JC Piech's picture
JC Piech from England is reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest May 2, 2013 - 5:02am

I've just had a story turned down for an anthology (theme was zombies) on the grounds that my 2 fifteen year old characters discuss having sex with each other. There are no actual sex scenes, just a few (3 or 4) brief references. But the editor said she couldn't publish it because, essentially, underage sex is illegal.

Maybe it's just me, but it seems like a strange reason to turn a story down, especially as the audience would be horror/science fiction fans and probably not that easily offended by something that does happen now, let alone in a future apocalyptic setting where people don't live much past the age of 30.

Anyway, now I'm wondering if I might have trouble getting it published elsewhere for the same reason?

And also, have you ever been given an odd reason for having a story rejected?

drea's picture
drea from Rural Alberta, Canada is reading between the lines May 2, 2013 - 11:26am

Sorry to hear; you are correct about that being an odd reason to reject a story. Without knowing the publication or the publishers, it's hard to say what their aesthetic is.

While I shouldn't be, I am ALWAYS surprised at the mindset of the mindless moral majority, including a publisher who would take exception to two teens discussing a consensual sexual relationship--I mean, have these people MET teenagers?? Pretending and wishing sexuality wasn't a thing doesn't make it not a thing.

My advice would be to know the boundaries of the pubs you submit to. Make sure your piece is inline with what they publish. 

To answer your question, I find I only get rejected because my writing is weak and my ambition outweighs my talent, although I did have one editor kind enough to let me know that had I not made a noob POV mistake, I'd have been shortlisted for a fancy prize, so I'm going to keep reaching. You should too. 

sean of the dead's picture
sean of the dead from Madisonville, KY is reading Peckerwood, by Jed Ayres May 2, 2013 - 12:23pm

my 2 fifteen year old characters discuss having sex with each other. There are no actual sex scenes, just a few (3 or 4) brief references.

That reminds me of Moonrise Kingdom, the latest Wes Anderson movie. It fetures two young children who awkwardly discuss a "sexual" relationship, going so far as to touch each other. That movie has been considered by many (including myself) to be amazing and one of the best to come out in the past X amount of years.

I think it goes along with the culture that we are shown on television. To put this briefly, we see rich, over-sensitive steroetypes of humans on "reality" tv shows, and we irrationally come to the conclusion that WE are supposed to be like them, the majority (when in reality, there is little reality going on in those shows and they are far from the majority), and that EVERYTHING we ever say is important (hence Twitter, Facebook, message boards, rants like this...). So then we end up with over-sensitive censors on everything that DOESN'T need to be censored, but then we miss the actually offensive things in our society. We are so busy worrying about bullshit snowflake babies and the gay marriage debate and "did she really wear that on the red carpet?" that we miss the increasing violence in places like Chicago, the numbers of sexual assaults rising, the blatantly sexist, racist, homophobic advertising that is flashing in front of our childrens' eyes every day, etc...

I could keep going all day, but I said I'd keep it brief.

To answer the "odd reason for rejection" question, I seem to get rejected a lot because I never submit anything.

Nathan Scalia's picture
Nathan Scalia from Kansas is reading so many things May 2, 2013 - 1:43pm

Obviously, they've never read [insert Gaiman short story here].

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated May 2, 2013 - 3:12pm

Some places are just looking for a reason to reject stories, and if that is the care they'll latch on to almost anything.

Utah's picture
Moderator
Utah from Fort Worth, TX is reading Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry May 2, 2013 - 3:42pm

One editor spouted some incomprehensible nonsense about how my "ending was predictable" one time. 

I responded by sending him five more stories that were completely different except that the endings were exactly the same.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated May 3, 2013 - 10:40am

You know that could be a neat short story collection, no joke. Have one really great last sentence and they all have it as the last words.

Covewriter's picture
Covewriter from Nashville, Tennessee is reading & Sons May 2, 2013 - 10:06pm

Hey I just finished two stories, workshopped them and all and I like them. I sent to glimmer train and they didn't even make the top 25. Really?  Am i that bad.? I am starting to think you have to be an MFA student with a professor on your  tail to win.  What do I need to do? Is getting a degree the answer to get in the club? Or to get the needed help? 

 

wavedomer's picture
wavedomer from Boise is reading Rum Punch May 3, 2013 - 9:14am

I've had a story rejected with comments from different magazine editors that contradict each other. So while a lot is involved in accepting a story, it is also opinion. One editor wants more tension at the start while another thinks the tension is good at the start. Turning down for the sex thing is odd to a degree,Lolita did okay right?, but it might be something they weren't comfortable with or just didn't like. The key is to just keep plugging away.

Utah's picture
Moderator
Utah from Fort Worth, TX is reading Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry May 3, 2013 - 9:35am

Am i that bad.

Cove, you received a rejection from a publication that is in Duotropes Top 25 Most Challenging Markets.  They accept 0.18% of submissions (that's 9 acceptances out of 5,000 stories, or about 1 out of 500 sent to them).  You can't use this as a measuring stick against your skill or talent.  Much more than your ability goes into an acceptance there, not the least of which is how the editor's breakfast is affecting their GI tract.

Buck up and send your story out again.

Strange Photon's picture
Strange Photon from Fort Wayne, IN is reading Laurie Anderson lyrics May 3, 2013 - 10:16am

JC, would you consider making the characters 16? This way, they are no longer under the age of consent, and if the lady still rejects your work, you can expose her for being a liar.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated May 3, 2013 - 10:47am

@Strange - That age varies by location.

@Cove - I for one think the Glimmer Train Wreck would be a better title if it makes you feel any better. I don't look at them much. When I do it is authors I don't like, or works by authors I do like that don't live up to my expectations. I'm slightly more likely to pay to read your work now that you've been rejected by them.

Dino Parenti's picture
Dino Parenti from Los Angeles is reading Everything He Gets His Hands On May 3, 2013 - 10:52am

Gotta love when undead creatures ripping human beings to pieces is ok (I'm assuming--correct me if I'm wrong), but even a discussion of sex between teenagers is a no-no. Lolita anybody? I'm sure that's likely more sexually disturbing than what you wrote, and that's a classic. Some people have no business being editors.

Rant aside, there are plenty of other journals that would have your work without making a compromise. 

JC Piech's picture
JC Piech from England is reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest May 3, 2013 - 11:47am

Thanks for your comments everyone. I emailed the editor just to clarify a couple of things she said, and in her reply she went on about how 'because MTV glamourizes teen sex and teen pregnancy' she didn't think  parents would want their kids reading about those things. Ermm.... 1) If that's your concern as an editor, perhaps mention something about it being for a YA audience in your guidelines, and 2) my main female character directly talks about how she doesnt want to be like all the other 15 year old girls who already have a couple of kids, and that she wants to get to know her boyfriend better before she starts a family! So.... -__- Lame.

I would've been willing to change their ages to 16, but the editor's second email gave the impression she was against ALL teen sex, not just the underage type.

And that's a great point Dino! It's nuts.

Anyway, thanks again everyone. I've submitted it to Daily Science Fiction, so I'll see what they think of it :)

JC Piech's picture
JC Piech from England is reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest May 3, 2013 - 12:13pm

@Covewriter - No you don't have to have a degree. But it can take a lot of practice before you start getting stuff published. I've been writing fiction for 11 years now, and I'm only just starting to gain some ground in regards to paying markets. I've had some pieces published in places which pay a token fee, but nothing major. Just keep at it and don't give up. Rejection sucks, but you learn something from each one. x

Courtney's picture
Courtney from the Midwest is reading Monkey: A Journey to the West and a thousand college textbooks May 3, 2013 - 12:54pm

because MTV glamourizes teen sex and teen pregnancy...

...violence is more "appropriate" than sex for teens? Right.

Because they need to have the tools to fight off zombie invasions, but not have the tools to choose whether to fuck, and if they choose to do it, to do it responsibily. Right.

Sorry, I'm fuming. That's the stupidest reason I've ever heard.

I had one place reject me for including my name on my submission; they changed their policy to blind submissions and expected me to see it, withdraw my submission, and resubmit it with no identifying info despite the fact that I submitted prior to their change. I didn't know any of the editors, either, so I'm not really sure how my name would have affected anything...

drea's picture
drea from Rural Alberta, Canada is reading between the lines May 3, 2013 - 1:25pm

..violence is more "appropriate" than sex for teens? Right.

As a single (way open way liberal) mom to a son, we have this discussion at our house A LOT. What sort of hypocrisy is it to be able to sit in front of your tv with your child(ren), and watch people get shot, stabbed, decapitated, scalped, etc. and yet get weirded out by sex scenes or even go so far as to cover their eyes? I see it all the time - the weirding out, not the sex scenes. I think this is fundamentally what is wrong with society and contributes to this fucked up rape culture. 

ok. Here's the soap box if anyone wants it. I've got some writing to get ready for rejection : P 

JC Piech's picture
JC Piech from England is reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest May 3, 2013 - 2:30pm

Courtney & drea - I totally agree. NOT talking about sex does a hell of a lot more damage than talking about it. It keeps it 'naughty' and 'dirty' and 'bad', so kids feel embarassed, which then means they can't approach it from a healthy mindset. And my story wasn't glamourizing anything anyway - It showed sex and relationships as being complicated, difficult, and also sweet and worth the hard work. And like you said, the editor didn't have any problem with the parts where my characters attacked zombies with crow bars...

I'm glad other people are saying it's a stupid reason, because I wasn't sure if I was just suffering from a case of sour grapes or something. 

 

drea's picture
drea from Rural Alberta, Canada is reading between the lines May 3, 2013 - 2:38pm

We are here to validate you! 

JC Piech's picture
JC Piech from England is reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest May 3, 2013 - 2:40pm

\(^-^)/

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated May 3, 2013 - 3:41pm

@Drea - Honestly I'm not.

@JC - Did you have some reason to think you'd get in, like them showing interest or publishing you before? Don't get me wrong, getting rejected from anything is some place between annoying and physically painful, but was it just the fact you had teenagers saying something teenagers and she wigged bothered you?

drea's picture
drea from Rural Alberta, Canada is reading between the lines May 3, 2013 - 5:39pm

@Drea - Honestly I'm not.

@Dwayne - Honestly, I was not referring to you. 

JC Piech's picture
JC Piech from England is reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest May 4, 2013 - 10:13am

@Dwayne - I didn't expect to get published with them, no. But the editor told me she had shortlisted my story, and wanted to put it in, and that the ONLY reason she didn't was because of the sex references. I'm not bitter about being rejected. I'm annoyed that I could have saved myself the effort and disappointment if they'd mentioned in their guidelines that the stories had to be YA-friendly or whatever.

Dino Parenti's picture
Dino Parenti from Los Angeles is reading Everything He Gets His Hands On May 4, 2013 - 11:32am

Still no excuse. It's young-ADULT, and I don't know any young adults (I'm asuming between 13-18) who don't discuss sex on some level. If they're looking to play it safe and take on no risky, edgy work, then they're not for you.

Nathan Scalia's picture
Nathan Scalia from Kansas is reading so many things May 4, 2013 - 11:42am

Or probably most of the writers on this site.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated May 4, 2013 - 1:16pm

@Dera - Then be more careful with the nosism.

@JC - That makes more sense, and short listing you with what sounds like no who understood their own guidelines sounds like a jerk move. Sorry if I sounded harsh, but I was getting the impression you got random feedback from a declined submission out of the blue. It seems like they should have either told you a simple no or a yes/maybe on the condition you edit but what they did seems like they just got your hopes up for no good reason.

Courtney's picture
Courtney from the Midwest is reading Monkey: A Journey to the West and a thousand college textbooks May 4, 2013 - 2:29pm

I agree with everything Drea and JC said. I'm a public health major specializing in human sexuality specifically so I can become a sexual health educator, and this sort of shit infuriates me.

JC Piech's picture
JC Piech from England is reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest May 4, 2013 - 2:41pm

Dino and Nathan - Agreed. I shall take my edginess elsewhere.

Dwayne - No problem :)

Courtney - That sounds like a fascinating field to work in. But yeah, must make for no end of frustration :/

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading A truckload of books May 5, 2013 - 1:35pm

Strangest reason for being rejected was that "credit card machines haven't used slips for over a decade."

 

To be fair, it's just a strange thing to see in a rejection letter, the editor was justified, given that it wasa futuristic story where the credit card machine played an important role.

JC Piech's picture
JC Piech from England is reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest May 5, 2013 - 2:18pm

Ah, so was there no room to make adjustments?

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading A truckload of books May 5, 2013 - 2:34pm

The editor didn't offer the opportunity to rewrite. It seemed to him the credit card thing hinged the whole story, but upon getting the letter I realized everything could still work (and may work better) if the protagonist's job was not to collect credit card slips, but was, instead, a maitenence man. You live, you learn. No one who read/critiqued it caught that issue so at least I know I'm not the only person who didn't catch that issue.

Courtney's picture
Courtney from the Midwest is reading Monkey: A Journey to the West and a thousand college textbooks May 6, 2013 - 12:34pm

It's definitely an interesting field and a frustrating one, but it's so worth it. The professor who got me into it now works at Adult and Child as a sex educator for children who have had DCS intervention; I can't imagine how great it must feel to do that.

As for the credit card thing, I don't think it'd have occured to me, either. It's weird that he didn't offer a rewrite, though.

Personal rejections are so great to get, but sometimes I wonder if they're actually personal or just stock that they threw out to get their Duotrope personality rating up. I once got one saying "too many adverbs" and it was a story I'd purposefully taken all the adverbs out of as an experiment. In that case, at least, I'm pretty sure the editors either a.) throw out a random "personalized" letter every time, or b.) got me mixed up with another submission.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated May 6, 2013 - 1:25pm

I'm pretty sure the editors either a.) throw out a random "personalized" letter every time, or b.) got me mixed up with another submission.

Sadly, the two are not mutually exclusive.

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading A truckload of books May 6, 2013 - 3:54pm

Courtney-- wow that is crazy. I wouldn't be surprised by either.

With the market that rejected me based on the credit card thing, they're a fairly coveted sci-fi market, so I can't blame him for letting my story go when the technology was the issue. He seemed to really like it otherwise, so I'll probably just flood him with every sci-fi story I write from now on ;)

Courtney's picture
Courtney from the Midwest is reading Monkey: A Journey to the West and a thousand college textbooks May 7, 2013 - 9:09pm

Dwayne's right. It sucks and doesn't make much sense to me -- why work for a journal if you aren't going to bother with the actual stories? It doesn't compute with me.

I guess a larger market could be harder on stories, but still -- that should've at least warranted a rewrite request. Still, it sounds like you have a bit of an in, Renee!

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading A truckload of books May 8, 2013 - 9:52am

I hope so. I think I'm throwing a sci-fi story in the workshop in the next day or two, and it'll have that editor's name on it when it's done ;)

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated May 8, 2013 - 12:28pm

Dwayne's right.

I wasn't expecting you to ever say that.

It sucks and doesn't make much sense to me -- why work for a journal if you aren't going to bother with the actual stories? It doesn't compute with me.

People tend to do lots of sucky things that don't make sense.