This is a convoluted tale of the writer biz. It's bizarre and disturbing. It's also true. So there.
The September/October 2011 issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction features an excellent novelet by Chris DeVito, Anise. It's everything I look for in good, brain-slamming science fiction: sex, death, religion, politics, all twisted by technical innovations into a new reality that is actually our troubled world turned inside-out. The zombie trend that is all the rage these apocalyptic days is taken in an unexpected direction. And talk about a different kind of love story . . .
Yeah, I know, it's no longer on the stands, but I've noticed that over the last few years back issues of F&SF have been appearing on the freebie tables of science fiction conventions. Be on the lookout. Grab one if you can.
Anise comes off as very up-to-date. The only clue that is was really written in 1992, “when I was a lot less bloody and broken,” as Chris puts it, are the long, delirious paragraphs that modern advisors on commercial writing tell us readers won't plow through – but they are worth it.
Why would such a gem take so long to get published? This is where the truth gets ugly and twisted.
Like any good writer, Chris sent Anise out to the markets, and was rejected all over the place, until Scott Edelman bought it for Science Fiction Age. Unfortunately, the publisher “declined to publish it because of its explicit sexual content.” The contract eventually ran out, and Chris kept the money.
Yes, kids, these things do happen. I know, it's happened to me.
Like a good professional, Chris sent Anise around again, and “everyone rejected it all over again.”
In the mean time, Chris had written and published two books about the jazz great John Coltrane: The John Coltrane Reference, and Coltrane on Coltrane: The John Coltrane Interviews.
After this Chris became interested in fiction again: “I dug out Anise and – with no hope at all – submitted it to F&SF, partly because I have fond memories of the magazine and mostly because it's now the only print publication that doesn't have stated restrictions against explicit sex/violence.”
And editor Gordon Van Gelder had the good taste – not to mention the cojones – to buy and publish it.
It makes me happy because, like I said, I've had similar frustrating experiences in publishing.
I first “met” Chris back in the early Nineties, when the world was in economic turmoil, and I couldn't seem to sell anything I had written anywhere. People who wanted to start crazy magazines would seek me out. Yup, one of these folks was named Chris DeVito.
A sealed envelope arrive in the mail. It contained a copy of something called Fuck Science Fiction (no kidding – that was what it was called). The cover was a collage made from porn photos that you could play Name That Infection with. There was also a letter from Chris saying that he was a big fan of my infamous, twice (as far as I know) filmed story “The Frankenstein Penis,” and would love to publish me . . . but couldn't afford to pay me anything.
These folks who want to start magazines never seem to have any money.
I wrote him, saying to get back to me when he got ahold of come cash, and by the way, I had an idea for a sequel to “F-Penis,” “The Dracula Vagina,” that I would write when I found an editor insane enough to buy it.
After some lively correspondence, Chris bought and published “The Dracula Vagina” -- one of my most bizarre works – in a one-shot called Proud Flesh.
I also did illustrations and the cover. And there was a T-shirt. I still have mine, and wear it on special occasions.
I've had better luck publishing fiction than Chris, but I've been through the same Hell. The publishing establishment won't touch my novels. My short fiction usually appears in offbeat fringe markets (Analog seems to be the great exception). The worlds of mainstream publishing and science fiction have always been uncomfortable with me. They often make me feel like a Hell's Angel at a church social.
That's why I get this sharp-toothed smile when I look at allthe upheaval we see going on today.