Tag Archives: LOLcats

The View From the Other Side of the Slush Pile

Many years ago, when I was a college student searching for summer employment, I realized that I had essentially no marketable skills. I spent the summer working through a temporary agency, and I was almost always assigned out as a receptionist.

My final placement that summer was with a small, middle/highbrow publishing house, focused mostly on literary fiction. I spent a week and a half filling in for the receptionist, but when she came back early, they didn’t end the assignment, probably because they had committed to use me for two full weeks. My supervisor, whomever she or he was, gave me an empty office (unassigned, really; it was extremely cluttered) to work in, and showed me the slush pile. It really was a pile of manuscripts; several piles, , actually, some of them in the process of collapsing into each other. For the next two or three days, my job would be to get through as much of it as I could.

There I was, 19 or 20 years old, never having taken a college-level literature class, with no more than five minutes of training, reading the manuscripts hopeful authors had poured their souls into. My instructions were simple: If I thought a manuscript was worth an editor’s time, I had to read the entire thing, fill out a one-page form, and prepare a synopsis. If I decided at any point while reading a submission that it should be rejected, I could stop immediately, fill out the form, and send it back to the author (if a self-addressed, stamped envelope had been enclosed), without writing the synopsis. My incentives were clear: The path of least effort for me would be to make decisions quickly, and reject almost everything.

In other words,


(LOLcat built from original photo by sutefani in orlando, under a Creative Commons-Attribution license by way of Flickr.)

Although I reviewed a number of manuscripts, I remember only two: one I rejected, and one I flagged for review by somebody competent. The one I rejected was some kind of thriller, and I read about half of it before I finally gave up, turned off by what seemed like an interminable technical discussion about the architecture of nuclear power plants.

The novel I sent up the ladder was a drama about high school students, set in the contemporary rural South. I hated it. I didn’t like the style, I couldn’t identify with the characters, and it was sexually graphic without being the least bit titillating. It was, however, very well written, and I found myself unable to put it down — like watching a slow-motion train wreck, I wanted to see what (horrible) thing happened to these (idiotic) characters next. When I was done, I decided that I had no idea whether this was the kind of thing my employer would want to publish, but I thought somebody probably would. I filled out the form, wrote the synopsis, and left it for the professionals to deal with. I have no idea whether they, or anyone, ever published the book. I was also too stupid to try to maintain the contacts at the publishing house, which might have been useful to an aspiring writer.

As a wannabe novelist, I should have been horrified that someone like me was making decisions about the slush pile, but at 20, I was sufficiently vapid or arrogant not to be bothered by it. I’m horrified now, of course, but now it’s too late. The guy who wrote the nuclear plant thriller probably would have been the next Tom Clancy if a competent editor had looked at his novel and thought, “It gets a little wordy, but if he’d be willing to cut four pages from Chapter 14, we could have a blockbuster on our hands!” Maybe another publisher did. But I have this uncomfortable feeling that when the time comes to send out Meet the Larssons, my karmic debt is going to have to be repaid.

In other news, I’ve been too busy at work this week to post until now, so I haven’t been able to comment on the death of Gary Gygax, one of the creators of Dungeons & Dragons. I started playing D&D regularly when I was about 11, and played consistently until I was around 16, and then intermittently until college. Many thanks, GG. Here’s a link to Uncle Monsterface’s tribute song (thanks to GeekDad for pointing me to it), which captures the sentiment exactly.

To see the previous posts in my rejection slips series, click here, here, here, and here.

BPF Dissed, Defended, and DonnĂ© La Croix de Guerre

Nathan of Polybloggimous, who originally pushed for the LOLfish in spite of my suggestion that a fish, especially an old fish like Big Pink Fishie, might be difficult to catch on camera doing anything particularly funny, saw my LOLfish and posted this on his blog:

“And I’ll now agree that a 400-year-old fish (in fish years), is not all that inspirational.

“He floats. He floats. (Does he do anything else?) No.

“He floats. But he’s LOL. Can’t you tell?

“Yes, we can move on.”

Prompted by Mrs. Unfocused, I lept to the defense of our family pet on his comments page:

Nathan –

First, thanks for the shout out, and the certificate of compliance. I intend to print it out and have it framed. I will hang it near the fish tank.

I must take issue, however, with your characterization of Big Pink Fishie as “not inspirational.” In my original comment, I said that, as a 400-year-old fish (in fish years), BPF is not funny, not prone to wacky, camera-friendly antics. But not inspirational? We got BPF in 1990. There are kids buying beer with fake IDs younger than this fish. It has lived through four moves, a three-day blackout in 95-degree heat, multiple illnesses, and various other mishaps that have killed every other fish we’ve ever had. Big Pink Fishie keeps on keeping on.

Sure, all he does is float. Who has a better right?

Damn right he’s inspirational. When I’m 400 years old, I don’t plan to be all that funny, either.

Sorry for the rant. I had to defend the honor of my fish.

I have to say, Nathan owned up to his error. He has awarded BPF the Croix de Guerre, which, I think, completely makes up for saying that the Fishmeister is not inspirational. For some reason, Nathan’s old logo is loading in the comments here instead of his new one, so when you think of Nathan, please think of Jack-Jack from the Incredibles.

Now that BPF is acknowledged as a hero, I can tell you all a secret: BPF has psychic powers of mind control.

Here’s proof: many times, I have gone down to the basement and found the fish food can open, food spilled all around the tank and half of the contents of the can floating on top of the water, BPF happily pecking at it from below. My son, Unfocused Junior, is invariably standing nearby, hands covered with Tetramin flakes. When I ask him what happened, he answers, “It was time to feed Big Pink Fishie, Daddy!”

Time to feed Big Pink Fishie indeed.

Why would you post a LOLfish on your blog?

Because this guy dared me to (scroll down to the comments when you follow the link). Here it is:


I hope that now we can move on.

Flagrant Violation of Law!

Oh, crap. This guy says that all bloggers are obligated to post photographs of their cats within 30 days of starting to blog. I’ve been blogging for about 6 weeks, so I’m well past the deadline, and even worse, I don’t have a cat!

I’m allergic, OK? My son has asthma. Geez.

What to do? What to do? The blogosphere has no mercy.

OK, here’s an idea: The other day John Scalzi gave his readers a picture of one of his cats to use for LOLcats. So here’s a LOLcat.

I can haz cup for ma nu bucket?!?

Does that avoid any penalties? I’d hate to get tagged as a scofflaw so early in my blogging career.