Monday, February 06, 2012
Twenty Years Ago Today
It was twenty years ago today that Colonel Bogey taught the brand to bray...
No, wait a minute, those aren't the right lyrics!
Nonetheless it was exactly twenty years ago today, on Thursday 6th February 1992, that I received my first short-story acceptance. As can be seen from this photo, I have kept the relevant letter.
The story in question was 'An Ideal Vocation' and it wasn't an especially good story (but it was inspired by some of Kafka's extremely good microfictions such as these) and the book it appeared in wasn't very good either, a ragtag anthology of brief tales that were badly typeset, but this acceptance did give me a confidence boost that started off a deluge of submissions and acceptances, and so here I am now, 21 books and 628 stories later...
At the time of this first acceptance I had been writing fiction for eleven years but hadn't sent much work to any potential publishers. I was too shy or maybe I just didn't know of any available markets. In fact I never even showed any of my stories to friends or family and I tended the feel the activity of writing stories ought to be kept a secret.
I did try mailing a hastily written short-story called 'The Forever Man' to a magazine when I was 17. The process actually felt embarrassing and when it was rejected a few days later I literally cringed. I also mailed a story called 'Tangents' to a short-story competition two years later. Obviously it didn't win; it was a hopeless and pallid attempt to imitate Vladimir Nabokov, my favourite writer at the time. And, uncharacteristic as it may seem, I mailed a story called 'Secrets' to the journal of the British Fantasy Society, but I never heard back from them; that might have been in 1986 or 1987, I don't really remember. In fact I seem to vaguely recall that I was briefly a member of the BFS back then, rather ironic considering how I have enjoyed mocking literary societies since...
I can't recall what impelled me to submit 'An Ideal Vocation' to the editor of the New Fiction anthology at the end of January 1992, but I'm glad I did; not because of the immediate result but because of the long-term realisation of one of my oldest ambitions, i.e. I became a real author.
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