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The DSF Rejection Ceremony

By this point, Benjamin J. Sonnek may or may not have graduated college with an English Major, so one can't rightly say what he's worried about right now. In addition to an earlier appearance in Daily Science Fiction, his short stories have also appeared in Aphelion, Perihelion, Edify Fiction, and Sonder Midwest. His current project is finalizing a novel manuscript that-even though it is in the Young Adult genre-was not written solely to depress its readers. You can gain access to his orbital station at , but for health reasons it should not be accessed by beings with low tolerance to rambling, sarcasm, commas, and/or poorly drawn cartoons. He thanks you for enjoying this story, unless, of course, you didn't.
"Worthy author Benjamin... we thank you for your contribution to our cause."
The words were almost too much for the editor to speak; as the silver casket rolled into the airlock, he paused and lowered his eyes, readying himself for the next solemn line.
"Your creation, 'Conversation at the Mermaid and Technomage,' was received with love and joy by our family in the august halls of the Daily Science Fiction Orbital Station. Its music it made, the emotions it evoked in our hearts, will never be forgotten as long as Father Time allows the stars to burn in the heavens.
"To our deepest sorrow, though... it could not remain with us."
One hand came down on the Ejection Button--the other came up to wipe away the moisture that threatened to fall from his eyes. The station's gravitational field retracted to exclude the airlock, and the casket, like the phantom of a disheartened soul, silently rose from its carrying frame. From his booth, the editor watched the poor shell levitate into view of the rest of the DSF staff. They'd gathered in the observational atrium behind the opposite wall to pay their respects to the fallen story, so young, so innocent.
Three more actions remained, and more had to be said. The editor knew every sad line by heart.
He pushed another button to depressurize the airlock chamber. "We have received so many unique inventions from Earth and its outlying territories," he steeled himself to continue speaking, "and in our presence all are subjected to the trials of combat. Know then, worthy author, that it is unlikely your child fell due to weakness; as every contender vies for the glories of active duty, many misfortunes can occur. Perhaps its fighting style was ill-suited to our form of zero-gravity techno-magical competition. Perhaps a fellow contestant imitated your story's general mannerisms, undercutting its originality and thereby weakening its chances of survival. And maybe, just maybe... there was no more room on the Victor's Shuttle, no budget for an extra seat. For these reasons, or any of a half dozen others, your wonderful creation cannot be with us today."
He pulled a lever; the airlock doors opened with a dreary crunch.
"May the Rocket Dragons bear your story away to happier shores. May life enter your work once again, and let it gain skill from the fall it has suffered with us. May it one day enter the arena of another publication to overcome its foes with captivating force. May we one day sing your story's praises alongside the jubilant choirs of the universe, and may the celebration remain in your heart forever! We bid farewell to 'Mermaid and Technomage,' and pray that we may see it again in the company of the Eternal."
The rocket booster on the casket fired once. Only once. In space, one burst was all it took.
The editors and commanding officers of the DSF watched the gleaming capsule glide out through the airlock's open mouth, out into space. The Dirge of Lost Heroes, to the same tune sung the day Gandalf fell in the Balrog's clutches, rose from each person's throat to honor the sacrifice of their late friend and its maker. In space, the story was free once again; the casket glowed with a radiance of its own, shining and separating into millions of electrons that scattered across the universe. The ceremony had ended.
Wiping his eyes again, the editor glanced at the roster. Many more stories had to be sent away--the next one would arrive in but a few minutes. If only they could make it to the end of this fateful day....
Sadly, satellites are terrible at translating this solemn ceremony.
The wishes and sentiments of the mourners tangled up in the binary code, diluting in the electromagnetic waves as they bounced from server to server. By the time the message had come to rest on my mobile device, this was all that remained:
"Benjamin, Thank you for submitting your story, "Conversation at the Mermaid and Technomage", to Daily Science Fiction. Unfortunately, we have decided not to publish it...."
The End
This story was first published on Friday, April 27th, 2018


Well. This is ironic.

- Benjamin J. Sonnek

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