Wednesday 29 July 2015

I'll say this only once

Words written c33000
Stories completed 4
Rejections 65
Acceptances 1

One of the characteristics that makes the interweb what it is is the lack of social cues.  What I mean is the iterative process of judging what we should be doing by what other people are doing.  It’s what stops the A381 resembling a scene out of Mad Max, or John Lewis the Somme.  This is despite the emphasis on ‘social medja’.

Take social cues away and what do you have?  Well, I suppose the example that springs to mind first and foremost is trolling.  But there does appear to be some default within the human brain that goes after the easy-to-grab-hold-of negative example.  So, what about positives coming about from the lack of line of sight to what the cretin at the next desk is up to?

Which leads me to two instructions very commonly found in submission instructions to sci-fi magazines and small presses: no simultaneous submissions; and no multiple submissions.

The latter is a no brainer line not to cross - I think they’ll spot more than one submission coming their way!  But the former?

I don’t do it.  Honest.  Recently I even noticed that I had misread my spreadsheet and had sent off a story that was already out.  I almost had sleepless nights until a rejection from one came though.

But is this just me?  You won’t find a blog shouting out that their author is a serial multiple submitter, but am I just being naive?  Perhaps, in reality, everyone is at it.  What’s the biggest risk?  An apologetic withdrawal of a story should it be accepted twice?  (Take a look at the numbers above if you want to judge the likelihood of that).  Perhaps it’s like jaywalking - in America it’s a law whereas here in Britain it’s just a pragmatic approach to crossing the road.

Look at it this way.  I’ve had a story with since September 2013.  If every publisher took two years to respond I’d barely have a chance to get my wares out there before my sci-fi became historical fiction.  Surreptitious multiple submissions are very tempting.  How wrong is it?  And will it make me go blind?

The reality on response rates is somewhere between and Clarkesworld, of course.  But even so, authors all know the feeling of waiting for months to receive a ‘no thanks’, or worse, a ‘near miss’.

Again, the tally of completed stories has ticked up by one.  I’ve rewritten the near future military sci-fi mentioned in my last post to a far-future far-fetched tale for Cohesion Press’ SNAFU anthology.  Character names, location (now the dumbbell twin planets of Corobus Rama and Corobus Dala sharing an eccentric tumbling orbit around twin suns) and title have all changed.

I don’t currently have both stories out at the same time.  But what if I did?  They have strong similarities, but they aren’t the same story.  I’d probably withdraw one if the other got accepted, but until then... Would they be simultaneous submissions?  Is it just between my conscience and me?  After all, damned if I can see what everybody else is doing…

Wednesday 22 July 2015

Is there honey still for tea? A pessimist responds

Words written c32000
Stories completed 3
Rejections 59
Acceptances 1

As I may have said before, I don’t subscribe to a teleological viewpoint; in other words that we’re heading towards a better tomorrow, as opposed to just tomorrow.

Yes, you can’t unthink an idea or uninvent an invention, so in that sense we’re incrementally improving.  But, at the same time, you can run out of things forever like fresh water, dodos or human kindness.

Take ISIS or IS or ISIL or whatever they’re called this week.  There’s something mediaeval about them that makes the terrorists of my youth look positively gentlemanly.  No code words called in ten minutes in advance by this lot.

Regarding their defeat we seem to have a choice between repeating Vietnam - a lot of expensive military technology against an enemy that melts into the jungle (for jungle, read desert) - or World War One - throwing sufficient numbers of boots on the ground to take sufficient numbers of bullets in the chest.

In all honesty, I can’t see the former working, and I fear that we’ll end up with the latter.  The idea of armies fighting through shear weight of numbers is meant to be something we’ve moved on from.  Isn’t that the better tomorrow that the invention of nuclear weapons gave us?  The idea of conscription is meant to be up there with the barber-surgeon and phlogiston.  But then again, TB is back in vogue, so why not call-up papers?

I look at my eleven year old and sometimes think that, if these were the Edwardian years, he’d be a dead man walking.  It wouldn’t matter how clever and talented he was (and he is), if he were destined for Flanders he would be unilaterally entered into the most cruel of lotteries.  And, in those sunny early century summers, there’d be no way of suspecting.  All would seem well with the world.  How could we possibly end up there?

And who’s to say that we’re not there again?  Who’s to say that he won’t be fighting and dying in the Levant, one of tens of thousands?  Who’s to say that the drones and the smart bombs won’t work, and what will be required will be hand-to-hand combat?

I really hope that in ten years time this piece reads as paranoid rather than prescient.

Which leads me to the obligatory link back to the world of sci-fi, tenuous though it may be.  Dear reader, look back at the numbers which head this piece and you may observe that a third story has been completed; a near future military sci-fi yarn regarding the hubris of fighting the oncoming hordes of jihadists through the forests of Austria with technology.

Oh, and Clarkesworld, of course, have rejected it in less than twenty-four hours.  Business as usual, then…

Wednesday 1 July 2015

George Osborne's 7"

Words written c31000
Stories completed 2
Rejections 59
Acceptances 1

I am more often than not living my life six weeks or so in the past.

I’ve been watching David Lynch’s Lost Highway in occasional chunks (which really doesn’t lose any narrative sense), recorded off SyFy about six weeks ago, whilst – not simultaneously, I hasten to add - taking in a six-week old sermon from the Church of Wittertainment.  In that sermon Dr Kermode mentioned that Lost Highway garnered its best reviews when French critics were shown the reels in the wrong order.  Serendipity, huh?

What he failed to mention, however, was the similarity between Balthazar Getty and a young George Osborne.

Meanwhile, in a similarly aged copy of the Week, which I was reading in the bath, I noticed that a collection of every UK hit single ever, ever was going under the hammer (metaphorically); 27,000 7” singles were estimated at just £7,000 (they ended up going for a lot more).

During my youth I amassed a weighty collection of vinyl, often bought on the mere recommendation of Melody Maker, or even just on the strength of the name (little did I expect Daisy Hill Puppy Farm to turn out to be Icelandic proto-metal).  Most of it disappeared on eBay over the years for a lot more per disc than was being quoted. 

The reason is obvious, of course: what I sold was the willfully obscure, as opposed to the widely available, and a proportion had become very collectable.  (Unlike top 40 singles, which tended to leave buyers with a morning-after did-I-really-do-that feeling.)  For every Sidi Bou Said there was an early PJ Harvey; for every Faith Over Reason a Rough Trade Singles Club Catatonia.

But could you do that today?  Digital appears to have sucked the joy out of leafing through racks of records, considering the cover, the information, the label.  Not hearing it until it’s bought, paid for, and taken home in a plastic bag swinging from your hand.

Now we have the convenience of hearing it before buying – try explaining that that should be the end of the process.  Where’s the anticipation, the thrill of the hunt?  The sense of buying a gem, which can only come with the experience of buying more often than not, well, Daisy Hill Puppy Farm?

And, in what sense, can you buy a rare gem when it’s just ones and zeros, replicable an infinite number of times over?  I had vinyl that only a handful of others had, and unavailable to anyone running after the bandwagon.  Nowadays your download will be same as mine, even if I downloaded it after being one of three blokes seeing them in a pub, whereas you heard them on national radio.

Jimmy Voldemort (his name must not be uttered!) presciently said that Top of The Pops would last as long as people bought records, and he was right, although I suspect he meant ‘forever’ when he said it.

No more porky prime cuts in the run-off groove.  The youth of today just won’t understand those words…