I've written a story for the Sails and Sorcery anthology, and I'm pretty happy with it. It's got a lot of conflict, a ton of tension, and it's quite spooky, if I say so myself. But this weekend at Context, I went to a panel on "What is Horror?" that's making me rethink the story.
I would consider quite a few of my short stories to be horrific stories -- The Priesthood
is very Twilight Zone, Mutawwa
describes a dark, mind control distopia and while the end for the protagonist is ok, the rest of society has a pretty bleak future, and so on. My readers have, on the other hand, commented on how realistic these stories are. (Which to me says we're living in pretty horrific times!) Anyway, this response got me thinking what is the difference between the tales I was telling and a horror story. Which led me to my current story.
This new story, as it stands, is a tale of redemption. If I took out the redemptive part, and left only the horrific part, it would clearly be a horror story, and one that works pretty well, I think. Of course, it works well as it stands, but...(isn't there always a but?)... it's on the long side at 8600 words. The anthology's word limit is 9000, so I've squeaked in under the limit, but I'm thinking it will still be easier to sell a 6000 word story than an almost 9000 word story.
So now I am debating -- rework the whole thing as a pure horror story, no redemption, merely recompense, or leave it as is?
Agh! Decisions like this are tough. The story is fine as is, but it would also be fine without the redemption, certainly would be one of those chilling tales. So it's not a matter of feeling like I'm prostituting my art to the market, both stories would be good.
Only God and the editors can tell which is more likely to make it into the anthology. Maybe I'll send an email to the editors of the anthology and see which sort of story they are more interested in... That's probably a no-no as well.