My slush-reading stint has ended

This is what my inbox looked like.
My inbox

Since February 15th, I’ve been reading submissions for a venerable SF magazine, Strange Horizons*. According to my email client, I rejected about 850 stories. If I include the stories I passed up (which get rejected by the actual fiction editors), I read and reviewed about 900 stories. Which means I was reading about three stories every day.

And now I’m done. I can’t say that the experience was a bad one. Reviewing the stories didn’t take long. And I learned exactly what I wanted to learn. I got an intuitive sense of what’s out there and what doesn’t quite work. And I think it’s helped my own stories. Sometimes I’ll think of an idea for a story and realize, “Ugh, it’s just going to be another story in a slush pile” and I’ll back away and do something more creative. And that’s a good thing.

Nor was I particularly aggrieved by the quality of the slush. Most of it wasn’t terrible and almost all of it is clearly written by people who are intelligent and well-spoken. Personally, I’ve written and submitted worse stories than almost everything I’ve rejected. Although I’d like to think that nowadays my stories tend, more often than not, to drift to the top of the slush, they still get rejected by slush readers and editors all the time. So, no, nothing in the slush really bothered me. In fact, I feel like authors spend way too much time worrying about whether something is good enough or whether it’ll fit a particular market when they should really just be sending it out to whichever market excites them.

That having been said, I am glad to be done. I could never get over the feeling that the authors had worked really hard to write these stories. They’d slaved over them for days or weeks or months and they really cared about them…and I was glancing over them in five minutes. Of course, that limited time expenditure is exactly why I didn’t resent them, but still…

Well, anyway, that’s all over now. Never again! If there’s anything that I feel no desire to do, it’s editing. It feels too much like work.

*Alright, it’s only like 12 years old…but that’s pretty venerable for an online magazine, right?

4 thoughts on “My slush-reading stint has ended

  1. Morlock Publishing (@MorlockP)

    I’d love to read about what you learned from this experience / how it changed your writing. As Ben Franklin said “Experience is a good teacher but only a fool learns from no other”, and I’d like to learn from your experience!

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      I can’t say it’s changed my writing in definitive ways. It’s just a better sense of what is out there–the nature of the haystack from which you’re hoping an editor will pluck your needle. There’s no real secret to it or lesson that can be imparted. If you want to try it yourself, there are plenty of opportunities. I think Strange Horizons has even started looking for new slush-readers! Once you’ve settled into the rhythm of things, it only takes about 15-20 minutes per day.

  2. Miriah

    I’m glad my time as a first reader at SH overlapped yours! Good luck in your future unslushy endeavors, and I hope your future slush is served with snow cone syrup ^_^

Comments are closed