Expanded Introduction to The Chamber

The Chamber Magazine publishes short contemporary dark fiction & poetry monthly from around the world and from all genres: mainstream, literary, science-fiction, fantasy, horror, grimdark, suspense/thriller, action-adventure, experimental, gothic, Southern gothic, neo-noir, noir, transgressive, magical realism, macabre, mystery/crime, cyberpunk, and more. We also publish interviews with many of our authors.

Now, what do I mean when I say a work should be “dark”?

The classic of Chinese Taoist philosophy, the Tao T’eh Ching, opens with (depending on the translation): “The way that can be named is not the true way,” Tao being Chinese for way, and meaning, in a broad, nebulous sense, the way of life or the way of the world or the way of the universe. To me, with my, at best, rudimentary smattering of philosophy, this means that words cannot express the Tao; it is something that one must feel and experience. One can understand it only on an intuitive level. Any attempt to express it in words is doomed to failure

This is like how I choose dark fiction and poems to include in The Chamber. The work must have a dark feel about it, though how to express that is problematic. It’s not necessarily horror. It can be noir or hard-boiled detective or sad or mystifying or any of a thousand other descriptors. It’s something that, although you can’t express it, you know it when you see it. It’s like trying to describe the taste of vodka or describing a sunny day to someone who is blind.

Jimmy Buffett once said “never try to describe the ocean if you’ve never seen it.” Of my ten years in the US Navy, I spent three years, one month, and one day at sea and many of my days I spent ashore, I spent looking at the sea. Jimmy was right. It’s hard to describe the ocean to someone who has never seen it, because they just can’t grasp the feelings of power, immensity, and eternity that it radiates or conceive of the indelible impression it makes when one sees it for the first time. So it is with communicating the idea of literary darkness. It is something one knows when they see it or perhaps it is better to say, it is something one knows when they feel it.

How do you discern then that your work of dark fiction or verse is dark enough for The Chamber? If you feel it’s dark, it’s dark enough. If your friends can read it without knowing what feelings it is supposed to get across, and they say, “Oh, God, this is dark!” It’s dark enough. Submit it. If I do not accept your work, use the opportunity to re-read your work dispassionately, critique it honestly and fairly, and ask yourself, “how can I improve this?” In my experience, that’s one of the best ways of learning to write well. Don’t worry about making it acceptable to me, the publisher of The Chamber. Worry about whether it expresses your ideas in the best possible way. Do the words accurately reflect your ideas? Can a complete stranger read your work and have a moment of revelation or a sense of having experienced something memorable? Does it make an intellectual and emotional connection with the reader? Will people discuss it with their friends? If you can answer yes to these questions, then your work will be acceptable in many, many places.

Also, read good literature to develop a feel for what good literature is. For me, knowing what good literature is, is also like the Tao, one can only sense it; verbal descriptions are inadequate.

Other than that, the main things I look for in dark fiction and poetry are excellent, concise, well-crafted, technically proficient, powerful writing and originality. Neither I nor the readers of The Chamber want rehashing of time-worn plots and stereotypical, two-dimensional characters.

And as you will always hear from all other publishers, before submitting read a few issues and read the guidelines. Adhering to the guidelines will make it easier for the publisher to accept your work.

New stories and poems are published in The Chamber on the first Friday of each month at 10:00 a.m. U.S. central time, which is 4:00 p.m. British Standard Time and 1:00 a.m. Australian Eastern Standard Time. Other material is published sporadically. Any work published in The Chamber is simultaneously published on The Chamber’s Facebook page, Twitter account, Tumblr blog, and on the publisher’s LinkedIn account.

Please like and comment as often as possible and share the stories and poems published on as many social media as you can. Our authors’ and poets’ only pay is publication, exposure, and whatever constructive criticism and compliments you provide.

On another topic, why do I call it “The Chamber”? The words “The Chamber” invokes images of a alchemist’s or sorcerer’s chamber deep within the bowels of a castle or of a wizard’s study where ancient manuscripts containing arcane knowledge of the Black Arts lie waiting to be used for nefarious purposes.  The perfect place to store, discuss, and develop terrifying philosophies and works of horror and other dark matters.

On a final note, be warned that stories published in The Chamber may contain adult language and situations and may not be suitable for people under the age of 18. And as always these days, be alert for trigger words and phrases that may crop up unexpectedly. This is not a magazine for children.

Thank you for your time and have a wonderful rest of your day.

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