I am thrilled to see my horror story, "The Mystified Morpheus," accepted for publication in the Millhaven Press anthology Fierce Tales: Shadow Realms, especially due to the fact that selling horror has become about as difficult as writing comedy in today's offense-sensitive times. Just as comedians have to deal with worrying about their material being declared "offensive" to certain groups or individuals (or the fame-seeking wannabes who simply want to be heard and look for any excuse to achieve it), horror writers are finding their hands tied in a similar vein.
I can't tell you how many times I was unable to submit this story in the past because the publishers announcing their call for horror stories have posted their "automatic rejection" list, detailing story elements that would exempt a piece from consideration. And sure enough, there would be something there that would eliminate my tale in their eyes. I began to feel that horror in literary form had devolved into "horror-LITE," a weaker, safer, more audience-friendly form of horror that is nothing but a pale shadow of its former self. Funny how televised horror is the exact opposite.
Perhaps it is a backlash to TV, or to the previous decades of horror fiction that had little to no boundaries and took things to outrageous extremes, that resulted in this, but I still contend that horror is supposed to be horrible. If it's restricted from being too horrible, it's only hurting itself and the genre these publishers purport to publish.
And I do get it. I was recently reading a slew of old horror anthologies I had collected in the nineties and never got around to reading, and I personally found them to be gross and over-the-top, but I was more offended by the poor stories than any specific plot element in them. And it was just that--a specific plot element--that was mostly hindering my attempts to get this story before an editorial submissions board. It got so that I finally caved in and allowed myself to make one change--a slight one--just so I could submit it to even more publishers and improve my chances. (I guess I will always wonder if this change was even needed after all, and if this piece would have been accepted in its original, unaltered form.)
Fortunately, there are still a few publishers out there who actually ask for extreme horror and don't shackle writers' creativity by putting limitations on what they are allowed to include in their tales. This one was actually the only horror piece I currently have for submission calls, the rest being mostly science-fiction, with some fantasy and even comedy, so I probably won't have to worry about this again for a while. But I still commiserate with my fellow horror writers who must struggle to get their vision before an audience. With the already-challenging task of competing against seemingly more writers than ever before (let's face it, the Internet has made it easy for anyone and everyone to find and submit to a call for stories), we don't need additional reasons for our stories to be culled.
So that's why I am even more thrilled that this story is the one that has found a home. I can't wait to see what will be its neighbors.