Wake up, Polly Parrot.


by Brian Plante

Last week, I went to Wal-Mart and bought a pack of men's briefs. Yes, I wear tighty-whities, which is, I'm sure, more than you really wanted to know. Being the down-to-earth sort of person I am, I bought the big seven-for-the-price-of-six package of Fruit Of The Loom. Emblazoned all around the waistband of each brief, along with a nifty black racing stripe, is the abbreviation FTL. Personally, I think Fruit Of The Loom's abbreviation ought to be FOTL. See, to a science fiction writer (and many readers), the letters FTL mean "faster than light" -- not exactly the message a man wants to advertise on his underpants, if you know what I mean.

Like many other fields, the science fiction & fantasy biz has its own jargon and abbreviations, commonly used by the insiders. A lot of the abbreviations and acronyms are shorthand, supposedly to save print space for the terms we all know. If you're new to the field, though, a lot of it is just alphabet soup until you get up to speed. Here, then, is your cheat sheet, so you can fake your way through market listings, newsgroups, and other places of interest to genre writers.

A listing of genre acronyms and abbreviations probably should start with the one we usually identify ourselves by -- SF. To most of the people in the USA, that stands for San Francisco, but for us it means "science fiction." Except for the bunch that argues that it means "speculative fiction." Don't worry about it too much -- they're usually talking about the same thing when they call something SF. Just don't make the mistake of calling what we do "sci-fi" (which SF writers derogatorily pronounce "skiffy," but that's another story). Personally, I don't have a problem with the sci-fi tag, but few things can start an argument in SF circles like calling someone's work sci-fi.

The other "speculative" genres have rather paltry abbreviations. Fantasy is F, and horror is H. So, in a market listing for a magazine that accepts science fiction, fantasy and horror, you might see the letters SF/F/H. There's also DF for "dark fantasy" (which a lot of us think is really just a fancy name for horror). Mystery is M, poetry is P, and sword & sorcery gets SS. YA means young adult. So, a market that takes all sorts of genres might list in their GL's (guidelines): SF/F/DF/SS/H/M/YA/P. Sheesh.

Here's a glossary of some of the common abbreviations you'll see:

  • ACs -- Author's Corrections.
  • ASF -- formerly Astounding Science Fiction, but now stands for its successor, Analog SF.
  • ASIM -- a magazine (but not Asimov's, as you might think); it's a new Australian one named Andromeda Spaceways In-flight Magazine.
  • AYKB -- "As You Know, Bob" from the famous Turkey City Lexicon, is a pitfall of bad genre fiction, where characters tell each other things they already know, for the benefit of the reader.
  • BEM -- Bug-Eyed Monsters, a hallmark of bad SF.
  • BotY -- the several good Best of the Year anthologies
  • F&SF -- The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, a magazine.
  • FNASR -- First North American Serial Rights is what most markets buy, and it means that you can't have published the story elsewhere first.
  • GL -- the GuideLines that tell you what a market is looking for.
  • GoH -- Guest of Honor, is a bigwig at a convention.
  • HWA -- the Horror Writers Association
  • ISBN -- the International Standard Book Number.
  • IRC -- International Reply Coupons are the return postage you need to send when submitting work to foreign countries. Also Internet Relay Chat, where readers and writers can trade messages on the Internet.
  • NAR -- the Nebula Award Report, where SFWAn's tally the nominations for their annual awards.
  • OA -- means they pay you On Acceptance (which is much better than OP)
  • OP -- means they pay you On Publication of the magazine, so it could take a long time to get paid (if ever).
  • PDF -- Portable Document Format is a method to display and print text uniformly on different computer platforms.
  • POD -- Print On Demand, which is a new way for publishers to print smaller numbers of a book (which is not usually the best way to go).
  • RoF -- Realms Of Fantasy, a magazine.
  • RT -- the Return Time for a market to reply to your submission.
  • RTF -- Rich Text Format, a common file format for saving word-processing documents.
  • RWA -- the Romance Writers of America.
  • SASE -- the Self Addressed Stamped Envelope that you must send with your story, if you expect a reply.
  • SFWA (formerly SFFWA) -- the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. Don't ask what happened to the other F.
  • WFC -- the World Fantasy Convention
  • WotF -- the Writers of the Future contest.
Think we got it all covered? Think again. There are so may new things happening in the SF world, and still plenty of older terms that haven't yet been immortalized with a suitable TLA (three letter acronym). Here's my list of new abbreviations that ought to be common:
  • BOP -- that Burned Out Pro you used to read when you were younger, but you just can't get into his newer books.
  • CNE -- a Clueless New Editor.
  • EGP -- the Ever Growing Pile of things I'm supposed to read.
  • FLR -- a Form Letter Rejection.
  • FTR -- are the markets that take Forever To Respond.
  • IOS -- Ignorance Of Science.
  • KEB -- you see a lot of beginning writers Kissing Editor Butt.
  • KIA -- that annoying Know-It-All in your writing group.
  • LOT -- those maddening stories without definite endings, from "The Lady Or the Tiger."
  • LYM -- after three unanswered queries you realize they Lost Your Manuscript.
  • NAA -- a No-Advance Anthology, where they'll pay you a share of the profits. Yeah, right.
  • NES -- a short story blown up to a novella is a Never Ending Story.
  • NMR -- the frustrating Near-Miss Rejection.
  • NRG -- those mainstream stories that pop up in SF magazines that are Not Really Genre.
  • OGC -- the "pro" writer who's been living off his reputation from One Good Credit.
  • OPE -- the Overly Pompous Editor who makes all kinds of demands, but only pays a penny a word.
  • PEM -- when you see lots of typos and printing errors, it's a Poorly Edited Magazine.
  • PFA -- Politicking For Awards.
  • PGA -- a Pretty Good Amateur.
  • PLC -- the semi-pro magazine that Pays Like Crap.
  • POH -- markets that are Permanently On Hiatus.
  • PSR -- a Personally Signed Rejection form (much better than the FLR).
  • PSS -- Poor Storytelling Skills.
  • SMA -- a Slumming Mainstream Author.
  • TFP -- the pro and semi-pro magazines that Take Forever to Publish.
  • UAC -- Up-And-Coming writers, who may be the pros of tomorrow.
Well, that's all for this month. TTFN (ta-ta for now).

Copyright © 2002 Brian Plante

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