Usok is an irregularly released online speculative fiction magazine that publishes short fiction in English from Filipino authors, wherever they may reside. (If we accept your story, we’ll let you know beforehand a rough estimate of when it will see publication.)

Status: Currently closed to submissions. Check out Rocket Kapre for further news.

Particulars: (For unsolicited stories)

* Length: From 1,500 to 5,500 words

* Language: English, although the use of Filipino (or other Philippine language) words or terms within the story is allowed–just be sure you can tell us what they mean.

Format: .RTF file. Standard manuscript format, as found here.

Submission: Electronic submissions only. Please send your story as an .rtf attachment to usok[dot]zine[at]gmail[dot]com with a subject line that begins with “Usok Sub: [Title of your story].” The body of your email should contain the word count of your story, and a brief bio (250 words or thereabouts).

Prohibitions: No multiple submissions. No simultaneous submissions. No reprints or excerpts that the editor has not personally solicited.

Payment: PHP600.00 per story. We don’t pay per word, mind you: it just didn’t seem fair to penalize a writer who made the hard–but wise–decision to cut out an entire paragraph of beloved prose in order to make his story better.

Rights: We claim: (a) exclusive, first, world electronic rights; (b) a non-exclusive right to store the story indefinitely in our archives on site and via electronic distributors; (c) non-exclusive world anthology rights (but you will be paid royalties according to standard Rocket Kapre rates if we do include your story in a non-charity anthology); (d) the right to use your story (as part of the Usok Issue) for promotional purposes, such as distribution via CD at conventions, and uploading the same to social network/reading sites.

What We Want In A Story: In a word: Entertainment. While we would love to read a story that would, say, redefine our ethical boundaries, at the end of the day we read for entertainment, and that is what we demand from our stories. Note that we don’t demand that the stories be overtly Filipino–although we love a good manananggal vs tiyanak tale as much as the next person. As long as you’re a Filipino (and proud of it) then all that matters is your story is a good one.

What We Want From Our Authors: If we accept your story, we’ll certainly do our best to promote it, but we also expect our authors to do their part as well. We’d like our authors to help promote the magazine (even if that just means mentioning it on their blogs/social media) and be available for supplemental features that add value to their stories, such as sitting down (so to speak) for interviews for Rocket Kapre.

Likewise, be advised that getting your story accepted may just be step one–while some stories won’t need any edits at all, some may need to go through a fairly comprehensive editing and revision process after selection. The fact that we’ve accepted your story means we love it–but that doesn’t mean we can’t put that affection aside and bring out the red pen to ensure that the story is the best it can be. Don’t worry though–editing is a collaboration, and any changes made will take place within the context of a discussion between the author and the editor.

The Rules of Rejection:

Our goal in establishing Usok is to give incentive for people to write–not to crush their dreams and laugh at the pieces. However, the creation-rejection-education cycle is a part of the life of a writer. Keep in mind that, while there are objective standards for technical competency, editorial selection is an inherently subjective process, so no matter how awesome you think your story is, don’t submit it if you can’t accept rejection.

Dealing with rejection is one of the hardest things for a writer to learn, ad many an hour will be spent gnawing at the rejection, trying to figure out what it all means. As a guide, here are a few things that a rejection does not automatically mean:

(1) A rejection doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer: If we reject your story, please don’t lose heart. A rejection doesn’t mean “you have no future as a writer” or “we can write so much better than you” it means that it isn’t right for Usok. Don’t let it lower your self-worth… or send you into a frothing rage either.

(2) A form rejection doesn’t mean we hated your story: Sometimes we’ll be specific with regard to why a story was rejected, but frequently we will not be–again, don’t take a form rejection as a sign that we loathed your story. It’s possible that we didn’t have the time, or that no single aspect really stood out as a reason for the rejection.

(3) A rejection doesn’t mean we read the whole story: We can and will reject a submission without reading the whole story, if it doesn’t spark our interest. It’s possible that a story may have an excellent middle or ending, but if the beginning of the tale doesn’t grab us, we’re not going to keep reading.