The Boredom of the Shocking

editorial illo

1Q 2017 Editorial: The Boredom of the Shocking

Just now, I rejected another story that was trying to be cutting edge, outrageous. It’s a common way of trying to get “known,” a method of artistic expression that tries to burst past the gatekeepers of the arts and make a name for itself.

In music, file this technique under Ozzy Ozbourne biting off the head of a live bat onstage, nasty lyrics about misogyny or violence, or a scantily clad Katy Perry in a music video with the Cookie Monster.

In the visual arts, there is a long history of such provocative things. “Art” degenerated over time from simple pointillist paintings (the pixilation of their age) to more and more appalling insanity: from Nude Descending a Staircase where the viewer has to supply the details of the nude, to  ripping out a urinal and entering it into an art show , to a recent performance art installation where the artist sat in a bathtub of pigs’ blood to protest killers let loose in sanctuary cities.

If you’re a writer, that might work extremely well if you are doing splatterpunk horror.  I would not know; we do not publish horror.

But even when I am reading science fiction and fantasy stories, after years of reading slush, I find that almost nothing shocks me anymore. I understand the temptation to push ahead of the rest of the genre and do something new, but when everyone else is doing warrior women, sexy aliens, or religion/capitalism/rich-people-are-THIS-evil stories, you do not stand out. You become one of a slice of lemmings, all thundering off the same literary cliff, together.

Trust me, when you use the word “cock” over and over and try to shock with explicit sex scenes in a submission to A&A, you’re not being shocking. You’re being plebeian and dull. It also does not fit with our editorial taste.

Lure us with a shiny idea, well executed, told by a protagonist we can identify with.  Let your story be a friend we want to spend time with. Please.

If I want something shocking, I’ll put a fork in an electrical outlet.

– Wendy S. Delmater

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