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Writing sucks.

You spend hours staring at a blank page, hammer out a plot, or a poem, or an essay, or a great big chunk of history or analysis, work your ass off to make it as perfect as you can... and no one reads the damn thing.

Okay, fine, you're Stephen King, you're Ray Bradbury, you're Bill Freakin' Shakespeare -- people will read your stuff. But if you ain't them, you ain't shit. That's the case here at E2, but it's also the case everywhere else.

This all started with The Custodian's recent daylog, but it's something that he and I have discussed for quite a while. And like Custo, it's something I hesitate to say here, as someone who has sponsored multiple fiction quests and will be sponsoring at least one more soon.

But Everything2 is a dead zone when it comes to fiction. No one reads it. No one upvotes it. Everyone says we want great writing here, but when someone posts a great work of fiction here, it gets ignored.

"I can't read long-form writing on the web" is something I heard several different people say in the aftermath of Custo's daylog -- and I want to bellow abuse at the people who say that, but it seems to be a problem everywhere. People don't read much anyway, but when it comes to reading on the web, the last thing anyone wants is something that you have to scroll through forever to finish.

I do think I'll hesitate to post fiction here anymore, though I plan on leaving all of my previous stories here unless I know I've found a publication I want to submit to. I love writing stories for E2, but it's getting harder to deal with the frustration of knowing that some of my ancient one-liners have higher reps than work I'm actually proud of creating.

The obvious thing to do would be to start the process of finding professional publications that would accept my stories. Of course, there are plenty of problems with that, too. There are very few publications out there who pay for fiction at all, even fewer who pay for genre fiction, and fewer still who pay professional rates for genre fiction.

The Duotrope market listing site has current info for 2,486 publications, both online and print, that accept fiction. Narrow the search to those who pay pro rates and accept fantasy fiction (because many of those also accept science fiction and horror), and the numbers drop to 37 -- including several that specialize solely in Twitterfic -- a whole story in 140 characters or less. It's easy to pay the professional rate of five cents per word when you'll be shelling out about a dollar for each "story."

And for the overwhelming majority of these publications, they accept only one percent or less of everything that gets sent to them. There are lots of writers out there, lots of stories out there, and not that many places to publish.

Of course, most publications that accept fiction don't want just anything you've got. They all want a specific kind of story -- some want fantasy but not sword and sorcery, some want Lovecraftian horror only, some want hard SF only. Most want something that the editor likes to read, and the only way to figure out what they like to read is to read a few issues of the publication, and then hope you've got something in your catalog that matches their preferences.

Heck, if I decided I wanted to submit any of the Metro City stories for publication elsewhere, Duotrope lists only 11 magazines that accept superhero fiction -- and only four of those offer even a token payment.

And even if you can get one of your stories accepted by anyone... well, circulation numbers have been dropping for all magazines in the past few years. Even the big genre publishers have a lot fewer readers than they did in their heydays. I suspect it's perfectly possible to get a story published in an online publication that has fewer readers than E2.

So what are my best options? I really don't know.

On one hand, as a writer, I want to write and to be read. If I had to pick between having a small number of people reading my work for free on E2 and getting paid phat lewt to be published in a magazine that no one reads, I would obviously choose to keep all my writing on E2.

But on the other, E2 really is not a good place for fiction. And though it's extremely easy to get published here, it does get a little discouraging to be read by so few and to do it all for free.

Thanksgiving, 2009; in the home of karma debt and mordel; in the presence of them and theirs, JetGirl, RoguePoet, as well as other noders whose handles I forget and one or two non-noders. Absolutely wonderful people, every last one.

We all take turns voicing our gratitude. I am enjoying a glass of stout, one of the dozen or so new stouts I discovered at the local co-op-like store. After the older of their daughters speaks, Mordel points out that it's my turn. "I would like to give thanks to beer and the path it has given me in life," I proclaim. "Seriously, now." "I am serious."

I knew in early 2009 that I wanted to become a professional brewer. I became so entranced with the profession that I changed gears entirely. I had quit the electronics engineering technology program and began taking courses required to gain entry to UC Davis' Master Brewers Program. Actually, all it entailed was taking some biology. I dreaded biology, until I got into class. My professor's instruction was top-notch and I waltzed through the course. I could, off the top of my head, name the stages and features of each stage in mitosis. Another course, two quarters later, in upper division microbiology. Another spectacular professor, one who knew how to educate. She was a homebrewer earlier in life, too, which put us on solid ground together. I didn't excel in her course, but considering my utterly lacking biology background, I did very well.

Only, then I wanted a microbiology degree as much as I wanted my IBDE certification. This threatened to derail me, but what really did it was this: Every program at school was another false start. There is no microbiology education beyond microbiology. A bit of genetics, yeah, but not much else.

A week or so ago, I was discussing with a confidant my life issues. She asked in the most naive, but intense way, "Do you need the certification to brew professionally?" It seemed so obvious, up to that point, that the answer was yes. It hit me like the proverbial bag of bricks, though. It was a question I hadn't seriously considered answering with, "No," until she asked it.

I tried to think of a reason I would need it. I needed to be able to know off-flavors! No, the Bellingham Homebrewers Guild runs an off-flavors course each year - just sign up for it. I wanted to learn the pathways present in yeasts. Again, there are ways of learning them without shipping off to Davis, CA for 6 months. Packaging! Just go down to the local brewpub and beg to volunteer. Legal bits - have to hire a lawyer for those anyways. Recipe design - not taught in the program. Heat transfer - not terribly useful at the batch size I would like to start at. If there was a point, it was a moot point (only applied to larger breweries) or it was something I could work out on my own, without another $10,000 in student loans.

I was inspired. My dreams will become my reality at a pace I couldn't have imagined even weeks ago. I'm terrified, elated, surprised, relieved, and ready. Most of all, ready. Within two years, I will be opening a brewery. You're all welcome to come visit.

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