Tuesday, May 6, 2014

My Attitude When Reading Slush

Well, I’m still going over the last few submissions to Life of the Dead, and it is a really hard thing to do.  Why, do you ask?  It’s because there are so many qualified stories in this batch that could easily find their way into print, but there is only so much room left.  The last selections will be made in the next week or two, as I reflect on the entire situation.

This brings me to an interesting topic that I thought I’d discuss briefly.  That is, the attitude I adopt when reading through the slush pile.  I suppose you could say it is different for everyone, but when I take on the task, I go into with the attitude that I want to like the story.  I want to enjoy this and accept it.  Later, as I read into the story, it will either prove me right and get accepted, or it will change my mind.

I have heard that some editors do the exact opposite.  They read their slush piles with the attitude that they hate every story, and wait for the stories to prove them wrong before getting accepted.  I simply can’t buy into this negative approach.  Others still claim to have a true neutral position, but that is a hard code to follow.  Depending on your mood or the time of day, or what’s going on in you personal life, you’re going to start reading with a particular bias.  I suppose it’s easier to be negative for some folks, which is where the concept of “hate everything until proven wrong” comes into play.

This is why I sometimes have a backlog of stories to read.  When I am feeling negative or preoccupied, I cannot read slush with the positive attitude that I require to find those stories I truly like.  I don’t want to run the risk of passing on a story that I could enjoy, simply because I’m in a bad mood that makes it impossible for me to appreciate what I’m reading.  Also, I don’t want to start accepting stories that I’m not enjoying, thinking I’ll like them later.  First impressions are often lasting, and the memory of not enjoying something can put a permanent stain on it.

Some people will call my publishing philosophy unprofessional, but it is the entire impetus behind Martinus Publishing.  I went into this to publish stories that I wanted to read, stories that may not otherwise see the light of day.  I continue to adhere to that business model, feeling that people will either appreciate the stuff I publish, or they won’t.  I cling to the hope that there are other readers out there who are thirsting for the kind of entertainment that I myself appreciate.  Therefore, I will continue to publish to entertain, above and beyond anything else.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Praise and Criticism

Altered America has begun to cool down a little, though we have been getting a few reviews on Amazon.  It’s a pretty mixed lot, with 5 positives and 3 negatives, and by those numbers it’s currently less than 1 in 100 readers who have posted a review.  I can’t say if this is a clear sample of reader opinion, so I hope more people eventually get around to posting.  (Check it out on Amazon.com—buy it and post your review)

The positive reviews have been encouraging, and the few negatives seem to be more a matter of personal tastes than anything.  Overall, people who don’t like the collection seem to have the attitude that it isn’t what they want it to be.  One apparent complaint is that it doesn’t read like a novel.  This is like someone buying a Mercedes and complaining that it isn’t a Learjet.  Altered America is an anthology of short stories, which is a totally different creature than a single author novel.  An anthology is more like a pulp magazine, where the subject matter of stories can vary considerably.  Apparently, there are those who don’t understand what it is they’re buying.

The only other serious criticisms have been the aforementioned disputes over what “Alternate History” really is.  It seems some people don’t think Alt. History should contain any Fantasy or Sci-Fi, and even a minority of stories containing such elements then ruins the majority that don’t contain any of those aspects.  There is also the lingering question of what “validity fiction” is, though that was posted in a positive review, so it can’t be that bad.

They say you can’t please everybody, and that is never more true than when you’re dealing with fiction.  Personal preference is something you can never account for, nor can you change it.  I only hope more people who enjoy the book feel motivated to express themselves, so other readers will be inclined to check it out, and decide for themselves.

Oh, and Sergio Leone is brilliant, thank you very much.