“When the Elves Are Gone” Part One now out at World of Myth Magazine

I am beyond delighted to have placed my speculative eco-tale, “When the Elves Are Gone,” with World of Myth Magazine!

This long-ish short tale (it clocks in at a little over 7,000 words in total) has a long and sad tale of its own. It began as a writing prompt that took on a life of its own and moved into the double-digits in word count. Along the way, I found a narrative shape I liked that was nothing like the one I started with, but that let me experiment with making a story that was also intentionally and self-consciously a multi-dimensional think-piece about climate change, politics, genre, tropes, and readership and race in fantasy. It was then pruned into a shorter, polished final version and sent in for an anthology call, where it was promptly accepted within a week, with glowing praise from the editor–a paid anthology! Hurrah! My first industry fiction sale!

Then, Covid happened and the anthology folded. No publication. (This, sadly, is not unusual even without a pandemic blowing things up–never count your stories until they’re actually in print.)

Thus began a two-year odyssey of submitting it to pretty much every speculative pro-market for fiction for which it met submissions guidelines for length, and a lot of non-pro markets, both literary and speculative. I knew it was a weird little bird from the beginning, because it was designed that way–I never billed it as a traditional short story, because it’s just not. I wrote, in my cover letters, variations of, “This is a speculative story in every sense of the term–a fantasy tale, told in elevated literary style, as a featureless protagonist first-person/second-person hybrid monologue that doubles as a philosophical treatise on isolationist politics in a fictional world undergoing devastating climate change.”

Throughout this submission process, I kept getting feedback like, “I love the voice and second person is hard to pull off well, this is excellent in that regard, but it’s too long”; “There’s no story, it’s just a first-person POV monologue description of an abandoned city”; “It’s really well written and I love the voice, but I wanted more action”; “The writing’s good but story’s too academic”; “I couldn’t connect because nothing was really happening, you don’t get into the actual story of what happened to the elves until page 9 or so”; “This could use some dialogue to break it up”; “The description of the city is rich and we’re immersed in a fascinating world, but we never get to see the speaker, the author should include some description of the characters” …

Which, if you read the thing, you will see is not especially good feedback for this particular story, because taking this advice, for this tale, would turn it into something else entirely. Which is neither a bad nor a good thing, it just wasn’t my vision for this narrative.

I made my husband listen to me read it to him, and I made him read it, himself, to make sure I wasn’t just being precious about the thing. Honest feedback, I insisted, because you know what I was going for–did I miss the mark here? “No, it’s really good,” he said, “But I think you should try to turn it into a graphic novel! It would be an amazing atmospheric graphic novel.”

Well . . . okay, I agree with him, I think it could be a fabulous graphic novel–only, that would mean stripping the story into a script, and I wanted the story to be out there in the world in THIS form, at least at first.

So, at last, I broke it into 3 parts (because it’s much too long for the venue) and sent it to Stephanie J. Bardy, who snapped it right up for World of Myth. Hurrah! Even more hurrah–it’s the Featured Story this month! Double-hurrah!

And THIS is what it means when people tell you to “find your readers.” Your weird little darlings can and will find a home and readership somewhere, if you persevere.

I also wanted to share this story for fellow writers still relatively new to submitting and publishing, because it’s a good example of reframing your thinking about what constitutes “success” in submitting our work. The reality is that I submitted this story and it was accepted for a paid publication outlet on the first submission–that is the very definition of a successful submission. That the outlet folded and the story was subsequently unable to find a home for two years, then found one in an unpaid market, does not diminish that success. Sometimes (really, very often!) it is the market, not you or your story! Keep going and believe in your work.

Anyway–you can read the first part of this story in the August issue of World of Myth, out now! http://www.theworldofmyth.com/

(And if you know any atmospheric artists looking for a project, let them know that yes, I would like to turn this into a graphic novel once all three parts have published!)


About Melissa Ridley Elmes

Professor and writer; Unrepentant nerd; chaotic good. Author of Arthurian Things: A Collection of Poems. PhD, MFA. She/hers. Views my own.
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1 Response to “When the Elves Are Gone” Part One now out at World of Myth Magazine

  1. Pingback: “When the Elves Are Gone” part two now up at World of Myth! And other writing updates | Melissa Ridley Elmes

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