Visions of Slush Piles Dance in My Head
The thought comes to me every few months or so: maybe I should volunteer as a slush reader. I always decide not to, usually because of time constraints, but the thought is persistent. I suspect I will eventually give in and do it. That leaves the questions: when? which? I can’t answer those. I will answer the question: why?
Reason #1: The Learning Curve When I do something sub-standard in a story, I have to send it out to different zines and collect rejections and maybe a few comments before I recognize what horrible sin was committed on the page. Those sins tend to be invisible to me in my own work. But in other people’s work, the flaws are more obvious because my appreciation of their story is limited to what is on the page and is not amplified by pre-existing visions in my own head. Seeing these shortcomings repeatedly will help me recognize them in my own work. This particularly holds true for the attention-grabbing needs of a story. I know a lot of writers/slushers who insist it was reading countless bad openings that taught them to avoid those mistakes in their own work. That would probably be a good thing for me.
Reason #2: Community Immersion I am a SF writer, a small time blogger, and a member of the Codex writing group. I have attended a few local cons and participated (briefly) with the local NaNoWriMo group. That is how the SF community knows me, those few that do know me. Slushing would add a dimension to my involvement in the community and give me another hat to be recognized in. I love the SF community (okay, I love a lot of it…there are back alleys I avoid) and would like to be a more recognized player.
Reason 3: Making SF a Jobby-type Job Every writer will tell you that writing is a job. Saying it doesn’t make it so, though. It’s still a hobby for me. I do it when I want for as long as I can squeeze in the time, but it stays on the bottom shelf in order of priority. It is likely that slushing would actually subtract from the time I get to write. However, it would be something I needed to keep up with, something people needed from me and thus something I couldn’t put off indefinitely (unlike my novel, the poor fella). Sure, most slushers dare I say all?) are unpaid volunteers, but I’m not looking for the paycheck part of a job.
Reason #4: To Feel Valued If I’m making life and death decisions about stories, that means someone trusts my opinion to some degree. That has meaning to me. It feels good. I want that warm, fuzzy feeling coming from SF.
Reason #5: Editorial Empathy I am a fairly empathic person. Not psychic empathic, just I like to consider how other people feel. Editorial staffs can be tough to empathize with since I’ve never done what they do. Slushing isn’t editing a magazine, but it’s a toe into their world. Then at least my toe could be more empathetic.
So I won’t likely pound on any doors for slushing gigs at the moment, but I’ve thought it through and I’ll eventually be on the lookout for something. I think Apex was looking for slushers recently, but I don’t know that my tastes are quite in line with theirs. I write dark stuff, but only certain shades of dark. Maybe I’m just waiting for the right opportunity to present itself. Or maybe I’m just after the best of both worlds: feeling good about myself because I want to slush without having to actually do any work.
Maybe that will be a new year’s resolution: find a slushing gig. Hmmm…something to think about.