The Slopes of Gehenna

Mythology observes one of the cruelest punishments in the afterlife as pushing a boulder up the endless slopes of Gehenna, a wasteland of rock and brimstone. It is a pointless task, never-ending, yet one punished without pause or mercy for backsliding.

It’s a lonely undertaking, without respite.

Perhaps my energy reserves have momentarily ebbed, but that boulder feels especially resistant at present.

This month will determine the course of my career.

Harbinger, my novel, needs expansion by 20k words (my estimate) and a major re-edit. I have 25 days to do this.

My novella is presently being overhauled, with an ending that may need addressing because it drains the reader of hope. I have only days to complete this.

Anthologies, among them Shadow Box, must be completed, submitted, and/or distributed before the end of the month.

I have five major university assignments to complete. All in the next three weeks.

My short stories, even my absolute best ones, appear to be floating in the ether – either caught up with slow markets, or held for further consideration (which is a good thing). I have abandoned further short story editing/revisions until I clear my backlog.

On the positive side, I received a personalised rejection from Gordon Van Gelder (not JJA) at F&SF today. Also on the positive, since my stories are still out there, and they’re now vastly improved from my efforts of years past, I’m not being rejected. On the down side, I’m not being accepted either. Also on the negative, that personalised GVG rejection was one I’d hope to be a sale.

But I am not a name. Time and again, my work has been considered ‘well-written’, but from what I read, it differs from what is currently being published.

I have no idea if I’m making a difference, or if Ange and I are making a difference. It feels, except for the precious group of souls who regularly support our causes, that I stumble in the dark. A look at the Shadow Box contributor list puts this feeling into perspective. Those entrenched in the industry appear to maintain apathy, or at least a cautious wariness, or even ignorance. Yet a look at my biblio shows contributions to Aussie zines like Aurealis, AntipodeanSF, Borderlands, Daikaiju2, Shadowed Realms, Ticonderoga Online – and I pitch regular submissions at ASIM, Dark Animus, CSFG anthologies, and more. I promote all these, and the writers who appear in them, in venues like Hellnotes and HorrorScope.

Yet it’s the apathy, professional reservations, and lack of feedback that win every time. I’m reluctant to go to further cons or post on mailing lists because I feel no one wants to hear any more about the projects I’m involved with. Less than half the invited guests attented the SR#6 launch at Continuum this year, despite confirmations. One publisher refused to look at my collection, citing ‘inexperience’, without reading a single word of my work, despite their publication of writers with less ‘experience’ than me. I can’t help but think it had something to do with the timing of a proposed anthology that rivalled their own. I have so little spare time, due to producing zines and anthologies, that my own writing suffers, and I can’t ‘hang out’ on blogs and online like a regular person and actually make connections.

As I said, waning energy.

People tend to write from their own experiences, and I realised the other day my stories are about characters who have a sense of disconnection from the world. I have a sense of disconnection from the world.

This will indeed be a long month, but the time will fly too quickly. The equation is inevitable. Something will give. I will fail.

The boulder will continue to be pushed. When my energy returns, I shall push harder and try to gain purchase in the loose gravel.

But the slopes are ever steep, and I push my boulder alone.