Monday, October 4, 2010

Thoughts on Slush

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.


Anonymous said...

That's something I've always wrestled with myself - after all there's only so many hours in the day and magazine subscriptions start to add up. At the very least I try to read one issue of a magazine if possible, or even some stories that have been published in it. It's almost impossible to read everything.

And I already mentioned on the forum, but Braeberry Street - definitely not Black Static. They really don't do SF like that (despite the horror elements in your story) - I would suggest their sister magazine Interzone, which you must get a subscription to if you haven't already. It's awesome. You'll love what they publish and the printed magazine format is lovely, with artwork and interviews and reviews.

John said...

I'm very glad you discovered this, because I think in the future it may help alleviate some grief felt over a particular rejection. The story may have been close to you (and perhaps those who you've shared it with), but not necessarily a certain magazine.

Erin Stocks said...

Ilan, I suppose you would know about these markets better than me...I just think the SF elements are so vague in Braeberry, if there at all (they used to be much stronger). But again, I should probably listen to wise council. :)

Although I suppose the real problem is that Interzone isn't sold in the stores here. So I can't even determine this myself.

Which means I must give in and purchase the online format...

Anonymous said...

If you read Interzone, you'll find that they print a wide mix of SF - some with extremely vague SF elements. Going back to Nina Allan, her story in the most recent Interzone is barely identifiable as SF, or even as speculative fiction, until you start to notice the subtle alternative history coming through. From what I remember about Braeberry street, it struck me as SF horror, even if the SF isn't explained, or even qualified as being of SF origin. The horror in Black Static is usually either very subtle supernatural, surreal, or plain fantastic, and sometimes straight without any supernatural element. But very rarely ever SF. The De Rivera story in the recent issue has a vague SF background to it, but that has little bearing on the story. It could be set in a normal city.

Erin Stocks said...

Hmmm, interesting. Now I'm very excited to read this issue!

Thanks! (And next up on the to-do list: Great Junction Street.)