For all those offended by the comments on this blog regarding certain especially inappropriate submissions, you can take solace in the knowledge that Howard Junker, editor of Zyzzyva, has your back. He was shocked—shocked!—to discover bad things being said about the VQR slush pile. And in public! On our blog!
Of course, two weeks ago—on the Zyzzyva blog—Junker likened his own slush pile to a “barrel of crap” and a week before that compared it to John Bunyan’s “slough of despond.” (For those of you not up on your Pilgrim’s Progress, one scholar cited on Wikipedia explains that it is “the low ground where the scum and filth of a guilty conscience, caused by conviction of sin, continually gather.”)
But I’m sure Junker says all of this with love. Again, on the Zyzzyva blog, he explains:
Not to whine, but it takes tremendous energy and unbounded good will to read through the slush pile.
It’s worth it because, on occasion, there’s a diamond in the haystack.
It would be nice if these diamonds always sparkled and were therefore easy to spot, but often they don’t, they take on the coloration of the slush pile. They come on as unschooled, ill-packaged, clumsy, freaky, half-baked…
Again, I’m sure he means “unschooled” in the most complimentary way. “Clumsy, freaky, half-baked”—all hymns of praise.
And, in case you haven’t seen a copy of Zyzzyva, it’s also worth pointing out that it has long been the practice of its editor to publish embarrassing snippets from submitter cover letters on the back cover of each issue.
So there you have it: Howard Junker—champion of the slush pile, friend to the unsolicited submitter.
Update: Why do I suddenly feel bad for expecting Howard Junker to be rational?