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Ellen
Posted on Monday, June 30, 2003 - 07:51 am:   

I added this second page as the first was (as Steve G pointed out) loading so slowly).
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Tim Akers
Posted on Monday, June 30, 2003 - 08:03 am:   

Well, that's one way to kill the thread, for sure. <g>
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Scott Carter
Posted on Monday, June 30, 2003 - 09:12 am:   

Regarding that "intangible something" that makes sellable stories stand out from the merely competent ones, I know exactly what you mean -- though I'm not sure I agree that a writer must have mastered the fundamentals before their stories stand out. I took a workshop a year ago from Gardner Dozois and Kris Rusch, and they referred to this as "voice." If you're in a crowed room, you'll be drawn to a distinct and interesting voice even if that person has wretched grammar. And then, after a while, even the flaws of their delivery become part of their voice.

Not saying mastering the fundamentals can't help, because it can, but I'm sure we've all seen plenty of writers who wouldn't be able to pass a high school grammar class and yet they tell incredible stories. It's partly why so many writers that come out of college English departments have trouble selling. Technically they're fine, but they've lost their voice. There's a blandness to their writing because their uniqueness has been pounded out of them by to much adherence to "the rules." I would know. I've spent years trying to undo the damage my own English degree did to me.

But yeah, I don't think you can teach it, though there's plenty of writers who have learned it. You can only find it by pounding the keys.
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Tim Akers
Posted on Monday, June 30, 2003 - 10:07 am:   

the best examples of this 'bad grammar' thing are thomas pynchon and e e cummings. But here's the key...those people *are* masters of the fundamentals. People look at cummings and think, well heck, writing poety is easy. And then they churn out a bunch of nonsensical tripe. cummings knew grammar, he knew poetic form, he knew the rules so well that he was able to break them perfectly.

Same thing applies to art. picasso was a mad cool artist, I think you'd agree. He was fully capable of realistic art, but he did something else. If he weren't so *traditionally* accomplished, his neuvo work would have sucked.

Writers too. It took me a long time to find my voice, to process and digest the various influences on my style. It's at the point where I no longer write *like* anyone. There were stages when you could say "oh, this guy likes gibson, or gaiman, or powers" but that doesn't apply anymore, I think. After years, I feel like I've finally arrived at a voice, and my god it feels good. of course, my wife says that in some ways my voice is my biggest weakness, cuz it's so...odd. Ah well.
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Maureen McHugh
Posted on Monday, June 30, 2003 - 11:05 am:   

I don't think a writer has to have a firm command of the fundamentals, I was just making the point that I wasn't making mistakes. (Well, except for comma splices.) And I think it's really detrimental for a writer to 'boost' a story by gimmick or accident and then have it sell, because they tend not to realize what they've done and then they try to sell gimmicks or identify the wrong things as what made the story publishable and keep trying to duplicate that. I've seen students do this, and the result is two or three sales to the pro level and lots of frustration.
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Maureen McHugh
Posted on Monday, June 30, 2003 - 11:09 am:   

Actually the good example of someone who wrote pretty badly but still had something was Theodore Dreiser. Hard to believe, when you read Dreiser, that he was writing only a couple of decades before James Joyce. He's clunky, clumsy, old fashioned, never shows when he can tell, and yet SISTER CARRIE is, for me, a compelling novel.

To me, Pynchon and e e cummings are not writers who make mistakes, they are stylists making unusual choices for specific and concious effect.
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Tim Akers
Posted on Monday, June 30, 2003 - 11:19 am:   

Yeah, that was my intention. Didn't say cummings and pynchon were making mistakes. I'm saying that they understood the rules so well that they were able to manipulate them appropriately. I think command of the fundamentals is important, personally, but that demonstration of that command has nothing to do with selling.
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BT
Posted on Monday, June 30, 2003 - 02:52 pm:   

Wow. A thread that began as a way for a frustrated writer to moan and could have turned into a flamefest became the most interesting thread on this bb and spawned an offspring!

Ellen, I'm curious: Do you reject manuscripts more for grammar problems or just-didn't-grab-you reasons?

I remember reading an old Agatha Christie novel years ago -- one of her first -- and was struck by how sloppy the writing seemed. There were stretches of nothing but speech between several characters that went on for page after page with no indication who was speaking. I found myself having to pay very close attention to every character's utterances and even having to backtrack to make sure I knew who was speaking. Now I don't know whether or not Christie intended it, but being forced to pay that extra attention to what everyone said and did really involved me more in the mystery and at the end I felt more of a pay-off.

Christie was a good enough puzzler that I could forgive the sloppiness. I read a few of her later books and it seems she got better at narrative flow, though she still liked long stretches of speech with only the occasional, "he said (adverb)ly."
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Ellen
Posted on Monday, June 30, 2003 - 07:27 pm:   

BT,
I reject mss for "just-didn't-grab-me" reasons--unless the grammar is so unintentionally bad that it distracts and therefore detracts from the story.

Imperfect grammar in dialog is allowable (depending on the character) as most people do not speak in perfect grammar. I've just asked an author who used what I considered "too formal" a phrase in dialog to change it to the contraction I thought the character would use.


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Rick Bowes
Posted on Tuesday, July 01, 2003 - 07:14 pm:   

MM wrote

"Actually the good example of someone who wrote pretty badly but still had something was Theodore Dreiser."

An even more extreme example is Eugene O'Neil, an Irishman without a gift for the gab, a playwright with as leaden a way with a line as any man who ever lived. Yet his ability to grab hold of a conflict, a weakness, a blind spot in his characters and not let go gives his best plays an immense power. Doesn't make for really jolly evenings in the theater, though.
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S. Hamm
Posted on Tuesday, July 01, 2003 - 08:36 pm:   

And the famous-est example of all would probably be Fyodor Dostoevsky, whose Russian prose was (by all reliable accounts) as turgid as it gets -- not that I'd know myself, having very little Russian.
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Rick Bowes
Posted on Tuesday, July 01, 2003 - 10:01 pm:   

S.Hamm, did you, as I did, first read the Russians - all the Russians - in Constance Garnett translations? Fairly early on she translated everybody - Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekov, Turgenev - into a kind of jolly sub-Dickensian English prose. They all sounded very much alike and quite British. On some level this didn't matter, WAR AND PEACE was still WAR AND PEACE. But it was kind of a surprise later to discover that their styles differed and that several of them loathed each other.
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S. Hamm
Posted on Tuesday, July 01, 2003 - 11:26 pm:   

R. Bowes, yes, I read a lot of Dostoevesky, and most of the Tolstoy I've read to date, in Constance Garnett translations, although I had the good fortune to be at Virginia when Andrew McAndrew was heading the Russian department and so first came to THE ADOLESCENT and THE BROS. K in his translations. I read the Andrew Field translation of Sologub's THE PETTY DEMON and the highly entertaining Mirra Ginsburg translations of the 20th-century Russians Miss Garnett did not live long enough to put her mitts on, Zamyatin and Bulgakov. More recently I have been very impressed with the new Pevear & Volokhonsky translations, even though I can barely keep up with them -- they are the new Garnetts, clearly bent on translating the entire canon, but have so far done very nicely by Gogol and Dostoevsky AND Chekhov AND Tolstoy. (Any day now they will get around to Saltykov's THE GOLOVLOVS.) And I also try to keep up with the new translations of EUGENE ONEGIN as they appear; the Falen, from nine or ten years ago, is just terrific.

Still remember the frisson I got, at 19 or so, reading the Royal Russian's denunciation of "Old Dusty" as an execrable stylist. Oh, to be so mandarin.
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Rick Bowes
Posted on Wednesday, July 02, 2003 - 06:49 am:   

Yeah, and a big surprise it was since I had thought Dusty wrote exactly the same way as everybody else in Russia.
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M. Bishop
Posted on Wednesday, July 02, 2003 - 06:58 am:   

I can recall reading First Circle (in translation, of course) and being absolutely confounded by the fact that a couple of Solzhenitsyn's complex sentences were so badly rendered that they lacked discoverable predicates, unless of course he wrote them that way in the original Russian (which strikes me as unlikely). Can't recall the translator's name and can't find my copy of the novel.
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R.Wilder
Posted on Wednesday, July 02, 2003 - 07:01 am:   

I'm holding off on "War and Peace" until a Pevear & Volkhonsky translation appears. I'm not sure they're working on one or planning on it, but I assume, given (as S.Hamm mentioned) that it appears that they're working the entire canon.
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Charles Coleman Finlay
Posted on Wednesday, July 02, 2003 - 10:58 am:   

Although I'm too late to dive into the pile-up on the nameless author who's mad at JJA, I'd like to mention that Tor rejected my first novel, all 900 pages of it, in four days. I sent it off to PNH on Tuesday and got the form rejection back on Friday. By contrast, they've had my second novel (via my agent) for about eighteen months now without a no. In neither case, do I feel like I have anything to complain about. They didn't need to read all 900 pages to know they couldn't sell the first book to readers. The second book was (in my current opinion) one rewrite short of sellable when they got it, worth holding onto even if it didn't grab the editor by the throat. That's how this business works.

I'd also echo Maureen that stories have to spark, like a live wire creating a connection between the author and the reader. Wish I could figure out the secret to that, if only to show people what it is. I know too many aspiring writers who just don't see it.

As far as Russian translations, I would only mention Pevear's translation of FIRST, SECOND by Daniil Kharms. Not to be overlooked just because it's a kids' picture book. Marc Rosenthal's illustrations are delightful. I think I'll go reread it now!
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Rick Bowes
Posted on Wednesday, July 02, 2003 - 11:25 am:   

Charlie, on the four day rejection, was it a solicited manuscript? Had they asked you to send it?
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Liz Williams
Posted on Wednesday, July 02, 2003 - 11:37 am:   

I will check with a Russian literary friend as to the Dostoevsky. My Russian is good enough to get me around, but not good enough to say whether someone's work is more turgid than the next person's...
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Charles Coleman Finlay
Posted on Wednesday, July 02, 2003 - 12:06 pm:   

Rick, it wasn't. In fact, this was maybe six or so years ago, quite a while before I made my first short story sale to F&SF. As I recall correctly, the submission guidelines I saw said to send them the entire MS as that was the only way they could evaluate it. I suspect those were out of date though, and all they really wanted was 50 pages and a synopsis. The quick return was doubly stunning because I had only included enough postage for media mail return, and they made up the difference to send it back first class.

Ah, well. There's still no more effective way to learn a lesson than to make mistakes.
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Michael Samerdyke
Posted on Wednesday, July 02, 2003 - 12:40 pm:   

From my memories of Russian class, Dostoyevsky was easily the most difficult to read in Russian. Tolstoy, particularly his "post-conversion" (post Anna Karenina)stories was the easiest. Chekhov clocked in somewhere in the middle.
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Rick Bowes
Posted on Wednesday, July 02, 2003 - 01:56 pm:   

I reread both ANNA KERENINA and CRIME AND PUNISHMENT many years after my first readings. Doubtless the translations were better. But the shock of the new that I got when I was 19 wasn't there. Even in mediocre translations, I think I read them at the perfect time for me.
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Rick Bowes
Posted on Wednesday, July 02, 2003 - 01:58 pm:   

"Ah, well. There's still no more effective way to learn a lesson than to make mistakes."

Hasn't worked in my case.
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John Langan
Posted on Wednesday, July 02, 2003 - 02:24 pm:   

I remember Dostoyevsky landing on me when I was a second semester freshman in college with all the force of an asteroid. It was the Magarshak (sp?) translation of The Brothers K, which was, as I recall, quite lucid. On some level, I don't think I've ever found my way out of that (translation) of that novel: part of me is still sitting listening to Father Zosima preach, still listening in on Ivan's conversation with the devil. I followed that with a half-decent translation of Notes from Underground (Michael Katz): that, too, spoke to me and still does. Unfortunately, I read the Garnett translation of Crime and Punishment, and have always intended to return to it when I found a new and better version.

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S. Hamm
Posted on Wednesday, July 02, 2003 - 03:45 pm:   

P&V did C&P about a decade ago. They have a new version of THE ADOLESCENT coming out in the fall.
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LHoney
Posted on Sunday, July 06, 2003 - 11:59 am:   

I would like to add that P & V's Brothers Karamazov is excellent reading, though I don't know how closely it matches the Russian (I can only cuss in Russian).

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Jeff
Posted on Wednesday, July 09, 2003 - 02:43 am:   

I just wanted to pick up on something Maureen McHugh wrote in the other thread about that intangible something that makes a story really catch someone's eye and how it relates to the standard editorial practice of judging a work by the first three paragraphs (or less).

Someone in the other thread mentioned that she, as a consumer, will do pretty much what editors do, that is she starts to read a story or a book and if it doesn't grab her, she passes. I think that's typical of what we all do. There's too much good writing to waste time with things we won't like.

However, it's true that some writers, and really I think all of the good ones, have a certain something, maybe "voice" is the right word, that separates them from the herd.

Regardless of what anyone might think of his writing, there's little doubt that Hemingway had a very strong voice. So strong, in fact, that we're still hearing it today. It's not unusual to see "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" cited as his best short story, and I just went back and read the first bit of it. Nothing but a rather odd item about a frozen leopard and some dialog, and we have, at that point, absolutely no idea of what the people are talking about, or even who the people are. In fact, the entire beginning, save one short paragraph, is all dialog and the reader has to infer what's hapenning.

The first two paragraphs of "The Three-Day Blow" offer very little in the sense of "grabbing" the reader. Someone named Nick picks up an apple and puts it in his coat. That's it.

So, my question for any editor out there reading this is what, exactly, compels someone to keep reading? Writing magazines often focus on the first three paragraphs, saying that you have to "grab" the reader there or your story will be rejected, and that, I suppose, is true. But does this mean that "The Three-Day Blow" would be rejected now? Or is there something more to it? I suspect that editors get quite a few stories that have too much in the first three paragraphs or so, things that should have been developed later. (I'm using Hemingway because I know his work pretty well and I figure almost everyone who majored in English had to read these two stories at some point, neither of them being obscure, and so they can provide a kind of common ground, a reference point that we all probably have.)

This is something I've wondered about for a while now, just how well Hemingway, or Raymond Carver, or any of a number of people would do in today's market which, I think, is a lot more competitive than before. Any insights?
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Judith Dubois
Posted on Wednesday, July 09, 2003 - 05:45 am:   

Jeff said about The Snows of Kilimanjaro : "went back and read the first bit of it. Nothing but a rather odd item about a frozen leopard and some dialog, and we have, at that point, absolutely no idea of what the people are talking about, or even who the people are. In fact, the entire beginning, save one short paragraph, is all dialog and the reader has to infer what's hapenning. "

Then he wondered if Hemingway could make it in today's market with that kind of beginning.

Although I seem to have "outgrown" Hemingway, or maybe it has something to do with his remark that the only thing a writer needs is balls, I still think that kind of opening can hook readers and editors. Hooking someone isn't about giving all the information right away. It's about wanting the reader to turn the page to find out who is talking and what they're talking about. and Hemingway isn't the only author who uses dialog as an opener. Off the top of my head, I remember that's how War and Peace starts. so Hemingway was in good company. Judith



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d.w.
Posted on Wednesday, July 09, 2003 - 08:00 am:   

I think anything that creates curiosity in the reader would do the trick. I recently read a novel that opened in the middle of a confrontation between two characters. It was like being in the grocery store and hearing two people begin to scream at each other. You just want to know what the argument is about.

I also always rubberneck when I'm passing the scene of an accident on the highway. I know I'm not supposed to do it, I know it's bad for traffic, etc. But there is nothing in the world that can stop me from checking it out as I pass. I don't know what the literary equivalent of an auto accident is, but if someone opens with it in a story they've got me hooked.
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Erik YOudal
Posted on Friday, July 11, 2003 - 03:15 pm:   

"Officious little prick" Jack Torrance thought.

That's how The Shining starts and it grabbed me right away. You understand from the beginning that Jack is at the mercy of this "prick" and it immediately makes you sympathise with him, as well as laying the groundwork for the whole story that follows.
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Matthew
Posted on Thursday, July 17, 2003 - 04:15 pm:   

What do you think are the best opening lines of a story:

my favorite: As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a giant insect.

other: All happy families are the same; all unhappy families are unhappy in there own way.
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J Akers
Posted on Thursday, July 17, 2003 - 04:28 pm:   

Without any doubts...

He doesn't know which of us I am these days, but they know one truth. You must own nothing but yourself. You must make your own life, live your own life and die your own death...or else you will die another's
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J Akers
Posted on Thursday, July 17, 2003 - 04:28 pm:   

. Forgot the period.

:-)
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Chris Dodson
Posted on Thursday, July 17, 2003 - 05:50 pm:   

"I met her at a businesspersons' orgy in London."

-- Michael Swanwick, "Wild Minds"
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Erik Youdal
Posted on Thursday, July 17, 2003 - 10:00 pm:   

Mathew,

I recognize Metamorphosis, but the other line about unhappy families I can't place. It's gonna bug me until you let me know, or I remember it.
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Rich Patterson
Posted on Thursday, July 17, 2003 - 10:31 pm:   

Erik,

"All happy families are the same; all unhappy families are unhappy in there own way."

It's the first line of "Anna Karenin".
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Thomas R
Posted on Friday, July 18, 2003 - 12:39 am:   

Yes indeed, well I think it's spelled Karenina. It's kind of become more famous as a saying then a first line.

Oddly there are several stories I've read with killer first lines, but where the rest of the story fails to live up to it. In some cases that's because the first line is neat because it's out there and off the wall, making a story that fits something like that without being annoying is fairly difficult.

I can't think of a good first line to a good story offhand. Kind of peculiar, although I do remember Cordwainer Smith and I believe Alfred Bester had some. I should probably think of a more modern or literary author. I'll get back to you.

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Rich Patterson
Posted on Friday, July 18, 2003 - 01:53 am:   

Thomas,

On the “a” in Karenin(a):

It’s been a long time since I’ve read Nabakov’s lectures, but I seem to remember that he always maintained (correctly, I believe) that since “Karenin” is her husbands last name and not her patronymic (that would be Arkadievna), it should not be given some kind of weird feminine ending.

I did a quick search on Google and spotted this quote from VN....

"I planted three blunders, meant to ridicule mistranslations of Russian classics, in the first paragraph of my Ada: the opening sentence of Anna Karenin (no additional "a," printer, she was not a ballerina) is turned inside out; Anna Arkadievna's patronymic is given a grotesque masculine ending; and the title of Tolstoy's family chronicle has been botched by the invented Stoner or Lower (I must have received at least a dozen letters with clarifications and corrections from indignant or puzzled readers, some of them of Russian origin, who never read Ada beyond the first page)."

You're right. The book is more commonly referred to by the title "Anna Karenina".
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R.Wilder
Posted on Friday, July 18, 2003 - 09:09 am:   

Harlan Ellison is a master at writing first lines that hook the reader in. I recall an essay on the early years of Clarion where he describes an exercise where students are instructed to write several killer introductory sentences. Ed Bryant was one of those students and got the first line of "Cinnabar" out of that exercise.
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Nathan Ballingrud
Posted on Friday, July 18, 2003 - 10:44 am:   

"A gentle breeze from the north-east after a night of rain, and the washed sky over Malta had a particular quality in its light that sharpened the lines of the noble buildings, bringing out all the virtue of the stone; the air too was a delight to breathe, and the city of Valletta was as cheerful as though it were fortunate in love or as though it had suddenly heard good news."
-- Patrick O'Brian, Treason's Harbor

Not flashy, granted, but beautiful. One of my favorites.
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Nathan Ballingrud
Posted on Friday, July 18, 2003 - 10:55 am:   

Also:

"One never knows when the blow may fall. When I saw Rollo Martins first I made this note on him for my security police files: 'In normal circumstances a cheerful fool. Drinks too much and may cause a little trouble. Whenever a woman passes raises his eyes and makes some comment, but I get the impression that really he'd rather not be bothered. Has never really grown up and perhaps that accounts for the way he worshiped Lime.' I wrote there that phrase 'in normal circumstances' because I met him first at Harry Lime's funeral. It was February, and the gravediggers had been forced to use electric drills to open the frozen ground in Vienna's Central Cemetery. It was as if even nature were doing its best to reject Lime, but we got him in at last and laid the earth back on him like bricks."
-- Graham Greene, The Third Man

Okay, more than a sentence, but it's so economical and so packed with promising morsels. I especially love the detail about the electric drills.
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Matthew
Posted on Friday, July 18, 2003 - 01:54 pm:   

The thing that I like about Metamorphesis begining is that in some ways it is ironic (not sure that is the right word). Here we have a person awakening from sleep into a nightmare. 'The Trial' also begins that way.
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Nicholas Paris
Posted on Friday, July 18, 2003 - 03:12 pm:   

"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen." Not sure it gets better than that.

When i think of great openings (not necessarily just great opening lines) Jonthan Carroll's After Silence is one that pops up right away. "How much does a life weigh?" That's a great line, but the whole opening paragraph is fantastic.
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Bob
Posted on Saturday, July 19, 2003 - 10:24 am:   

Horselover Fat's nervous breakdown began the day he got the phonecall from Gloria asking if he had any Nembutals. He asked her why she wanted them and she said that she intended to kill herself. She was calling everyone she knew. By now she had fifty of them, but she needed thirty or forty more to be on the safe side.
P.K. Dick, Valis
I wouldn't normally think of Dick as an example of exemplary prose, but this opening paragraph FORCED me to read on.
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Nathan Ballingrud
Posted on Saturday, July 19, 2003 - 02:21 pm:   

Bob, yes! I'd forgotten about that one.
How about this one, in a rather different vein -- more in the classic pulp style:

It's raining in Washington tonight. Plump, warm summer rain that covers the sidewalks with leopard spots. Downtown, elderly ladies carry their houseplants out to set them on the fire escapes, as if they were infirm relatives or boy kings.
I like that.
My name is Jason Woodrue. Doctor Jason Woodrue. I'm here in my apartment. I'm watching the rain . . . and I'm thinking about the old man. He'll be pounding on the glass right about now . . . or maybe not now. Maybe in a while. But he'll be pounding and . . . and will there be blood? I like to imagine so. Yes, I rather think there'll be blood. Lots of blood.
Blood in extraordinary quantities.

Those are from Alan Moore's first few panels from his first story in the "Saga of the Swamp Thing" comic, called "The Anatomy Lesson." Bursting with pulpy goodness!
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Matthew
Posted on Saturday, July 19, 2003 - 02:50 pm:   

I believe that comic was the first thing I ever read by Alan Moore.
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ben peek
Posted on Saturday, July 19, 2003 - 08:12 pm:   

the first line of jonathan carroll's OUTSIDE THE DOG MUSEUM has always been a favourite of mine. i don't know if i can remember straight off the top of my head, but it's something like, 'I had just bitten the hand the fed me when God called, again.'

very cool.

but you know, somtimes a killer first line can be a set back, too, because it then takes the author like two pages to explain it. (and in some short stories, the whole story can be a justification for the first line.) something to look out for that.
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J Akers
Posted on Monday, July 21, 2003 - 05:22 pm:   

Well...I don't know if this is a good sign or not.

Either my work is getting better or the person who started this thread really made JJA feel bad. I'm not complaining either way, just a little more confused than is typically normal (for me at least).

Without getting into too much detail, the last two rejection slips I got had specifics that one would only know had one read the entire story.

So either my stories are now interesting enough to read to the end or they always have been and I just didn't know it.

Either way, I thought it was cool and if you are reading JJA, thanks.

J
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Matt Hughes
Posted on Wednesday, August 06, 2003 - 02:18 pm:   

I'm coming into this thread late, having just found this message board.

I've just sold my first fantasy story to Gordon Van Gelder. It's the first fantasy story I've ever submitted to a magazine, although I have published two fantasy paperback originals (Fools Errant and Fool Me Twice, Warner Aspect, 2001) which sank with all hands, as well as a half dozen crime fiction shorts a few years ago.

I'm nobody's idea of a big, established name. I can only assume GVG bought the piece because he liked it and thought some of F&SF's readers would like it too.
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Maureen McHugh
Posted on Wednesday, August 06, 2003 - 02:27 pm:   

Congrats on the sale, Matt. If you came out of the slush, you're right, it's because Gordon read it and liked it.
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Bob
Posted on Wednesday, August 06, 2003 - 09:12 pm:   

Yup. Big time congrats, Matt. Considering Gordon's track record with F&SF, you can be assured your story must flat out rock.
Look forward to seeing it.
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Scott E. Miller
Posted on Thursday, August 07, 2003 - 12:06 am:   

You know, I always appreciate JJA's promptness, as well as his comments on the rejection letters I invariably get. I haven't made a pro sale yet, but the promptness is great (I don't have to wait, and can send the MS on), and the comments usually give some good advice or encouragement. Keep on doing the good work, JJA.

My other comment is, by now, a bit OT but I'd like to ask anyway: I inadvertantly made the same blunder another poster did (i.e. sent a story to Asimov's, waited four months--April to last week--and sent it on, which I now know I shouldn't have done) and am wondering if it would be better to send a letter to Gardner or an e-mail, asking about the story's status (if he can remember it--I'd hate to see his slush pile). I think a letter would be probably be better and more professional, but I thought I'd ask some pros first and see what came up.
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Scott E. Miller
Posted on Thursday, August 07, 2003 - 12:38 am:   

Quick note: It's Asimov's policy not to keep records of submissions (I forgot). Never mind (sheepish smile... shuffles out of room quickly).

I think I'll pop 'round to the Asimov's forum and ask there (probably what I should have done in the first place, but, I never claimed to be a genius... far from it, sadly).
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Thomas R
Posted on Thursday, August 07, 2003 - 12:49 am:   

I think he once said after that long you can consider it lost, but I'm uncertain.
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Sean Melican
Posted on Saturday, August 09, 2003 - 08:20 am:   

Hi y'all. Normally I get a rejection in four days. But, I sent a story out on July 29 and it's still not back yet. I'd like to know if it got lost or what. I tried emailing, but haven't gotten a response. Should I send good ol' snail mail?

Sean Melican
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Thomas R
Posted on Saturday, August 09, 2003 - 12:29 pm:   

Sean, July 29 was not that long ago. In least wait a couple more weeks to query. I know FSF is fast, but even they sometimes take longer than usual.

Also think of the rejectomancy! The fact it's taken over a week this time could mean they like it. Or in least that's a normal thing people tell themselves in such cases.
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Bob
Posted on Sunday, August 10, 2003 - 04:41 am:   

Yeah, I sent one out on the 21st and haven't heard back yet. Not that I mind, since I'm used to waiting months, rather than weeks.
If they're not answering e-mails, perhaps they're off to Armadillocon. I know both Ellen and Lucius are there, why not Gordon and JJA?
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Tanya Andrews
Posted on Wednesday, August 13, 2003 - 04:34 pm:   

I just found this place. Wow. Fantastic! (I gotta admit I'm a little star-struck. Ellen Datlow? For real? Wow. Did I say that already?)

Thomas R, I think 'rejectomancy' is a fabulous word - did you come up with it? I have just started dabbling in rejectomancy, having sent out three stories and received two rejections so far. One rejection took eleven months, which has taught me patience and levity!

On the topic of stunning story beginnings, I've lately read a number of stories that have a great beginning, but the rest of the piece fails to satisfy. I think the writers that go for the 'shock' approach need to follow up with the 'awe' that makes me feel like it's been a privilege to read the story. Otherwise, I feel like I've been taken advantage of.
In fact, sometimes it's nice when the story sneaks up on you and hits you when you're vulnerable. But every story is different.

Nice to meet you all, by the way.
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Thomas R
Posted on Wednesday, August 13, 2003 - 05:03 pm:   

Alas no. I think I heard "rejectomancy" first on Speculations Rumor Mill. Or maybe it was the Asimov's board. It's not a word I use often.
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Sean Melican
Posted on Wednesday, August 13, 2003 - 07:14 pm:   

Thomas: Actually, by F&SF standards, July 29 was a lifetime ago.

I have heard from a couple of friends who sent stories in about the same time, and they have not heard either. So I no longer fear the USPS has erred; nor do I read much into it. (And no, then I'm not normal.) But still, there is always hope.

Curiously, all the people I've heard from, save one, are members of the Clarion 2003 class. Someone, who I won't name unless he would like me to, suggeted that Mr. Van Gelder is saving it all up to do a Clarion 2003 special issue. Now wouldn't that be cool? (For us, I mean. For you, maybe not.)

Hint, hint, nudge, nudge to the powers that be.
*grin*

Sean
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Thomas R
Posted on Wednesday, August 13, 2003 - 07:30 pm:   

It's long in FSF terms, but I'm pretty I've had it take 2 or 3 weeks to get my FSF rejection. I haven't submitted to them for awhile though. (I was working on something to send them, but it seems permanently stalled)
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bluejack
Posted on Wednesday, August 13, 2003 - 09:23 pm:   

Remember that some people go on vacation this time of year. I bet they're all taking a breather after having gotten the double issue finished.
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wonderingwhy
Posted on Thursday, August 14, 2003 - 05:18 am:   

Thomas R

What does being pretty have to do with it?

(I'm just kidding of course. We know you meant pretty sure and you can't edit posts here).
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Sean Melican
Posted on Thursday, August 14, 2003 - 09:41 am:   

Just got a message. Yeah, they were on vacation.

Sean
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Gorden Russell
Posted on Thursday, August 21, 2003 - 09:47 pm:   

So would 'rejectomancy' refer to looking into the entrails of a dove to see why an editor didn't like your story...or perhaps it means to study the entrails of the editor? This could be more grisly than the student body mentioned by Professor Strunk.
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Thomas R
Posted on Friday, August 22, 2003 - 01:24 am:   

Basically rejectomancy is a sarcastic term for those who seek hidden meaning in how long it took to get a response or the wording of the response. Although people seem to most make the analogy with entrails, of the "mancies" I know I think it's probably most like geomancy. That just involved studying the patterns of the Earth or more actively throwing dirt and studying that pattern. Nothing had to die, well I don't think, so it's one of the more benign variants. Granted to truly fit that analogy rejectomancy would involve studying the pattern of words not the actual content of them. (As in "The words in it starting with a letter 'g' form a diagonal line, that's a good omen") I've seen no one that crazy so far.

And no I'm not some woo woo occultists. I'm a historian with an interest in China. Geomancy and divination were at times important to them. As a whole the term "rejectomancy" is just sarcasm or jest. A way of saying "you're reading into this way too much."

Hmmm that post was way too serious. Apologies.
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Timothy L.
Posted on Friday, August 22, 2003 - 07:18 am:   

Hello, all. I am new to this sci-fi thing and I want to send a story to Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

To be sure it has arrived, how does one get a "return reciept requested" when mailing to a PO Box?

I also noticed, above, all kinds of waiting time for a reply. Any idea how this mag fares in that respect?
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Nicholas Liu
Posted on Friday, August 22, 2003 - 10:18 am:   

Fastest pro market in the field; possibly the fastest market, period.
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Timothy L.
Posted on Friday, August 22, 2003 - 10:32 am:   

Thanks Nicholas! Oh, BTW the post office said you can send certified mail to a PO Box. So I did.

Now, don't all trip over yourselves wishing me good luck, LOL!

Tim
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Timothy L.
Posted on Friday, August 22, 2003 - 11:08 am:   

Nice going Matt!
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Jamie Rosen
Posted on Friday, August 22, 2003 - 08:26 pm:   

For future reference, generally one just sends normal mail and hopes for the best. As far as I know, certified mail, etc. is frowned upon at most mags.
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Neal Stanifer
Posted on Friday, August 22, 2003 - 10:19 pm:   

Yep, just take a gamble. And I've never had to wait more than two weeks before getting the coveted JJA rejection notice. Quickest market in the biz.
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Timothy L.
Posted on Saturday, August 23, 2003 - 10:10 am:   

I'll have to hope they don't hold it against me for the certified mail. I'll swear the devil made me do it! LOL!
One other question, I feel I have hit on an interesting story line, (I'll keep it to myself if you don't mind), and my short stories are episodic in the sense if you read the first the rest follow easily. My guess was, if a mag likes the first, the others will follow along.

Is this good or bad reasoning?
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Nicholas Liu
Posted on Saturday, August 23, 2003 - 11:03 am:   

If they buy the first one, good. If they don't, bad.
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Timothy L.
Posted on Saturday, August 23, 2003 - 02:27 pm:   

Nicholas, and anyone else, my concern was that because the basic premise is set up in the first story, the follow-ups would have something missing to be complete to the reader.

I had planned, when I wrote the first story, to make it an anthology. All the stories in the book would center on this particular set of circumstances set up in story one and my character would set out on adventures based in the original groundwork.

I'm not looking for absolution, just how it might play out in a sci-fi mag. Is this kind of "chapter-ization" a normal occurance in these periodicals? I have not read them long enough to know.

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Timothy L.
Posted on Saturday, August 23, 2003 - 02:44 pm:   

Opening passages truly are important. This is one of mine, and I'd be interested in a critique!

"Try as it may, actual direct sunlight rarely makes it down to the streets this time of year in lower Manhattan. What pathetic spits and strips of late autumn daylight do manage to filter their way past the edifice spires of commerce, is greedily soaked up by grungy gray granite and tarnished tan sandstone that has been sculpted into man made concrete canyons forming the giant structures of “The Street“.

Only five weeks into his 34th year, Kenny Desantis, a cocky and confident investigator on his lunch hour from a Manhattan law firm has wound his way through the convoluted and too narrow former cow paths now renamed into streets.
Laid out hundreds of years ago, these so-called streets between the buildings of finance and law are saddled with equally odd names like Beaver, Exchange Place, and Coentes Slip.

Reaching his destination, Desantis enters the crowded old-fashioned pub known as The Irish Rose. Despite its quaint ethnic name, the Rose is not an old family owned local establishment with a long historical pedigree, but one a string of identically laid out saloons going by a corporate name.
Desantis originally hoofed it here not for the beer, which was the Irish Roses‘ main stock in trade, but for the lean corned beef and cracked rye bread made in heaven and served in heaping piles on mismatched, chipped oversized plates at the long wooden bar. Kenny loves to eat, and the boisterous fun of other lunchtime “60-minute parolees” one manages to find in a good saloon, certainly didn’t hurt this almost daily experience either!"

T.L.
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critic
Posted on Sunday, August 24, 2003 - 04:04 am:   

I liked this, but the alliteration is too much, I think, in the following:

...grungy gray granite and tarnished tan sandstone that has been sculpted into man made concrete canyons...

One is fine'; two okaaaay; but three...
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Timothy L.
Posted on Sunday, August 24, 2003 - 09:57 am:   

critic: Thank you for your view. Anyone else?

I'm not some thin-skinned person, and I will be glad to hear any thoughts; good or bad.

We learn from others who give reasoned replies.

Tim L.
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Mark H
Posted on Sunday, August 24, 2003 - 10:41 am:   

Tim,

you may consider joining a real online workshop like Critters to receive feedback on your writing.

Posting portions of a story in the message forum of its potential market seems to me a little bit like being caught with your pants down, so I guess people are rather reluctant to comment.

Mark
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Timothy L.
Posted on Sunday, August 24, 2003 - 11:27 am:   

Thanks Mark, I'll check it out.

Tim L.
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Timothy L.
Posted on Sunday, August 24, 2003 - 11:49 am:   

Mark, I signed up at Critters, but posting your work in an open forum like that bothers me a little bit.

Too easy to have your work stolen; assuming it's worth stealing.

What I posted here was not a sci-fi story, but the opening from a mystery novel I'm working on.

Thanks again.
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Jamie Rosen
Posted on Sunday, August 24, 2003 - 08:53 pm:   

Critters isn't technically an "open forum" because it requires a password, etc. Markets generally accept stories that have been Crittered, whereas one that's been posted to an "open forum" such as this one are considered previously published.

As for a story at Critters being stolen, that would be pretty dumb, since there'd be a record of your having submitted it to Critters. A record of who wrote it, plus a record of who stole it (since they'd need to give their name to get paid) seems like it would be a bad combination for the would-be thief.

I will, however, say that the quality of critiquing at Critters varies wildly. I just joined, but haven't had one of my stories go through yet -- I'm basing this off of the critiques of other stories I've seen.
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old meanie
Posted on Sunday, August 24, 2003 - 09:12 pm:   

Hey Timothy:
Forgive the public nitpicking, but you didn't provide an email address with your posts, so this couldn't be sent privately:
#1: What you're talking about is a COLLECTION, not an ANTHOLOGY (antho implies more than one author). You should get the basics right if you want to be taken seriously.
#2: If you're going to use and abuse the term "sci-fi," you should know it carries negative connotation to folks who've been around more than a couple of years. The short version: the term "sci-fi" was coined by Forrest J. Ackerman to label the scifi B-movies he was helping create in the 50s(?), and many people who are aware of this do not appreciate the written fiction being stigmatized with the label. (Though in truth, this historical connotation is fading . . . )
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Thomas R
Posted on Sunday, August 24, 2003 - 09:28 pm:   

Timothy: As for me I say use the term sci-fi. Most people in the real world don't know what SF means. Calling it "SF" is a bad habit I'd really like to break myself of. In the real world when I use that term people are just confused. They're as likely to guess San Francisco as science fiction. Which is sensible. SF is so vague it could mean anything. It's one of the most worthless abbreviations conceived. The full name would be best if your in a crew that gets the vapors over "Sci-Fi."

So in short do not, repeat NOT, let a bunch of pedantic sillies talk you into the bad habit of calling it SF. I still haven't completely broken myself of the habit. Keep calling it Sci-Fi as long as you can. (As for it's origin who cares? It's more useful and less cryptic than SF)

As for the rest I have no comment.
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Nicholas Liu
Posted on Sunday, August 24, 2003 - 11:09 pm:   

Myself, I'd much rather call it speculative fiction and be done with it.
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Timothy L.
Posted on Monday, August 25, 2003 - 06:38 am:   

old meanie: nitts you pick, is correct. My dictionary says:

ANTHOLOGY Nown:
A collection of selected literary passages

If the literary world has given the meaning a different slant, then so be it.

OK folks, is it COLLECTION, or ANTHOLOGY?
I certainly would NOT like to step on any literary toes! LOL!

Same for Sci-Fi, it's been in MY lexicon for many years, and I'll keep it if you don't mind
------------------------------
Jamie: I hadn't read the lengthly e-mail from critters as yet, so I was not aware of the safeguards you mentioned.
Thanks for the info.


Tim L.

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Neal Stanifer
Posted on Monday, August 25, 2003 - 07:48 am:   

Timothy, anthologies are generally acknowledged, both in and out of "the literary world," to be collected works by different authors, as in the cases of the Norton Anthologies of [Your Favorite Literary Period or Genre] or any of the Year's Best anthologies. You could almost certainly get away with calling an anthology a collection, but it doesn't work the other way around. Single-author collections are not anthologies. Now, if you happen to have Multiple-Personality Disorder, or if you are channeling the spirits of wise ancients, I suppose all bets are off.

As for Sci-Fi, I see meanie's point, but I side with Thomas R (for a change). Though I avoid using "Sci-Fi" in my academic writing (too chatty for puffed-up LitCrit), I acknowledge its coinage, and I would no sooner upbraid someone for using it to describe Science Fiction than I would offer unsolicited corrections to an Australian on his pronunciation of the word "aluminum." "Aluminium" works just as well, as does "Sci-Fi."

As for "speculative fiction," I just can't say it. To my ear, it carries a jarring chord of pretention and defensiveness I just can't make myself endorse.
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Timothy L.
Posted on Monday, August 25, 2003 - 08:09 am:   

Neal: As a newbie to this genre, I shall abide by the accepted norm and call it a COLLECTION!

That said, I have sent the first story of my collection to Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, And I am all a'twitter with anticipation!

Of course, (he said, with deep humility), it's a fantastic story and a new twist I came across from, (sort of), a Dom Delilo novel I read sometime back. It takes loads of research to pull off correctly, but I'd like to think by the reaction I got so far from a group of test readers I have hit on a winner! I know, an an editor is different, but here's hoping.

Not being modest is, I think, a must in this business if you want to succeed. Talent helps but if you don't have a great deal of faith in yourself, find a new field.


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ET
Posted on Monday, August 25, 2003 - 08:32 am:   

There's no contradiction between having faith in yourself and being modest. Plus when you think that you have work to do to improve, you're more likely to do that.
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Timothy L.
Posted on Monday, August 25, 2003 - 09:28 am:   

ET: Maybe I should have substituted, "confident" for "modest".

In any event, anyone who thinks they have reached some kind of "pinnacle" in whatever they do, they are only fooling themselves. I've been around for more than a few summers, and I learn something NEW every day.

ET, have you ever put some work into ANY project and not thought of it as "great"? In my view anyone who does something and says it's just OK, is bound to be disappointed. In other words, don't you do your best any and everytime?

Tim L.
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Mark H
Posted on Monday, August 25, 2003 - 10:13 am:   

But how do you improve your writing when you think that your current projects couldn't be any better? If there actually is nothing to improve...
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Nicholas Liu
Posted on Monday, August 25, 2003 - 10:14 am:   

Neal: "As for "speculative fiction," I just can't say it. To my ear, it carries a jarring chord of pretention and defensiveness I just can't make myself endorse."

Why do you say this?
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Neal Stanifer
Posted on Monday, August 25, 2003 - 11:09 am:   

Nicholas, my opposition to Spec Fic is entirely subjective. The first time I heard the term employed, it was by a rather priggish fellow academic (or is that a fellow rather priggish academic?) who wanted to distance herself from the taint of genre fiction while comparing Joanna Russ with Judith Merrill.

Nor was that the last time its use left a bad taste in my mouth, but the first instance produced the strongest impression, and it's come to seem (for me) like a dodge, rather like refering to comic books as "graphic narratives" because we refuse to admit we read comics. Or worse yet, like a staking of some aesthetic high ground. I know that's not fair to those who use it in a more catholic, egalitarian sense, but there it is.

Since then, I've come to wonder precisely what sort of fiction is not speculative, given the necessarily fictive nature of fiction. And I can't help thinking that "speculative fiction," at least as I've come to think of it, is a term which would never have been necessary without the tyranny of Naturalism and Realism, the illusion (delusion?) that some fiction is less fictive than other fiction.

You may disagree with this, and I would love to hear your reasoning, but as I say, my aversion to the term is less carefully-examined than I'd like to admit. And if I thought the term were in the least necessary or useful, I'd probably feel really bad about that.
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Jamie Rosen
Posted on Monday, August 25, 2003 - 11:27 am:   

I'm intrigued by the context of your first encounter -- I'm guessing it was a negative comparison for Merrill? I'm curious because, IIRC, she's the one generally credited with coining "speculative fiction" in the first place...
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ol' meanie
Posted on Monday, August 25, 2003 - 11:43 am:   

Merrill certainly is the one most credited with pushing the term "speculative fiction"
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Timothy L.
Posted on Monday, August 25, 2003 - 12:46 pm:   

Mark H.: You must have missed this part of my post.

"In any event, anyone who thinks they have reached some kind of "pinnacle" in whatever they do, they are only fooling themselves. I've been around for more than a few summers, and I learn something NEW every day."

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Timothy L.
Posted on Monday, August 25, 2003 - 01:17 pm:   

Or maybe this part:

"In other words, don't you do your best any and everytime?"

Did you read it at all?
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Neal Stanifer
Posted on Monday, August 25, 2003 - 01:32 pm:   

Jamie, Russ actually got the short end of the stick for reasons I don't clearly recall. They probably had something to do with Russ being too butch for the person I was speaking with, who was something of a Butterfly Power Barbie who mistook herself for a feminist. Don't quote me on that, though; it might be merely a speculative fiction.
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Nicholas Liu
Posted on Monday, August 25, 2003 - 01:42 pm:   

My reason for using the term "speculative fiction" is simple: it serves as a useful umbrella term for sf/f/h (and other strange things like slipstream, magic realism, etc.) without distinguishing between the three (or four, or six, or. . . .). That's all there is to it, really. Literary politics be damned.
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Mark H
Posted on Monday, August 25, 2003 - 02:10 pm:   

Timothy, no I just read that one remaining sentence... ;)

... and it contradicts the other parts, don't you think?

At one point you have to get back to one of that great stories, which was probably as good as your talents allowed at that time. Isn't there a contradiction in how you felt about that story right after you finished it and when you look at it from a more experienced perspective?

And if that is really a process that repeats itself, then don't you feel like cheating yourself?

What do you think about rewrites, for instance?

Feel free to ignore me if I got you wrong again...
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Thomas R
Posted on Monday, August 25, 2003 - 02:59 pm:   

Heinlein thought up speculative fiction. One of his few good ideas, as he originally conceived it.

Essentially he, and others, noticed many stories labeled SF were really speculations on non-scientific topics. Things like Alternate History, imaginary societies, etc. They had similarities to SF, but couldn't really be called "science" fiction. So speculative fiction seemed like a nice term to encompass them.

Unfortunately it later became a way for people to write SF and still look down on science fiction. Like Atwood who claims she writes speculative fiction, but science fiction is beneath her dignity.

It also has become a far broader term than originally intended. Everything from Robert Jordan to Gabriel Garcia Marquez can be labeled "Speculative Fiction." As such the term has, I think unfortunately, become next to meaningless.
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Neal Stanifer
Posted on Monday, August 25, 2003 - 05:42 pm:   

Nicholas, I hear you. Genre distinctions can become restrictive if we let them.

Of course, if we really wanted to give the bird to literary politics, couldn't we just say we write fiction?

Or if that becomes too closely associated with mainstream literary fiction, perhaps we could say we write stuff.

Personally, when asked what I write (which I never am), I just grunt and point, usually at my own manuscripts, or at other nearby objects and people when my writing isn't handy.

Naturally, I run into problems trying to market my work this way.
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Nicholas Liu
Posted on Monday, August 25, 2003 - 10:00 pm:   

But see, I don't want to "give the bird to literary politics". I just want to be a term that says "writing that is fantastical (or at least not "realistic")" without bringing in too many genre distinctions. I don't like to distinguish between science fiction, fantasy and horror. I could say "fantastical fiction", but that would have heavy fantasy overtones (plus it would sound both silly and pretentious). I could say "non-realistic fiction", but that has the wrong connotations altogether. So I use "speculative fiction", because it describes what I'm talking about, and hey, it's already there.
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ET
Posted on Tuesday, August 26, 2003 - 01:41 am:   

> ET, have you ever put some work into ANY project and not thought of it as "great"? In my view anyone who does something and says it's just OK, is bound to be disappointed. In other words, don't you do your best any and everytime?

Of course I always think everything I write is good. :-) But I also realise that it's not true. I know that there are better stories and better writers, and I know that I can become better. That's why I let my stories get critiqued.

I don't think it's a recipe for disappointment. On the contrary, if you truly believe your story is the greatest, you're likely to be furious with the stupid editor who has no eye for talent and is obviously only buying "names" whose talent pales compared to yours. I've seen a few such posters.
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Judith Dubois
Posted on Tuesday, August 26, 2003 - 05:56 am:   

When Ursula K. Le Guin first started sending her stories and novels to editors, she didn't think of them as sf or fantasy or as needing any kind of a label. It was the editors who told her that they didn't publish science fiction or they didn't publish fantasy, that got her interested once again in the field, (which she had stopped reading after getting bored with space rangers shoot'em up type stories). That is, the editors applied labels to her work without her having identified it as belonging to a particular field. I think you have to write whatever you want to write, without worrying about categories, and then, when you start marketing it, take into account the label the editors are likely to use on it. Otherwise, I see little interest in all these divisions and subdivisions. And I think that a lot of good sf and fantasy is extremely "realistic" in the way it describes human motivations.
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Timothy L.
Posted on Tuesday, August 26, 2003 - 06:31 am:   

ET and Mark:

I suppose we could pick this nit for days, but the point I was making, which I thought was clear, is that we never should really stop trying to improve. Every piece I write, at the time it is written, is the best I could have accomplished. Yes, I have gone back and looked at my work and re-did it, but usually because I have "grown" since then, or have found a different way to "style" my work.

My original comment was meant to convey that we should never call something "finished", until it feels, down deep in your gut, the best you could have done. Now, again, this is me, a perfectionist and probably a little anal, but I try for the "sky" every time.

This does not count for "the one work" that we turn out that is IMHO, great when it was done and I cannot re-work any better a long time after. Such is the piece I sent in, and if it should be turned down, yes, it will wound me deeply. But being the person I am, I will not be defeated. I will keep trying.

T.L.



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Neal Stanifer
Posted on Tuesday, August 26, 2003 - 06:51 am:   

Judith, I agree with you, and I also agree with Nicholas, to an extent.

As a writer, I'm more concerned with writing a good story than with fitting my work into some generic definition. Write the story, then figure out where to send it based on what you've seen published there before. One day, that will work for me -- I'm sure of it. :-)

But generic distinctions do exist, however shifting and permeable they might be, and recognizing them is no crime, to my mind. Besides, without the little fingerprints of genre, cross-genre fiction wouldn't be nearly as much fun.
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Jonathan Laden
Posted on Thursday, September 04, 2003 - 09:03 pm:   

+ my concern was that because the basic premise is set up in the first story, the follow-ups would have something missing to be complete to the reader. +

As a reader, I would want every story to be capable of standing alone (i.e. I want to be able to read it and "get" the story without having seen the tales that have come before). If you've achieved that, then no problem. If not, I won't be too thrilled to see story number seven in a future issue of any magazine I purchase.

This is merely my opinion; I have no idea whether editors or other readers agree.
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Gorden Russell
Posted on Friday, September 05, 2003 - 07:50 pm:   

I need some advice on story length for an unpublished writer. I’ve been working on Babykiller for 11 days or so now. I expected to round it off at 2,500 words. I have murdered sooo many darlings -- yet it is already 2,558 words and shows no sign of ending in less than 5,000 words. I put in a few minor characters to argue out the dialogue and shorten the auctorial narrational exposition. But they have taken life and won’t stop arguing.
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ellen
Posted on Friday, September 05, 2003 - 08:08 pm:   

Gordon, why are you trying to keep your story so short? 5,000 words is an excellent length for a short story submission. Unless you're an expert at writing short it's extremely difficult to write an engaging, meaty story at 2500 words. Write to the length that the story needs.
Ellen Datlow
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Gorden Russell
Posted on Friday, September 05, 2003 - 09:26 pm:   

That's good to hear. I just found the 10th Mountain Division's Web page and found a lot of good background material. I had wanted to use an Abel Company, but instead found "A Company" aka Attack Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment. Talk about serendipity, this unit was in the battle of the Chosin Resevoir in Korea and still practice the "Chosin Challenge" Here is a link for their Chosin Challenge Road March this winter:

http://www.drum.army.mil/divstaff/1st_bde/1-32inf/Images/A_Pics/MVC-009FV.JPG

It wasn't a great photo, but imagine these soldiers hacking their way through the jungle. Is it okay to describe that in the auctorial voice on the first page? I've heard a lot of complaints about problems in exposition. I don't get into any meaty dialogue until the third page.
That's when the men of the first rifle squad to engage the enemy take control of the story and just pile on dialogue that comes out like automatic writing. I thought that only happened to experienced professionals.

In Creating Short Fiction, Damon Knight warns of the cleft chin hero, so I made the Sergeant Major such a cleft chin poseur that he is a sedondary villain in the protag's rear. My son and his unit had a lot of trouble from a real hard ass Sergeant Major in Iraq, so I gave his characteristics to the one in the story. But the 10th Mtn Div web page shows the real Sgt. Maj. and he looks like a real righteous soldier. I hope he doesn't read the story. Fort Drum is only 70 miles from Syracuse. I wouldn't want to come to the door and find him there ready to stomp me into the woodwork.
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BK
Posted on Monday, September 15, 2003 - 02:31 pm:   

One of my favorite opening bits for a novel:

"A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head. The green earflaps, full of large ears and uncut hair and the fine bristles that grew in the ears themselves, stuck out on either side like turn signals indicating two directions at once. Full, pursed lips protruded beneath the bushy black moustache and, at their corners, sank into little folds filled with disapproval and potato chip crumbs."
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Gorden Russell
Posted on Monday, September 15, 2003 - 10:04 pm:   

That sounds a lot like the Sergeant Major.
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Rob Thorpe
Posted on Tuesday, September 16, 2003 - 10:17 am:   

> Gordon, why are you trying to keep your story so short? 5,000 words is an excellent length for a short story submission. Unless you're an expert at writing short it's extremely difficult to write an engaging, meaty story at 2500 words. Write to the length that the story needs.
> Ellen Datlow

That's interesting, I've written seven sf short stories now. Most of them just over 2000 words, most of them would not improve with length. I probably don't write stuff with enough meat to it.



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Gorden Russell
Posted on Tuesday, September 16, 2003 - 11:47 pm:   

The characters come alive and want more than half the wordage to themselves. Then the description needs almost a third...but the action needs another two/thirds.

So you have to read King's On Writing as well as The Elements of Style, and remember Hemmingway's dictum to murder your darlings. They do get too precocious and wordy. Anything that gets so cute that the reader will notice that he is reading, takes away from the narrative thrust.

But dammint all to Hell, I do love to put those damn things in the story.

Then the editor can kill it...or even the assistant editor. Or the cleaning crew, for that matter.

See that! That's the kind of cute darling that an editor has to run a blue pencil through.
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Sparky
Posted on Monday, September 22, 2003 - 02:41 pm:   

Tim, I'd say that you overuse alliteration far too much (It's best avoided completely) and the sentences are quite overlong and klunky. i.e.:

"What pathetic spits and strips of late autumn daylight do manage to filter their way past the edifice spires of commerce, is greedily soaked up by grungy gray granite and tarnished tan sandstone that has been sculpted into man made concrete canyons forming the giant structures of “The Street“."

This is an incredibly difficult sentence to read. It's far too long and unwieldy. I'd go for shorter sentences that have good rhythm and pack an emotional punch.

Again:

"Only five weeks into his 34th year, Kenny Desantis, a cocky and confident investigator on his lunch hour from a Manhattan law firm has wound his way through the convoluted and too narrow former cow paths now renamed into streets."


It's three sentences in one. Way too much information crushed into one endless sentence.

And you do too much description, throughout.


"Reaching his destination, Desantis enters the crowded old-fashioned pub known as The Irish Rose."

saying "the crowded old-fashioned pub known as" is awkward. And do we need to know:

"Despite its quaint ethnic name, the Rose is not an old family owned local establishment with a long historical pedigree, but one a string of identically laid out saloons going by a corporate name."

At least can't you tell us in a more succinct and snappy way?

Do we need to know that beer "was the Irish Roses‘ main stock in trade,"

Again:

"served in heaping piles on mismatched, chipped oversized plates at the long wooden bar."

way too much klunky description. Get us interested in the tale instead of weighing us down with description of every last molecule.

What I think you need to do is seriously edit yourself. I'm saying this respectfully but bluntly purely because you asked for honest criticism.
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Chris2112
Posted on Thursday, October 16, 2003 - 08:33 am:   

1: Matt Hughes if you happen to still be following this thread. I liked FOOLS ERRANT.
2:A well written and carefully concieved story WILL invariably get published. Editors are not in this business to publish crap. Its a bad reflection on THEIR craft to do otherwise. Chances are the story was crap and/or didn't fit within the very wide and and forgiving boundaries.
3: I would however suggest more colorful rejection letters. Just from a decorative point of view.
4:The editors of these magazines are trying very hard to hold open a market that has been considered marginal at best for a very long time.
5:Finally. I think that if publishing the big names (Bear, Le Guin etc) was going to hurt my chances of reaching a wider audience i might complain about it a little. However I can see no down side to sharing cover space such talented people. They may just complian about me should it ever come to pass...
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Wannabee
Posted on Sunday, November 09, 2003 - 09:55 am:   

Point 5: is well spoken, Chris2112. I was looking for something and just found my lost issue of February 2001. It has only Harlan Ellison's name on the cover, but the table of contents has: M. Shayne Bell, M. Rickert, Albert E. Cowdrey, Carol Emshwiller and many more. I would be pleased as punch and happy as a clam to be at the bottom of that list. To be on such a list, I'd have to be a contender, instead of a ...
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Chuck Hogle
Posted on Monday, November 24, 2003 - 03:09 pm:   

Well, I sent my first submission to F&SF one week ago, and sure enough, today's mail contained my first F&SF rejection letter. I've never experienced such a fast response time before, and I must say that I liked it. And I liked the letter. It wasn't the impersonal form letter of some other big name magazines. Even if it was a form letter, it felt personal.
All of which softened the blow.
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Gorden
Posted on Monday, November 24, 2003 - 07:35 pm:   

Just get back up on the horse that throws you.

If you got a personal letter, that does mean that you are on your way.

I think they said they get 500 submissions a week there. Whatever the number, they all can't get more than a blurry xerox of a printed form.

You must have done something pretty good to get such a good rejection. Keep on plugging and one day your name will be above the name of the magazine...like Michael Shea this month.

I have to read "Growlimb" before bed tonight.
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Patrick Samphire
Posted on Tuesday, November 25, 2003 - 02:02 am:   

Actually, as far as I know, nobody gets a xerox from F&SF. They use macros to produce the letters you get, which is a classy touch and something pretty much any magazine should be able to do these days.
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Gorden
Posted on Tuesday, November 25, 2003 - 05:32 am:   

Gee! I just can't wait to get one!
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GG
Posted on Wednesday, November 26, 2003 - 01:19 pm:   

I'm not exactly a prolific writer, most of my stuff is okay, but now I've written one to knock the socks off. I sent it to Asimov's -- my first Asimov's sub -- over four months ago, but have heard not a peep.

I've only sent one script to the US previously, to F&SF, and it came back in 10 DAYS despite the fact I live in Britain. Wey Hey! JJA had written a nice note on it too, and his explicit words certainly gave me encouragement and indicated he had read it.

But regarding that four-month delay. I've tried emailing, with no luck -- understandable of course, since they don't keep a record of submissions. But it is such a drag to send my masterpiece across the Atlantic twice. So if anyone here can advise me, I'm all ears.

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ET
Posted on Wednesday, November 26, 2003 - 01:51 pm:   

Asimov's has a very long response time currently, from what I've seen in various places where such things are reported. Four months still doesn't mean that your story was lost. You might be able to catch Gardner's attention on the Asimov's board at http://www.asimovs.com/discus/.

F&SF really is the best of the big mags in terms of response times.

[BTW, it's so great to have broadband (cable). Had it for about three weeks, and finally I can read long threads like this.]
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ET
Posted on Wednesday, November 26, 2003 - 01:55 pm:   

BTW, F&SF also has pretty good rejections. Asimov's has one form rejection that some people find objectionable.
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Shamed
Posted on Friday, November 28, 2003 - 09:13 pm:   

I've done a bad thing.

It started out by accident.

It wasn't ignoble, just foolish.

The more I think of it now, the dumb, dumber, and dumbest it seems. And yet I meant it as a noble experiment.

I was just going to save a line that popped in my head while reviewing William Shunn's "Proper Manuscript Format."

The line became a paragraph, then two, then three---then I was having a good time with it and didn't want to stop.

Along the way I was tempted to go back and make some revisions. But I also remembered something that many writers have said: Push right through until the thing is done, then go back and make corrections and revisions. Writers like William F. Nolan and Stephen King have written "how to" books that say that. So that's what I did.

Whenever a line popped into my head that belonged a few pages back, I remembered that advice like a mantra, as if it were that story in Greek Mythology about Orpheus, the lyre player. He talked Pluto and Persephone into reanimating his dead wife. The only conditions they gave him was to not look back. Just walk on out of Hell and you can have Eurydice walking beside you in the land of the living if you just don't look back. But as he left the entrance to Hades he turned to gaze into her eyes before she had cleared the end of the tunnel and all he saw was the love of his life being pulled back into death.

My personal Hell is revision. I start a story with a full head of steam, but keep thinking of things to go back and change. Soon, I'm weeks down the pike, still rewriting the beginning, and even keying in different endings--yet the middle is only between my ears.

So this time I told myself it'd be different. I'd press on regardless and not look back. If a character needed a name change or some backfill, I'd do that after I finished the story.

I started just after 10 AM and worked straight through without looking back. I was sore tempted to hit the little arrow, but kept chanting, "Don't look back, don't look back."

My wife came down into the basement about 3:00 PM as I was approaching the last page. She wanted to know if I would eat lunch. I wanted to know if the letter carrier had been by yet.

That was a crucial thing to know. Our regular carrier is like the schoolteacher in the old movie who you could set the clock by. She always gets to our house by 3:20 PM. On a 95 degree day or a day that rains two inches an hour or a subzero day with a minus thirty windchill blowing or snow coming down at the rate of two feet an hour--she always makes it to my house by 3:20 PM.

So thats when it came to me. I can beat my old jinx, my perpetual curse of perfectionism. Finish that tale and get it in the mail all on the same day.

I kept yelling up through the floorboards for progress reports. At 3:14 Jane yelled down the staircase, "I just saw her truck at the foot of the hill." I started the printer going. I hadn't read the story through once, trusting the automatic Spell Checker. I had corrected each squiggly red line as it popped up on the screen. So what could be misspelled?

I was like a gunloader in a Sherman tank facing a Tiger tank. I grabbed for envelopes and stamps the way that gunner would have leaped to seize a round of High-Explosive-Anti-Tank ammo.

I had a new package of 25 self-adhesive 9x12 envelopes and nothing with an edge to open them. So I slid my teeth along the shrinkwrap and got a paper cut along my gums.

I found the stamps, a self-adhesive strip of six 37 centers. I peeled off four and slapped them on the corner. That was dumb. I hadn't addressed the envelope yet and my handwriting is worse than my spelling without the Spell Checking program.

I messed up putting my own name and address in the upper left corner, but four stamps were already sprawled all over the general area of the upper right corner.

I had the address of the editorial office written down on a paper placed right where I could always find it. But now I couldn't find it. Jane yelled down the steps, "she's already here!"

I started knocking down pile after pile of new books from Amazon onto the damp and dirty concrete floor. Library books ended up on top of them. Three issues of F&SF were at the bottom of the last pile.

I held the book open with one hand and scrawled the address of the editorial offices on the envelope with the other hand.

Was my noble experiment to fail? Would I write a story all in one day and get it into the mail?
Sure, I could take it to the post office, but the doctor said I had some sort of plantar phlanges or some such thing and the only relief I get is to wear shower shoes.

While I was ripping open a new box of "Press-It Seal-It" #10 security envelopes for the rejection slip, Jane came down the steps, "she's across the street now, coming up the other way."

I had to throw out all the stops. I stuffed the strip of wax paper with the last two stamps into the #10 envelope and scribbled my return address on it while Jane took the pages from the printer and collated them.

She handed off to me like a runner in the old "Statue of Liberty" play and I thrust them into the envelope, having never looked at them once. I never wrote the cover letter, never mentioned anywhere that the manuscript was meant to be recycled.

That was a bad thing to do.

But I was up, limping across the floor, dragging myself up the steps, stumbling through the house and across the street.

I met the letter carrier as she reached the house right opposite mine.

She looked at me like I was a madman.

Well of course she did. What do you think she saw? A bushy-haired, wild-bearded man in flip-flops, dragging one foot behind him as he hopped on the other in a cold November rain.

"Do you think four stamps will be enough for this?" I spoke so fast that it all came out as one word.

She just shrugged, "I guess so, I really don't know."

But she had it, she tucked the 9X12 envelope in her leather bag and it was on its way.

Only after she was in her truck and out of sight did the worst angels of my nature get the better of me.

After all, I fixed all the red squiggly lines, so what could be wrong with it?

But I just had to put Shunn's rules out flat in front of the monitor and looked back to the beginning of the story.

Oh-oh.

First mistake, I was supposed to round up the wordcount. I typed the number the computer gave, "2,666 words." What was I thinking of? At the sight of three sixes I should have aborted the mission and gone back to add 111 words to break the Devil's curse.

The story was indeed cursed.

I found two errors on the first page.

Where I meant "night," the Spell Checker allowed "nigh." It is a proper word, isn't it? But not when describing the period after daylight.

Then I saw that I left a word out, I should have put the word "your" in front of the word "experiment."

As I sped the cursor from page to page, I found one after another of errors like that, and worse.

I'd left out the two sentences at the veternary's office.

I left out the paragraph where the protagonist tells his compatriot his best line, the words that make some sense out of the story. They were the very denouement. But in haste, I finished the story a line too short. Didn't even write "end" under the last line in blue ink. I could have set the printer to put that word in blue.

What is John Joseph Adams going to think of me? After all my big talk about the stories I was working on, he'll see me as a big, fat, bloviator.

Oh well. At least GvG won't get to see my folly. I'm sure JJA is too reasonable and merciful a man to show it to him. He'd never do that to anybody. Would he?

At least the rejection slip will be back in three days and I'll be able to send the corrected version to that E-zine in Australia. They don't expect much of bleedin' Yanks anyway.

Do they?

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ET
Posted on Saturday, November 29, 2003 - 09:39 am:   

Yeah, I hate it that errors creep into a perfect manuscript once it's in the mail. It was perfect before you sent it, you must realise that. Sending out a manuscript edits reality to introduce errors in it.

(And I like that I was able to get the gist of your message while skipping most of it.)
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Gorden Russell
Posted on Saturday, November 29, 2003 - 11:38 am:   

Does that mean I am too repetitive?

Am I violating rule 17?

Can I hack my way back in here to omit needless words?
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ET
Posted on Saturday, November 29, 2003 - 02:54 pm:   

Was it you? Well, I don't know. I just saw the length of the message, figured by the 6th line what it was about, skimmed until I found something that connected back to that and continued from there. I still have no idea what's written in the middle. Every time I start reading that my eyes glaze over.
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Gorden Russell
Posted on Saturday, November 29, 2003 - 08:15 pm:   

Well, I wrote a story in a hurry just to see if I could get one done and in the mail in a day.

Got real freaked when the letter carrier was on the way and stuffed it in the envelope without proofing it or writing a cover letter.

Did I fuck up or what?

I didn't even mention that it was a recyclable entry.
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Solomon Kane
Posted on Sunday, November 30, 2003 - 01:00 am:   

Now was that expletive really necessary?

You're just hurting yourself with this rambunctious behavior.
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ET
Posted on Sunday, November 30, 2003 - 01:15 am:   

It's an interesting exercise, but I won't recommend it if you're really trying to get published. There's a chance that a story written in a day might get published, but it's always good to put a story aside after you've written it, so that you can see it with fresh eyes after a while.

I do think you fucked up, if only because it's not very professional to send out something that you've written in a rush. I mean, you really should give the magazines you submit to your best, not play games with them. After all, you do expect them to be professional in return, right?

As for it being disposable, if you sent a small envelope for the reply, and not one big enough for the manuscript, then I think it's implied. Cover letter isn't strictly necessary, so that shouldn't be a real problem. So at least you fucked up less than you think. :-)
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ET
Posted on Sunday, November 30, 2003 - 03:49 am:   

And BTW I also used to rush stories out -- especially when it came to e-mail submissions, where it's really easy to send out something without even thinking. I realised it was a mistake, though. I switched to the other side, and now I can take years for a story. I don't think it's really good, either -- I need to find a place in the middle (but I only write as a hobby, and don't plan a writing career, so speed is not such a big deal to me).
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Gorden Russell
Posted on Sunday, November 30, 2003 - 12:23 pm:   

It's just that I have a two-year's supply of unfinished stories. My neurotic perfectionism keeps them all unfinished.

I started a story last November and ended up learning enough to command a WWII fleet sub while attacking a Japanese freighter before starting another story about the Spanish Civil War. But even before the fleet sub story, I'd been working on a story about the Battle of Gettysburg since the previous March. I left the Spanish story to lie fallow after getting the inspiration for a story involving psychopaths. That one is now almost done, but for the part that I was afraid to write. Then I set that aside only two weeks ago, after working on it all summer. Crawled through reeking sewers in the dark researching that story, yet laid it down to start one where a man strangles his wife only to have her come back in a novel form. The research on that has taught me the ancient Greek spellings of the character's names.

So that's why I tried to write a story in one sitting, with only the knowledge already in my head and not spending days buried in history books or the Necromicon or Dja-Dja-em-Ahnk's ancient Egyptian book of the dead. Or was that E.A. Wallis Budge? There is a look of interesting magic in the land of Khem. It looks like some modern vodun came from there over the centuries.
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ET
Posted on Sunday, November 30, 2003 - 01:32 pm:   

I guess that like me, you need to find a middle ground. You need to learn to finish your stories and then to polish them. Both are important parts. I actually don't have that much of a problem finishing a story (it depends on the story, but often I know enough that it's just a matter of stamina). But I learned that it's always too raw when I finish it -- even when it reads pretty well (by other people's accounts).

One of my first stories after I discovered that the internet was a good resource for writers was submitted to six or so magazines, only one of which I've actually read. I later decided it was silly. If I didn't send a story out immediately, and instead got some comments about it from other people, then I could make it much better before I submited it, and so save some of the rejections. This won't of course save me from rejections in general -- it'd just improve the chances of acceptance for the publications I send to first, which are the ones where I'd prefer to have the story published.
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Iron James
Posted on Sunday, November 30, 2003 - 08:12 pm:   

I think I have two advantages when it comes to finishing the first draft of a story before looking back. Most of my life was spent writing on a typewriter, often a manual typewriter, the the last thing you want to do when writing on a typewriter is look back.

On a computer you can easily insert, retype, cut and paste, correct spelling errors, grammar errors and punctuation errors. On a typewriter, going back and fixing anything is a pain in the Royal ass. It would make a preacher swear.
Had the Bible been written on a manual typewriter, the writers would all be in hell having their mouths washed out with soap for all of eternity.

Better to wait and fix it all on the next draft.

I've had a bunch of stuff published that was first draft, though only a few pieces were fiction. Most of the published first draft material was in the form of articles and essays, columns and editorials, fillers and outright lies. This is advantage number two--working for several years as a reporter on the kind of newspaper I doubt even exists these days.

I remember, just after getting my first real job, my editor storming over to my desk and asking if I had an assigned article written yet. He'd only assigned the thing three hours earlier, so being as foolish as I was young, I asked if he wanted fast or good. He said he wanted both, and he wanted them right goddamn now.

For some months working for that man felt like a losing proposition. I was cussed at, chewed up, spit out, and reamed at least twice a week. And most of what I wrote was handed back absolutely blue penciled to death, and I'd have to rewrite it from scratch, again in only a couple of hours.

I think I was there for six or seven months before I got the hang of writing pieces fast and good. The first of which brought the high praise, "well, it isn't total garbage."

One thing I thought was severe punsihment and completely unreasonable at the time was that my sweet editor wouldn't allow me to hand anything in at the copy desk where a first rate copyeditor would correct the errors and make certain the piece was perfect before my editor saw it. No, sir. Everything I wrote had to be peronsally handed to the editor, who reminded me of a cross between Mr. White and J.J. Jameson on a bad day.

Turned out he was doing me one heck of a favor because he liked me and saw potential. (Which a couple of older reporters had told me, and which I believed not a bit.)

This carried over to fiction writing, and I still can't look back until something is finished.

And that's my autobiography.
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Gorden Russell
Posted on Sunday, November 30, 2003 - 08:46 pm:   

You have both been very encouraging, ET and Iron James.

I've just spent an hour looking through stacks of back issues trying to guess who ET is. All I accomplished was that I found a lot of stories I want to read again. (After reading the Paul Di Filippo story "And The Dish Ran Away With The Spoon" at SCI.FI I've found the May '02 issue with his "The Short Ashy Afterlife of Hiram P. Dottle" and just have to read it again).

But I can't begin to guess who ET is, but I thank you very much.

The only "James" I can think of is one I've been reading since at least the early 1980s. Can Iron James be that James? Whoever you are, I thank you.
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ET
Posted on Monday, December 01, 2003 - 04:21 am:   

I'm not any big writer or anything. Possibly because, as I mentioned, I take long to finish stories and that I treat it as a hobby. I had one story published in F&SF, in the July issue. Maybe I'll have more one day.
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Gorden Russell
Posted on Monday, December 01, 2003 - 04:27 pm:   

Would you believe that I can find December, Septmeber, August, April and June of 2003? Now my wife is also tearing the house apart looking for the July issue. I know the new January issue is upstairs, but I can't remember the cover of the July issue.
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Thomas R
Posted on Monday, December 01, 2003 - 04:35 pm:   

July's had the Adam Troy-Castro story. Bit hard to describe the cover. Four armed guy with tendrils of some sort around him. Kind of a yellow-orange spine. There was also an okay Emshwiller story and ET's as mentioned.
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Gorden Russell
Posted on Monday, December 01, 2003 - 06:00 pm:   

Jane found it while I was out shoveling snow with a whinning spoil-sport of of German Shepard who wanted back in while I was still pushing that shovel.

The July issue was out in June, so that's why I missed ET's story. That was a month filled with computer virus problems and restoring the computer more than once. Spent more time on the phone talking to people I didn't understand than anything else. The tech reps of MSN and Compaq and Windows and Norton speak English so much faster than Syracusans. It's not that I don't love the people of India--they just talk on and on about things I used to think I understood. It did humiliate me that I could pick up a note of condescension in their voices. I realize that I did give every appearance of being the lucky idiot born in America while they were the best minds of an entire sub-continent working for less than American counter help in a fast food restaurant. I do wish they'd remember that minimum wage in the states could allow a person to live like a Maha-Raja in Delhi.

So I only had time to read the cover story that month. Jane found it with the May Issue that I don't even remember seeing at all.

I found "Possibilities," if that is your story, ET, I love the lead and intend to read it right away, even though I was inspired to write a story about prospecting the Kuiper objects beyond the orbits of Pluto and Neptune.

Space.com has an interesting article about things that are 47 or 48 AU out in the dark and it made me wonder what kind of person would go out there.

Some would be dreamers, some would be desperate, some would be easy-going folk like Thomas who have their own reasons.

Smaller people would have an advantage in space, a big advantage over clumsy, lumbering, "average-sized" people who need more consumables. The farther out from Earth, the greater the advantage.

I think it was over 20 years ago I read a story about a cult of people who wanted into space so bad they had their legs amputated. Just dead weight, why spend big money to boost them up there? It was in Analog back in the days of Ben Bova. This was in the pre-PC days. Little people where called dwarves and midgets and only used as comic relief.

But I tell you true, Thomas, once little people get up to the top of the gravity well, they will become the heroes of the age. They will also make great fortunes if they take great risks. Why shouldn't they? Surviving all the great problems of dangerous childhoods would make these people capable of acts that only great inner courage can overcome.

I am confident that the problems of bone loss will also be overcome by then. There is a great deal of genetic research going on in many nations today. That with nanotechnology will make all this possible. This is not just blue sky bubbles I am blowing here.

Would a smaller man take offense at such a tale?

There is a TV commercial out now that I find offensive. Santa, an angle, a snowman and a little person dressed as an elf are out in a car looking for an address. I know jobs are hard to find for little people and the man must be thankful for any work he can find. I am just offended by a world that puts him in such a position that he needs to take that job.

That is why I want to write about little people in deep space. Is that offensive to anyone?
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Thomas R
Posted on Monday, December 01, 2003 - 08:24 pm:   

It depends on how you do it. Joe Haldeman had a story of Basques designed to be little then sent to space. Not offensive at all. It was simply an aspect of their designing, and their society had many other interesting aspects.

I'd considered doing a story with the Mbuti, Twa, or other Pygmies sent to space. Although not as much for the small thing, but because I think they're interesting societies. They also have been badly damaged and displaced by events in Africa. One Pygmy named Ota was even kept in a zoo in the turn of the century.Ota Thing is I don't think I know their societies well enough to manage it.

However the idea little people can only get jobs as elves I don't think is true any longer. In this day and age dwarves, for myself I don't like little people as it sounds vaguely patronizing and leperchaunlike, can get a wide variety of jobs. Even among OIs I know of lawyers, political aids, doctors, NASA engineers, actors, jazz pianists, teachers, etc. Among dwarves in general things are even more varied as most dwarves don't have the same respiratory or fragility issues. Example it'd be hard for an OI to be a singer, but there are several dwarves who manage it. Dwarves in general can also do jobs requiring a bit more stamina. So them going to space because of prejudice would fit more in a 1950s version of the future.

For OIs space might always be an impossible dream. The g's involved in reaching escape velicity would likely make a person with all but the least severe forms of OI crack like an egg. Further the loss of bone matter in space would be medically ill advised. There's the possibility of genetic alterations, but then we really wouldn't be OIs anymore. Actually I'll admit I'm not certain on it though. There's an OI who graduated at the top of his class from Tufts whose some kind of NASA scientists. I might check if he has written anything on the issue.


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S. Hamm
Posted on Monday, December 01, 2003 - 10:07 pm:   

Hey Gorden,

The amputee-spacer story appeared in F&SF -- Victor Koman's "Bootstrap Enterprise," Feb. '92. The same issue contained Isaac Asimov's last Science column.

Best,
SH
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Gorden Russell
Posted on Tuesday, December 02, 2003 - 08:05 pm:   

Well, Thomas, the bone loss will have to be solved for everybody who wants to travel around the solar system. You have pointed out to me, that I just don't know enough about people with OI or dwarfism. The main thrust of my idea was set out in the Kuiper Objects. It just came to me after reading yesterday's Space.com article about Neptune. It made me dig out the March Issue of mov's where the Alex Irvine story, "Shephereded by Galatea" appeared. That also has Haldeman story you're talking about. I've only read a few pages of that. I was shoveling snow until past three AM and fell asleep reading it. No offense to Joe Haldeman. But after shoveling my own walk and, and the drive of neighbor woman with a heart condition who has to leave for work at 6:00 and another neighbor who is elderly and has a walk and drive that was nearby, no writer could keep me awake.

The idea that came to me while reading the Space.com article involved mining Plutinos and then today I read THE SEAL HUNTER by Charles Coleman Finlay. That tale is set in an asteroid mine, so I'm not hopeful that a story that appears derivitive will be published soon. Yet, most of the near future of humanity in space will involve asteroids and comets and near earth objects and anything else that doesn't take a lot of fuel to get away from. Even with fission powered ion drive it will take months or years and bone will be lost. People won't be taking these trips until a combination of medical advances and nanotechnology allows bone to be replaced as soon as it's lost.

This same technology would also help the people who suffer OI. It wouldn't make you any taller, but your bones would be as strong as anybody's. If it didn't change anything else about you, would you still refuse to take a shot of the nanos or nannies or whatever the popular nickname will be? Researchers have the genome, they are looking at new genes every day. They are going to fix a lot of the things that come with genes that produce the wrong proteins.

If I get to live long enough, I will jump at the chance to get rid of my asthma and just be able to breathe like everybody else.

But I see I just don't know enough and I know I'll end up taking too long with the research, so I'll just go back and correct the story I messed up with last Friday--or the story I started two weeks ago.

#

Mr. Hamm, that was so cool that you could find that story so fast. I would have bet money that I read it in the other magazine in '83 and not F&SF in '92. I was working a lot of hours in '92 and was out of work in '83, so I did so much more reading in '83 than in '92. I'm amazed that I read that story at all in '92. I had to hide my F&SF in the projection booth and could only read during the few minutes that the credits were running out on whatever film was showing. When the film ran out, I had to put the book back in a film can and hurry to thread up the projector and run down the stairs to pick up the auditorium and let the next audience in.
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Thomas R
Posted on Tuesday, December 02, 2003 - 08:37 pm:   

Ahh don't sweat not knowing much about dwarfism. As for OI it's a 1/15000 thing.

As long as I'm basically still shaped as I am my bones being stronger would be fine by me I guess. My bones are stronger than they were as a kid. It's just the thought of becoming normal or even a walking person that unnerves me. I'd like to add this is just a personal taste issue, not some larger agenda. I know OIs who want to be made downright normal, and if that's possible I have no problem with that.

Anyway I appreciate your concern, but I hope we don't spend too much more energy on this in the thread. I fear things like this become an unwanted distraction. I can point you to some sites if you want to learn more about it. OIF. This has some stuff on that OI NASA scientist. Then there's a guy named Michel Petrucciani you might look up.

As for the Haldeman story about the Basques I think it was called Giza. It's not one of his best perhaps, but it's fairly short. Not sure if it'll give you much. It seems like Rocannon's World by Le Guin also had some engineered dwarf people. They were a bit like stereotypical fantasy dwarves as I recall. Industrious, avaricious, etc. It's been about two years since I read it. They were also planetbound.
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S. Hamm
Posted on Tuesday, December 02, 2003 - 10:00 pm:   

Just received the 12/5/03 issue of New Scientist in today's mail, and it happens to contain an item about black bears, who, unlike most animals, are able to maintain bone mass while hibernating. Researchers believe the bears are basically recycling their own waste products, because they don't piss or shit during their long seasonal snoozes: "'They don't have a way of getting rid of excess calcium, so the logical place to put it is back into bone.'

"Donahue's team is now working out the structural differences between human and bear versions of two hormones, calcitonin and parathyroid hormone, in the hope that this could lead to new therapies for human bone loss."

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R.Wilder
Posted on Wednesday, December 03, 2003 - 11:00 am:   

Ah, Michel Petrucciani... a sublime master of the piano and jazz. I spin mucho Petrucciani, from his Blue Notes to the cool Owl releases. He has now passed from this world, but his artistry remains, on shiny digital discs and in the passionate hearts of music lovers.
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Gorden Russell
Posted on Wednesday, December 03, 2003 - 02:58 pm:   

I will go straight from here to the library page and request Michel Petrucciani.

From what Mr. Hamm says, the problem of lost bone mass will be solved before we have crews in ships heading to the outer planets, or even Mars, for that matter. It'd be a real kick in the pants if somebody who took the treatment to build stronger bones ended up with an uncontrollable urge to hibernate through the winter. If only Rod Serling were alive. The story he could write with that.

I have the issue with "Giza" in front of me, but I want to read the Alex Irvine story first, I'll even check out the Stepen Baxter and Charles Sheffield. Not carping on Haldeman, but he beat me to an idea, so I'm not that anxious to find out how his story ends.

I do want to check out those links, thank you, Thomas.

For that matter, I have William F. Nolan's "how-to" book on horror that I have to finish. I've renewed it three times and the library is impatient with me. They keep putting a red flag on it when I click the "renew" button. You can no more reason with a computer than you can a bureaucrat--and if it is the computer server of a bureaucracy...
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Gorden Russell
Posted on Wednesday, December 03, 2003 - 04:09 pm:   

It was mind-blowing to find out that OI can appear spontaeneously as an mutation, and that it is a dominant trait. My mind started racing right away. This could be the most hopeful thing about it. It should be easier for researchers to map the gene area that hampers collagen production by comparing the genome of a suspected spontaeneous mutation against the genome of non-affected family members. It would be like star mapping by an astronomer. Once computer power is great enough to map a family, the gene responsible would blink on and off like an old fashioned neon sign.

Treating it would be another thing. I suspect it would involve getting another gene into the nucleus of every cell in the body. A manufactured virus could do this. But the idea of tailored viruses would be so frightening to healthy people who fear germ warfare and terrorism. It would be a long row to hoe to get these treatments approved even for animal experimentation. Lay people get so emotional; the less education they have in genetics, the louder they get.

#

The article on Chris Lamoreaux, the engineer, currently helping to develop a weight-lifting machine for the International Space Station. This is a very illuminating story. Can you tell me that he doesn't dream of going into space?

Just by reading about how hard he has worked to get where he is tells me that he has the desire. I can see it in another because I share it with him.

I'd volunteer to go on the next shuttle, I'd go right now if one were launching. (I'd go if only I were allowed).




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Thomas R
Posted on Wednesday, December 03, 2003 - 05:29 pm:   

I was tempted to e-mail him. Although to be honest when strangers come up to me and say "my sister, cousin, myself have OI." it can be a bit offputting. I find myself think they're still ultimately a stranger accosting me for little reason. However I guess it wouldn't be quite the same. I've e-mailed authors and scientists whose work I find interesting before. Some times their own story or quirks adds to that.

Space is a dream for many people. However in many respects I think we're going to need some breakthroughs to make it a realistic dream for most of us. Disabled or not. Breakthroughs in both popular interest and actual science. Like the mentioned efforts to maintain bone mass, as well as the need to reduce the cost.

I'm somewhat pessimistic as I think such efforts will take some time. Even if they do bear fruit soon there's still the issue of making space profitable. Unlike the settling of the Americas we have not found minerals, people, or even liveable land in space. All the worlds we've found are lifeless, or near as so as makes no difference, unless we do extensive work. There's some causes for hope outside the solar system, but an interstellar journey would be a massive undertaking. One it seems no nation or conglomeration would do without sufficient motive. I think some see it like aviation where all one needs is a dream and an acceptance of risk. Considering how much more complex and tricky the process is I have a hunch that's not quite true.

I'm being too bleak, sorry Gorden. Hopefully I'm way off base. As for Petrucciani I ordered one of his CDs. I like it pretty well, but I never found anything by him in the stores here. So I only have the one as I rarely order CDs as they tend to come damaged. (It's not like that with books, but CDs are more fragile I guess)
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chuck
Posted on Wednesday, December 03, 2003 - 06:08 pm:   

What about downloading some Petrucciani music onto an MP3 player? That way, there are no fragile records or CDs to contend with. I'm not techno-savvy, but the digital world has come up with some nifty little solutions for the problems inherent in buying, owning, and caring for a CD.
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chuck
Posted on Wednesday, December 03, 2003 - 06:10 pm:   

I just recently lost the second CD in a two-CD compilation of Doors music. Now, every time I listen to the first CD, every time I try to enjoy a little dose of Morrison, the back of my head tingles with the knowledge that I can't find the second CD anywhere. It bugs me.
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Gorden Russell
Posted on Wednesday, December 03, 2003 - 07:38 pm:   

Know how you feel. I only have one vinyl LP of the Beatles' White Album. ]

Got it in a grab bag crate that a huckster sold me for $5 at Disclave in 1980. There must have been 50 pounds of LPs there, and that was the only one I could listen to. But it made the deal worthwhile.

Does anybody know what Lennon meant when he called Sir Walter Raleigh a "stupid get?" So does "get" mean something like "spawn" in British?
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Gorden Russell
Posted on Wednesday, December 03, 2003 - 07:49 pm:   

Just found out that Syracuse has 3 titles by the man!

There can't be more than one man recording under this name? This is the fellow I found on a CD:

Live solo
by Petrucciani, Michel, 1962-
Dreyfus Jazz, p1998.
Format: [sound recording] /

Description: 1 sound disc : digital ; 4 3/4 in.

Notes: Music composed prinicipally by Michel Petrucciani.
Recorded live in Frankfurt "Alte Oper" on February 27th 1997.
Compact disc.

Total Copies Owned: 2

Total Holds: 0


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Gorden Russell
Posted on Wednesday, December 03, 2003 - 08:29 pm:   

I suppose we should get back on the thread.

I'm still waiting for my fast rejection for the sloppy manuscript I sent in haste last Friday.
It was right in between 1,500 and 2,000 words, so it is a quick read.

If I'm not rejected in three days, does that auger well in terms of rejectomancy? Does it mean the story is borderline and somebody is arguing for it? Do you think that it happens that assistants sometimes like something that the editor doesn't and they come to words?

In my short time in the newspaper business, I was always cowed by my editor. I still can't imagine arguing with an editor. Mine was a type A personality who wanted everything perfect yesterday, and kept changing his standards. I never knew what would make him happy and everybody else at the office told me different things. He was voted "Man of the Year" the same week he fired me. He died at age 40, needing a heart transplant.

#

I would blame it on slow holidy mail during the rush of the busiest time of year--but my wife just got a letter her mother mailed two days ago.
Those automated text reading scanners must be running at warp speed.

Could writers be sending in more manuscripts this time of year?

Could they all have that new strain of flu in Hoboken?

Is this neurotic or what? I just can't wait to get back that rejection slip.
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S. Hamm
Posted on Wednesday, December 03, 2003 - 09:57 pm:   

GR,

"Git" is British slang for fool, ninny, nitwit-not-fit-to-sit-in-his-own-shit.

SH
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Thomas R
Posted on Wednesday, December 03, 2003 - 10:30 pm:   

In many places response times are slower during holiday seasons. I'm not sure if FSF works that way or not. Also sending stuff around the time of Worldcon I think is considered a bad idea.

As for "git" I don't think I've ever used that in real life, but sometimes I use that online. It's apparently a bit stronger than I thought so I might use it less often now.
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Gorden Russell
Posted on Thursday, December 04, 2003 - 10:48 am:   

Well, at least John Lennon was right about Sir Walter Raleigh.
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chuck
Posted on Thursday, December 04, 2003 - 02:51 pm:   

I've heard tell that Asimov's is running pretty long on their rejections...I have a story in there, it hasn't been three months yet so it's not really time to worry, but I was wondering if I'm looking at something like a four-month wait or more. It's just good to know, because at a certain point you have to wonder if the delay is just because people are overworked and can't be expected to go through a thousand manuscripts a day, or if it's the US Postal Service having a similar problem.

>Thomas, are you British? Not to be nosy, but I've never heard one of my fellow yanks use the word "git" before, except in the sense of "Git that dog off the table, Sue!"
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Thomas R
Posted on Friday, December 05, 2003 - 02:20 pm:   

No I've just been on boards frequented by British posters. That and my brother was into British humor. Well one other thing might be I like expressions from other languages and nations. Some British ones appeal to me so I use them.

I was born in Northwest Arkansas and now live in the Plains. I don't care for most of the people in my town at all, but in most respects my world revolves around the college. I'm probably there more often than at home.
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ET
Posted on Friday, December 05, 2003 - 02:54 pm:   

Chuck, the latest reports at the Speculations Rumour Mill (www.rumormill.org) were about 3 months response time, although there was a recent one of 5 months. I wish every magazine had the response time of F&SF.
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Chuck
Posted on Friday, December 05, 2003 - 03:29 pm:   

I hear ya, ET...I think it's reasonable to assume that the people at most magazines are normal humans, and the people at F&SF have somehow augmented themselves to achieve performance levels previously unheard-of in the publishing world. If only they would let out their secret!

>Thomas, I have to say that one can never get enough of British humor. Especially, of course, Monty Python. Do you like to translate odd expressions from other languages? It's fun sometimes to see what idioms are found in non-English speaking countries, like "He's got a penguin in his eye," or something. I can only imagine what translated everyday English sounds like to a non-speaker.
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Chuck
Posted on Friday, December 05, 2003 - 03:30 pm:   

By the way, ET, that's a great link. Thanks.
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ET
Posted on Friday, December 05, 2003 - 03:50 pm:   

Well, GVG has augmented himself with JJA. :-) The other two big mags (Analog and Asimov's) don't have a first reader. I think it's also an issue of just trying to answer promptly. If an editor consistently takes about 3 months to answer, it might mean that there's a 3 month backlog, and he's reading as fast as he's receiving submissions, which would mean that if that backlog was gone, he could answer very quickly.

Stanley Schmidt once commented that Garnder comes to the office only rarely, and if that's true, then a large part of the response time could be just the manuscripts waiting for him to take them and then return them. Dr. Schmidt comes to the office once a week, IIRC, so I guess that's part of his response time. But Analog response times these days (again, Rumour Mill reports) are not much more than a month, which is pretty decent IMO -- still not as good as F&SF, of course.
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Thomas R
Posted on Friday, December 05, 2003 - 04:32 pm:   

Funny thing is my brother was more the fan than I. Monty Python had some really funny sketches, but it seemed like rest of the episode or film would be just crude or strange. I saw a bunch of it though. I do like Black Adder even though most seem not to. I guess I liked the period stuff and the humor was fairly accessible. They also had one of the best Christmas episodes I've seen of any show. There are also some British film comedies I like okay. Strangely I think Douglass Adams might be my favorite British humorist. The one book I read of PG Wodehouse was fairly funny however, in a somewhat dumber way.
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Ellen
Posted on Friday, December 05, 2003 - 06:41 pm:   

Are you sure Gardner doesn't have a first reader? He used to.
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Chuck
Posted on Friday, December 05, 2003 - 07:08 pm:   

I think the accent adds so much to the humor. What is it about the British accent that makes everything seem so droll? Perhaps we'll never know.
I never read any PG Wodehouse...but that reminds me of something kind of obscure that might interest you and others. There has been published a book of Benjamin Franklin's less famous letters and publications, and the man is really quite hilarious. It's called Fart Proudly. I didn't read the whole book since it's not mine, but I would reccomend checking it out. Just a weird piece of our history.
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ET
Posted on Saturday, December 06, 2003 - 01:04 am:   

As far as I know, Ellen.

Thomas, I also like British humour, although last time I picked up Hitchhiker's Guide it just didn't grab me. I enjoy Pratchett these days.
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Gorden
Posted on Saturday, December 06, 2003 - 06:42 pm:   

"This is definately a dead parrot."

You are all quite right about the British.

Our regular letter carrier was off yesterday. When I saw the man on the other side of the street, he was at an unexpected time and the dogs hadn't barked, so I didn't go out to look for the mail. He must have come while I was online in the cellar. So, anyway, I didn't know that my response from JJA was outside waiting for me until I took the dogs out hours later.

It was only a week, a best time for a return.

While it was a rejection, JJA did personalize it with very hopeful words. He said the story was well written and moved along briskly. I stuck it somewhere for safekeeping and now I can't find it. If it were in front of me I'd copy it out verbatim, it was such a helpful rejection.

But whatever the wording, it does show him to be quite a proper gentleman.

#

Of all the above British names, I have to say that Pratchett is not only funny as anybody, but the most imaginative and the best stylist. All his asides are so good that they don't slow down the action at all. Things that with any other writer would slow me down or even stop me in my tracks just give me more impetus while reading his books. They are never long enough.

The Hitchhiker books are on a par, almost, with Pratchett.

Thomas! You and I are in agreement about Black Adder. Nothing better.
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Ellen
Posted on Saturday, December 06, 2003 - 08:21 pm:   

ET: he used to have a reader, AFAIK.

<<As far as I know, Ellen.
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ET
Posted on Sunday, December 07, 2003 - 01:18 am:   

Pratchett isn't uniformally good. He sometimes has parts that drag -- I couldn't finish Moving Pictures because of that. But he's reasonably consistent in being good, and at his best he's great.

Gorden, a personal rejection is great. It means that you're doing something right.

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Gorden
Posted on Monday, December 08, 2003 - 02:03 pm:   

Wish I could find that book, I need to see how he can slow down the action. Maybe his word games just tickle me more than you.

You're not going to give me a hint about your Adam and Eve story, are you? Now that you've mentioned it, you've got me going, I have to see how you've done it.
#
It was such an encouraging rejection, I'm preparing to re-submit the tale to Horror Garage Magazine. It has a younger demographic, but once past that, it's okay. I'm immature for my age, anyway.
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ET
Posted on Monday, December 08, 2003 - 10:33 pm:   

Have you read Small Gods? IIRC that was a bit slow for a while.

As for the Adam and Eve story, it's really a silly story that's not worth you thinking about it. If you think about it too much you'll be disappointed when you read it. The Adam story is the better one.

> I'm immature for my age, anyway.

Common guy thing, I hear. :-) But hey, now that I know that I'm inspirational and not lazy, I'm sure that a good sounding word could be found for "immature", too. :-)
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ET
Posted on Tuesday, December 09, 2003 - 01:04 am:   

BTW, I don't believe that it's possible to carry off a long novel based on humour alone. Maybe 200 pages, if the humour is appealing enough, but if nothing interesting is happening...

The best Pratchett books are those that have a real plot, that starts somewhere near the beginning, and is carried to the end. For example Hogfather is IMO a very good book for this reason. But not all his books are like this. The same goes for others -- in Catch 22 the humour was enough to get me to where things started to happen, but Heller's God Knows I stopped reading ten pages before the end, simply because I got tired of it, and there was nothing to look forward to.
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Matt Hughes
Posted on Tuesday, December 09, 2003 - 12:32 pm:   

ET says: "I don't believe that it's possible to carry off a long novel based on humour alone."

Agreed. Without plot, character arc, crisis and resolution it isn't really a novel. I lean heavily on humor and satirical commentary in my fantasy novels, but I still see the basics of story mechanics as the underlying framework.

On the other hand, I recognize that many great humorists -- P.G.Wodehouse, forex -- can contrive novels full of laughter in which the characters end the story much as they began it and the plots are tissue-thin concoctions based on mistaken identity or outrageous coincidences. In such cases, style and wit carry the day.


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Simon Landers
Posted on Saturday, December 13, 2003 - 09:47 pm:   

Re: why you get rejected so ____ fast.

It's because you didn't include the "reader's fee" -- a $20 bill taped to page 10 of your story.

This is a courtesy (know only to the cool) which came into fashion in the 90s as a way for aspiring writers to show respect to the all-powerful slush reader, who probably needs a sushi break after 10 pages of your crap.

Also, if the twenty is still in your manuscript when it comes back, well you *know* it didn't get read.

Another tip: after 3 rejections your REALLY good idea will come to you. Send THAT one to Analog. Consider F&SF a training course.
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Evan McClanahan
Posted on Saturday, December 13, 2003 - 11:09 pm:   

Dunno about that. I've been reading all three of the majors for about 5 months now, and Analog routinely has the weakest stories of the three. One story in last month's issue (I won't mention which one, but I think that you'll know which I mean) was so awful that it was either written by an extremely bright ten year old, or someone had a brain seizure while picking stories for the issue. Frankly, in the time that I've been reading them, Asimov's and F&SF have been neck and neck.
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John Joseph Adams
Posted on Sunday, December 14, 2003 - 06:47 am:   

Simon,

Your "reader's fee" plan won't really tell you if your story has been read or not -- it would only tell you whether or not the reader made it to page 10. As we've said elsewhere on this message board, it's not always necessary to read the entire manuscript to judge whether or not it is right for the magazine (or if it is publishable at all).


Evan,

If you enjoy Asimov's and F&SF, you will probably also enjoy the fiction published at SciFiction (http://www.scifi.com/scifiction/).
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ET
Posted on Sunday, December 14, 2003 - 08:24 am:   

Besides, first readers in the know learned to just open the manuscript to page 10, take the $20 note and then reject the manuscript unread.
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ellen
Posted on Sunday, December 14, 2003 - 09:18 am:   

John,
Thanks for the plug :-)
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Simon Landers
Posted on Monday, December 15, 2003 - 12:54 am:   

ET,
Yes, but forever after, you know that reader will always be sure to at least look inside YOUR manuscripts... if they're well written the reader will be "caught" just by the few words he sees in peripheral vision while pulling the $20 off the page.

Now, if you want him or her to pass the story on to the editor... you tape a $50 to page 15.

Also, dabbing rat pheromones on each page will evoke subliminal excitement in the slush reader's
rodent-like hindbrain.

Just try it. How do you think all those lame Analog stories get published?
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Iron James
Posted on Monday, December 15, 2003 - 05:36 am:   

All I can say is I'd never have to worry about selling a story if it meant enclosing a twenty dollar bill, much less a fifty. No one has yet convinced me that twenty dollar bills even exist, and I know fifties belong in the same body of myths as Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. I've even met a few people who swear hundred dollar bills exist, but the thought is too laughable to even contemplate.

As for Analog, well, I can't say I've ever read a story therein that I thought was bad, though some aren't to my taste. But this is true for most of the magazines I read. Many of my all time favorite stories have appeared in Analog.

But I read Analog, Asimov's, F&SF, and even Realms of Fantasy with about equal fervor. All different, all good. And I started reading Ellen's selections during her Omni days, and love most of what she now buys.
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ET
Posted on Monday, December 15, 2003 - 12:17 pm:   

Simon, now I understand my lack of success. Many of my stories don't reach 15 pages in length. The first reader must look at the story, realise immediately that there's no $50, and reject the story unread.
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Simon Landers
Posted on Monday, December 15, 2003 - 05:22 pm:   

ET,
Actually the reader *will* scan your story quickly to see if it contains a new, original premise.
If so, he or she will reject your story, then discreetly pass along your cool idea to one of his good buddies to work on. The good ol boys control the whole thing, you see, and author gratuities are just lubrication for the machine. It's pretty much like the Mafia.

So, give up. It's childish to waste time sending cashless submissions. The readers will just laugh; it's like a little kid coming up with something he drew--"Look Mommy!"
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Evan McClanahan
Posted on Monday, December 15, 2003 - 06:56 pm:   

JJA: thanks. I'm aware of Ellen's work and think highly of it. I was just discussing the print magazines and didn't mention SciFiction, although in retrospect, I imagine that Ellen's slush pile is just about as large as any of the other majors.

Simon: bitter, are we? Got a big pile of rejection slips sitting there in the desk picking at your confidence all the time? Or are you just trolling? I mean, really. Most of the people here are either fans, pros, semi-pros or aspiring writers. We all know the realities of the business. It's hard. It's doesn't happen overnight. But it isn't an old boys club. Money in your ms isn't going to help. And ideas aren't the hard part. So if you're a bitter writer, perhaps your time would be better served writing rather than posting venomous twaddle here. And if you're a troll, piss off.
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Jeff Peery
Posted on Monday, December 15, 2003 - 07:16 pm:   

It does seem pretty obvious to me that he's joking.
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ET
Posted on Monday, December 15, 2003 - 10:35 pm:   

Of course he's joking. It's common knowledge that postal workers have known this for quite a while, and have been removing the notes from the submissions. If you really want to make a difference for your story these days, you have to use PayPal. Why do you think the editors publish an "editorial e-mail address" on the magazine's website?
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Evan McClanahan
Posted on Tuesday, December 16, 2003 - 12:17 am:   

Sorry. Bad mood lately. Made me pissy and overserious. Dunno what set me off. Brain damage, I suppose, to take that as serious.
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Thomas R
Posted on Tuesday, December 16, 2003 - 02:19 am:   

Don't worry. Humor is sometimes a bit murky online. I think that's why all these silly emoticons came about.
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Iron James
Posted on Tuesday, December 16, 2003 - 09:59 pm:   

On the other hand, I wouldn't be so quick to say enough money inserted into a manuscript won't help sell it. In fact, I think I can prove it will. Just slip two twenties and a ten inside the pages of any old manuscript you have lying around and mail them to me.
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Simon Landers
Posted on Friday, December 19, 2003 - 12:18 am:   

The other thing you have to understand is that when an editor begins to see really good stuff from a given writer, he or she will form-reject at least 3-4 more stories to "temper" the writer's resolve, test their confidence, and hopefully provoke them to great efforts. By doing this the editors also ensure that if they do finally "break" the author, there will be some inventory on the shelf to serve an emerging fan base (if any). They also judge the productivity and turnaround time of the writer by the interval between submissions. Probably they won't publish someone who takes 9 months to come back with a second try; they need authors they can rely on for monthly material. It is better to submit crap monthly than genius annually. Try it!

Most successful writers find that by submitting trashy, imitative stories every month, enclosing a gratuity for the reader, and drinking heavily, they have established themselves as reliable hacks who fit into the "machine".




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John Thiel
Posted on Monday, January 05, 2004 - 08:21 am:   

There certainly is a lot of material on rejection, and, concommittantly, acceptance on the F&SF Forum. Analog and Asimov's have this topic but don't match it. There's I Just Received My First Rejection, Time From Acceptance To Publication, will the mag accept avant-garde etc, General Submission Question, Submission Address, Thoughts On Self-Published Authors, What Don't Editors Want To See Again Ever, Why Not Send Rejections Slips By E-Mail, Submission Question II, The Movie, and at the top of the Forum list, Fast Rejections Page 2, with page 1 gone to obscurity but with 190 responses on the newer posting.
Remarkable Letters of Rejection was on another forum board and I always wanted to point out the letter of rejection I'd received, but that topic seemed to have died over there. What do people think of this one? I won't say which Big And Only Three editor or assistant wrote it, but who it was was not in a helpful mood that day, I think.

Dear Mr. Thiel:

Your story's read and disapproved of, but there are some comments I'd like to make about it, and by the way, how do you manage to come up with something that is between a short story and novelette but is neither one? Story lengths involved here.
My first comment is that your story lacks aggression. You want to have something that will force the matters you are discussing into the reader's consciousness; you want to invade his world with realms (or perhaps your concepts are not as large as realms) of your own. Put it to the reader, sock it to him. In other words, there isn't enough BALLS to your writing. I like writers that arrive there in a full metal jacket. And pitch some woo. You agree too much with your potential reader that he won't like what you are saying. Try to get him in the mood for your piece.
Anything else? Yes, you balance dialog and description nicely, but ACTION? Ever hear of it? Put some action into your adventure in thought.
Probably we still wouldn't use your story if you added these standards to it, as the concepts are a little obscure to our reckoning. And I don't know who would use it. Try it out with some of the e-zines. Those are accessable via your computer.
So far I'm not encouraging you to send anything to us. But, if you do, we'll give it the same impartial reading we give to other manuscripts.

I'd like to know how I'm expected to add to my story a quality the turner-down of it seems to be trying to deplete from me?
Just another rejection-slip story.
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Lou Antonelli
Posted on Monday, January 05, 2004 - 11:46 am:   

John -

You're fortunate to get this kind of feedback, despite it being a rejection. If this is from whom I suspect (and I think I recognize the style) HE KNOWS WHEREOF HE SPEAKS.

I'm 46 years old (turning 47 tomorrow). When I was your age, the quality of my writing was such that I'd probably get the same kind of feedback

Just take this to heart, keep it in mind and set your hand to work so that you'll be a success sooner.
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ET
Posted on Monday, January 05, 2004 - 12:28 pm:   

Happy birthday, Lou.
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Lou
Posted on Monday, January 05, 2004 - 01:19 pm:   

Thanks!
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Simon Landers
Posted on Wednesday, January 07, 2004 - 11:47 pm:   

And what the hell do you think they mean when they say, "It just didn't *grab my interest*"?

That's code, which all veterans understand to mean "there was no interest-grabbing currency discreetly enclosed in the manuscript".

BTW, successful candidates these days are enclosing euros, rather than dollars, because euros are now the superior world currency. So don't show you're an oaf by slipping the US twenty in there... that's so passe. Go to the nearest American Express office, bank, etc. and get yourself some nice new euro notes to lubricate your career. It's classy, and contemporary, and shows you're tuned in to the times. Best of luck,
Simon
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Patrick Samphire
Posted on Thursday, January 08, 2004 - 01:39 am:   

I'm not sure I agree, Lou. An editor who sends that kind of feedback is not acting professionally. The way it's written is so rude that the author is unlikely to take any notice of it. Further, the suggestions are are so generic that they are useless. Nope, I think that would be an editor I wouldn't send another story to.

BTW, Happy Birthday, Lou.
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John Thiel
Posted on Thursday, January 08, 2004 - 06:52 am:   

There's half a dozen new topics I could have added to my list of topical interest, so I think acceptance/rejection/story-form is a matter of prime concern at this forum.
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Lou Antonelli
Posted on Thursday, January 08, 2004 - 08:28 am:   

Patrick -

The opposite of love is not hate, it's apathy. The fact a busy editor takes the time to offer the criticism shows he cares on some level. If an writer is possessed of the right combination of self-honesty and self-confidence, he can make proper use of the feedback.

Of course, I'm middle-aged and have a lot of experience under my belt - if not in fiction writing (I'm a journalist by trade).

On the subject of my birthday, my mother sent me an electronic birthday card, while my mother-in-law sent a real card and some money.

I commented on this to my wife, who opined "My mom hasn't known you as long as your mom."
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Neil A
Posted on Friday, January 09, 2004 - 05:17 am:   

Sorry to stick my oar in but Lou, I agree with Patrick (hi Patrick - coincidence, I'm not stalking you). That is a completely opinionated and unconstructive response to John's submission.

And you're being slightly patronising regarding the age thing too.

James Joyce's Dubliners was published when he was 24 (though he wrote it earlier), Zadie Smith's White Teeth when she was around the same age. I'm a third a way through writing my second novel (yes, the first one has been published) and I'm not 25 until May.

Genre-wise, China Mieville's not exactly turning grey yet.

And there're plenty more good young authors to be found here:

http://www.granta.com/back-issues/81?usca_p=t

Knocking someone for their age is almost as offensive as that rejection is.
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Patrick Samphire
Posted on Friday, January 09, 2004 - 06:53 am:   

Hi Neil. Strange how you run into the same people on so many different boards. By the way, what's your novel called? I confess to ignorance.

Btw, how would anyone know if China was going grey?
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Neil A
Posted on Friday, January 09, 2004 - 07:20 am:   

"Btw, how would anyone know if China was going grey?" ;)

Oh, it's not ignorance on your part, Patrick, it's lack of success on mine. It's called Nicolo's Gifts. Publisher's site is here:

www.bluechrome.co.uk

More details on Amazon, and there's a review in the latest TTA:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0954379667/ref=sr_aps_books_1_1/202-876 3656-1223013


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Lou Antonelli
Posted on Friday, January 09, 2004 - 11:47 am:   

Neil -

I wasn't knocking John for his age, I was knocking ME. What I meant was, when I was that young, I wrote badly. It took me a long time to hone my fiction writing skills.
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Neil
Posted on Monday, January 12, 2004 - 01:39 am:   

Fair enough, Lou.

Patrick, I realised over the weekend that you wrote Finisterre. What an excellent story! It's so rare to find something so wonderfully characterised and yet so tightly plotted. Most writers strengths are either one or the other.

Looking forward to reading some more of your work.
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Patrick Samphire
Posted on Monday, January 12, 2004 - 01:59 am:   

Thanks, Neil. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I had a look at your book on Amazon. It looks interesting. The reviews are intriguing. I've put it on my ever-growing, never-shrinking list of to-reads.
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William Wagner
Posted on Friday, February 20, 2004 - 12:13 pm:   

Wanted to comment about something I've read on this page. I never went to college, so I never took a college English course, only high school ones. Boy am I glad I haven't been corrupted by "the rules." I understand grammar from reading and reading and reading, all I can, and writing and writing and writing as much as possible. As far as "voice" is concerned, it'll come when it does. I don't try to force a voice. I try and tell the best story I can and make my characters interesting enough. Thanks.
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William Wagner
Posted on Friday, February 20, 2004 - 12:26 pm:   

What is this I'm reading about slipping money into your manuscript when you send it to an editor? Is that for real? It sounds like a bribe. I wouldn't do it. You're insulting the honest editor who would be appalled by such a thing. You're probably wasting your time as well. The only thing I can say if you have talent, continue reading stories and writing them, and don't give up submitting to the same magazine, like MFandSF, you should succeed in the long run. Money won't help you do it, as far as bribery goes. An "in" won't help you. Read Stephen King's On Writing. I think that's the best book about writing I've read. Some people think there's a magic formula to succeed at writing. There isn't. Hard work and perseverance. I know it sounds cliched, but true. The people who want a magic formula--say the magic that dollars provide--are lazy. I haven't succeeded in selling my first piece. I feel secure in saying that. I believe in my ability. That's all you need. And the support of a good woman doesn't hurt. I have that. So, forget bribery.
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Jeff Peery
Posted on Friday, February 20, 2004 - 01:20 pm:   

The money was a joke.
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William Wagner
Posted on Saturday, February 21, 2004 - 04:33 am:   

I don't know. Sounds like he's serious to me. Doesn't matter, though. Let him waste his money if it isn't really a joke. I'm new. I don't have that many rejections, but I figure a goal of getting as many as I can is very ambitious. Lol.
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John Thiel
Posted on Saturday, February 21, 2004 - 05:57 am:   

Now this page is starting to load slow.
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Simon Owens
Posted on Saturday, February 21, 2004 - 01:56 pm:   

William, I'm positive that he meant it as a joke.
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ET
Posted on Saturday, February 21, 2004 - 03:15 pm:   

William, the money thing was definitely a joke.

As for setting a goal of getting as many rejections as possible, IMO that's a too common mistake. A writer should never try to get rejections. Getting rejections is not a problem. If I sent the content of the spams I got (the good ones that are sprinkled with random words) as submissions, I'm sure I could amass a lot of rejections. I prefer looking at rejections as just an unfortunate side effect of trying to get acceptances. They are an indication that you're writing and submitting, which is good, but also that you haven't yet sold the story, which isn't so good.

I do tend to look at signed rejections as autographs. I have ones signed by Gordon (from his pre-JJA days), Gardner and Stan. That's pretty cool. However, one autograph from each editor is enough for me. :-)
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Simon Owens
Posted on Saturday, February 21, 2004 - 10:47 pm:   

ET,

I'm not sure I totally agree about setting a goal for a number of rejections being a bad thing. By setting a goal of gathering 300 rejections a year, that means you have to shoot your writing out very consistently as soon as it's rejected. You're right, by shooting my spam at editors I can gather those rejection easily, but that defeats the point. So even though you're aiming to get 300 rejections, you're doing so with the idea that some of those things you shoot out at markets will actually sell.

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ET
Posted on Sunday, February 22, 2004 - 02:54 am:   

I can understand setting a goal for the number of new stories finished, and I can understand making that "finished and submitted" for those who have a problem letting a story go. I could also understand setting up a number of desired acceptances / personal rejections from top markets.

What I can't understand is setting a goal for rejections per se. It's partly a writing goal, but not fully. It combines the will to churn out a lot of stories and the will to resubmit these stories when they get rejected. What it doesn't include is trying to improve the author's writing or increasing the chance of acceptance at good markets.

I see a benefit here, in that editors will get to know you, and if your stories are indeed getting better, then this might help future acceptances. This method probably works, eventually, but I can't imagine it works any better than setting writing goals without rejection goals. 300 rejections a year is a significant amount of money spent, and it could be used for better things, like buying books or attending a con.
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Simon Owens
Posted on Sunday, February 22, 2004 - 10:47 am:   

"What it doesn't include is trying to improve the author's writing or increasing the chance of acceptance at good markets."

I don't see why it doesn't include trying to improve the author's writing. Never was it said "collect 300 rejection AND make sure your writing doesn't improve while you're at it."

I think it does increase the chance of acceptance at good markets--the more editors who see it the more chance it happens to land in front of an editor who likes it.

I hate to use myself as a spotlight, but since my writing stats are the only ones I have in front of me, I have to:

In 2003, I never had more than fifteen things out at markets at any given time, and because of that my stuff only sold maybe every other month.

At the end of 2003 and into 2004, I started to really push to keep my stuff in circulation without letting it sit on my computer collecting dust. Since then, my stuff has sold at a greater rate than a story a week (there's been 7 weeks this year and I've sold 10 stories) and one of them was even an HWA qualified pro market. But what a lot of people don't realize is that in the time between the beginning of December 2003 and now, I've gathered almost 90 rejections.

Okay, I'm starting to blush, so I'll quit talking about my own writing, but my conclusion is that usually when writers set that goal, they're just setting it to make themselves keep things in circulation, it's just a type of motivation for them. I understand your motivations might be different--some writers are more disciplined than others, but when you're a lazy college student like me, you have to set goals or you get nothing done.

Hope that has shed some light on the strategy.
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ET
Posted on Sunday, February 22, 2004 - 01:04 pm:   

Thanks, it does. I'm really just discussing theory. I'm not prolific at all (and that's an understatement), so putting my own percentages into the equations would be meaningless. I guess it does make a sense if you're very prolific to just get things out there. Still sounds funny to me to set the number of rejections of all things. I mean, you've had ten acceptances -- this seems like the more important number.
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Simon Owens
Posted on Sunday, February 22, 2004 - 01:37 pm:   

Well, to be truthful, I set a goal for acceptances as well. So you're right about that, try to be both positive while at the same time realizing that you'll gather far more rejections than acceptances.
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Patrick Samphire
Posted on Monday, February 23, 2004 - 02:13 am:   

I tend to agree with ET on this. I do understand the idea of being positive about rejections. Otherwise, they can knock the wind out of you. But having a goal for rejections would be one stage too far for me. It shifts the psychological focus from the goal of acceptances. Now, Simon, you do say you have a goal for acceptances too, which is great. But why not just have goals for submissions and acceptances?

Like ET, I'm not terribly prolific, and maybe that is part of why I won't set goals for rejections. I need to sell a high proportion of my stories and a rejection is no way of doing that.

Anyway, your strategy seems to work for you, so good luck to you.
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Patrick Samphire
Posted on Monday, February 23, 2004 - 02:17 am:   

It also occurs to me that setting numbers of acceptances as a goal isn't what I do either. After all, I might be able to sell every one of my stories to a low semi-pro or "for the love" market, but that wouldn't be an achievement. Or not an achievement on the road to the goals I'm aiming for. Perhaps that's why number of rejections doesn't work as a goal: I'd rather send a story to, say, Realms of Fantasy and wait 6 months than to a semi-pro that responds in a week, even though that might get me a rejection quicker. Of course, anytime I want a rejection quickly, I just have to submit to F&SF. :-)
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ET
Posted on Monday, February 23, 2004 - 06:03 am:   

Yeah, I don't really set an acceptance goal either. It's more like acceptance hopes. One pro sale a year would be good. Can't really say how likely this is. Didn't have one last year, largely because I didn't have a writing goal -- I hadn't finished anything since Possibilities until late last year. I set my writing goal this year to two stories finished and submitted, because it sounded realistic. Gordon now has a story I finished last year (although tinkered with it a bit this year). If it weren't for international mail I'd probably have had the response by now. :-)
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William Wagner
Posted on Monday, February 23, 2004 - 09:49 am:   

I'm glad I started something, lol, though being new to this message board.

I didn't really mean by saying I am shooting to get as many rejections as possible that I'm thinking of it in a negative way. I'm not. What I mean is continual output of stories and maximum exposure, something I've only just begun. The fact that I end up getting so many rejections means, to me at least, that I'm getting closer and closer to breaking into print.

I've been trying to get published for about ten years now. But I'm only really serious about it now. My fiance has encouraged me, saying my stuff is definitely publishable. I'm getting better.

As of now, beginning what I call my short story campaign, I have six finished stories and three rejection slips, two from F&SF, one from an online publication, Peridot books, with five of them out there right now. The last of the six is a short erotic piece I'm sending out queries about. Also, I have one piece I'm revising and one which is waiting for revision...and like twenty stories in a list waiting to be written.

All in all, I think I've got a good game plan.
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ET
Posted on Monday, February 23, 2004 - 11:30 am:   

William, regardless of how many rejections you get, you'll be getting closer and closer to getting published. All it takes, IMO, is writing, trying to improve, and not quitting. And submitting occasionally -- can't get published without that.

I've yet to get a rejection that I believe got me closer to getting published. Some of them did help a bit, when mentioning specific faults, but that didn't come close to helping me as much as getting critiques and giving them did.

One of the things that are wrong with rejections is that the more rejections I get for a story, the further away I get from the market I wanted the story to be at. Even when there are a few markets that are equally desirable, they are quickly exhausted. While getting rejections might indeed get me closer to publication, that'd be publication at markets that I want less. IMO that's one reason not to shoot for rejections.
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Simon Owens
Posted on Monday, February 23, 2004 - 11:38 am:   

Patrick says: "But why not just have goals for submissions and acceptances?"

This may seem like a weird answer, but if I ever become famous I want to be able to show beginning writers my mass of rejections I've collected over the years to show that I worked hard to get where I am and also use it as a form of encouragement.

Of course this plan is useless if I never become a famous writer ;-P
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Iron James
Posted on Monday, February 23, 2004 - 09:21 pm:   

The only goal I've found that matters to me is to write a set, reasonable, number of words each day. For me the goal is 2,000 words a day, six days a week, and I always set aside five hours to write them. It seldom takes this long, but sometimes it does. I don't want to be rushed because rushing leads to poor writing, at least for me.

I can't control rejections and I can't control acceptances, so both seem pointless as goals. I can control the 2,000 words per day, and I can, at least to a degree, control making these 2,000 words the best I can write.

I can control putting the finished stories in the mail, but once this is done, the rest is out of my hands, out of my control.

For me, what has always worked best is concentrating fully on the one thing I can control, which is turning the 2,000 words per day, written as well as I can write them.
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David Travis
Posted on Tuesday, February 24, 2004 - 09:46 am:   

Well, having received my first rejection letter yesterday... I'm putting in an appearance instead of just lurking. Thank you, JJA, for the polite rejection - as well as the fast turn-around. Dropped the manuscript in the mail on Feb 11th, and had my reply back on the 23rd. I don't think anyone could ask for more (well, aside from accepting everything that comes through their offices with my name on it... hey, this IS a fantasy we're talking about here, might as well have it my way. While I'm at it, I think a dollar a word seems a lot more reasonable... better make that two) than that.

My goals? Well, aside from having something accepted one day, I just try to write. Whether it's an e-mail to a friend, a business proposal for my boss, or an actual story - as long as I'm putting words down, and doing it every day. I don't have a minimum or a maximum. But going forward I do think I'm going to try to drop at least one submission a month in the mail. That way I can start wallpapering my office in rejection notices.

My First Rejection
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Scott William Carter
Posted on Tuesday, February 24, 2004 - 01:17 pm:   

Personally, I found I was much happier when I focused my goals on things I could control. I can control 1) how many stories or chapters I produce 2) how many stories or novels I put in the mail and 3) how much I learn. When I started focusing exclusively on these things, my productivity went up by tenfold, and I was a much happier person. The sales (I've made five pro sales at this point) came in time.

You can't control how many acceptances you get. And if you think about it, you can't even control how many rejections you get--they could always buy them, you know. It's all right to have sales (and awards and fame and mass orgies) be your ambitions, but I don't think they serve much purpose as functional goals.

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ET
Posted on Tuesday, February 24, 2004 - 01:54 pm:   

David, first congratulations on your first submission. Seeing that rejection, I realised that I have yet to get a rejection from JJA. While I'm not planning to make an effort to get one, if I do get one this knowledge will let me take a bit of the sting off it by treating it as an autograph, as I mentioned before. :-)
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John Joseph Adams
Posted on Tuesday, February 24, 2004 - 06:58 pm:   

ET,

I doubt you'll ever get one from me, not while I'm working at F&SF. The thing is, you've sold a story to Gordon, so he's going to be looking at all your stuff as it comes in. It won't even cross my desk.

Of course, if I get my own magazine some day, or edit an anthology you submit to, I'll have the opportunity to reject you then. :-)
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Michael White
Posted on Tuesday, February 24, 2004 - 07:32 pm:   

Well myself I am going back into the grammar and spelling books, my weakness in the world of writing. I know it sounds ironic that I want so badly to get my things published, and I never get the spelling of the words or the sentence structure correct; but it is a work in progress I suppose.

At any rate, I find it frustrating not having lots of people, (Or even one person) that can go over what I've written and say, "That is the stupidest thing I've ever heard..."

I have read a lot, and I compare my things to theirs as best I can but its not just the same! Maybe I need more friends, maybe I need to spend more times in my books, but either way I am trying.

Any suggestions as to getting helpful suggestions from people that have the time to listen? Of course I could always go to the mall and kidnap someone, but I don't really believe he or she would like that too much...


I am also struck with the daunting fear that nobody will even take the time to read over my submissions unless I already have been published. I don't know, it just seems somewhat depressing to me, then again, why shouldn't it be hard to get published?

If it wasn’t as hard, there would be tons of books like the one I finished last night. I had to take medicine to stop the vomiting...
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ET
Posted on Wednesday, February 25, 2004 - 01:21 am:   

John, it's a pity that you don't even see my submissions, because I put something in the cover letter of my last submission especially for you. I hope that Gordon shares it with you or that it's still around and you can ask for it (I sent it on the 8th).

Michael, you could try a critique group. I'm a member of Critters, an online critique group (www.critters.org). There are others. This way you can get critiques of your stories from other writers (and have to critique their stories in return, which IMO is just as helpful for improving your writing).

And don't worry about your stories not being read. Editors aren't in the business of rejecting stories unread. That'd be a waste of time -- they could just as well put in the guidelines "no unsolicited submissions" and save themselves handling mountains of slush. An editor might determine that he doesn't want your story after reading just a little of it, but he certainly won't just reject it without even checking it. John here says he tries to read at least five pages of each story.

Anyway, there are tens of new writers getting published each year, so obviously someone is reading their stories and accepting them.
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Michael White
Posted on Wednesday, February 25, 2004 - 05:46 am:   

alright, thanks Ill bookmark it and check it out tonight

The more I look at the short story I have finished the more I wonder, why dont I spend a bit of time and rewrite it again.

I know this is what writers do, but maybe I need to spruce up the first few pages I usually bog down in detail.
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John Thiel
Posted on Wednesday, February 25, 2004 - 06:29 am:   

ET recalls the days of the "unsolicited manuscripts" legend. That was followed by the SASE and the slush pile. Things are better for writers now than they were then.
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Michael White
Posted on Wednesday, February 25, 2004 - 06:58 pm:   

I looked over all of my stories once more and I get the feeling I might want to rewrite the first few pages to be as interesting as the rest.

I have a bad habit of making the first bit worse then the rest for some reason, Ill have to make sure not to bog it down in the detail of introduction; to disperse the description a wee bit more
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ET
Posted on Wednesday, February 25, 2004 - 10:38 pm:   

Sounds like a good plan.
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Steven Utley
Posted on Thursday, March 18, 2004 - 01:16 pm:   

Vladimir Nabokov was fairly scathing on the subject of translations, and not just translations of Russian novels, either. One of my great serendipitous finds on the discard table at the local public library was his Lectures on Literature (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980), comprising texts edited from the manuscripts and teaching copies he used in his fiction courses at Wellesley and Cornell. I cannot recommend it too highly. The works discussed therein are:

Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen
Bleak House, by Charles Dickens
Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert ("All translations of Madame Bovary are full of blunders ....")
"The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and My. Hyde," by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Walk by Swann's Place (more commonly known as Swann's Way), by Marcel Proust
"The Metamorphosis," by Franz Kafka
Ulysses, by James Joyce

At the time I acquired this volume, I had read everything on the list except the last, and found Nabokov a most helpful guide when at length I did take up Ulysses.
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c. hogle
Posted on Thursday, March 18, 2004 - 03:25 pm:   

For the last story I sent to FSF, I received a rejection within five days from the man himself, Mr. John Joseph Adams. I love the fast turnaround.
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Judith Dubois
Posted on Saturday, March 27, 2004 - 04:56 am:   

Scott's idea of focusing your goals on things you can control is one of the most intelligent and helpful things I've heard in a long time. Thank you, Scott.
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Jeffrey J. Lyons
Posted on Friday, June 18, 2004 - 10:22 am:   

I must agree. F&SF has the quickest turnaround of any of the major magazines. I haven't submitted to F&SF in quite some time because I've been busy focusing on flash fiction of 1,000 words or less and getting published regularly in e-zines.

I always received very cordial letters from John.

-The NH prison guy...
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Joseph Paul Haines
Posted on Friday, June 18, 2004 - 04:43 pm:   

I was surprised with the turn-around time myself. I just got one from Gordon and it only took 21 days to get back to me.

Through two editors and still only three weeks . . .

Man that's quick.

Thanks guys!
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Coyla
Posted on Sunday, June 27, 2004 - 12:00 pm:   

Sounds like your story made it past the slush, Joseph, which is a good sign.

I like the fast rejections as well. And when possible, it's smart business sense. I imagine GVG and JJJ get first look and first dibbs on thousands of stories, since authors are bound to submit there first.
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Melissa Mead
Posted on Sunday, June 27, 2004 - 02:22 pm:   

Works for me. I put F&SF near the top of my list, depending on the fit of the story. I really appreciate the short RT.
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kjn
Posted on Sunday, June 27, 2004 - 06:07 pm:   

I sent a story out, and I just want you to know, if it gets rejected, my bunny is going to get eaten.

Ribbit my poor bunny
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Melissa Mead
Posted on Sunday, June 27, 2004 - 06:28 pm:   

By what? Not that sweet little kitten!
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J.P.
Posted on Sunday, June 27, 2004 - 06:33 pm:   

Eeeew, bet ya didn't like my bunny story!
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chuck h.
Posted on Sunday, June 27, 2004 - 07:00 pm:   

Can I have a bite?
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kjn
Posted on Tuesday, June 29, 2004 - 06:14 am:   

Melissa nah, Gaia can't take on Ribbit, he's too big. Actually I can't eat him until he comes inside again. He found a wife for himself (wild brown rabbit in the woods). So he's married and they have children. He comes to the house to say hi and get petted and play around. Whenever he comes by though I can see his wife and children waiting for him behind the trees (they are prejudice, they don't like humans). When he's done hanging around with me he goes back to them and they all hop away. I think she liked him cause he was all black and all the other rabbits in the area are wild brown ones, so the other rabbits probably never saw a black rabbit before. He's like a rabbit god to them. Cause he was living in the house before I started letting him go outside to explore. And so the wild rabbits probably consider him the rich rabbit of the civilized lands.

JP :-)

chuck .h Depends on if there is enough Ribbit to go around :-)

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