So my story, Unarmed Men, has been rejected for publication by a prominent (I assume) fantasy magazine. The form letter says that the following may or may not be reasons for the rejection: old ideas, poor grammar/composition, or a failure to "stand out."

Since there's nothing wrong with the grammar/composition, it's not an old idea (at worse, it may bear a kinship to The Prisoner episode Living in Harmony, even an allegorical sympathy but a kinship is hardly a photocopy), and those who've read it have not described it as run of the mill. Why was it rejected, then?

I won't indulge any woe-is-me blather, because while I've submitted stories in the past that, in hindsight, were not my best work and were understandably rejected, I've come along way since then with stories like Unarmed Men. It could just be that the story wasn't their speed. It's not, strictly speaking, a fantasy, although it is clearly not realistic. As an allegory, it takes on decidedly surreal qualities. Or, maybe the fact that the assistant editor mentioned errors in formatting the manuscript (it's apparently important to indent the first line of paragraphs and not have extra lines between paragraphs) means that they didn't read it. Unsanctioned formatting as a means of weeding out one of hundreds of stories received - one less to read.

I might reformat the story and send it again. Perhaps I'll see if there's another publication more suitable, although Unarmed Men really is hard to classify - western? science fiction? fantasy? It's an allegorical western.

But I confess that getting something published is the most unpleasant part of being a writer, especially given how subjective editors are in choosing pieces to publish and hard it is to get meaningful feedback on why a piece was not published. That's the way it goes, though. If at first you don't succeed, try and try again.

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