Thursday, April 26, 2007

Could somebody please turn on the lights?

Mostly playing around with some short stories at the moment. My agent sent one of the early Inspector McLean shorties to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, and whilst they didn't think it was quite right for them, they did ask to see some more of my stuff, which was nicer than a straight PFO.* So I tootled off to their website, downloaded a copy of the magazine to read, and set about coming up with something that I thought might fit.

You might think that this would be a recipe for writer's block, an invitation for the ideas fairy to take the huff and go off elsewhere. In fact quite the opposite has occurred. My brain is positively fizzing. I've finished one complete short story, have a second taking shape on my whiteboard and a third dragging at my attention whenever I try to concentrate on the other two. The plan for the next novel keeps rearing its ugly head and suggesting new and interesting things to do too. All in all this is a good time - probably something to do with Spring and all.

But nothing I've come up with so far is remotely suitable for AHMM. All of it is unremittingly bleak - dark to the point of stubbing your toes - whereas the stories I've read have all had a certain whimsy to them, and certainly no swearing. But try as I might, I just can't seem to do whimsy any more.

And this has got me thinking - just where does all this terrible, depressing nastiness come from? I'm not particularly in the doldrums right now. Quite the contrary. Life is pretty good. Yet when I sit down to make shit up, what comes to mind is about as cheerful as listening to Radiohead.

Maybe I need to get thoroughly depressed before I can write fluffy, upbeat comedy. Or should I just continue to indulge in the fairly harmless and cathartic pleasure of torturing fictional characters?

* Please Fuck Off, for those who've never received a rejection letter.

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Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

Ha - it looks like you and I have the same problem.

And I think you may have nailed why I don't read AHMM more often.

April 26, 2007 7:10 pm  
Blogger Stuart MacBride said...

Writing horrible things makes for nicer people.

I've got a couple of shorties I keep meaning to send off to AHMM, but if it's whimsy they're after I may have to revisit that scene where someone gets kicked to death in a car park...

Well, it sort of seemed whimsical at the time.

April 27, 2007 10:17 am  
Blogger Russel said...

Its not necc whimsy they're after, although it is true that the majority of tales that see the printed page in either of Dell's publications are lighter in tone than many of us might like.

But the wonderful editors do occasionally take darker fiction. And even some swearing (although my line got drawn at a good old fashion "shut the fuck up" where one of those words got struck through). So its not impossible. I did it four times. Only one of those would I characterise as being a bit lighter than the others. And even then it deals with a rape over twenty years old and a rather intense bid for suicide. The others had domestic violence, a face being blown apart by a shotgun, several kicks in the crotch, a homeless man beaten to death by a gang of teenagers and so forth.

I can't be sure, but I think that its possible - without checking - that every story I sent involves at least minor damage to the groinal area. I don't know what that says if its true.

I often think this thing about AHMM being light and whimsicial is a self-fulfilling prophecy in many ways. If they don't get the chance to see darker stuff, how can they publish it?

So submit people getting kicked in car parks. Submit slightly darker stuff.

I've had some cracking PFO's down the years. AHMM have usually been very polite, however.

April 27, 2007 12:32 pm  
Blogger JamesO said...

I'm probably being a bit too judgemental about AHMM based on the few stories I've actually read. Maybe whimsy isn't the right word, but neither, I think, is 'gritty' or even 'dark', let alone 'noir.' Not that I aspire particularly to any of these labels.

My latest short doesn't look like it's going to have any swearing in it, so maybe they'll like it better.

April 28, 2007 10:55 am  

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