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10 hurdles my submission could fail at

Those hurdles ahead of me look awfully big.

All these hurdles

All these hurdles to overcome… (Image cobbled together from free bits’n’pieces.)

I know at some intellectual level that my chances of overcoming them are almost infinitesimally small. But… some people do make it, right? So it’s gotta be possible.

So you think you can write?

Granted, I could be one of those self-deluded people who go on some gameshow or public contest, actually believing they have what it takes and will blow everyone away with their awesome talent that’s been simmering inside them all these years… only to make a complete fool of themselves and discover in the most embarrassing way that they’ve become the laughing stock of everyone.

I choose not to believe that of myself. I refuse to believe that my awesome beta readers and my close friends and relatives who’ve read my work were just “being nice” to me or couldn’t bring themselves to tell me the truth.

My toolbox

I’ve drawn up my battle plan. I’ve done my research. I know which agents I want to query first. Only two agencies here in Australia actually accept submissions for epic fantasy, and that’s only via snail mail – I’ve kept the printer busy lately – another accepts only a short pitch with synopsis, but without sample chapters, and two more are maybes that aren’t exactly clear on their website about what they do or don’t accept. I’ve found a few more agencies in the U.K. that sound good; for now, I won’t be submitting to U.S. agencies, mainly because I’m not sure whether I’d need to go through my manuscript and change things like “colour” to “color”, and Australian “-ise” endings to “-ize”, and “talk/speak to” to “talk/speak with“, and so forth. I have no idea whether they might think I just can’t spell or realise (ahem, realize) that that’s just how some people spell things in other parts of the world.

I’ve registered on Query Tracker, and checked Preditors & Editors to make sure I’m not submitting to the wrong sort of agents. I’ve done research on them to pick those who have published authors in my genre before with respectable publishers.

My query letter has been written, edited, thrown away and re-written more times than I can remember. The same goes for my synopsis. But… I think I’m as ready as I’m going to be.

Let me count the hurdles… 1001… 1002…

If I start to calculate the odds of finding an agent and a publisher (let’s say each agency gets 50 submissions per day, 6 days per week, maybe accepts two new clients per year… ouch!) I’ll just go insane and give up. But if I make the bold assumption that I’m actually good enough to be published – just for the sake of argument (and my sanity) – then… what hurdles are left, i.e. what might still go wrong?

  1. The submission might not even get there. Lost in the (snail) mail, an accidentally deleted email or a server crash, and I’ve lost before I’ve had a chance. Not getting a response is essentially a rejection, and as far as I can tell, following up or (God forbid) asking for reasons, is a big No-No. Can’t be helped; out of my hands.
  2. They might not like my cover letter (which some people call query, though I’ve also seen that word used to describe the whole submission). I’ve studied several “successful queries” and have tried to learn from them, about being succinct, polite, and professional, to minimise the chance of that happening. That’s all I can do, I think.
  3. They might consider my word count to be too high. At about 130k, my word count is a vast improvement over my first attempt a couple of years ago (where I stopped sending out submissions after realising that rejections were coming back less than 24 hours after I’d submitted, from agencies saying they’d take 8-10 weeks to respond, and figuring out that my 185k word count was just too ginormous for agents to want to take a chance with an unpublished author), but still somewhat on the high side. (Hey, it’s called epic fantasy for a reason, dammit!) Too bad I won’t get the chance to argue that point, and bring up all the wonderful, successful, oversize books from first-time authors.
  4. They might not like the title. With agencies receiving such a staggering number of submissions, from what I’ve read, any reason will do to reduce the size of the slush pile, even if it’s something that can be changed quite trivially. Nothing I can do about it.
  5. They might not believe the author is marketable. Even if the product (the book) is considered marketable, in this day and age, authors need to be prepared to do more than just write. Media obligations, promotions, and that sort of thing, they all come later, and you can’t really tell from a submission whether the author has what it takes. But the thing they can assess is the author’s social media presence. Can they interact with their fans (once they have some), do they have a platform on which to promote their work, are they tech-savvy enough to use Twitter, Facebook, and whatnot? I think I’m actually doing ok on that one. My blog and social media accounts are purely for my “writing persona”, separate from my private life, but I think that’s ok. I have them, and I’m not afraid to use them.
  6. I might accidentally hit the pet-peeve-nerve of someone. I blame the many, many bad writers over the years for that one. They submitted their below-par work, and made the agent to whom I now want to submit not just dislike but actively hate a certain phrase or habit to a point where they’re not just against its overuse but against it appearing anywhere, ever (adverbs, anyone?). The turkey city lexicon is, to some extent, based on some of these pet peeves. Beyond what I’ve tried to do already, I can’t do much more about that one.
  7. The right person might not get to read it. By necessity, agencies can’t possibly completely read through every sample chapter of every submission and need to have ways of reducing the pile. For a submission to make it through to an offer of representation, it needs to be read and liked by a chain of people. The agents who have authority to actually make such an offer, especially in larger agencies, won’t read material unless it’s passed through the ranks of “readers” or junior agents. If anyone in that chain doesn’t like it (even though someone higher up might have), it gets rejected. Again, out of my control.
  8. The agent or reader might just not be in the right mood. Quite possible that a submission can get rejected on one day but would’ve been accepted on another day. Maybe the one they read just before was extremely bad (or extremely good), or reminded them of something, and their mind isn’t completely on what they’re reading now. Maybe it’s just before lunchtime, or they’re about to go home. Not sure how realistic this one is, hopefully it doesn’t happen often, but who knows? Beyond my control.
  9. They might not believe the story will sell. That one is such a subjective point that I would have to admit that they could be right. I’d disagree completely, of course, but I don’t have the experience in the publishing world to be able to claim I know better than… well, anyone else. I can only go by my experience as a reader, what I’d like to read, what I would buy in the bookstore. I’ll have to grind my teeth and concede, “Fair enough.”
  10. They might like it, but happen to know that the publishers they’re in contact with aren’t looking for that sort of thing right now. Ouch. But possible. The market is a fickle thing, and different things sell or don’t sell at different times, based on the whims of… who knows? That one would probably hurt the most, falling at the last hurdle.

Scary, isn’t it? I’m sure there are others I haven’t even considered, these are just the top 10 that come to mind.

Seems very unfair, seen from the angle of the authors submitting their work. Also… necessary, I suppose, seen from the agency’s point of view. They have to get through all those submissions somehow. I get that. I do.

The thing that’s hard to take is that I could fail at pretty much any of these hurdles with any given agent, and I’ll never know what it was that I should’ve done better.

So should I give up?

If everyone stopped just because the odds are daunting, humanity wouldn’t achieve much at all.

Let’s do this!

My submissions will start going out before the end of the week.

Wish me luck… (*swallows audibly*).

Battle Plan

It’s been a long, hard road (ok, more long than hard – hey, stop giggling, that wasn’t a euphemism – because although it took way over a decade, I really enjoyed the journey), and I’m about to reach the final phase. I’m dreading it, because I know it won’t be as much fun as writing and even editing was. Hence I’d better prepare my “battle plan”.

Battle plan

(I cannot confirm or deny my plans for ultimate world domination at this stage. Image from Wikimedia Commons.)

TickDONE

  • build an elaborate fantasy world in my head, with its own history, races, rules, evolution, customs, races, and coherent systems of magic
  • think up a great, engaging story with interesting characters
  • make many pages worth of background notes
  • create timelines, maps, and drawings of settings (for my own benefit)
  • experiment with blurbs and synopses
  • finish writing the first draft of the first book in an epic fantasy story
  • proofread, make corrections
  • rinse and repeat proofreading-and-correction phase (many, many times…)
  • send my story off to beta readers
  • await feedback from said beta readers

HourglassIN PROGRESS

  • encorporate feedback into manuscript
  • start giving up hope about it all being one huge elaborate prank on the rest of the world and start wondering how THAT many people can be THAT dense to want to make such a buffoon their leader next year
  • ponder why Leo finally won an Oscar for portraying such a one-dimensional character in an emotionally dull film (wanting to survive isn’t an emotion), and why a film whose premise seems so far-fetched to me could collect so many rewards
  • carefully read the whole manuscript out loud, making final corrections
  • keep editing my blurbs and synopses, and finally settle on one of them

ChecklistTODO

  • research agents who accept fantasy submissions in Australia, and possibly UK and US
  • research publishers who accept fantasy submissions (update my old research)
  • begin the agonisingly long process of submitting to literary agents and possibly (traditional) publishers, waiting to get rejection letters and praying that the right person in the right mood who can make important decisions gets their hands on my manuscript and decides to give me a chance…
  • if above fails (too many rejections to bear), consider approaching the relatively small Australian publishing house which, years ago, gave me feedback that encouraged me to continue writing: “… as a new writer he clearly has a wide knowledge of the genre and displays a fluency with its style, plot and character conventions… would be interested to see a completed manuscript with a view to considering it for publication.”
  • if above fails, consider publishing story on Amazon (I realise getting published – traditionally – is very ambitious and odds are against me, but, hey, I can dream, right?) and begin work on my new idea…

In the meantime, I’ll have to keep plugging away at my day job, and remember that…

No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.

– Helmuth von Moltke

Not that I’m considering agents or publishers the enemy. It feels more like I’ll be at war with chance itself. So maybe this one:

Cry ‘Havoc!’, and let slip the dogs of war.

– Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

Thank you, Robin Hobb!

Following on from my post that Robin Hobb is in town, I actually went down to the event yesterday, stood in line to get in for way too long, sat around for another couple of hours waiting for her to be where she’d be signing books, stood in line again to get my turn, and then… finally met her in person.

Robin Hobb signing my books

Robin Hobb signing my books.

And it was awesome!

In case you don’t know, Robin Hobb is my favourite author. Reading her Farseer trilogy is what inspired me to begin writing. I’m not normally much of a fan of anything (at least nowhere near the extent of some of the people at the expo – wow, talk about nine kinds of crazy!), but her I had to go and see.

Robin Hobb after signing my books

Yes, she’s as nice as she looks. (The horrible quality of the picture is my fault.)

I wasn’t sure what the limit was for number of books she’d sign, so I brought two bags of books, agonising over which ones I’d leave at home, because I knew I’d kick myself if she was going to sign them all and I’d only brought one or two.

My Robin Hobb books

No, I didn’t take ALL those books to be signed. (But almost – my shoulders are still aching from carrying them all day!)

Signatures galore

Turns out, the limit was three, but luckily, I’d brought along my minion daughter, so between us, we got six of them signed.

Assassin's Apprentice Signature

My signed copy of Assassin’s Apprentice

Blood of Dragons signature

Robin Hobb’s signature on my copy of Blood of Dragons

Fool's Fate Signature

My copy of Fool’s Fate, now signed by Robin Hobb

I must admit I was slightly nervous just before it was my turn to meet her, but she was so down-to-earth and approachable that I found myself relaxing and thanked her for inspiring me to write. With a smile, she asked me how that was going, and I told her that I’d had a short story published but was currently working on the first part of my fantasy trilogy. She was friendly, natural, and encouraging, and seemed like a great person; I wish we’d had more time to chat, but of course I didn’t want to impose (I’m sure she gets enough craziness when she attends those types of events. I know many people say things like “it’s been an absolute pleasure meeting you” without really meaning it, but in this case, it was completely sincere.

Jo Spurrier

While I was there, I also purchased the third book of Jo Spurrier’s Children of the Black Sun trilogy, North Star Guide Me Home and had it signed by Jo Spurrier, who was also amazingly nice.

Jo Spurrier's signature

Jo Spurrier signed my new copy of her latest book

Queues

A staggering number of people lined up to pay stars and starlets between $20 and $50 per signature, and even more for pictures with them. Lots of people attended the cosplay part of the Supanova event, which I have to say didn’t appeal to me at all, but to each their own I suppose.

Celeb queues

People queuing up to see (or be seen with, or photographed with, or have something signed by) celebrities like Ming-Na Wen

More celebrity queues

More celebrity queues… George Lazenby, Richard Kiel, and so on.

Fitz and the Fool

So altogether a great day despite all the waiting and standing in line. I cannot begin to express how much I’m looking forward to reading Robin Hobb’s new book, Fool’s Assassin, due out in August, when Fitz and the Fool make a welcome return to my imagination.

Oh, and I told Robin Hobb that I was hoping that she wouldn’t reveal the Fool’s gender in the new books. In her typical way, her reply was simply, “Well, if he doesn’t tell me…”

So, from me, a heartfelt “Thank you!” to Robin Hobb.

Robin Hobb is in town!

First, apologies for not blogging for a while – I could say it was all because I was too busy (which I was), but there may well have been an element of laziness involved as well.

The big news for me is that my favourite author, Robin Hobb, is in Perth, Western Australia, this weekend at the Perth Convention & Exhibition Centre, as part of an event hosted by Supanova, the “Pop Culture Expo”. She appeared in Sydney last weekend and will actually be in my town for the next couple of days!

From the official guest page:

Robin will conduct a general admission Q&A each weekend, and participate in signing sessions on Friday in Sydney (2pm to 6pm), and throughout each Saturday (10.30am to 5.30pm) and Sunday (11am to 5pm) in both cities.

I’ve been in awe of her ability to tell wonderfully intricate stories for many years and am very much looking forward to meeting her in person (nearly as much as I’m looking forward to reading her next book). This is not something I would normally do, and none of the other celebrities that will be at this event would get me excited enough to go see them in person. But Robin Hobb has been my main inspiration to start writing myself, and I can’t not go and see her. I’ll do my best not to gush and stammer like a star-struck imbecile, but can’t really make any promises. Of course I’m going to take along my favourite books and will hopefully get some of them signed.

Also attending the event will be Jo Spurrier, whose third book in the excellent Children of the Black Sun trilogy I have yet to read (I might buy it there if I can), as well as several other authors.

Have you ever met a “celebrity” in person, or even Robin Hobb herself? If so, was it what you expected and would you recommend it (not that you could change my mind!)? If not, was it due to a lack of opportunity or because you didn’t want to destroy your image of that person? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Xanth – A to Z: X

X is for Xanth, the land in which Piers Anthony’s series of fantasy novels is set. (And X is for Xanth because, well, X doesn’t give you that many options.) The books are mainly aimed at kids, but his fans include many adults who grew up reading and laughing at his puns. If there’s a pun in the English language that isn’t in one of Piers Anthony’s books, chances are, it’ll be in the next one. (No, seriously – people send Piers Anthony requests for puns to be included and he tries to fit them into his stories.)

The puns may be a bit excessive and far-fetched to some, but if you can put up with that, the books are full of humour and a lot of fun to read. I was recently very proud when my son, with whom we’ve been reading the first book, guessed the “big reveal” the first book, A Spell For Chameleon, was building up to.

Xanth, which looks suspiciously like Florida, is a land in which there are many species of (often pun-related) creatures as well as your typical fantasy creatures and, of course, humans. Humans in Xanth all have a unique magical talent – that is, if they don’t, they’re exiled from Xanth (into Mundania, which looks suspiciously like our normal world where magic doesn’t exist). These talents can range from the boring and mainly useless make-a-spot-on-a-wall variety to full-blown Magician-calibre talents, which are required for anyone serving as king or queen.

Books set in The Magic of Xanth usually follow the adventures of a member of the “royal family” or someone with a Magician-calibre talent, quite often being below the age of 18 and thus not yet having joined the Adult Conspiracy.

If you need something to cheer you up, or are looking for a fun introduction for kids into the fantasy genre, pick up a Piers Anthony book and enjoy.

Terry Pratchett – A to Z: T

T is for Terry Pratchett, OBE, author of the insanely funny Discworld series. Sir Terry was one of the pioneers of writing on computers and one of the first authors to have an active online presence (back in the days when “social media” meant “Usenet newsgroups”). Sadly, he suffers from early-onset Alzheimer’s, but is still able to write using voice recognition software or by dictation. Hopefully, he will continue to amuse the world with his unique blend of fantasy and comedy for a long time to come.

I read The Colour of Magic a very long time ago, but still remember giggling like a school girl at some of the jokes. I still haven’t read all of the Discworld books, but some of my other favourites are Mort (Death is one of my favourite characters), Eric, Hogfather, Night Watch, and Going Postal.

My apologies, I could and probably should go on writing a bit more about this great author who deserves better than one of my shortest posts ever, but I’m battling a cold and will have to call it a night here. Good luck to anyone still doing the A to Z Challenge!

Stephenie Meyer – A to Z: S

S is for Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight series that has sold over 100 million copies of the four books, Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn. The series has also been turned into a successful movie franchise.

I first read Twilight when my then-pre-teen daughter talked about it and I found out it had been “banned” at her primary school. I asked her to wait until I’d read it, and, instead of finding anything that made it worth banning, I have to say I quite enjoyed it. I’m pretty sure I would’ve continued reading the series even if my daughter hadn’t been pushing me to “read so she could read”.

Now it could well be that this is just my mistaken impression, but it seems to me that, at some stage after her series was published and everbody had devoured her books and the movies, it suddenly became fashionable to jump on the “bash Twilight” bandwagon. I don’t know whether Stephen King’s criticism of her writing had anything to do with it or not, or maybe someone sent out a memo that I missed, but, personally, I thought it was quite a shame that everyone suddenly drank the Kool-Aid and the tone when talking about the series turned from admiring to derisive. Many of Stephen King’s stories are without doubt very entertaining, but his writing style isn’t my favourite and I disagree with much he’s said about writing, so I was very disappointed to read that particular disparaging comment about a fellow writer.

Meyer’s books were written for a young adult audience and, in my opinion, have done wonders for that genre and have helped bring that generation back to reading books. Yes, they can be a little cheesy at times, but hey, they’re written mainly for teenage kids. I enjoy reading about a character’s detailed thought processes, which Meyer writes very well. Like her, I think, I’m still young at heart enough and still remember what all those “teenagey” feelings were like. I particularly liked the switch in perspective to Jacob’s character, whose voice is quite different with a great dose of humour thrown in. It’s too bad Meyer didn’t continue with her idea of releasing books written from Edward’s perspective; I for one would have enjoyed reading more than the sample chapter(s) she made available, and for those who’ve had enough… nobody would’ve forced them to read it.

I also enjoyed reading The Host, though I thought the film version left out several important parts and seemed a bit undercooked for my taste. But that has nothing to do with Meyer’s writing, which again handles many of the more intricate plot points within the first-person storyteller’s thought processes; something that is hard to pull off as well as Meyer does and makes a film adaptation rather difficult. If you haven’t read her work, I do recommend it, but I’d also advise approaching it with an open mind.

Patrick Rothfuss – A to Z: P

P is for Patrick Rothfuss, a fantasy author who has written two of my favourite books and is currently working on the third of the series (The Kingkiller Chronicle).

Patrick Rothfuss

Patrick Rothfuss (image from Wikimedia Commons)

He looks a little like a cross between a yeti and a hobbit, or maybe between Hagrid and a garden gnome, but I mean that in the nicest way. According to his about page, his breakthrough in his attempts to sell his manuscript came when he won a writing competition by submitting a chapter of his book. (See, even those seemingly dull short story competitions can be useful!)

Book 1 of The Kingkiller Chronicle was published in 2007 and is called The Name of the Wind. Book 2, The Wise Man’s Fear, followed in 2011. Although I only came across them relatively late (reading them in 2012/2013, both are excellent reads and I can highly recommend them.

One of the little things that nag me in his books is that Rothfuss is one of those people who believes that “a couple” should no longer be followed by “of”, as you sometimes hear in spoken (mainly American) English. To me, written English shouldn’t drop the “of” and every time I read something like “a couple minutes later…” or “… gave me a couple apples” the (to me) sloppy grammar rips me out of the story enough to “break my immersion”. There are a couple of other quirks and several errors (which I can never help but notice, whether I want to or not), but mainly Rothfuss writes very well, interspersing the narrative with the occasional use of great poetry, and creating some wonderfully memorable characters (how great is Auri? Or Elodin?) along the way. The great dialogue between the characters makes the story very believable within the context of the carefully crafted fantasy world, rich with its own history and legends. The magic in his books is one of the most well-thought-out I’ve ever come across, to the point that each of the “laws” governing it make immediate sense to the reader.

What I also really like (possibly because I’m attempting to do something similar in the manuscript I’m working on, maybe I’m biased there) is the use of a “story around the story”. In it, the main character, Kvothe, is recounting tales of his life to “The Chronicler”, who writes them down over the course of three days while staying in Kvothe’s inn. Kvothe, once famous (and indeed notorious), has settled in an out-of-the-way village and is only known there as “Kote”, not wishing to reveal his true identity. Each of the books covers one day of storytelling, and the reader is left to wonder at the discrepancy between the lively younger Kvothe and the older version who seemingly wants nothing to do with his own history.

In the “story within the story”, the characters tell more stories, making it a case of “stories within the story within the story”, if you’re still following me. (Reminds me a little of Inception, where you have a dream within a dream within a dream….) I think it’s a great way to give the reader a hint of things to come without spoiling it; that is, the reader still desperately wants to know what exactly happened to get Kvothe from his younger self to his older one. Fascinatingly, the switches between the “inner” and “outer” story (in “interlude” chapters) never broke my “sense of immersion” at all.

The blurb on the first book has to be one of the best I’ve ever seen – this is how to immediately give the reader picking up your book in a book store a sense that she is holding something epic, something special:

My name is Kvothe

I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.

You may have heard of me.

With all the makings of one of the grand epic fantasy series of this century (I know it’s a bit early, but still), I am eagerly anticipating the release of the third and final book, The Doors of Stone.

The Neverending Story – A to Z: N

N is for The Neverending Story, the timeless fantasy story by Michael Ende. It was first published in the original German in 1979 and later translated into over 30 languages. Part of the story (roughly the first half) was turned into a film; Ende actually sued the filmmakers for using the book’s name without adapting all of it, but lost the lawsuit. Two more films were made, but did not follow the book too closely, only using some of its characters and drastically changing story elements. I won’t go into the films here; as an aspiring writer, the book is of much more interest to me.

The Neverending Story - Cover

The Neverending Story – Cover of my German hardback copy (sorry, caught a bit too much flash)

One of the things that makes the book unique is the lengths Ende went to in order to have the book published the way he’d imagined it. I mentioned in my A to Z Challenge post on the topic of chapters the fancy artwork (by Roswitha Quadflieg) at the start of each of the 26 chapters, where an entire page is taken up by the drop cap for each letter in the alphabet from A to Z.

The Neverending Story - Chapter 1

The Neverending Story – Chapter 1 begins with the drop cap “A”

But wait, there’s more! This fantasy story is set in both our “real” world and “Fantastica” (the original German name “Phantásien” sounds much better to me, I don’t know why but can only guess that they couldn’t use “Phantasia” for copyright reasons), and, to emphasise when the story switches from one to the other, they are actually in different colours – red for the “normal” world, and blue-green for the world inside the book which the main character reads and into which he is drawn more and more as the story progresses.

The Neverending Story - Colours

The Neverending Story – Alternating colours help the reader differentiate the two worlds in which the story takes place

There is also fancy scrollwork at the top of each numbered page and there are fancy fonts for chapter titles, including within the chapter body.

The Neverending Story - Before Chapter 1

The Neverending Story – Fancy fonts just before the start of Chapter 1

At the very beginning of the prologue, there is a mirror image of the inscription of the glass door of the antiquity store in which the story begins.

The Neverending Story - Beginning

The Neverending Story – Beginning of the prologue with mirrored writing

In short, the book itself, even ignoring the content, is a minor work of art. The story was written with children in mind (although Ende complained that he was being pidgeon-holed as a “children’s book author” while many other books received less attention), but also contains many lessons for adults. Another one I’ve added to my growing “must re-read pile”.

Marvin the Paranoid Android – A to Z: M

M is for Marvin, the Paranoid Android. If you remember my post on Douglas Adams for the A to Z Challenge on “D”, I mentioned that Marvin was worth a separate blog entry. Marvin is one of the (if not the) best characters created by Douglas Adams. Whether he’s complaining of “this terrible pain” in the diodes down his left-hand side, explaining his view of the universe to a computer (which then goes off to commit suicide), or solving all the major mathematical, physical, chemical, biological, sociological, philosophical, etymological, meteorological and psychological problems of the universe (three times), he’s always ready with a cheerful comment.

Marvin the Paranoid Android

Marvin the Paranoid Android, from the 2005 film, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” (image from Wikimedia Commons)

Based on a fellow comedy writer, Andrew Marshall, whom Adams met at Cambridge, as well as on himself, Marvin appears in various places throughout the Hitchhiker’s Guide books. In the 2005 film, Alan Rickman voiced the character to perfection.

Here are just a few wonderful comments and snippets of Marvin’s joyful existence:

“It gives me a headache just trying to think down to your level.”

“Here I am, brain the size of a planet, and they ask me to take you down to the bridge. Call that job satisfaction?”

Marvin calculated to ten significant decimal places the precise length of pause most likely to convey a general contempt for all things mattressy.

[After being left in a parking lot for 500 million years due to time travel] “The first ten million years were the worst. And the second ten million years, they were the worst, too. The third ten million years I didn’t enjoy at all. After that, I went into sort of a decline.”

“You watch this door. It’s about to open again. I can tell by the intolerable air of smugness it suddenly generates.”

“Do you want me to sit in a corner and rust, or just fall apart where I’m standing?”

“Wearily I sit here, pain and misery my only companions. Why stop now just when I’m hating it?”

“I am at a rough estimate thirty billion times more intelligent than you. Let me give you an example. Think of a number, any number.” [Zem replies, “Er, five.”] “Wrong. You see?”

In a fit of boredom (after solving the universe’s problems several times over), he decides to compose a lullaby:

Now the world has gone to bed,
Darkness won’t engulf my head,
I can see in infrared,
How I hate the night.

Now I lay me down to sleep,
Try to count electric sheep,
Sweet dream wishes you can keep,
How I hate the night.

Another one of my favourites is from The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, where Marvin is left behind (while the humans escape a tall building) to stop a “gigantic black tank”, heavily armoured and with weapons of enormous destructive power. When told that Marvin is there to stop it, the tank becomes suspicious and tries to figure out what mighty weapon Marvin is equipped with to make humans think he could stop the tank. After several wrong guesses, Marvin finally decides to tell the tank.

“You’re thinking along the wrong lines,” said Marvin. “You’re failing to take into account something fairly basic in the relationship between men and robots. […] Just think,” urged Marvin, “they left me, an ordinary, menial robot, to stop you, a gigantic heavy-duty battle machine, whilst they ran off to save themselves. What do you think they would leave me with? […] I’ll tell you what they gave me to protect myself with, shall I?”
“Yes, all right,” said the battle machine, bracing itself.
“Nothing,” said Marvin.
Nothing?” roared the battle machine.
“Nothing at all,” intoned Marvin dismally, “not an electronic sausage.”
The machine heaved about with fury.”
“Well, doesn’t that just take the biscuit!” it roared. “Nothing, eh? Just don’t think, do they?”
“And me,” said Marvin in a soft low voice, “with this terrible pain in all the diodes down my left side.”
“Hell that makes me angry,” bellowed the machine, “think I’ll smash that wall down!”
The electron ram stabbed out another searing blaze of light and took out the wall next to the machine.
“How do you think I feel?” said Marvin bitterly.
“Just ran off and left you, did they?” the machine thundered.
“Yes,” said Marvin.
“I think I’ll shoot down their bloody ceiling as well!” raged the tank.
It took out the ceiling of the bridge.
“That’s very impressive,” murmured Marvin.
“You ain’t seen nothing yet,” promised the machine, “I can take out this floor too, no trouble!”
It took out the floor, too.
“Hell’s bells!” the machine roared as it plummeted fifteen storeys and smashed itself to bits on the ground below.
“What a depressingly stupid machine,” said Marvin and trudged away.

😀

Due to several cases of time travel, Marvin finally dies in So Long and Thanks for all the Fish at approximately 37 times the age of the universe. His last words are, “I think I feel good about it.”

R.I.P. (Rust In Pieces) Marvin.

In the original radio series, the character was meant to be a “minor joke”, but since they’d hired a voice actor for it, he “had to” write some occasional script for him. Another wonderful case of a writer’s characters taking on a life of their own.