Budgie’s Journal #28 – Contests and Genre

Don’t worry; I connect these two topics at some point.
 
I recently found an e-flyer (for lack of a better term) about a compilation of fiction looking for submissions of around ten thousand words. I thought, “Hey, I have a story of ten thousand words I’m not using at the moment. Maybe I should submit it.”
 
I’ve talked about writing contests in the past, and it was clear I wasn’t fond of them. Most of them are either vanity press or information farming tools. You can see my post “Budgie’s Writing Tips” via the link on my main page if you want more info on what these are. Needless to say, I’m extremely careful with any contests.
 
But I find myself intrigued to submit nonetheless. There’s no real prize other than being included in the compilation with nine other winners. The one who put together the contest states the money the compilation gets will be split amongst the winners, though. 
 
And this is where I get cynical…
 
Is this a vanity press scam? Will they suggest I buy a copy for a better chance to win? is it an information farming tool, asking for my bank info in order to share whatever profits this book will make? Will they ask me to have my friends and family sign up for accounts through Facebook or otherwise in order to vote for my chance to win?
 
Are there safe ways to do this? Yes. You can easily do the payment through PayPal if you’re smart enough not to give out your password to a third party (they don’t need it anyway). I can also refuse to buy a product just for a chance to win a spot within it. I’ve done this before, resulting in my losing (but life goes on).
 
But my biggest reason for wanting to do it is to get my name out there. If my story is good enough, then I’ll earn one of the ten coveted spots. I’ve made sure to ask that they don’t retain the rights to my story (they claim they don’t), so i can still use it in my own compilation later this year (Dusk Volume 2). This means at the very least my name and story will appear to new readers who may not have heard of me yet. And let’s face it, Budgie Bigelow is far from a household name.
 
But this brings me to the problem of the genre…
 
They are specifically looking for horror stories. Frankly and personally speaking, horror is the most overused genre in independent writing aside from erotica. I’m not saying that’s entirely a bad thing. I have known many great horror writers. Harbingerr, for one, writes with me for SubQ Magazine, and she’s friggin amazing. On the other hand, there are a lot of “horror” writers who specialize in violent, gore-porn  nonsense with little substance other than trying to make the reader cringe.
 
So where does my story fall on that horror spectrum? Well, here’s the rub, I don’t think it does. Sure, it contains a vicious demon, bent on escaping his prison within a natural witch and wreaking havoc across the land, but there’s no scenes with people having their toes removed with linemen’s pliers or someone slipping on their own intensities as they flee from their killer. What I’ve constructed is more of a suspense/thriller that may be closer to fantasy than horror.
 
But what is horror anyway, but a dark off-shoot of sci-fi. When people say “sci-fi” (which is short for “science fiction”, by the way), they tend to think of aliens or robots or alien robots. In reality (my reality anyway), sci-fi encompasses everything from romance to fantasy to horror and back again. This, I know, is a generalization, but there it is in its most broad of terms.
 
Stephen King is called the master of horror by many. And I don’t doubt this, having read most of what he’s written. Pet Semetery and It were defiantly horror classics, but I feel that The Stand and the Dark Tower series were more fantasy than horror. They were dark and violent, making them dark fantasy. Maybe? If you look in the horror section of any bookstore, you’ll find Stephen King, and you’ll find the latter book and series there as well. So if a horror writer writes fantasy, does the fantasy turn to horror? 
 
But I’m probably overthinking this whole thing. And why do I always compare myself to Stephen King when I’m nowhere near his level?
 
I do have a story that’s definitely horror called “Dinner with a Demon” (I enjoy writing about demons), and it may be one of the best short stories I’ve written to date. The problem is that it’s not ten thousand words long, clocking in at eight, and I’m not about to add two thousand words of padding for the sake of a contest, sacrificing the overall story. They never got back to me on whether or not eight was sufficient enough to be considered. Also, this will be the anchor story for my next collection, so I’d have to be sure I can use it for both.
 
So that’s about what’s in my head with this offer to join in the contest and what I think I can submit. I know. Can you believe there are people out there with real problems?
 
 
-Budgie Bigelow

 

5/30/2017
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