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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Slush Grumbles...From My Newest Slushpile

I dropped out of the ASIM cohort about a year ago, but I'm still reading slush. I've been very strict on what I send through to the next round. Even a story I think is almost publishable doesn't go through. Almost publishable still isn't publishable. And the rules have become stricter since my time. The score, I am told, has to be around 3, which doesn't make sense to me, since the very best stories we've had in the past received a score of 4. It means all three readers have to give it 1, something I rarely do - very rarely. If you're going to give it a 2, which is a very good score, you might as well reject it outright and let the author find another market without waiting. But I give most of my passes 2 anyway, in hopes that what I was told was not the case or it has changed again.

But this isn't often an issue for me. Most of the slush I receive has been unpublishable, no ifs, no buts. And this morning I received a story that was not only unpublishable in general, it was not even speculative fiction. I had to read all 7208 words to discover this. I wish teachers of creative writing would explain more often to their students that they need to check their markets, instead of simply throwing their seeds to the wind and hoping that one of the markets on the long list given them will buy their magnum opus. I have the sinking feeling that the teachers actually advise them to submit widely, and let the market decide. Hey, I do this voluntarily. I don't even get a free copy! This is my precious time and I resent getting someone's creative writing exercise.

I also wish that more authors would do their research. I remember a story whose author thought a tsunami was a big wind, perhaps a synonym for "hurricane".

This one had not researched a certain type of animal and got it completely wrong. It wasn't even something obscure, but something pretty well known, which I bet turns up in trivia quizzes.

Look, people can get physics wrong in space stories, but physics is complicated - and one story I had in my issue of ASIM did get a bit of physics wrong; he knew about it, but hoped we wouldn't notice, because he liked it as it was. I made him rewrite, though only a bit, just enough to get it right.

But a basic bit of natural history that could be looked up on line? Come on, now!

And then there was the story that looked as if it was plucked from the middle of a novel and probably was. I had no idea what it was about. Four thousand words later I had finished the story and still didn't know what I'd read. I hated to say no to a local author, but it was just not readable, let alone publishable. The only story I let through  today was American. I thought it just might be publishable, a nice bit of humour to slip between the deadly serious pieces bound to turn up.

It was the first story I have not rejected in about the last twenty-five I have been sent. And no, I'm not over-picky, I just don't want to make the next reader have to read rubbish and then the author gets it thrown back anyway. Better for everyone to have it rejected right away. 

I'm still dreaming, every time I open a file, that this will be next year's Ditmar or Hugo winner. Really!

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