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Author Topic: Is "slush" an appropriate term for submissions?  (Read 6537 times)

Dem

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on: September 27, 2012, 06:46:02 PM
another noob question. What is slush?

Submissions, but take a look here: http://conboyhillfiction.wordpress.com/2010/11/14/the-scrapslush-campaign/ At least one publisher (eFiction) has said they don't use this term.

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Reply #1 on: September 27, 2012, 07:12:21 PM
Submissions, but take a look here: http://conboyhillfiction.wordpress.com/2010/11/14/the-scrapslush-campaign/ At least one publisher (eFiction) has said they don't use this term.

More specifically slush is UNSOLICITED submissions, generally submissions sent by many people in to an open call for submissions.  An important distinction.  

The reason I've heard for the use of the term is in the old fashioned day of paper submissions, the stories would literally be tossed over the transom and the editors would have to wade through the slush in the morning to get to their desks.  

I don't personally have a problem with the term, though I can understand why someone would.  I've been reading fiction slush for a few years--some for Flash Fiction Online, some for Drabblecast.  So much of it ignores the submission guidelines, is apparently written by someone only vaguely familiar with the English language, is nigh-incomprehensible on any level, or I can comprehend it but want to scrub the images out of my brain with steel wool (and I'm a horror fan, I don't make that claim lightly).  Drabblecast slush, on average, is much harder to read than FFO slush.  I don't know if asking for "weird" brings out the worst in people, but I mean some of it is appallingly bad. The worst, I think, are attempts to use rape comedically (not kidding).  I don't have a problem with calling that kind of general grouping slush.

That's not to say that individual submissions in the pile can't be really great (the diamonds in the slush, so to speak).  It's the pile in general that doesn't.
« Last Edit: September 27, 2012, 07:14:12 PM by Unblinking »



Dem

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Reply #2 on: September 27, 2012, 07:49:08 PM
There is indeed dross out there (and in here - wherever 'here' is), but I don't see how expectations of professional standards can rise if the collective term for people's work is derogatory. There is a very easy alternative - submissions.

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Reply #3 on: September 27, 2012, 07:55:35 PM
There is indeed dross out there (and in here - wherever 'here' is), but I don't see how expectations of professional standards can rise if the collective term for people's work is derogatory. There is a very easy alternative - submissions.

The term for people's work is not derogatory. The "slush" in the "slush" file is a term that represents the way the work is organized - one big muddled pile (or these days, one big muddled inbox) without classification or shape. The job of the slush reader is to sort through the slush and categorize it.

"Slush", when used in my daily life, usually means partially melted snow. I do not think that term is derogatory to water molecules. It is, however, an apt metaphor to the state of Escape Pod's submission inbox.



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Reply #4 on: September 27, 2012, 08:11:48 PM
The term for people's work is not derogatory. The "slush" in the "slush" file is a term that represents the way the work is organized - one big muddled pile (or these days, one big muddled inbox) without classification or shape. The job of the slush reader is to sort through the slush and categorize it.

"Slush", when used in my daily life, usually means partially melted snow. I do not think that term is derogatory to water molecules. It is, however, an apt metaphor to the state of Escape Pod's submission inbox.

It doesn't feel derogatory to me, though I can understand how it might be interpreted that way.  "slush pile" is not interchangeable with "submissions"--they have distinct meanings.  "Slush pile" is a logical subset of "submissions".  "Submissions" means anything that is submitted.  "Slush pile" is referring specifically to unsolicited submissions which have not been judged by anyone yet.  A story that is submitted by invitation is not "slush", and a story that's been passed up to the editor is not "slush". 

I consider myself a writer before a slushreader, so I don't use the term in contempt of writers.  I submit to slushpiles all the time--if my story is out of the slush, than that's a sign that my chances have improved.  I have more than 2 dozen stories in slushpiles at this moment.

Until a new word/phrase is invented which means the exact same thing in a similar amount of syllables and letters and which is generally accepted by my peers (so that I don't have to re-explain it all the time), I'm going to stick with "slush pile" when that's the logical subset of submissions to which I intend to refer.  :)




Dem

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Reply #5 on: September 27, 2012, 08:20:38 PM
A story that's submitted by invitation is commissioned. Everything else is a submission.

Science is what you do when the funding panel thinks you know what you're doing. Fiction is the same only without the funding.


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Reply #6 on: September 27, 2012, 08:25:58 PM
A story that's submitted by invitation is commissioned. Everything else is a submission.

How about when an editor says "send me three and I'll see which one fits us best" ?

And to me, commissioned implies custom crafted to that request. I think the term "solicitation" works better.

All cat stories start with this statement: “My mother, who was the first cat, told me this...”


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Reply #7 on: September 27, 2012, 08:46:15 PM
And to me, commissioned implies custom crafted to that request. I think the term "solicitation" works better.

Yeah, "solicited" or "solicitation" fits better than "commissioned" I think, unless the request is specific.

Anyway, I don't see it as derogatory.  I feel comfortable using the term because, if it is derogatory it is derogatory toward myself, so at worst it is self-deprecating, and because most writers I know use the word without insult intended.  "slushpile" means something specific to me, that nothing else sounds the same as.  Yes, "solicited submission" refers to a logical subset of "submissions", as "slushpile" refers to a different logical subset of "submissions".  I guess "commissioned submissions" would be a further subset of "solicited submissions".  The three terms refer to distinct logical groupings, "submissions" being the most inclusive of the three.  But "submissions" is not equivalent to "slushpile" becuse "submissions" ALSO includes "solicited submissions".  At least to me.  I don't see myself changing to another word that wouldn't quite mean to me what I want it to mean. 

Another related word:  I am a slushreader for the drabblecast, and I haven't heard an equivalent term to "slushreader".  Some people who read slush are "associate editors", but I feel that that word implies a larger level of involvement in the selection process than what I personally do.  I read stories and say yes/no, and that is all, while to me an Associate Editor implies more power over final selections than slushreader.  I guess you could say "submissions reader" but that's less specific and more cumbersome a phrase than slushreader, to me.



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Reply #8 on: September 27, 2012, 08:50:18 PM
Anyway, I'm not by any means trying to convince you that you should use the word "slush" in that context.  I just wanted to offer a perspective from a different writer's point of view.



Dem

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Reply #9 on: September 27, 2012, 09:11:56 PM
I'm a submissions reader elsewhere, there's no 'slush'. I think if you're not concerned about the term, then it isn't a problem for you, but language always carries messages - who knows that better than writers? If anyone feels as though their work is seen as something not to be respected (and I mean, as work per se, not in terms of quality, which is a relative thing), then surely we can only encourage better standards if we use a term that implies a standard, rather than one that can be seen as dismissive? As to 'commissioned' - when work is commissioned in any line of business, it's always within certain parameters, it doesn't mean 'do this thing like this'. If I'm asked to write a story for a given outlet, I do it according to their framework, but it's my product. And yes, it's solicited.

PS Apologies for my earlier, rather peremptory comment - sudden kitchen priority meant I had to hit 'post'!

Science is what you do when the funding panel thinks you know what you're doing. Fiction is the same only without the funding.


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Reply #10 on: September 27, 2012, 09:54:14 PM
but language always carries messages - who knows that better than writers?

I think that we should all be cognizant of the words we use, and willing to consider changes when a common usage is a problem.  For instance, when I was a kid, using the word "retarded" to mean "stupid" was pretty common in guys my age, but at some point I chose to stop saying that. 

At some point, though, I think each person has to decide for themselves where to draw the line, and what's important to their sensibilities. 


surely we can only encourage better standards if we use a term that implies a standard, rather than one that can be seen as dismissive?

I don't think using a different word would have any effect on the standards whatsoever, no.  I think that the way that submissiosn are treated is important, not what they are labeled.  John Joseph Adams respects submissions because he moves them through quickly.  Beneath Ceaseless Skies respects submissions because they go out of their way to provide personal comments for almost every one.  Tor.com disrespects submissions (in my opinion) because they take 9 months to send a form letter.

I think that, to have a chance as a writer, one has to cultivate a thick skin to handle the inevitable rejections.  If someone is literally driven away from a market by the word "slush", how is that person going to handle form rejections?

PS Apologies for my earlier, rather peremptory comment - sudden kitchen priority meant I had to hit 'post'!



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Reply #11 on: September 27, 2012, 09:55:24 PM
PS Apologies for my earlier, rather peremptory comment - sudden kitchen priority meant I had to hit 'post'!

No worries.  I hadn't thought it was peremptory, just part of the debate.    :)



Dem

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Reply #12 on: September 27, 2012, 10:11:28 PM
but language always carries messages - who knows that better than writers?

I think that we should all be cognizant of the words we use, and willing to consider changes when a common usage is a problem.  For instance, when I was a kid, using the word "retarded" to mean "stupid" was pretty common in guys my age, but at some point I chose to stop saying that. 

At some point, though, I think each person has to decide for themselves where to draw the line, and what's important to their sensibilities. 


surely we can only encourage better standards if we use a term that implies a standard, rather than one that can be seen as dismissive?

I don't think using a different word would have any effect on the standards whatsoever, no.  I think that the way that submissiosn are treated is important, not what they are labeled.  John Joseph Adams respects submissions because he moves them through quickly.  Beneath Ceaseless Skies respects submissions because they go out of their way to provide personal comments for almost every one.  Tor.com disrespects submissions (in my opinion) because they take 9 months to send a form letter.

I think that, to have a chance as a writer, one has to cultivate a thick skin to handle the inevitable rejections.  If someone is literally driven away from a market by the word "slush", how is that person going to handle form rejections?

PS Apologies for my earlier, rather peremptory comment - sudden kitchen priority meant I had to hit 'post'!


I think the problem is not so much people being driven away by the term but by thinking (consciously or unconsciously) that this is the standard. For instance, one person whose submission I read included a cover letter - I use the term loosely - that said 'to be honest, I've pretty much phoned this in'. Had it been down to me, I would have hit 'end call' right then! Respect works both ways and I think the amount of sub standard material coming in has more chance of being diminished if we use terminology that implies quality.

Science is what you do when the funding panel thinks you know what you're doing. Fiction is the same only without the funding.


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Reply #13 on: September 27, 2012, 10:18:45 PM
I think the problem is not so much people being driven away by the term but by thinking (consciously or unconsciously) that this is the standard. For instance, one person whose submission I read included a cover letter - I use the term loosely - that said 'to be honest, I've pretty much phoned this in'. Had it been down to me, I would have hit 'end call' right then! Respect works both ways and I think the amount of sub standard material coming in has more chance of being diminished if we use terminology that implies quality.

Ha, what a cover letter! 

I don't think saying "submissions" rather than "slush" will make any difference whatsoever.  If writers have something to submit, they will. 

If anything, I think that if it had any effect at all, it would have the opposite effect of what you're describing--you'd get more of the "phoning it in" type of submission, rather than less, because you've gone out of your way to tell them that their submissions are quality.  But I doubt it'd have any effect at all.  (would be an interesting psychology experiment if I could think of a way to administer it)



Dem

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Reply #14 on: September 28, 2012, 08:49:13 AM
I think the problem is not so much people being driven away by the term but by thinking (consciously or unconsciously) that this is the standard. For instance, one person whose submission I read included a cover letter - I use the term loosely - that said 'to be honest, I've pretty much phoned this in'. Had it been down to me, I would have hit 'end call' right then! Respect works both ways and I think the amount of sub standard material coming in has more chance of being diminished if we use terminology that implies quality.

Ha, what a cover letter! 

I don't think saying "submissions" rather than "slush" will make any difference whatsoever.  If writers have something to submit, they will. 

If anything, I think that if it had any effect at all, it would have the opposite effect of what you're describing--you'd get more of the "phoning it in" type of submission, rather than less, because you've gone out of your way to tell them that their submissions are quality.  But I doubt it'd have any effect at all.  (would be an interesting psychology experiment if I could think of a way to administer it)

I'm a psychologist - maybe I should put my mind to it :)

Science is what you do when the funding panel thinks you know what you're doing. Fiction is the same only without the funding.