Monday, April 16, 2012

Rejection Relics

Somehow, through an unknown number of moves, I've managed to hang onto a folder of rejection slips from the early 1990s. Going through these recently was kind of a cool bit of time travel. One thing that's amazing is looking at the slips and seeing some of the titles and realizing that they don't ring the slightest bell at all as to what they were about. Even more amazing is when there's a reference to a plot point and even that does nothing for my memory. Apparently teenage-me wrote some story called "Madonna with Child" which somehow involved Elvis Presley. I have no idea which "Madonna" the story referred to...

Part of me wishes I had those old stories. (Yes, the rejection slips survived, but the digital files apparently did not... I have exactly two of my 1990s stories still in digital form.)  Part of me is glad that I don't have them. I suspect that the rejection letters may have been a bit more charitable to someone of my age (which I apparently referenced in my cover letters). It may well be best that the stories themselves are lost to time.

I pulled the rejections which I found most interesting out of the file to scan and share. Six of them are presented further down in this blog post. (I've blacked out or cropped out addresses since they would be long-inaccurate for any of these markets.) I hope you enjoy taking this trip back with me to visit a different writer and a much different fiction marketplace.

First, this Amazing Stories rejection. Janis Wells, apparently an assistant editor, put a good bit of advice into this rejection.

Next, one from Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine. This one, I think I remember a bit. I at least remember where the title came from: "Crossroads of a Minute" is a phrase from a Concrete Blonde song. I listened to the cassette tape of Bloodletting regularly my last couple of years of high school. In fact, I'm fairly certain that I wrote stories which were triggered/prompted but nearly every single song on that tape...

The prize of my 1990s rejection slip collection is this one from Kristine Kathryn Rusch saying that my story was good and that she was sure I'd sell it. This was for the one 1990s story I'm still circulating; obviously, though her prediction may yet come true, it hasn't happened with much haste.

Here's probably one of the last rejection slips I got during that time period, given that it's dated in early 1993. It certainly looks like a little penned signature from Algis Budrys. "At Home Among the Dead" is the one other 1990s story I have in my possession. I may try to revive that one someday, though I haven't been circulating it. I still like the core ideas from it.

Apparently Pulphouse allowed multiple submissions, since both the editor and I note three stories. "Schrodinger's (something)" I remember as being a riff on quantum physics. (Back then, this might have even been something vaguely approaching original...) "One Dollar" means nothing to me. "'Till Death" I'm also not sure about. Something interesting about this slip is the reference to "the short-short." Kids, that's what we called what you young'uns call "flash fiction." A bit more seriously, you can see that it's a length I've enjoyed working at for a long time.

Finally, we have one from Weird Tales. "Almost works, but not quite." I think that pretty much sums up the level I got to back then.

M. Bennardo said it so well when he talked about things that have improved in recent years around the whole writing and submitting process. And I can't really argue. But I'll say this -- it's harder to get nostalgic over a rejection email than a piece of paper with a great graphic like the Weird Tales one or an honest-to-gosh editor's handwritten note.


  1. Wonderful stuff!

    And Heinlein's rules! :)

    You got some encouraging advice. Do you think it helped you?

    1. Lydia,

      Yes, I noticed that Heinlein's Rules popped up in the MZB letter.

      It's hard to recall after 20 years whether it helped me or not, though I suspect it did since the slips that had more of a "came close" feel to them were from later on. If nothing else, I'm sure it was helpful in terms of keeping me moving forward with writing and submitting.

      Alas, I've had to relearn whatever lessons I did learn back then. But that's what happens, I suppose, when you step away from anything that long.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Thank you for sharing those :) I wish I still had all the rejection letters I'd ever received... but alas.

    I did enjoy taking a little trip back in time with you though :)

    ~ Rhonda Parrish

    1. Rhonda,

      I'm glad you enjoyed looking through these.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Some of the rejections have some valuable advice.

  4. Hi Michael.
    I'm laughing about your rejection slips, about the stories you don't even remember writing. I've always wanted to collaborate a book called ... well I shouldn't give away the title, but one full of the 100 best rejections. Save those (of yours) they may be worth money one day, or at least a good reminder of how far you've come.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Erin! Yeah -- the one (not shown here) where an editor made a reference to a story having something to do with Elvis just totally. Blew. My. Mind. I almost wish I had that one, just so I knew -- literally -- what I was thinking. :)