Saturday, October 09, 2010

A Universal Horror Writer Moment

Maybe it's not exactly a moment, but there's an experience shared by many writers of a certain age who've put pen to horror.

In Night Shift, Stephen King's fabulous first collection of short fiction, a glance at the copyright page notes many of the tales first appeared in, shall we say delicately, men's magazines. In the seventies, King found a steady outlet for his fiction in Cavalier and similar publications.

In those ancient of days, the '80s, when I was finishing college and discovering the horrors of general assignment reporting, I began to finish stories that I felt were worth sending out. Keep it down out there. I heard that.

I got Writer's Market like many other young, aspiring scribes  and perused magazines that accepted mystery and horror. Through a lag in editing or updates, Cavalier and other publications that had gone in new editorial directions by the eighties were still listed as outlets for horror fiction.

So, it was a.) where Stephen King was published a few years before and b.) it accepted horror. Seemed like a good idea for submission.

The results for everyone who went through those same paces, I suppose, confirm the writer advice adage that you must read the markets to which you're submitting. Reading stories from the same publication in anthologies isn't always quite the same, especially if there's been a lag of a few years.

When I sent a story to Cavalier, I got a form rejection with--the bright side--a personal note scribbled on it: "It's good, but we need strongly sex-oriented stories."

The world had begun to change. The specialization of newsstand publications and niches had begun. Scarcer were the er, well-rounded editorial styles that offered "readers" pictorials mixed with a couple of stories and relevant articles.

The only fictional narratives in Cavalier--once the publisher of King and tales such as Roald Dahl's über classic Man from the South--were now captions for pictorials of women fighting.

Happily, in this new era, writing marches on, and even as old venues for words die, new venues are born. I guess that's the good news.

And I've got to get back to re-editing some of those stories that were rejected by Cavalier but found other print homes.


Charles Gramlich said...

I've been editing some of those older stories myself. As you well know. :)

Erik Donald France said...

God, that's hilarious. Well, with ebooks and internet it's a whole new ballgame. And I imagine most of those "blue" mags will be wiped out by the internet as well. ALthough they should bring back Playboy Clubs -- would be a little "classier" than places like Hooters, I would hope.

Stewart Sternberg said...

I did the same thing. I looked at where some writers submitted, and like you and King, I submitted to Cavalier and a few others. You know, the editors probably got sick of us.

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