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Another New One

  • Aug. 23rd, 2011 at 5:36 PM

I received an art submission today via snail mail. Inside the mailing envelope was a second envelope, wrapped in a bow. Points for packaging? Well, no, but I still appreciated the effort.

Another New One

  • Jul. 11th, 2011 at 3:49 PM

On occasion we'll receive a fiction submission from someone who is also submitting an accompanying illustration for the story in question.  That's fine, although each piece will end up being evaluated separately.  We also rarely end up accepting work that has an accompanying illustration.  There's no stigma against such a thing--it just tends to work out that way.

Today I encountered something a little different.  It marks the first time I ever read instructions in a cover letter for what sort of art we should commission should the story be accepted.  That was ...unexpected.  

Another New One

  • Jun. 17th, 2011 at 5:17 PM

 So here I am going through the slush, when I come across this submission that, for lack of a better term, gave me a brain cramp.  It just so happened that the first thing I looked at on the mailing envelope was the handwriting.  And when I saw it, I thought to myself, "Wait a minute.  I didn't mail anything to the fiction department.  How did this get here?"

That's right.  I thought the handwriting was mine.  Closer inspection revealed some obvious differences, but a quick glance was enough to fool yours truly!

What Does it Take?

  • Apr. 14th, 2011 at 10:45 PM

From a recent cover letter: "I have read submissions for various theaters and know what it takes to retain a fresh eye while going through unsolicited submissions."

I suppose you can make the argument that considering unsolicited plays and/or musicals vs. unsolicited short story prose is like comparing apples and oranges ...and maybe it is.  But when I read this, my basic reaction was: "It takes something?"

After almost six years, I'm doing the same thing I've always been doing with unsolicited subs: I'm looking for awesome stories.  But am I doing something to stay sharp at slushing, something to keep the "awesome radar" intact?  I don't know about that.  I'd like to think that after all this time and all these manuscripts I've gotten better at this, that it comes more naturally and I'm more efficient at it, but I don't make any sort of concerted effort to keep an edge, or to improve at slushing.  Improvement comes with more reading, being exposed to more types of stories and writing (both in and out of the slush).  To an extent, it comes from working with authors on rewrites.  My own writing teaches me things as well.  It comes with time and subconsciously honing what I do.  I like fantasy, and I like good stories.  The cream will rise to the top.  I could extend the metaphor, but that's the simple truth of it.  In the most general terms, I'm looking for stuff that suits our market (i.e. a fantasy story that meets our stated guidelines), that engages me, that delivers from the first page to the last, and leaves me feeling more enriched as a reader for having read it.  And failing all this, I want to feel that if I work with the author on a rewrite, we can get it to this exact place.
The closest I ever came to wondering if I'd lost my "edge" was a few years back.  I think it had been three batches of successive submissions wherein Shawna didn't purchase anything I plucked from the slush.  It was a new experience for me, and I briefly I wondered if I was losing my touch.  Then she did her next buying run and bought something like eight slush stories, a record for me.  After that, I never worried about such a thing again.  The good stories come when they come. This post probably marks the most thought I've ever put into the subject.  But I must be doing something right--after almost six years, I've plucked thirty-two stories from the slush that have been or will be published in RoF.  If you total all the stories we've ever published and divide it by all the issues, thirty-two stories is fairly close to filling six issues worth of fiction, or one year's worth of stories for the magazine.  And in these six years, we've been closed to subs for close to one year due to the mag's unfortunate closures, along with an extended closure to submissions after the second publisher bought the magazine.  So thirty-two stories in six years, found in five years of slushing.
Yes.  I believe I'll continue doing what I'm doing, which includes not over-analyzing what it takes.  Transmission out. 

Another New One

  • Apr. 11th, 2011 at 4:35 PM

Over the years I've come across quite a number of submissions wherein the authors fail to indent their paragraphs. (I blame you, Age of the Internet!)  My standard scribble at the bottom of such rejections is "New paragraph=indent."  It almost sounds obnoxious to write such a thing, but the truth is that neither Shawna nor myself want to consider manuscripts that fail to indent.  So if the authors are making this mistake, I may as well correct them in the most succinct and obvious way possible, so that future submissions to us will be correct in this regard.

However--and this one was a real puzzler to me--today marks the first time I ever came across a submission wherein the author failed to indent any paragraph that started with dialog.  The other paragraphs had indentations, just the ones that started with dialog omitted the indentations.

That a new one to me. 

Another New One

  • Jun. 12th, 2010 at 5:49 PM

 So every once in a while, as I'm going through the slush, I come across something from a prisoner.  Sometimes it's a submission, sometimes it's a request for submission guidelines.  Occasionally it's something else.  Today was something else.  I came across a letter from a prisoner who subscribes to the magazine.  He was looking for fantasy reading recommendations.  He doesn't have access to bookstores or the internet, and he's pretty much burned through everything in the prison library that interests him.  He learns about new books to read through catalogs and ads, but he was hoping I could provide some additional fantasy recommendations.

He mentioned Robert Jordan, Anne McCaffery, and Raymond E. Feist as his favorites.  He prefers trilogies and longer series and he likes magic in them.  Being as he wants to do something constructive (i.e. reading) with his time, I decided to answer him.  So I have no idea who else he's already read aside of these names, but based on what he told me, I made the following recommendations:

--A Song of Ice and Fire, George R. R. Martin
--Of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, Tad Williams
--The Kingkiller Chronicle, Patrick Rothfuss
--The Farseer Trilogy, Robin Hobb

Since he's also a fan of RoF, I also recommended The Psalms of Issak, Ken Scholes.  After all, the original story in this world did appear in RoF.

I know there are a whole bunch of fantasy authors who have come out with highly regarded works in recent years, Patrick & Ken being two of them.  But as much as I love the epic form, I confess that I don't have nearly as much time to read these sorts of books these days, so I'm somewhat behind in this sub-genre (something I never thought could happen fifteen years ago).  So there are probably a ton of other recent authors I could have recommended, if only I'd already read them and had confirmed their awesomeness.  Oh, well.  But if he hasn't read any of these authors and ends up liking them all, this list should keep him busy for a while. 

Anyway, good deed for the day done!

Another New One

  • Jun. 3rd, 2010 at 4:21 PM

I have an SASE here, but no accompanying manuscript or note of any kind.  My best guess is this is a request for submission guidelines, so I'll use the SASE to mail that back.

Another New One

  • Jun. 1st, 2010 at 1:53 PM

So I open up this submission and inside I find a manuscript, along with an envelope large enough to mail back the manuscript should RoF decide to reject it.  I remove both items and notice that the return mailer seems a little bit heavy.  So I reach inside it and sure enough I find another manuscript inside it ...only it's the same manuscript.  It was a second copy.  It certainly makes my work easier should I decide to reject the submission (i.e. it does if I leave the second manuscript in the envelope), but I've never seen this before.  Given all the wacky stuff I have seen to this point, I'm actually a little surprised this one hasn't popped up before.

Another New One

  • May. 5th, 2010 at 2:23 PM

 So here's one I haven't seen before (obviously): Before me, Laura Cleveland handled the artwork with RoF.  She worked in offices down in VA.  I'm working up here in NY.  So I come across this art submission, and somehow, while the artist sent it to the NY address, s/he scribbled Laura's name as art director.  Not the most entertaining of new ones, but a new one nevertheless.

ETA: I emailed Laura, thinking she might be amused to learn this.  She wrote back, telling me that she's still receiving submissions to Science Fiction Age.  Science Fiction Age shut down about a decade ago! 

Another New One

  • Apr. 2nd, 2010 at 5:01 PM

There are plenty of authors out there who have developed thick skins when it comes to rejections.  But there are also plenty who probably take it personally when their work is rejected.  Both scenarios are understandable, though I'd recommend falling into the former camp if you're serious about your writing career.  Regardless, this marks the first time I've ever read a cover wherein the author reveals how the last rejection left him/her depressed for a long time.  I've come across cover letters about authors considering giving up the writing game, but that doesn't necessarily mean being depressed over rejections.  That sounds more like discouragement.  And so, this qualifies as "another new one."

The author's depression doesn't in any way amuse me, because I do know it can hurt having your work rejected, especially if you're new to writing.   But I do find it interesting how almost five years later I continue to come across things in the slush I've never encountered before, things that have nothing to do with the actual stories.  And for those reading this on the website as opposed to my livejournal (and for those new to my livejournal), I've been blogging about new things (to me) I've encountered in my slushing for almost five years.  This is just the latest example.   


Douglas Cohen

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