Saturday, December 24, 2011

Not Published... Yet

And a very Merry Christmas Eve to all of my readers, and a Merry Christmas to you all if I don't get around to posting before tomorrow.

I'll be posting the most recent version of Human Black Box shortly, but I'm just taking the stand for a minute to rant a little. A while back, I entered a short story contest. The nature of my submission was a mystery novel, with a hint of supernatural flavoring thrown on the side. It's totally outside of the norm for me - I don' usually do supernatural stories or stories that hint at the supernatural because I have a general dislike for fantasy and supernatural stuff that stems back to my childhood. Still, I need a short story for the contest, and I decided to go with an idea that'd been bouncing around in my head for a while. The protagonist of the story, Naomi Creed, is an African-American/Indian (Dravidian; Naomi has really dark skin and it only makes her that much prettier, with straight black hair and an even mix of the two features) woman from Michigan, and her deuteragonist throughout the story - her "Watson" - is an older White woman twice her age (Naomi is in her 20s) named Fiona, who's described as a faded redhead with the type of beauty and grace that comes with age and experience; Fiona is also a mother, with two sons that Naomi's age, but that's mentioned in passing. The story is set in the American south; in particular, the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. That region has a lot of folklore and history, and there's something mystical about it. Throughout out there are happenings hat can either be chalked up to the supernatural or mundane phenomena, depending upon your persuasion - Naomi tends to be the rationalist and the skeptic, and does a lot of the science and footwork throughout the novel, while Fiona is the folklorist. I set out to write this story with one purpose in mind: I was tired of fiction stories where the skeptic is always proven wrong. And not only are they always proven wrong, but it's obvious they're wrong from the start (I'm glaring daggers at you Rifts: Beyond the Supernatural; that book's fluff is hilariously anti-logic and science; the Nega-Psychic is the exact opposite of a the skeptic that the book claims the class is supposed to represent, and it's actually a beautiful sort of irony. White Wolf is bad for this, too.). This is a more nuanced story where it's not clear who's right, and you can make a case either way.

I wasn't sure what genre the story fit into. It was on the surface mystery, because there was a mystery to be solved. At the same time, there was definitely a supernatural element to the story, but because it was a may be magical, may be mundane situation, I figured it falls under "magical realism", the catch all term for "what the fuck is this and yes, I want it published so I'm not calling it fantasy."

Which brings me to my point. See, that story was rejected. I didn't place a lot of hopes on it, and I'm not bitter or anything - in fact, the reject letter was nice and they'd certainly read it; they were able to single out specific incidences of the novel that the readers had enjoyed. So I won't rant about that or about it being rejected. Rather, the last line of the letter catches my attention - they told me that they "don't often publish genre works."

Is it just me or is there some kind of vendetta against genre works? Academia seems to me like it has it out against genre; this can't just be me, because there's a whole trope devoted to it over on TV Tropes: behold the Sci-Fi Ghetto. Don't be fooled by the name; fantasy literature gets tagged by this, too. In fact, one can argue that fantasy gets it worse, because at least science fiction is forward looking and trying to teach people about getting into science. This is actual rather sad, because Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Horror, and Mystery are all very strong genres and I'll be damned if I can tell the dividing line between the four (if there even is a line at all. Mystery might be easily enough set aside - a mystery can be formulaic, after all, much like that soulless Harlequin Romance garbage), and even then - my short story is arguably mystery and some other form of speculative fiction. It's not fantasy - there's no Romantic elements to it, there's no presence of magic, and any otherworldly forces that might be present can be argued as mundane with equal validity within the text. It's not science fiction because it doesn't deal with the future, doesn't tackle any big ideas, and doesn't look at any "What Ifs." You might could argue horror, although it's more eerie than it is horrifying, and I'm not sure how much of that is confusion over what's going on verses the location - Appalachia is eerie. Those mountains, during the evening time, are creepy as fuck. I certainly pulled that in, if my readers are anything to go by. So what is it? That's the only real reason I called it Mystery/Magical Realism - none of the other genres worked.

So what do I do with this story now? Well, I'm going to keep it and send it in to a few magazines. These stories are also difficult to write - I have to make sure that all of my bases are covered so they can either be magic or mundane, depending - but in the future, I may write more. I may post one here.

In the meantime, I have another story that needs to be posted. I'll just close this rant by saying that while I didn't get published this time around, that doesn't mean I won't see print in the future. It's a matter of persistence and determination. And I've nothing if not both.

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