Josh Viola, the award-winning author of The Bane of Yoto, founded Hex Publishers last year and promptly released a horror anthology, Nightmares Unhinged. This November, he'll publish Cyber World, a steampunk collection. But in the meantime, he has another project: Words, a free online zine for junkies looking to load up on short stories and samples from anthologies in genres ranging from mystery to fantasy to sci-fi.
“With Hex, I’m transitioning,” explains Viola.
If you haven’t tried reading genre fiction,Words would be a good place to start. Viola’s expertly curated site quickly debunks any misconceptions you might have about the genres and their role as mainstream literature. “Quality is obviously important,” says Viola, who's picky about the authors he invites to contribute. “I’m reaching out to the writers I want to publish, and I’m offering a higher-than-industry-standard rate."
On the first of every month, Viola publishes a new story on Words. (Don’t be surprised if October brings a few spooky narratives.) June's read, “Every Action,” is a satisfying sci-fi tale from Stephen Graham Jones — “a really hot name right now,” says Viola. Along with Jones’s work, there are short stories by Selena Chambers and Jason Heller.
July's featured piece will be a flash-fiction horror piece titled "Dog Food," by Betsy Dornbusch, a local writer known for her urban-fantasy work. “It’s a very short story dealing with a female protagonist who has a pretty awful husband," Viola says. "You can probably guess by the title what she’s going to do to her husband.”
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Viola has already purchased 22 months' worth of stories for Words, and he’s making it a point to amplify female voices within genre fiction. “I’m trying to include more women in everything I do,” says Viola, who points out that science fiction, in particular, has been a male-dominated niche. “Decades ago, it was mostly white dudes producing the content,” he adds, but lately he's noticed “a major shift.”
And that’s a good thing, he says, because female writers bring honest female voices to the craft: “Having a guy write a female character, you can get characters that are contrived and sexually biased.” He was psyched to purchase stories for Words by some of today’s most notable female names: Alyssa Wong and Sarah Pinsker, for example.
Diversity helps elevate genre from commercial fiction to literature, he says, and that's why Viola strives to be inclusive with LGBTQ voices and voices of color, too. And then there’s the local angle: He's committed to supporting Colorado artists, and about 50 percent of the content of his new magazine comes from area writers, including Carrie Vaughn, Carter Wilson, Manuel Ramos, Mark Stevens, Sean Eads and Aaron Michael Ritchey.
And their work in Words makes for ideal summer reading. Online fiction magazines "are great if you have a little downtime at work or in the airport,” Viola promises.
Read more about Words on the Hex Publishers website.