Sunday, 2 July 2017

I reject rejection

According to the Submissions Grinder, the score for 2017 at half-time is science fiction editors 97, me 2, with another twenty or so submissions still out there.  So please understand me when I say that rejection doesn't bother me, I just roll with the punches and find another market.

But, occasionally, my replicant goat is got.

We're not supposed to have favourites, I know.  But I do.  My favourite is a story I wrote possibly six years ago, called 'Faivish the Imbecile', which has been rejected some two dozen times so far.  It's set in a Jewish tailoring family in early 1970s New York City from the perspective of a teenage daughter, sewing suits by day, finishing bondage gear by night.  As a 40-plus atheist male with no needlecraft skills brought up in the penumbra between suburbia and the English countryside you may suspect this doesn't fall under the heading of 'write what you know'.

But there's something about the story that, for me, works.  And I've written enough bilge that doesn't to tell the difference.  At one point I wanted to evoke the 1950s and cited both The Blob with Steve McQueen and hula-hoops.  Only later did I find out that they hit the public consciousness virtually the same week.  Little things like that just make you feel like you've nailed it.

It also has one of my favourite lines, a put-down of a smug brother: "It's not like he invented the hat."  Maybe you need to read it in context, but I like it.

What makes it science fiction is that, in this world, Frankenstein existed, and Frankenstein's monsters are real, proto-domestic robots rather than brain-eating zombies.  The titular Faivish is one such creation, and the story is how the family learn from him, and he learns from them.  Hubris is avoided and the world is put right.

Now, I appreciate that there are no laser blasters defending the outer worlds of the Sadarog Empire against multi-dimensional beings.  It's not that kind of sci-fi.  Hence it's proved a difficult fit for many publications, witness its nomadic wandering in search of an editor who really wants a sci-if tale of 1970s New York Jewish tailors and their reanimated assistants, even if they don't know it.

But, as far as I'm concerned, it is sci-if.  I've blogged before about how science fiction is a broad church.  And whilst I find a lot of it, frankly, unreadable, I'll defend their right to nestle under that umbrella term.

To quote Analog's submissions guidelines: "We publish science fiction stories in which some aspect of future science or technology is so integral to the plot that, if that aspect were removed, the story would collapse. Try to picture Mary Shelley's Frankenstein without the science and you'll see what I mean. No story!"

They even use Frankenstein as an example.  In my case, remove Faivish and there's no story.  

So, when I see this rejection from Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores: "Thanks for submitting your story, but it does not contain any significant science fiction element - that element could be removed and the story would be essentially unaffected.  So, unfortunately, we will not be commenting.  Please submit stories to the correct genre" I almost fall off my chair.

Not the wrong kind of science fiction.  Or simply not good enough.  I could live with that, frequently have.  (The problem with being a broad church is that you're rarely sure whether you've sat in the right pew.  Yes, I know the theory is to familiarise yourself with the publication, but editors also don't want you to repeat what they've just published.  Square that circle, amigo.)  No, it's not even science fiction at all.

Well, if it's not sci-if... what the hell is it?

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