I just heard today from the editors of MACHINE OF DEATH. They wrote a nice rejection letter for my submission to their anthology. (I really do appreciate it when people take the trouble to write a polite letter. So many don't.)
They didn't criticize my story except to say that it didn't fit what they had in mind for the volume as well as many other submissions did. They had about 700 submissions so they got to choose what was going to fit together best.
I can understand that. I read an essay by Marion Zimmer Bradley awhile back that said that most rejections are for that reason. The story can be conceptually brilliant, stylistically flawless, and deeply compelling and still not be a good fit for a collection. That's a comforting thought...
The editors said that I was free to submit the story elsewhere and wished me luck. I appreciate that, though I doubt it will be practical. Their anthology is about a world where there is a machine that can predict the manner of a person's death. You just head down to the local convenience story and drop some money in the slot and it will crank out a technically accurate (but cryptic) sentance like "auto accident."
The machine doesn't tell you how long you've got, or any of the sepcifics of the death. A person who got the "auto accident" might give up driving only to slip on a child's toy car and break his neck.
My submission was titled "Act of God." It was meant to be an ambiguous story highlighting people's attitudes about the existence of God. If this guy's going to die because of an act of God, does that mean that God exists? What does that say about the character of God? In the end the poor guy's death doesn't resolve anything. Atheists and fundamentalists alike stick to their own interpretation of events and belief in God remains a matter of faith rather than hard evidence.
It wasn't my best story, but I liked it. Maybe I will submit it elsehweresomeday, but if it doesn't fit in the MACHINE OF DEATH I don't have a clue where it will fit.
It's no big deal though. I've learned to bear rejection with grace and equanamity. Now please excuse me while I go curl up in the foetal position and feel sorry for myself :(
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