Queen_of_the_Night So, a few of you out there might have noticed my shower of Twitter posts about the one minute rejection. I’m thinking it’s worth a blog post, too–it’s just seems such a perfect way to keep a magazine’s slush pile down that I’m surprised it’s not caught on elsewhere. After all, making snap decisions about stories based on the first paragraph or even the cover letter should work just fine to weed out the chaff, right? Here’s how it went.

Back in the winter, I had an attack of philosophy. Actually this was provoked by the submission call for a particular anthology, but I can’t always control what comes out. The result turned out to be inappropriate for that particular market, but I ended up with an interesting triptych study of what it means to be an outcast in the Book of Genesis. Looking at this result, my first thought about it was that it’s an unsalable piece. It’s got several counts against it: First, it involves Biblical characters. Second, it challenges closely held beliefs about these characters. And third, it mixes other Middle Eastern mythology into the analysis. This is bound to offend somebody.

Still, I thought, there are publications out there who advertise for stories that subvert or push the limits. Surely if they advertise that way, then they’ll be ready to take the heat for unpopular viewpoints on characters like Lilith, Cain, Samael or the Nephilim, for example. So, I bravely set out to market the piece. The first result was gratifying. I got a rejection, but the magazine editor wrote that even though they had made the decision not to publish the story, he was honored to have read it. That suggests it’s a really good piece of work. So, I tried again with another well-known magazine that advertises for stories that subvert and push the limits. This is where I got the one minute rejection. So, well-known magazine, why are you advertising for subversive stories if you’re going to reject them based on the titles or first paragraphs? That’s about all you could read in one minute.

So, my conclusion is that Lilith, Cain, Samael and the Nephilim retain their ancient power to haunt humankind. This is a dark and subversive power, the impulse to question what we’ve always been told. The need to look at the dark underpinnings of power and what makes a person outcast in our current society. Race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, different thinking? Why not look at it?

Illustration is the “British Museum Queen of the Night” by BabelStone. Licensed under CC0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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