The R word

I got this rejection today.

Hi, Ahimsa,

This story did not meet our criteria. There are markets that publish stories involving rape and rape-like subject matter. We are not one of them.


I was quite surprised. My first thought: there isn’t even any sex in there! I actually had to re-read the story to find out what they meant. This is the section, where two cyborgs on vacation have just encountered the antagonists, who are sort of violently crazed distopian libertarians. The male cyborg hits one of them after they kill a young man right in front of him.

I stare at them in surprise. Their friend is unconscious or dead, his gun lying beneath his still body. And the two of them stare at me, admiration blooming in their eyes.

I just killed that fucker, I say. Or as good as. Why the hell are you applauding?

You are stronger than him, the tall one says. Howard deserved it. The weak deserve whatever the strong give them. And you are the strongest.

That’s why you kill and rape the less fortunate? I snarl. But I am confused. It’s hard to be angry at people who are so filled with awe, who look at me as though I am some kind of demi-god.

Rape? That’s a strong word, the small one puts in.

Just because we didn’t win the genetic lottery doesn’t mean we don’t deserve to have sex as much as the good looking guys, says the curly one.

Chione is at my side before I can respond. She looks down at the broken man, his mouth and nose oozing dark blood, and then she stares at the two talking to me.

Unf, she says. I think it sums up the moment nicely.

That’s the only mention of rape in the story. Another possible factor: at the end, the narrator, an anti-hero, leaves his girlfriend to join these antagonists. It’s a dark ending to be sure. But it never occurred to me that I, as author, might have to make it more clear that I disavow the patently unjustifiable attitude of my characters.

Perhaps it’s just that market really doesn’t publish anything even referring to rape. That’s certainly fair and their prerogative, but  considering the graphic on-screen death that preceded this brief reference, it seems a bit unbalanced.


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