Alternative Realms and Tangents

Alternative Rails


Why we need an Alternative--by John Stacy Worth

I have often been accused of being weird (whatever that means). I also like to write. While these statements may not sound all that impressive or original, I have found that these two aspects of myself have put me at a loss when it comes to getting certain of my material published (read Grock!, for example). Those of you who also consider yourselves writers may have had experiences similar to my own. You know, the rejection slips that go something like: While your material has its merits, it is not quite what weíre looking for, or Your story does not fit into the genre towards which our magazine is focused. And, of course, the various other rejection form letters that we writers so love to receive.

While I donít believe for a moment that I am the greatest writer to have ever graced this planet (just the second greatest, Robert Allen Taylor being the first), I do have ample evidence to support my hypothesis that I just might have enough talent to eke out a living by doing something I truly love. Praise from teachers, professors, etc. and various comments from my oh-so-fortunate friends, who get to proofread and evaluate my stories, have led me to believe that I just might be fairly good at this writing thing.

In light of this delusion, I have come to the conclusion (Oh yeah, I'm a poet, too) that some of my writing (that which has been rejected) is simply nicheless, having no particular box or label with which it can be contained or slapped. The only other reason for my rejection slips is, of course, unthinkable.

I have known my colleague, Robert Allen Taylor, for some twenty years, and I must say that, in him, I have found a true and good friend. Like myself, Robert has also been accused of possessing an uncommonly astute mind (in others words, being weird), and, like myself, has been keenly interested in various forms of art from a very early age. To get to the point, a short while back, I was visiting him in his home and we were discussing writing, as we are often wont to do. It became apparent to us that we both had works that were simply unplaceable in the current literary market. And so, we decided to do something about it. If no one else was going to publish our works, we vowed, then we would publish it ourselves--On the web. And then another thought struck: Why didnít we take it even one step further and service, not only ourselves, but also those in the same predicament? Why didnít we invent a new genre, so to speak, into which all the previously nicheless work of fellow rejected writers could be published and enjoyed? And that, my friends, was how ART was first conceived.

So what is ART? What are our goals? What kind of work are we looking for, and what do you do to get your work seen here, in our illustrious web-zine? Iím glad you asked.

ART is an acronym for Alternative Realms & Tangents, the name of our web-zine; it is also what we consider the contents of our zine to be. Our goals are to publish the previously unpublished or unpublishable. I like to think of our efforts as the attempt to create a genreless genre, if such a thing can exist. (Hey, if Seinfeld can make a show about nothingÖ)

Let me take a second to clarify this genre thing. The genre (I like saying that word) we are attempting to create has been dubbed (by us) Alternative, for that is what we are trying to provide; an alternative for work that doesnít necessarily fit into any of the categories that already exist. We want it to be a genreless genre in that it will encompass all styles of writing and all subject matters. Sure you might find some Romance on our pages, but youíll also find Science Fiction, Horror, maybe even Westerns, a combination of any of the above, and of course those things that defy definition; here there are no limits, no boundaries! Heck, even we donít know what youíll find yet, as we have just begun, and have yet to see what our fellow ART-ists might send us.

Now, where was I? Oh yeah. I answered all of the questions except for the last one. How do you get your work seen here? First you write something, anything. Any topic, any style. It can be a story you wrote, or a term paper, or a letter to your long lost Golden Retriever, Zonker. We donít care. (Oh yeah, and we also publish graphic art as well.) Then you mail it to us. All of this will be reiterated in our submission guidelines section, but Iím in the mood to ramble and so I will: Once you have mailed your submission to us, weíll read it and let you know, as soon as possible, if we can publish it. Thatís right, Iím sorry but like all other zines, we canít publish everything we receive, because of money and space constraints.

If, by some unfortunate twist of fate, you are rejected for publication, donít take it personally or bad. All writers are, at some point, rejected. It simply goes with the territory. But that doesnít necessarily mean that your work is anything less than sheer genius. Believe me, we know how it feels to have your work rejected, and we wish we didnít have to do the dirty work of being the rejecters, but, like I said, money and space are often going to be the limiting factors here.

We have several rejection letters in the works that are designed to simultaneously poke fun at various kinds of form letters and to let you down as easily as humanly possible. Be the first on your block to collect all six! (Just kidding, of course.) We donít have any acceptance letters written, because on that note we want to be more personal, addressing the particular writers and their works directly. Whatever the outcome of your particular submission, be encouraged that you are making the effort, that your work is being read by other people, and that, if you persist, you will eventually get published somewhere, if not here. Heck, if all else fails, do like we did and make your own web-zine.

While we canít pay you monetarily (at the present time we canít afford to), we have set it up so that you will be greatly rewarded for your work. As payment for material, we will sign you up as a member in good standing of A.W.F.U.L. (the Alternative Writing Foundation for Unpublished Literature). Read all about it elsewhere in this zine, in the section we have provided solely for the purpose of touting its many virtues. Membership is for life and includes a free subscription to our newsletter, access to our members section (soon to come), and much, much more! (Okay, maybe just a little bit more. We're not sure about what all we're going to pull out of our magic bag of incentives yet or even what's in there.)

We consider our zine to be rather tongue-in-cheek, while also maintaining a certain seriousness about writing itself and making a positive contribution to the literary world. A pet peeve of mine is how it often seems that a piece of work is rejected, not because it is somehow flawed, but because it isnít of a certain style or form. Generally speaking, I believe that many stories get published because the writing itself (not the idea or story) is good. I know Iíve read many published stories that I thought were well written stylistically, but werenít worth a flip as far as the idea or premise was concerned.

Now, Iím not saying that style and form arenít necessary or good. Quite the contrary. Style and form are often the marks of a mature, experienced writer, the indicators of much hard work and honing of oneís craft. However, I am of the opinion that there is something that must take precedent over style, over form, indeed, over all else--And that thing is this: Does your story make me want to know what happens next? Is it a page-turner? This is also why we wanted to create an Alternative. To thumb our noses at lit-snobs and give writers a chance to see their works published, with only one provision: that they tell us a good story.

Are we the only ones doing this? Probably not, but like many beginning writers, Iíve spent quite a few hours on the web, reading zines and looking for places to peddle my wares. Iíve found many good web-zines, but so far, none like what Robert and myself have envisioned. Like most of your hard copy magazines, the web-zines are often restricted in scope to a particular genre, or are directed to a particular age group or audience. We hope that our contribution to the literary world can be this: To provide a place where you can read a variety of stories, on a variety of subjects, with no genre imposed agenda.

My last point: As we undertake this endeavor, Robert and I have determined that, if weíre going to do this, then we are going to have fun doing it. If nothing else, we are going to have fun! So fasten your seatbelts and go get yourself a sense of humor if you donít already have one. As I mentioned earlier, we are going to be doing a lot of tongue-in-cheek kind of stuff, so donít get your panties in a wad if our side comments or whatnots happen to offend some of your oh-so-fragile egos. Weíre going to poke fun at everyone. From general to specific, fair game includes: All aspects of--the universe, our galaxy, our solar system, this planet, the literary world, our contributors, and last, but certainly not least, ourselves.

Please, however, donít make the mistake of assuming that we are being genuinely mean, offensive, or rude, or that we donít take writing seriously. We take it very seriously. We both aspire to excellence in our field. We know that it takes a lot of hard work and that some of the things that weíll be poking fun at are, for better or for worse, currently a part of this trade. In other words, we want to be taken seriously without being totally serious ourselves. Again, weíre not sure that such a situation can exist, but in our dementia we are somehow convinced that it can.

So there you have it, my first editorial. Hope the ride wasnít too bumpy. Please be careful on your way out to the other trains of thought that we have yet to derail, and enjoy yourself with all the reckless abandon that you can muster. Thanks for riding Alternative Rails, and be sure to mention us to all your friends. And, now that I think about it, you might also want to inflict us upon your enemies as well. So long, and until next issue.

Your copiously talented co-editor,

John Stacy Worth



Writers have to simultaneously believe the following two things: 1. The story I am now working on is the greatest work of genius ever written in English. 2. The story I am now working on is worthless drivel.

Orson Scott Card

How to write Science Fiction and Fantasy, 1990, Writerís Digest Books



Everything that I write is a work of ART, regardless of whether it is a work of genius, worthless drivel, or anything in between.

John Stacy Worth

ART Editorial # 1, 1998, Published by me, courtesy the web.