CR: Charles Coleman Finlay recently proposed slush bombing F&SF in August to draw attention to the inequities of gender representation in that and similar magazines, which drew a lot of ire his way. How do you feel about the tactic? Do you think that's the best way to address inequities - or do those inequities matter?
GVG: Charlie proposed his experiment with all of the best intentions and I appreciate that. But as I've said in a few places now, if the idea of having a great mass of women submit stories to me at the same time is intended to prove or do anything, it's not likely to work. For one thing, I buy about one percent of all the stories submitted to us. If Charlie's experiment results in a hundred stories being sent my way and I buy one of them, I'll be happy. If I buy two, I'll be ecstatic . . . but that means ninety-eight or ninety-nine people will go away from the experiment believing that they've proved I don't buy stories from women. Or something like that.
So. Is he right? If only one or two of you sell stories, will the other 98 or 99 walk away thinking it can't be done and some bias exists? I don't know.
And while Gordon accuses me of good intentions, I'll say that I think he's deliberately low-balling the numbers here to lower expectations. Readers of this blog are not representative slushpile writers. I think there were eight writers who said they were in who had stories reprinted in various volumes of the Year's Best this year. At least two writers who've won genre awards have said they're in. There are a half dozen or dozen who've sold novels, who say they're in. There are maybe two dozen or more who've sold to other professional markets. There are dozens more who've been workshopping at OWW or Clarion or in local groups who're already on the verge of their first professional sale.
If all the original bombers submit, then you're not a representative group of writers. You're better than the average slush.
What number of sales proves something? I don't know.
For me, if everybody who's said they're in submits and nobody sells a story, I'll be sad to admit that I think it does prove something. If one or two sell a story, I'll admit that it's average and meets the normal standard. But if a hundred writers submit, I admit I won't be ecstatic about just two sales. Because some of you are exceptional writers, with great track records, who say you've taken yourselves out of the F&SF submission pool. And if all of you jump back in at the same time, I think there's got to be a splash.
Boom. Splash. What does it prove?
Look, one writer's ability to sell to a certain market or not proves nothing. Tim Pratt says he's been submitting to F&SF for twelve years without a sale, despite all his other successes. Tobias Buckell reports that he's made over forty submissions to F&SF with no sales. Their individual experiences don't really prove anything about F&SF's buying habits, because they're not the whole pool, and the pool includes writers like me, and Albert Cowdrey, and Ben Rosenbaum, and lots of other writers who do sell to F&SF. Not every writer is to every editor's taste. We all know that.
So what about you? Are you in? Will you feel good about one sale out of a hundred? Two? What's realistic? And knowing what's realistic, are you still in?