Posts tagged ‘T. O’Conor Sloane’

Amazing-June 1936


The development of a professional writer is marked by a number of stages, each identified by a particular event. My own development was accelerated by the fact that by the time I was 14 or so I had come to know people — Johnny Michel and Don Wollheim — who had actually sold works to professional science-fiction magazines.

(Well, “sold” is putting it a bit strong, since neither of them had really been paid for their work. In fact, that’ s why they had come to Geegee Clark’s Brooklyn Science Fiction League in the first place; to put pressure on Hugo Gernsback to pay the writers for his Wonder Stories by denouncing him to his most loyal fans, the ones who had joined his club.)

Anyway, I listened to them reverently, and in fact learned a great deal. One of things I learned was that, surprisingly, the editors of science-fiction magazines were in some ways indistinguishable from ordinary human beings. They went to offices to work — well, I knew that because I had discovered on my own the existence of writers’ magazines that actually gave addresses for those offices. I had even experimentally tried mailing one or two of my early stories to one or two of those sf markets. What I learned additionally from Donald and Johnny was that you could go in person to some of those offices, and that some of those editors, sometimes, would actually talk to you.

That particular nugget of information was worth actual cash to me. As I had learned from my study of Writers Digest, I could mail in my stories — and had done so. The catch to that was that I was required to enclose postage for the return trip in the (likely) event of rejection. That had amounted, in the last story I had submitted by mail, to 9¢ in stamps each way, total 18¢. While the cost, if I delivered them in person, would be only a nickel each way for the subway. (Plus, of course, whatever price could be put on my time for the 45 minutes each way it would take for me to do it — but, then, nobody else was offering to buy any of my time at any price.)

That represented a nearly 50-percent reduction in my cost of doing business, or even more — much, much more! — if I had enough stories to submit to make a continuing process out of it. I could, say, take the subway to editor A’s office to pick up rejected story X and at the same time submit new story Y, then walk (no cost for walking) to the office of editor B to try story X on him. And there was no reason for me to limit myself to a single story each way at each office.

The only thing that could prevent me from working at that much greater volume was that I hadn’ t written enough stories to make such economies of scale pay off, and that, boys and girls, is how I became a literary agent.

Continue reading ‘Early Editors’ »

The Moon. NASA photo: One of the nice things about running a blog is that you can conveniently republish things that people have asked for. Another is that you can sometimes republish things that hardly anyone has ever requested … like this.

Among my childhood vices was the writing of poetry — sometimes quite quirky, like the first exemplar, sometimes pretty banal, like the second. (The best thing about the banal ones is that I quite often got some editor to buy them.)

I wrote “!” for the very first magazine I ever edited (and published, and ran off on the mimeograph machine, and bound), a tiny semi-fanzine called Mind of Man. It is also the very first thing I ever wrote that got favorable comments from people as astute as Cyril Kornbluth and James Blish, who memorized it and was known to recite it at parties.


         ,   ,   &
        ! my frand
        ;  $
        – – . . . . . . . 

The second poem is significant even to me only because it is the first thing I wrote that some editor bought and published and paid cash to me for.

Elegy to a Dead Planet: Luna

Darkness descends and the cluttering towers
Of cities and hamlets blink into light.
The harsh, brilliant glitter of day’s bustling hours
Gives place to the glowing effulgence of night.
The Moon, that pale creature, the queen of the sky,
Peeps wistfully down at the life forms below,
Thinking, perhaps, of the eons rolled by
Since life on her bosom lapsed under the snow.
A dead world and cold, this satellite bleak,
Whose craters and valleys are airless and dry.
No flicker of motion from deep pit to peak,
No living thing’s ego to shout, “I am I!”
But once, ages past, this grim tomb in space
Owned living things on its surface now bare
Till grim Time in his flight, speeding apace,
Swept life, motion, thought away, who can know where?

All right, all right, the Moon isn’t a planet and it never had any living things, or snow, either. Sue me. When I wrote it I was a fairly ignorant fifteen.

Then, when I was sixteen, the editor of Amazing Stories, T. O’Conor Sloane, Ph. D., accepted it, and when I was seventeen he published it in his October 1937 issue, and when I was 18 he paid for it. Two dollars.

Related post:
Verse Decoded