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On the day before the Hugos were awarded to various luminaries in SF-dom, I got my latest rejection slip in the mail from F&SF. This was not surprising, really. The story in question — “Stains” — is a psychological horror story with a very muted supernatural element, inspired by Poe’s “The Tell-tale Heart”. F&SF doesn’t seem to print many stories like it. So why did I send it there at all? Well, for a number of reasons. First, there is F&SF‘s track record for response times: my responses from them (all rejections, by the way) have always come within ten days of submission, allowing me to get the thing out to another market. Second, there is the matter of word-limits. I am almost incapable of writing a story in under nine thousand words, and most of mine gravitate to novellette length (twelve to fifteen thousand words, roughly). There just aren’t that many markets for short fiction willing to handle those kinds of lengths, so I pretty much submit to all the ones that do. I suppose I could figure out how to write actual short stories, thus giving myself more markets to submit to and (theoretically) increasing my chances for publication, but somehow that doesn’t seem right. I would rather write the stories that I have to write, in the manner that I have to write them, than try to shoehorn myself into some other category. (One proviso: I don’t think that I am overly wordy in my fiction. When I edit my stories for submission, I can get pretty draconian. I always remove at least ten percent of the original wordage, and in one case I actually excised twenty-five percent. That particular story came closest to being published, with an editor holding onto it for nearly six months while he tried to find a spot in his publication for it. Alas, ’twas not to be….)

So, what’s next for “Stains”? Tomorrow it’s off to Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine.

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