Tuesday, June 21, 2005


Heard from a writer today who has been discouraged by rejections. That is sad. The most abundant thing in the business of publishing is rejection. When I first thought of being a writer, I read that one should keep the rejections in a file and look at them once in a while. I tried it for a while, but got no reward from the practice. It didn't make me stronger. It also didn't make me weaker. I lost the file, found it, then threw it out.

Acceptances are a lot cooler, but they also don't do anything for me, so I don't keep them either.

One rejection was useful for me -- Gordon van Gelder at The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy sent me a rejection letter that was personalized (he's sent me three now). In it, he told me that he liked the story but had published a patient zero story only a few months earlier. The part where he said he iked the story wasn't helpful, but I hadn't thought of the story as a patient zero story. In fact, I had never even heard of a patient zero story. It took me a minute to figure out what that was, but when I did, I understood that I had used a plot device that had been used often before. That's okay, but if you do that, you'd better bring something new and refreshing to the concept. Something that overcomes the cliche and makes it a novelty again. I didn't in that story.


Anonymous Bob Mueller said...

I've never heard that term used before. Can you expound a bit?

June 22, 2005 3:39 PM  
Blogger Steven said...

Not sure which term we're talking about. I'll assume it's "Patient Zero". THis refers to the first patient to transmit a disease which subsequently becomes an epidemic. In Sci-Fi movies, it's the guy who gets bitten by a lab monkey but goes home to his wife and kids without saying anything. In real life, it is of concern to health care people like the CDC. If an outbreak of menningitis occurs at the local college (or lice at the local grade school) authorities may want to know how the outbreak started. Find patient zero and you'll find the answer.

The fact that I'd never heard of a "patient zero" story tells me I don't know enough about the genre.

Of course, if you meant another term, let me know.

June 22, 2005 4:12 PM  
Anonymous Bob Mueller said...

You're right, I was talking about Patient Zero, and I thought I knew what it meant (and I was right). I had just never heard of it used to refer to a story like that, so I wondered if that usage meant something different.

June 23, 2005 9:05 AM  

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