This will be my first attempt at posting to my blog via email. I’ll be going on vacation this summer, so I have the option of writing in my blog ahead of time and having them posted later, or emailing my posts. I want to experiment with this option today
Yesterday, I received another rejection notice from a publisher for one of my short stories. As rejections go, this one is just a little more remarkable than the run of the mill rejection. I say that because it reads in part, “…this one reads like one of those “Tales from Quark’s Bar and Grille” episodes of Deep Space Nine. Taking what’s actually a pretty decent …story and throwing in some sci-fi props may work on television, but it doesn’t work in print.”
So, what am I to understand by this rejection? First, whoever read it watched Deep Space Nine. Maybe a lot of Deep Space Nine. True, my story began in a bar, the bar was futuristic, and it moved to space ships. It was a story about a con finding a mark, then running his game on him. My story did not begin with DSN. It began from knowing a con man who used the con I describe in my story, it’s called a Monkey Trap con. The story is loosely based on him. I wasn’t thinking of DSN, Quark, or anything related to that.
Second, think of any story, it doesn’t matter, make it a love story, an adventure, a space opera, whatever. Now, take that story and put it in a different venue, or even a different genre. Now make it work. That doesn’t mean you’ve written something for TV, it means you are taking a story and using it differently. Just because Quark had a bar out of which he ran scams does not mean that every Sci Fi story that has a bar and a scam was a thinly veiled fan fiction knock off of DSN. The next thing I would take issue with is the phrase ‘throwing in some sci-fi props.” Part of my story had the mark run an errand for the con man to build his trust. It could have been anywhere, I agree and Sci Fi was not integral to that part of the story. But next, he was to go to an asteroid that had collided with a planet made of diamonds.
Some of you may remember the news last year about a planet composed of diamonds. It was absolutely integral to the telling of this story. It could have never taken place anywhere but in space whether the story was in print or TV. It’s my guess that many who read that story dreamed of taking a space ship there and scooping up a load of diamonds. Didn’t you?
The editor(s) who wrote me remind me of a friend I have who, when he reads my stories, says things like, “You must have subconsciously recalled the story of X written by Y in which he, blah, blah, blah. At times, just like in this rejection, there is a very thin thread, or no thread at all connecting his comments to my work. Most often the perceived connection is only in his head.
All of this leads me to this thought. I believe there are many editors who look for any reason to reject works sent to them. They may look for Oxford commas or the absence of them. They may look for how prepositions are used. Each one has a pet thing to look for first to cull works. I can’t blame them for doing this. They have hundreds of submissions and their magazines, online or print, have limitations, so the first order of every day must be ‘what can I cull?’ So, I ordinarily don’t say much about anything of mine being rejected. Usually, the most that I do is send the editor a one word email that says, “Thanks.” They have too much to read to be bothered by more than that.
The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any. Alice Walker