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?

As of today, I’m reading slush for Strange Horizons

I actually applied to be a slush reader (and was accepted) way back in December, but SH has been closed for a little longer than was expected. Still, we opened about eight hours, and I’m looking forward to reading my first stories.

I decided to start reading slush after my class with Nick Mamatas last summer. He said that a slush-reading stint could do wonders for a person’s writing. Now, this is something I’d heard before, but I’d always dismissed it as being too time-consuming for me. However, I’ve come to realize that if I am going to get better, then I really need to start doing all of the things that I am afraid to do. It is a little scary to have this fairy major commitment hanging over me. And it doesn’t help that this also means that I can’t submit to one of my top short story markets (Strange Horizons has rejected me more than any other market: 32 times). Still, I am confident that it’s the right thing to do.

And I am especially pleased to be doing it for SH. I’ve been reading it for years and it’s one of my favorite magazines. I’m not supposed to talk much about my slush reading (although I am allowed to say that I have the job), so I expect that this is the last that I’ll blog about it for awhile. Still, I thought it was something that was worth mentioning