The cage is hanging open and the guard stands shamefaced beside it, only the guard doesn’t have a face so much as a rift of writhing ganglia and beard of weeping tentacles. The ganglia are wilted, and the tentacles, extra weepy. That’s how you know there’s shame in the twisted brain behind.
“What happened here?”
Go forth now, and feel suitable reactions of nausea and bad faith.
This is a bit of a landmark publication for me for several reasons, but mostly one reason (the last one, if you want to skip the other ones), but still I guess several so let's begin at the beginning. Firstly, this is my first technically professional sale, as per SFWA's guidelines (although I sold two stories to Weird Tales last year, that magazine hasn't qualified for SFWA since something like 1994). That alone is pretty cool. I don't know if I'll ever be at a point where joining SFWA will be technically possible, or, even if it is, if it will make any sense for me; but there are few reliable barometres when it comes to gauging one's literary success, and this at least can be considered one of them. As they say in that book about good companies becoming great companies, great companies are the ones that measure things. Here I am, being measured by SFWA, and it feels not so bad.
Secondly, AE is Canadian, which is cool because even though I am radically anti-nationalist and believe any sense of nationalism is suspect to contribute to acts of international as well as domestic violence, political suppression, and mental isolation, I nonetheless identify with, say, maple syrup and canoe trips. Also, AE is the only Canadian market that is considered (again, by SFWA) professional. I find this to be a particularly interesting quirk in the realm of Canadian publishing because AE has managed to meet professional regulations which are largely centred around how to pay authors properly and sufficiently while giving their fiction away for free, while the Canadian speculative fiction magazine On Spec--which has been around since 1989, is perfect-bound and sold at major book retailers like Chapters, has regular subscribers, and receives grant funding to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars not only from the Canada Council for the Arts (as The Copper Pig Writers Society) but also, if I am not mistaken, provincial grants as well--has not met similar exigencies. Now, I'm not really a union man (no matter the respect I may have for them), and I actually don't think SFWA's designation of "professional" is very important or even all that significant in terms of actual literary merit. On Spec pays their writers, and they produce a great magazine. I like them a lot. It's just very weird to see AE surge out of nothing in the last year and be super-professional by dint of their own mettle, side by side with a decades-old and rather distinguished Canadian magazine that is, by my rather simplistic tabulations, making a not-insignificant return on their work, and yet is not quite so, ahem, "professional." Such is the peril, I have always thought, of arts funding. I suppose it is possible that, like so much Canadian media, the editors of On Spec just hate America and refuse to meet SFWA's guidelines and thereby deliberately flaunt them (it is, after all, technically possible to receive technically professional pay from On Spec on account of their weird and rather arbitrary pay scale), but... yeah, anyway, AE is great! Kudos to AE in general. Represent.
Lastly--and most importantly--is the story itself. Although I've had some particularly strange flash fiction published in 'zines like Brain Harvest and, just lately, decomP, the actual short stories I've had published are, for my intents and purposes, quite mundane. That's fine and all, because I like every single story I write and I wouldn't be submitting them for publication if I didn't, but I've really been eager to publish something slightly more... something else. "Lot," published by Phantasmacore in April, was effectively the precursor (from my standpoint as the writer, and not from the order in which things have actually been published) to a certain turn that has gradually been accomplished in my fiction, from heroic fantasy, science fiction, and horror as distinct entities to some kind of mashup between them. "Manhunt" is one of those, and it is not just flash fiction. So I'm really excited to see it published, especially because AE commissioned an amazing illustration for it.
So, that was a very long and somewhat digressive introduction, but, anyway, yeah. Read that story bro!