Despite my best efforts, I received a submission at ScienceFictional.com. I rejected it. I really wanted to accept the story, but I found that it wandered a bit and lost focus, at least for me. I read about half of it before I made up my mind on it. I have to figure away to disable the submission form so that this doesn’t happen again. I will lie awake all night wondering if I did the right thing and hoping that it did not hurt the author’s feelings. I decided to use a stock non-judgmental rejection rather than try to critique it. I can barely write a story and I would not be a good person to give another writer advice.
My tastes are very narrow in what I read and write. I know for a fact that I cannot read almost all of the stories in Strange Horizons, Ideomancer or the other zines on Ralan’s pro list. I either don’t understand them, or dislike the style or theme. I know that these same stories are considered good by many people. The fault is in me. I am not a good judge in what the reading public likes or dislikes.
Here’s an interesting anecdote about taste. Erica had to stay in the truck for a few minutes while I ran an errand. In a bag on the front seat were two magazines from 1954 that I was reading at lunch. One was an Astounding Stories, edited by (my hero) John W. Campbell, Jr. and the other was Galaxy, edited by Horace Gold.
When I got back, Erica expressed the opinion that the Astounding was stuffy and that the Galaxy had much more interesting stories. Well, I was shocked. When I calmed down and stopped shouting, I saw what she had meant. Campbell had a magazine full of adult, serious fiction. There was a Poul Anderson, an early Frank Herbert, and articles on Atomic energy. The Galaxy had action adventure and fantasy stories, most of which had probably been rejected by Campbell as frivolous or lacking that Campbell story resolution. Galaxy had stories by William Tenn, Robert Sheckley and a serial called “Gladiator at Law”.
Of course, the Galaxy stories were not as well structured or believable as the Astounding ones, but they were probably more interesting and definitely more fun. Campbell had a kind of technological tunnel vision. He preferred gadget stories and intellectual dramas. He did not have room for the high flying imagination or simple adventures that Gold accepted. Erica was right. In 1954, Galaxy was a better read than Astounding. Even though I like Campbell’s taste, I think Gold was getting the better stories by buying the Astounding rejects.