Parables of Submission, Fables of Truth-Based Creativity

2010/09/27 § 1 Comment

Once upon a time I submitted a fable in response to a call for submissions of fables for an anthology of clockpunk-like stories. I looked up fables on wikipedia and learned that fables are stories characterised by:

  • brevity;
  • anthropomorphised animals; and,
  • seek to educate, often ending in a moral;

Then I went away and read fables (big mistake) by Aesop and Ignacy Krasicki in Fables and Parables (1779).

After this research I sat down and I wrote a fable with tick-tocky animals anthropomorphically illustrating some human, or transhuman even, foibles.

I even had the pithy maxim tacked to the end.

Now, obviously the submission was rejected or I wouldn’t be so snarkily blogging on about it, but the moral of the story here is that if you’re rejecting stories it is probably better not to say why you’re rejecting it, particularly with naive fools like myself who think if you ask for fables, then you actually want fables.

In their rejection they stated a reason for their dissatisfaction of my submission. Generally I would have thought that this is a kind and encouraging sort of engagement, but when i read it I went ‘Oh!’ in a #facepalm kind of moment with myself.

Because the reason was: “While the tale is intriguing, there wasn’t enough for me to really feel immersed in the plot.”

So, poor fool me, they weren’t actually asking for fables even though they asked for fables. They were asking for stories with plots, which happened to include steampunky critters as characters. “Fable” was perhaps a throwaway word.

See fables don’t really have plots. So, there’s no plot to get immersed in.

Well, okay, fables do have plots, but not complicated ones. Fables aren’t about plotting, story-telling in the long, with devices to maintain immersion over a long timeframe. Fables are about pigeon-holing human behaviours as caricatured by the device of an animal character. Stereotypes as a culture impugns; ants are industrious while grasshoppers are lazy, from an agrarian society’s point of view.

Also, fables do plot as quickly as possible, so you can whack in the pithy maxim before the audience has a chance to think for themselves. You don’t want immersion in a fable, you want compliance.

I had written in the wrong form. I had failed to understand my market. When they say fable this does not necessarily mean fables, it means ordinary stories, or extraordinary stories with plots like what they want.

Write what we want, not what we ask for. If you were a proper professional writer you would know this, silly.

I’m just glad I no longer write for humans.

Curiously while some editors don’t get it some algorithms do get fables now. See Algorithms let robots reflect and meditate. (Hat tip Spaceweaver)

I’ve posted my attempt, at Spacecollective I’ll be putting more baggage cargo up there as I go along on this blog. My fable is called The Ratcheted Chiton, Limpet in Pinion and Vice Snail. And yes, it’s having a go at the widespread ‘economism’ in our public discourses but the vice snail seems to have got me too.

Update: see also my A Droning Fable of Ubiquitous Computing.


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