Acceptance Notes – no.7 in a series

Dear […], and Edoardo,

Congratulations! I have chosen your stories to be the lineup for our August Revolution-themed issue of Penumbra~! I was so very pleased with your stories, and how you managed to avoid the obvious route for stories about revolutions and instead took unexpected routes in your exploration of the theme. This may be one of my favorite Penumbra issues ever–which is saying quite a lot.


And above all, congratulations! I’m looking forward to putting this issue together, and hopefully will see many stories from all of you at Penumbra in the future.


When Was the World Widest?

We live in a narrow, constricted age. The blank spaces on the maps have all been filled in. Where before there were dragons, there are now caravan parks. When I read 19th century novels, it is easy to sense the suffocating constriction of the middle class social mores of the time. It was against this incapacitating blancmange of expectations that Nietzche raged and, from a completely different angle but with a similar analysis, Kierkegaard reimagined Christianity. But at least, there were still mountains to climb, oceans to sail, rivers to trace to their source and the possibility of wonder around the next bend or over the next ridge. But now, we’ve been there and done that.

I wonder, though, when the world was at its widest. In one sense, it must have been when that first band of humans left Africa – everything but home lay before them. However, because it was so completely unknown, the world may have seemed no wider than the next horizon.

During the Neolithic, humanity had spread over most of the world, but most of the world remained empty. But Neolithic remains – cairns, standing stones, barrows and the like – are markers as well as memorials, telling wanderers that this land belongs to us by right of the bones of our ancestors.

At the time of the early civilizations through to Rome, the world grew in one sense wider, although more explored, as strangeness dwelled in new cultures and different ways of life.

In the Early Medieval Period, travelling, raiding and piracy reached their apogee with the Vikings, and the spread of Islam and then the Mongol Empire allowed a greater degree of travel through Asia than had ever been possible before. The world grew broader still.

The world in 1513
The world in 1513

But I nominate the Age of Exploration, when navigators such as Columbus, Da Gama, Magellan and Drake found lands unknown to antiquity as the time when the world was widest, for then its extent was at least roughly known, but the vast majority of it remained terra incognita, and a thus a theatre of possibility.

Rejection Notes – no.12 in a series

This is the sort of rejection note that is almost as good as an acceptance!


Thank you for offering your story to […]. We’re sorry to tell you that we will not be using it; you are free to submit it elsewhere. This story isn’t quite right for […], but holy cow — that feeling of someone at your door at night! I was queasy and breathing shallow the whole time.

Assistant Editor

Acceptance Notes – no.7 in a series

Dear Edoardo,

Thanks for giving us the opportunity to consider your story, “AT WORK IN THE FIELDS OF THE LORD.” After reading and discussing it, it’s my pleasure to inform you that we’ve decided to ACCEPT it for publication.

Before we can draw up your publication contract, though, we need to confirm a few details. Please verify the following…

Once again, thanks for giving us the opportunity to publish your story, and welcome to the […] family!

Hanging With The Coolest Kid

Most politicians were not cool at school. They were the swots, the nerds, the children for whom extra homework was an opportunity, not a curse. Such application led to good universities, the right contacts brought them appointments as researchers for political organisations and, ultimately, a seat in Parliament, but those days of being mocked and, worse, ignored at school leave deep marks. Ed Balls (possibly the only time I will mention Ed Balls in writing) told about being bullied when he was running for Labour leader – no doubt, he was not the only one. Somewhere deep in their driven souls, almost all politicians wish that they were one of the cool kids, the ones who effortlessly got the girls and breezed through school, always in the right place at the right time because these kids were the place and time.

However, there is one politician who is effortlessly cool, who one could imagine sharing a stage with John Coltrane and Miles Davis and not looking out of place, and that of course is Barack Obama. Whatever one thinks of his politics, none of his predecessors (with the possible exception of John Kennedy) could have pulled this off:

Barack Obama

Now, I’m not the only one to have noticed the way other statesmen suddenly start acting like giddy schoolgirls when in Barack Obama’s presence, witness this photo of Gordon Brown making eyes at the object of his adoration:

Apart from the obvious fact that, as validation for a political career, an interview with the most powerful man on earth rates pretty highly, I would also argue that somewhere in their ambition eaten souls, these politicians have returned, for an instant, to their childhood and they are exulting that, finally, after all their work, they are getting to hang out with the coolest kid on the block.

Current Archaeology reviews Northumbria: The Lost Kingdom

Current Archaeology magazine has reviewed Northumbria: the Lost Kingdom in issue 278. Reviews aren’t online, so they’ve kindly given me permission to reproduce the review here.

Once, Gething and Albert write, ‘Geordies ruled us all’. While not strictly true, there is no doubt that during its 7th- to 8th-century Golden Age, the Anglian kingdom of Northumbria was one of the great powers of Medieval England, home to ecclesiastical heavyweights like Bede and Alcuin, and to stunning artefacts like the Franks Casket. But these achievements are too often overshadowed by other kingdoms, particularly Wessex, the authors argue. To redress this, historical sources and archaeological evidence are woven together in a rich tapestry, using findings from the Bamburgh Research Project (CA 239) – of which Gething is a co-founder and co-director – and other excavations to expand our picture of Northumbria from the monastic and royal spheres that form the focus of most contemporary writings. This is interspersed with interviews from archaeologists and historians with expertise in a wide range of fields. A lively and interdisciplinary book.

Shortlisted Notes – no.1 in a series

According to my Duotrope submissions’ tracker (have I mentioned that Duotrope is the single most useful writers’ resource on the internet? And, no, they don’t pay me – I pay them) I have three stories shortlisted. When Animals Spoke is the third.

Dear Edoardo,

I will admit, your fiction makes me laugh. I enjoy your humor immensely. I’m passing this on to the second round readings.

It will be a few months before the issue is finalized, so your continued patience is appreciated.


Acceptance Notes – no.6 in a series

There’s been a rather long, barren period for story acceptances. For fellow Duotrope users (the single most useful resource for writers on the internet): my acceptance ratio had, rather depressingly, dropped below that of the average of other users to have submitted to the same markets, so this email was particularly welcome. And in fact, not one but two acceptances in the same email, with ‘The Adventures of Captain Andrea Vasanius’ being released from ‘pending, shortlisted’ purgatory to the bright, sunny uplands of editorial tinkering.

Dear Edoardo,

Okay, after holding this one over for multiple re-readings, we’ve decided to accept it. Formal acceptance letter to come tomorrow.

As the “The Adventures of Captain Andrea Vasanius” — did I ever get around to sending you a formal acceptance letter or contract for that one? Whatever the “subject to some changes” part was, it’s slipped my mind, but I’m sure we can work it out in the editing cycle.

Rejection Notes – no.11 in a series

This rejection note is rather encouraging, as the publication concerned is really quite prestigious.

Dear Edoardo Albert:

Thank you for sending us “Plausible Deniability”. We really enjoyed this piece, but we didn’t feel it was right for […].

We hope that you will continue to send us your work.


The Editors of […]

Rejection Notes – no.10 in a series

It would appear that ‘Knock Knock’ is one of those stories that doesn’t quite fit into literary categories. It’s most recent Rejection Note runs:

Dear Edoardo:

Thank you so much for submitting “Knock Knock” for our consideration, and for your interest in […]. We apologize for the delay in responding to your submission, and we are taking steps to improve our response time.

We are going to pass on this particular effort, but I hope we shall see more stories from you in the future. It’s a good story, but not the right fit for us.

Good luck in your ongoing endeavors.


Compare to Rejection Note no.9:

Dear Edoardo Albert:

Thank you for sending us “Knock Knock”. We really enjoyed this piece, but we didn’t feel it was right for […].

We hope that you will continue to send us your work.


The Editors