Short story sale (or sales?)

I’ve just heard that my short story Abode will be published in Aurealis magazine #50. This story has been the victim of more almosts than I can count in the fingers of one hand. It’s a story I really liked. It’s set in a self-sufficient and rather backward community in the dark and gravity-less world of the Oort cloud. The title refers both to this setting and the fact that the main character is trying to build a house out of ice (which would be rock-hard out there at temperatures of about 3K). Why does the title refer to the setting? Well, of course, Oort was someone’s last name, but in various germanic languages, it means… you guessed it.

And I’m not sure I’ve mentioned on this blog that I sold my story Survival in Shades of Orange to Analog. This is my WOTF workshop 24-hour story. It is set on a planet with an 90 degree inclination, which means that the planet rotates side-on, like Neptune. This does some really interesting stuff to the climate. How does life survive in such a place? Well, that’s what our characters are about to find out.

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Rejectomancy: why are editors rejecting your stories?

Rejectomancy = over-worrying about rejections, trying to analyse, no-matter-what, why the editor didn’t buy your story, a compulsion to ‘learn from each rejection’ in order to find the holy grail to publication.

ASIM 53 has gone to print! This finishes up another editing project. Being on the other end of the rejection process gives you some insights on why stories are bought and why they’re rejected. Apart from the regular slush reading gig, this is my second editing project, and the more I’m involved with editing, the more I realise that the acceptance, or rejection, or stories is a pretty random process.

Just to be clear, at ASIM, stories that have been ‘approved’ by three slush readers go into a pool from which editors, sometimes several editors at the same time, can choose for their respective issues. These stories have already been vetted against standards of grammar and plotting.

Why do I choose one story and not another?

Of course, the story has to be well-written. But, actually, more important than well-written is a kind of spark. If the story has enough spark, I’ll put up with a certain level of pedestrian writing. I want spark.

And, here comes the rub, what is a spark for me is not a spark for someone else. And that someone else can also be an editor, who would have chosen a completely set of different stories. I like hard SF (there is some of that in the issue), I like space opera (some of that, too), and I like concepts that make me laugh.

A good number of the stories that I looked at and didn’t choose will be returned to the authors with a rejection letter that says that the story was good enough to go into the pool and may well sell elsewhere. There will also be reader comments. Each of these comments are the opinion of one person. They may not even be the reason that the story was rejected. The reason that the story was rejected may not be that the story wasn’t any good. It was just that no one felt any spark while reading it.

A rejection means one thing, and one thing only: the editor couldn’t use the story at that time.

Whatever the rejection letter says does not matter. A line like ‘please consider us for your next story’ may be standard for that magazine. Or it may not. Either way, it means nothing. Regardless of what the letter said, you’d likely send them something else anyway. You may think you’re getting closer with that publication, but that doesn’t mean you’ll actually sell something there. It doesn’t matter whether the editor says this or that, or whether you got through one round and was passed to the editor-in-chief. It doesn’t matter that they kept your story for a month where the average rejection time is two weeks. It doesn’t matter…

It just doesn’t matter.

They didn’t buy your story. At this point in time, your best hope is to send the story elsewhere and send that particular magazine another story.

Some data points from my own stack:
magazine 1: first story I sent them got a personal rejection. I’ve been unable to raise a peep from them since.
magazine 2: never received anything except form rejections. Then a sale.
magazine 3: I have a string of (quite rare) personal rejections longer than my arm, but cannot seem to sell anything there.
magazine 4: two rejections, then a sale
story 1: everyone likes this story. I have a string of almosts from every big magazine. Still unsold
story 2: my WOTF non-winning finalist. Do you think I can sell this story?
story 3: sold on first submission

These data look random, because they are random. Editors are people, and they have preferences. Preferences are not set in concrete and will change from issue to issue. They will depend on what else is in the issue.

Stop worrying about the meaning of rejections. Just send the story somewhere else, and write another story.

Party, With Echoes now up at Redstone SF

The title speaks for itself. Read the story here.

Here are the first couple of paragraphs:

Party, With Echoes

“So – your ancestors were pearl divers in Western Australia?” he says.

“Yup,” Yuriko replies, in a who cares sort of way that she hopes reinforces her tough image. But she thinks, So, you said you were fit? and she’s looking at the thermals stretching over his belly and the pudgy hairy spiders that are his hands.

“You’re OK with the gear?”

He makes an O by putting the tip of his index finger on the tip of his thumb, the divers’ sign. “Don’t worry. I have Open Water, Advanced Open Water, Dive Rescue and Dive Master qualifications.”

Yuriko smiles and thinks, But how long since you’ve used them? The spec from Ianni said he was a company director. David Woodridge is his name, although he introduced himself to Yuriko as ‘John’.

Out of Here – short story collection

The latest release! A collection of eighteen stories that have been published over the past few years. The cover was done for me by the fabulous Andrew McKiernan.

This collection contains some stories that are very dear to me. Some random facts:

The shortest story is an extremely cute 500-word flash that won a place in the ZineWest competition, the longest a 7500 dark fantasy about a deeply-buried family secret, and dark magic.
There are two stories that are based on fairytales, but I’ve twisted them around and set them in a modern setting, one in a bank, the other in the harshness of the Australian outback (hence the Thorny Devil on the cover).
There are stories about dragons, about weird aliens, and possessed bunny rabbits.

Check it out! Click on the image for the Smashwords link. Amazon to follow later this week.

Table of Contents:

Highway – Infinitas Newsletter
Bigger Fish – Fantastic Wonder Stories Anthology
Black Dragon – The Edge of Propinquity
Mass Extinction – Antipodean SF
Legal Aliens – Semaphore
Little Boy Lost – Midnight Echo
The Ten Days of Madness – Antipodean SF
From the Parrot’s Mouth – Beyond Centauri
Metal Dragon – Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine
Never on a Birthday – Byzarium
Out of Here – M-Brane SF
Raven’s Call – Realms
Taking back the Words – Ticonderoga Online
The Only One He Ever Feared – Fly in Amber
The Weed Eaters – The Fat Man At The End of the World Anthology
Straight through the Heart – ZineWest
To Look at the Sky – Semaphore SF
The Invisible Fleas of the Galaxy – M-Brane SF

short fiction 2010 roundup

Since everyone is doing this…

Of course this goes with the usual caveats: the list is highly coloured by the magazines I subscribe to, and fiction I happened to come across. Unfortunately, this also means there are magazines that are over-represented and ones I haven’t had the time to read.

But, without much further ado, here are the ten stories I enjoyed most in 2010 (no particular order, not even alphabetical):

Torquing vacuum by Jay Lake, Clarkesworld 41 (Feb)

Marya and the Pirate by Geoffrey Landis, Asimov’s Jan 2010

In-fall by Ted Kosmatka Lightspeed, Dec 2010

Alone with Gandhari by Gord Sellar, Clarkesworld 42 (March)

Running Lizard by Simon Petrie, Rare Unsigned Copy

Earth III by Stephen Baxter, Asimov’s June 2010

Troika by Alastair Reynolds, Godlike Machines

The woman who waited forever by Bruce McAllister Asimov’s Feb 2010

Acception by Tessa Kum, Baggage (Sep)

The Laughing Girl from Bora Fanong: A tale of colonial Venus by John Dixon and Adam Browne, ASIM 46 (Sep)

I have no idea what thislist says about me, other than that I just spent about an hour going through my copies of various magazines, because I have trouble remembering (actually, I don’t usually take much notice of) author names and story titles.