Well, it rose up and bit me on the ass. I always hoped it wouldn’t.
I got a rejection letter from an online magazine today. I’d sent one of my short stories there. The rejection isn’t the reason I’m a little upset, though; the reason* for the rejection is.
Turns out that the editor reading my little tale, as what I assume is a matter of course, did a Google search on some relatively unique terms in my manuscript. He discovered that the third search hit sure looked like my story, so he had a closer look. The link itself was dead; I know, because I tried it this morning, right after I got the email. But o Discordia! The wunderkinden down at Google have got something called the Google cache, and lo, when he clicked on the Cached link—I know, because it happened when I clicked on the link—there was my story, whole and entire.
Now most online publications—most publications period, actually—won’t publish material that has previously appeared on the Internet. (In fact, verbatim from the rejection letter, here’s the policy of the ‘zine in question: I’m afraid we can’t consider stories that have ever appeared online in publicly accessible (non-password-protected) places.)
Where, you ask, was this page that was so deviously cached? Why, it existed on a writers’ community website, wide open for everyone to see. I did some research, and it turns out that blocking Google (and all other search engines) from caching pages is a matter of adding a <meta> tag (a simple matter for any HTML-savvy person). I’ve contacted the board admin and laid out my problem and my suggestion; that conversational ball is in her court right now. (I want to say, too, that I’m not mad at her, or at the editor of the ‘zine, or even at me. I’m not mad at anyone. I’m a little ticked about the situation, is all.) Hopefully we can arrive at some resolution, so that this kind of thing doesn’t bite anyone else on the butt. The writers’ community in question is an amazingly valuable resource, and I’d sure hate to have that niggling question in the back of my mind anytime I ask someone for assistance: am I hosing myself right now?
I think that’s all I meant to say on the topic. Thanks for lettin’ me vent my spleen**.
The tree is down. My friend the B‑man used my father-in-law’s chainsaw to chop it free of my fence. There’s surprisingly little damage. So that’s good, anyways.
* Well, the first stated reason in the rejection email. There were story problems, too, but the editor saw fit to mention the “previously published” thing first. Hope this doesn’t represent a burnt bridge.
** Metaphorically. One Interesting Thing™ about me that you probably didn’t know is that I have no spleen. But that’s a story for another day. It’s late and I’m tired.