Unexpected Throwback!

Wow, I’ve really got something good for Throwback Thursday! A large white envelope arrived in my mailbox*, addressed to me in handwriting. My first thought was that it was yet another sheaf of papers with someone’s very earnest “Theory of Everything”, helpfully sent along for me to discover that indeed the science world has “got it totally wrong”: the universe is in fact made of (fill in the blank – let’s say parmesan cheese?) which interacts via (hungry angels tethered together by fondue strands?) and so on and so forth, and all I have to do is “work out the math for me because it is not my strong point” and it’ll all work out… “you’re welcome”.

But no, it was not. I don’t open things like this without caution, for various reasons, and often I throw them away, but there was something strangely familiar about the writing and so I took it away to (maybe) open later.

Then it struck me. It was my handwriting! Huh? How could that be? Was I writing to myself from some other time period that I was stuck in, telling myself how to build the time machine I needed to come back to get me? Was there another me somewhere writing to me to say hello and tell me something crucial? No, seriously, things like that did flit through my mind, for fractions of a second… I’m weird.

Then after some moments of puzzlement, it all came back. It was me writing to myself from another time. From 2014, to be precise. You may recall a little post I did entitled “Old School Writer” where I talked about the process of actually going to the post office with my book proposal, samples, and self-addressed envelopes (SAEs), and mailing them out (as hail-Mary’s) to a few publishers. This was part of my process of looking for publishers for the very unusual book project which was/is my graphic book on science. That year was a challenging one with regards the search for a publisher who both understood what I was doing and was also bold enough to take it on.

Well, over three years later, after I’d totally forgotten about all that, a reply has come from one of the publishers. Opening it revealed a form-letter of rejection of course, including some advice: (paraphrasing) Dude, get an agent if you want to talk to us. An examination of the contents shows that it is highly likely that nobody actually looked over the materials. Three years!

Somehow this all vaguely reminds me a bit of the very last page of Watchmen. A manuscript sitting in a random pile of forgotten/ignored submissions. Remember that? (Don’t be confused by the date on the stamp. That is what I purchased and put on the SAE when I posted everything on May 8th 2014)

Anyway, this is all so very familiar, and (since the book is done and being published by MIT Press in a little over a month (go look!)) I’m pleased to be able to add this nugget of nonsense to the collection of baubles that make me feel like I’m a member of the community of people who call themselves “writer”.


*A few weeks ago… I’ve been a bit busy and have not done the post until now.

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3 Responses to Unexpected Throwback!

  1. Mark Peifer says:

    That is a totally awesome ending–a bit like getting a rejection letter from an academic job just after you get tenure somewhere else 🙂

  2. Dennis says:

    What do you do these days now that string theory has hit a dead end and nothing is coming in from the LHC?

  3. Clifford says:

    Hi! I’m not aware of a dead end at all. There are so many exciting things
    to explore in the subject. I’ve been thinking a lot about the thermodynamics of black holes in recent times, and what it might teach us about various corners of physics, including perhaps aspects of string theory. Thanks for asking!