Q: What is the SlugTribe?
A: The SlugTribe is an
informal writers critique group for science fiction, fantasy
and horror fiction in Austin, Texas. It meets twice monthly
on 2nd and 4th Tuesday evenings virtually using a Discord meeting app. When the coronavirus is fixed, we hope the City lets us go back to the Hanock Rec Center, 41st
and Red River streets. Here's the current year calendar. Open to all levels of experience,
critique is focused on getting work to a professional level
that editors might buy. See the home page for a Hancock Rec map.
Q: Who owns the SlugTribe?
A: Its members. It's an all-volunteer organization that was co-founded in 1985 by Wendy Wheeler, Jon Lebkowsky and Furman Haddix. Wendy continues to help coordinate meetings and also owns and manages this website and forum. There are no dues to join the SlugTribe.
Q: Where did the name "SlugTribe" come from?
A: For many years, we were just "the SF/F/H study group" or the rarely accepted and used "B.E.M. group" (Bug-Eyed Monsters). Then, since we were modeled after Turkey City, an earlier local SF/F/H group, we decided we also needed an animal mascot. At one meeting, we left it to fate as to what animals might appear in the stories. What we got that day: slugs, snails, slime trails. We accepted our sign from heaven and for a few years were just The Slugs, or Sluggies. Then we had a group camping trip where one member led a ceremony -- emulating ones from the men's movement -- where we had a talking stick, jumped across fire and were initiated into a tribe. Since then we've been The SlugTribe
Q: Do I have to be a published writer to join?
A: The SlugTribe is open
to all levels of experience. You can be thinking of writing,
starting writing, beginning writing, sending your work out,
publishing your work, or editing and publishing your own
magazine, and the SlugTribe can help with all of that.
Within the group, we have all levels of expertise as well.
Because some of us have been critiquing for a long time, the
group is very adept at writing craft and helping works get
to a saleable state. Because we don't work in lock-step, the
group also has a wide range of tastes and styles which leads
to a wide range of feedback.
Q: What do the meetings typically entail?
A: Our meetings last from
7:00 p.m. until 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. We'll begin with some networking
and welcoming new members. Then writers with work to
critique will put their names onto a list in the order they
came through the door. Works are passed out and read right
then, and then critiqued. The writer takes notes and also
gets the marked-up versions of their manuscripts back. If we
cannot fit all the manuscripts into the evening, the
writers' names go on the "Hangover" list and they get to be
read first the next meeting they attend. Occasionally a
writer will bring a genre screenplay, and those are usually
read aloud (i.e., a table read) by attendees.
Q: Can I attend a meeting? Get a critique? Etc.?
A: Yes, we are open to new attendees. In its 28+ years of existence, the SlugTribe has never stopped meeting, though the membership has changed, shifted, dwindled, expanded. Nor have we ever become a closed group. You're welcome to contact Wendy or other members for the Discord meeting link, or come by Hancock Rec Center when we go back to there. You can bring something for critique your first night, but it's probably wiser to sit through a meeting first and watch how it's done.
Q: What format, length, etc., should I bring?
A: You should format your manuscript professionally, as if you were sending it off to an editor. That means 12 point Courier, double spaced, paragraphs with tab indents (not extra spacing between), simple page headers at the top right, white paper, no bolds / italics / colored fonts. Okay to print double sided to save paper. Bring 5000 words max at a time (no more than 20 pages -- all word processing software will give you a word count). Yes, you can have a whole novel critiqued this way (we've done several); you have to bring it in chunks/chapters and it works fine. It works even better if you have a short synopsis of previous chapters to catch up the newbies. Some longer stories have to be broken up this way as well. Also, to save paper, you can print on the blank side of used sheets; just tell us to ignore the junk on the back. Make around 15 copies.
Q: Does the SlugTribe insist on only science fiction, fantasy or horror fiction?
A: Most of the work offered for critique is a short story or novel excerpt in SF/F/H. But we sometimes have movie scripts, comic book scripts, poems, experimental pieces, and sometimes non-genre fiction. The group is flexible enough to offer craft suggestions on just about anything. (Yet often a group devoted to mainstream fiction has difficulty suspending disbelief enough to offer much help on genre. Go figure.)
Q: Does it cost anything to join or participate?
A: No, no fees are involved. Our meeting room at the Hancock Recreation Center costs us nothing because we originally signed up for it under the umbrella of a non-profit (Austin Writers League). This website hosting and domain is contributed by Wendy Wheeler. Our listserver is hosted on Google Groups.
Q: So the SlugTribe does have an e-mail list?
A: Yes, we do. First, we had a private one that Earl Cooley (RIP) hosted for us for 33 years. Even before email lists existed, Earl hosted the SMOF BBS where the SlugTribe had our own interest group for messaging. We were probably one of the earliest writers' groups in the world to be connected via the Internet. As of 2018, we've got a firstname.lastname@example.org address.
Q: Do you offer workshops and other events?
A: In past years we've had to add Saturday and Sunday workshops to keep up with demand. Our members have coordinated and taught workshops, retreats and classes on writing, but usually associated with the University of Texas, the local fandom group, etc. We tried an online critique group for members only on this website called SlugsOL (Slugs Online), but it didn't get much action. Sometimes we also have parties!
Q: Have SlugTribe members had successes?
A: Many members have sold stories and novels they workshopped through the SlugTribe, acquired agents, been able to join SFWA, and had work reprinted in Year's Best anthologies. Other members have won writing contests, been accepted into Clarion, and Clarion West, and Jay Lake (R.I.P.) won the John W. Campbell Award for best newcomer. Another founding member, Elizabeth Moon, has won a Hugo, a Nebula and a Heinlein award.
Q: Is the group associated with the Writers League of Texas? With Turkey City? With ArmadilloCon and LoneStar Con?
A: From our long, long history in Central Texas, we've had members affiliated with many other science fiction and writing associations. Turkey City was on a decade-long hiatus when the SlugTribe started, but became active again under Bruce Sterling. Several members of SlugTribe also attend Turkey City, which is aimed at the pro writer so is open only by invitation. Other, smaller, by-invitation-only groups like Cryptopolis have been spawned from the SlugTribe over the years.
In 1998, F.A.C.T. (Fandom Assn of Central Texas) asked SlugTribers Jennifer Evans and Wendy Wheeler to create a writers workshop in conjunction with the annual ArmadilloCon science fiction convention in Austin. The DilloCon Writers Workshop won renown, has had an impressive list of pro writers and editors as instructors, and until 2008 was coordinated by members of our group. Jennifer and Wendy also coordinated a writers' workshop for a LoneStar Con. The SlugTribe is considered one of the study groups of the Writers League of Texas (originally called the Austin Writers League). The founding members of the SlugTribe met at a SF workshop taught by Howard Waldrop that the AWL sponsored, and in the early days of our group the AWL paid for copying and postage for our monthly newsletters.