Monday, December 06, 2004

dread times two

Dread #1: I just got a personal invitation to submit a story for consideration for publication in an upcoming anthology, from one of the authors I admire most - the very one whose story inspired me to hope against hope and somehow see that hope come true.

You know, of course, that Nikki and I are avid readers of the fantastic, and we always get the annual Year's Best Fantasy & Horror collections (for the past 16 years edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling; now with Kelly Link and Gavin Grant taking over Windling's half). In the 15th annual, one of the stories that struck me the most was "Plenty", a quietly magical story, by Chris Barzak. I remember looking to see where it was originally published and discovered that it first appeared in the online journal Strange Horizons. That got me thinking: "Hey, maybe I can try to submit too. I've got nothing to lose." So I sent "L'Aquilone du Estrellas", and made my first international fiction sale. I was deliriously happy.

Then later, the impossible occured. The same story was selected and appeared in the Year's Best Fantasy & Horror Seventeenth Annual Collection, something that went beyond my wildest dreams. I found myself rubbing elbows, metaphorically, and like the slavering devoted fanboy that I am, with some of my idols - Neil Gaiman, Ursula le Guin and Stephen King. It was sheer rapture, I tell you, like a sublime magical realist moment which was foreshadowed by Chris' story.

And now, this. Chris and the Ratbastards (sounds like a punk band) are some of finest cutting edge writers around, consistently pushing the envelope in terms of genre and storytelling, and producing work that stands above the rest of pack. People have labelled their work as "slipstream" or "interstitial", but basically they tell stories that dispense with the artificial parameters of fantasy, scifi, horror or realism, stretching the notion of how and what stories can be told. The Ratbastards publish Rabid Transit, an annual anthology of stories that explore their method, style, manner, philosophy, whatever you want to brand it if you need to. The reason I admire them is that their stories are invariably literary, the kind of stuff I think these genres need to evolve into, beyond the irritating Tolkien clones or thick multi-volume mega bestsellers.

I've been invited to submit a story for consideration (which means it will go through the normal screening procedure and it is not guranteed for publication, of course) and I am filled with dread. But secretly, I was hoping for an opportunity like this, to continue my turtle-paced exploration of my life as a writer.

However, I dread the entire thing because suddenly, somehow, I feel the stakes are both personal and huge. If my story fails to be accepted for inclusion, I shall dwindle and die, or something like that - because I really do not take failure well. Sigh. I will try, of course, engage the Filipino in me and say "Bahala na" ("Come what may"). If it doesn't work out, at least I gave the rare opportunity a shot. Too bad I have nothing in inventory, damn it.

And the deadline? Before the end of the month. Bwahahahaha.

Dread #2: I've also been invited to submit stories for consideration to the Paris Review, in my identity as a Filipino writer. This is literary stuff, rarified atmosphere and all, the kind of stuff I'm somehow expected to be writing if I didn't spend so much time with speculative fiction.

The deadline? ASAP. As in this weekend. I don't think I can make this one, but, at risk of sounding like a broken record, I must try.

The pressure is sublime.

Light-headed, I peek into my mind's storehouse and see everything marked "Salamanca". Gah.

And Palanca season is just around the corner.

Madness, I tell you. But I love it all. With gritted teeth.


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