Startling Stories, August 1952
AUTHOR TO FAN
by Philip Farmer
Dear Sam: G. Smith's THE HELLFLOWER, was as you claim, good space opera. Fast-paced, well written, and with characterizations better than some of his previous works.
The Murialist was interesting but illogical. A race capable of the immense scientific technology depicted therein would not have as much trouble as St. Clair claims in getting rid of pests. If we laid eggs, would we allow mice and rats to wipe us out? I think not.
Also, as far as I know, only animals of very low nervous organization change sex. No present day reptiles do; there is no reason to think Cretaceous or Jurassic did. Tzzzu Tssssin's species would be given no notable advantage by changing their sex. And they'd have to backtrack along evolution's path to have that sort of structure. Moreover, why the third eye? How many reptiles had it? What advantage was it? Evolution wields a sort of Occam's razor on such basic organs as eyes, noses, ears, etc. Evolution lets herself go with many superfluous structures such as crests, very long tailfeathers, colors, etc. But not with third eyes and four ears or two brains.
Also, the hero of the story thought that the Szabor Szor might have auxiliary brains in their hips. And longer tails. Again, why? The primitively developed dinosaurs had a sort of brain that controlled their rear extremities in their hips: a knot of nerves necessary because the feeble headbrain seemingly wasn't powerful enough to manipulate the legs and tail. But Tzzzu was highly developed and nowhere that I remember was it stated that he was any larger that. man, which is about the size you would expect of a symbol using creature. Another brain in the hips would result in a sort of schizophrenia.
That, by the way, is a story idea. Would you be interested in one based on that?
Furthermore, the hypothesis that egg-eating mammals might have wiped out the dinosaurs is passé and regarded with no respect by authorities. Not that the authorities haven't been wrong many times, but reason is on their side. Why haven't egg-eating mammals wiped out the crocodile, etc.?
THE GNOME'S GNEISS was very gnice. As long as you keep the mag predominantly stf, I don't mind a fantasy like this or JOURNEY TO BARKUT. I enjoyed the "unstoned" Alviss and the dead pan and conscientious Kevan. More funny ones like this will be appreciated. One niggling point. Loki is, I believe, not a blond, but a redhead. That's the way I remember my Norse mythology. That seems, by the way, to have been the hair color of a lot of heroes,and villains: Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, Byron, Judas, King David, and even Christ.
I was talking to Alviss' cousin the other day, and he told me he could clear up your perplexity as to how the Irish fairies got mixed up with the Norse gods. His explanation didn't sound very reasonable or coherent to me (we'd been draughting Old Overcoat and using Cemetery Club for a mix) so I suggested he drop by your office and tell you. It also seems he's always wanted to write, and he has a few manuscripts he'd like you to look at. No fantasy, though. All autobiographical. SECRET CONFESSIONS OF AN UNDERGROUND CHARACTER and stuff like that.
TAKE A SEAT reminded me of vvogt's PEN PAL, I think it was titled. Why the Greek-dialect comedian way of writing? His story is told in English, and no matter what the structure of his language, should be told in good English. Or if it isn't, let's have the reason why. As to, Zacks' FROM OUTER SPACE, why should the porcine people be so horrified because we eat pigs? Would we be horrified if we came to their planet and saw them eating monkeys or apes? If those oinkoids had a terrific cultural taboo against meateating or if pigs were sacred, I could understand it. Were they?
All in all the May issue was a good one, very enjoyable, though I thought the April issue surpassed it.
621 Barker, Peoria, Ill.
Thanks for warning me about Alviss' Cousin. Am locking the office and leaving immediately for Mexico to hunt catamounts and tortillas. A story involving a schizophrenic brain in the hips? Don't some human females - well anyway, I ain't committing myself until I see it.
Startling Stories, September 1952
CHARACTERS AND SUCH
by Philip Farmer
Dear Sam: The June SS was a lulu. DRAGON'S ISLAND I didn't read because I'd read it in book form. It's a very good story, however. I'm jealous and green-angry at Williamson because he wrote about that tree that grew a spaceship. I'd had a similar idea for a story; now, I can't use it. Phooey on such a genius!
Williamson demands high praise. He, along with Leinster and Simak and Hamilton, are about the only old timers that had the bounce and what-it-takes to keep on surviving. They just refused to lie down and die and fossilize; Jurassic writers who decided to mutate.
Williamson has a fresh and ingenious imagination and the only criticism I have to make of him is that his style is too "adjectivy," too pulpy. But he has a good sense of character. After all, if you search your mind for the outstanding characters of sf, those who flash to your mind, how many do you remember offhand? Not many.
Gilmore's Hawk Carse comes readily, but he didn't have the life and the rotundity that Giles Habibula had. Taine's The Captain is another hard-to-forget fictional hero. As for villains, E. E. Smith's DuQuesne, for some reason, sticks. Naturally, one doesn't forget Kimball Kinnison, but not because he came so much to life as the fact that repetition wears a groove even in the hardest stone. Weinbaum's Tweel and Oscar, two nonhuman characters, won't be forgotten.
Speaking of characterizations, I'd like to put in a plug for Jack Vance. His ABERCROMBIE STATION and his current offering SABOTAGE ON SULFUR PLANET impress me because of the feeling for making individuals of their personages, plus the tough-minded attitude for reality. Vance has been getting better all the time, and now, as far as I'm concerned, he's up on top of the list. Without imitating the Hemingway style, he possesses a very honest regard for life-as-it-is. No honey or sugar, but no superfluous acid, either. I hope he keeps it up; indications are that he will. The trouble with Hemingway, and writers like him, is that after a certain period they no longer are Hemingway looking at life, they are Hemingway looking at Hemingway looking at life. If you see what I mean--?
Thanks for them kind words in ETHERGRAMS. I hope I live up to them. As far as having new stories go, I've got, at a conservative estimate, two dozen germs and outlines. And new ones popping Minerva-like from my Jovian brow. They include both fantasy and sf, which pleases me, for I've noticed you're running a nice proportion of fantasies.
Your editorial on the ECONOMICS OF HUNGER was interesting and seems to tie in with the facts. The less food, the more children. More mouths, less food. What's to he done about it? I've got the outline of a short story about just that very thing, and I hope to have it written within the next two months.
I've talked enough. However, one more thing. I see you're going to be in Chicago at the World SF Convention. So'll I. The reverberations from THE LOVERS should be really bouncing about then. Maybe we can face the music together. In any event, I'll be looking forward to seeing you face to face.--621 Barker, Peoria, Ill.
Hemingway looking at Hemingway looking at life is a capsule indictment of success, I suppose. On the other hand success adds something quite measurable to the status of any personality--it supplies the necessary confidence for a man to be true to himself and not to be plagued by the everlasting doubts that are the constant companions of the nonsuccessful. The sureness of an accomplished artist is in no small way due to success itself. Unfortunately, it can be overdone, as noted.
Don't know about the Chicago convention--as it looks from here I doubt that I can make it. Got to stay tied to a desk and wait for those stories you've promised.
Thrilling Wonder Stories, November 1953
by Philip José Farmer
Dear Sam: I'm pleased that someone noticed that, though Eddie Fetts was a baritone, he sang Che Gelida Manina, a TENOR aria. Mr. Davidson was quite right in pointing that out and in being mad. However, Sam, your face needn't be red nor need Mr. Davidson stay mad. "Naught exists save mutability," and everything, even physics, biology, the pattern of the stars, and the course of the Mississippi, change. Marion Zimmer Bradley wrote me a letter pointing out the same thing that Mr. Davidson did. But she wanted to know if I was being very, very subtle, after all. During the past two hundred years, some operatic parts have changed. Rosina in the Barber of Seville, originally written for mezzo-soprano, is now usually sung by a coloratura. I knew that, but I did not know, as she pointed out, that Adalgisa, in Norma by Bellini, once a famous light soprano part, is now invariably given to a contralto. Did I mean to imply that Rodolfo's tenor role was now assigned to a baritone?
Music, as much as anything, if not more, will play a part in the future, and therein lies a brand new field of development for sf writers. I only used it in MOTHER as a device for portraying the change in a character and for hinting at certain psychological sublimations. But I could not resist also hinting that even such a stable and conservative thing as 19th century Italian opera was subject to flow and flux. Unfortunately, I could not stop to explain, and I did not think that it would matter. As you say, there was always the fact that singers play around.
Mr. Davidson wants the TWS containing LET THE FINDER BEWARE. If my memory is correct, that came out in an expanded version as JACK OF EAGLES by James Blish. If Mr. Davidson doesn't want to buy the book and still prefers to get the magazine version. I'll send him my copy. I'm moving soon. I have to get rid of some excess. I'll be glad to do so as one opera lover to another. -621 Barker, Peoria, Ill
Other Worlds Science Stories, April 1956
by Philip José Farmer
Enclosed is my dime for your Tarzan on Mars Project. I'll contribute more if needed, not so much because I think this novel may be what you say it is, but because I admire your sheer guts and because, when I was a child and an adolescent I shared your attitude toward Tarzan, John Carter, David Innes, Julian and the rest of that adventurous company. But I'm flabbergasted at your statement that Annas, Byrne, Shaver, etc., are such great writers, especially when you admit you furnished them with so many of their plots and elsewhere have stated that you had to re-write much of their stuff. These boys are imitators of Burroughs, and not very good at it. Burroughs himself was a superb story-teller, but even one who loved him as much as I did can easily see his faults and terrible inadequacies in handling the English language, his ineptness at characterization--with some minor exceptions--his monotonous use of cliches, his unreal people, and so on down the line. Anybody whose aesthetic sense is even slightly developed may see that. Nevertheless, I am grateful to him for the golden happy hours I spent with him, and I am very curious to follow Tarzan all the way to Mars. But, if this is another hoax Ray, if this novel has been written by you, I'm coming up all the way to Amherst, clad in my leopardskin, and tearing you apart. It had better be what you say it is. In grade school my nickname was Tarzan because I spent so much time in the trees playing at being him. I'm thirty-eight now and haven't climbed a tree for a long time, but my hands are still strong, and I can utter the victory cry over a dead profaner of the blesser of my childhood.
Philip José Farmer
4034 Bryer Place
These words, from a writer as fine as you are, Phil, are music to my ears! We agree that you write a polished story; but not that Burroughs did not (nor those others you mentioned). A story that holds you fascinated in spite of the word usage, is a STORY! And it is does that, it doesn't matter a tinker's damn how well written it is. As an editor, I've rewritten, yes (EVEN BURROUGHS), but sometimes I think I didn't help any. No, this isn't a hoax. This is just the most wonderful adventure of Tarzan and John Carter I have ever read, and I "swang" through those same trees! As for being written by me -- let's get this straight--I just ain't capable of anything near as good as Burroughs, and I'm the first guy to admit it. Annas, Byrne and Shaver are just beginning--so let's leave their final ranking up to future history, eh? --Ray.
Sky Hook #24, Summer 1957
THE CAPTURED CROSS SECTION
Redd, you last issue was wonderful, superb. I though the cover clever, your remarks on the Oz books pertinent and amusing, the "Fiction Fantasy" hilarious (especially the Winter and Willis books), and your criticism of Steinbeck's grievance against literates, alas, only too true. That is the main reason that I can't bring myself to read him any more, though I may really be missing something, there being other wonderful things in his books. But I can't stand his sentimentalizing about whores in From Here to Eternity. Not that whores and bums aren't human, and some have great potentialities, and all are worth rehabilitating. It's the grossly unrealistic attitude towards them in novels that are supposed ot be realistic that I can't endure. Actually, the majority of whores are frigid, which means they are sexually neurotic, anesthetized, as much to be pitied and avoided as a goodly percentage of so-called respectable housewives and spinsters, unstable, rationalizing, rigid in their behavior, overly codified, afflicted with shame, etc. Hell, I'd better stop, or I'll be launching into a lecture again! # Robert Lowndes' article was excellent, mainly because he knows what he's talking about. All of us may read it and profit, writers, editors, and readers alike. His statement that encouragement from would-be writers from fans is a very delusory thing at best is true. Only a few fans have the perceptiveness to know what they're talking about, yet those few are very good. Problem: find a good critic. Actually, it's no problem. The genuine artist strives only to please himself. If he happens to please many others, too, so much the better, for him and them. This is a non-professional attitude, but the true artist is non-professional, as his is non-most-other-things. This does not keep him from being interested in money or in appreciation from others. But basically his attitude is go-to-hell. It is too bad that after a such a superb job you should have slipped up on proofreading my poem "Black Squirrel on Cottonwood Limb's Tip." The error would not have mattered much in prose, but in poetry it meant a great deal. In the final stanza, first line, "we two" is printed "we too." It can't be helped, and I suppose it doesn't matter too much, as it is na unfortunate fact that almost nobody will puzzle over the meaning of the printed phrase but will proceed blithly on -- if indeed he has bothered to read it. Anyway, I'm not mad. I was upset for ten minutes, then laughed, and let it go. Which is why, probably, I shall never be a true poet. (New York)
Science Fiction Times, August 1960
July 3, 1960
When I see something I think is wrong or misleading, I protest. As of now, I protest against some of the statements in the review of my novel FLESH in Volume 15, Number 12 of Science-Fiction Times. Specifically, I protest that the reviewer is wrong when he says that FLESH has a science-fiction background hanging by less than a mere spider's web. If the reviewer knew anything at all about anthropology and knew of the works of Mead, Benedict, Frazer, Malinowski, Taylor, Burton, Calas, Kroeber, Kluckhohn and especially of Robert Graves, he would not say that FLESH had no science-fiction background. Unless, that is, he denies that anthropology (cultural) and the studies of ancient pre-Indo-European religions are scientific. The novel derives directly from the authors mentioned. It takes place in the future and depicts a society which, for valid reasons, has built up a fertility-Mother & Goddess-worshipping religion which is unconsciously based on the concepts held by ancient Mediterranean peoples and influenced by contemporary environment and the cataclysmic events preceding the foundation of the 29th-century society. I refer you to Frazer and Graves' works for the pattern of life lead by the protagonist of FLESH.
I also assert that the novel is sexual, not sexy, and there is a great difference between depicting raw primal sex diverted into ritual and cosmology and throwing in so-called "sexy" scenes. For a review by a literate critic who perceived what the novel was about, I refer you to the SCIENCE AND FANTASY column by H.H. Holmes in the Herald Tribune Book Review -- May 29, 1960.
Like you, I am against sex in s-f, or in any type of fiction, if it is thrown in just to attract a certain category of reader. But if the sexual-theme is the basis of the story, if the story speculates about sex in future times, why deny that the story is s-f? Do you think our sexual mores haven't changed during the past sixty years or that they won't change in the future or that they haven't alwasy been changing? Totem and taboo; totem and taboo. Old totems topple; new ones are being erected. Why sneer at the conservative who wants us to put out money into building more roads instead of financing space explorations and yet reacts as the conservative does when that greatest taboo of all, Sex, is dealt with in an extrapolative story?
I'm not responsible for other Beacon S-F novels or what titles Beacon attaches to my novels. But I can tell you that if they insert "sexy" scenes into my books, they'll hear a squawk. So far, they've had to expurgate the two books I gave them. Why? Because the expurgated parts were sexual, not sexy.
I want to stress that I'm not objecting because anybody might think the story was no good or had flaws in it. I'm objecting to the statement that FLESH didn't have a solid s-f theme.
Philip José Farmer
PITFCS 137, October 1960
PHIL FARMER SAYS:
I think we owe a vote of thanks and a gasp of admiration for the tremendous labor of love (and love of labor) to those responsible for putting out Who Killed Science Fiction. Too bad it didn't do much but furnish interesting reading. If only a definitive and logical answer could result ... On the whole, I thought that Bester's and Bloch's contributions were the most significant. Though the poor editors caught so much abuse, the publishers must bear the blame for the low word rates. However, maybe they wouldn't make any profit then, so who can blame them? And Bester was right when he said that everything changes, including science fiction, and that writers must change with it or pass out or away. Strange, isn't it, that a field supposedly dedicated to the future, to mutation, has so many conservatives, die-hards, and fossils in it. Let's hope s-f evolves instead of becoming an extinct or scarce species.
Another thing. After reading Who Killed Science Fiction and then Bester's defense of Horace Gold in PITFCS-135 I shamefacedly came to the conclusion that too much kicking of Horace and not enough praise. Bester is right. I know from my own limited experience of Horace that he is a tremendously creative editor and generous to boot. And, after blowing my top in WKSF, and feeling better, I began to think that I had blamed Horace for too much. After all, Astounding had its Dark Ages and its Golden Age, too, and that Galaxy could enter another. Though pessimistic for a while after reading WKSF, I have regained my innate optimism. As Eric Frank Russell said, s-f has met a lot of ups and downs.
Jim McConnell had some very pertinent and thought-provoking things to say, especially about the lack of scientific knowledge and novel ideas on the part of the average s-f author. I'm all for stories which are not based on contemporary moral and social attitudes. But the average s-f readers doesn't really want disturbing or thought-provoking stories, he wants entertainment. The average and even superior editor knows this, and he prefers to entertain the reader. Bob Mills is an exception, but even he is taking a poll of his readers to determine if they wish controversial stories. If the majority says no, then it's Good-bye to s-f magazines for me, both as a reader and writer. I can continue to write innocuous stories, and probably will now and then because I need the money, but my heart won't be in it.
As for Campbell's story about the possibility of slavery being good for certain types, I don't reject the possibility. But he and Gold reject controversial stories based on sex because they found them personally disgusting and disturbing. I refer specifically to "Open to Me, My Sister," though there were others which preceded this. For some reason, they (Campbell especially) display and ultrareactionary attitude when it comes to buying stories of extrapolative Sex. Gold seems to have a different attitude about his pocketbook stories; perhaps magazines are more vulnerable to censorship than PB's. I don't know. But I do know that Campbell, while he loves to push psi and societies based on talent rather than democracy, rejects any story which contains a society based on different sex mores. Oh, yes, I know some of his stories have mentioned, in passing, non-Terrestrial societies with alien sex mores, but these were never outlines in detail, nor were the Earth characters involved intimately with these.
If one wrote a story based on McConnell's idea that a man ending up wired to a machine might have come to a good end, where would he sell it? If one wrote a story suggesting that rigid segregation of races, or classes, or professions, or religions might have a sound scientific basis, where would he sell it? And if it did sell, the author would see its thesis perverted, taken out of context, used by blind, ignorant, and prejudices persons for their own loathsome ends. Look what Hitler did to Nietzsche. What if one wrote a story in which the American Medical Association was proved to be a conspiracy and monopoly suggesting wholesale imprisonment and hanging of those responsible? What if one wrote a story suggesting that we have so many homosexuals and rapists because children are not allowed to experiment freely with each other? What if a story agreed with the thesis that happiness is the big thing in life, that a static society is the best means for ensuring happiness, that individuals who early in life show signs of resisting conditioning and original thinking or rebellious temperaments be done away with because it will be for the good of the majority? I don't mean a story which says that this would be a bad society but one which we really should have. Our protagonist, the stereotypical rebel against society, is shown to be a genuine villain. What about a society in which it is shown that those religions which reject scientific data because it contradicts their cosmologies should be outlawed because they pervert the minds of people? This would include Christianity, Judaism, Mohammedanism, Hinduism, and Communism, and of course Mormonism. The author would show in graphic detail exactly how the perversion of infant minds took place, how the religions were outlawed, what form of conditioning replaced the old religious conditioning, what type of religion was created or synthesized to satisfy man's basic religious impulse (if he has one), and how much happier everyone is in this new society. Plus a suggestion of new problems arising.
I don't say I believe in any or all of the above suggestions. But if a man tries to think of something counter to present-day morality and mores, comes up with something that might be personally repugnant to him, but wrote a story about it anyway, where would he sell it? He might sell a story based on segregation of natural classes of people to Campbell, but Campbell wouldn't allow the author to go all out on the thesis, to fully develop it. The author would have to conform to Campbell's ideas about that, and new sexual mores couldn't be brought in if they were discussed in detail.
PITFCS 139, March 1961
PHIL FARMER SAYS:
Blish's letter, as usual, was not only interesting but instructive, Even , I might add, humiliating for me, since it shows me up as an ignoramus. Not a voluntary know-nothing, true, for I am far behind on my reading of s-f, having been submerged in anthropology and language texts lately. Wolfbane (the story Blish refers to?) I have not read, though it is piled with fifty other novels in my closet. I look forward to reading "A Dusk of Idols," not only because I like Blish's stories but also to determine if it is as controversial as he implies. However, at the time I wrote that letter, I was thinking of hardcover novels (mainstream in that they would not advertise themselves as sf, such as Brave New World, Limbo, On the Beach(?)). And also, of John Campbell. But further reflection, aided by Mr. Blish's gentle kick in the ass, shoes me I am again wrong. Brave New World certainly had a pessimistic tone, its characters enjoyed their life yet were (to us) in a blind alley. No, by God! I'm right! Or, rather, wrong about Huxley's novel, for the reader was not told that this sort of life really is the best. The moral did not go against contemporary values. Tell me, do you know of any mainstream novels speculating about the future which maintain that a rigidly regimented society could be the ideal society?
(I expect to deluged by the titles of such novels, thus again demonstrating my sad failure to keep up on current fiction. However, I also have The Manchurian Candidate in my closet. And I would also like to point out that Scribner's did reject Starship Soldiers. This, by the way, shows that publishers do have integrity; they must have realized what the loss of Heinlein to them meant, yet they spurned his book for moral reasons.)
As for my comments about Mr. Campbell. I have the highest regard for his abilities to make other people think, and I know that he is very generous and fruitful in feeding authors ideas. We corresponded several years ago about my doing a series on a society based on class divisions determined by intellectuality and knowledge. But I just up and quit because I could not bring myself to believe in the idea.Now, I don't have much trouble believing it, but I've lost interest in it. Besides, I still haven't been able to solve the question of Who, Then, Watches the Watchers? Moreover, extensive contact with the professional classes since then: electrical engineers, higher-echelon administrators, research scientists, college professors, has convinced me that they are not much more equipped to rule than the steel-mill, dairy, and construction workers and lineman that I knew for so many years. Once the high-I.Q.'ed (presumably) engineer, scientist, and professor steps out of the lab and classroom, he is just as emotional, irrational, and stupid as those lower classes he really despises and distrusts. I am speaking, of course, in generalities; plenty of exceptions in both classes. Democracy, as inefficient, bumbling, graft-ridden, and blind as it is, seems to me to be the best method of government so far known. Not that it will necessarily survive, but I haven't been able to think of a realistic superior form of government. Maybe some one else will; I wish they would.
One more point. I wasn't shocked by Heinlein's SS; I thought it a well-written and almost convincing novel although on the tractish side. But Heinlein, at least in the magazine version I read, was not thoroughly realistic. He did not say a word about the well-known and thoroughly authenticated tendency of the military system to be stupid. (For authentication, I refer you to your own observations and Pitkin's A Short Introduction to the History of Human Stupidity.) A world ruled by veteran's would be as mismanaged, graft-ridden, and insane as one ruled by men who had never gotten near the odor of blood and guts. Look at your average Legionnaire.
I do agree with Heinlein's main point. That is, we'd better get up off our ass and outbug the bugs, or we're done for. And we won't do it with a nation of softies.
Wollheim's letter amused me. Why? I quote his last line. "They all write like so many hack characters endlessly repeating their special hook lines." Perhaps this is true. But does Wollheim realize that his letter does exactly the same thing for him? He, Too, writes his stereotyped letters, full of ill humor, snarling distaste, a general if vaguely worded hatred of the world. Disappointed is the word that best describes the tenor of his letters. I would classify him, on the basis of his correspondence, as a frustrated writer. Or as one who has waited too long for the Messiah.
As for being sick, I am (sobs of self-pity!) I'm a member of this society, so how can I help it? Not that it would have done me any good to have been born in a past society or to be born in a future. They all were, are and will be sick (for the next hundred years, anyways). Before anybody starts yelping, I will say that there are healthy people in this society, and it is my misfortune that I fell into one of the many traps set by this society. Don't ask me what the trap was; first, let all these people who have charged me with being sick come out and specify the illness. I'll bet they'll be surprised at the discrepancy between what they believe and what I believe is my illness. Am I a sex fiend because I wrote Flesh? Am I a fat little priest because I wrote "Father"? Do I have an Oedipus complex because I wrote "Mother," or am I searching for the father-image because I wrote "Father"? Do I have a compulsion towards incest because of "Open To Me, My Sister"? Am I a cannibal? A homosexual? Neanderthal? A Martian? Am I constipated? Do I enjoy regurgitations? Am I, worst sin of all, a hack?
The answer to the above is yes. Pick your own sickness, and slap a label on me. I could care less. I won't defend the others; they don't need my dubious help.
Actually, if I were to be given my choice of reincarnation or forecarnation, I would be (right by Poul Anderson's side) a Viking. KILL! KILL! KILL! RAPE! BURN! LOOT! DESTROY! Being inhibited as hell, I would, naturally, choose the most uninhibited role. Realistically, I suppose, the Vikings were just as bound as anybody else; they probably considered the performance of the above injunctions as carrying out Odin's will. They were more joyous at the task than the average Christian.
For Dean McLaughlin's benefit, I live in Arizona, not New Mexico. Not that it makes much difference. The only way you can tell you're in Arizona, not N.M. (aside from the signs on the borders), is that Arizona has saguaros. And even those are restricted to the southern area.
This issue--138--is so full of goodies I could write several more pages of comment but won't. However, I'm glad for Blish's tips about recent advances in psychology. But who has the time to read them all? I work eight hours a day as a military electronics technical writer, spend many evenings writing fiction, am taking a correspondence course in anthropology for credit, am going to an evening class in linguistics (The Structure of English), am studying Navajo, refreshing myself in French, reading all the anthropology books I can get my hands on, conducting domestic life, bringing up a Siamese cat who insists on getting up at four-thirty or earlier every morning, taking gold-hunting and archeological expeditions into the remote desert on the weekends, etc. So who can read everything? I spent $258 last year buying books, and I've only been able to read one-tenth of them. Who has time?
Discord #12, May 1961
PHILIP JOSÉ FARMER
Marion Zimmer Bradley's review of Search the Dark Stars was interesting for the more than one reason. It stirred my curiosity about the novel, which I would like to read but won't because I can't get hold of a copy without going to much trouble; it, perhaps, prophesied a new trend -- or the return of an old one -- to the space opera; it helped confirm what I've been thinking for some time, that the old gives way tot he new, then the new becomes old, and the author who can't change his thinking about writing and his style must also go under. For some time, I've been thinking about writing a space opera. "The investigation of alien socio-sexual customs" is a vein I've played out as far as I'm concerned. Not that the "investigations" won't give rise to good stories in the future but that I won't be doing them. "Open to Me, My Sister" was the last story I intend to write exploiting that branch of extrapolation. "The reader who is jaded with too much...Phil Farmer" will see a new one, if I have my way, and I don't see any reason why I can't. It is a coincidence -- and a happy one, I hope -- that Mrs Bradley's article and my determination to get far out in interstellar space among almost incredibly exotic planets, weird beings, and tough swashbuckling Earthmen came about the same time. Telepathy? No, just two who are in tune with the Zeitgeist. The tentative title of the spopus is Ramstam. That is the name of the captain of the ship; look it up in the dictionary.
I hope Marion wasn't hinting that she was up to here with Father Carmody, and that other readers don't agree with her, because I've got too many notes and outlines about him to throw them in the can. After all, only about one Carmody story a year, sometimes two, appear. Is that too much? I intend to kill him off some day, but before I've written his biography.
I would like it made clear that I didn't sit down and analyze the markets, readers, and the new direction and then decide to give the readers when they wanted. I ain't built that way. 'Twas I myself, all by myself, who came to that conclusion, who decided that intergalactic adventure could be fun and that I'd like to have some fun. However, I think and maintain strongly that you can have entertainment, fast action, and also have three-dimensional characterization. And that the story is that much better if you know "what the Bad Huys have done that's so awful, or what the Good Guys have done that's so worthwhile or what the mysterious plots are all about." Action for action's sake only is shallow literature and continues to hold only shallow readers. On the other hand, too much soul-searching sludges the story. so (how's that for alliteration?) the think to do is not just to skim the surface or plunge into the abyss but to dive full fathoms five where the sunlight penetrates far enough for one to see the alien and beautiful seascape but all is bent by the refraction of water and convexity of the diver's lens. And that doesn't mean that the writer must try to regain the "sense of wonder." Once lost, never regained. You have to keep it. You also have to have readers with that sense.
Has anyone read The Bright Ring of Water? Delightful -- but then, I'm an animal lover. I even put up with a Siamese cat who gets me up at four o'clock every morning to let him out and at six to let him in. (Scottsdale, Arizona)
Shangri L'Affaires #56, May-June 1961
"I want to thank whoever is responsible for printing Fritz Leiber's SWORD AND SCORCERY, and I hope you get more articles like this from him. Mr. Leiber is a thinker; it's always a pleasure to hear from a thinking. I didn't intend to get started off on this tangent, but I got all hepped up and couldn't stop. I should rewrite, reorganize this, but I don't have time; final exam is due next Wed."....Philip José Farmer
DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD Two Points of View: Farmer
The parallel Leiber discovered between Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser: Thor and Loki is, I think, true. Some of us had seen it before Fritz's sudden discovery; it had always existed in his subconscious; suddenly, while he's writing, the illumination. Now, knowing this, will he consciously strive to make the Leiber heroes more nearly resemble the Teutonic? I know we don't think of Loki as a hero, but, for all we know, the ancient Teutons did, He had many traits they must have admired, except for his sneakiness. Though they seem from this long distance in time to have been forthright characters who longed for glorious death in battle, they must also have admired any means which would put one over on the enemy. And Loki did this as no one else could. Of course(?), when Leiber speaks of the similarity, it is mainly of the companionship of the two and the fact that the two take different means to effect the same end; the defeat and discomfiture of their enemies.
Leiber's analysis was in the main true; especially when he notes the disregard of most readers for this type of fantasy. And, he might have added, the disregard, indeed the contempt or scorn, of the literary critic for this genre. Which brings up another point. If an author loves this genre (with good reason, I think), I he spends so much time lovingly building up this world in every conceivable aspect, if he creates and perfects and adheres to the rationale of this world, if he creates something of value, then he must be satisfied with his own contentment and joy and that of his small audience. He will derive few financial benefits or fame; if he wants these (and who doesn't?) he must write mainstream. Yet, men like Dunsany and Cabell and Eddison and Tolkien write as they please, play the Demiurge to their fantastic universes, bid the world kiss their ass if they don't like it, and take a long chance on gaining recognition. Some make it through accident (such as Cabell's Jurgen being denounced by the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice), some gain a deep but not broad recognition (Dunsany). None of these made any real money from their books, and none gained any significant critical praise. Cabell and Dunsany got a certain amount, but the total effect is deprecatory. And how many literati know them? The number who don't is amazing.
Which brings me to another point. There is a feeling, voiced by both mainstream critics and in the s-f field, that the men who confine themselves to writing s-f and fantasy, who do this because they love the two fields, are second-rate artists, if that. Time and again we hear from s-f critics and fans that the s-f field has never produced a first-rate writer. Also, the implication that it never will. There is something second-rate about the field, so say or imply the critics, that attract only the mediocre or incompetent. These may flourish in this field, but they will never produce anything worthwhile outside it, nor should they try to do so. (Yes, I know Bradbury might be pointed out as the one who has, but he has never written a mainstream novel, never created any three-dimensional human beings, was adopted as the pet of the intellectuals when others as good (see Sturgeon as an example) were neglected.)
All these remarks in the mainstream critical journals and books and in the s-f magazines and some of the fanzines have their effect. They sting. They make the authors wonder if shouldn't get out of the field, write, or try to write, something worthwhile. Even if the implications are that they might as well not try because they haven't got what it takes. (This argument doesn't include mainstream authors who have occasionally tried their hand at s-f or fantasy: Huxley, Graves, Orwell, Werfer, etc.) Unfortunately, the mainstreamers seem to have much force and evidence on their side. Who among us has gone on to the so-called big league? Who among us could get up the nerve to try after being taken to task by our own native critics: Bester, Knight, Blish, etc.? Who among us has given any evidence that he could become a star pitcher or batter if he did quit the bush? I can think of Sturgeon. But he has confessed that he has tried it and just could not reproduce the same effects in the mainstream as he could in fantasy. Why? I think because he does not love mainstream as he does fantasy; he is like the genius in oils who tries to become a sculptor. And fails because he loves to paint but hates the medium of stone. Heinlein might have the stuff. He is almost the only author in the s-f field who has the ability to wring tears from his readers (at least, he does from me) when one of his characters dies or is involved in some high-tension emotional predicament or scene. I believe he could do the same if he were to write a mainstreamer. But Heinlein doesn't care to; he loves s-f, he believes in it as a serious and worthwhile branch of realistic literature. Also, he seems to be making some money at it; there is no economic pressure to force him to move on to a more rewarding realm.
Which brings up another point. Time and again I read in the s-f magazines and in fanzines that the financial rewards are too small for any writer worth his salt to linger long in s-f. That any writer who does so because he can't get out, he's stuck like a fly on stickum because his literary wings aren't strong enough to free himself. This, it must be admitted, is true in the case of many. On the other hand, many s-f writers are not full-time writers. They have regular jobs, and they write s-f and fantasy because they like it. And some of them do a damn good, even superb, job. (But could they do the same if they tried mainstream? That is the nagging unlodgeable question.) Anyway, all the implications, and outright statements, are that if a writer was any good he'd be going after the big money: SEP, Playboy, New Yorker, Harper's, etc. Perhaps. But what if a writer also wants to write noteworthy literature? How many memorable stories have been published in the above markets? How many classics? Damn few. And of these few, the fantasies are prominent. What about The Lottery? This is one of the few stories published in the New Yorker that I can remember; it could just of easily been in the MoF&SF; would have probably if Shirley Jackson had been content with much less money and a much smaller audience. Yet, other stories, just as strong in impact, have been published in MoF&SF. But only the aficionados know of them; stories as good as The Lottery are doomed to die because they don't reach the big audience.
Which brings up another point. Financial urgency. Perhaps, too many s-f and fantasy writers don't reach a high literary peak in their works because of money urgency. Of course, if this is true, it doesn't suffice as an excuse for bad writing. The critic must go on what is produced, the end result, no on what the writer might have done or on what circumstances prevented him from doing his best. So, we get back to those writers who did their best, took their time, told the world to buss their buttocks. These may have been men financially independent, men who didn't have to depend on their writings to pay the butcher and the doctor (synonymous?). But they could have been money hungry. Men who have more than enough but want even more are legion. Well-off men can turn out crap, crud, mediocrities because they want to add to their bank account.
After all is said, the sting remains. Too many have said the same thing. A first rate writer does not continue to make s-f or fantasy the bulk of their efforts. A first-rate writer is destined to a small audience and thin paychecks if he remains as a big frog in a small puddle. If he has any guts, any belief in own value, he will make the big leap, sink or swim, eat or be eaten, be a big bull among other big bulls or else jump back into the small pond. So...?
Bester, in various of his critiques, however, has said that any writer will not dally long in the s-f field if he has the ability to get out. This is a realistic attitude. One of the main reasons for writing is, of course, because one wants to get a living from it. And if one can get much more money writing in mainstream, one automatically does. One would be silly if one did not. Therefore, one who stays in the s-f field does so because he doesn't have the ability to leave. Is this true? I leave that up to you.
Philip José Farmer
The Gridley Wave 13, January 1964
I've done some thinking about what P.S. Miller said about ERB's prejudices. This shows that, like many who review ERB, he hasn't read him very carefully. In my recent rereading of ERB, I've been struck time and again with the fact that ERB was years ahead of his time. Many times, like a thread running through all of his books, ERB extolls the virtues and the essential equality--if not, indeed, superiority--of the so-called primitive peoples (many of them colored) to the civilized whites. Not that he is unfair to whites. He simply points out that other races and cultures have their good points, their virtues, that they by no means compare unfavorably with European-American white culture. I don't see how any reader of ERB can miss this. Unless the reader is, himself, prejudiced and determined to see no good in ERB. Also, ERB is quite a satirist; many times he makes devastating comments worthy of a Swift or a Voltaire. I'd like to write an article about this someday.
I noticed that L. Sprague De Camp, in the January issue of MOF&SF, indirectly bumwrapped Tarzan. He said that when he grabbed a vine (in Africa), he had to beat a hasty retreat because a shower of stinging ants fell on him. What he overlooks is that not all vines would be populated so, and, Tarzan, reared in the jungle, would have built up a partial immunity to the ant-poison and a total indifference to the stings while tree-traveling. Burroughs would not have found it necessary to mention ants any more than he it necessary to mention every cloud of mosquitoes or flies Tarzan ran into.
--Philip José Farmer
When you find time to write that article, I'll reserve space for it in BB. De Camp has a habit of backhanding ERB's works, in one way or another, in most articles he writes. I think he's a bit frustrated, because of all the faults he finds in ERB's works, even the poorest of ERB continues to outsell the best of De Camp.
Warhoon #26, February 1969
PHILIP JOSÉ FARMER:
Mr. Blish mildly takes me to task for some statements in my Baycon speech. As usual, Mr. Blish is cool, logical, restrained, scholarly, informative, and stimulating. I won't argue with him about McLuhan. After all, I used McL's pronouncements only as a basis for what if speculations regarding the 192-39 period of sf as prophesy. I should have made it clear that I was not proposing that McL was some sort of contemporary Moses inscribing an electrical tablet on a global-village Mt. Sinai. But I think Mr. Blish may be wrong when he cited Mozartian music as an example of art which is entirely devoid of prophetic content. I see no reason why Mozart or Beethoven could not have been prophesying or why some of the music of the 20th century is not prophetic in the McLuhanian sense. Perhaps interpreters of modern music will arise and will tell us what it is prophesying. :: Also, Mr. Blish's remarks about R. Wagner and the limitations of an artist -- his necessary noninvolvement in politics, etc -- and the remarks about A. MacLeish, etc, were appropriate and justified. I say were. They do not apply now. The situation of the world, the entire world, is different now. This is not 1845 or 1938. Man faces extinction, a no-so-slow poisoning, and every man, rice farmer, truck driver, engineer, poet, composer, student, assembly-line worker, is required to be involved. :: Lowndes' reactions to my "Riders of the Purple Wage" were predictable. If anyone would have asked me, I would have foretold fairly closely what he would say about the story. What else can be expected from a man who maintained (seriously) that Edgar A. Guest is the greatest of 20th century poets and that Douglas' "The Robe" is a far greater novel than "The Brothers Karamazov"?
Riverside Quarterly, August 1969
I loved both Tarzan articles in [recent RQs ] and plan to use them as sources if I get a contract for a book about Tarzan (similar in plan to Baring-Gould's Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street). Keep the Tarzan articles going, if possible. They're illuminating and stimulating. Clarkson N. Petter, Baring-Gould's publishers, turned down my Tarzan project, by the way, because they said that there couldn't be enough scholarly or speculative articles about Tarzan to justify such a book. They're wrong, of course, but I can't convince them otherwise.
I agreed whole-heartedly with most of Jim Harmon's article. But several statements of his need correcting.
First, I did not regard my views as dumbfoundingly radical when I gave the Baycon speech. Most of the ideas have been around a long time. What was new, or radical, if anything was, was the statement that we'd better start reconstructing our economy NOW or we'll die soon in our own garbage. Physical and psychic garbage. Also, man ignorant though he still is, does have the knowledge and materials to create an economy of abundance. And he now has some idea of how to develop the potentiality for good in the very young. And some idea of how to create an environment where the full potentiality of the human being can be developed, if that human being so wishes it. (See the stimulating Ecstasy and Education, for one thing.) I did like, and agreed with, his comments on the "gun clubs." It's obvious that my speech not only aroused the reactionaries, which is to be expected, but revealed also that a number who were regarded as liberals are, actually, fossilized. And scared of the idea of change.
Jim Harmon may be right about fandom, but I believe in giving it a chance. We'll see what happens when my first document about REAP is printed and distributed...I've been handicapped by lack of time so far...Moreover, I'm slowly and carefully working out the first statement and spending much time in researching economics, psychology, education, finance, sociology, etc. But if I get a good response to the first document, or even a slightly encouraging response, then...I'll go it as a full time fiction writer. And have, I hope, more time to spare in developing REAP.
[...Relative to]Harlan Ellison...I remember being present at the Midwestern many years ago when Harlan dropped a sack of water on Jim's head from Jim's hotel-window. Jim charged, like Roosevelt up San Juan Hill, up the steps, found the door to his room locked...I remember Jim knocking the door down with his fists ·la Doc Savage's buddy Renny. I also remember the cope carrying Jim off, and the hat being passed around to pay for a new door and to keep Jim out of the hoosegow... Those were the days! We had exciting conventions then. Things happened to make the blood race. Wooden doors and iron men then.
...Personally, the Harlan Ellison I know is not one to be worshipped (what man is?). But he's certainly on to be loved, and if I were to recite his deeds of charity and compassion, and these with no thought of repayment. So I'll stand up for Harlan..any day, admitting at the same time that he has faults and weaknesses (as who hasn't?).
Jim's last line is excellent. With his permission, I'll quote it in the REAP document.
Philip José Farmer
About this incident I recall Bill Blackbeard's suggestion that pieces from the Door be sold as relics (like slivers from the True Cross), souvenirs of those grand old days when, as P.Schuyler Miller might say, Conan could have lived again. But I'm happy to report that Jim and Harlan have patched up there differences, so there'll be no further news of trouble between them.
Riverside Quarterly, January 1970
I read the copy of your Kol Hillel article...with great interest of course. I finished my first...novel and am almost finished with the second one. Two novels in one month and numerous interruptions, the Westercon, our house burglarized, two days in court testifying after they they caught the poor wretch, and the landing on the Moon--which I had to watch, schedules or no schedules, a most emotional moment--and other intrusions which cannot be avoided. Plus doing research and working out theories...on this projected book about Tarzan, similar in concept and design to Baring-Gould's Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street. Crowley Pub. is interested, but I have to sell them on the idea that there are enough problems and enough scholarly or semischolarly articles on Tarzan, that there is a big audience, etc. I am planning on sending two RQ's with the Tarzan articles as part of the selling package. And a copy of the article from the fanzine Escape, which contains a reprinted article from Baker Street Irregulars. This article is very funny; it "proves" that a crotchety old taxi driver in The Hound of the Baskervilles was Tarzan's grandfather.
Re The Lovers. Sigmen, as I remember my ideas when I wrote TL, was not Jewish or was at least only partly descended from Jews. He was mostly of Icelandic stock, which would be Norwegian and Irish. And you are right when you say that the Western Talmud had little to do with the Talmud. The idea was that Sigmen was more the Southern Baptist fundamentalist type who had done some reading in the Jewish "scriptures" but was by no means a scholar. His Western Talmud and other works were "spinoffs" or takeoffs at ninety agrees to the originals, and his time-theory religion idea was based on Dunne's books about time, Christ and Judas, Ormuzd and Ahriman, misconceptions of the ancient Hebrew religion, rather distorted rationalizations, etc. The basing of the religion on time travel gave the religion a "scientific" basis. About as scientific as that of Christian Science. Sigmen, of course, was psychotic but was powerful enough to impose his psychoses, disguised as religious "truths." And the Zeitgeist was right for acceptance of his ideas. In a way, he was a later Joséph Smith-Mary Baker Eddy...
Philip José Farmer
Without denying the failure of Free Enterprise in Saskatchewan and the U.S., I'd say our closest approximation to the Western Talmud is the Communist Manifesto, which (to quote A.J.P. Taylor) "must be counted as a holy book, in the same class as the Bible and the Koran." // Again I refer to Pete Weston's Speculation, whose current issue contains excellent reviews, by Charles Platt, of our correspondent's latest two books, Image of The Beast and A Feast Unknown (each $1.95 from Essex House, 7311 Fulton Ave., North Hollywood, Calif 91605). This last title is especially commended to students of Tarzan or Doc Savage, since it features both.
Science Fiction Review #37, April 1970
P.O. Box 3116
PHILIP JOSÉ FARMER
824 S. Burnside
Los Angeles, Ca. 90036
I enjoyed Bill Glass's comments about Image and Blown until I came to his speculations on the identity of the parasitic couple living in 4e's house. I was not only flabbergasted, I was distressed.
When writing Blown, I made sure, or tried to make sure, that the Dummocks would in no way be connected with the Warrens. I mentioned that the Dummocks had moved in after the Warrens left. This comment is on the bottom of page 46 of Blown. Unfortunately, somewhere along the production line, Warren cam out as Ward. When I saw this in the published book, it didn't bother me much because I figured that anybody concerned would know that Ward stood for Warren. And also the Dummocks could not possibly be mistaken for the Warrens. Especially since the Dummocks are archetypes, not based on any particular individuals, although a few traits may be borrowed from a certain parasitical couple. At least, some people have claimed they recognize them, but this I stoutly deny. They were invented for semicomical purposes and also to illustrate 4e's long-suffering and perhaps overly Christian attitude towards certain fans. (I hope 4e forgives my use of Christian.)
As Bill Glass points out, the Warrens have nothing in common with the Dummocks. I would have had no motive to depict the Warrens, since my few contacts with them have been congenial, I like them, and even if I didn't like them, I wouldn't depict them in a book without their permission.
What Bill Glass should have done, before he wrote comments that should have know would distress the Warrens, was contact me and ask me if I had them in mind. His puzzlement would have been dissipated, nothing would have been printed, and the Warrens and I wouldn't be upset.
I know that there was nothing malicious in Glass's surmise or in your printing it, but I hope that, in the future, more thought will be taken on such matters and repercussions considered.
((Take heed, Geis!"—"Same to you alter-ego!"))
I am sorry the mistake was made, and I regret any distress was caused the Warrens. This letter should clear matters up.
((Apologies to all. One goof per issue is my average it seems...))
Science Fiction Review #38, June 1970
P.O. Box 3116
PHILIP JOSÉ FARMER
824 S. Burnside
Los Angeles, Cal.
Everywhere I turn I run into J.J. Pierce in one form or another. I was looking throug a SCIENCE WONDER STORIES, March 1930, which I had borrowed from Charlie Tanner (Tumithak of the corridors, a story I've never forgotten, was my first Tanner story). On page 895 is an article and photo of John Pierce, second prize winner of a story contest conducted by SWS. He was a student at the Cal. Inst. of Technology, and his chief hobby was gliding. I'm inclined to think this is our J.J.'s father, since the photo looks much like descriptions of J.J. which I've heard from various people. The story is definitely Old Wave. How about it J.J? Was that your father?
A new trend is just getting started. First, B. Aldiss requests that you discontinue sending him SFR; then, Harry Harrison. Now Harry has requested that BEABOHEMA drop him from the mailing list. I see a Secondary Wave where the pros request they be dropped from mailing lists until, finally, only one pro is left writing to any fanzine. SaM? Ted White? Who will follow Aldiss and Harrison? It seems to me that Piers Anthony made a similar request to some fanzine not too long ago. This is the next wave of the future, men. Pros devote their time to fiction and evade being bugged and insulted and decried and shafted and needled. Fans tear into each other and write stories and critical articles which only they read. Suddenly, some of the fanzines turn pro, publish nationally. This is the Tertiary Wave. Soon, a thousand prozines struggling on the stands. Even more suddenly, the complete collapse of science fiction. No more s-f magazines or books; everybody's had it up to here. The writers go on the breadlines and sell apples or turn to armed robbery since the Depression has struck. And all this stems from Dick Geis and his SFR. You better start looking for a good place to hide, come the Armageddon, Dick.
((I'll seek refuge in your house, Phil. Surely you'll grant Sanctuary?))
Paul Walker's stuff was, to me, interesting and well thought out and stimulating, until I ran across his letter defending Campbell and ANALOG. Sure, ANALOG publishes good now and then and an occasional classic. But it's not adult, and the editorials are blatantly racist and many stories racist by implication. And when I read the editorial which I title the GRASSHOPPERS ARE GROOVEY editorial in the Nov. 1969 ANALOG, I just threw up (my hands) and said, "This man is completely divorced from reality and isn't too well attached to feelings of humanity, either!" That was it. I will no longer succumb to the urge to open an ANALOG at the newstand and peak into Miller's reviews and John's essays. I haven't purchased a Campbell magazine for seven years. I have read some stories and editorials now and then because friends gave me some copies, though I didn't ask for them.
No, I don't think Campbell is a monster. He has many fine qualities. He fools himself quite frequently and is inconsistent in his professed opinions and behavior, but who doesn't? But he's honest, which is more than I can say for one editor currently rising to prominence. (And don't ask me his name; I won't be sued if I can help it, though I could prove my contentions.) John is also, in many ways, one of the biggest men in character, not to mention physical size, that I know.
But contrary to what Walker says, John is "right wing." But he does buy stories from people, like McCaffrey and Harrison, who cannot be called right wing or even centrist or, in the case of Harry, anyway, even moderately left wing. Harry is way out, and I'm right there with him—on most things.
Well, to wrap up my comments re Walker's comments, there is no prejudice by writers against Campbell. Prejudice is judging without knowing beforehand. I wasn't prejudiced against John before I came to know the demons that possess him. I was prejudiced for him. And I'm not prejudiced against him now. I formed my present opinions after I learned what he believes. And I'm not antagonistic against John, really. I hate his opinions. So does Harry, but that doesn't keep Harry from submitting and selling to him. I don't bother submitting any more because it is no use. I realized that the difference between us was just too great. I can't write a story he'll accept. Now, even if I could do so, I wouldn't. The gap is too great. The world is dying, and the dinosaurs don't know it. They keep bellowing the same old discredited opinions.
Aside from my difference with Walker about Campbell, I find Walker's reviews and essays very profitable to read.
I don't know for sure what Poul was getting at with his PIGS essay. Blowing off steam more than anything, though justifiably so. He must be getting tired of being called a fascist. I don't think he's a fascist. I disagree on some things with him, but I don't believe that he would like to set up a repressive government and establish his way of life, his opinions, his attitudes, etc. He's very reasonable and rational and a deep thinker. He can be wrong, I believe. He has been. But he's no fascist, and he's been remarkably restrained.
Now you take Rottensteiner. he comes from a land with a history which makes him especially sensitive to accusations of fascist. So he bends backwards to avoid them; he sees fascists behind every bush. Hence, his accusations against Heinlein. Now, all Germans, von Geiss, as we well know, are not pigheaded or fascists or junkers, and a man who comes from the land of Mozart and Freud can't be all bad. He writes an interesting analysis, and that's about all I can say. He just doesn't understand Heinlein because his resonances don't phase in with Heinlein's. He's out of step; he'll never understand Heinlein. Some of the things he describes as being in Heinlein's works may be true. But he doesn't comprehend the in toto Heinlein. There's a mismatch somewhere, and this is the feeling I get when I read Rottensteiner. Not just when he's talking about Heinlein. About other English writers, too. I think that Rottensteiner may be having trouble with the subtleties of English speech. Some other time, if I ever get the time, I'll try to back up my thesis with specific examples.
(I realize I should rewrite this letter. But, like most of my correspondence, it is being done at white-hot speed of finger and brain. I don't have the time to rewrite letters).
I just wrote fifty-five pages of a crime novel and the outline of the rest and sent it in. I have to get into other fields of writing besides s-f. This book, if it's published, will be under a nom-de-plum. Not that I'm ashamed of s-f. But I'm tagged as an s-f writer, and this mitigates against the acceptance of my story in another field. Also, if the novel becomes the first of a series, it will be better to have a name associated with that particular series. And it will prevent people from buying it who might do so because they'd think it was s-f.
I'm also plotting out a book about the s-f world based on notes and memories. I may title it THE MONSTER THAT ATE ITS OWN ASS. I'm just kidding. It'll have a very dignified title and be a serious fictional treatment of a rather strang world as seen through the eyes of a man who has read s-f since childhood but had no contact with the world itself (fans, writers, editors, publishers, etc.) until he sells his first story and then comes to his first convention. It's not a Grand Hotel sort of story in which the action is confined to the convention. It will cover a period of ten years or more.
One of my characters is a young and ambitious man who figures out a way to climb the ladder to editorship of an s-f magazine house. He is working as an assistant editor for a small house but knows he's not going to get any place there. So he sits down evenings, weekends, and also during work and writes literally hundreds of letters to fanzines. It's impossible to open even the cruddiest without finding a long letter from Dexter Gift with analysis of the latest books and movies, opinions of previous letters, opinions on writers, critics, and publishers. Everything.
Just as Gift figured out, the time comes when the fans equate quantity with quality. His name is on everybody's lips (framed with praise or curses). He wins a Hugo. He is fired from his job for writing letters on company time. He can't get another for some time. He makes a little money selling a few stories, but he is shabby and underfed. But he buys paper and stamps and ribbons and pounds out the hundreds of letters. His wife leaves him; a young fan (girl) falls in love with him and marries him and helps support him.
A schlock publisher who is looking for an editor who will work for peon wages hears of him and gives him the job. Gift has talent, no denying that. Despite a penny ante budget, long hours, and hassles with his lout of an employer, he brings the chain of magazines up in quality. To do this, he has to ignore the numerous and bloody shaftings that his employer gives his friends. He has to defend his employer against charges from the writers' guild. The charges are true, he knows, but he writes replies that justify, or try to justify, the base policies and baser actions of his employer.
The magazines slowly build up more circulation, gain in quality, and are much esteemed by the fans, because Gift tries to please them. In the process, he angers many writers by his vitriolic and invalid attacks, knowing that this is a crowd-pleaser for most fans. He also becomes arrogant. Rather, his hitherto somewhat suppressed arrogance is not long under the lid.
But as a compulsive letter writer, he still pounds out hundreds, neglecting the reading of Mss submitted by writers without agents or not well known. His employer comes under increasing censure of the guild. Many of his friends, rightly recognizing that he could quit his job if he really disapproves of his employer's practices, drop him. But if the magazines do go under, and they may because of his employer's greediness and stupidity, what the hell! He has established a reputation as a crackerjack editor, and he'll be able to get a job which pays and which will have real prestige. His plans are paying off.
Unfortunately, an old writer who has been the subject of many savage attacks from Gift deeply resents these. And he is unstable. In fact, he is about to break. He centers his hate on Gift and Uppenpriest, the employer.
Gift asks Uppenpriest for a raise, since he's built the magazines up to the point where they're doing quite well. The employer says he'll give him a slight raise, pleading poverty, current expenses, etc. Gift knows he's lying; he knows Uppenpriest too well. What he doesn't know is that Uppenpriest, primarily because of the increasing pressures of the guild, and because he is basically paranoiac, suspects Gift of betraying him. When Gift gets an offer from another publisher, he accepts. He knows that the goose is cooked for Uppenpriest; he is being sued because of publishing stories without legal right to do so; the guild is about to demand a concerted effort against Uppenpriest.
Der Tag arrives. Gift has just sold a novel, which he wrote on company time, for a good price to a big house. (His boss is angry about this because he wanted to buy it for much less.) Gift's wife has decided not to leave him, since he will be quitting Uppenpriest. And he will be going to work for a publisher who will afford him a big opportunity for advancement.
The old insane writer appears at the offices. Gift tells his boss he's quitting. They have an angry exchange. Gift tells him off. The boss a WWII Marine, goes after Gift with a bayonet he keeps in his desk. Gift runs down the hall. The insane writer shoots at him but misses. Gift turns around and runs back. The boss skewers him and drops dead of a heart attack.
The insane writer regains his senses. He begs Gift's forgiveness, forgetting that Gift should be asking for his. He asks Gift what he can do for him to ease his dying moments. Gift says, "Take a letter..."
These are just some of the many characters who may or may not be used in the novel. Of course, they don't resemble anyone I've ever met or heard of in the s-f world. They're purely fictional.
Now, I've got a character named Hobart Attick, a regular Count Bruga, and he...
I'm not proofreading this letter, Dick, and I get the feeling that I may have contradicted myself here and there. But Whitman and I are quite able to contain our contradictions. It was fun writing this, and if I let it cool off I'd either never send it or have to take a lot of time writing it over, and I can't afford that.
((My alter-ego is muttering to himself. he sees a direct connection between himself and "Gift"—
"Damn right, Geis. You are "Uppenpriest" my boss! The magazine chain is actually meant to be SFR (which I edit brilliantly), and the insane old writer is actually Dean Koontz! Furthermore, I see through Farmer's clever scheme! I'm on to you, Farmer! You're insanely jealous of my editorials! You want to discredit me! But I'll sue! I'll drag you through every court—"
Back...down, Alter! Sorry, Phil))
Science Fiction Review #39, August 1970
P.O. Box 3116
PHILIP JOSÉ FARMER
824 S. Burnside
Los Angeles, Cal.
Concerning Ted White's "The Trenchant Bludgeon" column in SFR 38.
White, in BEABOHEMA 9, chides Frank Lunney for sticking his nose in SFWA business. He tells Lunney, gently enough, that until Lunney sells a story and becomes a member of SFWA, its business will remain none of his business.
Having reprimanded Lunney thus, and thus implying that SFWA business should be confined to SFWA publications, Ted White writes a long letter about the SFWA and the relationships of its members with Sol Cohen of Ultimate (AMAZING/FANTASTIC and God knows how many special reprint issues). This is the column in SFR 38, a non-SFWA ‘zine.
I agree with White. SFWA business should not be described, or discussed, in a fanzine. Not by SFWA members. But I must make an exception just this once, because too many might be inclined to credit at least some of White's accusations. And, having replied, I will say no more of this matter outside of SFWA publications. White, contrary to his usual policy, avoids naming names in his article. He calls various members of the SFWA "cheap, double-dealing blackmailers" and accuses them of "moral bankruptcy" and of being "moral hypocrites." (For one thing, what other kind of hypocrite is there?) He names no names and does so, I suppose, to avoid law suits or a poke in the nose. Or to avoid arousing his antagonists so much they'll lose all their cool and ask White, in print, to explain a certain incident in which he was involved approximately a year ago. I doubt that anyone will do so. I wouldn't and even White's bitterest enemies (of which I am not one, contrary to appearances) will not do so despite the greatest provocation. But White must be made to realize that he lives in a glass house, that he is in no position to throw the first stone. Or the second, either.
White says that we authors sold second rights to Ziff-Davis and so have no cause of complaint. I'll concede that some authors did, myself among these. When Ziff-Davis bought three stories from me (in Cele Goldsmith's day), I never saw the contracts. My agent (of that time) transacted the sales, kept the contracts in his file (I presume), and sent me a check with commission deducted. I had no idea I was selling more than first North American serial rights. The same thing happened to Bob Bloch, and I imagine, to many others whose agents didn't inform or protect them.
A del Rey or Silverberg would sneer at such naiveté, ignorance, unbusinesslike attitude, etc. I don't blame them. I should have asked my agent about rights, just as he should have asked me if I wanted to sell second serial rights. But I just never thought about such things in those days, being isolated in the Midwest and also being a part-time writer who loathes business details. But I've learned since then. Many of us have.
So, when Cohen started his reprint policy, and I became involved, and I found out that I had sold second serial rights, I accepted it. Too bad, but that's the way it was. I'd have to pay the penalty of my oversight. Perhaps I wouldn't have been so agreeable if I'd had more than three stories reprinted.
I joined the SFWA the second year of its existence, I believe. And then only because a still-anonymous donor purchased a membership for me. Damon Knight had called the boycott, and then, in August, 1967, the famous (or infamous) SFWA-Ultimate agreement was announced. This will be referred to as the S-Ua after this.
If you'll read the S-Ua, you'll find nothing in it about having to write a polite letter to Cohen requesting payment for reprints. In fact, from the 2nd para. Of the S-Ua, "Where Ultimate is unable to locate an author, it will turn the check over to the SFWA, which will then initiate an author search." According to an SFWA official, Ultimate has never tried to locate the author of a reprint with the idea of giving him a check for such. And many of us authors know from experience that Ultimate makes no attempt to locate the author of a reprinted story. Far from it. Many of us, clearly eligible for payment according to S-Ua, and having notified Ultimate of such, have been ignored. I only got paid, after a long time, because I made a nuisance of myself.
It's true that some people have gotten paid relatively quickly after their stories were reprinted. But these are exceptions, and I don't doubt the decisions were made for business or amical reasons and as showcases. It took me almost a year to get Cohen to admit that my story had even been reprinted. Then he tried all sorts of dodges, including making up new rules. I wrote to SFWA, which queried him about these new rules, and he dropped them quickly. White says that it was he, not Cohen, who made the decision to pay me, so from this I can safely suppose that Cohen would never have paid me if he hadn't been pushed by White. Score one for Mr. White who doesn't care for me personally but was probably angry at Cohen for what he had done to Roger Zelazny. (see my SFWA Forum letter for details.)
In fact, my letters in the two SFWA Forums and the addenda therein may be reprinted by you, Dick Geis, if you care to. ((The SFWA Forum is copyrighted and prohibits any reprinting, even, I suspect, if an individual writer gives permission.)) These contain specifics, not vague accusations, and can't be refuted. If Cohen has since made any payment to the people I mention in these letters, it is because of the letters, and the charges are true as of the time they were made.
My letters show that Cohen has consistently broken the S-Ua in letter and spirit. The cases I present are only a small part of the evidence. The SFWA files, I have been assured by an SFWA official, contain a mountainous pile of such.
White has no basis whatsoever for screaming "Conceited Asses! Moral Bankruptcy! Injustice!" and etcetera. He knows he doesn't. He's been privy too long to the shaftings of many, including some of his best friends. And this shafting of friend or foe is still going on. Only last week I got two complaints that Cohen had ignored requests for payment for reprints (due according to the S-Ua).
By the way, White's remark about Ultimate purchasing first NA or first World serial rights, depending upon the author's desires, was not my experience. No one asked me my choice when White purchased a new story from me. I refused to cash my agent's check until he had assured me that Cohen had purchased first NA serial rights only. So I have learned. But no one asked me what I wanted.
I may be a conceited ass (as White implies anyone who wants to be paid for his reprints according to the S-Ua is). But if I am a conceited ass, I know a far greater, one who brays loudly and frequently of his own great editorial genius and near-papal infallibility.
But I hasten to say that, in my opinion, White is an extremely good editor and may even be a great one someday. There's no denying that he has done a marvelous job with AMAZING/FANTASTIC.
I deny that I am trying to kill off these two magazines. I am not vindictive, nor am I a cheap double-dealing blackmailer. (Nor am I an embezzler.) I made no protests until after the S-Ua and after I found out, accidentally, that one of my stories had been reprinted. After long trouble and labor, I got Cohen to tell me the dates of two other stories of mine that had been reprinted also. I don't know why he was so reluctant to tell me, since he wasn't liable under the S-Ua to pay me, they having been reprinted before the S-Ua. He could have saved both of us much time and worry if he'd given me the dates the first time around.
The main point of all this furore about Cohen is: Is Cohen breaking the S-Ua? The answer: He has and is consistently breaking it. All White's hysterical shriekings and accusations can't hide that.
If Cohen had refused to sign the agreement, he would have been legally within his rights, and you'd never have heard a peep from me. But, once he signed, he opened the Pandora's box. In fact, my investigations led me to Mr. Williams, who sent me copies of letters from former Ziff-Davis officials. These indicated Cohen had reprinted a large number of stories which had been sold to Ziff-Davis for first serial rights only. Mr. Williams had tried to get SFWA officials interested in these in the early days of the SFWA (when Knight was no longer president). Williams was brushed off then, but the present administration is aware of them.
My letter in the latest SFWA Forum calls for a second boycott of Ultimate. But if Cohen and the SFWA officials would confer, and a system could be set up to assure that Cohen did live up to the S-Ua (presently and retroactively), no shenanigans, then I'd be in favor of no boycott. I agree with White that the goose (a curious way for him to refer to his boss) shouldn't be killed. We artist's need all the markets we can get, even Cohen's reduced-rate counter (which may improve someday). But it's up to Cohen and the SFWA to arrange this. I can't speak for other writers on this matter, of course.
White may be right when he says Cohen is no monster and is a kindly, charitable man. But these points are irrelevant. The issue is: Did Cohen break the S-Ua?
White also says that Cohen always pays promptly for new material. But Cohen has owed Norman Spinrad money for his book review of Stand on Zanzibar for about a year.
White calls those who want to be paid according to the S-Ua the various names I've listed. In doing this, he also accuses anyone who has been paid of being a "moral hypocrite"(love that redundancy), a "cheap, double-dealing blackmailer," etc. This includes Silverberg and Ellison and Rocklin and some others. The only difference between these and the others is that one was paid. But both groups wanted payments for reprints. There is also a third group. Those who haven't requested payment because they don't know their stories have been reprinted or those who don't feel it's worthwhile to request, knowing the little money they'll get –if they get it, which is doubtful.
White has been making many accusations of dishonesty lately. He accuses Ellison and Blish of intellectual dishonesty, and he accuses Ellison of "selling out to the Establishment." These accusations are so preposterous that I doubt even White believes in them. He has also written a letter to LOCUS (if my information is correct) in which he accuses two men, a highly esteemed old-time s-f author, and a prominent fan, of embezzling funds. The letter was not published because the accusees read it first and threatened suit. Why all these charges of dishonesty? Is White unconsciously trying to provoke a reaction which would result in his being exposed as the pot calling the kettle black? Does he unconsciously want to be punished?
Several small points. In his third-to-last para. White says, "We dropped the reprints." The Sept 1970 AMAZING contains a Miles J. Bruer story. And White says, re AMAZING/FANTASTIC, "And of course we turned the corner with the 60¢ issue." Turn to page 18 of the same issue and note that "Sales on both AMAZING and FANTASTIC fell with their first 60c issue." Then author of this contradictory statement? Ted White.
White says, "They've (They being the SFWA writers) learned that if you throw a big enough tantrum, you can usually impose your will on others, regardless of the rights in the case.
In the next paragraph, White throws a tantrum that is a disgrace to the editor of the oldest s-f magazine, to its publisher, to the magazine, to the members of SFWA, and to the readers of SFR. His is the hysterical and childishly defiant cry of the guilty projecting his own guilt on others.
The "spotlight" reveals White caught red-handed.
Concerning DeLap's review of my three Essex House books in SFR 37. There's not much you can say to this kind of criticasting. It's all too vague and obviously written in a mindless frenzy. DeLap did, however, make one specific example of my "hackery" as he so kindly calls it. This is that point at which he claims that a man opening the door to a roomful of water couldn't have yelled loudly enough to be heard by the man inside the room. Now, it is clearly stated that Childe's head is above the water, since he's sitting on top of the canopy of the bed. And, since the top of the door was not covered, there would have been a channel of air between the man outside and Childe inside. It is my contention that Childe could have heard the cry. I clearly stated that the cry was cut off, and this, of course, would have been when the man outside was swept away. When I wrote that scene, I stood by the door of my bedroom, visualizing watertight bedroom of great extent. I even opened the door and imagined what would happen. There would be a second in which the man's cry could travel over the water to Childe's ears. Then the roar, and the sweeping away of the man, would cut off the cry.
If this mental rehearsing is an example of hackery, then I'm a Martian. (I often wish I were.)
Piers Anthony hits it on the nose when he suggests that White/DeLap lack the ability to appreciate certain types of fiction and they should disqualify themselves from reviewing such.
Maybe I should write a column for you called "The Steam Room." But you know my time is limited, and it's only when I get riled up that I write. Once I break that bad habit, no more letters. Unless you can pay at least two cents a word.
((I wish I could pay myself two cents a word.))
I just thought of a story in which conditions have changed so much that writers can make a living just by contributing to fanzines.
I'll alter Swedo's suggestion slightly. Your publication should be called SCIENCE FICTION WRITER'S INDIGEST.
((A sickening suggestion.))
And DeLap's comment about Piers' "peering roaches" is invalid. Sure, roaches can peer. Piers could have said they "looked," but he wanted a stronger word, one that suggested their caution before they darted out to snatch crumbs or whatever snatches they had in mind.
((I have the vague impression that roaches "see" by means of their antennae or feelers and react to sound and smell… Umm…is there a cockroach out there among the readership who can enlighten us?
"Hey, Geis, I know one called archy who writes---"
Go hide in a crevice, Alter!))