Science fiction writing is by definition writing that pushes beyond the boundaries of what readers have known before. So, it is natural that scifi stories will at times encounter resistance from the reading public. Are you a writer of fantastic science fiction tales? Are you having trouble getting others to recognize the brilliance of your stories?
What should you do?
You could write thrillers or romance novels. They sell well, don’t they. You could write teen angst-filled vampire stories. There are readers for those, to be sure. That’s not you. Is it? You are compelled to share your fantastic imaginings with the world. I understand. Stand fast. The world needs you. However, sometimes it takes the world a while to realize they do.
You are not alone.
It took a while for some of the greats of science fiction to get the attention they deserved too. Greats such as Bradbury, Herbert, Heinlein and Wells were once in your shoes. They wrote the visions that came to them. They were rejected. They didn’t let that stop them, and that is why we know their names today.
If Ray Bradbury had stopped after the first few hundred rejections he received, we wouldn’t now get to drink Dandelion Wine or set our eyes upon The Illustrated Man. Thankfully Bradbury was not swayed by the over 800 rejections he received. Because of his perserverance, we now have over 100 stories of his to entertain us and inspire us.
One of the most successful science fiction novels of all time was first rejected by 23 publishers before a small publisher of automotive manuals and magazines took a chance on it. Chilton, a Philadelphia press, gave Frank Herbert a chance to show his novel to the world in 1966. Dune has gone on to become a lasting phenomenon, securing its place forever in the canon of science fiction literature. It went from unwanted to success upon publication, winning the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1966. Numerous follow on books, films, and television shows have spawned from Herbert’s tenacity, and this writer, for one, is grateful to him for believing in his own work.
In 1959, Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers was rejected by Scribner as too controversial. Heinlein didn’t settle for defeat. He fought on, finding another publisher. Now, we know the story of Johnnie Rico’s rise through the ranks as he fought in the interstellar war against the arachnoid species known as the Bugs.
Going back in time to before any of these writers, we find H.G. Wells, author of The Time Machine, similarly had trouble sharing his story of humanity’s war with an alien race. His story, The War of the Worlds, was rejected by publishers several times before finally being serialized in Pearson’s Magazine in 1897.
The Greats Rejected Rejection
Bradbury said at the height of his career that he received rejection slips every week of his life. Isaac Asimov observed, “Rejection slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil-but there is no way around them.” Bradbury noted, “You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance.”
So what is the secret to success, as shown by these four great science fiction writers? Write great stories, try to get them published, and keep doing both until the life drains from your body. Don’t give up. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t expect you will be recognized right away for the greatness of your work. You may. More likely it will take time. The good news is your stories will not die. They will not age. People will find them. Many readers may come to embrace them as we now embrace the gifts from Asimov, Heinlein, and the others who walked the path you now walk.
You Are In Control Now
Remember also, it is a brave new world. While the gatekeepers still stand guard outside the halls of the traditional publishing world, the mountains that long surrounded the golden city of authorship have begun to crumble. New passages (indie pubishing) have opened up in the crevices. You may choose to take your petition to the gatekeepers, asking for entry into the kingdom of authorship. They have large banquet tables set for those who gain entry. But you may choose to follow those you see in the distance, as they make their way down the new paths. They too are headed to the inner city. Join them, or find yet another path. The world is changing.