Maggie Slater’s take on submissions: Darkness to Light

14 02 2013

So here is what Maggie Slater has to say about the questions of submissions and acceptance and getting out of bed. So enjoy and learn something!

 

Well, prior to doing this little exercise, I didn’t have too much trouble getting up out of bed, but NOW… XD Looks like for me, as an author, at least on rough average, I get about 6 acceptances for every 73 rejections<–the depressing part is that I only HAVE 79 attempted submissions at *all*. Yikes. That stings the pride a bit. Sign I need to submit more? Yes, please.

 
As for on the slushing side, it’s a mixed bag, because what I push up to the EoC doesn’t necessarily make it in the end. Apex itself only publishes 2-3 new stories an issue, so about 24-36 new stories a year (outside of reprints, which I believe are commissioned/requested). I get about ten to fifteen a week to go through, and we’ve got eleven total submissions editors, who probably get about the same amount as I do, so on the thin side of that, we process about 110 submissions a week, 440 submission a month, which works out to about 5280 or so a year? (How do you like my out-loud math workings? XD) So it’s stiff competition to get in. I haven’t crunched the numbers, but I reject probably about all but maybe ten percent of the stuff that crosses my desk. 
 
Most common reason for rejection? A lack of familiarity with what Apex publishes. Second most common reason? I get a lot of really good, solid stories that fit our magazine’s profile, but just don’t quite stick out from the rest, that don’t quite have the strength to stand up with some of our reprint authors. I typically read a story, and if I like it enough to read it front-to-back all the way through, I’ll flag it and set it aside for a day. If I can remember, the next day, what the story was about/a character/an image/a mood/a location/even a phrase, or have found myself thinking about it when not actively doing Apex work, I’ll push it up. If I look at it, frown for a while, and can’t remember any details, I shoot it back. Lasting power and resonance is important to me. People spread good stories by telling other people about them. If someone reads a story and, like one of those breath-freshener tab thingies, the story just evaporates with a minty puff, easily forgotten, that story isn’t going to generate much buzz, and isn’t going to draw more people to it. You want something that sticks with people, even if only very subtly in the back of their minds, even if only in fragments of “Oh, I totally loved this one story. I think it had a kid in the mid-south with a box or something that contained something evil in it… And I think there was a preacher, maybe, or a travelling snake-oil salesman… Regardless, it was awesome!” <–and that’s one of yours, Sir! 
 
As a side note: Titles aren’t that important, BUT–they do act as a kind of cover for your short story. At first I thought that meant that a story with a more creative title would stick out in my mind more, but I’ve found that’s not always the case. What matters with titles for conjuring up a story (especially if I *haven’t* been thinking about it on my own time, which is usually a guarantee send-up if I do–and it happens more often than you’d think) in my head a day or so later is the applicability of the title. It can sound generic, like “The Horse”, or something, but if that simple title really clicks with what the story is about, I’ll be able to remember it in a heartbeat. Whereas a story with a title like “Joe Barnaby’s Last Chance, or How Bubblegum Was Really Invented” may not conjure up any story at all if the story doesn’t really fit with it (you’d be amazed the rather dull, uninteresting tales that have fanciful, playful titles–it’s hard to imagine a dull story with a fun title like that, but it happens, unfortunately). A title is a powerful element of the story–just like a person’s name can be important, too. It just has to fit. If you’re writing a beautiful, flowery-language tale, a complex and poetic title would be totally suitable; if you’re writing a quiet, one-inch-of-ivory type tale set in a quiet location, a simpler title might fit better. 
So there you go! Now do yourself a favor and check out the nuggets on her blog!
Make sure you scroll down and check her Wil-E Coyote plans… hilarious.
Cheers
The Science of Fiction
Next up: Another story makes it to round two… how will this trilogy end???




Rejection over Acceptance:The Peter M. Ball Ratio

3 02 2013

So my last post was about my new favorite rejection from the kindly ones over at Tor.com. I can honestly say that the rejection they sent me did more to reboot my submission efforts than the last three sales I made put together. Partly it’s due to timing and partly to the fact that it’s, well, it’s Tor. So at the end of the post I mentioned that I wanted to get some input from writers I admire as to their submission/sale ratios and all the nuances that go along with the process of putting your work out there. My “please write my blog for me” requests went out to two people, Peter M. Ball (because I wish I was him) and Maggie F.N. Slater (because she’s my only friend).

I will start with Pete’s response. I think it highlights the type of submission habits that have made Pete one of the great rising stars in the genre, that and the fact that his writing is just fantastic (BASTARD!). So without further ado, here is how Mr. Ball shops his work. Read carefully and perhaps you too can become a household name (even if it’s just in my house).

Peter writes:

“…So the topic du-jour rejection ratios and how I get up in the morning? In answer to the first part: I have no idea. In answer to the second part: very slowly, and usually only when lured forth by coffee. My natural state is staying up until three in the mornings.

There are plenty of things I track quite scrupulously in relation to my writing career. Submissions, despite my answer above, are actually one of those things. The problem simply lies in what I’m tracking and how.

For example, I can give you more-or-less accurate stats for submissions to open call anthology markets and short-story magazines, ’cause up until December of last year I was tracking all of that via Duotrope. I just fired up the excel back-up I downloaded before the Duotrope pay wall came down and it looks like I’ve got a total of 27 stories recorded there, covering everything from flash pieces I wrote very early on to novelette length work I shopped around. I’ve made 142 submissions to magazines and open anthology calls, and racked up 23 acceptances.

So in terms of the ratio you’re tracking that’s, what, one acceptance for every six mail-outs? One for every seven? I could get out a calculator and get that exactly for you, but already I’m looking at that number and I know it’s wrong. In fact, it’s kinda bullshit.

Lets take a closer look at those stats: Of those acceptances, there are 12 that were accepted within the first 5 submissions; I’m pretty happy with that, although one was a story exactly twenty-five words long that I wrote and submitted to prove a point. Four of my acceptances took over 10 submissions before they were accepted, getting rejected again and again for a period of two years before someone finally said yes.

Worse, I’ve recorded fewer submissions as the years go on. Truth is, I’d be much happier if I was clocking up more rejections these days – it’d mean I was writing more, submitting more, and generally doing all the things I’m meant to be doing as a writer. To put things into perspective: 135 of my 142 submissions were made prior to 2010. I submitted exactly 2 stories to open markets in 2011, and all my 2012 submissions were made in the last four months of the year.

Not that I’ve been lazy for the last few years (well, not *entirely*). I’ve written and sold a handful of stories that didn’t make it into my Duotrope tracking ’cause they were to invitation-only anthologies. Or ’cause they were part of my story series for The Edge of Propinquity in 2011, which I sold on spec on the basis of a series pitch back in 2010.

Still, compared to the massive tear I went on between 2007 and 2010, I feel pretty damn slow and sluggish.

Here are some other things that don’t appear in my tracking document: years of submitting poetry and getting rejected; years of submitting scripts and getting rejected; years of submitting short stories to markets that aren’t SF markets and getting rejection. Three years where I didn’t submit anything, ’cause I was working on a thesis I didn’t end up finishing. Years when I disappeared into the d20 RPG boom and worked like a bastard, simply ’cause I loved gaming and suddenly you could make some cash writing gaming things and self-publishing it.

The excel file I used to gather my statistics covers about six years, from February of 2007 up until December of last year. Six years that are among my most successful, I’ll admit, but still just six years out of the eighteen I’ve devoted to writing.

I mean, one acceptance for every six rejections over those six years? I like those stats. They make me feel all warm and glowy and vaguely competent at this writing gig. Unfortunately, I’m acutely aware that whatever marginal level of success I’ve achieved – and believe me, there are days when it feels pretty damn marginal – it’s not a complete picture.

I’d love to give you overall career stats, but unfortunately I started this gig back when it was easier to track stuff on paper than a computer, so I’d have to spend about forty-eight hours trawling through the stuff I’ve got in storage to find the submission logs.

Instead, I’ll just ask you to take it on faith: I got rejected a whole damn lot. Most of the time people were pretty nice about it. Sometimes, they weren’t. There are two, in particular, that stick in my mind: a rejection that basically wrote off of my first SF short stories with the dismissal that there was nothing in my fiction they couldn’t get from listening to a Morrissey album; my first failed university assignment where a tutor rejected my script as callow slapstick with no real redeeming features.

That first rejection sent me away from writing SF for a few years. Not because it hurt, just because I only knew of two SF markets at the time, and I figured there was more productive methods of using my writing time.

The second one, well, I kept writing shitty scripts and eventually I wrote some less shitty scripts and at some point someone picked them up and made a couple of plays from them. And then I realised that I wasn’t a big fan of writing theatre scripts, ’cause I’m something of a control freak and I had no desire to direct. That said, the guy who told me I wrote callow slapstick became my thesis supervisor after I stuck around in writing classes, kept turning in work, and generally made it apparent to everyone that I wasn’t going away so they should probably just teach me how to write.

Which brings me to the getting up the morning part, I guess, and the other reason charting my acceptance ratio is probably a waste of time.

No two writers follow the same path. They don’t their craft in the same way.

This, I think, is the problem with submission stats: they don’t take into account the fact that every writing career is different and every writer develops in different ways. My one-in-six hit rate is the result of a lot of rejection in the twelve years prior, a lot of study, and a life where I more-or-less decided I had no interest in a job that wasn’t writing and therefore avoided full-time work until I was thirty-five or so.

Most of that time was spent doing sessional work for universities, which is basically twenty-six weeks a year where you work a single twelve-hour day every week and get paid really, really well. The other twenty-six weeks of the year are spent scrambling to pay rent. Even that was designed to advance my writing in some way: I’d routinely get given a pile of 100 short stories to mark and comment on. You read a lot of terrible stories doing that, and you have to figure out a way to tell every single student how to make their terrible story better.

That did a lot to improve my writing. Probably more than it did for the students, to be honest.

People never used to believe me when I told them I was a really slow writer. Largely this is ’cause I had a whole lot of time devoted to writing, and a stubborn refusal to give up on anything. If you changed the ratio we were measuring to writing-time-versus-acceptances, I’d be in all kinds of trouble. It’s also why, as I’ve slowly become more enthused by my day job over the last two years, my output has dropped dramatically.

Getting up in the morning is actually kind of easy: this is what I do. I don’t mean that in the cranky way writers usually do, where they sit there and say you have to love it and want to do it more than anything; if you can do anything else, you probably should.

That, I think, is bullshit. I like to own my decisions in this respect: I could have done plenty of other things with my life. There were a handful of times where I actually thought about it. Every time, I figured writing was worth it. It was an active choice to say this is what I’m doing with my life, no matter what.

I write for two reasons: to be read, and to be paid. Editors have to say yes for either of those things to happen, but I have no control over that. All I can do is put as much of my best work out there as I can so there’s plenty of opportunities for them to say yes, this one, we’ll take it and we’ll send you a cheque.

In that respect, rejection doesn’t bother me. It’s a sign that I’m doing my job.

And I really like my job, even if I’m not a morning person.”

 

And that my friends, is how he does it. I must admit that I picked up some real solid tips from this. So I want you all to thank Mr. Ball by visiting his site and telling him how great he is. Also I want to collectively mourn Duotrope and the economic reality of E-commerce. I used that site like a hypocrite uses the bible and now I have to pay for it. I haven’t yet, but I really should.

Next up: what Maggie has to say.

Keep submitting and never… submit????

Andrew C. Porter

The Science of Fiction

Enjoy the puppy bowl





Best Rejection… EVER! Tor.com makes me want to live another day, or “How I learned to quit worrying and love the Liz Gorinsky

25 01 2013

I get roughly 75 rejections for every sale. I really can’t say what other writers deal with. I’ve Heard Peter M. Ball actually sells more stories than he submits, but that could be rumor. Of course this means that in order to get published you must submit, submit, SUBMIT! I have friends that like to write stories yet find themselves terribly discouraged when they cannot get published. Yet when I ask about their submission rates they tell me that they have submitted to, “that one place that rejected me…”  Well that won’t work. You push on, submit, write more so you have more to submit, rinse and repeat. Try not to let it get you down.

Nothing feels better than a sale. I mean really. The last time I made a sale I wore a grin that made my neighbors little girl cry and her little boy hide behind his mother’s leg. But you can’t live for that feeling. It is too elusive. Instead, you have to find other fixes to get you by. Workshop, blogging, honing your craft, reading- all good ways to survive the lean months (years) between the pure, unadulterated amphetamine that is, “We are happy to inform you that we would like to publish your story.” I have discovered another pleasant mediator- the good rejection.

I don’t get many of these. Good rejections are as rare as sales. Last night I got a really good one from none other than Tor.com.  Tor.com is a really special place, a nexus of sci-fi/fantasy and mainstream culture. It is well written, well funded, and well… a lot of people visit the place. I put a sub in there about six months ago and forgot about it. Last night I received this:

Dear Mr. Porter,

Thanks so much for your patience while we evaluated “The Stone
Flowers,” which finally made it to the top of the long queue of the
very oldest stories in our Tor.com submissions pile. The good news is
that you were on that queue because you were in the second look pile.
The less good news is that you were moved there shortly after we
opened the market to the general public and got a huge influx of great
submissions, and I’ve been playing catch-up ever since. We very much
appreciate your patience during the process.

Unfortunately, now that I’ve had a chance to read the story, I
don’t think this one is quite right for us. As I mentioned, our first
readers all found things to admire, remarking, “This was a little slow
at first, but pretty soon I couldn’t look away. I may be biased
because I love octopuses, but this is also different than anything
else I’ve ever read, and it was strangely emotional for having such an
alien point of view,” “Very cool premise, and the ending is great. I
think the writing isn’t quite effortless enough,” and “Yeah, there are
points in the beginning when the writing feels totally clunky, but the
emotional journey is profound and the concepts interesting and
well-developed.”

While I did find the alienness of this perspective intriguing, I’m
afraid it moved too slowly for my tastes and I found the prose to be
not quite interesting enough–at times it felt more like a synopsis of
a story than the story itself.

That said, despite my reservations about the story, it was a close
call for us, and we would be happy to look at anything you choose to
send us in the future, if you’re not well and truly fed up with us. I
do hope things will speed up considerably now that we’ve recovered
from the massive initial flood and have several more hands on deck to
do first reads.

Best,
Liz Gorinsky
Tor.com

So that is without a doubt my favorite rejection…EVER!

Now for the problems. I was explaining to Dear Maggie today that the story- so sweetly rejected -has made it to the finalist spot at about half a dozen top pro magazines. Intergalactic Medicine Show asked to hold it for nearly a year “trying to find a place for it,” or so they said. I love this story. I wrote it about my friend Dana in Nashville after she lost a parent and it contains some very genuine feeling. The biggest problem: I have submitted this story to just about every place I can think of and it just can’t find a home. What’s more, the six “bigguns” that rejected it all gave me very nice rejections with thoughtful advice on how to improve it… and the advice is almost entirely contradictory. I know better than to worry about it. The above rejection didn’t really offer advice so  much as state why it didn’t quite make the grade (they were very fair with that and that’s why it’s my favorite rejection). I won’t give up. I love this story and I believe (with all my sugar coated heart) that it has a loving place waiting for it out there.

Thems the breaks.

So hats of to Tor.com for being awesome. One note, they were awesome before this rejection, now they’re just more so.

Science of Fiction.

I want some input from friends on their rejection ratios and how they get up in the morning. I will ask around and post.

Cheers.

Andreas





The Butler County in my Head, Part II

19 01 2013

My Computer is sick. It has reached its mid-twenties in computer years and much like humans, its inherent instabilities are manifesting. If only their were a USB Prozac I could plug into the thing and make everything alright. I can’t count the number of friends I have that drifted into insanity, addiction or just out-and-out weirdness as they transitioned from adolescence to middle age. One minute you”re sitting in a bar with a friend talking about the relative merits of knees and elbows and the next minute that friend is being carried out of the bar screaming French at the cops while the mini-skirt he’s wearing rides up to expose his junk flopping around like a boneless appendage signing the guilty plea to his third indecent exposure charge in as many weeks. That was an interesting evening. I couldn’t help but think that he wasn’t really all that into the whole transvestite gig as the skirt was made of cheap black jersey material and the top didn’t even try to match. What a digression.

My computer is getting drunk and wearing a miniskirt from K-mart. I’d call it a cry for attention, but it’s going to have to go Macy’s if it wants me to notice. I’m all class. That being said, with my machine getting sick, I’ve been creating zip files of all my work and emailing them to trusted friends as well as making zip drive backups which I’m scattering to the four winds. Understand- I don’t think that a lost War and Peace is buried in my old writing, but I do have about as many words as War and Peace, and that’s just a lot of work to trust to the fickle whims of the digital format alone. In the process of copying files I had to make a place for the smallest of my folders- PUBLISHED STORIES! It is a woefully thin folder, but one that is filled with pride (yes, I’d rather there be about half as much pride and twice as many stories, but you take what you can get). As I looked through the stories that have seen the light of publishing day I noticed something: they all share a setting. A dozen or so stories I’ve sold have been set in my native county in Kentucky (Okay, all but one- that story was set on the moon). It is quite interesting to me that of all the stories I’ve finished and submitted- around fifty stories- nearly all that were sold were set in my home town.

About my home town. About a year ago I outlined why Butler County makes for good settings in my particular breed of dark sci-fi. It is perhaps just as interesting that I started this post exactly one year to the day that I posted about BC last time. I’ve probably mentioned that Butler County is mentioned in the film Village of the Damned, the John Carpenter film starring Christopher Reeves. At the opening of the film the doctor, played by Reeves, mentions that he has just returned from Butler County where he delivered a child. How do I know this is a reference to my Butler County? John Carpenter grew up one town over from me and every film he makes contains one or two geographical references to the area. Fittingly, our reference came from Village of the Damned. 

So what to do with this information, this revelation? It certainly plays into the “write what you know” adage that I find to be such a hackneyed cliche. I don’t want to think that the stories I’ve sold are my best work. In truth some of these stories are, in retrospect, not all that good. Yet they sold, some to semi-pro, some to pro. I don’t think for a second that if I wrote another story set in Butler County that it would sell, yet I when I look at the half a hundred finished short stories I have written every one set in Butler County has sold.

Perhaps it’s an “unponderable,” as Tolkien liked to put it. I haven’t sold a story since last spring so I need to get cracking on something somebody wants. I might as well write what I know (will sell). It’s time to return to Butler County, a strange place that straddles north and south and rests in the shadow of Paradise.

 

Cheers

Paradise Coal Plant. Behind it you see Butler County, my native land.





Maggie Slater, Still looking on the bright side no matter how bad I say it is…

2 01 2013

All of my regular reader know who Maggie is. Yes, I meant to leave that noun singular. Maggie Slater is my only “net-friend,” meaning that we have never met and have no plans to do so, but we’ve corresponded so long and traded stories so much that I have a wad of neurons in my brain that are dedicated to Maggieness and nothing else. She’s my friend- and a very dear one. I am an old school geek and this part of my life is likely the largest part of me that I do not share publicly, but that is where the kid is so great and so valuable. She’s as big a geek as I am. So why am I writing this? Simply this- I am very antisocial, a hypochondriac, paranoid, I dislike physical contact and I really dislike social obligations, so there are not a lot of easy relationships in my life. My wife understands my… oddness, and that is why we work so well. Maggie asks nothing of me and I’m probably her second biggest fan so this is a paean of praise for my favorite person in all of Geekdom.

Part I:  How I met the Maggie

I decided to start writing this blog about three years ago. I had been writing science fiction for about twelve years and did not manage to make a professional for the first seven years. I had learned so much in the process and I felt like I had a lot to share with other genre writers that were just getting started. When I started sending out manuscripts I didn’t even know what a “slush pile” was. I was easily discouraged, I had a piss poor relationship with grammar, and I felt very alone in my endeavor.  Remember, when I first started it was the earliest days of online publishing and well before the days of online or electronic submissions, so I had developed as a writer along with the internet science fiction market, and I wanted to talk about it (and make lots of stupid lists). My favorite magazine was (and is) Apex. There are many reasons for this, though the primary are its love of Kentucky, its truly great stories, and its founder Jason “The Beast” Sizemore. Jason was very helpful to me over the years and so when I decided I wanted to interview a slush editor for this blog, I asked him to point me in the right direction. He sent me this message:

 Hey Andrew, 

I don’t think you want to talk to our slush wrangler. He just controls the slush pile for us. I’m thinking you’ll want to talk to Maggie Jamison. She’s funny, she’s sweet, and gives great advice.

This was in 2009, and we’ve been friends ever since.

Part II:  My favorite things about Maggie

1. She never questions my most recent disease: I mentioned that I’m a hypochondriac. That is true- to a point. I am also very unlucky and have a bad habit of putting inappropriate things in my mouth. For instance, on a trip to the Yucatan a couple of years ago I put an underground lake in my mouth. Well perhaps not an entire underground lake, but as much as would fit in my mouth/throat/lungs/stomach etc. The bottom of the lake was filled with an ice age’s worth of giant sloth and crocodilian fossils and a figurative ass-load of single celled organisms. Montezuma, vengeance is mine, saith the Lord. So I am always paranoid that some organism is settling in to dine on the constant flow of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup cereal that is my diet.

2. She always reads the crap I ask her to read (and manages to say nice things about it without making me feel like I’ve won a “You Tried!” trophy): Seriously, this girl has a full lid of work, marriage, editing, writing and who-knows-what-else, yet still weeds through my garbage and gives good feedback.

3. Talent: Maggie has a Campbell or a Nebula in her future. Perhaps even a Hugo. If I had the evolved voice she has at that age then you would be going to see a movie someone adapted from me this weekend. I really can’t wait until I get to tell my niece that I know the author of that book she has in her backpack. It’s coming, and I got there first!

4. Video Games, and The Dark Lord that makes Voldemort look like Micky Mouse: She knows more about video games than is healthy. When I was a sprout (The Legend of Zelda was the big thing at the time) girls really weren’t aloud to play Nintendo. So pardon me for thinking that girls that love gaming are quite novel and wonderful. I don’t think she’s into D&D, but she would be. As for Dark Lords, she’s a fan. And she likes Dark Lords whose names have way too many consonants in a row. Girls that dig Yog-Sothoth are all right by me.

Part III:  My plans for Maggie- The Manifesto

I started writing science fiction because I was a fan of science fiction. I had no major philosophical schemata; certainly there was no organic intellectual unity to my thinking. I was immature and so were my stories. About three years ago I realized I did have a specific world view, a theme, an approach. It was internally consistent, at least as far as anything human can be. I believe in a sort of Jungian approach to technological incorporation. In other words, technology finds its seat in human existence when it co-opts the profound mystical symbols that we use as the roots of language. Language being, of course, a technology. I won’t go into it too much here, suffice to say that the kid sends me an email the other day shooting me an idea for a new sub-genre that reeks of this, and now I’ve spent six days trying to hammer out a set of rules for her and I’m stuck. I will get unstuck, but stay tuned for the Fantechy Manifesto.

So that’s my “I Heart M.J.” diatribe. It’s time for bed. The dachshund is restless.

The Science of Fiction

ACP





George R. Martin, Return of the Jedi, A Writer’s Blues, and Happy New Year

31 12 2012

Well I published professionally once this year, and I suppose I should be thankful for that. I’ve got a major case of type II writer’s block. Type II is the kind of block where you just don’t have the discipline to put your ass in a chair and do the work. I’ll be working on that in the near future.

Want to hear something really stupid? I avoid writing about George Martin because I’m actually afraid that one day he will come across this site and read what I’ve written. This guy is probably one of the most successful writers in the world; he single handedly  reinvigorated the fantasy genre and brought legions of people to geek culture and I am actually worried that he will see this dinky blog and not like what I say. Who has the ego problem? So I won’t say much on George other than to wonder if this will be the year that brings us Winds of Winter. Probably not.

So it is New Years Eve and I am doing almost exactly what I want: watching “Return of the Jedi.” So it isn’t “Empire Strikes Back,” but this has been a pretty shitty year for me, so I think it fitting that I watch Jedi as opposed to Empire. (Chewbacca is getting ready to get caught in the ewok trap- stupid ewoks).

Aren’t you glad there is a third world coz’ you really don’t want to have to compete with those people.

I used to live near the beach, and I would wake up in the middle of the night and walk down to the sand and sit there and listen to the ocean and think, “Damn, I’m so lucky.” It isn’t such a bad way to be. We worked on the beach, me and these pretty and tanned kids and we would drink ourselves stupid and roll down the A-1A with the surf and the stars and the sand all in our hair and eyes and it was a good way to be. I’ll never go back, never be back there- and that is okay too. There is nothing more precious than that which is fleeting, and what is there to say about good times while they last? That is what songs are for.

Thoughts for leaving an arbitrary thing behind.

 

Cheers and new years.

acp





The World That Did Not End- prophets, seers, and doomsday men

23 12 2012

So here it is, December 23rd 2012. The world is turning, life is living, and nothing fiery is falling from the sky. Where are all the prophets of The End of Time today? Sedona… they are all in Sedona. An old friend of mine, Ben Masters (one of the most brilliant and original minds I have every known), started spewing this “end of the world 2012” bullshit about fifteen years ago. I honestly was a bit excited about the oncoming end day so that I could call Benji out of the blue and say this:

Ben: Hello?

Me: Hey Benny-Boy, how are you doing?

Ben: Porter?… is that you? What’s going on?

Me: Ah, nothing, just calling because it’s the 22nd of December 2012 and the world is still here.

Ben: Oh.

Me: Oh? Oh?! That’s all you have to say to me? Oh? After more than a decade of suffering through your crazy ass theories about the end of the world and all you can say is ‘Oh’??

Ben: Well, you know, the world may still have ended. We could just be like, a simulation or something.

I wish that the conversation had gone better than that, but frankly I didn’t have anything to say. Like most prophets of bullshit, Ben was able to move the goalpost without breaking a sweat.

My favorite aspect of such doomsdayology is the full integration of crap metaphysics. Go on youtube and you can find thousands of hour long “ascension” lectures that will tell you how to deal with the “side effects” of the new era of higher existence. My favorite tries to explain the ascension into “new dimensions.” According to this prophet, humankind has dwelt in the third dimension and is now ascending through the fourth on our way to the fifth dimension. The fifth dimension is a place of accelerated spiritual and biological evolution. We will become more psychically attuned to the world around us and start to perceive the invisible realms: ghosts, angels, insert your bullshit superstition here. Now as far as I know, the fourth dimension is time (given to us via relativity), and the fifth dimension is a mathematical construct used to solve several problems in particle and astrophysics (i.e. for unifying gravity).  Of course they could be referring to the band, but I don’t think so.

Yes, I hate new age pseudo religion/philosophy. I’ve been to Sedona, the Vatican of New Age touchy feelyism. I’m still trying scrub off the skank off of me.

Look at me... I can see the future!!!

Look at me… I can see the future!!!

 





20 12 2012

So today is the last day… ever. I want to go into oblivion with a clear conscious so here, in order of importance, are my apologies to people I’ve wronged. I want to say I’m sorry too…

10. …those guys from Illinois that I met at the bottom of the grand Canyon. I popped your raft and took a leak in your camel packs. I’m a redhead and my legs resemble the milky flesh of a girl that took a three day swim in the bottom of a river before resurfacing to a crowd of permanently scarred kids fishing on the bank, and you noticed their color- over and over again. I should have let nature take its course. After all, you were terrible people and I’m sure the annoyance I caused you was nothing compared to the jagged disappointments that life made you swallow in the years since.

9. …the girl from the HR firm that had the crush on me. You were a reasonable, lovely person. I enjoyed the dates we went on. I have never stopped admiring your grasp of The Legend of Zelda. We met during a period in my life when I was really into vapid, shallow, silly people and did not yet appreciate the power of dating a girl that shared my taste in video gaming.

8. …Orson Scott Card. I still think your summery of me as a “liberal douche-bag” was unfair, but what I did was just uncivilized. I hope the smell came out.

7. …the lady renting the beach house in St. Augustine. There is no excuse for what I did. You simply asked us not to park where we were parked. The fact that you yelled that the end of that street was not some sort of “scenic overlook” while we were standing beside the sign that said “scenic overlook” was surely just a result of you not wearing your glasses. Cramming, stuffing and threading three pounds of squid into and around every inch of your car is just no way to behave.

6. …all the citizens of my home county. Though many of you have informed me that I embarrassed our county on national television, I still feel like I owe you all an apology. I suppose I just thought it was PBS, and nobody from my hometown watches PBS. I was very wrong. I stand behind my statements- they were all true- but in retrospect I should have followed the example of my fellow BCians and just said nothing at all.

5. …Stephen Hawking. The “you’re taller in person” remark was uncalled for. I appreciate you laughing, but we all knew you were just being polite.

4. …the labor union movement in Kentucky. I’m not an enemy of unions. Did I do a lot to kill their development in Kentucky? Yes I did. Do I feel bad about it? I’m on a break, but when I come back on the answer will be yes.

3. …the meth cooks in that lab out the old Brooklyn School Road. I called them.

2. …Peter Jackson. Your heart was in the right place. Your head… well, that is debatable. I have been talking shit about you for nearly a decade, and for what? So you trounced on one of the most beloved books of my young life. Who cares. I should thank you. Your over-saturation of the world with all-things-Tolkien made me stop reading the books long enough to discover “A Game of Thrones.”

1. …Jack White. I was so stoked about opening up for your band. You seemed really cool. You still owe me 800 dollars you asshole. No, this is not an apology. I’m still pissed at you, and yeah, I stole your amp.

Cheers.

The Science of Fiction.





Rejected! Shimmer Magazine says I just don’t sparkle.

16 12 2012

Here is the rejection I got from Shimmer Magazine:

Dear Andrew,

Thank you for allowing us to consider ‘Mahdi’, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to pass. It was interesting, but overall it was too vague, and the tone was too detached for our tastes, which meant that I struggled to work out what was going on, and I didn’t feel that I got to ‘know’ the characters enough to care about them. The syntax also felt a little awkward in places, and there were a few grammatical errors, and while these are minor slips, they do disrupt the flow of the story so I’d suggest scanning over the piece again should you choose to send it to other markets.

These are just my opinions, of course, and are intended to give some (hopefully helpful) insight into why it didn’t quite work for us.  All the best in placing it elsewhere, then, and good luck with your writing!

Nicola,
Associate Editor,

Shimmer Magazine
www.shimmerzine.com
All in all one of my favorite places to get rejected. First of all, every rejection I’ve gotten from Shimmer (about a dozen now) has been quite nice, in tone I mean. Take the opening sentence, “Thank you for allowing us to consider….” Allowing us to consider, that’s rich! It is also a perfect way to begin telling someone that their story isn’t going to sell. She made it sound as if I was doing them a favor and, frankly, I think it’s all class. Her break down on the problems within the narrative was fair and even and she ends them with the “just my opinions,” caveat which is serves two purposes. First, it is a simple statement of truth, the story didn’t read well for her, but it might be just the ticket for another editor. Second, it keeps writers from writing back and angrily saying, “well, that’s like, your opinion man.” Her comment on my grammar is disturbing. I’m generally pretty careful with my product when it’s time to ship it out and though on occasion “its” might live where “it’s” was supposed to be, I try and send clean copy. I can tell you from my time slushing, get that grammar right! (I am very embarrassed) She does have good points about the story. Unfortunately I was trying to write a sparse, almost mystical apology for a sort of transhuman Judas, and that diffusion is on purpose. That might mean that the story is going to be difficult to place, but as I generally publish only about one out of thirty short stories, them’s the breaks!
So thank you Nicola- you’re a class act! For that, Shimmer Magazine is my favorite rejection of the month (for the second time)!
The science of fiction
Andy C Porter




Peter Jackson, Tolkien his time.

13 12 2012

I love The Hobbit. I took a trip through the Appalachian Mountains in an expensive German car and my girlfriend and I took turns driving and reading the book to aloud. We rented old cabins and sat around fires and The Hobbit was with us all the way. The Hobbit is, to my mind, a far superior book to any of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. They are fine (don’t send me hate mail because I very likely have read them more than you), but the hobbit is a perfect fairy tale. It is subtle, it is smart and it is magic.

peter jackson

Peter Jackson picks Tolkien’s brain

I hate the Lord of the Rings films. Oh I enjoyed the first one. No Tom Bombadil? I get that and I forgive it. Bombadil would be a diversion in the films that wasn’t vital. Replace Glorfindel with Arwen after Frodo gets stuck with the morgul blade? Okay, I understand; you want Arwen to have a more active and heroic role in what is a boys’ club of a narrative. But let’s be honest, this trilogy suffered from some major narrative drift away from the source material. I mean that car chase in the second movie? What the hell was up with that? Sure it was Wargs instead of Fords, but hell’s bells, that was so silly! I felt like I had been transported back to the pod race from Phantom Menace. My fantasy/science fiction film disappointments start with Highlander II and I’m afraid they will continue into the Hobbit. Here are my fears:

Legolas, our dear, pretty wood elf prince. Fans of the Rings trilogy love Legolas. His initial disposition toward Gimli the dwarf and their budding friendship are one of the finer subplots in those books. Students of deep Tolkien lore (those of us that have read The Silmarillion, the letters, and the various arcana of Middle Earth) know that Legolas is the son of the King that held Bilbo and the Dwarves prisoner in his hall in Mirkwood. It is likely that Legolas was present during this chapter of the Hobbit, but let’s not kid ourselves, Orlando Bloom is not going to be a quiet background character.

Galadriel: queen and Noldor rebel. Gladriel is going to be in the movie and she just ain’t in the book. All I can figure is that Jackson is mining the appendices for narrative substance. The events in The Hobbit take place while great goings-on are happening elsewhere. The white council (Gandalf, Saruman, Galadriel, Elrond and others of the mighty in Middle Earth) were making a move against a villain that had risen in Mirkwood known as the Necromancer who turns out to be Sauron returned. So the film could be telling more of the story of Middle Earth than was specifically covered in the book.

Three films. The Hobbit is a short book- just over 90k words. The Trilogy comes in at well over half a million words. So what is happening that The Hobbit film is getting three films to tell a story that is only 20% as long as the LotR? Even if you dive in to including appendices there seems to be a lot more time than is needed.

Peter Jackson. I like Pete. Really, I’m not kidding. He has made several films that I adore, the Lord of the Rings trilogy however is not three of them. Oh I don’t mind the first one, but the second and third suck. He just ignored the books. He added crap that had nothing to do with the original narrative. He took out some of the most important subplots and added ridiculous twists that just weren’t needed. And frankly, Gimli was a stupid caricature of the very serious and noble character that appeared in the books. Gimli in the books was an austere, honorable and faithful character. In the films he was comic relief. Gimli was not comic relief!!! He was the only dwarf ever named “Elf-Friend,” and in one of the time-line appendices it says that Gimli, alone among the race of dwarves, was allowed to pass into the west with his friend Legolas. Jackson puts this line into Gimli’s mouth, “No one tosses a dwarf!”  Thanks Pete, thanks a lot.

So here is my prediction for The Hobbit– A bunch of special effects and a bunch of deviations. Most of you will love it. As a Tolkien black belt, I will probably stay home.*

 

*editor’s note: I will not stay home and nothing could keep me from seeing this movie… possibly twice, but I reserve the right to complain in a rambling barely coherent way.

Look at me, I'm Legolas, the sexiest elf in the forest. Who cares about the two trees of Arda? I got Silmarils for eyes baby!

Look at me, I’m Legolas, the sexiest elf in the forest. Who cares about the two trees of Arda? I got Silmarils for eyes baby!

 

The science of fiction

Screw you Peter Jackson!