Nick Mamatas, in his capacity as acquiring editor at Clarkesworld Magazine (and also in his capacity as, well, Nick Mamatas), explains why he thinks the oft-expressed editorial comment of “I just want good stories” is a contemptible lie, and eventually stemwinds himself into this paragraph:
I don’t want good stories. I want great writing with no story, good stories with great writing, wonderful anti-stories with poor writing, nifty ideas on silver platters, stories that depend on having read some other story to make any sense at all, stories that nobody will think are good until three days after they are read, stories that couldn’t have been written before 1969, stories that will never be written again after 9/11/2001, mood pieces, monologues, atmospheric effects, grand tours, minute examinations of places I’ve never been, thinly-vieled autobiographies, grocery lists, liner notes of records never pressed, stories about pro wrestling that only people well-versed in kayfabe will fully understand, stories written as if “story” were some weird new thing that nobody ever heard of, etc.
Oh, Nick. There you go again. It’s certainly true enough, however, that blandly saying “I just want good stories” doesn’t begin to cover what most editors actually want, or for that matter, need for their venues.