Thursday, 16 June 2016

Getting closer to the transom

Did I mention that I have a story that's made it as far as the story-strewn desk of the editor-in-chief of Spark?

Well, in the last day or so I've also had one enter Bill Adler's 'considering-for-publication folder' for the Binge-Watching Cure, and an 'I look forward to your next submission' from Sheila Williams at Asimov's.  I feel I'm getting closer to pitching one over the transom.

But I've had warm leads turn into near misses before and, if that's the case, from one perspective they merely add up to a straightforward rejection delayed.   Rejections that invariably tend to take the form of 'this doesn't fit with us' or 'this isn't right for me'.

Which leaves you wondering what it is that they do want.

Of course - and I've covered this before - the received wisdom is to read the magazines.  And in order to support these laudable concerns I agree.  But to identify the market... well, there are only so many hours in a day, plus work to do, and I'd like time to write too.  Plus the Euros.  Oh, and the Tour de France.  And Pakistan are touring...

My main reason for not slavishly reading the publications I submit to is that my mind is a two-way street and I don't want my story ideas sullied with what I've just read.  My strategy is to surprise, to be distinctly different.  As if to prove my point, try these submission guidelines from Analog: "We have no hard-and-fast editorial guidelines, because science fiction is such a broad field that I don't want to inhibit a new writer's thinking by imposing Thou Shalt Nots. Besides, a really good story can make an editor swallow his preconceived taboos."

Or Fantasy and Science Fiction: "F&SF has no formula for fiction. I am looking for stories that will appeal to science fiction and fantasy readers. You know what kind I'm talking about."

Daily Science Fiction even presents the counter-argument in one breath: "Read, and get a feel for what Daily Science Fiction publishes. We always want new and different work, of course..."

Of course, as long as you're not submitting your space opera to Portable Restroom Operator or Miniature Donkey Talk then rest in the knowledge that a good editor will recognise that breadth in our wonderful genre.  And, as if to prove that point, I stumbled across a new speculative fiction author I really like.

Patricia Highsmith.

Yes, author of Strangers on a Train, the Ripley stories, and a suitcase-full of other taut psychological thrillers (with enough room for a sack of money and maybe a severed limb).  Tucked away in 'Eleven' are some really weird genre-defying vignettes, particularly those involving snails, which aren't crime fiction at all, but portholes on to strange lives.  A man becomes obsessed with snails.  A small boy is driven to protect a terrapin.  A scientist sets out to find a legendary gastropod... and succeeds.  And if they don't fit any particular pigeonhole then they must be ours.

All I need to do right now is not let them influence me too much.

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