Starward Shadows Quarterly is an online dark speculative fiction magazine seeking stories between 500 and 6,000 words. We’re interested in exploring the wicked, strange places that walk the line between reality and nightmare—the alien, the absurd, and above all else, the weird.
All submissions are currently CLOSED. Anything sent outside of this window will be deleted unread.
If you submitted during our first reading period and haven’t heard back, we’re still considering your story for our Winter issue. We ended up receiving over 500 submissions, so response times are much longer than we originally anticipated. Thank you for your patience.
Genres We Accept:
Cosmic Horror, Sword and Sorcery, Sword and Planet, High/Epic Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Lovecraftian/Cthulhu Mythos inspired tales, Gothic Horror, Space Opera, Dark Science Fiction, Science Fantasy, New Weird, Grimdark, Slipstream, and Cyberpunk. However, feel free to send us anything that falls under the incredibly broad umbrella of “speculative fiction.”
H. P. Lovecraft, Thomas Ligotti, Michael Moorcock, J. R. R. Tolkien, Christopher Ruocchio, Tamsyn Muir, Robert E. Howard
Things we love:
Monsters, vampires, aliens, psychological horror, first-person unreliable narrators, eloquence, themes of neurodivergence, angst done right (think “Interview with the Vampire), death cults, weird religious undertones, wraiths, trickster kings, black metal, stories where the bad guys win, character-driven narratives, and stories that take place somewhere strange and far away where humanity isn’t even mentioned at all.
Anything with a Dark Souls, Morrowind, or Oblivion vibe will have us foaming at the mouth. Also, one of the editors has also had a lifelong, questionable obsession with A Clockwork Orange and those old Johnny the Homicidal Maniac comics . . .
We also like stories that send a deeper message to the reader: Stories that rely on pure shock value usually fall flat without some kind of underlying meaning.
Additionally, we’d love to read more stories from neurodivergent, disabled, LGBTQ+, and BIPOC authors. We hope you’ll let your unique perspectives shine–especially if you have a story that makes classic themes like Lovecraftian horror and Sword and Sorcery feel new again!
Things we hate:
Post-apocalyptic settings, dystopian fiction, parodies, rock-hard SF, zombies, mermaids, sirens, pandemic stories (we lived it and we’re sick of it), and political and/or moral soapboxes. If you’re going to send us anything falling into these categories, you’d better have completely and utterly reinvented it for it not to get auto-rejected.
Absolutely no animal harm or abuse. Sending a story with animal harm will earn you an instant, eternal blacklist. We aren’t interested in implied animal harm/off-scene death, either–nor stories dealing with grief related to an animal’s death.
We also do not want any of the following:
- Protagonists who should’ve/would’ve/could’ve been artists or musicians, were it not for some cruel and embittering twist of fate.
- Stories centered around old people who are creepy or suffering from dementia, who then do terrible things.
- Stories about children where kids have conversations that were clearly written by adults who have forgotten how kids talk to each other.
- Women in refrigerators or other forms of objectification/misogyny. This includes protagonists ruminating about hating their wives or a woman who scorned them, along with any story that reduces a woman to nothing but her level of attractiveness or usefulness to the protagonist.
- Stories that revolve around the experience of pregnancy. If a side character who furthers the plot is pregnant, that’s fine. But we don’t want any detailed descriptions of pregnancy/birth, or any main characters who are experiencing these things.
- Protagonists who are neurodivergent, but who wish they weren’t and either want or find a “cure”. Stories about someone learning to manage symptoms and/or accept themselves are encouraged.
- Stories that revolve around graphic violence for entertainment, or overdone/graphic descriptions of violence in general. We don’t mind authors including these things as elements in a story, but they need to further the plot and its underlying message.
- The point above also applies to sexually explicit content: It must serve a purpose in the story besides making someone else read about it.
How to Submit:
We’re currently accepting submissions in the following categories:
- Flash Fiction: 500 to 1,500 words
Please note for the future that although we’re open to reading longer works, we’re much more likely to accept short stories under 4k-5k words.
In the future, we may accept other works such as poetry, novellas, and short story collections, so feel free to check back regularly.
General Guidelines for All Submissions:
First, please go over these general rules for all submissions, regardless of what you plan on sending us:
- All stories should be attached to the email in .doc, .docx or .rtf format. Please don’t paste your submission into the body of the email. We would appreciate it if you stuck to readable, tried-and-true fonts as well.
- All submissions should be accompanied by a cover letter detailing the story’s title, genre, and word count, along with a very brief description of the plot. Please include your name, publication credits, and any professional memberships, awards, and noteworthy accomplishments as well.
- Upon acceptance, all authors will be asked to provide a short author bio.
- You may submit up to (4) pieces for consideration in one single submissions period: (3) flash and (1) short fiction. Please submit short fiction and flash pieces one at a time and wait for a response before sending another one. (Please attach only one piece per email to avoid disrupting our tagging process.)
- Simultaneous submissions are fine: They always should be. But please have the decency to notify us right away if your story is accepted elsewhere.
- Starward Shadows Quarterly is a paying market. Please visit the individual sections for each category for more details. All authors will also receive a digital copy of the issue in the format of their choice.
- We aim to reply to all submissions within three months. If you haven’t heard from us within this timeframe, feel free to query.
- We’re especially interested in stories by neurodivergent, disabled, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ authors at this time. So if your story is #ownvoices, don’t hesitate to let us know!
Guidelines for Short Fiction (1,500 – 6,000 words)
Here at Starward Shadows, we’re seeking original, unpublished stories between 1,500 and 6,000 words for our quarterly issues. As mentioned previously, although we allow submissions up to 6k, stories under 5k are far more likely to make the cut. But we’re well aware that exceptional stories over 5k words exist, so if you feel yours truly stands out, by all means send it over!
We’re currently considering stories for our second and third issues. If you submitted to us during a previous submissions period and haven’t heard back, your work is still under consideration for future issues.
Short fiction submissions are currently closed.
You may submit one short fiction piece for consideration during any submission period.
Please follow this format for the title of your email: [FICTION: Story Title – Genre – Word Count]
All submissions should be sent to email@example.com
Authors will be compensated a semi-pro rate of $0.01 per word for each accepted short story.
Guidelines for Flash Fiction (500 – 1,500 words)
The editors are seeking unpublished flash fiction pieces between 500 and 1,500 words to appear in our monthly newsletters, as well as our quarterly issues. Each accepted piece will first be sent out in the newsletter, and then showcased in our Flash Menagerie on the website indefinitely.
You may submit up to (3) flash pieces for consideration during a single submissions period. Please do NOT consolidate them into one email–send one email for each flash piece. If you attach more than one flash piece to a single email, we will ask to to re-send them separately.
Please follow this format for the title of your email: [FLASH: Story Title – Genre – Word Count]
All submissions should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
Authors will be compensated $10 for each accepted flash piece.
From time to time, we’ll commission original cover art for our issues, as well as interior art to accompany our stories. Some pieces will also be selected for an art feature on our site. We may consider purchasing art you’ve already created, as long as it’s original and unpublished. If you’re interested in working with us, send your portfolio link to email@example.com. If you don’t have an online portfolio, feel free to send .jpg or .png email attachments of your work instead.
Payment will be negotiated for each individual piece.
For more information, see our Artwork page.