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.