It hadn’t been a good day at the Saris Interstellar Literary Agency and now it was getting worse. None of the book proposals Jeredath Saris reviewed had the requisite literary merit; rejections of promising books had arrived from both Swanselian and Selurian publishers; and now odd, obnoxious Brodie Cullet had barged into his office at quitting time, demanding the impossible.
“I’m sorry Brodie, but I can’t represent your new novel,” Saris said politely.
“Why not?” Brodie demanded, impolitely waving several tentacles. “I spent months writing that book, and now I want to present it to the five worlds. I want you to sell it to a publisher. That’s what you do, isn’t it?”
Saris shuddered. Waving one’s tentacles in a business meeting was not done in polite Selurian society. “Brodie, I don’t think I can sell your book.”
“Why not?” Brodie demanded. “You turned two down already. This one’s better. Third time’s a charm, right?”
The book was absolutely terrible, but Selurian society demanded politeness and tact in interpersonal dealings. Saris chose his words carefully to understate reality, yet get his point across. “The ‘rogue space ship saves the world’ concept isn’t strong and has been overdone recently; your plot is a bit thin and meanders somewhat; some of the characters are rather wooden and one-dimensional, especially your protagonist; the prose could be better and the book has quite a few grammatical errors.”
“Did you read the whole thing? I bet you didn’t read it all did you?”
“I didn’t have to. A couple chapters were enough.”
“But you didn’t give it a chance. What’s a few grammatical errors? You didn’t give me a chance. The book will grow on you, I know it will. I spent months working on it,” Brodie pleaded.
Saris took a deep breath, sat back and changed his skin color from polite light green to no-nonsense light red hoping Brodie would get the hint that the conversation was over.
Ignoring the hint, Brodie stood up, turned his skin bright purple, and slammed a tentacle on the desk. “You didn’t give my book a fair chance! I demand you give me an opportunity to be published! If you’re any kind of decent literary agent you can sell this book!”
Saris realized that Selurian politeness and tact weren’t going to work with Brodie. Difficult as it may be, he had to be blunt. He stood up, eye-to-eye-to-eye with his erstwhile client, skin a deep red. “Look Brodie, I tried to let you down easy, but you’re not listening. The concept is weak, the plot meanders all over the place, the characters are poorly drawn, the prose is terrible and every page is full of grammatical errors.”
Brodie’s color faded to a light pink.
“Speaking frankly, Brodie, the book is drivel. Other books you’ve sent in here have been drivel, but this book is the driviliest of them all. It’s not saleable. Nobody’s going to publish this. Ever! Not here, not on any of the five worlds I deal with. And furthermore, nobody submits paper manuscripts.” Saris pushed Brodie’s manuscript across his imported Swanselian mahogany desk.
Stunned, Brodie clutched the manuscript to his chest and lurched out of the office without speaking, locomotive tentacles dragging, skin a dull gray. He rode the subway home in despondent silence. He dumped his manuscript on the table, poured himself a large glass of green Cleotian brandy from the sideboard, slugged it in one shot, then threw the glass across the room and drained the bottle. He stood looking out the window for a few moments as the fiery liquid raced through and numbed his system.
He staggered back to the table on unsteady tentacles and dropped into a seat. “Drivel. He called my science fiction novels drivel? I’ve gone from the depths of the Swanselian sewers to…to the heights of the Cleotian ice worlds. Created colorful characters he called one-dimensional and wooden. Crafted plots that have gone nowhere–maybe. Written halfway decent, if grammatically weak, prose. Maybe? But drivel?”
Brodie sat despondently at the table for the rest of the evening, head in tentacles. His dreams of a writing career had evaporated. He wanted to cry, but couldn’t.
Finally, he heard contented clucking from the next room as Loris, his pet Cleotian ostrich, announced she’d just laid an egg.
Brightening a little, Brodie gathered the egg, picked up the rejected manuscript and lurched into the kitchen. Pulling a frying pan from under the counter, he lit the stove, then cracked the egg into the pan. Tearing the manuscript in half, he poured some of the drivel into the pan. After all, Cleotian ostrich eggs cook best in fresh drivel.