Unanswered Prayers to the Dark God

I sit here brooding, counting the injustices inflicted on this world as it staggers from ineptitude to ineptitude. The idiot God dwelling in his lightless abyss has forsaken me once again. My prayers have fallen on deaf ears. It’s a good thing I’m an atheist, or I’d be sorely disappointed.

The piece of news that has fractured my serenity was a brief but apologetic email from the Aurealis Awards. Apparently Sobek’s Tears will not be considered for this years awards because the magazine in which it appears, Aurealis issue 33, has not yet hit the distribution trail. Mind you, this is magazine that has a cover date of October, which in turn was a double issue because a mid-year edition was cancelled. So there you have it. No doubt, Hear No Evil will suffer an identical fate as Borderlands 4 has the same timeliness issues – an e-draft copy was sent to me in October. Notices were put on ralan.com that the issue was imminently forthcoming, and yet, here we are at the end of November and nothing has materialised.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I have a lot of respect for the product put out by both magazines. They are both slick, professional-looking journals with high-editorial standards. It’s just that they are notoriously unreliable.

This leads me onto a wider-scope rant. Is it any wonder that Australia doesn’t currently have a professional magazine with an international reputation and wide acclaim? From what I understand, Eidolon suffered the same tardiness issues (before its demise). The only magazine currently putting out regular issues in Australia is Andromeda Spaceways.

So what is it about professionalism, or the lack thereof, in small press circles? My conclusion is purely attitude. There was discussion at the KSP SF group yesterday (which I facilitated by the way – my writing exercises went down a treat) about published amateurs and unpublished professionals. I firmly agree with the sentiments.

Excuses are for amateurs. Conduct is king, despite your experience.

Sure, people can say ‘Hey, we do this in our spare time. We have lives and jobs and families.’ Here’s a news flash – everyone has these same concerns. I am juggling the duties of writer, editor of Shadowed Realms and an anthology, and doing a full time course and a second part time one. Prior to that I was battling a stressful, managerial f/t job. And you know what? I’ve written a shiteload of material as a writer; have published two VERY punctual issues of a professional online magazine (including full line edits of the stories and creating the artwork for the mag); am actually AHEAD on my assignments at TAFE (and this was a two semester course condensed into one, so it has double the assignment load); and spent quality time with my family. The only things I must clear are the outstanding anthology stories, and a few Shadowed Realms submissions, but both are well within timeliness. I offer no excuses. It’s a simple case of following through on your commitments.

I guarantee this – when I’m more heavily into writing and publishing (whether it’s a proposed print magazine, or a foray into larger scale book publishing), I will never offer an excuse. It either gets done in the time frame, or it does not.

So why do such established magazines as the ones that currently exist have such haphazard production schedules. I’d venture a guess that they’re no one’s primary responsibility. It’s more than just writers that need to be considered in the scheme of things. There are subscribers (of which I’m one, to most Oz mags in fact) – paying customers with expectations of services delivered. If I buy a subscription for three issues a year, I damn well expect to see three issues in my mailbox before forking out more money. Then there are advertisers – people who are paying (and have timeframes) for the magazine to deliver a timely marketing message. I just can’t fathom how such operations stay in business when their business models exhibit little to no planning, risk management, or contingency plans.

Oh well… I’ll get back to my original rant.

With Sobek’s Tears out (and yes, I’d sent the manuscript to six different interstate judges and the awards director, at my own expense), and Hear No Evil perilously close to suffering a similar fate – I have nothing in this year’s awards. While shortlisting would have been a plus, it’s more a matter of reputation and getting my name out there and recognised. I have to admit, I’m pretty pissed though – both stories are amongst my finest, and I believed them to be in with a real chance.

I was offered a vague promise of something like ‘hopefully the Aurealis editor will send us a copy next year to save you reposting’ but hey, like I said, it either gets done or it doesn’t. I won’t hold my breath.

This now puts me in a bittersweet position of having a huge list of stories that will be entered in the 2005 awards. They’d better have a whole new category devoted to me, because I am going churn baby, churn, like there’s no tomorrow. I expect upwards of thirty stories to see print next year, perhaps more. And that’s just the stuff I have under consideration or acceptance now. It doesn’t even count the stuff I’ll be writing between now and then, including my stint at Clarion South. The judges will either just get sick of my entire body of work, or else I’ll inundate their pores. I’m not sure which will come first.

Oh, and Lee Battersby (at the KSP meeting) gave me a hint of what may have happened at the infamous Voldemort night at Clarion South this year. We discussed writing the most abhorrent story possible and sending at least two of my fellow attendees (or tutors) to their ‘happy place’. I’ve accepted that challenge. Indeed, fuelled on by my current mood, I’m sure I’ll be dredging up the worst of all humanly possible tales. On that note, my vile Victims of Circumstance may be selected to appear in an upcoming Shadowed Realms. It depends on Angela’s final judgement of course. You have be warned.