We’ve had some scheduling issues with our editors the past couple weeks and are falling behind our typically fast response time. Now that the deadline has passed, we hope to work through the slush relatively quickly. It looks like the collection is filling out nicely.
Let’s see what this batch holds for me, eh?
Story 1: (4000 word fantasy): Love the opening three words, but love it less once I figure out it’s just an archaic way of putting a relatively mundane fact. No harm, no foul — it’s a perfectly competent, if overlong sentence — but my little heart was pittering for a moment there. Unnamed protagonist. I’m feeling doubtful. Some nice turning of words. I enjoy those moments, but don’t want them to take over the narrative. A woman of French, uh questionable, descent appears. Good energy there. I’m a little leery that the writing attracts attention to itself while fairly mundane story action takes place. It’s sounding a trifle arch in places. A writer working hard to sound writerly? Loose skin wiggling from her skull is a bit of a red flag for me. I’m losing steam. The story sounds more and more arch, words and phrases papering over an over-plain wall. Skimming to the end. Now she’s taking him to the parlor to explain the idea. When he says, “A fine story,” I’m thinking, What story? She’s basically laid down some borders on a gaping mystery he does not comprehend or believe. That’s not a story. NOW we discover he’s a theoretical mathematician (or similar)? It’s an interesting ending, but there’s not enough story here to support this many words, and too much idea explanation for my taste. I don’t really understand why the protagonist does not know his past as the story opens, or where he is (or why). It’s a fairly nice Mobius strip in the end, but it seems to me the hard parts have been glossed over rather than explored. Reject.
Story 2 (467 word fantasy): This is a quirky piece with some evocative images, but I don’t buy the underlying concept that primary colors can be mixed from derived colors. That kind of knocks the wind out of the concept for me. Also, it’s not a story, but background for a story. The first half is explanation of world, there’s a moment of (off screen) change in character, then a short vignette that leaves us with an evocative image idea. Closer to poetry than story for our taste. Reject.
Story 3 (2000 word magic realism): This author has impressive credentials and conveys them very effectively – no sense of bragging or trying to impress me, just letting me know the work comes from someone with chops. The story begins with dialogue, which irks me slightly, then recovers quickly to a smooth voice. I don’t find the hook all that compelling, but it’s better than a simple observation of situation. The writing contains too many adjectives – it’s not bad, but weaker than it could be. Also, physical description is lacking in a few places. When one hears “labyrinth maze” one thinks of a hedge maze or walled maze, not lines on a floor. In this case, it’s important to establish the lines as my first image, or else I end up having to rebuild the stage in my head. That said, the story is becoming nicely quirky. Why am I thinking Zelazny? The Gregorian chants should not come as a surprise. I’m having to reinvent my stage again. The yellow yarn is a nice touch. I like the protagonist. This has a nice dreamlike logic to it and a warm message at its core. I don’t think it quite reaches its potential yet, however. The last line has to settle for a simple chuckle rather than the substantial revelation (esp character) the story deserves. I’d like to see it reach its potential, but I don’t think a rewrite request will do the trick. It’s one of those situations where I don’t know exactly what to suggest, only that I need a little more. Pass to second read. Go Packers!
Story 4 (2500 word slipstream): Another story that begins with a frame. The language is fluid and evocative and the situation mysterious. As with most of these frame stories, I’m concerned the opening is simply a hook to disguise a boring beginning. Am I right? Nope. The next scene fairly sizzles with tension. What is missing, however, is a sense of speculative element – that’s why the frame is there. In this case, it’s justified as a way to clue the reader that this IS a speculative story, hang in there. But is it really? Let’s see. Yes, it is. Mini scene returns to the frame story and gives us just a bit more context. Next scene is pivotal and economically delivered. There is, however, a bit of a problem in that the premise seems to have shifted from forgetting words to forgetting how to type. These are not the same syndrome. That he thought a cogent sentence as he typed reflects that he does know the words, unlike the opening scene where he couldn’t remember one. This could be a problem. Story plays out well enough, though it does not end as well as I had hoped. As a speculative reader, I’m left wanting in the end. The story is clever and very well written, yet shows a certain disregard of its genre subject matter. It’s not pretentious, not one of “those” stories, but the cleverness overwhelms what could be very real meaning and a very real character. The story ends up feeling slight despite its content. I’d recommend selling this to a more literary market rather than changing it to please us (I think that would involve playing the idea out and doing more with the fantasy being, making her more fully real). Pass to second read in case it’s a taste thing.
Story 5 (1200 word fantasy): This starts too familiarly, with color having disappeared from the world. We’ve already purchased two stories with a similar theme (one long, one short), meaning this will have to be really exceptional. It’s a cute take on the idea, I admit, but the voice is pretty bland (this happens a lot in first person point of view) and it comes across as an explanation of an idea rather than a story. Add to that the fact it isn’t a story, and you have a recipe for rejection. Why do I say it’s not a story? Because there’s no actual inciting incident (think of story situation as a still pond and the inciting incident as the pebble that drops onto its surface; the spreading wave pattern becomes a series of complications wherein the idea is explored from different angles while the protagonist tries and fails or tries and succeeds; the story end is the new stillness that results when the story has resolved its complication). In this story, which is told entirely as summary, the inciting element is only implied, the complications are summarized, and there is no climax. This is probably why it does not compel me as a genre reader even though it’s a cute idea. I would suggest starting over and telling the story implied in this summary from a third person perspective of someone actually going through the change. Alternatively, it could be reduced to a fluffy 500-600 words and told as flash. Reject.
Story 6 (400 word fantasy): We do lack a good leprechaun story. Will this be the one? I’m having problems with precision in the early going. It’s not clear what is being described? I feel a little disoriented. The images feel rushed and incomplete. Leprechauns are well described though. More imprecision. Did the gold burn or melt? One is magic, the other realistic. How close are they? What, exactly is happening when they attack? Lucky Charms. Seriously? Cute ending, but not really deserved. Humor is hard, as they say. I would suggest taking this idea more seriously and play it out with outlandish detail rather than relying on simple jokes (not really jokes, but insubstantial funny stuff, i.e. fluff). It doesn’t really stand out as is. Reject.
It’s getting late, so I’m calling and end to this session. More soon.
This week’s Slushy goes to Story 3. It’s a good story that deserves to be very good. I wish it the best.