As an editor here at NAR, I’ll be the first to admit that the reader-base and the editing team don’t always see eye to eye. One of the most interesting disagreements we seem to have revolves around the Instant Karma tag. Full disclosure: we lean much more heavily on the “Karma” part than the “Instant” part. And yes, some of the instances to which we apply the tag really fall more under the category of “natural consequences of your actions” rather than “Karma”. (Some of that, I think, comes from the kinds of stories that were given the older version of the tag, “Comeuppance”.)
Anyway. Here’s why I’m blathering on about it today. We recently published the story The Kayak And The Sinking Feeling, about a couple who attempts to steal a kayak and a window that gets broken when said kayak is returned to the store and falls on it.
I tagged this story with “Instant Karma” and we got several messages informing us that the story had been incorrectly tagged. Here’s how I see it: I tagged it this way thinking about the couple who tried to steal the kayak and were immediately caught and had it taken away. The tag wasn’t meant to apply to the entire story, merely one section of it.
What do y’all think about this? I do occasionally pop in a tag that applies to a smaller segment of the story rather than the entire story. To me, a tag can apply to anything that happens to the story and doesn’t necessarily need to represent the theme of the entire thing.
For now, I removed the tag so my boss would stop getting emails about it. But the team and I are really curious what y’all think - not just about this story (but please do address this story) but the “Instant Karma” tag in general.
In that example I don’t think the would be thieves experienced karmic justice, they gave the kayak back and were sent on their way. I don’t think anything else in the story could be construed as karmic justice (instant or otherwise) either so I can see why it seemed like the wrong tag.
Generally speaking, I don’t think there’s any harm in applying tags that only apply to part of the story but if you are being knowingly generous with your definition of “instant” then I think people will keep calling it out. Could you have “Instant Karma” and “Karma” tags?
I’ve always read the ‘Instant Karma’ tag as a catch-all for “Someone does something stupid and faces consequences for it” which is a much more unwieldy kind of tag.
However; the consequences in the story revolve around the broken window. The thieves end their day at the exact same status quo as the day before; no fines, no jail time, no police reports, nothing. As such the karma tag doesn’t apply to them. It applies to the store, which now has a broken window. But the employee just put an item aside which doesn’t really clear the threshold of ‘does something stupid’, at least in my eyes.
All of this rambling is to say that while I am very lenient on how to apply the karma tag I don’t think it fits this story.
The couple’s only consequence was not getting to keep the thing they were stealing. It’s not really karma if they didn’t get punished.
Is there a “Win stupid prizes” tag?
I don’t think karma applies in this story. They weren’t hurt/punished, they just didn’t get to steal anything.
Do we really need a Karma/Instant Karma tag at all? A tag for Comeuppance is probably sufficient. I’ve noticed that a lot of times the Karma tag is used there is inevitably someone complaining about its use, and this occasionally ends up with an argument.
Mind you, if you’re after reader engagement, that might be a way of guaranteeing it…
Why not combine Instant Karma and the Comeuppance tag into one like the Lazy/Unhelpful tag? It’s ease up on the confusion.