Posts tagged ‘Martin H. Greenberg’

Blonde Dr. Betty

Blonde Dr. Betty

Visiting the SFWA suite at MidAmeriCon seemed worth a try, so we tried it. Unfortunately giving it a try meant quite a lot of walking, which meant a lot of competition for body space as the eager mobs of fans, famished for PARTYPARTYPARTY! wandered the halls, now a crawling mass of fan flesh. It was prime room-party time.

And, I discovered, I was getting tired. The corridor we were walking in had a little bay that looked down into the lobby, far below. It had chairs that were just being vacated by a few fans, their sore feet healed, charging on to the next room party. I took action. I didn’t say anything about wanting to rest my own feet for a moment. I just grabbed a vacant chair and, looking grateful, so did Professor Hull. Leaning over to rub her toes, she looked up at me curiously. “Tell me more about what you do at Bantam. Delany’s book. Is it a big success?

I laughed. “Big enough. I’m Bantam’s wonder child this week. I paid peanuts for it, and it’s selling its head off. Just under six hundred thousand copies last I heard, and it might go over a million.”

“Delany,” she mused. “Yes, I know some of his work. If the administration lets me keep my sci-fi — ”

I gave my throat a meaningful clearing.

She didn’t fail to understand my meaning. “Oh, right,” she said apologetically, “I didn’t mean to say sci-fi, I mean science fiction. If the administration lets me keep my science fiction class, maybe I should teach it next semester. I’ll get a copy and read it real fast.”

I laughed. “That I don’t think you can do. It’s a long one, way more than twice as big as his Ace novels. And it’s not much like his other books. But I think I put a couple of copies in my bag. If I find them, I’ll put one in my pocket tomorrow and if I see you it’s yours.”

“Thanks,” she said, sounding as though she meant it. But she was rubbing her feet again. Then, looking at her watch. “Oh,” she said. “Look at the time. Listen, Frederik, how would you like to try a different kind of room party? Mary Badami — she’s my roommate — and I agreed to have our own party tomorrow. Not a lot of liquor but tea or coffee and soft drinks, and Mary’s making some food. I have to help her pretty son now, but then when the party starts tomorrow you’ll know a lot of the people — some will be the ones we ate dinner with, and I heard you mention Marty Greenberg and Joe Olander….”

I said, “Can we sit down there now? I’m in!”

Continue reading ‘Arrival, Part 4: The Party Plan’ »

Robert A. Heinlein at MidAmeriCon, 1976. (Photo by David Dyer-Bennet.)

Robert A. Heinlein at MidAmeriCon, 1976. (Photo by David Dyer-Bennet.)

Marty Greenberg and a couple of the others who were clustered in the Kansas City hotel lobby were coaxing me to stay, and one of those (apparent) teen-age graduate students nailed me down with a comment that was clearly intended to lead to a series of questions, “I understand you know Mr. Heinlein quite well, and I’ve just finished reading his Stranger in a Strange Land,” the apparent teen-ager informed me.

And Marty, eager to put temptation in my way, said, “Tell her the story about the Budrys review.”

Everybody seemed to be listening pretty attentively. Robert A. Heinlein being the Guest of Honor at MidAmeriCon, nobody wanted to go home without a few new Heinlein stories to spread around. The one Marty wanted me to tell was a favorite. I had at the time just recently taken on the job of editing Galaxy when Horace L. Gold got too sick to continue, and I had also just made AJ Budrys the book reviewer for the magazine when Stranger popped up. I handed it over to AJ as his first assignment.

I had told him he had a week to do the review, but at the end of the week, and a few extra days, there was no sign of the review. When I got him on the phone he told me that it was a big book and he would need at least another week or ten days to do it justice. That wasn’t really a surprise, or, indeed, much of a problem. I had confidence in AJ’s writing and was pretty sure the review would be worth waiting for. So I pulled a 5,000-word short story out of inventory to replace it, and rescheduled AJ’s first column for the next issue. And when at last he did deliver the review I saw that, ah, yes, no matter what I had expected, there certainly was going to be a problem.

AJ had given Heinlein’s science-fiction novel the sort of close-focused attention that I suppose Bishop Challoner must have given the Vulgate texts when he was preparing the Rheims Bible. It was a splendid review, both erudite and entertaining.

It described all the influences that must have been whirling around in Robert’s head as he was creating the book, as well as everything that could be said about Robert’s background and private life. Among the liberties AJ had allowed himself in writing the review was the privilege of speculating how much of Heinlein’s Naval Academy experience — the discipline, the hazing of first-year men, the prohibitions of marriage and various other distractions affecting young men and so on — had caused Heinlein’s obviously troubled feelings about patriotism, authority and proper behavior.

I was absolutely certain that the readers would love both the book and the review … but even more convinced that I couldn’t allow Robert’s first glimpse of the review to be when, all unsuspecting of what was in store for him, he opened up his subscription copy of the magazine that contained it.

So I pondered the problem for a while, and then I took out a little insurance policy. There were no such things as Xeroxes in our little office so I had my assistant of the moment — I think by then it was Judy-Lynn Not-Yet-del-Rey — type out a copy of the review, which I mailed off to Heinlein, with a note explaining that, due to the importance of this novel, I would like to hear any comments he might have about the review before scheduling it.

And time passed.

Continue reading ‘Arrival, Part 2: Heinlein Stories’ »

 

Everything’s up to date in Kansas City.

On a day late in August, in the year of 1976, I was sitting at my ease in a very comfortable first-class seat in a four-engined jet that was just about to land at my favorite airport in the world. I was sipping on a nearly empty glass of Hires root beer, which the stew had already replenished for me twice, and I was prepared to swallow what remained in the glass as soon as the captain ordered us to get ready for landing. I was employed in a well-paid job as the science-fiction editor for Bantam Books, and I confidently expected to be offered a package including quite a lot more money as soon as I got around to sitting down with my boss and talking about that subject. It won’t be much of a surprise to you if I mention that I was feeling good.

I might have been feeling even better if I had known one important fact, namely that this was the day when I would make the best decision of my life, but that information had not yet been revealed to me. The only “best” that I was aware of in my mind was the one that related to the airport we were approaching, Kansas City Intercontinental.

Now, I emphasize right away that what I’m talking about is the airport itself, not about the cities it served. No one has ever dreamed of two enchanted weeks of vacationing either in Kansas City, Kansas, or in the other Kansas City. You know, the one that couldn’t think of a decent name of their own, so they simply swiped the name of their next door neighbor.

KCI’s superlative qualities had nothing to do with the cities it served. It’s the design of the airport itself that is the marvel. You see, when your plane lands, it will taxi to its own gate, set into the outer perimeter of one of the three great circles that hold all the jet gates in the airport. The aircraft door opens, freeing you to go up the short ramp to the walkway that surrounds the entire circle of gates.

A half-dozen or so more steps take you to the baggage claim for your suitcase. It is probably there already, waiting for you before you get there, because now it is only a couple of yards from the place where it rode out the flight, which was in the baggage compartment of your jet, and that other place where it is now, which is firmly on the solid ground of the airport’s baggage claim. You never have to search for your bag in a mass of other bags originating from Buffalo and Barcelona and Bujumbura, either. None of those bags was ever aboard this flight. (Well, I mean, unless that’s where you’re originating from yourself.) Then, bags in hand, you take ten or a dozen steps more and you’re out in the open air, standing at the curb of the outermost strip of the great wheel, waving at a cab which is slowly cruising somewhere along the wheel, and will shortly pick you up right where you stand. Or, if what you want to board instead of a cab is the bus that takes you to the parking lot, or to car rentals, or some other destination, those will also be cruising the great wheel and they will pick you up in minutes. That takes very little more effort to summon, and certainly no more walking than the cab. What more can you ask?

 
Oh, I know what you might ask to make your trip more enjoyable still. You might ask for it to be at some destination other than one of the twin Kansas Cities, and there, I must confess, I have not been entirely frank with you.

I admit I wasn’t happy just about going to either of the Kansas Cities in itself. That city is — either of those cities is — hardly anyone’s favorite gotta-go-there destination for tourism. What elevated my mood, when it wasn’t depressing it, was what I would be doing when I got there, which was attending the annual World Science Fiction Convention, or Worldcon, which had been my custom for most of the years since 1939. (That 1939 one was the first Worldcon of all, the one that I and a few other Futurians were unjustly kicked out of. If you want more details on this event, simply pick up your treasured copy of The Way the Future Was and turn to page 76.) Anyway, that fannish rumble was long ago. Hardly anyone who was involved is still alive. Or cares.)

For me, and for my nearest and dearest, the Worldcons were the places we most looked forward to visiting each year, Sometimes they were held at places that we loved to visit anyway — London, Toronto, a couple of American cities where we had well-loved but not frequently visited friends and relatives. The specific city didn’t all that much matter, though. It was the con itself that was the attraction, the place where we could count on getting together with good friends that we didn’t see every day, because they lived so ridiculously far away — like Patrice Duvic from France, and Sashiko and Takumi Shibano from Japan, and Yuli Kagarlitsky from what was then still called the Soviet Union, and batches of others from Italy and the UK and Sweden and Spain and Brazil, and, of course, from many of the remoter parts of the U.S.A. itself as well.

So what I was really looking forward to was the people who comprised the con itself. That is, I was until I got to my hotel.

Continue reading ‘Arrival: The Happiest Airport’ »

The loss of a dear old friend

Martin H. Greenberg

Martin H. Greenberg

I don’t remember exactly when I first met Martin Harry Greenberg, who died on July 2nd after a series of debilitating health problems. Whenever it was, it was a long time ago, maybe in the ’60s, but I do remember the circumstances. I had received a letter from him — the world hadn’t yet got around to emails — inviting me to speak at something called Florida International University, whatever that was. The invitation had come with an offer of a modest honorarium and I had accepted it.

I didn’t do it for the money. I did it for two reasons. These were the years when schools all over the country were beginning to offer courses in science fiction, a development which I approved of and did my best to encourage. And the other and perhaps more important reason was that I really liked talking to college audiences. In six or seven years of speaking at college dates there was only one I wished I had never heard of — and that one was just a couple of days before; I had moved on to the University of Wisconsin, where I had one of my most memorable speaking engagements ever.

I was picked up at the Miami airport by Marty in a car with a Florida International paint job, driven by a slim and youthful-looking young man. There were a couple words of introduction as I got in, but I caught nothing but the name — Joe Olander — being more concentrated on trying to get the car door closed before some speeding taxicab made off with it. The driver had his own priorities, trying to avoid some other taxi’s attempts to remove a fender, so he didn’t take much part in the early parts of the conversation between me and Marty. I approved of the fact that he was concentrating on the task of getting us safely out of the airport.

Then, as we were securely on “Alligator Alley,” the highway across Florida’s southern tip, he began adding, over his shoulder, comments of his own to Marty’s quick course in the history and attributes of FIU.

Marty didn’t seem to mind, or even to think it strange that a car driver should say things like “Marty and I have been scheming for a long time to add a course in science fiction.” That struck me as a bit odd, if praiseworthily democratic on Marty’s part, until a photograph in one of the bits of paper Marty was handing me caught my eye. The photo was of our driver, and the caption under it was, “Vice President of Florida International University, Dr. Joseph D. Olander.”

That put a quite different complexion on some of the things both Dr. Greenberg and Dr. Olander had been saying. I listened quite a lot more attentively as they explained some of the details of what they haad in mind. My speaking invitation, in their plan, was not merely a one-night stand but — they hoped — simply the first step in their campaign for much bigger things. First was to be the addition of a credit course in science fiction to the curriculum, and then perhaps a year or two later — and this made me sit up straight — they planned on hiring a science-fiction author as a Writer-in-Residence at FIU. Unspoken but clearly implied was the item that their number one choice on their list for the job was me.

Continue reading ‘Martin Harry Greenberg (1941–2011)’ »