I admit it. I have little discipline to keep up this blog unless news intrudes. There’re distractions like drinking beer on the boardwalk. Moderating a writing group. (I’m so proud of them — us.) Going to jazz and wine festivals. Hanging out with my family. The usual summertime activities.
But to the news. Bewildering Stories has just published “Fish Stories and the Mermaid,” at http://www.bewilderingstories.com/issue439/fish_stories.html. I was chided that this was PG-rated and I should have issued a warning to young people (who already know things I have to look up, like what a “Norwegian ice rocket” is).
But don’t distract me. What I want to say is that I ran across a heavy word: synanthropes. (It’s G-rated, so keep reading.) The word refers to curious ways that animals adapt to humans as they’re crowded out of their habitats. For example, trainers in Hawaii’s Sea Life Park were stunned when a 400-pound gray female bottlenose dolphin gave birth to a dark-skinned calf that resembled the 2,000-pound male false killer whale with which she shared a pool. The calf was a wholphin, a hybrid that was intermediate to its parents in some characteristics, like having 66 teeth compared with the bottlenose’s 44 and the 88 of the false killer whale, a much larger member of the dolphin family.
Talk about moral breakdown! This sent me to the keyboard. There was a story here! But in July ’09 the first editor rejected “Mermaid,” saying “I was expecting something more ‘mythic,’ something more in keeping with the theme of ‘synanthropes.’” The next editor said, “Ummm, this is an entertaining story, but I have to say no to it. Largely, I'm not into stories where the punch line is basically, ‘I'm pregnant.’” The third editor flatly stated, “Unfortunately, we cannot accept your story for publication.” Cannot? Like, I made a mistake and sent this to a children’s mag? The fourth editor remarked, “Although we really liked the voice of this piece, we both felt that it was the beginning of a story that could go much further.” No, sorry. That was the story. The fifth editor had two objections, apparently pulled from a list: “Incorrect formatting, language, italicized words not underlined” and “The genre of this story was not clearly defined. It read more like a ‘slice-of-life’ story than anything that I would consider fantasy, horror or science fiction.”
Finally, a sixth editor wrote back, “Thank you for ‘Fish Stories and the Mermaid.’ It's one of your most interesting ones.” Don Webb, editor of Bewildering Stories, then proceeded to point out — accurately and line by line — where I had been careless. He asked if I could help readers over these rough patches. I said I could indeed. That was in mid-spring of this year.
Thank you, Don, for running six of my stories and an excerpt from my Cruising collection over the years. Bewildering Stories is one of the best.