I recently recieved a form letter rejection from a fiction magazine. The editor had circled the stock phrases, "does not meet our current needs" and "please submit to us in the future." The editor also underlined the word "current." Does this represent a legitimate interest in my work on the part of the editor or should I just assume that a form letter of any kind is a flat out rejection?
Congratulations: You will never know the answer to this question. Assume it's a form letter.
I've been told there's actually a code to Fantasy & Science Fiction, the magazine that everyone submits to and no one gets accepted, but they get a really really fast reply (and by snail mail! So it took effort). There are different form letters they use, and the different ones indicate how far they got in your piece before they decided to reject it. I have a number of rejections from them, and they all have different wordings - "I didn't feel it was right for me" or "This doesn't meet our needs" and apparently there's a way to interpret these if you're a Fantasy & Science Fiction insider. If anyone wants to pitch in and tell us the code, I think everyone here would benefit. Everyone in science fiction submits a short story to F&SF. I've never met a single person who's read the magazine, but that's not the point here.