What am I doing? I'll tell you what I'm doing. I'm reading stories, whittling down the list of great ones until what's left are the really great ones that will have a shot at being in our latest issue. And I don't want to be doing this, man. I want to be in bed, or writing, or reading a book, or something. I have my postcolonialism class in the morning with Dr. Raja (who, it should be noted, is able to run down a hundred years of Western thought in the space of forty-five minutes while his students sit there, at once aghast and amazed), there's a stack of grading to be done on my desk that has gone rancid from sitting there too long, I haven't been to the gym in a few weeks and am becoming unacceptably fat and sluggish, and--let's face it--Halo isn't going to play itself. But I'm here, reading stories, making ugly decisions I don't want to make.
I wrote a story last semester about a guy who had my job who started writing odd, personal notes back to the submitters. The guy in my story is a navel-gazer, one of those sad sacks that young men from Brooklyn tend to write about, and in writing it I was trying to work my way through the way this impersonal yet personal connection between the guy who is in charge of reading his way through the pile and the person who has sent their little measure of hope to him along with a SASE is in many ways a horrible bummer. My job as arbiter and gatekeeper makes me the enemy. I am the faceless jerk who says, "No, I don't think so." And then, I toss it carelessly into the rejection box. Carelessly! Now, I am up late reading stories that I genuinely like and trying to decide if I genuinely like them enough, weighing them against the other ones, knowing that my decisions will ultimately be this many blows to this many egos.
I probably shouldn't do that, though. We have a reputation. We are respectable. I am prone to gush and am not that great at the whole extemporaneous phone conversation thing. The awkward humanist, in love with everybody. And of course, what does a phone call like that mean if your story doesn't end up making it through the next round? What good then is that one sentence, that self-contained gut-punch of a sentence that woke me up and reminded me why I write in the first place? The person on the other end would be right to feel cheated.
And... that's quite a rant, I guess. What I mean is that I love my job, in part because I hate my job. Keep sending me your stories. I'll try my best to like them hard enough.