Life is tough — that’s why I tend to gravitate toward fiction that’s hopeful. It’s not that I’m deluding myself into thinking everything is rosy; more like I’m gathering strength for the next challenge, reminding myself why the struggle is worth it.
But sometimes, particularly with short fiction, it can be a bit of a challenge to find uplifting works. So last year, I was excited to see an increase in short story magazines and anthologies publishing optimistic solarpunk and science fiction. And this year, I’m happy to report on a new crop of “cozy” fantasy magazines, with some additional homes for humorous SFF.
So, if you’re looking for places to read or submit short speculative fiction that fills your cup, makes you laugh or just plain reminds you that not everything in the world sucks (or even if it does, at least it’s still worth trying to make it better), here is an updated list to check out.
I’ve listed publications in order of how soon they open to submissions.
Genre: Upbeat and/or comedic fantasy, sci-fi or horror
Status: Open Aug. 1-31
Length: up to 6,000 words
Payment: $0.01 per word
In Their Words: “We want all your upbeat and comedic tales. The more weird and whimsical the better. We accept less than upbeat tales if they are comedic, but not if they’re downers! This includes overt racism, violence, sex, or negative outlooks on humanity.”
Genre: Cozy Speculative Fiction
Status: Open Aug. 1 to Sept. 6
Length: up to novella length, although ideal story is 2,000 to 6,000
Payment: $0.01/word, $20 minimum for stories, $10 for poems
In Their Own Words: “Hearth Stories publishes speculative fiction slice-of-life stories with a focus on connection, family, relationships, comfort, and the natural world. Some things we like:
- Quiet stories
- Kindness, tenderness, hope, and support
- Caregiving, parenting, and partnership
- Stories that give us butterflies in our stomachs and/or make us smile
- Works that border into nature writing or touch on ecological topics
- Animal and non-human perspectives (but we like human stories, too)
- Writing that evokes senses other than just sight and sound (things with a lot of smell, touch, and taste)
- Stories involving food and cooking
- Stories involving hermits, isolated places, or wandering in the woods
- Bonus points for stories backed by vegan, anarchist, eco-conscious, and anti-capitalist themes (while still fitting the above)”
Genre: Science Fiction
Status: Submissions open for August (no theme), October (First Contact) December (Special Art issue) February (Relationships) April (CliFi) June (Xeno-Olympics)
Length: up to 5,000 words
In Their Own Words: “We want enthralling stories set in futures we might want to live in. Counter to the recent dystopian craze, we publish stories that shine with a more optimistic future, one we want to believe in, one we would fight for.”
Genre: Humor/Speculative Fiction
Length: up to 1,000 for flash, 7,500 for short stories
Payment: $5 token payment
In Their Own Words: “Q: What kind of short fiction are you looking for? A: Humor. Satire. Spoof. It can be a humorous take on space operas, a satire of apocalyptic disasters, a spoof of heroic fantasies, fake ads & letters to the editor or a love advice column for human/alien couples. … Foul language and sexuality are OK if they’re part of the story, but nothing too explicit—we aren’t looking for gore or erotica—it’s a humor rag, not a smut mag, so if it’s funny, it’s all good! Please, no fanfic (though parody is accepted).”
Genre: Young adult fiction that includes “wonder tales,” YA fantasy and science-fiction
Status: Open for general submissions Aug. 15-Sept. 7, open for Halloween-themed stories Oct 24-31.
Length: up to 6,000 words
In Their Words: They are looking for … “Stories that evoke a sense of wonder, have deep emotional resonance, and have something unreal about them. We aim for a 12-17 age range: that means sophisticated, non-condescending stories with wide appeal, and without gratuitous or explicit sex, violence or pervasive obscene language.”
Genre: Speculative stories and poems focused on long-term relationships
Status: Fall submissions window opens Aug. 24-31 for equity deserving groups, Sept. 1-30 for general submissions. Winter submissions window opens Nov. 23-30 for equity deserving groups, Dec. 1-31 for general submissions.
Length: 1,000 to 3,500 words
Pay: $0.08 CAD per word for short stories, $60 CAD flat per poem
In Their Own Words: “We’re looking for short fiction and poetry focused on long-term relationships: platonic, romantic, or familial. … While we are primarily looking for stories with happy endings (yeah, yeah), we also want endings that are earned. If things get a little teary or gory, that’s ok.”
Status: Opens Sept. 1-14 for fiction (nonfiction portal is always open, but only for nonfiction articles)
Length: 1,500 to 7,500 for short fiction, 1,000 to 2,000 for non-fiction
Pay: $0.08/word for short fiction, $40 per poem, $75 per non-fiction essay/article
In Their Own Words: “Solarpunk is a prefigurative, utopian artistic movement that envisions what the future might look like if humanity solved major modern challenges like climate change, and created more sustainable and balanced societies. Not all solarpunk stories take place in idealistic utopias. Many tales are rife with compelling conflict among people and communities optimistically striving to reach that ideal while still struggling to solve some existing challenges. But all solarpunk stories do have things in common such as future or near-future settings, optimistic perspectives, and looking toward a better future with at least a growing harmony between nature, technology, and humanity. In short, solarpunk stories are decidedly not dystopias.
“Our fiction editors are interested in works that stir readers with themes of defiance, change, and achievement. This effect isn’t likely to come via high concept utopias alone, but rather, from vibrant characters whose struggles affect the reader. Speculative elements should be apparent but not dominating; our disbelief suspended not by necessity, but immersion. Any genre of science fiction, interstitial fiction, magic realism, or fantasy has potential as a solarpunk forum—we welcome robots and elves with equal excitement”.
Genre: Science Fiction
Status: Opens Sept. 1
Length: 1,500 to 6,000 words for original fiction
In their Own Words: “Escape Pod leans in the direction of escapism, hopepunk and optimism rather than grimdark and gloom. We love to see funny stories, which can include dark humor that doesn’t punch down, and satire that isn’t painfully bleak. Remember that the failure mode of irony is sincerity, so if you’re mocking something, be sure you’re hitting the right target.”
Genre: Science Fiction and Fantasy
Status: Opens Sept. 15-Oct 15 (the first week, Sept.15-21, is reserved for writers of color)
Length: Stories up to 5,000 words
In Their Own Words: “Broadly defined, the type of fiction we are looking for is “fun”. … A fun story, at its core, is one that works on the premise that things aren’t all bad; that ultimately, good wins out. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your story has to be silly or lighthearted (though it certainly can be). Joy can be made all the more powerful when juxtaposed against tragedy. In the end, though, there should be hope, and we want stories that are truly fun for as many different kinds of people as possible. Swashbuckling adventure, deadly intrigue, and gleeful romance are some of the most obvious examples of what we’re looking for, but we won’t say no to more subtle or complicated topics, as long as they fit under the wider “fun” umbrella.”
Genre: Fantasy and Science Fiction
Status: Open Sept. 23-Oct. 14, followed by another call in early 2024
Length: Stories up to 7,000 words
In their Own Words: “We like to see science fiction and fantasy stories with a positive vibe, where the human adventure is just beginning. Solar Punk and Hope Punk themed stories are welcome. We’re open to all genres of science fiction and fantasy, as long as they are not focused on horror and/or dark outcomes. This year, we’re also looking for stories to meet our 2024 double issue theme of “The Grand Uplift.” Stories for “The Grand Uplift” will suggest an inspiring and momentous shift that benefits humanity, fostering a sense of hope, progress, and optimism.
Genre: Speculative Fiction
Status: Open from Oct. 1-31
Length: 2,000 to 6,000 words
In Their Own Words: For this anthology we are looking for speculative fiction with a humorous twist. Think Spider Robinson, Douglas Adams, Piers Anthony. While our program is called Dragon Gems, your story does not need to include a dragon.”
Genre: Cozy Historical Fantasy
Length: 3,000 to 8,000 words
In Their Own Words: “We define cozy as a sense of comfort, hominess, welcoming, and friendship. Community. Relationships. … The conflict probably won’t be world-shattering [but cozy] doesn’t mean wimpy! The Hobbit is packed with close shaves, daring escapes, even a whole battle, but it’s still cozy. Violence should be at roughly a PG level—adventurous rather than horrifying. No splattered brains or spilled guts, please.”
Also note that Wyngraf does not want urban or contemporary fantasy: “Wyngraf isn’t interested in science fiction or urban fantasy. (Well, we are, but not for this magazine.) Our cutoff is roundabout the early 19th century. Think Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. This is probably flexible, but cars and cell phones never fit here.”
Genre: Cozy Fantasy, “No plot, just vibes”
Length: 2,500 words or less
In Their Own Words: “Our ideal submissions look like this:
- Quiet character-driven storytelling
- Gentle moments
- Rich fantastical worldbuilding
- Everyday moments
- Stories that take place before or between or after the epic conflicts
- Stories that offer warmth, comfort, and possibility”
Did I miss any SFF publications you know of that lean humorous or hopeful? Shoot me an email or message me @JmeBoyd on whatever-they-are-calling-that-bird-site-at-the-moment.