Walter M. Miller, Jr.

Walter M. Miller, Jr.

In the 1950s, a story bearing the name of a brand-new author, Walter M. Miller, Jr., showed up in John Campbell’s magazine, now known as Analog. It was quite a good story and was soon followed by another written by the same hand and just as good. And then another.

They didn’t all appear in Analog. A few weren’t even science fiction, but they were coming out in considerable volume and the science-fiction world had begun to take notice that an unheralded major new writer had appeared.

At lunch one day, the man who became Miller’s principal editor, John Campbell, talked about him with mock embarrassment: “He keeps sending them in one after another,” he said, “and I just can’t stop buying them.”

They weren’t merely good, either Some among them were immediately hailed as great — A Canticle for Leibowitz, for instance. Before long it was evident that a strong new force had emerged in American science fiction, and its name was Walter Miller, Jr.

All right, friends. Now we come to the hard part, because I’m doing my best to tell the sometimes unpleasant truth. Miller wasn’t just a writer I respected He was also the man my estranged wife Judy Merril had taken up with.

At first we all acted pretty civilized about it. Then, when Judy and I got into our endless Annie Wars over the custody of that very nice little baby, Ann Pohl, that the two of us had jointly brought into the world, Miller totally took her side.

I don’t mean just in verbal encounters. I mean that once when I went to the house Miller and Judy had rented — my daughter Ann living with them because we were all trying to make a system of taking turns in having Ann live with us work — and went to their house to pick Annie up because it was my turn, the two of them refused to give her up.

What happened then was just about what you would expect to happen: disagreement, followed by yelling. But then Miller got tired of talk. He went into their bedroom, and when he came out he was carrying a rifle pointed at my face. He ordered me to leave.

I am ordinarily a person who tries to work things out, but there have been maybe half a dozen times in my adult life when I have plain blown my top. This was one of the times. I jumped him. We punched each other for a bit, then we wound up on the floor.

Who won? I don’t know. I did take his damn gun away from him, which was what I had set out to do, but he broke my glasses.


So that’s really all I can tell you about Miller and me. I called the police, but they wouldn’t intervene in a domestic dispute.

Miller and Judy broke up after a while. He went back to his Catholic church and whatever family he had left behind when he ran off with Judy. He also left the sf community forever, and wrote no more till he died in 1999. That was too bad, because he was a really good writer.

Unfortunately some of these things I am now being candid about reflect little credit on me. Some of them don’t reflect much credit on anyone else involved, either, but isn’t that what it means to be candid?

Written by Fred in 2011.

One Comment

  1. JJ Brannon says:

    Wow! That was exciting!

    The Way the Future Blogs with fists and guns a-blazing.