Watch Singer Perform Fifth Element Song Once Deemed Impossible to Sing

Amazingly talented singer, Jane Zhang, performs a song once deemed impossible to sing: The “Diva Dance” song from Fifth Element.

In an interview, the composer of the Fifth Element song said it was impossible for a human singer to change so quickly between some of the notes, given the range. The notes were recorded individually and digitally combined for the song. However, the singer Jane Zhang accomplishes this seemingly impossible task.

For more information, go here.

New Star Trek Animated Series – Lower Decks

For the first time since 1974, there is a new animated Star Trek series, “Lower Decks.” It follows the characters who have the less glamorous jobs within Starfleet. I myself have often wondered what the rest of the crew does on the massive Enterprise ship.

Lower Decks is available on CBS All Access. It’s described as the “sillier side of Star Trek.” (Keep in mind that there is also The Orville if you want Star Trek with humor)

The reviews for Lower Decks are mixed. Some people really enjoyed it. Some people described it as out of touch baby boomers trying too hard to write humor for Generation Z. Some people asked, “Who is this show for?”

On Rotten Tomatoes the critics gave it a 61% and the audience gave it a 31%.

But of course, the only way to truly know if you like a show is to check it out yourself.

LINKS

Watch Lower Decks on CBS

Star Trek: Lower Decks makes “Second Contact” with its first episode…(Musings of a Middle-Aged Geek)

Lower Decks on Rotten Tomatoes

Lower Decks Reviews on Reddit

Coping with Global Pandemic – Thoughts From a Cancer Survivor

What’s strange to me is that it seems everyone is now going through something similar to what I went through about two years ago. The fear of the unknown. The fear of death.

In November of 2017, I was only 29 years old when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. At first, when the doctor found the lump in my left breast, I told myself that it was just a cyst. After all, I was young and about 80% of lumps usually were cysts. That day I didn’t even bother telling anyone about the lump (except my boss). Even my boyfriend and family didn’t know at that point.

Yet when I got the ultrasound and mammogram a week later, the tech said, “This doesn’t look good,” and left me to go sit in a carpeted room alone for two hours. My only companions the fake potted plants beside me. They didn’t offer much solace.

That was two hours of panic and grief and being in my head fearing the worst. The tech’s words replayed over and over in my mind, “not good.” In the car afterward, I cried, and cursed God and punched the steering wheel. Wondering what I did that was so wrong to deserve this.

After that, I had to wait a couple of days to get the biopsy (which was kinda like having your breast stapled with a giant staple gun…don’t even get me started on cervical biopsies), and then there was another week of sweating and panicking before the biopsy finally revealed that I did indeed have cancer. And yet even then, my fate was unknown, because I had to go through another couple weeks of tests and (yes) more waiting before it was finally revealed what kind of cancer I had. In the whole process, I learned a new word that was native to the cancer community. “Scanxiety.” The anxiety of sitting around and waiting for one’s unknown diagnosis. That was a whole month of not even knowing if I was going to be alive or dead by the end of the year.

And now, two years later, I see the world struggling with a collective Scanxiety.


All I can do is tell you some of the things that helped me get through that difficult period where I thought I might die: 

Focus on what is in your control: I can’t say this enough. This helped me so much during cancer.

In terms of COVID, the reality is unless you’re an expert epidemiologist or a person with political power, there’s really not much you can do about the fact that COVID 19 is spreading around the world like wildfire on crack.  All you can do is focus on what is in your power to protect yourself and to protect others around you.

In this case, wearing A FUCKING mask, social distancing, and washing one’s hands like it’s going out of fashion have been shown to be the best ways to limit the spread of the virus.

The following study shows that wearing a mask (even a homemade one) is better than no mask at all.

Avoid engaging in denial. Face reality: While obsessing too much over bad news and gloom and doom isn’t helpful, going in the other direction and engaging in denial is bad as well. One of the first stages of grief is denial. This is why you see so many people engaging in the whole, “The Coronavirus is a Hoax,” narrative. Or the narrative that it’s just as harmless as the seasonal flu. Or people even refusing to wear a mask.

People generally don’t want to believe that the world is a malevolent place where bad things can happen.  People in Western developed countries have relatively safe and comfortable lives (compared to the rest of history and what other people in the world deal with). Many of these people are not used to dealing with something like this. They’re not psychologically prepared for it.

So part of this need for normalcy makes people believe in conspiracy theories and magical thinking in the face of a real crisis because magical thinking is more palatable than the reality of death.  However, magical thinking can end up getting people killed.

For instance, in the cancer community, I’ve heard stories and seen situations where people threw their lives away because they didn’t want to make the tough choices and sacrifices necessary to treat their illness. Sure my veins are damaged and I nearly destroyed my liver, but I’m alive! I’ll take that trade off any day. Yet many people with cancer want to believe that they can be cured by banana leaves instead of chemotherapy. Steve Jobs is a  cautionary tale for us all. If one of the richest men in the world can’t survive a deadly disease by avoiding scientific facts, you probably won’t either.

When faced with conspiracy theories, it’s important to employ the principle of Hitchen’s razor—”What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.”

Therefore, it’s very important for people to learn how to engage in critical thinking. Anecdotal stories on a blog are not “evidence” that certain things are a hoax, or that certain home remedies can keep you safe. The scientific process is important because what the scientific process does is test hundreds of people, over a long period of time, controlling for variables and a multitude of factors. These tests are conducted and evaluated by experts who have spent their lives devoted to the subject matter. Such things are more reliable than anecdotes on a blog.

And given that the experts are using the scientific process to tell us to wear masks, social distance and wash our hands, we should probably listen to them.

Focus on what is meaningful: The whole world is freaking out. People are getting sick and dying. But in life, you don’t want to be “reactive.” You want to be “proactive.” After doing what is in your power to avoid getting the virus or spreading it, all you can do after that is focus on what is meaningful.

Will bombarding yourself with bad news and feeling miserable help anyone? Probably not. It’s good to stay informed, but there’s also a such thing as overdoing it. And I’m starting to see people torturing themselves (and thus those around themselves) by taking in too much news. It’s hard to avoid when we’re attached to a 24/7 news cycle via cell phones and social media. According to a very informative episode on The Patriot Act, the news isn’t even really news anymore. It’s gossip and sound bites. So you’re not being that much more informed by watching it all the time. You’re often plugging into psychological torture. The news is designed to generate outrage and fear in order to boost viewership. Not very productive feelings in the long run.

I ran into the same thing by doing too much research on my illness, to the point where it was boosting my anxiety and making me stressed. I had to enforce some healthy boundaries on myself and stop doing this research. And when people started complaining to me about how worried they were about MY illness, I had to enforce my boundaries once again and tell them to stop doing this for my own sanity.

So, once you start doing what is in your power to make the situation better, and enforcing healthy psychological boundaries on the information you take in (for your own sanity), try to think of other things you can do to make yourself and then the world better. Even if it’s just a little better. Do you have any creative outlets? Does spirituality or religion help you (it helps me)? Can you volunteer? Can you buy food for a local food shelter? Are you willing to drop off food for the elderly who can’t risk exposure at the store? There’s plenty of ways to make the world better (malevolent as it may be). Even if it’s just posting a positive quote on your twitter. Or calling a lonely relative. Or exercising because it makes you healthy.

I know it’s hard to stay positive in times like these. But life is hard. Life is a challenge. And perhaps life is even a test, to see how good we can be despite negative conditions. Keep in mind that you are here today because you have ancestors who survived much more challenging conditions than COVID 19 (famine, war, genocide, slavery, conquest, mongols, etc.)

Humanity has survived tough times before. We’ll survive this.

George R.R. Martin’s Early Sci-fi Stories

Opening pages of George R.R. Martin’s novelette, “A Song for Lya,” from microfilm

Many of us are aware that George R.R. Martin is the fantasy author who first started writing the epic Game of Thrones series more than twenty years ago (the first book of the series was published in 1996).

Yet not many people are aware that before that, George R.R. Martin was a science fiction author whose first short story, “The Hero,” was published in 1971 (he was only 21 years old when he got this published). He also dabbled in the horror genre as well.

“The Hero,” which appeared in the February 1971 issue of Galaxy, features a soldier who is matter-of-fact and accomplished in the field, yet politically naïve. “Readers might see some hints of Ned Stark in the story’s protagonist (New York Public Library).”

Finding these short works can be difficult because George R.R. Martin had his stuff published in pulp magazines. However, a large collection of his shorter works was published in Dreamsongs: A RRetrospective  which is available on Amazon.

LINKS

Dreamsongs: A RRetrospective (Amazon)

Finding George R.R. Martin’s Earliest Work (New York Public Library)

A Thousand Casts (Podcast devoted to reviewing George R.R. Martin’s earlier works)

George R.R. Martin (Wikipedia)

“Raised by Wolves” Trailer – New Post Apocalyptic Show Directed by Ridley Scott

“Mother was programmed to protect everyone after Earth had been destroyed. When the big bad wolf shows up, she is the one we must trust.”

The show is directed by Ridley Scott (at least the first two episodes) and will appear on HBO Max, September 3rd, 2020.

After binge-watching most of the good TV while stuck in quarantine, I’m experiencing a television drought. So I’m excited to see that there will finally be some new, quality television out there (I hope).

“I’m always searching for new frontiers in the sci-fi genre and have found a true original in Raised by Wolves— a wholly distinct and imaginative world, full of characters struggling with existential questions,” Scott told Deadline Hollywood in 2018 about what drew him to the project. “What makes us human? What constitutes a family? And what if we could start over again and erase the mess we’ve made of our planet? Would we survive? Would we do better?”

LINKS

Trailer for Ridley Scott’s Raised by Wolves is giving us strong Alien vibes (Ars Technica)

Raised by Wolves American TV Series on HBO (Wikipedia)

Raised by Wolves (IMDB)

Watch Trailer on YouTube

How to Get A Literary Agent – Gen Con Online Panel 2020

This year Gen  Con went online. As a result, they had a lot of great online FREE panels. Including many great resources for writers. I myself went to the “How to Get an Agent” panel that starred Lucienne Diver (Agent with The Knight Agency) Maurice Broaddus (Fantasy and Horror Author), Toni L. Kelner (Mystery Author), E.C. Ambrose (Fantasy and other genres author), Chris Bell (Panel Host and Managing Editor for Indie Press)

I took some notes about the most critical things mentioned in this panel.

This came from How to Get an Agent Panel Live (On YouTube)


Why Should You Get an Agent? 

Why not just wing it on your own?

Toni L. Kelner replied, “For the big bucks. For the money.” It was further explained that an agent can help your book get into a bookstore, into an international book store. Agents know what’s selling and how to market your work.

E.C.Ambrose added that agents are also important for understanding contracts.

Maurice Broaddus added on to this by saying he first realized he needed an agent when he got a 14-page contract and needed someone who could decipher it.


What Do Agents Do? 

Lucienne Diver made the point that many people are not aware of what an agent actually does. A big part of their role is career planning. Especially for people who want to become career authors and aren’t just treating their craft as a hobby. An agent can figure out which is the best line to launch an author’s particular work. So it’s not just about the agent getting the writer money, it’s about the agent figuring out what the best position is for the writer. It’s about trajectory. “We are career managers as much as we are negotiators and contract managers…agents wear many hats (Lucienne Diver).”


How Does Someone Just Starting Out Get an Agent? 

Social Networking: Lucienne Diver explained that writers conferences are a great resource because you are meeting people there. You are networking. Maurice Broaddus confirmed this by saying he met his agent by wearing “a very loud red suit” at the bar.

Writers Organizations: Another useful tool for getting an agent are professional writers organizations. These often have a list of agents who are reputable in that field. Such as Science Fiction Writers of America. The Association of Authors Representatives. Etc. Not all agents will necessarily be members of these associations. 

Do Your Research and Follow Guidelines: Lucienne Diver explained that it’s very important to follow an agent’s submission guidelines. Don’t try to be clever or cute. Agents have a whole mountain of slush in their inboxes every week. An easy way for agents to reduce the slush pile is to ignore the submissions that don’t follow the rules.


Warnings About Bad Agents

One point made in the panel is that agents are only human. So sometimes they make mistakes. Sometimes they are not doing the best job representing your work. Sometimes they are experiencing a mid life crisis.

Maurice Broaddus talked about an agent he had who was not reading his stuff or sending it out in a timely manner. What good was she doing for his career if she wasn’t even reading his stuff?

E.C.Ambrose said it is worse to have a bad agent than no agent, because you think your agent is doing their job but they’re not.

Aside from the writer’s panel, I myself made friends with a writer on Twitter who said she did get a book published, but the sales were abysmal because the agent didn’t do the best job representing her. Her agent had a lot of stuff going on in her life and took about two years to even get this author representation. This author I know was writing vampire romance. In the year she wrote the book, vampire romance was hot. But by the time it got into the bookstores, the genre was passé. 

So long story short, if your agent is not communicating with you in a timely manner, it’s best for your career to find alternative representation.

Absolute Write has a good “Writers Beware” section. 


How to Obtain an Agent Through a Query Letter?

A query letter is a letter an author sends to a prospective agent to get that agent interested in their book.

E.C.Ambrose went into detail about what a query letter is.

Keep in mind that agents are readers first, so you want to get them excited about reading your book. You want to show them you’re capable of hooking a reader’s attention and writing something that has a beginning, middle, and end.

A query letter should answer the following questions:

  • Why are you approaching this particular agent (what is it about them that would make them a good fit for your work)?
  • What is the concept of this book?
  • How does it fit into the marketplace?
  • How is it different than the marketplace (How is it unique)?
  • Who is the main character?
  • What is the conflict?
  • What is the setting?

Example: “In 14th century England, a barber surgeon discovers he has the magic of death.” This tells you a lot about the book in one sentence.

The end of the query should explain more about you as a writer:

  • Who are you as a writer?
  • Have you gotten anything published?
  • Have you attended any workshops?
  • MFA?

ONLY Send Out a Query if Your Manuscript is COMPLETE

Lucienne Diver even said “make it a fifth draft at least.” Get multiple eyes on your work. Get beta readers. Get lots of feedback. Revise based on feedback. Provide the most polished version of your work you can provide.


Will Self Publishing Hurt Your Chances of Getting an Agent? 

This is the one million dollar question. A question I wonder a lot about myself, and that I have heard asked multiple times before.

Lucienne Diver said that there is no one path to getting published. She’s had authors who started out self-published. She also has hybrid authors. However, her biggest piece of advice is that if you are going to self-publish, make sure you do a professional job of it, because what you do leaves a track record. Get a pro to edit your work. Get a pro to make your cover. If an agent sees that you self published something full of typos that gets bad reviews, they’ll think you’re not ready to be a professional author.

LINKS

How to Get an Agent Panel Live (On YouTube)

Gen Con Writers Panel Collection (On YouTube)

Gen Con Online 2020

Lucienne Diver (Agent with The Knight Agency)

Maurice Broaddus (Fantasy and Horror Author)

Toni L. Kelner (Mystery Author)

E.C. Ambrose (Fantasy and other genres author)

Chris Bell (Panel Host and Managing Editor for Indie Press)

World Building Science Fiction – Mercury

(My sources are cited at the bottom of this article. For much of this article, I researched the content put out by Isaac Arthur, who in 2020, was named the recipient of the National Space Society’s Space Pioneer Award for Education via Mass Media)

Mercury is one of the most neglected planets in Science Fiction. Mars or Venus are usually the sites for fictional colonization. One might think Mercury’s close proximity to the sun and its lacking atmosphere would make it a dud.

But there are actually several reasons why an airless ball of silicon and metal next to the sun could have potential.

Below I will include resources that could be helpful to science fiction writers.

Since people don’t commonly write about Mercury, it would be a great way to come up with something unique that would make their work stand out.


MERCURY’S LONG TERM POTENTIAL AS A DYSON SWARM

In the long term, Mercury could be used as a building supply store to construct power collectors, and then disassembled to form the basis of a Dyson Swarm.

A Dyson Sphere is a megastructure that completely encompasses a star and captures a large percentage of its power output. The thought is that this would be how a space fairing civilization would meet its energy requirements, exceeding what could be provided by planets alone.

A Dyson Swarm is a variant that consists of a large number of independent constructs (usually solar power satellites and space habitats) orbiting in a dense formation around the star.

However, turning Mercury into such a structure would take a very long time. Longer than the longest human civilizations have existed. Human beings don’t seem capable of dedicating themselves to such a long-term endeavor, but some kind of AI-human hybrid with a super long lifespan might. So if you decide to write a story about a people turning Mercury into a Dyson Swarm, you might also want to make them into something more than human.


BENEFITS OF COLONIZING MERCURY IN THE NEAR AND MIDTERM

What about Mercury’s near term/mid-term colonization potential, in case we don’t want to wait for the time span of several civilizations for it to become useful?  What are the benefits?

Solar Energy:

The proximity to the sun presents potential for harnessing a tremendous amount of solar energy, collecting solar energy for both Mercury, and other planets in a colonized solar system. This could be achieved via orbital solar arrays, which would be able to harness energy constantly and beam it to the surface. This energy could then be beamed to other planets in the Solar System using a series of transfer stations positioned at Lagrange Points.

A Heavy Metal World: 

Like Earth, Mercury is a terrestrial planet, which means it is made up of silicate rocks and metals that are differentiated between an iron core and silicate crust and mantle. However, unlike the Earth, Mercury’s composition is 70% metal. As a result, if Mercury were to be mined, it could produce enough raw materials to supply humanity indefinitely.

Similar Gravity to Mars and a Low Escape Velocity:

The gravity on Mercury is 38% that of Earth, which is similar to what Mars experiences. This is twice the level of gravity of the moon, making Mercury easier to adjust to than the moon. The low gravity coupled with the lacking atmosphere (no air drag) also gives the planet a low escape velocity, making it easier for ships to escape Mercury, in that they’d require fewer resources to do so. This would make Mercury a great site for exporting materials, especially considering their wealth of metals. Also, it would make Mercury a great site for building ships, especially if human beings become an interstellar civilization. If stellar lasers were built near the sun, a vessel could be launched from Mercury and pushed by lasers out of the solar system. And hydrogen for fuel would certainly be plentiful given the solar winds blasting Mercury.

Proximity to Earth: 

As a resource-rich world, Mercury is closer to Earth than the Asteroid Belt or Saturn. Mercury also achieves an inferior conjunction (the point where it is at its closest point to Earth) every 116 days, which is significantly shorter than either Venus or Mars. Basically, missions destined for Mercury could launch almost every four months, whereas launch windows to Venus and Mars would have to take place every 1.6 years and 26 months, respectively.


HOW TO MAKE COLONIZATION ON MERCURY WORK?

Mobile Bases: 

Mercury is the closest planet to the sun. Therefore, we tend to think of it as the hottest, but Venus actually beats it for peak temperature. Also, what many people don’t expect is that Mercury can get very cold. Mercury gets downright cold at night, unlike Venus, since it has no atmosphere, just a thin haze of mostly hydrogen and helium from the captured solar wind.

One way to avoid getting too hot or too cold is to set up mobile bases. These mobile bases would chase terminator, so Mercurians can get some solar power, but to where it hadn’t heated around or cooled down that much.

People would set up their camps where it’s cool and move on when the light and heat are too much. They would drive ahead to someplace that’s cold. But not so cold that they couldn’t work there. This would be good for mining.

An example of this in science fiction is what people did in Dune when they were avoiding giant sandworms while harvesting the Spice Melange.

People living in mobile bases would need to set up backup vehicles and engines in case one died. And they could use the extra energy from these backup vehicles while moving in order to power smelters and refineries.

Heating things up on Mercury to smelt them wouldn’t be too hard. A solar oven would work quite well because of the proximity to the sun and the fact that there are are no clouds in the atmosphere.

Mercury’s night side is also a good place to get rid of heat—something hard to find anywhere else near the sun. If one is generating a lot of heat, they can only get rid of that by radiating it away.

Down on Mercury’s light side, people could use conduction too, so they might have mobile factories at work, not just mining and refining operations.

The Great Flat Track of Mercury:

China has the Great Wall. Mercury might have the Great Flat Track.

As I mentioned earlier, getting what you want off of Mercury wouldn’t be that hard. The planet has an escape velocity of just 4.25 km/s, and an orbital velocity of just 3 km/s. It has no air. If Mercurians had a flat track from where vehicles could take off, without having to worry about air drag, leaving would be easy. However, landing would be hard. (A sort of opposite Hotel California situation, where it’s easier to leave than arrive).

Since there is no air, ships cannot aerobrake to shed velocity for free. Though one might be able to hit a very long track, very precisely and slowly shed speed off without friction, or run down a magnetic tube to let it leach off speed.

This gives Mercurians good reason to consider building a track all the way around Mercury, and it need not be at the equator either if people wanted to keep it shorter. Mercury gets hot, but is still cool enough for many metals to handle. Even steel, which is fairly mundane considering some of the materials Mercurians might use, retains its magnetic and conductive properties at those temperatures, and one thing Mercury is not lacking in is metals. Though once concern would be metal fatigue, as metals are expanding and contracting to various degrees as they run up from temperatures cold enough to liquify air to hot enough to melt lead, but this is happening once a Mercurian day, which is very, very, very long (it takes 59 Earth days to complete one rotation on its axis Universe Today). So the Flat Track would not be getting heated and cooled constantly, and even today we know a lot of tricks for various alloys and composites that would minimize metal fatigue.

The Planet Down Under:

If one digs down a little bit on Mercury, they would start to see livable human temperatures underground, once they get away from the craters and closer to the poles, and in one of the more optimistic models, even room temperature underground at the equator at 90 degrees west, which would help with the expansion and contraction fatigue and other construction problems caused by varying temperatures.

Mushroom Habitats: 

If one doesn’t want to use mobile bases or live underground, they could try mushroom habitats.

These habitats would have a retracting option, where things fold down during the night and the brighest day, and pop back up when things are more moderate.

The habitat would be built up on stilts that aren’t thermally conductive. Then one would put a big umbrella over it, covered in mirrors, to bounce light away, one that could flip open or move aside to let in however much light a person wanted. Stilts would be made of something that doesn’t conduct heat well, like the silicate beneath the ground.  Spinning habitats could use centripetal force to create Earth-like gravity in the habitat.

Water in the Poles: 

There could be some water at some of the craters near Mercury’s poles. Wires underground could bring the water to people.

Making Mercury Earth-like: 

One doesn’t have to make a planet like Earth, if they want to live there.

But if people did want to make Mercury Earth-like, massive mirrors and shades in orbit could help cool down the planet. Mercury is massive enough to hold a breathable atmosphere. People could also collect solar wind from the sun, rich in hydrogen and helium, things that could be sold, using a giant mirror or shade acting as a giant windmill driven by the solar wind. “Star Wheel.”


MERCURY IN SCIENCE FICTION

As I stated, Mercury isn’t mentioned frequently in Science Fiction, which is why it would be a great thing to write about. However, if you do want to read some works that mention a colonized Mercury, check out the works below.

BOOKS

2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson

The 2005 novel, by Ben Bova.

Sundiver, in David Brin’s Uplift Saga.

Singularity Trap, by Dennis E Taylor

The Sirens of Titan, by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

SHORT STORIES

Runaround, by Isaac Asimov (Short Story)

Retrograde Summer, by John Varley (Short Story)

The Coldest Place, by Larry Niven (Short Story)

“While working almost forty years” (Short Story on Fandom.com)

VIDEO GAMES

Destiny

MORE INFORMATION ON MERCURY IN FICTION

Mercury (SFF Encyclopedia)


GENERAL LINKS

Science and Futurism with Isaac Arthur

How Do We Colonize Mercury? (Universe Today)

Colonization of Mercury (Fandom)

What Would It Be Like to Live on Mercury? (Space.com)

Mercury (Wikipedia)

“Glimmers” – Humanity’s merger with AI in 500 words (flash fiction)

735114_10151507253998390_377689311_n

What happens when people merge with AI?

What would a city look like, if built by AI?

Find out by reading my flash fiction that was just published on 365tomorrows. It’s shorter than four post-it notes.

“I saw things in the night sky my neighbors did not. Glimmers of iridescent light against the backdrop of stars. I think it was because of what happened to me during the blackouts. Every time I blacked out, I woke up different somehow…

Read the rest at the site above.

If you yourself are trying to get your sci-fi flash fiction published, 365tomorrows may be worth considering.

 

Color Coding Rejection

rejectionrainbow2

happy-unicorn-rainbow

According to Huffington Post 96% of authors seeking agents are rejected. Meaning the chances of getting an agent to represent you for publishing are only 4%. And that was the data from 7 years ago. I feel like the numbers are probably worse now.

For anyone who wants to be a writer, rejection will become a regular part of your existence. Before I started submitting queries to agents I had an idea that it was hard. And at an intellectual level, I had some idea that rejection rates were over 90%. But I really had no idea how hard it was until I tried the process myself. Now a rejection rate of 96% sounds mercifully low because it feels more like 99.999999%, like 9,999 metrics tons of cold crushing “NOOOO!”

With the odds 96% against you, it can feel discouraging (discouraging seems inadequate here, a better term is ‘soul eviscerating’). I’ve even read pieces of advice that say things like, “Don’t treat it as a lotto, just improve your skills.” Yet even with a well-written book, the book still has to be a good fit for the agent in question, and it has to be something they can look at and think, “I’ll make money off of this.”

So yeah, it’s hard. Really, really, really, really hard. (I don’t have enough “really’s” here).

Yet one thing that can help is not to look at the process as a binary of “succeed/fail.”

For example, if my process was to color-code agents who accepted me as green, and those who rejected me as red, here would be my table of rejections:

AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME

That’s a whole lot of fail.

It might be better to see it as a tiered process because there are actually different levels of rejection.

Here is the hierarchy from top to bottom (best to worst) responses you can get from an agent:

  • Acceptance
  • Request for a full manuscript
  • Request for a partial sample
  • Detailed rejection letter (A detailed rejection is good because it means they were interested enough to take the time to read your work and explain what didn’t work for them).
  • Standard form letter or no response. (Put these in the same category because they’re pretty much the same).

Let’s give that hierarchy some color.

  • Acceptance 
  • Request for a full manuscript 
  • Request for a partial sample
  • Detailed rejection letter
  • Standard form letter or no response

Now let’s look at my list:

AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
AGENT FIRSTNAME LASTNAME

That’s a lot more digestible than the first chart. When I break down the numbers, that means 6% of the agents I write want the full manuscript. 10% want a partial. 16% have taken the time to write a detailed rejection. Leaving 68% in the standard form letter/no response category.

In addition to having a goal of getting accepted by an agent, I can also make a sub-goal of trying to improve my odds in the desired categories. When I started out the query process last year, 100% of the responses I got were standard form letter or just no response. Then it decreased to 90%. And so on and so forth.

Your rates may be better or worse than mine. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that maybe this can give you a new way to conceive of rejection that is less painful than the pass/fail binary so many writers like to inflict upon ourselves. And making it a goal to decrease your percentage in the standard form letter/no response category, and grow your percentage in the other categories.