Ursula K. Le Guin: A Rejection Letter
  • Ursula K. Le Guin is an American writer of novels, poetry, essays, short stories, and children’s books. She’s most famous for her science fiction books, which are largely concerned with anthropological and psychological themes, and of those science fiction books, one of her most popular and most durable is The Left Hand of Darkness, written in 1969 and winner of the 1969 Nebula Award for Best Novel and 1970 Hugo Award.

    Before that book was accepted for publication, however, The Left Hand of Darkness was rejected by several publishers, and Ursula Le Guin has posted one of those rejections on her website. It’s well worth reading, and I reprint it in full here [note: Miss Kidd was Ursula Le Guin’s literary agent]:

    Dear Miss Kidd,

    Ursula K. Le Guin writes extremely well, but I’m sorry to have to say that on the basis of that one highly distinguishing quality alone I cannot make you an offer for the novel. The book is so endlessly complicated by details of reference and information, the interim legends become so much of a nuisance despite their relevance, that the very action of the story seems to be to become hopelessly bogged down and the book, eventually, unreadable. The whole is so dry and airless, so lacking in pace, that whatever drama and excitement the novel might have had is entirely dissipated by what does seem, a great deal of the time, to be extraneous material. My thanks nonetheless for having thought of us. The manuscript of The Left Hand of Darkness is returned herewith. Yours sincerely,

    The Editor

    21 June, 1968


About The Author

The sawed-off shotgun of literary pulp.

2 Responses and Counting...

  • Rejection letters always hold a lesson. In this case, everyone’s taste is not the same. Dust off and continue the process.

  • “Everyone’s taste is not the same.” I completely agree with that.

    As a matter of fact, that principle has been coming up a lot lately, more than usual. I’m not sure why so much all of a sudden, but I’ve been getting glutted by people — editors, mostly — who want to legislate taste. It drives me crazy.

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