Posts tagged ‘Gardner Dozois’

I took the writers who had been getting $75 checks from Thrilling Wonder and worked with them to begin selling to Galaxy at twice the rate.

I took the writers who had been getting $75 checks from Thrilling Wonder and worked with them to begin selling to Galaxy at twice the rate.

Let’s talk for a bit about my career as an agent.

Mark Rich has a lot to say about my failings, especially my financial woes, which were considerable. A J Budrys told a funny story about them in one of the last speeches he gave, at the Heinlein Centennial, a year or two before he died. He had discovered what a great agent I was, he said, when I sold John Campbell a story of A J’s that Campbell had turned down cold before A J became my client. And then when he got my check, it bounced.

Funny story? Sadly, also a true one.

But the interesting thing there is that A J didn’t quit the agency. He remained my client until the waters finally closed over my head. And almost all of my other clients, Isaac Asimov and Hal Clement and John Wyndham and Fritz Leiber and all the other household names and the lesser names that I was bringing along gave me an amazing amount of patience, and most of them didn’t want to give up until I did.

And, most interesting of all, most of them were my good friends for the rest of my life.

Do you wonder why?

I’ll tell you why. It was because I was a hell of a good agent.

First, I took the writers who had been getting $75 checks from Thrilling Wonder and worked with them to begin selling to Galaxy at twice the rate, and then I worked with the — magazine writers to turn them into book authors, and I kept looking for new and better markets they could sell to. A few I managed to get into television deals, even into syndicated newspaper cartoon strips. Some I managed to promote from the pulps to the slicks, at many times the rate.

In short, I did everything a good agent did for his clients. (I would like to say that, even today, not all agents are quite that good.) But I did something rather more than that.

I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what made a good writer — almost any of my dozens of good writers — sometimes be productive and profitable and sometimes be unable to get anything written for days or weeks at a time. I tried several different ways of, first, encouraging the writers to write, and, second, to do so at the top of their form. I finally invented one that worked.

I made a promise to eight or ten of my best (but not always solvent) writers that any time they brought in a new story I would hand them a check for that much wordage.. My rate was low for these incentive checks, at a half cent a word, but then when the story actually sold to a publisher the writer would be credited at the publisher’s scale, not that of my advances.

As a result, if you look at the stories published in the last year or so of my agency’s existence you will find that there were a larger number than usual of really good stories by Budrys, James Blish, Damon Knight and a dozen or so other clients who took me up on that offer. It worked. It got the writers writing more, and sometimes better. It even increased my sales to those markets, a little. And if I were unfortunate enough to become an agent again, I would at once start up something like that for at least a few clients.

But it also represented one more outflow of capital, and there wasn’t enough capital left to flow. Most of my clients didn’t want to leave, but finally, I gave up and folded the agency, and started paying everybody back.

Interestingly, maybe I should say ironically, then two unexpected new lifesavers were thrown to me.

Continue reading ‘What My Clients Thought’ »

From the blog team:

Gateways, original stories inspired by Frederik Pohl, edited by Elizabeth Anne Hull

Good news, Pohl fans! Goodreads is giving away some copies of Gateways, the just-released anthology of original new stories influenced by Frederik Pohl written by some of the top sf writers in the field and edited by Fred’s wife, Elizabeth Anne Hull. The deadline for entering the contest is July 31, so sign up soon!

 
Meanwhile, Betty wrote about the book for the Tor/Forge newsletter:

To celebrate my husband’s 90th orbit of the sun, I’m proud to have persuaded eighteen of the top writers in science fiction to contribute a story, and then to write an afterword, for this special anthology. Moreover, there are nine other appreciations of Fred, and these non-fiction pieces are exciting for me and for any serious fan who wants to know more about how we got where we are today in this literary movement Trufans call SF. For example, the memoirs by Bob Silverberg, Jim Gunn, Gardner Dozois, and Harry Harrison — themselves highly influential people who helped make the genre more respectable around the world — tell as much about the field and the way it was cultivated as they do about Fred and the way he encouraged each of them personally.

Elizabeth Anne Hull. Photo by Barb Knoff.

Elizabeth Anne Hull. Photo by Barb Knoff.

The main event here, of course, is the science fiction. Joe Haldeman, Mike Resnick, Frank Robinson, Harry Harrison, and Jody Lynn Nye each wrote a superb new tale. Many of the stories are inspired, either directly or indirectly, by Fred’s own fiction, most commonly by Fred’s favorite tale — the one he claims he is willing to have engraved on his monument when he dies — “Day Million.” I was delighted to realize that Gene Wolfe wrote that kind of singularity story, set in a world in an unspecified time — presumably our future — when humans had changed so much that their very nature has to be explained, or in Gene’s case, demonstrated by his first-person narrator.

The title of Cory Doctorow’s novella leaves no doubt that he was influenced by The Space Merchants, but what he has done with the concept is entirely fresh and original, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that fifty years from now “Chicken Little” will have become a classic in its own right.

In Jim Gunn’s remarkable four first-person narratives of intelligent alien races, he lets the aliens reveal themselves by what they say and how they say it, and by what they each choose to tell us about themselves. I believe Jim was influenced not only by Fred’s many novels and stories in which he created original alien species but also by the many summers he and Fred spent critiquing young writers in the workshops at the University of Kansas.

Then there are some stories that are … well, Fred Pohl-ish stories, like Vernor Vinge’s piece. I was tickled to see Vernor write a story that I think Fred would be proud to have written himself.

Sometimes Fred’s influence was as an editor, when he put a writer’s work before the public. I believe Sheri Tepper’s satiric gifts were encouraged by Fred, and Ben Bova shows in his story that he understands that the sense of humor is just as important as the “sensawunda.”

This project has been a labor of love, not just for me, but also, judging from the fact that all the super-busy contributors found time to send their new works — Neil Gaiman’s coming all the way from China! — for everyone involved.

Oh, and one other thing I must mention: Fred has been nominated for a Hugo for Best Fan Writer — for thewaythefutureblogs.com. Be sure to check it out. The Master is still happily writing every day, and is currently putting some finishing touches on his newest novel, All the Lives He Led, scheduled for next spring from Tor.

This also seems a good time to remind you that the deadline for voting on the Hugo Awards is July 31 as well!

From the blog team:

By popular request, here is the table of contents for Gateways, an anthology of original stories inspired by Frederik Pohl, edited by Elizabeth Anne Hull, and due out this summer from Tor:

Gateways, original stories inspired by Frederik Pohl, edited by Elizabeth Anne Hull

  • Elizabeth Anne Hull, Introduction
  • David Brin, “Shoresteading”
  • Phyllis and Alex Eisenstein, “Von Neumann’s Bug”
  • Isaac Asimov, Appreciation
  • Joe Haldeman, “Sleeping Dogs”
  • Larry Niven, “Gates (Variations)”
  • Gardner Dozois, Appreciation
  • James Gunn, “Tales from the Spaceship Geoffrey”
  • Gregory Benford and Elisabeth Malartre, “Shadows of the Lost”
  • Connie Willis, Appreciation
  • Vernor Vinge, “A Preliminary Assessment of the Drake Equation, Being an Excerpt from the Memories of Star Captain Y.T. Lee”
  • Greg Bear, “Warm Sea”
  • Robert J. Sawyer, Appreciation
  • Frank M. Robinson, “The Errand Boy”
  • Gene Wolfe, “King Rat”
  • Robert Silverberg, Appreciation
  • Harry Harrison, “The Stainless Steel Rat and the Pernicious Porcuswine”
  • Jody Lynn Nye, “Virtually, A Cat”
  • David Marusek, Appreciation
  • Brian W. Aldiss, “The First-Born”
  • Ben Bova, “Scheherezade and the Storytellers”
  • Joan Slonczewski, Appreciation
  • Sheri S. Tepper, “The Flight of the Denartesestel Radichan”
  • Neil Gaiman, “The [Backspace] Merchants”
  • Emily Pohl-Weary, Appreciation
  • Mike Resnick, “On Safari”
  • Cory Doctorow, “Chicken Little”
  • James Frenkel, Afterword