Ringing the Changes

I was checking some articles on my old web site and was struck by how, well, for want of a better word, useless some older posts on the business of writing were. I mean, take the one on manuscript preparation, for example. Perfectly good advice…for 1997. Back when most venues were still paper-only and email was only good for querying, and not always then. Now it’s email attachments or online submission forms in all cases except a handful, though when I first started submitting the publishers were fighting those kind of changes tooth and nail and more teeth. That was then, and not everyone could wrap their heads around the notion that the way it was didn’t necessarily reflect the way it would be.

The point of that trip down memory lane wasn’t nostalgia, but rather to remind myself that nothing remains static. Not anything, and that includes publishing. Something that was unthinkable a few short years ago becomes the norm. Sometimes the effect is so gradual that it’s easy to miss. At other times, it’s sudden and dramatic. Almost from its birth, Realms of Fantasy had been my most reliable market. As of a few weeks ago, it no longer exists. Sure, there are other markets, but not so many of the type that liked the sort of fractured fairtytale that RoF editor, Shawna McCarthy, liked. So odds are I’ll be writing fewer of those kind of stories, or at least you won’t see them because they won’t find a home outside of a collection. Simple as that.

If you’re tempted to either indignation or sympathy, thanks but either would be wasted. See, this is neither a complaint nor a problem. This is a change. In this one case it happened to me and a lot of other writers at the same time. Likewise for others when Amazing Stories died for the umpteenth time, or Omni or Sci-Fi shut down. The point is that something like this will happen to you at several points in your career. It may not be as dramatic as a market or an entire publishing house shutting down. It may be as simple as a change of editors, and the old one loved your work and the new one just doesn’t get it (both short story writers and novelists get nailed with that one). The nature of the change isn’t important. What matters is what we do about it. In my case I have other kinds of stories that I like to do. Maybe they’ll become more prominent now as the landscape rearranges itself, or maybe something entirely different will emerge. I don’t know, but the beauty of it is that I don’t have to know. I have to discover, work it out, as you or anyone else would.  It does help to take the long view, mind. In some instances stories I’ve believed in have taken ten years or more to find the right homes. But they did, and they will, and I have every confidence that this will continue. Why? Because of change, naturally. Editors change. Attitudes change. You can’t fight it, so you don’t fight it.

If you’re smart, you count on it

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