Well, that’s never happened to me before!

I have a few short stories currently in circulation, looking for homes. One of them, a mild science fiction piece with a humorous ending, has been in consideration at a certain magazine for about two months.

The other day I received an email from the magazine’s editor about that piece, titled “Time Heals All,” and as I began reading it, it sounded like yet another rejection, albeit a courteous and thoughtful one. The editor confessed to not quite understanding the ending, or rather my intent with the ending. And then the unprecedented thing happened: he asked me if I would write back to explain what I had intended so he could better evaluate my story!

This editor will, of course, forever live in the exalted halls of my mind for his generous request.

I’d guess that most editors would instantly reject a story if its meaning was not evident or at least discernible right away. I don’t think my intent with the “surprise” ending is particularly arcane or inaccessible, but I can see how a reader might need to pause and ponder before reaching the full appreciation. Consider much of great literature, which demands thoughtful, extended evaluation. Many people have devoted their entire careers to explicating a single novel, Moby Dick, for example. Now, I don’t pretend to put my story on the same shelf as “great literature” but merely make that point that stories which require consideration might provide more satisfaction as well.

The fact that this editor had taken the time and trouble to ask me for a bit of explanation suggests that he and his magazine are things I would be proud to have my humble scribbling associated with.

Of course it is possible that once the editor evaluates my story in the light of my emailed explanation, he may still decline to use it. I hope to have an answer to that in the coming days. And I’ll surely share the news with you, gentle reader, especially if it is good news. In the meantime I will enjoy the warm, fuzzy feeling I have received from the editor’s gracious request.

Update: Those warm fuzzies did not last long. The editor wrote back soon after I’d dispatched my explanatory email to decline the story, pointing out further questions he had about it. The piece is already back in circulation.

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2 Comments on “Well, that’s never happened to me before!”

  1. Pete Says:

    I guess you explained a little too well! Here’s hoping those warm fuzzies return soon.

  2. paullamb Says:

    Pete – It bothers me that so much of fiction has to be transparent. Every nuance must be explained so it can be grasped easily by the reader. I’m seeing that more and more, but I guess I’m just looking at the wrong publications. I want to think that some readers are willing to work to discover when they approach fiction.


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