If you put a gun to my head, I couldn’t find all the documents I’d need to prepare our tax return in under an hour. But ask me to find my old rejection slips from my submissions to science fiction magazines during high school and college, and apparently it will take me less than a minute. There they were, clipped to copies of the stories themselves. Here is the very first one I ever received, from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction:
In case you can’t read my handwritten note at the top, apparently I received this slip on March 5, 1985, for a story called “The Laws of Chaos.” It was the first story I had ever submitted for publication; I was a sophomore in high school. I typed it on a manual typewriter, my father’s old Royal portable (which means it lived in a large square box and weighed less than 20 pounds).
Damn, that makes me feel old.
I remember discussing my early rejection slips, that year or the year following, with a friend of mine who also wrote science fiction stories. He was surprised that I’d actually had the guts to send my work to real magazines, and I asked him, “What’s the worst thing that could happen? I get another rejection?” (That friend, by the way, has been a professional writer since he graduated from college, and his work has appeared in Spy (remember Spy?), Playboy, The New Yorker, and various other markets. He has apparently gotten over his shyness about his writing.)
The Mrs., who met me just a couple of years later, tells me that I was remarkably incautious back then, and — she was trying to be tactful — “not suffering from a lack of confidence.” I’m not sure how that makes me different from every other teen-aged male of the species, except that because I didn’t know how to drive, my recklessness came out in occasionally unusual ways. I certainly got more rejections. I’ll post about some of them tomorrow.