I recently submitted an article to a writers magazine for consideration and they in turn forwarded an electronic copy of their latest issue as a teaser for my possible subscription. I had read bits and pieces of prior submissions and browsed through reviews of their material, but had never seen a full issue of the magazine. I had hopes my writing would meet their criteria but by the time I finished reading, I had changed my mind. It appeared to me the entire collection had been cleansed with an sterilizer.
The stories were without a hint of blood or sweat, ugh, sweat, but evenly saturated with contrived, saline adjusted tears. Apparently tears lead to book sales. I wondered how many passes through a computer it took to find the specific words used to create the carefully engineered, structured product that superficially appeared as ingenuous writing. Every piece in the collection could easily have been written by the same author, one who spoke precise, articulate English, rooted in Shakespearean grammar, with access to a large, unlimited - and ingenious - thesaurus.
There were seven separate articles written by seven supposedly different writers in the anthology that sparked my epiphany. I had never read any of the seven writers beforehand so I had no idea what to expect from any of them, except one thing: I expected them to all be different. The subjects and styles were all different and even the genres were a cross section of any good readers magazine, but by the time the articles got to me, they had been homogenized and cleansed of any personality. They were all quite sanitary and boringly bland. Elevator music. Musicians restricted to only one tempo or rhythm, regardless of how many notes they played. I write this knowing full well there are people who listen to Baroque endlessly, but they know they like Baroque and don’t pretend to be listening to something else.
What were the stories like before they were force-fed through the corporate/academic process that produced the anthology? At least several stories had great premises and interesting plots. Only one, however, had any characters I’d turn the page to know more about. I knew all I wanted to know about most of the non-dimensional protagonists in the first paragraph or two. The dialog used by the characters in each of the stories was as interesting as reading the end-user agreement that comes with your computer’s software programs.
There are ten thousand ways… No, wait, is it a myriad of ways? No, I’m using the word myriad as a adjective, not a noun. Right? My muse is getting an upset stomach.
How about, “there are many” ways to spend my time that are more exciting than reading contrived, improbable but somehow remarkably familiar stories that all fit the mold of salable material delivered with the empathy of a robot.
Sorry, my Internet is down right now, so I’m out of literary antiseptic.