Saturday, August 23, 2008

The process of natural rejection

In the space of this last week, I got two rejections from two separate publications. The first annoyed the hell out of me - they'd spent weeks even acknowledging that I had sent through the story, and then when they finally got around to accepting it, it didn't even get through the first round. It was a good story, too. "Slow to receive, quick to reject" - that's what I wrote at the time.

The second rejection came much more slowly; it was from the Sleepers Almanac, and I'd sent the story in almost as an afterthought. It was one of the strangest things I've ever written in my life, basically an obscure joke about a romantic-primitive ballet written by Igor Stravinsky at the beginning of the twentieth century - "The first impressions of a plumber on encountering Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring."

About this story, I wrote at the time of sending in the submission, "I think I'd be more insulted if they accepted than if they rejected it." Which is more or less true. So I was almost chuffed to get the inevitable 'no, thank you' by email.

For reasons unknown to everyone, especially myself, I still like the story. I don't think it's ever going to get published anywhere else, so here for the benefit of you - my best readers - is an excerpt. (The rest of the story is lurking around in my Yahoo 'sent' folder somewhere. I'll get around to retrieving it sometime.) Enjoy. Or, at least, marvel at my weirdness...
The first impressions of a plumber on encountering Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring

A solitary pipe – snaking down the wall – tantalising in its possibilities. Where does this pipe come from? Whither does it go? Is it a pipe for waste water, or no?
We follow it. It darts here and there – with excitement! Around the geometry of the house – there is a tap here – an ancillary pipe there – it becomes bogged down briefly in a clump of grass – but hark! Now it is entangled amidst a gathering network of plumbing.
The plumber rushes on, excited – he sees the pipe emerge again from the tangle – single, solitary, beautiful.
What is the future for this pipe? The plumber does not know. It stretches ever onwards, mystifying, dream-like…

A sudden rush of water amongst the pipes! A low, urgent, thunderous noise can be heard insistently through the plumbing system. A leak springs here – there – and there – and there!
Spanner in hand, the plumber whirls hither, thither, thither – suddenly, in a great rush of water, a leak springs under his feet! The metallic pipes seem to advance upon him – he SCREAMS!

It is a dream of the perfect plumbing system – shining, clad in mystic samite, beautiful, pristine and pure. It curves and loops and bulges in ways too perfect and sensuous to ever be made by man. Its stainless steel gleams with a pure, white light.
The plumber draws towards these pipes in his secret dream, and shyly, lovingly begins to caress them. They sing in sweet angelic tones as he weaves through their tangle of metal – and then, in a sudden shower of milk and gold, they release their fluid!
The plumber collapses back, exhausted, swooning – and a note of doubt enters his mind…

It is a room bare of plumbing. The plumber is filled with a sense of awe, mingled with dread.
He walks to a cupboard – he wrenches the door open – revealing fertile, savage, viridescent: a complex tangle of mouldy pipes from long-forgotten eras.
The plumber leaps from pipe to pipe with his trusty spanner – loosening here – tightening there – sealing elsewhere – suddenly, he is surrounded by a forest of pipes.
Far in the distance, in a remote tangle of plumbing, wink a pair of eyes…


Dale Slamma said...

You were rejected by Sleepers? Oh no. That must mean I have been double rejected, they have not even bothered to send me a rejection notice. That is disheartening.

I like rejection notices, it is evidence that I have done something other than sit and ponder listlessly with a biscuit in my left hand.

TimT said...

That probably means they're still considering it. Still, I like the idea of a double rejection:

Dear Dale Slamma,

We are sorry to have to tell you that you have been rejected for receiving a rejection email for your submission to the Sleepers Almanac. Don't feel bad about this, we receive so many great stories to reject every year, and can only send out rejection emails for some of them. We encourage you to keep on writing stories for rejection, and submit your story to another magazine for a rejection as well. If you don't succeed at failing at first, then try, try again!

Sincerely, Sleepers Almanac

TimT said...

Also, this: failing to succeed is just succeeding at failure.

Dale Slamma said...

That would be a grand rejection email. I am checking my inbox daily, just in case.

TimT said...

You might find your submission for rejection has been rejected, and that you have failed at failing to submit a piece to Sleepers. You might, in a word, be accepted and published.

I'm sorry to have to tell you this unpleasant truth, but I think you should perhaps begin steeling yourself for it now.

It's one of those cold hard facts of life.

forlorn said...

Perhaps they wanted more realism in the kitchen sink scene.

(I had never even heard of "Sleepers", which confirms what I've suspected for a long time- that I am not even remotely fashionable and that I do not have my finger on the pulse).

TimT said...

I am thoroughly antipathetic to that sort of kitchen-sink realism. It just goes entirely against my character.

When you said kitchen sink there, in fact, my mind immediately formulated an idea for a Kitchen Sink drama. Complete with talking kitchen sink. Let no-one say I am not imaginative (even if I am not.)

eyrie said...

I can assure you, Tim, that you are imaginative in a particularly charming and original way and that I, for one, would much prefer to hear the kitchen sink speak than to hear it spoken about. Kitchen sinks rise up indeed!

And I learn all sorts of interesting things here. I was going to put the hyphen in "kitchen-sink scene" and then I didn't because it didn't seem nice from a typographical point of view, but I see that it looks very nice in "kitchen-sink realism". I have also discovered that I was right to decline M's request to watch "Forbidden Kingdom", since, aside from all the other aspects it has which I am unlikely to enjoy, it makes explicit reference to "Monkey", a program I can't stand (in keeping with my lack of hipness).

nailpolishblues said...

Curiously, a talking kitchen-sink would be in keeping with the Monkey universe [if they'd had kitchen-sinks in pseudo ancient China]. Reminds me of the Monkey-as-dentist episode for reasons that I cannot begin to explain.

TimT said...

All of a sudden everyone seems to be talking about dentists. Dentists dentists dentists! I wonder if they're trying to tell me something?

nailpolishblues said...

Everyone? If you're a thousand kms away and I'd noticed then, yes, you would seriously be in need of a dentist.
The Monkey episode might help you to understand the problem - there nasty demons in your mouth and they're...never mind...

forlorn said...

Boycott the dentist! It always ends in grief. I started with an occasional tooth ache and now, three fillings and umpteen needles later, I feel like I've been transformed into Donny Osmond every time I shut my mouth.

TimT said...

If I've got demons in my mouth, I think I'd better call the exorcist instead of the dentist.

Email: timhtrain - at -

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