One of the perpetual questions around here is whether to provide feedback to writers when they send us something that’s not for us. Some writers love it, some hate it. And everyone knows that our response time has slowed horribly over the last year (sorry) so why spend extra time? Occasionally I’m asking to see another story, sometimes I’m trying to be helpful or useful. I received this email the other day in reply to a note I added about a story I turned down. It’s not the first such letter nor no doubt will it be the last (how many rejections-of-our-rejections have we received?) but perhaps I should short circuit them and not include notes at all?
This isn’t about this letter in particular (be nice, impolite comments deleted). I’m just curious what people like: comments/no comments; feedback/no feedback.
Thanks for taking the time to make a handwritten note on the rejection letter for my story, “TITLE.” You wrote, “This was fun but a little reminiscent of ‘The Cold Equation’ or James Patrick Kelly’s ‘Think Like a Dinosaur.’”
I’ve never heard of these works. Were they recently published in your magazine? Or were you simply trying to say “TITLE” is derivative and unoriginal?
If it was the latter: I realize there are other stories on the topics of teleportation and genetic engineering, and even more stories involving children. I’m not surprised my story reminded you of others you have read, but I’m not sure why that is a problem. The mere existence of similar works is not a solid rationale for rejecting a story. Literature should be judged on its own merits rather than what others have achieved or—even worse—the arbitrary, preconceived notions of what constitutes “good” writing. Based on your note, it appears that you may want to think more carefully about the basis for rejecting the works you receive.
The collective unconscious runs deep, especially for writers. I recently saw an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation that was so strikingly similar to “TITLE,” it gave me chills. The episode was called “The Masterpiece Society” if you want to look it up. I don’t feel threatened by the similarities because I know “TITLE” is different. I wrote “TITLE” when I was 20 years old and saw the Next Gen episode about a month ago (I’m 24 now). In different time periods from different perspectives, the Star Trek writers and I explored the exact same topics. How’s that for science fiction!
Just a thought.
Best good wishes,