Or at least when it's nicely worded. I sent off yet another story (actually the same one that keeps getting rejected all over town) to The Future Fire a short while back, and a few days ago, I got a very polite and encouraging response:
"This was a fascinating and well-written piece, with a dual plot arc of
Alice's failing relationship and imploding scientific experiment
working well to offset each other. Apart from being a parable on
scientific catastrophe-making, however, there isn't much
social/political content to the plot of this story, and in the end we
felt it didn't quite fit what we are looking for in TFF at the moment.
We'd like to thank you again for thinking of us with this story, and
wish you the very best with your writing in the future."
How refreshing to receive feedback beyond the typical form letter! It was also a gentle let-down as to the fit of the piece. I've gotten a few rejections in the past that seemed a little snarky, especially coming from amateur 'zines.
In a way, I was also pleased that the placement of my lesbian protagonist doesn't warrant classification as "social/political content." A mute point someday, I hope? I'm a little ticked with myself that I missed out on the submission window for the theme of their previous issue, Queer Sci-fi, where it may have faired better. Just my luck, I guess.
BTW, the letter also stated that The Future Fire is on hiatus until 2011.