Rites of passage
Crossing the divide from the obscurity of an unknown writer with no publishing credits, to neo-pro guy with a fistful of published short stories and a pending book deal is difficult. All the ‘how to’ books and online articles say this. In my castle of self-delusion, I thought it couldn’t possibly be THAT hard to crack the big time. I mean, quality writing is all ‘they’ look for, right?
Um, not exactly.
This is not a self-piteous rant. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I did however have one of my favourite stories, Sobek’s Tears, rejected by Ideomancer. This hot on the heels of another very promising story, Song of the Infernal Machine, being dumped within 24 hours by Chiaroscuro webzine.
Sobek’s rejection (Shane’s tears? *bad pun*), did kinda burn a little though. I was pleased to have a very personalised rejection, with a goodly number of comments about the story. Putting my ego aside for a moment, I was disappointed that the editor may not have read the story fully. I say this not to be spiteful (especially if said editor ever comes across this blog!), but to illustrate a few points. She mentioned the main character, Makhet, but named him Makhe every time in the email. She also pointed out some vagueness with the details. Try as I might (and I know I’m biased), I couldn’t for the life of me identify these vaguenesses (eg. 1. the number of tears he had – I described dozens at the start and made at least two direct references to the ‘2’ remaining tears at the end; eg. 2. where Makhet meets Sobek – this one actually had two passages – not paragraphs mind you, two passages – alluding to and describing their initial meeting).
This advice was intersperced with a couple of useful comments, such as POV and syntax. However, one thing burned more than the rest – the editor ‘was unable to infer any other theme than “certain gods be evil.”‘ I have a two-tiered response to that. Firstly (and this has to do with the whole ‘anti-literary’ argument I keep mentioning), why does a story have to contain a moral or a theme? Sure, many people like them. But many people also like ‘twist in the tail’ tales. The popularity of this story form among critics has declined since the mid 20th century. The other comment I have concerns the themes that WERE in there, such as the one-sided cultural ransoming the rise of the Judeo-Christian faith has extolled over Western (and world) civilisation. The story was a poignant question about the correctness of religious philosophy, a question on whether veracity and faith go hand in hand when it comes to religious propogation, and whether the dominant religions of today have such a stranglehold because of their ‘might makes right’ approach. ‘Certain Gods be evil’ is a very simplistic extraction from the original thematic undercurrent. Sobek’s Tears was also a pretty cool revenge story, but hey.
My main ‘concern’ with the story was its political correctness. If people assume Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ movie is anti-semitic, then I’m in for a major ear-bashing. The story is not an attack on a race of people, it is an attack on religion and its barbaric consequences. With the horror genre being so non-politically correct, this is not a genuine concern I hold.
So. This is a further example of ‘editor’s preference’. I have no problem with the concept. It’s just a problem when you’re not the flavour of the month. Every rejection is a learning experience. A rite of passage. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, it’s just the stumbling around in the dark which is the pain in the bum.
Following on from Sobek’s rejection, in a strange quirk of fate, I submitted it to Chiaroscuro webzine. The very zine that knocked back Song of the Infernal Machine so swiftly. I guess I’m just a sucker for punishment. I also knuckled down for more writing on the turning-out-to-be-fairly-long Alley of Dead Whores. It certainly is shaping up to it’s dreamy/nightmary subtitle. I should be finished with it in a few days (hopefully).
In other news, I updated my website this arvo with some speccy frames stuff that Jacqui showed me. Now the stories page is a little more sophisticated.
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