In 2007, this article made the rounds: Pearls Before Breakfast.
It went viral. It was forwarded to me dozens of times. It was supposed to be inspiring.
It pissed me off.
There’s a certain privileged tone to it, see. It implied that people were so stupid not to recognize greatness before them. As though all buskers aren’t great and greatly ignored! The problem isn’t the quality of the music – it’s that people aren’t in the subway to listen to it. If they want music, they carry it with them.
I was also waxing bitter at the time about how everyone in the subway is crouched over their phone displays these days. We go out of our way to avoid any shared experience. (And why shouldn’t we? Shared experiences are HARD, messy, and potentially dangerous.) But part of that shared experience, for me, has always been the raw joy of listening to buskers echo off subway walls.
Combining these two things, I came up with a plausible science advance: what if, okay, we had, like, VR Cell Phones? – more plausible than ever today! Today we call it ‘augmented reality’. HA I WROTE THIS IN 2007. I banged out my flash piece and I thought it was the most beautiful, literary thing I’d ever written.
My first readers wanted more world building and explanation. Somehow, I managed to cram it in without ever breaking 1,000 words.
The resulting story was first submitted on October 12, 2012. At least, that’s the first submission I recorded. I started keeping a spreadsheet in July of 2012. I am 100% certain I had submitted it a few times before then, but alas, I have no record, so we’ll call that the first submission. Because…
Even ignoring the first few undocumented submissions between 2007 and 2012, I have submitted this story and had it rejected 36 times. THIRTY-SIX. This is my new record holder for most rejected piece. Part of it is that flash fiction mini-markets pop up and fade away like farmer’s markets. Part of it is that I was bad (I can SEE I was bad) and re-submitted, at least twice, to Shimmer and Daily Science Fiction. Sorry, re-sub guys.
In 2013, it got a positively amazing rejection from “Futures” – they sent me a paragraph of feedback from three final-reading editors, one of whom was all “These two are nuts this piece is gold we should be buying it” – and that encouragement may have led to my re-submissions.
I was surprised I only sent it once to Clarkesworld. Since I started keeping better track, I find I sent them a lot of pieces twice. Sorry, Clarkesworld. YOU ARE THAT CUTE BOY AT PROM WHY WON’T YOU DANCE WITH ME??!!
I am positively over the moon that at last my 900-word story about modern isolation and the beauty of the rawest, worst amateur busker will finally see light.
You can read it here: http://freesciencefiction.com/tale/stepping-out-of-stream/by