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Monday, August 13, 2012

The Slushpile Survival Guide

I had an interesting exchange with an author recently. On further reflection the highlights of this dialog seem worth presenting to a wider audience, so without further ado:

Dear Editor,

Attached please find my story, [title redacted].

I am not sure if I am eligible to submit, as I have already had one story accepted and scheduled for publication in Stupefying Stories this year. Please advise if this is the case.

[author's name redacted]

Dear [author]

Excuse me for asking, but where the heck did you get the idea that once we've accepted a story by you, you must wait until we publish it before you can submit another? When I accept a story from you it means I like your writing and want to see more of it!

So no more of this "I am not sure if I am eligible to submit" silliness, okay? Trust me, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Robert Heinlein didn't wait until John Campbell published their last story before sending him their next story, and if that modus operandi was good enough for Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, and Campbell, it's good enough for us.

Kind regards,
Bruce Bethke

Dear Mr. Bethke,

[...] I asked because recently some markets have made unambiguous statements about not wanting concentrations of particular authors in relatively slim time frames. [...]

Dear [author]

Hmm. That must be another of those goofy ideas that's come out of some creative writing program somewhere. "Let's all play fair and take turns and give everyone an equal chance." It seems akin to:

    "Now class, let's all try to find something nice to say about Sally's poem."

    "Er, I used to fear death, but as I listened to Sally read her poem, I longed for it?"

Luckily my dad was a basketball coach, not a liberal arts instructor, so I don't believe in any of that equalitarian nonsense. Every writer who pitches a manuscript to me gets an equal opportunity to impress me with their work as they come in the door, but I have absolutely zero interest in forcing equality of outcome. I run a brutal meritocracy here. I want to put my best players in the game, every chance I get, and keep them in the game for as long as I can.

I mean, let's switch to the reader's point-of-view for just a moment. When you read a really terrific story, do you think:

a.) "Wow! I really loved this story! I'd better not read anything else by this author for a while!"


b.) "Wow! I really loved this story! Where can I find more stories by this writer!"

Not wanting concentrations of particular authors in relatively slim time frames? Sheesh. What madness.

Now go write more stories!

Kindest regards,
Bruce Bethke
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