What is Codex?

Codex is a writers' group for neo-pro writers interested in speculative fiction (Fantasy, Science Fiction, Alternate History, etc.). Neo-pros, for our purposes, are writers who've had at least one professional publication and/or participated in one of the top by-audition-only workshops and/or been offered representation by an established agent, but who have not yet sold a great many stories or a number of books. We welcome members who are more established, but the focus of the group is always on neo-pros.

The main feature of Codex is the online forum, but the site has a number of other components, and members are welcome to participate in an a la carte fashion, choosing the activities they're interested in and have time for, and ignoring others. Current features include:

  • The online forum
  • The critique system, which generally results in quick responses on posted works
  • The monthly Spotlight, in which a number of volunteers read several works by the same writer and try to help that person bring the writing to "the next level"
  • Occasional in-person gatherings (writing retreats, get-togethers at cons)
  • An online "library," listing members' published works
  • Member profiles (which will eventually be something members can make public if they wish)
  • A private chat room

Who can join Codex?

Membership is free, but requires any one of the following as a qualification: 1) at least one pro fiction sale*
2) completion of a major, by-audition-only speculative fiction writing workshop, such as Clarion, Odyssey, Literary Boot Camp, Clarion West, etc.
3) Offered representation for fiction by a reputable literary agency with multiple sales to major publishers. The writer doesn't need to accept representation to qualify for Codex; the rationale here is that getting a successful agency to offer to represent you is indicates a level of commitment and skill comparable to selling a story to a pro market.
4) Has sold at least 1,000 copies of one or more self-published works of fiction and received author income of at least $5,000 from those sales.
5) Has been nominated for or has won a qualifying major award for writing fiction in any form or medium (Campbell, Nebula, Hugo, WGA, etc.)

Options 3-5 were added in 2011 and 2012.
Codex is a community of people who are actively writing. As a basis for continued participation in Codex, members stay involved in their writing careers through ongoing research, outlining, revising, writing, submitting, or other writing work.

*"Pro fiction sale" for Codex purposes means "a fiction sale to a market Codex has on or is willing to add to its pro list." Our pro list includes all markets SFWA considers pro plus a handful of others we consider comparable for our purposes. Most members qualify with sales of science fiction or fantasy, but any kind of narrative fiction sale to a market we consider at least comparable to the ones we have on our list works just as well. Not sure if your fiction sale qualifies? E-mail us to ask.

Why are there membership requirements?

Our membership requirements give us a group of writers who are in similar stages in their careers, who have proven that they've developed a certain level of skill, and who are working hard on their writing. Because of this, our discussions are focused on issues that can be beneficial to us at this stage, in several ways.

First, we're not tackling the same basic issues over and over, because everyone in Codex already knows the basics.

Second, the sense that we're all relatively new to professional writing gives us a bit of humility; the overall attitude is one of openness and experimentation.

Third, because we're a private group with some things in common, we have a friendly and cohesive "feel."

And finally, our membership does not change greatly over time, which contributes to a sense of stability.

Are there any rules I should know before I start using the forum?

Yes, just a few. First, it's important to know that Codex is a permanently private forum, and none of the material posted to it in any form should be forwarded, added to Web sites, blogged, printed and passed around, or otherwise made available outside the forum without the express permission of the person(s) who posted it. In terms of writing posts, here are our community standards:

  • Please support both the letter and the spirit of our community standards by prioritizing constructive dialog, consideration, and respect over point-making.
  • Please refrain from derisive language, direct or indirect, toward other Codexians, including anything that could reasonably be construed as demeaning, dismissive, hyperbolic, belittling, or otherwise loaded.
  • Codex supports people of all races, religions, genders, sexual orientations, ethnicities, ages, and abilities/disabilities. Members should refrain from posting derogatory statements about any such groups, even if based on their own sincerely held beliefs.
  • Codex is not an appropriate venue for contentious discussions, such as those dealing with religion and politics, except where those discussions are directly related to writing. When these kinds of threads are unrelated to writing, drift away from writing, or become overly contentious, they will be closed by moderators.
  • Codex, being a private forum, does not guarantee free speech where such speech violates our community standards.
  • In chat, anyone upset by the current topic may make the request "new topic please?" Chatters are asked to respect such requests and to either take the current topic to whispers and/or to change the subject.

Any advice for new members?

There is a lot of material (and I mean a lot) on the forum, and often a lot going on, so it's usually easiest to get involved in discussions by picking one or two threads at a time, reading through what's been posted so far (or the last couple of weeks of posts, in the case of very long-running threads), and keeping up with those. Any threads you haven't read will remain highlighted in yellow so you can distinguish, or you can turn off the highlighting in your profile if you'd like.

On request, new members can be paired with volunteer long-time Codexians for getting questions answered, finding out more about what has gone on in the past, and just socializing. Members can e-mail Luc to volunteer or to request a volunteer.

New members are invited (but not required) to say hi in the Introduce Yourself thread. They're also invited to start a discussion titled with their own name in the Author Threads area.

There's no waiting period for critiquing, participation in contests, or other activities: in all of these areas, new members are welcome to jump in immediately. If you put up your work for critique, it's helpful to offer critiques immediately in order to show a positive critique balance.

Who runs Codex?

Codex is run by a volunteer coordinator system: people volunteer for roles, and when there is no dissent, they take over those roles and have the final say on how those activities are run. For instance, one of our members initiated our library and took upon herself the job of organizing it and keeping it up to date until an automated system can be put in place. When there are decisions to be made about the library, she asks for feedback, and then acts based on her understanding of what the group wants and her own vision for the library.

Most operational decisions are made by the founder, Luc Reid, who also developed the software for the Web site and tries to keep the functionality up to date.

Codex is currently funded by our Amazon affiliacy income.. Any shortfall is made up by volunteer member contributions.

What is the critique system like?

It's like an armadillo, only larger and less literal.

Well, OK, it's not really like that. Here's how it works: whenever a member has a work to be critiqued, that person goes to our critique page and uploads the piece. It then becomes immediately available in our critique system, until such time as the member or an admin takes it down (i.e., up to a month after it was posted). In the meantime, any Codex member can go to the Critique page and click a link to have the piece e-mailed to the address in her or his profile.

On the critique page, the writer's critique stats are posted in terms of credits given and received. Critique credits are allotted as follows: .5 credits for 1,000 words or less, and other than that 1 credit per 10,000 words, rounding up. This system allows us to equitably track critique participation for anything from flash fiction to novel series.

In any case, there's no critique requirement per se. Participants are strongly urged to keep a respectable critique ratio, but basically you post, and if someone feels like giving you a critique given your critique record, they will. Generally speaking, everyone to date has used the system well, and people have been generous in offering critiques without close regard to critique stats.

When a story is uploaded to the critique board, a discussion thread for the story is automatically created in the forum. Members are encouraged to post their critiques in this thread, to facilitate public discussion.

When giving a critique on a work, the critique can be e-mailed to the author and/or posted on the critique thread for that work in the forum, based on the preferences of the critiquer and critiquee. If posted, the critique will automatically and immediately be credited, providing it is posted in the right thread and is at least 1,000 characters long. If the critique is e-mailed, Luc should be copied on the critique so that credit can be given. Luc's e-mail address and that of the author are included in the e-mail that comes with the story.

There are no formal guidelines for critiques, and individual Codexians vary in terms of what they most like in a critique. Ideally, particular requests about critique style are listed in the note the author posts with the work. Failing that, it's left to the best judgment of the critiquer. General critique etiquette applies, of course, for instance critiquing the story and not the author.

Some authors prefer a mode of critique Orson Scott Card has described, the "wise reader" style. This consists of comments about three kinds of problems in the manuscript: places where the reader didn't believe what was happening ("yeah, right"), places where the reader didn't understand what was happening ("huh?"), and places where the reader didn't care about what was happening ("so what?"). Many Codexians are looking for comments about the "big picture" (e.g., plot, character, structure) rather than copy editing.

Some authors welcome suggestions; others would prefer not to see them. Some authors prefer inline comments in the manuscript, while others prefer a "letter of critique." Again, ideally, the author will indicate any special preference, and in absence of that everything is at the critiquer's discretion.

E-mailed critiques should be copied in their entirety to Luc.

Why the separate novels area?

Many writers' groups are focused especially on short stories, in part because they're easier to critique and more manageable as a learning tool. Codex has tended to be short story-centric in the past for these reasons, yet a number of our members are primarily interested in writing novels; therefore we have added a novels area and some special initiatives, like a novel buddy system and a permanent novel synopsis advisor discussion.

By the way, the critique system is set up to easily handle portions of novels or even entire novels. If you are posting a novel for feedback, we recommend that you also post to the forum inviting readers, as it's a better way to attract the attention of people who may not know your novel is available for critique.

Why are all the forum photos boring old headshots?

On Codex, we depart from the Internet norm and strongly encourage using recognizable headshots as photos. These headshots are displayed with each post you author and in your profile (although they can be turned off in the settings.) There are three reasons we do it this way:

  1. To make it easier to recognize each other at events, cons, etc.
  2. To enhance the feeling that we're participating in a person-to-person conversation
  3. To create an immediate visual connection between the post and the poster, so that we can more easily connect an idea, event, or comment with the person who posted it.

What are the author threads?

Each Codexian is encouraged to start a discussion about themselves and their work in the Author Threads area. You're welcome to do this as soon as you arrive. Often writers start their threads by talking about what they're working on and where they currently have submissions. The threads tend to be heavy on writing news, but feel free to cover other aspects of your life. Way-off-topic discussions of any length thrive best in the "Off-topic and banter" area.

What's the Quick Author News thread?

Quick Author News is a thread where posts of what's going on in various Codexians' lives--from moving house to book reviews, sales, rejections, birth of a child, celebrating unbirthdays, etc.--get cross-posted. To use this feature, simply post the announcement in its usual place (usually either in your author thread or else in a Sale! thread), but include [news] (with the square brackets) anywhere in your post. Alternatively, you can click the [news] link for any not-yet-newsified post that has already up, whether your own or someone else's. The new post will then be copied to the Quick Author News thread, with a link back to the original thread for ease of responding and commenting, as no responses or comments are allowed in the Quick Author News thread itself. The idea is to provide a way to easily catch up on everything that's going on with Codex and Codexians without having to wade through congratulations, comments, discussions, etc.

What are Reacts/Woots/Rimshots?

Since it's common to want to respond to other people's posts with brief congratulations, agreement, disagreement, virtual raspberries, and the like, there is a "react" feature that allows you to "woot" (happy face) or "rimshot" (sad face) the post with a brief description of your response. This is similar to a like/unlike feature except that each individual describes their response.

You can view all recent reacts or recent reacts to your posts using the appropriate menu options.

What's the Semi-Pro Markets area?

Since some Codexians are interested in semi-pro markets and others aren't, we've given the topic its own discussion area for all posts about semi-pro markets, sales, etc.

What's the chat feature?

Codex has a Codex-only chat room you can access by going to the forum and clicking the "chat" link. To enter it, use your Codex login (though we're working toward an automatic login approach). You can organize and announce a scheduled chat through the forum. The number in parentheses next to the "chat" link shows how many people are currently logged into the chat room.

As of this writing, the chat system still requires manual updates to allow new users and users with changed information to log in. Luc updates this information every week, but if you'd like to use chat right away and can't yet log in, please e-mail Luc and he'll run an update soon after (it is a quick and easy process for him to do).

What's the "Slush Simulator"?

The Slush Simulator is a means to simulate submission of a story to multiple markets, to try to see if it might be ready to sell yet--and if not, what the primary complaints of the simulated editors are about the piece. A Codex member anonymously posts a completed, polished story to the special Slush Simulator area (available through the menu at the bottom of the discussion screen), and other Codex members who are interested download and consider the story, reading only far enough to decide whether they would be willing to select that story out of hundreds of submissions and to pay money for it.

The reader then posts a brief acceptance letter or (more commonly) rejection slip in a thread devoted to the story in the Slush Simulator area of the discussion board. "Editors" remain anonymous to depersonalize the process, but each editor has a number so that responses from the same "editor" can be considered together by an author who has uploaded multiple stories.

Rejections or acceptances are intended to be brief, and decisions are made in the context of the reader's magazine concept. The question for readers is: would this be the kind of story my ideal magazine would print?

The Slush Simulator isn't a substitute for real critiques and is only a quick survey of very biased opinions. The author doesn't respond to rejections or acceptances. No critique credit is given for participation. Codex members are encouraged to participate as authors or readers whenever they feel like it and to ignore the Slush Simulator at other times.

How do I introduce myself?

There's an "Introduce yourself (or not)" thread in the Administration area of the forum. Your fellow Codexians will welcome a post there about who you are and what you're up to.

It's also a great idea to post some information about yourself and your writing in your profile, which you can reach by clicking on Your Profile from the forum. It's particularly good to post a picture of yourself, which will appear beside each of your posts. When uploading a picture, please use an actual photo of yourself, since the profile photos on Codex are designed to encourage a sense of personal interaction and so that other Codexians can recognize you if you should happen across each other, for instance at a convention.

How do I add my published works to the library?

Click the "Edit Library" link on the forum menu. Specific criteria for library-eligible publication credits are shown in the header of the "Codex Library" discussion topic on the forum.

From the "Edit Library" link, you can add published works for yourself or other Codexians and edit works that you have added or for which you are the author. Library edits show up immediately on the Codex Library page.

How do I add myself to the list of Codexian Web page links?

On your profile page, just enter your first and last name, the address of your Web site and/or blog, and a "blurb" about yourself (very brief--two sentences or less). Additionally, make sure that the "Show in public directory" setting is on "yes." Once this is done, you'll automatically appear on the links page.

What's the best way to announce a story sale?

New sales are a big deal to us. For each sale, please start a brand new discussion in the appropriate area. For pro fiction sales, this would be "Crows and Reviews"; for semi-pro fiction, use the "Semi-Pro Markets" area. For non-fiction and poetry we often don't post sale announcements, but if you would like to do so, the "Non-fiction, poetry, etc." area is the best venue. If you self-publish something (whether as an eBook, using POD, etc.), use the self publishing announcements area.

I'm overwhelmed by all of the threads all the time! How can I make things more manageable?

In your profile (click Your Profile from the menu), you'll find a link that allows you to hide specific discussion areas. For instance, if you want to avoid getting into off-topic discussions, you can hide the off-topic area; if you're interested mainly in the craft of writing at the moment, you can hide things like "The Business of Writing." You can hide as many areas as you like, turning them on and off at any time.

Discussions you've never read are marked with a star (so that you can seek them out or avoid them, as you prefer). There are also controls to mark threads as permanently read, hide read threads, hide unread threads, hide new threads, and hide starred threads. We really do want to give you all kinds of options.

How can I make my posts all fancy-like?

You can add visual interest or emphasis to your posts with any (or heck, all) of the following HTML and HyPidgin tags. To use these, sandwich the text you want to modify between a beginning tag and an end tag. The end tag is always in the form /akeywordhere, and both the beginning and ending tags are enclosed in angle brackets, <like this>.

If you use Internet Explorer, you also have the option of using the buttons underneath the post box to get many of these same effects. Just hover over a button with the mouse to see what it does.

You don't need to use HTML format to use the tags below, but you can set your post to HTML format if you want to use other HTML tags that aren't shown. HTML mode supports most basic HTML as well as all of the following kinds of formatting.

Bold <b>Here be bold text.</b>
Italics <I>And here be italics, aarrr!</I>
Underline <U>Underline, anyone?</U>
Indented <blockquote>Use 'blockquote' for lengthy quotations.</blockquote>

<quote>Or use the snazzier 'quote' tag</quote>
Colors <red>This text would be red</red>
Other color options: blue, green, gray, yellow, orange, purple, pink
Invisible <invisible>Invisible text only appears if you highlight it. Popular at parties.</invisible>
Images <IMG SRC="http://someplace.on.the/web/mygraphicname.gif"> No end tag for this type. GIFs and JPGs are the only suggested picture types.
Links <A HREF="http://my.fabulous.web.site">Click here</a> to go to my fabulous Web site!
NOTE: You can also make links out of most Web addresses by simply typing the link and following it with a space.
Lists <LI>Item one</LI>
<LI>Item two</LI>
<LI>etc.</LI>
Lists are shown with a bullet for each item
Off-color posts <plain brown wrapper>If you're writing a post that may not be suitable for general audiences ...</plain brown wrapper>
... you can use the plain brown wrapper option to enclose it. Only users who have checked the option to see this material will see it; others will see a note that the material is there. This tag is 100% voluntary and allows for people with different sensibilities to share the forum without worrying about treading on each other's toes.
Strikethrough The following text is <strike>just normal</strike> struck through with a line.

How can I get more involved?

Both relatively new and long-time Codexian members are more than welcome to spearhead new ideas and events on Codex once they're familiar with the group and how we work. In the past, Codexians have organized

  • Short story contests
  • Informal gatherings
  • Writers' retreats
  • Writing challenges
  • The Codex library
  • The Codex news page
  • Novel critiques
  • Chats
  • And other activities.

What's the Spotlight?

The Spotlight is a monthly affair in which one writer sends out several pieces of fiction that total no more than 21,000 words (word processor count). Everyone wanting to participate in the Spotlight that month is included on a list that the author uses to send out the work. Then we start a new Spotlight thread for that writer and people begin to post their responses to the work.

The works submitted for the Spotlight are finished, in publishable condition, and should represent some of the writer's best recent work. The 21,000 word limit is firm.

There is not currently a previous Spotlight participation requirement.

Spotlight responses are meant, generally speaking, to be focused broadly on the writer's work rather than on specific critiques of the individual pieces. Examples from the pieces are often used to illustrate a broader point ("I have trouble sympathizing with a lot of your characters. For instance, in 'My Hair Was Eaten by Termites,' I find Katie abrasive because she ..."). That said, there are no hard-and-fast guidelines about how to participate in the Spotlight, and experimentation is encouraged.

Spotlight participation is counted in the critique credit system, with the total number of words in each set of Spotlight works counted as though it were a single piece, and all the posts from any participant counted as though they were a single critique. This plays havoc with a previously well-balanced critique record, but there's no problem with participating and then getting caught up on critiques over time afterward.

To get in the Spotlight queue and/or be added to the list of Spotlight story recipients, just post in the "In the Spotlight" thread or e-mail Luc through the address in his profile.

How do the contests work?

Over the course of a typical year, Codex runs a number of writing contests, most of them for short fiction, though there have been contests for everything from flash fiction to novels. Most contests have a unique approach or focus, for instance one flash fiction piece per weekend for five weekends in a row (Weekend Warrior), contests in which a setting is provided (Setting the Stage), the annual Novel Contest, etc. There are no prizes other than bragging rights.

Rules and deadlines for contests are posted when the contests are announced. Typically, participants and interested bystanders choose a unique "nom de guerre" for each contest. This "nom" appears on posts in a special temporarily anonymous discussion thread and along with stories uploaded for judging. Noms allows us to judge without preconceptions or bias. They're also a lot of fun.

Noms can be chosen at any time after the contest is "launched" (usually a few days to a few weeks before writing entries begins) by being entered in the appropriate spot in a member's profile. All noms are revealed at the end of the contest.

Participants in the contest as well as other Codexians act as judges for the contest, receiving copies of the stories and voting either on a 1-10 scale or for their top choices, depending on the contest. Different contests have different rules.