I’m Burning for You

I just finished my last final, which was for an Intro to US History class and ugh whatever it’s over.  Time for summer.

I haven’t been blogging about my DAILY LIFE because honestly I’ve been so fucking busy it’s not worth it.  However, that doesn’t mean interesting things didn’t happen to me.  For instance, about a week and a half ago I went to wash my hands in the dorm bathroom and the water came out boiling hot, so I spent the night in the emergency room because you would not believe that pain goddamn.  Apparently there had been a problem with the pipes the day before and campus maintenance thought they’d fixed it.  Anyway, I got all the blisters popped and even though it was only second degree burns I had to visit a plastic surgeon to make sure the healing process wasn’t going to do something weird, since my fingers were burned and I guess finger burns like to heal by webbing your digits together.

But things are fine in that regard now, I’m off the bandages and the dead skin on my hand is falling off in horrendous sheets like some disgusting snowstorm.  I’d post pictures but that would be totally gross!

In other news, I’ve hit 22 rejections, almost all of which gave responses that were generally unhelpful.  Here is something I will outline that frustrates me about the speculative fiction market at the moment: There are form rejection slips (which I understand completely) but they do nothing in the way of telling you why something was rejected.  I do not feel like counting the number of form rejections I’ve received that run along the lines of “Thanks for the manuscript, it was really great, but no.  Also, please submit again in the future!”

What the hell do you want from me, people?  Of course, I’ve received a few personal rejections that also ran along these lines, but that was less infuriating.  That was at least some human contact.  A form rejection implies my story wasn’t good enough for special attention — okay, I get that — but why.  I have no idea where I should be taking my writing if I want to sell based on these responses alone.  The only assumption I can operate on is that my fiction is bone-crushingly fantastic in every way, but I’m not submitting the right stories to the right markets.

The few responses I’ve received with actual critcism (even if it was a few words, like “Fails to hold interest”) have been the most helpful.  Of course, criticism can sometimes be inscrutable — an sf story I wrote was called a Bat Durston rather pejoratively, for instance, but weirdly enough that was what I wanted.  That was why I wrote the story, because Bat Durstons are hilarious!  And I submitted it to a venue specializing in comedic sf!  But, well, you win some and you lose some.

Incidentally, I also had something of an acceptance recently.  My campus literary journal, Crucible, accepted a piece of flash fiction I wrote entitled “A Measure of Weekend Minutes for a Penny,” making a total of three pieces of mine to appear in its hallowed pages. Well, three pieces I know of. (The other two were in my freshman year.) I didn’t even know this was accepted so I didn’t attend the release party, I found out from a friend later, and I think that’s pretty hilarious. Anyway, here’s the story.

A Measure of Weekend Minutes for a Penny

It was old news by now, but that didn’t stop Johnny from feeling a little cold whenever the cell phone went off in his hand. This time, though, it was only Angela wanting to meet for lunch. She worked just a few blocks away from his office at the Gazette, so they met halfway at a Greek place.

He couldn’t stop thinking about that press conference, even when he joined Angela. The phone was heavy in his pocket and he found himself remembering his days at the Times, that cramped hour in an overcrowded conference room. Many of the reporters had been murmuring complaints about the stink the horses were making in the parking garage.

At the far end of the room along an obsidian table they sat, the Four of them: Conquest in his flowing white robes; War in raiment red; Famine, sickly, skeletal and yellow; pale Death, his cloak drawn and his black eyes glowing within the shadows.

Conquest was the main speaker — “I have a way of… dominating conversation,” he said, smiling winningly and posing for the flashbulbs before continuing. There were, he explained, just too damn many people in too damn many places. Back in the old days the sounding of a celestial trumpet was enough to let everyone know something was going down, but not anymore. Hence, the Riders had signed a deal with all major telecommunications companies. Thanks to the glory of text messaging, everyone would be alerted when their plans (or rather when the Plan) expired.

The Q&A session was a circus, with people asking Famine about his relationship with a popular supermodel, War inciting arguments among the interlocutors, and Death being interrogated concerning a recent spate of spontaneous human combustion. “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse Unveil New Alert System” proclaimed the papers the next day, a headline Johnny wrote. But everyone was more interested in the supermodel’s ties to Famine, whom she’d allegedly met during a charity tour of the Third World.

That was old news not worth taking seriously anymore. So Johnny and Angela made chitchat over lunch.

They were almost finished with their gyros when Johnny’s phone began to vibrate. There was also an unfamiliar tone, a beeping — that was Angela’s, he realized as she pulled her cell from her purse.

And then every phone in the restaurant was buzzing or beeping, every patron gaping wide-eyed at a glowing screen. Perhaps, Johnny thought as he slipped his phone from his pocket, it was not only every phone in the restaurant, but every phone in the city, the country, the world; perhaps that was the sound in his ears now, the nonsensical, cacophonous rumble and jumble of countless ringtones and vibrating hums.

Taken in all together like that, it was almost the noise of thunder.

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