Sophie Gousset, Brest, France
Chris LaHatte, Wellington, New Zealand
Simon Groom, Romford, United Kingdom
Duane Davis, Lancaster, California, USA
Mike Goldberg, Skokie, Illinois, USA
Bjorn Fridgeir Bjornsson, Reykjavik, Iceland
Posts tagged ‘Gateways’
By the time Samuel R. Delany’s Dhalgren came along, I had pretty well accomplished my main purpose in going to work for Bantam — to get the taste of my brief but horrid experience at Ace Books out of my mouth — and was happily writing some quite good science fiction of my own. I really had done all I wanted to do at Bantam, but it took me a while to get myself out of there, partly because it didn’t seem sensible of me to leave the easiest job I had ever had, and partly for winding up some loose ends and partly just out of inertia.
And then, just when I was beginning to see daylight, the mail boy brought me a manuscript from somebody named Gustav Hasford, who said that we had spent some time together at a Milford Writers’ Conference, and so he was asking me to be absolutely candid about the novel ms. he was enclosing.
I’ve never believed in the doctrine of letting submissions sit for some weeks or months before getting around to reading them, so I began reading the story right away. I don’t know how far I got. I don’t know what the story was about anymore, either, but I remember what I wrote Hasford.
I said, “One of the things I don’t like about Milford is that you guys have to write stories on the spot, and so what you write is almost always lightweight fluff, playing games with words, without really having anything to say. This you do pretty well, but it isn’t worth doing. If you ever have a novel you really care about, I’d like to see it.”
(You may wonder why I said that when I was seriously considering getting out of the editing business quite soon. I don’t know the answer, but that’s what I said. I guess that was on one of the days that I was having second thoughts about leaving Bantam.)
And, anyway, within the week another novel ms. came from Hasford, along with a note that said, “Here it is. This one I care about.”
It was about the Vietnam War. It was called The Short-Timers. And it was good.
This gave me a tough decision. I wanted to see that this book got out to an audience — I mean, honest, that’s the only reason anybody should ever be an editor. But I didn’t want to stick around to do it.
What I did do was order a contract for Hasford. That way he would definitely get his excellent (oh, if still a little rough, but that’s the other thing that editors are for) book published. And then I began thinking about who, among the large Bantam team, would be the right one to take over from me.
And right about then Marc Jaffe, the man who had hired me in the first place, strolled into my office. “I just wanted to tell you, Fred,” he said, “that right now, with Dhalgren, your credibility is very high with us. Is there anything you need?”
That’s a sentence employees of any kind dream of hearing but seldom do, because it translates as “Can we give you more money? How much more? And maybe a full-time secretary of your own?” But then I told him that what I really wanted was to quit, and that was the end of it. He was regretful, and he hoped that if I ever wanted to come back I’d let him know, and he picked out another editor. Who took over, doubled the rather mingy advance I had put in the contract, made some useful editorial suggestions and got the book out in quick time.
And that’s enough of editorial actions for one lifetime. I do have a good idea for a new magazine, but I’m not telling anyone what it is. They might persuade me to try actually bringing it out. And I really don’t want to get involved again.
I didn’t keep up with Hasford’s later publications, but a few years after the movie, I did hear something else about his interest in books, because everybody who read a newspaper did.
It seems he had some overdue library books.
Now, understand that here I’m not talking about maybe a couple of Isaac Asimov books, Asimov’s Guide to Everything and Asimov’s Guide to Everything Else and maybe one science-fiction anthology edited by my favorite anthologist (the one I’m married to, dope). No, this was an operation on a larger scale.
What seemed to have happened was that Hasford moved around a lot, and whenever he struck a new place, he’d take out a library card and pick up some reading material to take home. That, of course, was just about what the library people wanted him to do, except that he omitted an important final step. He checked the books out. He just didn’t bring them back. By the time the authorities visited his home, he had thousands of books from public libraries all over the United States and assorted other countries.
Surprised? Don’t be. It’s a matter of public record that a few science-fiction writers do have some small eccentricities. Most sf writers, though, have much huger ones.
Some good friends and blog people have been telling me that, while they’re all totally on my side in my struggle with the forces of evil, they made up their minds long ago, and they wish I would stop talking about those hateful libels and lies. I am proud and happy to tell you that — with your help — I may have found a real way of accomplishing that.
It isn’t hard, either. It takes just two actions, one by you and one by me.
Part One, my part, is the part that’s not exactly easy because it’s going to take a lot of work from me, but I’ve already started it. That is to prepare a new edition of The Way the Future Was to clear up a lot of the parts that were unclear in the first edition. The reason they were unclear was that, although I did my best to Tell All about my own actions, even the ones I wished I hadn’t done, there were parts where I couldn’t Tell All about me without Also Telling All about some other person, and that I wasn’t ready to do.
Please understand me. I’m not going to tell about who was sleeping with whom for the sake of sexual excitement but things like why it was that one famous author pulled a gun on me and aimed it at my face, after which we wound up in a fist fight. And things like that.
That’s my part, quite a lot of which I’m going to release on the blog well before the book comes out. What’s yours?
What I am asking you to do is, whenever you attend a party, a con or whatever and someone repeats one of those lies about me as though it were fact, you pull out your copy of my wife’s birthday present, Gateways with an s, and show him what reputable people have to say the subject..
Can you do that for me?
I know it would cost you money to buy a copy if you don’t have one already. But it would make it possible for me to get off this distasteful subject. Please.
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.
We’re happy to be able to tell you that we love all of you, not just the ones who live in the U. S. of A., but also all of you who happen to live in some place whose current capital is not Washington D.C. as well. To show that we mean it, we’re going to add our own personal giveaway program for that great new book, Gateways, to the one that was offered by our publisher, Tor, through GoodReads.
So, if you live in any country that is not the USA, from Argentina and Canada to Zanzibar and Zimbabwe, and would like to enter the drawing, e-mail blog @ thewaythefutureblogs.com with your name and snail-mail address. The winning names will be pulled out of a hat by Gene Wolfe, one of the fine authors represented in the book. Two of the copies will go to folks in the USA, so you guys can enter, too; all the others will go to people from elsewhere.
If you’ve already forgotten what a great book this is, here’s what the San Diego Union-Tribune said about it:
“Science fiction has been blessed and bolstered by the 70-year career of Frederik Pohl, whose wife, Betty Anne Hull, edited this collection as a 90th birthday gift for him. David Brin has a long and shiny story toward the front of the book, ‘Shoresteading,’ Cory Doctorow has the thought-provoking ‘Chicken Little’ toward the end, and every story, poem and appreciation in between is well worth your time … and the time it’ll take you to find any of the Pohl works you’ve missed.”
And, oh, by the way, just to sweeten the pot, every winning copy will be autographed by Betty Anne Hull, creator of the book; Frederik Pohl, who is lucky enough to be her husband; and Gene Wolfe, the winner-picker.
(List closes on November 15th. Enter before then!)
From the blog team:
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.
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!