'Futures' is the occasional SF column in Nature, the international weekly journal of science. Nature has been published continuously since 1869 and now has a print circulation of around 60,000 and an online circulation of several million, thanks to site licensing. It is read by professional scientists, administrators, policymakers, journalists and those with a general interest in science and its relationship with culture, politics and the arts.
The first series of 'Futures' ran from November 1999 to December 2000. The second began in February 2005 and was originally projected to run until the end of December 2006. It has published stories from many of the established names and rising stars of SF, as well as stories from authors writing fiction for the very first time. In 2005, the European Science Fiction Society Eurocon Award for 'Best SF Publisher' went to Nature. Nature has continued the series since.
Contributions to 'Futures' are welcome from anyone, irrespective of whether they are professional or published authors. However, given that interest is large and space is limited, competition for space will be fierce and rejection rates very high indeed. Potential authors are advised to read the following guidance notes before submission.
1. What does 'Futures' consider?
'Futures' is a venue for very short stories or ‘vignettes’ of between 750 and 850 words. The subject is typically near-future, hard SF, although this can be interpreted liberally. In short, what Nature are looking for is originality. To this end it is advisable to read as many of Nature 'Futures' as you can, as stories that repeat themes already dealt with extensively are less likely to be considered than those that do something new and different. Nature does not consider reprints of stories previously published elsewhere. For a selection of previously published 'Futures' stories, please see Concatenation's Futures index
2. How shall I format my Futures story?
Please write it in Microsoft Word (.doc or .docx), 12-pitch, single-spaced, left-hand justified, in Times New Roman, Arial or some other sensible typeface (submissions in Comic Sans MS will be rejected immediately). Include a title and your name at the top. At the end, please attach an autobiographical squib of no more than around 30 words. This is your opportunity to let Nature readers know who you are, the title of your next book, your website address and so on.
3. How do I submit to 'Futures'?
You may submit stories directly to Nature by email futures AT nature DOT com as a Microsoft Word attachment (.doc). Paper submissions will not be considered. If you wish, you may send a general inquiry before sending a story. However, this will not guarantee preferential consideration of a story once it has been received.
4. What happens next?
In common with all other sections of Nature, 'Futures' receives many more contributions than it can possibly publish. However, the editor undertakes to read all contributions within 14 days of receipt and get back to authors with comments. Although the editor will try to make specific notes on rejected stories, he cannot guarantee to do this, and authors should be consoled that stories are likely to be rejected for reasons of space, taste and the pigheadedness of the editor rather than literary quality. Appeals on decisions to reject, or re-writes of previously rejected stories will, regretfully, be accorded a very low priority.
5. What happens if my story is accepted?
If a story is accepted it will be sent for copy-editing and the commissioning of artwork, and you will be sent proofs in due course which you will be expected to return promptly to the copy editor. You will be sent a copy of the issue of Nature in which your story appears. If you don’t, holler.
6. What about the business side?
Authors whose stories have been accepted will be sent a copy of our notoriously Kafkaesque contract, which they should print, sign and mail to the Nature office in London, UK. A specimen of this contract is available on request. Experience shows that its bark is worse than its bite and the publisher of Nature is always happy to discuss specific concerns that an author might raise.
7. Do I get paid?
Yes. Payment is commensurate with the brevity of 'Futures' items, but should be enough to buy a meal for two (with wine) at a modest dining establishment of your choice. In any case, publication in Nature will earn you the approbation of your peers, which is arguably of inestimably greater value, and is in any case better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.
8. What if I have some other query about 'Futures'?
E-mail Futures (see '3'). The science editor is in.
Still hungry for more science fiction stories?
The check out the 'forthcoming books' sections of our seasonal Science Fiction News page.
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