It seems to me (though I'm probably wrong) that I'm seeing a whole lot more stories than usual featuring things like:
- People murdering family members or other people they're close to. (A lot of these.)
- Dead or dying protagonist.
- Dead or dying parents.
And in a fair number of cases, some combination of those.
Not just in slush, either—seems like just about every piece of published sf I pick up to read these days features one or more of those topics.
Of course, as with the Law of Fives, this pattern is "more and more manifest the harder I look." I'm imposing a pattern on things by taking a set of broad topics and interpreting them broadly.
And we at SH have always received a lot of dead-loved-ones stories (though in the past I think those have more often been dead children and people who die in accidents). And death has always been a major theme of literature. And of course I don't think people should stop sending us good stories just because those stories focus on a topic that's personally difficult for me right now, nor do I want anyone reading this to feel guilty about having sent us such a story. I imagine we'll end up buying some of those stories; it's not like these are topics the magazine tends to shy away from.
But still, for whatever reason or set of reasons, it feels like I'm running into a lot more of this stuff than usual. I'm doing a lot of wincing as I read slush these days. (For reasons other than bad writing, I mean.)
That's one reason I liked Hitchhiker's Guide: not much death. (I mean, y'know, except for the total destruction of the Earth and most of its inhabitants in the opening minutes. And a couple of comedic death and quasi-death scenes later.) Kind of a relief. And I've been watching the first season of Mad About You; a bit too much humor-of-embarrassment for my tastes in some episodes, but I gotta say, very little use of firearms in that show. (Also, charming and often funny. And Helen Hunt has one of the best smiles in the world. And I'm a total sucker for fiction in which the protagonists truly love each other.) Oh, and that was also part of why I so eagerly devoured that latest Jennifer Crusie book (other than the fact that it too was charming and funny and romantic): I was pretty sure none of the characters were going to actually kill each other, much as they might have wanted to now and then.
Anyway. I'm really truly not asking authors to stop sending us the kinds of stories I'm talking about. I wasn't even going to mention this publicly; I figured that to the extent that it's not all in my head, it was a brief wave that would pass sooner or later. (We often get little waves of stories that are related somehow, like the week when we got a bunch of cannibalism stories all at once.) But it's now entering about its fourth week with no indication of letting up, and it's been on my mind a lot, so I decided (albeit with some trepidation about unintended effects) to post about it.