This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man’s hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.
Fiction, Editor E. Catherine Tobler
The Deadlands exists in liminal spaces between life, death, and elsewhere. We are looking for speculative fiction that concerns itself with death–but also everything death may involve. A ghost in a shadowed wood. An afterlife discovered through a rusted door. An abandoned house in the middle of a haunted field. A skeletal figure moving with intent toward something unseen. Death personified. Burials in troubled lands. A raised scythe against a clouded sky. Memento mori. The rivers of the dead. The sprawling underworlds beneath our feet.
The Deadlands would love to see stories from a worldwide perspective, different cultures, different approaches to death. We welcome stories from everyone, everywhere. Stories that feature characters impacted by someone passing away and processing the event of death, are fair game, but will likely be a hard sell. Stories about related subjects—zombies, demons, vampires, apocalypses, and the various undead—are not for us. An apocalypse may be your setting, but it isn’t your story. We are absolutely not interested in seeing weird West stories, steampunk tales, or military fiction. We are not interested in stories involving Lovecraft’s mythos. Humor will be a harder sell than heartbreaking. If your story begins with someone waking up, it is not for us.
The Deadlands accepts stories up to 5000 words and 5000 words only. Stories should be original and unpublished (this includes your blog, your website, your newsletter, your Patreon). The sweet spot for length is probably around 3-4k.
One submission per author. If you are submitting fiction, you cannot also submit poetry or nonfiction. All double submissions will be rejected unread. Please do not submit reprints and originals at the same time. No multiple submissions or simultaneous submissions. If a story is on submission somewhere else, please wait before sending it to us. The Deadlands pays 10¢/word for original fiction.
Please do not summarize your story in your cover letter. Please do not address the editor as sir or Mrs. If you need an opening, “Dear Editor” is just fine. Average Response Time: Two weeks; if longer, your story may be in a second-round hold pile.
The Deadlands will consider reprints, up to 5000 words, 1¢/word. Please note that the story is a reprint when submitting, and please list the market where it originally appeared. Stories that originally appeared on your Patreon would be considered reprints. We are much more interested in older stories, rather than those that have appeared in recent years.
Nonfiction, Editor David Gilmore
The Deadlands wants critical, academic, and personal essays from everywhere and from everyone. We have likely reached our current limit of pieces having to deal with cemeteries, and would rather see work exploring other aspects of death, including but not limited to Death cards in tarot decks, mourning clothing from specific cultures, memento mori, death/mourning jewelry, funeral rites, and the like.
January 2022 – NEW: We are now open to nonfiction pieces about death in media. These essays would not be book, game, or episode reviews; for example if you were looking at the recent video game Spiritfarer, the piece would not focus on game mechanics and how it stacks up against other cozy management games, but rather would talk about how the game represents guiding spirits to their final resting places, and how it explores world myths throughout its gameplay. Likewise with television media, we would take a broader view, i.e. a piece about death imagery/myth as used in the show Game of Thrones (Arya’s pale horse, anyone?), rather than specific episode reviews, which would not interest us. When in doubt, submit the work; you need not query.
Essays should be between 1-4k words. We want clear, thorough work that shows an appreciation not appropriation of culture. If it is your own culture, and you have personal knowledge or experience or with your subject, all the better. We want to read ritual not spectacle. These essays should show the proper tone and respect that the final embrace deserves.
Essays should be original and unpublished (including blogs and Patreon). One essay submission at a time per author; if you are submitting nonfiction, you cannot also submit fiction or poetry; no multiple submissions or simultaneous submissions. All double submissions will be rejected unread. If a piece is on submission somewhere else, please wait before sending it to us. The Deadlands pays $100 per essay.
Poetry, Editor Nicasio Andres Reed
Poetry reopens the first two weeks of May 2022.
Spring comes up thick from the dead
– Lisel Mueller, “Civilizing the Child”
The Deadlands is a prism refracting innumerable paths and practices, and we are seeking speculative poetry in all its diverse permutations. We are as interested in the dead as we are in grief, hauntings, and history. The sublime is as much a part of The Deadlands as the uncanny. We welcome both formal and experimental poetry.
We are particularly interested in works by poets from historically marginalized and underrepresented backgrounds, particularly BIPOC poetc, and poets from the global south. Bilingual or multilingual work is welcome. The Deadlands accepts submissions from anywhere in the world, and guarantees payment in full no matter where you are.
Please send us no more than three poems per submission. We do not accept simultaneous submissions or reprints. Payment is $50/poem, no length limit. No multiple submissions; if you are submitting poetry, you cannot also submit fiction or nonfiction. All double submissions will be rejected unread.
Average Response Time: four to six weeks; if longer, your poem may be in a second-round hold pile.
Rights We’re Purchasing (for fiction, nonfiction, and poetry)
Four months of exclusivity to post your work (from the date of publication); first English serial rights; the right to archive your story with our website content; the right to print the story in our annual book. Click here to see more of our actual contract language.
Subscribe to Author-only Updates
Open to submissions, closed to submissions, special issues–who knows what kind of awesome things we’re going to tell you about, but YOU’LL never know if you don’t subscribe to our author update.
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Art Director, Cory Skerry
The Deadlands licenses one cover illustration per issue. We pay $100 for the non-exclusive right to publish the work on our cover; the artist retains all rights to their work.
Our attention is especially caught by:
Subtlety, in both technique and purpose
Limited palettes that mindfully utilize color rather than taking it for granted
Creativity with light & shadow
The surreal or impossible presented as the possible
We’re less likely to license:
Graphic or cartoon style work, especially styles found in standard comics & manga
Images that don’t leave room for speculation from the viewer
People looking sad without context
Depictions of excessive gore (bodies, blood, and organs used as symbols are preferable to the same being employed for shock value)
If you think your style is a good fit, we would love to receive a link to your portfolio, or if you have pieces you’d specifically like us to consider, you may send up to five images in one email to firstname.lastname@example.org
We regret that we don’t have the time to respond to art submissions, but every portfolio gets filed and bookmarked for future consideration. Thank you for allowing us to consider your work.