“The New Late Works of Mozart” Annual 2
David Larsen received his first rejection letter from a publisher when he was eleven years old. The story the publisher was declining to publish – they were very polite about it – was about time travel, though only a little bit. What it was really about was a boy called David travelling into the future and becoming the hero of an adventure story curiously identical to one written by a man called Robert A. Heinlein. Robert A. Heinlein was at that time David Larsen’s second-favourite writer (after J. R. R. Tolkien). Perhaps this was just a coincidence, or perhaps David Larsen accidentally invented fan fiction. Fan fiction is taking other people’s work and playing with it in your own stories, and it’s a lot of fun. If you publish it, it is also a violation of copyright, which David Larsen, at eleven, did not know. David Larsen has learnt to think of his first rejection letter as one of the luckier things that has happened to him. His second, third, and fourth rejection letters he remembers less fondly. He is pleased he didn’t get another one from Annual 2.
Things I read when I was eleven: superhero comics. Really bad ones. Asterix. Tintin. Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea books, which I still love. (I love everything she writes.) Carl Barks’s Scrooge McDuck comics. Robert A. Heinlein’s “juvenile” books (what children’s books were sometimes called in America in the 1950s, which fortunately I did not know), especially Citizen of the Galaxy, The Star Beast, and Farmer in the Sky. Everything by Tolkien. Any science fiction or fantasy I could find. There’s a wonderful book called Among Others, by Jo Walton, about a thirteen-year-old girl who loves to read. She’s also a witch caught up in a strange kind of hidden war with other, older witches, and the book is partly about that, but what it’s really about is reading science fiction – the way books can open up worlds that you can go into for joy, for relief, to hide, to grieve … It’s set in 1979, the year I was thirteen – Jo Walton and I are the exact same age – and a lot of the books mentioned in it are ones I read that year or a little earlier or a little later. If you want a strange, beautiful, unlikely book that also happens to be a long list of other books worth reading, go find Among Others.