Posts tagged ‘Carol Pohl’

 

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I was getting almost accustomed to being almost single again.

That is, I don’t mean that there were no female people in my life. There was Carolie Ulf, taking care of the kids just as though her daughter and I were still obsessively married.

Then there was Marge, the surgical nurse who supervised the operation on my nose and didn’t seem to mind, or even notice, the way it smelled while it was healing, and Bea from the folk-dance group I had begun taking my kids to now and then. Take them all in all, it was surprising how many basically single but not unavailable youngish women I turned out to know once my wife Carol was no longer obscuring the view.

 
That’s not even counting the Bantam office. There, people weren’t asking me why I bought Dhalgren anymore. They were jealously curious to know instead how I had been able to tell that this peculiar and highly sexual bunch of pages was going to have legs, for legs it was beginning to have. 50,000 copies sold, 80,000, and the books that were on the shelves from the original print order were melting away and the production people were on the phones ordering more, and quicker.

I was as surprised as anybody. In my own world of bookselling dreams I had thought that Dhalgren might turn out to be a sleeper, a book that might have a modest early sale, but a sale that kept on coming and maybe growing slowly, and then, as more and more people discovered it, growing less slowly all the time. But there was nothing slow about the way customers kept appearing and searching for copies to buy.

That was quite a good feeling to have. I found myself spending a little more time in the office to enjoy it., maybe three days a week instead of one or two.

  Continue reading ‘And the Day Came’ »

Carol Poh

Carol Pohl

When I realized how much I had told this Dr. Hull of the sort of things I had made a point of keeping quiet about, I couldn’t help wondering why she hadn’t at least smelled my breath before letting me talk about all the things I hadn’t been willing to tell anyone else about the deal Carol and I had made.

Or, I should say, The Deal, because talking about terminating our marriage certainly was a big enough thing in our lives to be worth capital letters. Almost twenty-five years. Four kids — very parent-conscious ones, too, because they were accustomed to a (singular) Mom and a (singular) Dad, never mind that the biological facts of life were really more complicated than that for at least the first two of them.

 
Backflash: When it began to look as though my custody differences with Judy (my daughter Annie’s original mother, remember?), would only get official if we argued them out in a court of law, and in that event if Carol and I married we would have a pretty good-sized legal argument if only because we had a stable home life — that is, not flitting per whim all over the place. You follow my argument? Carol and I, plaintiffs, legally married, Judy and What’s-His-Name — Walter Miller — the writer she was roaming the country with, openly unmarried but acting as though they were.

So I had asked Carol, “Care for getting married one day soon?” and she said sure. With quite a few added reservations and qualifications, it is true, of the “Like this” or “Like that” kind, but acceptable ones. For instance, if she inadvertently became pregnant we had to rethink the whole thing, which I agreed to at once. And what it all added up to, it seemed to me, — finally — was a quite nice life for at least the next year.

And the year after that. That life Carol and I had shared for more than twenty years, only she didn’t — or at least very likely she didn’t — want to share it with me any more.

 
All clear? Well, no.

 
To be continued.

 
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Jack Williamson

Jack Williamson

Where we left off: MidAmeriCon, August 1976 — As I gave her a foot rub, Dr. Hull said, “I forgot to ask you. Are you married, Frederik?”

“Well,” I said, “I guess I am, at least for the next, let me see, four months. After that, we’ll see.”

She didn’t respond to that in words, just waited me out. I gave in to her silence. “Carol and I have been married for almost twenty-five years,” I told her.

She waited me out some more, so I gave her the hard part: “But all she’s willing to guarantee right now is, we’ll stay married right up till New Year’s Day. Then we sit down together and decide if we want to stay married for life, or—”

She didn’t stop outwaiting me, just reached up for the hot coffeepot and refilled our cups.

“Or not,” I said. “See, this was happening on this last New Year’s Day, when we were making jokey resolutions. Only when we started making resolutions about staying married, it stopped being a joke. Shall we hit the SFWA room party now?”

 
We hit it, and once we got past the guardian at the gate she didn’t need any further help from me. Jack Williamson and a few other old-timers were looking at some foreign sf magazines near the door, and when she caught sight of him and started toward him, he gave her a big “Hello.” Turned out they had met at some Midwest thing a year or so before.

I spent the next half hour talking SFWA business with whoever happened by, and just when I was thinking of telling her I needed to leave, she came over to me to say she had to get up in the morning but Jack’s room was on the same floor as hers in that other hotel, and he had offered to walk her home.

“And he promised to let me in here again, so I won’t need to bother you,” she said, and thanked me and was gone.

To be continued.

 
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When the great world of non-English-speaking science fiction fans began to flex their young muscles and develop their own brand-new sorts of clubs and cons there was o way to slow them down. So it was no surprise to us Americans that, when there sprang into life an annual science fiction film festival, it was on the other side of an ocean, in a city called Trieste.

When some fan asked what country it was in, some wise guy — it may have been me — asked, “What country was it in when?” Because in the memory of living people — -that is, of people who were living in the 1960s — Trieste had alternately been Austro-Hungarian, Yugoslavian or Italian. And that doesn’t count those periods when the wars that changed things were over, but the old men with the chalk in their hands hadn’t quite finished drawing those map lines that dictated who would live where, and what they. would call themselves.

By the time Trieste hosted Il Festivale di Fantascienza, though, it was irrevocably (they said) Italian, and that’s what got us there. We were sitting on our porch in Red Bank, New Jersey, my then wife Carol and I, me reading the final pages of my latest collaboration with Jack Williamson, the Old Master himself, and Carol studying a map of eastern Europe.

I had just finished the final pages, having made only a handful of penciled improvements, none that required retyping whole pages, which meant all I had to do just then was put it in the mail for a final lookover by Jack. Unless he found something he wanted me to do over, which he almost never did, the next thing I would have to do with that one would be to deposit the check for the on-delivery half of my part of the advance when it turned up in the day’s mail.

That’s when Carol said, “Ðubrovnik” pronouncing the name as though enjoying the flavor of it.

What I said then was. “What?” I don’t know exactly what thoughts had been floating around my easily distracted mind at that time, but I was sure that they had nothing to do with towns with funny names..

She filled me in. “I said, ‘Dubrovnik,’ because I always said I wanted to visit some place that had a name I couldn’t pronounce.”

I reminded her that she had just pronounced it, and she shook her head at me. “How do I know I pronounced it right? Anyway, that’s not the important part. Look on the map here. Here’s this Dubrovnik place, and it’s right down the coast from that sci-fi film thing you said you wanted to go to, the one in Treesty.”

“There isn’t any such place as Treesty,” I informed, “The Film Festival is in Tree-esty. And all I said was maybe one of these years we might take a look — ”

“Well, what’s wrong with this year? You said you wanted to go there.. And just the other day, Mother was asking if we were going to want her to mind the kids while we went somewhere. I told her I’d ask you, so now I’m asking.”

I said, “Hum.” That was my coded expression for meaning, Let me mull this over in my mind, because Carol had a point. Back in those wartime days when my personal travel agent had been the U.S. Air Force, they had shipped me all over the map of Italy, except for two areas they somehow missed. One of them was Sicily, way down at the farthest south. The other, in the farthest north, was that spur of land at the top of the Adriatic Sea that held Trieste. The opportunity to see more of a country I had come to love simply couldn’t be passed up. So we made our plans, Carol and I, and we checked to see that our passports were up to date and that Carol’s mother, Carolie Ulf, was still cheerful about supervising the youngest children for two or three weeks, the two older ones being off at school,.

And next thing you know, our Alitalia jet was touching down at Milan’s airport and we were shifting our not inconsiderable baggage into the trunk of a Hertz car and heading east.

Continue reading ‘Under Three (or Maybe More) Flags, Part 1’ »

The Man Who Gave Me His Wife

Carol Metcalf Ulf Stanton Pohl, 1966.

Carol Metcalf Ulf
Stanton Pohl, 1966.

During World War II, Jay Stanton signed on as radioman with several convoys on the Murmansk run. This was one of the most dangerous jobs there were but Stanton survived. After the war he settled for some years in the largely sf community in Manhattan.

I didn’t really discriminate Jay from others in the community until he married a tall, blonde, very good-looking woman named Carol Metcalf Ulf. (At the time I admit I thought Jay might be running a little luckier than he deserved.) The two settled down in a small apartment in Chelsea. Jay took a job as an assistant to John Campbell on the stumbling science magazine Air Trails and Science Frontiers, and began showing up in evening sessions with his guitar, accompanying anybody who wanted to be accompanied in anything they wanted to sing.

Often his wife, Carol, was singing with him; she had an untrained but quite good soprano voice. However, what she preferred to do, most evenings, was walk over to the Village and sit in one of the bars for a few hours, listening to music and chatting with the musicians.

The most outstanding character of Jay Stanton, you need to realize at once, is that in some ways he was an almost pathologically kind and generous man. Many a husband would prefer to have his bride stay home at night instead of inhabiting Greenwich gin mills without him. Jay apparently accepted it with calm. If this woman he wanted to make happy preferred the gin mills he let it be so. Of course, most people would begin to suspect that this sort of thing was warning of a marriage in trouble.

Most people would be right, too. I wasn’t very surprised when one night I came home to Red Bank — Judy hadn’t thrown me out of the house yet — and discovered 386 West Front Street had a new boarder. Apparently Carol had applied to Judy for shelter and Judy had been generous. It did have one, I believe, unanticipated result, though. Carol and I became friends. It started, if I remember, one morning when Judy wasn’t around and I was out on that grand porch singing to the river, and the next thing I knew we were singing duets. Singing them pretty well, too.

And it went on from there. It went on sufficiently well that, a few months later, when Judy did at last kick me out and I moved into a tiny flat in New York’s East Village, Carol moved with me.

That was not the most amazing thing, though. The most amazing thing was that Jay accepted the changed circumstances with good grace, and, actually, tangible help in moving into and furnishing the flat.

Does that strike you as odd?

Most people would say yes, for abandoned husbands do not commonly behave as amiably and kindly as Jay was wont to do, But Jay was a far kinder organism than the rest of homo sapiens. If there were any areas of greed, or rage, or regret anywhere in his soul I never saw them betray themselves in acts.

Robert Sheckley in 1968.

Robert Sheckley in 1968.

Robert Sheckley was a great — and greatly funny — writer of science-fiction short stories. Along with “William Tenn” (aka Phil Klass) and damon knight, he filled the magazines in that thrice-blessed decade of the ’60s with an apparently infinite supply of great little comic stories. When I say there was nothing like them before or after I know whereof I speak, because by the time the ’60s came along, I was a magazine editor desperate to find writers like them that I could publish. Oh, I did find some, including some really good ones, but no masterpiece-a-week humor generators like those.

I had met Sheckley when he was just beginning his run of great comic stories. Harlan Ellison had written about him, saying, “If the Marx Brothers had been writers they would have been Robert Sheckley,” and I had made a point of getting some of his published stories to check it out for myself. When we turned out to be attending the same party I made it a point to get a conversation going with him. We were getting along pretty well, and when I mentioned that my house was on a tidal river he got interested quickly. “You do? Well, I’ve got this boat that I don’t take out much because I don’t know many people who live on the water. Maybe I could come get you and take you out for a spin.”

That sounded like a great idea. It kept on sounding that way until I mentioned that the river had three low bridges between the ocean and my house and he, glumly, announced that his sailboat had an eighteen-foot mast. Then he told me how much he’d liked a book of mine that had just come out, and I told him how some of his stories had made me laugh out loud.

Then, when we started talking business, he asked if I could get him better pay than he had been receiving for his short stories. I assured him I could, and I did. Actually I doubled his monthly income almost at once. It wasn’t hard. I just changed the destination of each new manuscript that came popping out of his typewriter, for, like many new writers, Bob had convinced himself of a crippling fallacy. The fallacy is that beginners would have to work their way up through the low-paying markets — then paying about a penny a word, like Imagination — before they would be able to earn the rates that were double or triple that from Galaxy or the other leaders in the field.

What makes that a fallacy is that submitted stories come in roughly three levels of quality. There are the winners, which almost editor will buy as soon as he shakes it out of its envelope. Then there are the total losers that hardly anybody is desperate enough to buy and, finally, the stories that need a little work, and an editor will generally help the writer work its flaws away. The only sensible procedure in marketing a story is to send it to the highest-paying markets first, and work your way down if you have to.

Some times a higher-paying editor will help a writer along, as Playboy’s fiction editor did for me at a party when he poured me a drink and said, “You know, I would have bought about half of those stories you’ve been running in Galaxy.” To which I said, “Oh,” and quickly changed my ways.

Of course, those weren’t the only sales I made for Bob. I got him into some TV spots, from which he later got himself into better and better ones, and into double-selling reprints of his work to mostly paperback book publishers, and we became friends.

Then for quite a while I pretty much lost touch with Bob. It wasn’t as much of a blow as you might think, because nearly everyone did. He was doing well, but he was wandering the face of the Earth. What brought him back to New York was a job with Omni. When Ben Bova was elevated from Fiction Editor to Editor in Chief he chose Bob to take over the fiction. It was a good job, paid pretty well. And Bob had always wanted to be an editor for a while.

Only, of course, there were problems.

Continue reading ‘Robert Sheckley:
If the Marx Brothers Had Been Writers…’ »