From Morrissey to one Robert Mackie, in response to a personal ad in Sounds magazine in 1980:
Steven Morrissey 384- Kings Rd STRETFORD Manchester- M32 8GW
So nice to know there’s another soul out there, even if it is in Glasgow.
Does being Scottish bother you? Manchester is a lovely little place, if you happen to be a bedridden deaf mute.
I’m unhappy, hope you’re unhappy too.
[See the handwritten note at Letters of Note]
From Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong to a “very disturbed” mother of an 8-year-old who had been listening to the band’s fourth album, Insomniac, in 1996:
I just received your letter and this is my response.
I don’t write music for parents, grandparents, or eight year olds. I write for myself and I’ll say anything I damn well please. That’s the difference between you and me. I do what I want…. You do what you’re told.
Obviously, we’re not on the same planet, let alone the same ball park. I find people like you offensive and it “helps me” to know you wont be buying anymore of our records. Next time, I suggest you do a little research before you purchase such “rubbish” for your little boy. It might save you a few extra bucks.
Billie Joe and the rest of Green Day
P.S. You’re right about one thing… You do have a big mouth.
[See the original letter from the mother and Armstrong’s handwritten response at Letters of Note]
From famously grumpy science fiction author Harlan Ellison, to avid fan Thomas Pluck:
Dear Mr. Pluck:
All a writer has is time and a portion of talent. Answering queries from readers eats away at the former, thus disallowing full use of the latter. I continue to beseech my readers not to burden me with this sort of personal need, but every day I receive a dozen items that demand my response. Yours is one of them. My wife advises me that you are a HERC member, and thus are deserving of attention, but I cannot conceal my annoyance at having to depart from deadline work to satisfy your curiosity. Please don’t do this to me again.
[Read the rest of the letter (which is actually rather nice) at Letters of Note]
From James Thurber to a young boy asking for help on a school project in 1958:
Mr Robert Leifert New York City, New York
January 4, 1958
Since a hundred schoolchildren a year write me letters like yours—some writers get a thousand—the problem of what to do about such classroom “projects” has become a serious one for all of us. If a writer answered all of you he would get nothing else done. When I was a baby goat I had to do my own research on projects, and I enjoyed doing it. I never wrote an author for his autograph or photograph in my life. Photographs are for movie actors to send to girls. Tell your teacher I said so, and please send me her name.
One of the things that discourage us writers is the fact that 90 per cent of you children write wholly, or partly, illiterate letters, carelessly typed. You yourself write “clarr” for “class” and that’s a honey, Robert, since s is next to a, and r is on the line above. Most schoolchildren in America would do a dedication like the following (please find the mistakes in it and write to me about them):
To Miss Effa G Burns Without who’s help this book could never of been finished it, is dedicated with gartitude by it’s arthur.
Show that to your teacher and tell her to show it to her principal, and see if they can find the mistakes.
Just yesterday a letter came in from a girl your age in South Carolina asking for biographical material and photograph. That is not the kind of education they have in Russia, we are told, because it’s too much like a hobby or waste of time. What do you and your classmates want to be when you grow up—collectors? Then who is going to help keep the United States ahead of Russia in science engineering, and the arts?
Please answer this letter. If you don’t I’ll write to another pupil.
Sincerely yours, James Thurber
[via Letters of Note]
An open letter from Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee to his fans, posted on their Facebook page earlier this month:
Dear Fans, I fucking LOVE my fans! And you know this!!!… If you asked anyone that knows me really well they would tell ya the same thing…Tommy loves his fans. He lives for this shit…he eats,breaths,shits music 24/7. They’ll also probably tell ya that he’s a down to earth grateful life lovin dude and a nice guy too. What I have a problem with is… Taking pictures! I hate it! Irritates the fuck out of me when people say…you owe it to your fans, they put you where you are, etc etc! I certainly dont owe anybody anything! When I bought all my Led Zeppelin records and concert tickets I didn’t say “one day these fuckers are gonna owe me a picture” It’s the least they can do for me!…wtf people? You dont admire something so that it can give back… You just cherish it! And to those who say..you should be grateful that people wanna take your picture maybe one day they wont want it!…. That day cant come soon enough! BTW..I’m not here to take pictures with you, I’m here to entertain you!
Nobody put me where I am but ME! They may have helped inspire me with their love for what I do…but I put myself right here where I want to be with a lot of hard work, practice, talent, luck, etc. What I do owe myself and others is being THE BEST I can be! And that’s making great music, being a good man, father, lover and human being! We all owe that kinda stuff to ourselves and each other. People do we really need a silly picture?… For what bragging rights? Really?.. Who fucking cares! Someones not gonna believe you if ya dont have the proof pic?…then fuck em! I’d never go up to someone that I admired and bug them for a picture!! Why!…. I might say a quick hello…maybe a handshake?.. I dunno..it depends on the “situation”… Most people never consider the “situation”. Thats really important… Ya wouldn’t wanna handshake standing at the pisser in the mens bathroom next to me would ya?… And Yes thats happened to me too… Or when your eating a nice quite meal with your family some rude jackass comes up and asks for a picture! You cant even imagine what kinda crazy has happened to me. I understand the excitement and all but just take a second and think… Is this cool right now? Its called Consciousness; it’s the quality or state of being aware of an external object or something within oneself. Be Conscious. So like I said.. The fastest way to get me to leave is whip out a camera! Maybe just say hello and I’ll probably take ya home with me! Well I’d have to ask my girlfriend first! Hah!
Sincerely yours, The Picture Taker Hater! Tommy Lee
From Richard Herring of British comedy duo Lee and Herring, scribbled at the bottom of a kind fan letter response penned by his partner (meant in jest, of course, but rude all the same):
I have no interest in you or your life.
[See the original scribble at Letters of Note]
A rejection letter from Hunter S. Thompson in response to a submission from a young Rolling Stone fan:
[via The Huffington Post]
Robert Heinlein’s form letter for fans — more or less rude depending on which boxes he checked off, but sort of hilariously grumpy as an idea:
An ever-increasing flood of mail forced me to choose between writing letters and writing fiction. But I read each letter sent to me and check its answer.
( ) Thanks for your kind words. You have made my day brighter.
( ) You say that you have enjoyed my stories for years. Why did you wait until you disliked one story before writing to me?
( ) Renshaw: Saturday Evening Post, You’re Not As Smart As You Could Be, April 17th, 24th, and May 1st, 1948.
( ) Essay Mental Telegraphy, Mark Twain’s Works, Harper & Brothers
( ) Don’t send books to be autographed; too many have failed to reach me. Registering or insuring is no answer; the post office is a 30-mile round trip.
( ) Story ideas come from everywhere and anything & writers are self-taught. The book WRITER’S MARKET tells how to prepare manuscripts & lists markets.
( ) My agent handles all business; your letter has been sent to him.
( ) I don’t discuss my colleagues’ works or my own. A novelist writes from many viewpoints; opinions expressed even by a first-person character are not necessarily those of the author. Fiction is sold as entertainment, not as fact.
( ) The item you want is herewith/not available/: Ask your reference librarian.
( ) I don’t sell books. All my books are in print & can be bought or ordered at any bookstore or directly from publishers. Bookstores have “in-print“ lists.
( ) I get 4 or 5 or more requests each week for help in class assignments, term papers, theses, or dissertations. I can’t cope with so many & have quit trying.
( ) It is not just for a student’s grade to depend on the willingness or capacity of a stranger to help him with his homework. I am ready to discuss this with your teacher, principal, or school board.
( ) Science fiction: stories that would cease to exist if elements involving science or technology were omitted. For full discussion see my lecture in THE SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL, Advent:Publishers. Chicago.
( ) Who’s Who in America; Encyclopaedia Britannica 1974; IN SEARCH OF WONDER, chapter 7, Damon Knight, Advent:Publishers; SEEKERS OF TOMORROW, chapter 11, Sam Moskowitz, World Publishing Company; Current Biography magazine; reference books about authors. I don’t discuss private life, politics, religion, philosophy
( ) Your question: Yes/No/No comment/My publishers announce new works/
( ) Please do not write to me again.
( ) Thanks for the stamped & addressed envelope-a rare courtesy today.
( ) Pressure of work causes me to avoid interviews, questionnaires, radio & television appearances, public speaking.
( ) For legal reasons I do not read unpublished manuscripts.
( ) Don’t plan to call at our home; we work very long hours every day of the year.
( ) Your letter was most welcome!—loaded with friendliness and with no requests or demands. You suggested that no answer was expected but I must tell you how much it pleased me. I wish you calm seas, following winds, and a happy voyage through life.
Robert A. Heinlein, by ____
[See an image of the original document at Letters of Note]