I am going to have a longer post about the experience of editing and the things I observed (with no "and then this person did this thing," because that is not helpful), but this is a distinct thing, and so I wanted to talk about it first, in isolation. And here it is:
The other night I was out at dinner with a bunch of friends and friends-of-friends, which meant that some of the people there didn't know who I was. Arley, who was one of my editorial assistants on the issue, was there, and he and I started chatting a little about QDSF. At which point someone else at the table, who didn't realize I had been the editor, said, "Oh, I was told not to bother submitting unless I knew the editor."
Someone told her, straight up, that she would not make it into the issue if she didn't know the editor—which is to say, me—personally.
I did not burst into tears or throw a chair, but I thought of both things. I thought it loudly enough that any local telepaths were probably frightened.
There are eleven stories in this special issue, selected from more than four hundred submissions. Of those eleven, two were solicited, because you need "marquee names" before you can expect people to support a Kickstarter. One, Amal, was (and is) a friend of mine. The other, John, is someone I know in passing and am professionally friendly toward, but he's not a friend. Of the remaining nine stories, one was written by a friend of mine. Before I was willing to accept it, I asked both my editorial assistants and one slush reader to read it, to make sure that I was not unduly favoring someone with whom I had a social relationship. The other eight stories were by people I don't know. People I've never met. Some were by people who have never had a sale before. I was able to help people accomplish their first sales, and that's something that I'm really, really proud of.
John Joseph Adams, who is the publisher and editor of Lightspeed, knows me. He considers me, so far as I know, a friend. He buys my shit all the time. You know why? Because it's good, and because my name sells magazines. Not because he is my friend. When he first started buying my shit, it didn't necessarily sell magazines, but it was good (she said, modestly). He has refused to buy some of my shit. Why? Because it was not good enough, or because it didn't fit the guidelines, or because he needed something different to fill that space. Because despite being my friend, he is also a professional.
No one got into Queers Destroy Science Fiction! with a story that was not good, or did not fit the guidelines, just because they were my friend. No one got in just because they were my friend, period. Because I am a professional, and I wanted to put together the best issue possible. That was my job.
Telling people "oh, you've got to know the editor" is completely counter to the purpose of the Destroy projects, which are all about throwing the doors open and encouraging the underrepresented group in the title (first women, now QUILTBAG individuals) to come in, since so often it's felt like the door said "keep out." That would be completely undermined by a policy that required the writer to know the editor in order to make a sale. That sort of policy would break my heart, and would definitely have kept me from accepting the position.
The submissions periods for Queers Destroy Horror! will end May 1st; the submissions period for Queers Destroy Fantasy! will open May 1st. Both will be edited by professionals (Wendy Wagner for QDH; Christopher Barzak for QDF). Anyone who makes it into those issues will be there because they wrote good stories that fit the needs of the issue, not because they have an "in." There is no one with a secret "in."
I can't help but be somewhat hurt by the idea that writers may have thought this was the case, or have been telling people that it was. I've been struggling to think of what I could have done to give this impression, and I've come up with nothing. I can promise you that the doors were wide open for QDSF, and that anyone queer-identifying was welcome. The same is true for QDH and QDF. If you fall within the QUILTBAG and you have a story for them to consider, please submit. Do it whether you know anyone at the magazine or not.
We need your stories.