Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Tuesday, June 01, 2004  

Appealing to the New Yorker's fiction editor is now a lot easier, thanks to an analysis done by a graduating Princeton senior. For her senior thesis in the Department of Operations Research and Financial Engineering (!), Katherine L. Milkman subjected 442 stories published in the magazine from 1992 to 2001.

Let's say you have two stories. The first is a poignant portrait of a gay Wyoming state legislator who finds himself caught by a law he helped pass that prevents him from adopting children; the second is revolves, Sex in the City-like, around the exploits of a 30-something New Yorker. Which should you send?

(Of course, both the researcher and magazine insist that the research is descriptive, not prescriptive--"In the end we published what we liked.")

Go with the second one.

She also found that Mr. Buford was much more likely to publish stories set in the New York area: the number of stories set in the mid-Atlantic region rose to 37 percent under Mr. Buford, compared with 19 percent under Mr. McGrath....

Under both editors the fiction in the magazine took as its major preoccupations sex, relationships, death, family and travel. Mr. Buford was relatively more interested in sex, a topic in 47 percent of the stories he published as opposed to 35 percent under Mr. McGrath. Mr. McGrath's authors tended to deal with one of the occasional consequences of that act, children, more frequently than Mr. Buford's writers: 36 percent under Mr. McGrath, 26 percent under Mr. Buford. (History, homosexuality and politics all tied for the attentions of Mr. Buford at a lowly 4 percent.)

If you're a woman, you might also submit the story with initials instead of your first name (unless it's an ambiguous Leslie or Chris)--well over half the authors published in the period under review were men.

On the other hand, I suppose writing an exceptional short story might help, too.

posted by Jeff | 8:45 AM |
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