I received a rejection this morning for a story I wrote for a themed anthology. The guidelines were clear: No "coarse" language.
In the course of writing this story, the following line slipped from my character's mouth:
"You . . . bastard," he said, smiling again. "You sick . . . brilliant bastard."
I confess I wondered about the line. But it fit. There was a moment of extreme tension just before he said it. The words were the characters way of letting out the tension. And it's not as if he dropped an F-bomb.
Before sending in the story, I confess I also did some research into the editor of the anthology. He is a professed devout Christian who is no doubt sincere in his beliefs. But that didn't stop him from opening one of his own recent stories with a girl chained by the neck about to be sexually assaulted.
So I took a chance.
And received the following e-mail from the editor this morning:
I was happily enjoying your story until I came across something on page 9.
As per the guidelines:
"No coarse language."
"Please follow these guidelines to the letter. Submissions that don't
will be automatically rejected."
I wish you the best in placing your story elsewhere.
Thank you for your understanding.
So of course, I'm left to wonder. Did he stop reading right there? Were his sensibilities so offended by the use of a word that appears three times in the Bible that it was enough to make him put the story down?
For my own sanity's sake, I'm gonna assume the story just wasn't good enough and this was his polite way of telling me. It would have been easy enough to simply remove the words if they were so offensive but the story was otherwise worthy. I refuse to believe he reads stories just looking for "gotcha" moments.
Because to my mind, a helpless girl chained by her neck in imminent danger of sexual assault . . . never mind.
Probably just sour grapes on my part. The guidelines were clear.
But we do live in a strange world, my friends, populated by all sorts of interesting people.