It’s been a hell of a month, both in meatspace and in writing, so this month’s post is going to be one of those all-arounders instead of centered on a certain theme. Apologies in advance for rambles.
I haven’t bitten into Lightspeed Magazine’s People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction issue yet, but the cover is GORGEOUS (above). The TOC is very appealing as well, which makes me happy. I can’t wait to get a few minutes to dig in.
Speaking of covers, the cover to Kai Ashante Wilson’s A Taste of Honey was just revealed. It’s set in the same world as The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, which makes me very, very happy. Wildeeps was one of those fantasy books that knocks the reader on their ass with its genius, and Wilson’s prose is delectable. Definitely putting this one on the pre-order list.
After putting out a quick query on twitter, I got a lot of very helpful suggestions about upping my short fiction intake. Shouts out to Bernard and Bee and Sarah and Vajra and Jonah and Meg and Ziv for their help. I got more reading done this month than in the past four months combined. As far as the readings go, I bounced off quite a bit, and learned that it’s okay to bounce off of short stories because enjoyment of them is subjective. Duh. Here are the ones that I enjoyed this month:
“A Dead Djinn in Cairo” – Phenderson Djeli Clark, Tor
Fatma el-Sha’arawi, special investigator with the Egyptian Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities, stood gazing through a pair of spectral goggles at the body slumped atop the mammoth divan.
An Old One, at that—near twice the size of a man, with fingers that ended in curved talons, long as knives. His skin was a sheath of aquamarine scales that shifted to turquoise beneath the glare of flickering gas lamps. He sat unclothed between tasseled cushions of lavender and burgundy, his muscular arms and legs spread wide and leaving nothing to the imagination.
“The Blood That Pulses in the Veins of One” – JY Yang, Uncanny Magazine
They are cutting you out of me, these creatures in their sealed white suits. Piece by piece their knives and curiosity are divorcing the gifts you have given me from the gifts I have prepared for you. Gone is the eye that gazed out over the cyan–purple sunset on Taurus 4. Severed are the muscles of the forearm which sculpted your old flesh into masterpieces. A gap yawns where once was the tongue that tasted your rich adventures.
My lips are dry and cracked. I cannot lick them.
“The Drowned Celestial” – Lavie Tidhar, Apex Magazine
Colt was playing a mixed Martian Wild Card Stud. He was in for all he was worth which, admittedly, at that precise moment wasn’t a hell of a lot. Colt was out of cash and out of luck, and he needed a boost of both if he were ever to get off this wretched planet. Neither seemed likely to materialise.
“Starf*ckers” – Terence Taylor, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination
…Right now, James Dean had just been delivered young and alive to his bed. He turned to his second guest, rented at equally high cost for the night. Thanks to holographic recorders that hummed away in the walls, it was an evening he could enjoy over and over, like all his sessions here at the super secret location of Starf*ckers, Inc. — the coy asterisk poised like a tight, tiny anus in their logo.
“The Judgment of Gods and Monsters” – Kameron Hurley, Beneath Ceaseless Skies
Once more she paused for effect, and the silence stretched; the result of hundreds of held breaths. The crowd had heard of Ta Muvard only recently, his crimes exposed by a family member. Had he really been the worst of the collaborators during the war, this man they knew as one of the great heroes of their city, the benevolent master of commerce for their rich harbor, the man who sponsored the educations of dozens of poor youth and gave generously of his wealth each year, paying four times that required in religious tax to city’s patron god, Savazan? Surely it could not be. It was an impossibility. They had heard wrong.
“Wednesday’s Story” – Wole Tayabi, Lightspeed Magazaine
My story has a strange shape to it.
It has a beginning and middle and, of course, I need not tell you that it has an end because it is the nature of all things to end, especially stories. But this story . . . well, it bunches up in places and twists upon itself in ways that no good story should. The sharpness of its arcs flare and wane in unexpected places because it is a story made of other stories and there are times when partway through telling it, I could swear I did not truly know it because I am made of so many other stories too.
My novel reading has been slow going, most likely because I’m a slow reader and i’m trying to read two novels at once. Continuing on my tour of Bee’s work, I did tear through Scale-Bright in about two days. Currently working through Max Gladstone’s Two Serpents Rise, and I fear that Adrian Selby’s Snakewood is losing me.
Real quick before I leave, I want to talk about rejection.
Rejection is a truth of the writing life. The thing about this is that you and all of your writing buddies and all of your friends and even that dude over there that you don’t like are all vying for very limited space in EVERY market. Slushers and editors have so much of their work cut out for them because there are fucktons of work flung at them on the hour. As someone on the editorial side of this, I have empathy.
However, as a writer, rejection SUCKS. That’s not a groundbreaking point of view. Somewhere out there, there’s someone who’s kink is getting rejected from literary magazines and publishing houses, and that’s the groundbreaking thing.
I’ve racked up a couple of big rejections recently, one for a magazine that I really wanted to be in because I’m totally a fan of both of the editors and want to impress them, the other from a pretty big deal publisher who took a couple of chances on my work and still found it lacking. And of course, as is the deal with rejection, the emotional maelstrom ensues, complete with self-deprecating inner dialogue: Maybe your work is just shit, Troy. Maybe you dialed it in because you’ve gotten a couple of pieces accepted before. You just weren’t good enough, get over it.
I’m a pragmatist. It’s my blessing and curse. And with writing, I really try not to bullshit myself. Yes, rejection sucks. But having a piece of work rejected also provides clarity for all writers–again, nothing groundbreaking, but part of this process for me is laying this bare, so bear with me.
Maybe I do need to Git Gud, but not Gud in that idiotic sense that ‘bros mean it. Maybe my craft is lacking. Maybe my work was lacking, and there’s a point where you have to judge a critique of your work as having merit or not–usually when an editor says, “hey, here’s what I didn’t like about your story.” Heinlein’s third rule provides clarity here, and helps decides the order of my next steps.
Also–here’s the pragmatist rearing it’s head again–the initial difficulty in this writing game is finishing the work that you’ve started. Heinlein’s second rule. And one has to finish a piece of work to have it rejected. Even if it needs to have pieces of it reworked, that’s still a sight better than having nothing on the page at all.
I have a friend/mentor/sister/hero, Jamey Hatley, whose refrain is “eyes on your own paper” and never is the urge to rack up the next person’s victories more keen than when your own work has been rejected. But, just like after leaving a romantic relationship, being rejected from a magazine or publisher is time to focus on you–whatever that means to you, whether it’s buying yourself a trough of beer or digging deep into your work and making it…gud.
Rejection is just part of the game, and it’s not even the worst thing i’ve been through. And though that doesn’t take all of the sting out of it, it does put it in perspective. Well, then. Back to work. So be it. See to it.