I've realized something very important, but only since I've been with Lightspeed. (Don't ask me why it didn't click in my slush reading with Fantasy...because it didn't...) Since I've made this mistake umpteen times myself - actually, I could count them up for you, based my nifty little submission spreadsheet, but since it's embarrassing, I'll just get to the point - how many times I've submitted stories without reading the magazine first. Even one issue will help, but seriously, if you're going to submit anything, save both yourself and the slush readers the effort by reading, ideally, multiple issues, before you do so.
I've been trying to repair this error the last few months by reading every single story published in every SFWA magazine I can. Usually I make it to about 5 out of 8 (the bigger names) or so, and sometimes end up skimming those about which I have started to have serious doubts regarding quality. But I've been thinking about this lately, and then decided to write this out simply because of the number of stories this morning which in no way bear any similarities to what the first few issues of Lightspeed have put out. Just now, I read a story from a SFWA-credited writer (multiple books with big SF publisher) that consisted of about 6 pages of dialogue between a woman and her best friend. No significant SF elements. If the author had read Lightspeed at all, he/she would have (hopefully) realized it's not the right fit. Plus, rarely do we take anything under 2k. There's been one exception, a reprint coming up in the next few months, but that one is stronger than my morning coffee - and anyway, flashes (and anything under 2k) need that in order to be competitive against heavier hitters.
Then there's always the problem of when reading the magazine isn't enough. Let's say, stupidity gets in the way. And I'm quite stupid, quite often. I got a rejection from WEIRD TALES on Sunday for a story that's very dear to me. It's a good story, I believe - not something I'm just close to, but it has honest value. And I've been subscribing to that magazine for a few years now, which granted, doesn't mean as many issues as I'd like because it comes out what, 4x a year? 6? Anyway, I adore it. But while what I write may have some merit, it's not WEIRD. It never has been. (And sadly, it may never be.) And throwing in a few weird-ish elements doesn't make it WEIRD. Yet I made the mistake of adding one more story to Ann VanderMeer's slush pile for her to wade through - in a moment of stupidity. And even now, talking with a close writing friend about where to send it next, I suggested another magazine - stupidly - and my friend said try it, but it doesn't fit.
We all need peers (preferably of the writing with common sense variety) to save us from poor submission choices. From our stupidity.
So I took my own advice, and purchased copies of Black Static (for Braeberry Street?) and Cicada (for Children Dumping Soup?) over lunch. Here's hoping it will get me a little closer.