Selfies from the End of the World is out today, and you can get it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble! When you do, you'll have the chance to read my story, "The Adventures of Zombiegirl," and the other amazing stories I'm lucky to be published with here. And they are amazing.
A few years ago I wrote an essay considering the power and effects of different speech acts in stock rejection letters. It represents a very strange sort of one-sided conversation where neither side is actually speaking, or even capable of doing so (the editor can rarely if ever personalize a response and the writer can't respond). Stock rejections have a lot of different forms. There's a subtle difference between "unfortunately, it doesn't quite fit" and "We're sorry to say it doesn't quite fit," and this kind of difference -- the power, the intent, the relationship dynamics it implies -- used to fascinate me beyond measure.
I was interested in the different ways I was being rejected, and how different kinds of stock rejections impacted me differently. "If I were an editor, how would I frame my stock rejection to create the smallest impact craters in the souls of my contributors?"
Listen: I'm interested in a different kind of letter now.
When I sent "The Adventures of Zombiegirl" out to Mad Scientist Journal, I was hitting an exhaustion point. I'd never had a sale and I was convinced this was the best thing I had going for me at the time. I'd run though all of the professional markets I thought it might fit, even a little bit, and a few I was pretty sure it wouldn't but wanted to give it a shot with nonetheless. It had spent most of a year in those slush piles -- 9 months to be exact, if you want to think of it as a slowly gestating rejection baby -- and one of my most recent rejections had explained that they felt it demonstrated a lack of characterization (before you kick and scream about personal rejections being reasons to celebrate, I've covered this!).
I decided it was time to put it back through a new round of strenuous revisions, focusing on character development and doing lord knows what else to it.
Then I found Selfies from the End of the World quite by accident -- I think I might have stumbled across the already funded and closed Kickstarter in my efforts to fund Queers Destroy Science Fiction. I thought, "What the hell?" They were asking specifically for post-apocalyptic stories. I had one of those. It needed some characterization, of course, and lord knows what else, but I had one. So I sent it.
Selfies might have been the last place "The Adventures of Zombiegirl" ever got sent. I don't know. I was in a weird headspace at the time.
I got an e-mail.
"Dear Garrett Croker,
Thank you for sending us "The Adventures of Zombiegirl"."
I was reading this at 6:00 in the morning or so, barely awake. This is the first line every rejection letter ever starts with. I've seen it before. A lot. I didn't need to be awake to know what came next. I groaned and put my phone down.
Then I picked it back up.
"We love it and would like to publish it in Mad Scientist Journal."
It's funny. When I sent Zombiegirl to Mad Scientist Journal, I sent it with all kinds of insecurities about what was between those pages. When I read it, I was seeing clunky exposition and awkward world-building and thin characters everywhere. I might have rejected it myself with the particular tint the lenses I was looking through had at the time. When I signed the contract, I still had most of these reservations, but I set them aside because Jeremy and Dawn loved the story and they're the editors and they know better than I do. And, you know, the story wasn't perfect. There were a few more embarrassing typos in my "clean" copy than I'm proud of -- particularly as a former copy-editor (and a darn good one, at that; copy-editor, don't edit thyself). There was this strange, distracting artifact of an old draft I kept finding every few pages. But those took little enough effort to fix.
I have the published version of the story now. I read it to myself today. And you know what? It's not just Jeremy and Dawn. I love it, too.