Links, Page 8

"Slush," by Mike Resnick (continued)

(A successful writer with several professional credits was kind enough to look at my story. The result was entirely predictable: “I would have begun the story at the kidnapping...." (Eliminating the prologue of sorts.) But the story’s prologue serves two purposes. Firstly, it establishes the mystery of the kidnapper “remembering” the boy, while at the same time being a complete stranger to his captive.

Secondly, and more importantly, the prologue invokes the stage magician’s ploy of misdirection to distract the audience from what is actually happening in plain sight. When I first crafted my story, my biggest concern was that it would be too obvious too soon to SF readers as to what the actual situation is, as the idea is admittedly not original with myself and has been used before in several stories and novels. By taking advantage of contemporary societal mind-sets and fears (by way of social commentary), I had hoped that the reader would glide right past several tip-offs early on that such fears are unwarranted. From feedback I have had, that strategy was for the most part successful. Anyway, this is how I wrote it and not him.)

What follows is an excerpt from “Slush” which constitutes the meat of Mr. Resnick’s argument:

“When I joined Jim Baen’s Universe there was a ton of slush that had been passed on by our enthusiastic but inexperienced staff. The reason I so characterize them (and they are still enthused, but no longer inexperienced) is because the slush reader, when he or she would forward a story to Eric or me, would write a brief comment . . . and I came to too damned many comments that said, in essence, 'It starts slow, but it gets really good on Page 7.' I didn’t even have to read those, because that’s an automatic reject. Our subscribers are not being paid [should be, “paying”?] to wade through all the junk to get to Page 7; if we haven’t captured them in the first couple of pages, the odds are that they’ll stop reading that story and go on to one by a major author (we don't lack for them), or at least a known commodity. “

The attitudes expressed within this paragraph are, in my opinion, indicative of the mind-set held by most fiction editors and are, in least in part, responsible for the absolutely horrendous decline in the number of paying science fiction publications and circulation figures for those that have survived (at least to date).

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