|WTF: "An editor can only choose from submitted stories."
||[Oct. 14th, 2009|07:57 am]
"An editor can only choose from submitted stories." This is an excuse often offered by some editors, alas, but it's problematic as it shifts the blame from the editor to the author. It's not the first (or last, I'm sure) time I've heard an editor blame women (or poc) for their inability to submit in sufficient numbers to a venue . . . which is simply distasteful, and offensive. There are certainly ways of making for a better slush, and it's called outreach . . . which goes back to the original question, in the previous post, why aren't women submitting to those venues?|
I agree that this is an excuse, and pretty pathetic. I look at the Big 3, 4, 5, whatever magazines and see 80% of their stories as being familiar names. And I'm not talking folks from my LJ friends list. I'm talking the same dozen authors that grace the covers month after month. These guys aren't people whose stories are gleaned from slush piles. A lot of these stories are requested by the editor. So, lets shift the blame/paradigm here and say "Why are editors more compelled to keep buying from the same dozen old white guys?"
Editors aren't all evil (not sucking up here, just stating a statistical fact ;-)) But their best interests lie in keeping their magazine in the black. So, are they buying the stories of these men because they are all part of a clandestine society or cabal, or are they doing it because this is what they think their readers want? Are they afraid to take risks on unknowns or stories written by writers that are too "girly" or "ethnic" to appeal to an audience that might just be made up of a majority of "white" males?
So, is it easier to sell nothing but vanilla ice cream to people, or does it hurt to include sprinkles, marshmallows, pecans, M&M's, and a variety of other things to the menu?
I'm going to throw something else into the mix here too. I recently read a PKD letter where he was talking about the movie Blade Runner, and how the elements of the movie were a revitalization of futurism. Back in 1981, Phil himself was complaining that SF was already becoming inbred. I couldn't agree with him more. Only in 2009 fandollars, with interest compounded monthly.
These new, brash upstarts, Strange Horizons, Fantasy Magazine, GUD, Weird Tales (a brash upstart since the 30's), etc. are just what we need. They seem to be on the lookout for good stories, and not just whatever trunk-quality story some hoary old brand-name writer has decided to peck out on their Remington Rand.
I guess I'd slant it a little differently (and only a little). It's actually completely TRUE that an editor can only choose from submitted stories. There's no way on Earth you can judge a story you've not seen etc etc. What's not true is that the only way to get stories SUBMITTED is to sit on your backside and wait to see what comes through the email or post office box. You can email writers, you can contact workshops, you can spread word of mouth - you can, as you completely correctly say, engage in outreach.
I once remarked that the reason my little zine and anthology (Southern Fried Weirdness) did not feature more POC and women was because it was mostly only white dudes who submitted stories to me. At the time, it was true. Then K. Tempest Bradford, Rose Lemberg, Lisa Bradley, and a few others offered some valuable advice -- "outreach" sums it up pretty well.
And, to my surprise, it wasn't that hard to reach out. It didn't really take that much time. There's really no excuse not to...
Here's what I did:
I commented that I was happy to accept works from women and POC in public places -- on Tempest's blog, for example. I went beyond the traditional genre fiction boards and noted this on different online bulletin boards and communities geared towards women and POC. While I have no real way of knowing the racial breakdown of contributors (you're working with just names for the most part, after all), but by the last issue I was receiving (and publishing) more submissions from women than men. Not because there was a discernable difference in the quality of writing (I attempted to read and judge submissions as blindly as possible by ignoring identifying information), but because my slush pile changed over time. Once I began publishing more women and publicly noting my desire to publish a diverse variety of stories from various backgrounds, the slush pile changed quickly.
I guess my point is the same point you are trying to make. If you really want to create diversity, you can. It's pretty easy. Just take the time to let all kinds of people know you're open to submissions, make everyone feel welcome, and they'll come to the party.