As I am typing this, I’m looking over my shoulder. There are hundreds of magazines and old fanzines, contributor copies and duplicates, scattered across my couch and living room floor. My name is either plastered on the covers, inside the table of contents, or a story of mine is illustrated between the pages. I took them out tonight — all of them — along with a nice tall glass of zinfandel, to celebrate my 300th! Imagine, 300 fiction acceptances to paying, print, and online venues. A road I had set out on some twelve years ago. And here, in my 34th year of life, some 250 short stories later, I did it. I really did it…
I’m looking once again at the floor in amazement. There are so many of these publications that I can’t even imagine how this whole writing bug started again; I can’t even get across the room to my kitchen, which just goes to show you how much of a fire hazard they are. Most of them are Small Press, a publishing level I hold dear to my heart and have a ton of respect for. Many of the names in these magazines have gone on to become well-known superstars in the world of fiction — some even with book deals — and this is how it starts really. It’s the way it happened with names like Ray Bradbury, Theodore Sturgeon, Brian Aldiss, A.E. Van Vogt, Isaac Asimov, Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft, Frederick Pohl, Philip Jose Farmer, Robert E. Howard, Robert Silverberg, John Campbell, and about a thousand others. These writers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror have one thing in common.
They all started out submitting to short story magazines or fanzines.
I guess now it finally comes down to compiling that extensive bibliography of mine. Then again, what if I want to go for short story no. 350 or 400? At the moment, DF Lewis holds the record for most accepted speculative fiction in an individual’s lifetime. Des Lewis has about 2,500 to 3,000 publication credits, I believe. Prolific author Ken Goldman is just around the corner from reaching 500. And here I am, I’m sure with a few talented others, at the 300 mark.
I’ve been asked quite often what it’s like to be a writer. Do I enjoy the writing lifestyle. Yes and no was my answer. It’s a very antisocial, reclusive field. It’s also a terrible addiction, like drugs or alcohol. It’s a demon. The one that haunts you and makes you pour your soul out on a keyboard at three, four in the morning. And when you write at a pace like I do, you tend to get burned out rather quickly. Some folks tell me: “Wow, so you’re an author. I wish I could be a writer. I’ve always wanted to live that sort of life.”
No, you don’t! Trust me. If you’re looking at it economically these days, you’ll most likely make more money flipping burgers at McDonalds. The reason we do it is because we have no choice, and we put ourselves in this hole. A pit filled with storytellers. So if you decide you want to get into it more seriously, well, tread lightly. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget the depression, the mixed bag of emotions, and the less-than-exciting, hair-pulling moments that go with the job title writer!
With the Internet and technology rapidly changing the environment we live and work in, if someone were to ask me what does writing resemble most nowadays, I’d have to say muckraking, or just compare it to three professions: Baseball, Professional Wrestling, and Hollywood Acting.
If baseball were truly about writing, I would be David Wright. I’m just one of those young Amazin’ Mets, catching flyball acceptances and paid homeruns to center. But there’s really no difference between the two professions. You have your minor league players and your major league players, and here and there a writer proves himself by hitting a certain average. Coaches and teams talent scout and, after a certain amount of time, bring a writer up to the majors and offer them a deal. And like the N.Y. Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, writing has its own little cliques and rivalries, too; this part, however, can be blamed on the Internet.
I remember being a fan of wrestling years ago, back when the Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin were still members of what became the WWE. I remember being a fan of Edge (Adam Copeland), back in 2000 when he wrestled the Dudley Boys and the Hardy Boys in those TLC tag-team matches. Back then his partner was Christian, and they were rookies to the sport, trying to win belts and pay their dues, get their acceptances like with writing fiction. Now look at Edge. He’s the WWE’s recent World Champion. It takes a long time, but if Edge were an author, well, he’d have earned his way to the top of the ladder and got his novel deal by now. So yeah, wrestling, too, is very much like writing.
Then last you have Hollywood Acting. I write for a buck and to entertain in print, which I suppose makes me a freelancer. If I were an actor or actress, regardless of the script, I’d probably be Samuel L. Jackson or Angelina Jolie. Why? Because the way I submit stories to anywhere and everywhere, these two famous people take any role available. But then you have the slightly more conscientious Hollywood alumni: Denzel Washington, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hanks, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, and Leonardo DiCaprio. They choose their roles and scripts carefully; hell, Daniel Day Lewis stars in a movie once every four years and is nominated for it every time.
Writing is really a love-hate sort of relationship with me. One day I like it, the next I just don’t. Which is why on people’s requests I decided to return to my artistic roots and start up Soberiffic Arts (2009). I miss drawing… And now with computers and Adobe Photoshop, so much more can be expressed and done with it. But I’ve always been creative. Next year I also plan on taking a break from short stories, returning to examine my potential with the novella, turning fiction into memorable art rather than freelancing for fiscal purposes, take my time now that I have all these magazine credits and an actual publisher, kind of like actors do, and choose my roles carefully. And don’t think gunning for the three-hundred mark wasn’t a personal goal of mine. Hey, I’ve already got the Bronze, I have a decent amount of Silvers, and now just feels like the right time to go for the Gold…
Somewhere between all these acceptances I forgot to mention one of the most important things. I became a father. Family beats out all the successes of the written word any day. You know why? Because in the end, none of this matters. This is just filler. You live for the moment. It’s here today, gone tomorrow. And so are we.
So here it is, one last time. Three hundred publishing credits. Or, as I call it, The 300, for tonight we dine in hell…!
Fellow readers, I bid you good night…
…and until my next acceptance.
Lawrence R. Dagstine
p.s.: For those of you wondering where No. 300 came, just click the link below. It came to Midnight in Hell (www.midnightinhell.com), for their Autumn 2008 Issue…