April 3rd, 2006

Greetings

I swore I'd never have anything to do with blogs, livejournals, myspace, etc. When people suggested I start such a page, I laughed. "Not me," I said, "that's not my thing. Ain't nothing gonna change that."

Alas. Welcome to my journal.

To those who don't know me, the introduction thing:

The name is Douglas Cohen. Doug is preferable. Slushmaster is optimal. Why? Because I'm normally up to my eyeballs in slush. Ah, but what is slush you ask? Slush, my curious fellows, is the mound of submissions that I must deal with as assistant editor to Realms of Fantasy. Slush represents the many hopefuls that wish to grace the pages of this illustrious magazine. Slush represents the writers trying to carve out a name for themselves, be it in this magazine or some of the other respectable venues out there. It is my job to pick out the literary gems in this papery battlefield, my job to recognize the blood, sweat, and tears that has created genius. Is it genius to recognize such genius, you wonder? A discussion for another time ;)

Ah, but what is Realms of Fantasy, you ask? My, but you have many questions. Realms of Fantasy is a bi-monthly professional magazine that publishes the best fantasy literature the industry has to offer. We publish about 36 stories a year, and we receive about 200-250 submissions a month. So let's do the depressing math thing now, shall we? Let's max out and say that we receive 250 submissions each month of the year, and let's also say that we publish exactly 36 stories a year. 250 submissions over the course of 12 months comes out to 3000 stories sent to us every year. Not the largest submission count out there, but by no means a slouch. And to make it into our pages? Well, math was always my worst subject, but it seems that over the course of a year a little over the top 1% of all stories get accepted for publication.

Yikes! I never bothered to figure that out before. And sure, we can certainly buy more than 36 stories in a year, because magazines do like to stockpile an inventory (so going by this logic, if we have a lot in inventory, I suppose we can also buy less). But you get the idea. You have to be good to get published in this magazine. Real good.

If your writing credits don't warrant an automatic pass to Shawna McCarthy--the senior fiction editor and the coolest boss I've ever had--it's entirely at my discretion whether to pass you along. In a typical month, I'll pass along about 20-25 stories to Shawna. Of these, 15-20 are automatic passes. The rest are stories that I pluck from the slush. In the industry, we call these "slush survivors." So let's do some more math with these new numbers, and see if it changes anything. Let's be generous and say that over the course of a year, my automatic passes each month come in at only 15. 15x12=180. 3000 (our total amount of submissions)-180=2820, the number of total submissions that are actual slush (automatic passes are not considered slush). Now let's come back to those 20-25 stories I pass along to Shawna each month. We'll say that each month I pass along exactly 25 stories to Shawna. Going by the numbers I've just posted, 10 of these stories would comprise slush survivors. Mind you, this is a generous #--never, in any month, have I ever passed along 10 slush survivors. I think the most I've passed along is 8. But I'm in a generous mood, so let's use 10. So over the course of a year . . .10 slush survivorsX12 months=120 slush survivors passed along to Shawna out of 2820 slushees.

Now if you want to write fantasy for a living, I suggest you stop reading this. Of course, if you want to write fantasy you're used to be reading about impossible odds, so I know you'll see this through to the bloody end. Anyway . . .

The next question is out of out of these 120 slush survivors, how many does Shawna actually buy? Remember, we're only publishing 36 stories a year, and these generous 120 are also up against those 180 automatic passes. But . . .I've been the assistant editor at Realms of Fantasy for almost 11 months. Shawna is one of the most respected editors in our field. She's won awards, has worked with the best authors out there, and she's forgotten more about fantasy than yours truly has yet to learn. Shawna has told me I'm good at my job. If Shawna says so, then it's true. So, in my first 11 months on the job, I've passed along to Shawna 9 slush survivors that have been/will soon be accepted for publication. Of course, I'd like to think that since I've come aboard, my work has improved. So let's do some projections for year two on the job and say that my improving skills lead to (un)lucky 13 slush survivors being accepted for publication with the magazine. So over the course of a year that's 13 slush survivors out 2820 slush submissions that our illustrious editor will deem good enough for publication in RoF.

That's 13. Out of 2820. I'm not even going to bother with the %. Too depressing. But like I said, you have to be good to get in our magazine. Real good. Especially if you're trying to fight your way out of the slush. Now remember, these aren't hard #'s. They're estimates. In some places I was generous, other spots I was stingy. But it gives you an idea of what it takes to break into the better speculative magazines.

Now, some of you might be grumbling, upset with me for posting such horrifying statistics. I may seem cold and callous for doing so. After all, I'm just an editor. What would I know about the toils of writing, throwing my blood, sweat, and tears onto every page? Actually, I know more than you think. I love editing, but writing is my first love. Writing fantasy. It took me six years of trying, but in January of this year I finally made my first sale, to the very respectable magazine of Interzone. Of 373 email submissions to their magazine during the month of August, I was one of 9 stories they accepted for publication. So I've witnessed the horrors of the slush piles on both sides of this equation. I know of what I speak.

So. I suspect some of you are shaking your heads in dismay or frustration. Perhaps some of you are ready to give up, which makes my job easier. But no one said writing is easy. But if you're worrying about the odds, your chances of success are limited indeed. Instead, worry about your writing. You're not competing against others. You're competing with yourself, trying to make your writing as good as possible. And if you can do this, if you have talent, drive, ambition, and tons of determination you may one day be one of the (un)lucky 13 slush survivors to get accepted by this magazine. Of course, you should also remember that we're not the only magazine that publishes fantasy. Just one of the better ones :) And the other good ones have comparable standards (although statistics will vary).

So my final piece of advice (for now) if you're serious about being a fantasy writer is this: laugh at said statistics, because YOU'RE going to succeed despite them. Come on. Give a LOL, right now! If you can't, if you're too busy worrying, then I suggest you quit before you waste more time on the fruitless endeavor of trying to summon something from your imagination that other people want to read en masse.

Welcome to my journal.

Next up, who knows? I decided to write all this crap on a whim. Later.

Rampant Hypocrisy

Okay, the mundane stuff first. Thanks for the early welcomes to LJ. I've also updated the page a little, and shall do more of the same as time goes on. Certainly a work in progress. Now to the meat of today's outrageous post:

I am a hypocrite. I can't count the # of times I've decried the evils of the microwave with brains, the electronic whiz kid, everybody's best friend, "Mike Chip." Computers are soulless, heartless, unthinking creatures. I still feel this way.

And all of the sudden I find that I can't live without them. Emails between friends; emails to sell Amazon.com orders for the crappy books that have no business on my bookshelves; emails about RoF; emails to make dinner plans; emails to pay my bills; emails concerning other editorial projects; emails to send off my stories to magazines that will likely result in rejections (see previous post); visiting news sites; visiting discussion forums; visiting personal websites; visiting people's LiveJournals; the occasional chat (very occasional); using MS Word to write my stories; keeping a submissions log for my stories; keeping logs about Rof matters; other assorted miscellanea; and now . . .sigh. The ultimate admission of computer dependency. The Livejournal. The worst part is that I think I like having a Livejournal.

And yet, I still maintain my hatred for computers, and shall continue to unto my grave. Perhaps my tombstone shall read "Rampant Computer-Phobe." If I could manage without computers, I would do so in second. Instead, I am a slave to the machine . . .willingly. Look at the hypocrisy as you read these words. I am using a COMPUTER to talk about how much I hate computers. Does this make your head hurt? All that's left is for me to change my name to Mike Chip.

Welcome to my journal.
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Raptacular!

Yes, well. The wonderfully talented Cherie Priest (read her book, FOUR AND TWENTY BLACKBIRDS, if you've yet to do so) has summed up Livejournal in a single word: Livecrack! Livecrack, indeed. I already find myself addicted, checking to see how many friends I have ("Oh, man, I sure hope people like me!") and how many people have responded to my posts ("If they respond, that means I'm interesting!").

What the hell is wrong with me?

Answer: livecrack. It's in the bloodstream, baby. No escape. Gotta have more friends, more replies to my posts. (Starts sweating). "Must . . .be . . .most popular . . .person . . .on internet." If I still smoked, this is the part where I'd light up. (shudder)

Now, John Joseph Adams (JJA), my good buddy and constant instigator, has, in an obvious attempt to get my goat, posted that question that so many editors hear: "What does it take to get out of the slush pile?" JJA is the assistant editor at the Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine, a fine publication that I recommend to anyone in search of a good story. He has encountered this question plenty of times, more than yours truly, so I'm sure he too is tired of hearing it. But yes, at some point I will answer this, because goats aside, I'm sure a few of you are curious.

But this is a discussion for another post, and the reply so far amounts to nothing more than a shameless attempt to whet your appetites, to amass more friends and more replies (Mmmm . . .livecrack).

But the true point of this post pertains to a completely unrelated topic, so different from the previously written paragraphs that the editor in me is already shuddering at the ugly, abrupt transition that is about to take place.

Let's discuss rap music. As I mentioned in a previous post, I will be tweaking my livejournal as time goes on. With this latest visit, I added a few tidbits to my interests. Afterwards, I took a moment to consider the current list. Reading. Writing. Editing. Fantasy. Science fiction. Movies. Simpsons. Family Guy. Sports. Boondocks. Rap music. Which of these, I ask you, is the proverbial soar thumb?

Sure, most people don't associate geeks with sports, but most people are idiots. I'm an avid sports fan, and I can throw down statistics the way some of you can quote Frodo Baggins. And I've met more than a few geeks with similar tendencies. So no, the answer is not sports. The answer is rap music.

Are there other speculative geeks that like rap music? Sure! I'm not unique. But you must admit that, given my other interests, this one is a bit by its lonesome. Or is it?

Fantasy and rap music may have more in common than the casual observer may first suspect. Rap is poetry converted to music. Fantasy is arguably poetry converted to prose. It explains why so much fantasy displays such flowery (and usually abominable) prose. So they share a poetic link. Also, fantasy often features a goodly amount of violence. So does rap music. And yes, both of them are trying to speak to you on some level. Of course, there are far more differences than similarities, but even so. I'm clearly not the first to reach these conclusions. Do a little online searching and you'll find some dudes performing a Lord of the Rings rap. Good for a chuckle, if nothing else.

But the slushmaster has never been the biggest LOTR fan (another topic for another time), so don't expect something like that from me. My raps are a bit more . . .original.

Yes, the slushmaster raps. I came on to the scene late, last year in fact. Around that time I made some friends that soon became very good friends. These friends, it turned out, could rap. Soon after, despite the fact that I never had displayed any musical ability in my life, I discovered that I could rap. Wrote a few songs, even freestyled a little (very little). I was really into it for about three months . . .and then I became the slushmaster, i.e. I started working for Realms of Fantasy. From here, a host of new projects were heaped upon my plate, and, sadly, I had to give up the rapping game. Time became precious, and something had to give. But, I plan to return to it one of these days, because it's a lot of fun.

Of course, there may be some doubters out there. "Come on? A Jewish white boy who reads fantasy books is going to tell me that he raps? Please!" So, to all you doubters, I present to you a demonstation of the "mad" skills. A few things to keep in mind before I get into it. First, since I imagine many of the people reading this post are the bookish sort, be advised that the grammatical mistakes and misspellings are intentional. Listen to a rap song and you'll notice this is a common occurrence, as doing this better lends itself to the flow of the music. So it's simply in keeping with the conventions. Second, I'm leaving out the chorus, because it still needs work. Third, don't be offended. It's all in good fun. Anyone offended by these lyrics has no sense of humor and is kindly advised to bugger off. So, without further adieu, I present to you all, "Spittin'."

Off the jump gotta be spittin', hittin', words fittin', connections easy, seamlessly breezy, no freebies to leave me uneasy 'bout my title or style. I gotta dial it up, Eight Mile it up, pile it up, beguile enough while you wile time away to my rhymes. Vocabulary climbs like vines, a diamond mine, lines dressed to them nines, lettin' you dine on so fine a find as this kind of mind divine while it defines and defies convention. Got that penchant for invention. Words be henchmen. Not to mention how they be bewitchin' and cinchin' your thoughts like lynchpins. This kingpin of spittin' he be swishin' and dishin', Jason Kidd vision with every decision. Make you listen 'cause his flow be so bitchin'. Cookin' up better than a bitch in a kitchen. Cuttin' up words like the doctor's incision. Measurin' lines with a crackhead precision. Blastin' these sounds in them streets or a prison. Stringin' pearls of wisdom like a man on a mission determined on spittin' every verse written, so kick back, relax, 'cause we just beginnin'.

[Insert Chorus]

Spittin' shit, come see. Be ready. This medley be mad deadly. Steady already with wicked ease I pimp these words as I so please. They'll seize you, give you seizures, knee jerks and amnesia, freeze ya, leave ya, buy me pizza at my local Little Caesar. Eat them slices at my leisure, on the jukebox play Aliyaah. Mac it to a senorita: "Hey, it's nice to meet ya, but ya know that I don't need ya." Smiles and says her name be Deirdre. Hour later she screams deeper. After says that I complete her, suddenly I get a fever, tell psycho-bitch I gotta leave her. Grab my T-shirt, draws, and pants, dress and run while there's a chance. Save my branch. Avalanche of words fantastic, turnin' fans into fanatics, flippin' words like they gymnastics. Verbal tactics, no schematics, got more tricks than 'Specta Gadget, so erratic, almost manic, even so you know I mac it.

[Insert Chorus]

This has been D-White, comin' at ya live! Peace, dog!

Welcome to my journal.