Joshua Palmatier — Zombies Need Brains


ZNB logo vertical  Welcome to the first post here at Magical Words related to the upcoming anthology CLOCKWORK UNIVERSE: STEAMPUNK vs ALIENS, the first release from the new small press I’ve founded called Zombies Need Brains.  The intent behind this press is to produce quality SF&F-themed anthologies, hopefully a couple a year, with an escalating schedule after that.  Since I’m writing these posts as the EDITOR of the first anthology, I figured I’d direct the topics more toward what the editor is looking for in terms of Character, Plot, etc.  This first post is about Character, so let’s focus in on that.  

What is the editor looking for when perusing submitted stories?  Obviously, different editors look for different things, but I, personally, am mostly focused on character.  If the story I’m reading doesn’t have an engaging character, then it’s extremely unlikely that I’m going to be interested in buying the story and including it in an anthology.  I want to be drawn into the story within the first few pages, if not paragraphs, and in general a cool plot idea just isn’t going to do that.  You have to catch my attention with a unique character, someone that is quirky and interesting, with a cool voice that I can pick up on right away . . . or someone that I immediately bond with and care about, that I can root and pang for as the story progresses.

ClockworkUniverseCoverFor a short story, this is even more imperative, especially during the “slush pile” part of the process.  In fact, I’d argue that for a short story, the character needs to be stronger than for a novel, since there has to be a) something about that character that leaps off the page in the first few paragraphs, enough to catch the editor’s eye and make them want to read more, and b) something about that character that keeps the reader riveted through the story until the last word.  In a short story, you don’t have the time or space to go into extreme details or lengthy set-up of the layers upon layers that a character needs to make them real.  You still NEED those layers upon layers to come through in the short story, you can’t shirk on that, but because of the word and page constraints, that character needs to be stronger and more fully developed from the first word.

So, when I pick up that short story and begin reading, that’s what I’m looking for:  a strong, vibrant character that leaps off of the page and makes me want to find out what the REST of the story is about.  That’s the first hurdle.  After that, you have to impress me with the writing and plot.  *grin*

Next week, I’ll talk about what I’m looking for in terms of plot when picking out a short story for an anthology from the slush pile.  Thanks to Magical Words for letting me hang out for the day! 

If you’d like to learn more about me or Zombies Need Brains, check out these webpages:

Joshua Palmatier: 
Zombies Need Brains: 
Zombies Need Brains Online Store:


Author Bio:  Joshua Palmatier is a fantasy writer with a PhD in mathematics.  His upcoming novel SHATTERING THE LEY (July 2014, DAW) is the first book in a new series, set in the same world as his “Throne of Amenkor” series.  He is also the founder of the new small press Zombies Need Brains LLC, which will focus on producing quality science-fiction and fantasy themed anthologies.  It’s first anthology release will be CLOCKWORK UNIVERSE: STEAMPUNK vs ALIENS, currently in the production phase, to be released sometime before July 2014.  Joshua has also published numerous short stories in various anthology.  Find out more at and

BenTate Social Media Info:
Joshua Palmatier: 
Twitter:  @bentateauthor 
Zombies Need Brains: 
Online Store: 
Twitter:  @ZNBLLC


6 comments to Joshua Palmatier — Zombies Need Brains

  • Joshua, what Cons are you attending this summer? Some of us want to get together for a drink. Others of us want to pitch you. Pitch to you. (LOL)

  • Great to see you here, Joshua. Having worked with you and Patricia on the Ur-Bar project I have enormous respect for your editorial insights — not to mention your talent as a writer. This post and the ones to follow will be a terrific resource for all of our readers who hope to publish short fiction. Thanks so much for coming back to MW!

  • How funny! Nita from Penguin just sent me Shattering the Ley for review (one of my reviewers is reading it) and I will be interviewing you too (bwahaha, you have no idea what you will be in for )! I haven’t heard back from her about that yet. I reviewed Tales from the U-Bar and The Modern Fae’s Guide to Surviving Humanity and loved them. I know Avery Shade and she gave me copies. I can’t wait to check out Clockwork Universe.

    I also agree that the main character/voice has to grab me quickly or I won’t make it through the fist chapter and with short stories that could be the first few paragraphs.

  • Faith Hunter: Oooo, good question. I plan on attending the following cons this year: Balticon (end of May, Baltimore); Confluence (end of July, Pittsburgh); Shore Leave (August, Baltimore); World Science Fiction Con/Loncon (August, London); Robercon (end of September, small local con in Binghamton); World Fantasy Con (November, DC). And I’m hoping for a spot in New York Comic Con as well, but that’s still up in the air.

    David B. Coe: Thanks for inviting me to guest blog. I always enjoy these spots on Magical Words. And we’d love to have you (or any of the authors here at Magical Words) in our future anthologies!

    sstogner1: I haven’t heard about the particulars from Nita at Penguin yet, but good to hear she’s lining some interviews and such up. We’ve talked about it, and set up a mini book tour and whatnot. I hope you reviewer likes SHATTERING THE LEY! And I look forward to the interview. I think.

    I’ll signal boost the hell out of this post tomorrow. Totally forgot the series started up today. (I’ll blame this being the beginning of finals week.)

  • mudepoz

    My favorite subject in the world. What’s not to like when Steampunk is mixed with aliens. Toss in zombies, and I’m in heaven. How cool!

  • Zombies are way cool, hence naming the small press after them. (It’s actually named after a party a slew of authors threw at the World Fantasy Convention when it was held in Saratoga Springs.) But yes, we thought STEAMPUNK VS ALIENS would be a grand theme for an anthology . . . and I believe we were right based on the stories we received.