Sub-editing and the Lost Art of Rejection

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- or -

A brief, incomplete and possibly allegorical account of the early days of h2g2 Sub-editing and the dickensian life of an h2g2 Sub-editor

Dear Reader,

What follows is a profile of h2g2 history cut with a plastic spade into the sands of time, each layer representing (well, hopefully) something cleverly metaphorical about whelks, for example, and the evolution of the h2g2 community from the early days of just after the beginning to a point that was really not that long ago.

Some Stuff about Sand

The point is, you see, that there was a time long ago when Researchers submitted Entries 'For Rejection' by the people who made h2g2 and made sure that it functioned properly. Researchers in those days were quite happy to have things officially rejected because it was understood that no sane person or small group of sane persons would willingly undertake the task of editing anything but a tiny fraction of the enormous amount of stuff that, it was assumed, must be piling up as a result of h2g2's entirely justifiable popularity.

There was even a button to press:

Submit for Rejection

... or something like that.

Soon there was so much stuff to reject that it became obvious that something relatively revolutionary had to be done in order to cope to some extent with the backlog. Hence, were born unto this world creatures known as h2g2 Sub-editors.

Now, to get back to the clever thing about 'the sands of time', Skegness and the evolution of the h2g2 community, it must be understood that you, dear reader, are receding into time rather like a clam, let's say, the further down the page you scroll. That is to say, the next bit, which refers to a time 'since this introduction was written', is actually referring to something buried even further (and deeper, remember) down the page, and not to this introduction at all.



[Evolution has advanced considerably since this introduction was written. Some of you, as a result, may not have much idea what this is about. Suffice to say that things used to be different when the h2g2 world was smaller and populated mainly by simpler organisms. Have fun!]

And Deeper

These are a few of the many, many rejection comments that I have had to write. Some of them are far longer than the submissions I have had to reject. Some are more thoroughly researched.

Sadly, the golden age of rejection is now over. In the new world order every Entry is supposed to be a good one and a Sub-editor has merely to grit his or her teeth, hold his or her nose and get on with the job of trying to make sense of it.

I tried to offer something constructive to people who made an honest effort to achieve official acceptance of their work. Of course whether or not anybody actually read my comments I had no way of knowing. The comments I present for your amusement here were addressed to those Researchers whose effort was either less than honest or entirely misdirected. Enjoy!


  • The chief virtue of this entry is that it validates the Peer Review system1. On the other hand, it fails to identify the group of sheep who are responsible for solving the meaning of human existence, and who mysteriously dress alike; nor does it explain who the 'Dirty men' are who have sex with those sheep, why, or why it is well that you are not involved. Lastly, it fails to identify Steve's role in either the solving of the meaning of human existence or the sex. Baa...

  • This is a good start but it is a little too skeletal... It's a pretty good skeleton, though. You could hang plenty of good meat on these
    bones. Write in some more flesh and we'll have something we can really sink our teeth into.

  • This is a very amusing submission but, sadly, it must be rejected until such time as there is a large enough body of Bungee Climbing enthusiasts to warrant its inclusion in the Guide.

  • This is quite amusing but it is not a very informative description of life on earth. I suggest that, although 'The Grand Unified Theory Of Stupidity' may address such everyday occurrences as the creation, editing and inevitable rejection of Entries describing exotic theories about life, there are probably much easier, and therefore more useful, ways for people to explain such phenomena.

  • This is a very amusing submission but it does not conclusively prove the non-existence of Santa Claus, merely that he must use some means other than reindeers to distribute toys.

  • You may be surprised to learn that most Researchers will already be familiar with this description of Earth, which, by a staggering coincidence, they will all have encountered in more or less the same way. 'Mostly Harmless' is the point of departure from which most of your fellow Researchers have sped so far and so fast that it is now rather a distant speck on the horizon of the collective imagination. On the other hand, this submission is occupying a fairly considerable amount of time that might otherwise have been spent on more original descriptions of life on our planet, such as those written by Researchers who you will probably recognise as distant specks on the horizon of the collective imagination. Why not strap on your combination thinking-cap/racing-helmet and join them?

And to the same Researcher...

  • You seem to be missing the point that the Earth Edition of the Guide2 is a repository for new and original descriptions of what life, as lived by actual human beings, is really like. Virtually all of the people who are likely to read your submissions are already familiar with Mr Adams' excellent descriptions of things like Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters and, although they present us with an infinite source of merriment, for most of us they are not a part of the genuine planet Earth experience. This brings us to the main focus of h2g2, which is to write about aspects of being alive that are meaningful to you. Your life, whatever you choose to do with it, is the one and only unique perspective from which you, and you alone, can write something of genuine interest to anyone who happens to read it. That's a fabulous advantage that ought not to be wasted.

  • This is very interesting but it does not go quite far enough in describing all that should be known about mashed potatoes. Please bear in mind that Official Entries of the Guide should be factual and so references to alien creatures should be omitted until irrefutable proof exists that there are such beings and that they do, in fact, eat mashed potatoes.

  • A simple list of ways to die would probably be long enough to occupy a reader's time until he or she died of thirst - or boredom - but very, very few people have actually died that way. Why not write about something more positive?

  • This is a very amusing submission but the web is awash with Murphy's Laws. Why not write a page on Murphy's Laws that pertains specifically to the h2g2 experience, such as 'The probability of rejection is directly proportional to time spent editing tables', for example?

  • This is an interesting submission. Unfortunately, it does not adequately describe the places and situations in which it is appropriate to use the word 'moo' in conversation. There are probably very many instances where saying 'moo' would not be a good choice at all. More research is probably required on this subject.

  • This is an interesting idea but there should be a more complete introductory paragragh. Also, some of the examples used should be
    reconsidered: calling 'American culture' an oxymoron isn't very nice.

  • This is an interesting start but it is not really very informative. Official Entries should be essentially factual. Most people would probably say that the primary function of jokes is something other than expressing hate. And the history of jokes must surely pre-date Caesar Augustus. Why not include some examples of various types of joke or describe the joke telling of some famous comedians, for example?

  • This is an amusing submission. Sadly, it must be rejected until such time as you are able to provide more data to support your Kevin Bacon Theory because Official Entries must carry the authority of indisputable fact... or nearly so.

  • This is an interesting submission. Unfortunately, cynical readers might be inclined to say that Goblins don't really exist. Why not provide more evidence that they do or describe Goblins in folklore and literature instead?

  • This is an interesting concept. Unfortunately, this submission needs to be more thoroughly researched. Many people would say that fish work particularly hard when out of water... for a while, at least.

  • The web abounds with Murphy's laws. While many may be descriptive of life in a general sense, they quite fail to describe it in a manner that is useful to the Guide, which looks most favourably on submissions that are fairly detailed accounts of particular aspects of life on planet earth. The best of them are ones written from personal experience.

  • This is a clever thing to have produced but it is not the sort of thing that should be submitted as an Official Entry, which should be factual and fairly detailed descriptions of some aspect of life on earth.

  • This is an interesting beginning but you should include some more information... Or you could consider the suppression of this text to be a part of an international UFO cover-up.

  • This is an interesting submission. Unfortunately, it must be rejected as the Guide requires a really hardcore Official Entry on back flips, packed with useful information. Also, the statement that Paris was once 'filled with banana orchards' potentially conflicts with other Entries that say it wasn't.

A Whelk

Well, not literally... not an actual whelk.

Now where were we?

This short, incomplete and rather confused history of the birth of Sub-editing in the h2g2 editorial process is meant as a bit of fun, nothing more. If any of the rejection comments listed above refer to something you may have written and cared about, please don't be offended by the callousness and brutality of the rejection. Those were, after all, cruel and brutish times, when keyboards were made out of mud and anybody wearing a rabbit skin bikini could very easily be carried off by a Pterodactyl at any moment... honestly. Just look at what happened to Raquel Welch.

Special Thanks

A word of special thanks, at least, is owed to these very nice people:

... and that extraordinary pioneering Researcher, Zach Garland, who may or may not have invented h2g2 Sub-editors, but definitely helped to set the course of Sub-editing evolution pretty much along the lines of something he almost certainly had in mind long before anybody else.

... and probably to several others who, possibly for reasons of their own or perhaps for other reasons, may or may not prefer the mouldy obscurity to which they have been consigned by this Entry to being made a part of this brief, incomplete and possibly allegorical history. Thanks anyway, whoever you are.

smiley - cheers

1This was written before the advent of the Peer Review format, when a submission only had to make sense to the person who wrote it.2... As h2g2 was then known.

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