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
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 tor.com 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 tor.com 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
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…
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…
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,
What he failed to mention, however, was the
similarity between Balthazar Getty and a young George Osborne.
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
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
No more porky prime cuts in the run-off
groove. The youth of today just
won’t understand those words…