales of Weupp (depending on sales, so please buy a copy so I can write more!).
I’ve set up a web site for it at www.weupp.com.
On it you’ll find the cover, an interior illustration, a summary, an excerpt, ordering information, and a guest book hosted by Weupp herself — an intelligent planet … you can ask her anything! There’s also info on my promotional contest for the book, Ralan’s Flash Fiction Contest, where you can win $50 for 500 words.