I got the Holy Grail of Baen's Universe Slush comments: an editor wants an rtf of my story. This doesn't mean they've bought it, but they're going to take a look again. It's a great compliment for an aspiring writer.
A lot of the consensus on the board is that the story is too dark for Baen's, followed up by suggestions to lighten it up. I thunk and thunk all weekend long and decided to leave the story as it stands (with a few tweaks). I'll let Mr. Flint decide what he wants for his magazine. All I can do is offer up my best stuff for his perusal.
The theme of To Stop a War is subtle and ambiguous--on purpose. While we might know why he's telling the story and have an idea about the themes, Snipe certainly does not. He can tell his story, but he can't say why it's such a powerful thing. His act of defiant bravery (thinking it will end the war, he assassinates the enemy general) is terribly simplistic and naive because that's Snipe's nature. That it doesn't actually end the war is the nature of the world he lives in.
On the surface it's tragic. Likely, Snipe will die alone in some trench. But to my mind there is hope in the story, even beyond the obvious "good" characters. Snipe himself has a great deal of hope. He hopes to end the war and he's brave enough to try, which is a lot more than many smarter people would do. To me, Snipe represents eternal hope in the face of grave horror. Hope should be simplistic and unencumbered by intellect, but it's always tinged with horror. It's a necessary dichotomy.
A lot of what I thunk about was writing a story with a happy ending. Nothing came (yet). For some reason I often have trouble envisioning happy, or completely happy, endings. Truth? I believe that happy endings are better left to real life. A wise editor once said "make me laugh, make me cry, make me hate, but for God's sake, don't make me bored." I'd simplify that to "Make me think." I've already got the reputation as the "dark editor" at Electric Spec, and that's because happy endings let me sleep at night, while dark endings make me think.
Snipe's reiterated a few things for me: Putting the why into words is WRONG. Let the reader fill in the blanks. I like loose ends, fuzzy inuendo, symbolic acts of bravery, and interpretive themes. I never go into writing a story with a theme in mind anyway. I like to let the characters tell me what they are.
Ok, enough on that. Like Snipe, I'm naive enough to hope that I actually have a chance at Baen's, but that might not be the nature of the world I live in.