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March 18, 2005

Priming the Pump

The Whatever will be quiet over the weekend, but before I go I want to encourage all of you who write science fiction short stories -- or who want to write science fiction short stories, or know someone who fits into either category above -- to come around here on Monday, because I will have a big announcement that will be of interest to those sorts of people.

And what will it be? Well, let's just say that when I suggested a few days ago that what I really wanted was my own slush pile to root through, someone somewhere was listening. Someone with both an appropriate publication and a production budget, and sufficient apparent insanity to give me free rein over both.

Bwa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Oh, I have plans. Just you wait.

See you here Monday, bright and early.

Posted by john at March 18, 2005 02:14 PM

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» Wanna be a SF short-story writer? from Howls From the Edge
Go here on Monday. As I posted once before, Scalzi is great. Worth checking out. [Read More]

Tracked on March 19, 2005 08:23 PM


tobias s buckell | March 18, 2005 02:41 PM

I'm aquiver with interest and anticipation...

Dawn B. | March 18, 2005 02:44 PM


*grumbles and stalks off to wait for the weekend to be over*

Jon Hansen | March 18, 2005 03:40 PM

Quick! Empty the trunks of retired stories! We've got a live one here!

RooK | March 18, 2005 03:40 PM


I'm off to lay a trap for my muse, in anticipation.

Dean | March 18, 2005 03:41 PM

Admit it. You're just dying to start sending out rejection slips, aren't you?

I think it would be very educational to go through a slush pile. I've had a glimmer of what it must be like from reading submissions on writer's boards in various places.

John Scalzi | March 18, 2005 04:01 PM

Dean asks:

"Admit it. You're just dying to start sending out rejection slips, aren't you?"

Heh. No. I've been a submissions editor before and that's the part of the gig that stinks, particularly when you receive work from someone you know, or from someone whose work you admire, and the piece they've sent in doesn't work for various reasons. It's no fun to reject work, actually.

RooK | March 18, 2005 04:09 PM

I wonder if Jim Valvis might show up...

John Scalzi | March 18, 2005 04:21 PM

I would treat a submission from Jim as I would treat any other submission, of course. If I rejected his work simply because he and I feuded online, I would be a piss-poor editor. If he wrote something I liked and thought would fit with what I was doing, I would be happy to buy it from him.

RooK | March 18, 2005 04:35 PM

Sure sure, that's just plain sensible. However, should you come to the completely objective decision that that you couldn't accept Valvis' hypothetical submission... it's not hard to imagine that rejection letter being slightly less un-fun.

Bill Peschel | March 18, 2005 04:40 PM

Time to pull that 22-year-old cyberpunk knock-off out of the crypt.

John, you really don't know what you've let yourself in for.

John Scalzi | March 18, 2005 04:42 PM

Rook: Eh. When I snipe with someone online, it's one thing. When it comes to doing work, it's another. From submission to rejection (or acceptance), I would hope I would treat everyone equally.

RooK | March 18, 2005 04:53 PM

I suppose that I'm being pedantic by insisting on separating actual treatment and private opinions, and I think we have complete agreement about professional conduct. However, I do admit that I'm a nasty, petty little person underneath it all. I apologize if it was interpreted as suggesting that this was a trait you share.

John Scalzi | March 18, 2005 05:04 PM

No apologies necessary, of course, RooK. I've been doing writing and editing for a long time, and I've gotten pretty good at separating personal effluvia from work priorities, simply as a matter of professionalism. This comes in handy when one does criticism, for example -- there are any number of writers/actors/musicians I find personally obnoxious, but who they are and what their art is are usually separable.

elizabeth bear | March 18, 2005 05:12 PM

Welcome to the slushpile, man.


Jay Lake | March 18, 2005 05:17 PM

Have fun with it, guy. Having just done two slushpiles filled with strangers, friends, writers I admire and random annoying people, you have all my sympathy and then some. Not to mention a puzzled shake of my head...


John Scalzi | March 18, 2005 05:22 PM

Ha! Thanks, Jay. I'm sure when I'm in the middle of it I'll have the urge to hit myself with a mallet to stop the pain. Right at the moment, however, I'm looking forward to it.

Jill Smith | March 18, 2005 05:35 PM

Are you priming Science Fiction muses only, or are Speculative Fiction muses who do not truck in science welcome to join this dole queue as well?

I know, I know - can of worms, and all that when you get into skiffy hair splitting, but I am curious as to what lines you're drawing (if any).

John Scalzi | March 18, 2005 05:53 PM

All will be revealed on Monday, Jill.

PiscusFiche | March 18, 2005 07:24 PM

Curse you, John Scalzi, curse you. On Sunday, Lee and I embark on a trip across North America as we move from one coast to the other, and now I just know that when I get to the boring bits--flat prairie state after flat prairie state--that I will be thinking, "Hrm. I bet John Scalzi has posted his tidbit of news and everybody knows except me." And the prairie states will roll by slower than ever. And of course, when I go to use the wifi that whatever domicile we choose offers, it won't work.

Tell me the deadlines are a ways off, please. Like at least two weeks.

Matt McIrvin | March 18, 2005 08:42 PM

I've read slush and it is no picnic. It is sometimes leavened by moments of hilarity, but even those pale after a while. From a writer's perspective it's actually a heartening experience in that it teaches you just how much worse than you a writer can get.

Lisa | March 18, 2005 09:28 PM

I remember hearing Teresa N-H talking at WorldCon about watching slush readers get "slush-drunk"--you will share with us if you reach that point, won't you? :)

mythago | March 19, 2005 01:43 AM

You might want to make a sort of Bulwer-Lytton category to try and divert painfully awful stuff, John.

(Good thing J-Scalz is a few times zones ahead of me!)

Dane | March 19, 2005 11:27 AM

As Jill asked,” What lines are you drawing (if any)?" so do I.

My dabbling in Science Fiction writing suffers from the rather ridiculous requirement that Science Fiction includes both Science and Fiction {simultaneously}. I can write papers on scientific studies or I can write works of fiction. Marrying the two has never worked well for me.

I do however have many examples of Fantasy Fiction I have written. I have been told it is, "Not horrible, you have an idea worth exploring but you need either a better editor or alittle more practice writing" by a family-friend whose fantasy work has been published.

If you draw those lines to include such a genre as "not-horrible unpracticed Fantasy", I will have many things to add to your slush pile.

I do have a cast-iron stomach for criticism. If what you are looking for is talent in need of tutelage, I think I am as good a candidate as any. If you are looking for raw gold-nuggets the other prospectors missed, I am not there yet.

If nothing else is gained, atleast now I am looking forward to the coming week. Thanks!

Jon Hansen | March 19, 2005 11:36 AM

Dana remarked on: the rather ridiculous requirement that Science Fiction includes both Science and Fiction

I am reminded of the words of Philip K. Dick, who said something to the effect of, "Our knowledge of science is, at best, limited and unofficial," writers like Asaro, Benford, and Brin not withstanding.

Jon Hansen | March 19, 2005 11:37 AM

Dammit, that's supposed to be Dane, not Dana. Apologies for the misread.

JamesG | March 19, 2005 05:42 PM

For some reason, I have the most incredible urge to say Up, up and away. Huh, isn't that strange? :)

No slush pile would be complete without sumbissions by the mentally ill. I wonder if the submissions will be all electronic or if I can send in the story that I wrote on the inside of a paper grocery bag with a crayon. Don't worry I used a pink crayon so there is enough contrast to make it easy to read the bag.

Lycan | March 19, 2005 08:12 PM

I will be here with bells on!

Bruce Arthurs | March 19, 2005 09:59 PM

Ok, it's always best to get an early start, so I'm trying to figure out what I'd need for an all-purpose story. So far:

1) Explosions.

2) A naked woman.

3) A cute dog.

And since presumably it's a science fiction or fantasy project:

4) A rocketship (with fins! Hey, I like fins.)

5) And some elves.

Anything I'm missing?

JH | March 20, 2005 05:06 AM

Lasers. Duh.

Dane | March 20, 2005 03:25 PM

If you're gonna have Elves you'll need some Dwarves too. An Elf isn't much good without some dwarves for contrast. And unless they are the overwhelming power the key characters must overcome- you'll need some dark and mysterious evil things to learn more about as the story unfolds.

And yes, of course, you'll need Lasers. Double "Duh".

Jon Hansen | March 20, 2005 04:00 PM

I can't wait to hear about this slushpile.

Jill Smith | March 20, 2005 04:50 PM

I'm a bit off-kilter about "SF" as a category, especially as I am dipping periodically into "Starlight I" lately.

If nothing else, "GI Jesus" will get you thinking about "Science Fiction" as a category.

mythago | March 20, 2005 08:25 PM

No, no, you can do elves without dwarves, if it's some humans-attacking-the-natural-world kind of story. And the woman can be scantily clad rather than flat-out naked.

Steven Scougall | March 20, 2005 09:39 PM

And while the elves and dwarves are there, for contrasting with each other, you need something for them to uniformly hate. Like orcs. Only because this is SF, these orcs are orcs (FROM SPACE!!) in axe-shaped UFOs.

And then, to be all edgy and exciting, the story's written from the perspective of the orcs.

Bill Peschel | March 20, 2005 10:37 PM

"And the woman can be scantily clad rather than flat-out naked."

Ah, an "ElfQuest" story

Soni | March 21, 2005 12:13 AM

Only because this is SF, these orcs are orcs (FROM SPACE!!) in axe-shaped UFOs

Aren't those Klingons? And while we're plotting, don't forget the redshirt. Someone non-essential has to die horribly to alert the core MCs of imminent plot twists.

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