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 naievete, 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 statemen? 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!))