Chronology of a Clarkesworld Submission: And then you woke up

Sometimes I have these dreams.  They started about 5 years ago when I wrote a short story and submitted it to Clarkesworld Magazine.  It was the first short story I’d written in quite a while and I didn’t know what to do with it.  Clarkesworld had just opened and Nick Mamatas, the editor at the time, had quickly become notorious for fast and personal rejections.  Some people disagreed with his editorial insights.  These people were banned.

Anyway, after my submission had been out for a few weeks I had two dreams.  In the first, Clarkesword accepted my story.  Yay!  In the second, Nick had sent me a rejection.  It was terrible.  He accused me of inflicting a vile, wretched story upon him and I should be ashamed.  I woke up scared and confused and when I saw I had a rejection from Clarkesworld, a little apprehensive.  Fortunately it was a very kind rejection, one that ended with the double please.  I couldn’t have been happier.  Well, I suppose I could’ve been happier with an acceptance but I thought surely, SURELY this meant I was improving as a writer and I would soon write wonderful, publishable stories…

Fast forward to this past November.  I had an idea I didn’t know what to do with.  Somewhere on the Internet, I had seen this sign:

and thought ‘Huh… I bet when March 22, 2228* actually rolls around, someone is going to name their child James Tiberius Kirk.’ I thought it would be funnier if a bunch of people did it and thus ‘All the Young Kirks and Their Good Intentions’ was born.  During my Pensions class I became intrigued with a boy named T… someone who was actually born on March 23 and is terrified the other Kirks would find out.  At first I thought I would write an updated Star Trek episode: the new Kirks go on some ridiculous adventure and T must prove his Kirkness.

Only I don’t know how to write plot stories, so that idea went away.

Next I thought about T having a sister named Red–someone outside the group who died, or moved away and now sends postcards back to T and Jamie about what it’s like living on the Gulf.  Only I didn’t know what that had to do with anything, so that idea went away.

I also wrote about T’s paranoia that his precarious place in the pecking order would be challenged by some other group of Kirks on the other side of the river from Riverside.  Fisher Kirks.  Strange, mysterious people who… did what exactly?  So that idea went away.

I kept restarting the story only to eventually give it up.  I had some people I liked: each trying to find their way and each ultimately failing.  Red doesn’t escape.  T doesn’t realize his obsessive paranoia about being an outsider is what makes him one.  Jamie loses herself when life doesn’t work the way she thought it would.  And Fisher realizes everyone is dying, everywhere, but is strangely accepting and hopeful.  I reconstructed the story from its disparate parts and submitted it to Clarkesworld instead of preparing for my last accounting class.  3000 words about what it would be like being someone named James T Kirk growing up at some point after the Sixth Extinction (which we’re going through right now supposedly).

That was December 1.

On December 3 I had another dream: Neil Clarke had sent me a long personal rejection in which he went on and on about how much he loved the Kirk idea and included suggestions on how to make the kids more Kirk-like.

Then I woke up.  I went to my computer and found a long personal rejection from Neil Clarke…

Then I woke up again.  I went to my computer and found a long personal rejection from Neil Clarke…

And on and on it went for many dreams.  When I finally broke free from the REM cycle, I posted the dream on a writer’s forum.  Everyone commiserated, except for David Goldman who apparently hates my sanity and wants it to die.  He said:

Somebody should forward this to Neil Clarke, so that he can send Hel a lengthy, highly personalized rejection that ends “and then you woke up.”

Shades of Inception! Hel will subsequently never know whether she’s still dreaming.

The day went on.  No rejection.  The next day came and went.  No rejection.  I began to fear that David had in fact emailed Neil and that they were plotting something dark and nefarious involving shady multinational companies and trains.

A week.  Two weeks.  Three.  The January issue went up.  Surely I would be rejected now–he’d delayed out of kindness because no one wants to reject someone on Christmas.

Five weeks.  Six.  Seven. Ken Liu posted an acceptance on Duotrope (which, these days, is like saying ‘hey, the sun rose this morning’).  I silently cursed his name while also betting whatever it was was completely brilliant.  (Editor’s note: It’s a brilliant translation of a brilliant Chinese story A Hundred Ghosts Parade Tonight)

Okay, I thought. I get it Neil.  You’re so tired of my writing you’re going to hold the story hostage in order to prevent me from submitting anything else. Ever.  

Seven and a half weeks.  Seven weeks, 4 days.  I started seriously considering investing in sacrificial chickens…

Seven weeks, 5 days.  Finally, a response:

Thanks for submitting your story to Clarkesworld Magazine!  I’d like to publish it in an upcoming issue.

You can read the story here: All the Young Kirks and Their Good Intentions

I suggest reading it quickly before my delusion collapses and time as we know it ceases to be…


*The date I used in the story is actually 2233 as that’s the official date for Kirk’s birth.  I figured if people in the future were crazy enough to name their kid after a fictional TV character, they’d be crazy enough to use the official year.  Or there’s another batch of young Kirks from 5 years earlier roaming the town… or even Fisher is one…  I never really made up my mind about it.

12 thoughts on “Chronology of a Clarkesworld Submission: And then you woke up

  1. Thank you, Hel, this story has really cheered me up! (And it got me to reading “All the Young Kirks…”, which I really liked, although “Robot” was even better.) I’m waiting for the response for almost five weeks now, fifth in the queue now, and it let me assured that I can wait with the sacrificial chickens too :)!

    1. Thanks!

      Clarkesworld purgatory is the worst purgatory (I’m actually #3 in the queue right now, and I also know the person in the #4 spot–may we all be in an issue together!).

  2. Hahaha, I found this blog because I am currently at #1 in the queue, and it has been exactly 7 weeks and 4 days.…. I hope some of you have heard in the last few weeks.

    Hel, thanks for describing your nightmare — I’m currently having a very similar nightmare every night, though in my dream I have woken in some alternate reality that is my own personal hell where my story will forever simply remain first in line but never move.

    I also just read your Kirks story and LOVED it. :) Sending good luck vibes to all.

    1. Hi, Jen! It’s amazing how Hel’s blogpost connects people and helps them through the purgatory of the queue :). I’m currently #2 and hope we could appear in the same issue (although I’m still rather pessimistic about my own story — well, less possible disappointment and more possible pleasant surprise that way) after the one hopefully featuring Hel! I would really like to read another great story like Kirks or Robot.
      I hope you get an acceptance soon and will be looking forward to the story! Good luck to all!

      1. Hi Julie! This is sort of funny — I have been avoiding talking to anyone about this for fear of jinxing something, but it is SURE nice to talk to other queue members. Perhaps we should start our own dinner club or something?

        I’m thinking of sacrificing a small goat soon.….

  3. Oh cripes. This is what I shall expect after signing myself up to the queue?

    I used to have these forever-waking-up dreams when I was younger — I called them “onion dreams” (it’s like you peel the onion, layer after layer after layer). Having kids cured me of that — there’s nothing to disturb your REM-cycle more effectively as a screaming baby.

    I fear my purgatory will last even longer than yours — there are Christmas holidays to consider and I bet no editor would have the heart to send rejection letters at the time. Gosh.

    But fancy the New Year’s resolution I would have to make if I got a personalised rejection the first thing in January.

  4. Hello I’m a new writer and I have a question that is off topic but as I see your writers I think you could answer.
    I’m in the process of writing an interesting medium sized scifi story (I have ideas for about 10 stories actually, but I’m at debute) and my question is regarding legal rights, mainly if I submit a story to an online zine and it gets rejected can I submit it to other zines and do I have the legal rights for it if it gets rejected or are the legal rights lost? I’m not from the USA that’s why I ask. Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi, when you submit a story you are *offering* the rights to the story to the magazine, but until you sign a contract with the publication, the rights are still yours. Would make submitting awfully difficult otherwise!

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