Along the way, Robert Heinlein and I had got to be pretty good friends. We shared some minor vices, for example in those days smoking the same brand of cigarettes (cork-tipped Raleighs, and we both saved the coupons that came with every pack), and we both abhorred each other’s political views but had some good times arguing about them. We didn’t get together very often because the Heinleins were West Coasters and I was resolutely East, but every now and then our paths would cross.
When the Heinleins came to New York, they preferred to stay in a mall but spiffy hotel somewhere near Tudor City, and on occasion asked me over for an evening of smoking, drinking and amiably criticizing each other’s world views. (Well, usually it was amiable.) And there were evenings I remember at places like Tulsa and Grand Rapids and that wonderful circular house that the Heinleins built on a gorgeous, if rattlesnake-infested, piece of California land when Ginny’s health no longer let her live halfway up a Colorado mountain. Now and then, though, a shadow did fall.
One of the darkest of them happened when I published a Heinlein serial — I am embarrassed to say I have forgotten which one, but it may have been the one about the future in which Africans have become the dominant gens in the world. After I had read it, I phoned Lurton Blassingame, then Robert’s literary agent, and said I would be glad to publish the story but thought there were five or ten thousand words in the beginning that were argumentative, extraneous and kind of boring, and I wanted permission to cut them out. (But, I promised, we would pay for even the words I wanted to cut.)
“Sure, go ahead,” said Lurton, and I did. But Lurton hadn’t consulted with Robert Heinlein and when Robert got the issue containing the first installment he went ballistic. When I told him that I had asked for, and received, permission he transferred his ire to Lurton … but not quite entirely, because when the book version came out Robert appended to the copyright notice a line that said something like “An unapproved version of this work, brutally corrupted by Fred Pohl, appeared in his magazine If.”
(Well, I think that’s what it said, but I no longer have the book. As I mentioned earlier, these reminiscences are first draft, which means right off the top of my head, and I may get some details wrong which will be corrected when I ultimately publish them in a book. For which reason, if any of you out there can tell me which Heinlein novel it was and exactly what he said in the copyright notice, I will be grateful.)
More Heinlein to come. . . .