Watching Technology Pass You By

Y’know, since 1986 I’ve submitted 1167 short stories. Believe it: One thousand, one hundred, sixty-seven short stories. I was just preparing five more to go out today and discovered that four of the five markets I’m submitting to require paper submissions. Which means I have to print out a copy of the story, print out a cover letter, get a manila envelope for the whole enchilada and a regular #10 with stamp for the SASE. The waste of paper and time is immense.

John Scalzi, god bless ‘im, has stated categorically on his site that he doesn’t mess with paper submissions any more, and in spirit I agree: This is frickin’ 2010. The excuses and explanations as to why a magazine doesn’t accept email subs are ludicrous, and fall into one basic category when you parse them closely enough: The editors of these magazines simply do not like email submissions. They may gas on and on about printing costs (unnecessary) how difficult it is to read on screen (2000 words? Really, Mr. Magoo?) and, unbelievably, how difficult it is to share an electronic sub with other editors. Yes, you read that right: An electronic file is more difficult to pass on to readers than a pile of paper.

So, as I’m getting paper cuts and searching for stamps, I’m grousing and thinking how I would have been done with my subs an hour ago if I could have simply typed up a cover email, attached a file, and clicked send. Grouse, grouse, grouse. Mmmmn, Famous Grouse is damn fine whiskey . . .  But I’m still doing it, because I still dream of selling short stories. There’s a glamour to it as far as I’m concerned. Certainly no money, but whenever I sell a short story I feel like F. Scott Fitzgerald for a moment. Plus, I’ve got a lot of stories. I write them constantly, for my own satisfaction, and once they’re done some of them stay with me and I decide to try and do something with them. No use in leaving them in notebooks for the Alien Archaeologists of the future to discover and puzzle over.

I’m not exactly George Jetson with the technology, either. Not only do I not have a smartphone of any kind, I don’t even own a cell phone for personal use.  A lot of new thingies leave me cold and I’m fairly slow to get on the various bandwagons that our glorious computer companies trot out every year – but let’s be serious. Email was invented seven hundred years ago. If you’re worried about attachments, let us paste plain text in. For god’s sake, it is the twenty-first century. We may not have transporters and replicators, but by god we have electronic mail.

Enough ranting. I’m still mailing the subs when I have to. I’m just amazed. A few years ago I managed 107 submissions in one year, and that was when I was still typing everything on a manual typewriter and making photocopies to send everywhere, believe it or not. The thought of doing that many paper subs today makes me feel sleepy and irritated, so every time I find a new story market that takes email subs, I rejoice. As should you.


  1. Dan Krokos

    I was born in 1986.

  2. jsomers (Post author)

    Dan, that explains a lot. I am no longer disturbed by your musky odor and cocky strut: 1986 explains everything.

  3. Dan Krokos

    Now if only the ladies weren’t disturbed by the musky odor . . .

  4. jsomers (Post author)

    Disturbed, Dan? Or so turned on they can’t think straight? No, you’re right: Disturbed. Carry on.

  5. Dan Krokos

    It helps when I tell them I know you. They swoon when I tell them about the Berlin job we did, and my muskiness goes out the window.

  6. mike pettengell

    js–doesn’t your love of the whole fitzgerald ‘ethos’ and the short story writer (trials and tribulations) also include some sort of pride in sending out the little f*****s on their way through the mail? vonnegut once said somewhere that most of life is just farting around–putting stuff in envelopes and taking it down to the p.o., talking to folks on the way. and think of the fun when the letter comes stamped ‘accepted’–or however they let you know such things.
    wouldn’t it be great to be a pulp writer in the thirties?
    yours, mike
    ps–i teach english, do community radio, and read your books here in kansas city.

  7. jsomers (Post author)

    Mike – See, I need LESS farting around. Every snail mail submission costs me days, as I sit here forgetting to put stamps on SASEs or similar incompetencies. As for being a pulper in the 30s, maybe, except there would be no Internet and I’d probably be migrating to California to pick grapes by now. Thanks for the comment, man!


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