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I am looking for a particular short story consisting entirely of rejection letter correspondence. Each formally dated paragraph is from either the aspiring writer or the publisher's rejection.

The story ends with the aspiring writer compiling all the rejections into a single volume and submitting that volume itself as a work. The publisher replies that that too has been rejected as unoriginal....

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  • 1
    Is this the story where there's a clone or time traveler copy of the protagonist who's writing all the stuff first? Nov 19, 2020 at 1:47
  • 3
    Does this answer your question? Story about plagiarism by means of time machine. If so, please accept @Buzz's answer.
    – Spencer
    Nov 19, 2020 at 17:22
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    I was going to post a comment in the form of one of the rejection letters from the story, but wasn't sure how it would be received.
    – Spencer
    Nov 19, 2020 at 17:26
  • 4
    @Spencer please don’t vote to close as a duplicate unless both questions have a confirmed answer of the same work.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Nov 19, 2020 at 18:22
  • 3
    @Spencer best not to vote to close until something is ready to be closed. Otherwise it just wastes reviewers time and can accidentally cause a question to be closed when it shouldn’t be causing more work for everyone. You can always just link the dupe in a comment for future use without actually voting to close.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Nov 19, 2020 at 23:00

1 Answer 1

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This is "Who's Cribbing?" by Jack Lewis. It appeared in Fifty Short Science Fiction Tales, so that's the most likely place you might have read it. It consists of fictional correspondence between Lewis himself and various science fiction magazine editors. Every story that Lewis submits turns out to have been previously published by an early twentieth-century author and engineer named Todd Thromberry. For example, one letter is

April 2, 1952

Mr. Jack Lewis
90-26 219 St.
Queens Village, N.Y.

Dear Mr. Lewis:

We are returning your manuscript "The Ninth Dimension." At first glance, I had figured it a story well worthy of publication. Why wouldn't I? So did the editors of Comic Tales back in 1934 when the story was first published.

As you no doubt know, it was the great Todd Thromberry who wrote the story you tried to pass off on us as an original. Let me give you a word of caution concerning the penalties resulting from plagiarism.

Sincerely,

Doyle P. Gates
Science Fiction Editor
Deep Space Magazine

Eventually, Lewis comes to the conclusion that Thromberry figured out how to spy through time, and passed off Lewis's fiction as his own. He collects his submission and rejection letters as a work unto itself (the story "Who's Cribbing?" itself) and submits it, but he is informed that, ironically enough, Thromberry had already used the idea.

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    Maybe the last paragraph should be marked as a spoiler?
    – Barmar
    Nov 19, 2020 at 16:29
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    @Barmar It's predictable enough, so not much is spoiled.
    – Spencer
    Nov 19, 2020 at 17:17
  • A similar story is "Hindsight" by Harry Turtledove. This one isn't told via correspondence but with the plagiarized author seeking out the plagiarizer. It is collected in the 3xT compilation book.
    – Erik Allen
    Nov 20, 2020 at 1:11

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