Tuesday, March 23, 2004

submit and forget

I've just finished editing, polishing and formatting four stories for submission to four markets (Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, SCIFI.com, Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet and Realms of Fantasy). I'll be snail-mailing all the manuscripts tomorrow with a little prayer before forgetting about them - let these stories rise or fall on their respective weaknesses or merits, as how things should be - until the rejection letters come.

I understand how fortunate I was when my first effort was purchased and then purchased again for inclusion in an anthology. I'm steeling my heart for the "no, thank you, you are a sad, small 'writer' and we are a serious publication" missives - all part of the growing experience (just kidding, all these publications have a form letter for rejection).

I also hope to finish two other stories before the Serious Writing Weekend, the ones I'm planning to submit to Strange Horizons and Asimov's (or perhaps Interzone). And Writers of the Future.

I'm a tad cavalier with my paper children, since I cut the umbilical cord as soon as they're finished. I do my best and then do my best not to fall in love with my own words. I am of the inclination that loving one's work shrieks of masturbation, a kind of intellectual and emotional self-abuse. This is not to say I don't like what I write (although, frequently, rereading something I wrote after some time has passed frequently makes me want to rewrite the entire thing).

So if one or more get accepted, fantastic. If not, then I'll do what other authors do when trying to penetrate paying markets - shop it around until someone gives in or until I determine that my loveless attitude is, in fact, justified. All of these professional markets do not accept simultaneous submissions (when you submit the same story to multiple publishers in the hope that one of them buys it), which I completely agree with. Which is why it makes sense to start with a number of different stories and then rotate them as the fates decree.

The new interstitial stuff I'm developing is actually dual purpose. Apart from trying to be published abroad, there's always local publishing (I'm thinking of putting together my short fiction in a collection for later this year or sometime next year - we'll see).

So am I writing some science fiction? Yes and no. I have never liked the genre, and was heartened to read in Asimov's Science Fiction submission guidelines "...we're looking for 'character oriented' stories, those in which the characters, rather than the science, provide the main focus for the reader's interest. Serious, thoughtful, yet accessible fiction will constitute the majority of our purchases..." Thank god. Because the very thing that makes sci fi dreary, ennui-inducing and fatally repellent to me is when the science aspect (the 'high concept', technology, or 'big idea') is the center of the "story". If I want to read something like that, I'd rather pick up a science journal.

Instead, I'm thinking about near-future stories that have the science as part of the background. Having said that though it is still a big leap for me, given my pecadilloes and reliance of good old magical realism (to digress: Nikki just surprised me tonight with a copy of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's bio - and I want to paint the meadows with delight. And to digress even further: it turns out that Marquez is buddies with fellow Colombian Shakira - check out her DVD Shakira Live and Off the Record).

But it is no secret that I am a fantasist at heart, and all these excursions into "serious" prose is also agenda-driven: to be able to contribute to the growing body of literate fantasy. To create speculative fiction that has a degree of depth, creativity and art that refutes the terribly written "sword & sorcery" tropes that plague unsuspecting readers. To write magical stories that infuse a sense of wonder while telling a good tale with finely-tuned characters. Of course, I am far from my goals, but it helps me to understand what I'm aiming for.

I think the best way to grow as a writer is to simply keep writing. More likely than not, I'll produce things I will be unhappy with, but silver bullets can transform something pedestrian into something beautiful - silver bullets being time dedicated to craft, technique and a gazillion revisions.

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