Sybil’s Garage Editor Spotlight – Mercurio D. Rivera

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Sybil’s Garage is a group effort.  Several people work really hard behind the scenes to make each issue happen.  This is the first of a series of posts where I intend to highlight the contributions of each editor.  I’ve asked each person to talk a little bit about his/her experience working for Sybil’s Garage.

Our first editor is Mercurio D. Rivera.  When Mercurio joined our writers group a few years back, I never thought this humble quiet fellow would soon become one of my best friends.  His advice is among the first I seek when faced with a tough decision.  In a few short years, Mercurio has gone on to become quite an accomplished hard SF writer.  He does have a bit of an impish side, though, which is why he’s earned his moniker of Evil David.  But a regular bathing in holy water usually keeps his evil tendencies at bay.  And, by coincidence, it’s also his birthday today, so I hope y’all will join me in wishing him a happy one.

Mercurio D. RiveraMercurio D. Rivera is an attorney and science fiction writer whose stories have appeared regularly in Interzone (#204, #214, #219, #226, #227).  His Interzone stories “Longing for Langalana” and “In the Harsh Glow of its Incandescent Beauty” are part of an upcoming series of interconnected tales about his strange aliens, the Wergens, and their unrequited love for humanity.  His work can also be found or is forthcoming in Unplugged: The Web’s Best SF and Fantasy, Download 2008, edited by Rich Horton (Wyrm Publishing), Nature, Black Static, Electric Velocipede, Abyss & Apex, Escape Pod, Starship Sofa and elsewhere.  His fiction has been acknowledged on the Locus Recommended List for 2008 (finishing at #25 in the short story category), the StorySouth Million Writers List for 2008, and several of his stories have received honorable mention in Gardner Dozois’s Year’s Best Science Fiction anthology.  His website is

Mercurio says:

Sybil’s Garage started off as a thin stapled ‘zine, grew into a crisp digest-sized magazine format, and this year took the next step in its evolution, morphing into a gorgeous trade paperback anthology.  (Next year?  I have the scoop: glorious, three-dimensional, interactive holograms!)  Along the way, it’s developed a faithful following and a reputation for offbeat, high-quality fiction.  It’s been a wild ride, and I can’t tell you how proud I am to have been a passenger aboard Matt Kressel’s runaway car, gesticulating crazily and shouting directions from the backseat.  Or something like that.

All of us on Sybil’s editorial staff are members of the Altered Fluid ( writing group.  Many years ago, Matt managed to blackmail us with incriminating photos rope us all in with his inimitable charm and contagious enthusiasm for creating and developing his own print magazine.  Although I was initially concerned about the time commitment involved, my fears were assuaged by the fact that six to eight Fluidians volunteer on any particular issue, and that the slush pile is divvied up among us.  For example, Sybil’s Garage No. 7 received well over 500 submissions.  Divided by six editors, this resulted in a much more manageable story-load, especially when compared with the tsunami of slush that regularly hits other magazines that have far fewer editors.  This allowed me to be a bit more patient when reading manuscripts and to occasionally provide feedback and personal encouragement.  I can’t help it; even after all of these issues I still empathize strongly with every writer whose story I reject, especially those who send us the near-misses.  Over the years, I’ve found reading slush to be an invaluable learning tool that has helped me see the common mistakes that can torpedo a story as well as the special qualities that make a submission stand out in the crowd.  I can’t help but be struck by the fact that as Sybil’s has continued to improve and evolve with each successive issue, so has Altered Fluid and our successes as writers.  At least in my case, I attribute part of that to the lessons learned from reading slush.

Beyond slush reading, typically I’ll assist on a particular issue by drafting the author’s contracts, copy-editing four or five stories, proofing the final version of the issue, opining on stories forwarded by the other editors, and adding my two cents on the final selections.  If I feel strongly in favor or against a particular story, I make sure my voice is heard.  One of the most satisfying aspects of working on Sybil’s is that Matt encourages input from all the editors on every aspect of each issue, from the final story selections to his cover design to his layout of the magazine.  He carefully takes all these different opinions into consideration then pulls out the incriminating photographs, waves them in our faces and pulls rank in making his final decisions.  Make no mistake, Sybil’s Garage is the product of Matt’s vision–he invests the capital, makes the final calls, designs the cover and the layout so that it has that unique Sybil’s look to it, and promotes the hell out of each issue–but it is also a labor of love for all the backseat drivers like me who are passionate about producing something special and making Sybil’s the very best it can be.

I finished the friggin’ editor’s spotlight. Can I get those incriminating photos back now?  Geez.”

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