Paranoid FAQ

“The Nightmare,” oil on canvas, by Henri Fuseli, 1781.

Answers to Two of the Most Annoying Questions I’m Asked

YOU: Hey Steve, I was just, like, wondering when my piece is coming out.

ME: I don’t know.

YOU: But you see, there’s this other journal that wants to publish it, and I know you take previously published work, and therefore don’t insist on being first (thank you for your sanity), but they’re persnickety about such things, and believe if they’re not first to print my piece their readers will somehow find out and chaos will ensue.

ME: That’s nice.

YOU: It’s a dilemma, I tell you. Please take it seriously.

ME: Yawn.

YOU: Help! We’re all gonna die!

ME: Sigh. Tell them they’ll be first. I’ll hold off until they’ve made their splash in the ocean of literature. If it turns out I’m first, and they find out (because they have spies watching all 2500 journals to make sure this doesn’t happen), tell them I tricked you. Cackling like an evil editor, I rushed your work into print so my readers could see it before theirs. Not that there’s any overlap between the two populations, but hey. Ask them to overlook the ignorance and poverty and avarice that make life Hell for billions of Earthlings and concentrate instead on my chicanery. Meanwhile write your next piece. You might just have time to finish it before the apocalypse.

YOU: I have one more question, Steve.

ME: Oh for fuck’s sake.

YOU: What rights am I selling you?

ME: None.

YOU: Come on, srsly.

ME: Srsly.

YOU: But surely you insist on something, even if not first North American serial rights, or whatever mumbo-jumbo they’re calling it nowadays. Surely you insist on a window of exclusivity. Surely you demand I cite The Lascaux Review as first publisher if I place my piece elsewhere. You know, like every other paranoid literary journal in the country.

ME: Nope. You retain all rights to your work at all times. All I ask for is the privilege of sharing it.

YOU: But I could take advantage of you! Even after you’ve paid me, I could pull the rug, stab you in the back, rush my work elsewhere! Like a cheating spouse, I could whore my piece all over town! I could commit unspeakable literary debauchery the night before the wedding!

ME: You’re beginning to grasp the policy. Now go back to work. Keep writing, keep submitting, and remain true to yourself.

*

Fireside
Required Reading
*

The First 100 Words

by Stephen Parrish, with the editors of The Lascaux Review

A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen

by Kari Gunter-Seymour

The Glass Hotel

by Emily St. John Mandel

The Geek’s Guide to the Writing Life: an Instructional Memoir for Prose Writers

by Stephanie Vanderslice

Keep Moving: Notes on Loss, Creativity, and Change

by Maggie Smith

The 2020 Pushcart Prize Winners

Edited by Bill Henderson

Winner of the National Book Award in Fiction

Trust Exercise

by Susan Choi

Becoming Dr. Seuss

by Brian Jay Jones