Philip Jose Farmer
Shortly after I received Ow #16 containing Piers Anthony's letter re Ted White-Sol Cohen-SFWA and Piers' personal boycott against Cohen, I did write a very long letter for the benefit of Piers, White, and your readers. When I returned from Kansas City, I cut this down. And then I again cut. I decided that the main text should head for the SFWA Forum, since this matter is primarily SFWA business. However, if the president of the SFWA sees fit not to publish the letter, you'll get it.
Piers Anthony says that he will maintain his personal boycott against Cohen's Ultimate publications until proof is submitted that Cohen is Paying all authors per the Ultimate-SFWA agreement. Apparently, White can't submit proof that Cohen is honoring the agreement. He insists that Cohen is but has not advanced any proof. The reason: he has none.
It is true that Cohen has paid for a number of reprints, but there are, I believe, many authors who have not yet been paid for reprints made years ago. And even when Cohen did pay, he was still breaking the agreement.
There are three terms of the Ultimate-SFWA agreement (see SFWA Bulletin, August, 1967 for full details) that Cohen has consistently not honored.
As for (1), Ultimate has never, to my knowledge, paid at publication of a reprint. This does not mean that it hasn't done so. There may be some cases of which I don't know. I do know that a number have not been paid on Publication.
- These are:
(1) "...as Ultimate gets caught up on payments, it will begin paying upon publication."
(2) "Where Ultimate is unable to locate an author, it will turn the check over to SFWA, which will then initiate an author search."
(3) "...it is understood that these fees are in the nature of a bonus or gratuity, the purpose of which is to encourage submission of new stories to
Ultimate sf Publications..."
Cohen could plead that he has never caught up on payments, hence this clause has not been broken. But if he does that, then he admits that he has not, after five years, paid all the moneys due per the agreement.
As for (2), Ultimate has not tried to locate the authors of its reprints. On the contrary, every writer I've discussed this situation with says that he discovered that his stories were reprinted only because he happened to see them on the stands or the official monitor of the SFWA notified him or a friend told him about them. This was also the case with a story of mine. I wrote Cohen about it, wrote, in fact, three letters (from Aug. 1969 through 5 Dec. 1969) before Cohen would admit he owed me money. Even then, he paid only because Ted White (according to White's own testimony) insisted that Cohen pay me. Cohen was using the dodge that I had not submitted brand-new stories to him before submitting them to other markets. But there is nothing in the SFWA-Ultimate agreement that stipulates this; this was a term invented by Cohen; an no author in his right mind is going to submit a story to Cohen and get paid two cents a word (or less) if he can sell to a five-cent market. (I'm speaking of Cohen's rates circa 1970. I don't know what they are now.)
As for (3), part of that is covered in the above paragraph. But Cohen also insists that he will not pay for reprints unless the author sends him a letter requesting payment. This term is not in the agreement and is in violation of (1) and (2).
I resigned from the SFWA over two years ago because of the SFWA's total inability to deal with Ultimate and the indifference of most of its members to Cohen's breaking of the agreement. If the SFWA couldn't tackle a pygmy like Cohen, what could it do against the giants?
I wrote a letter which was published in the SFWA Forum, No. 14, May 1970. Therein I detailed the results of my investigation into the nonpayment for reprints by Cohen. I presented the facts and called for an unofficial boycott. It had to be "unofficial" because the officers of the SFWA with whom I discussed this matter said they were afraid to call an official boycott. Cohen might sue the SFWA for conspiracy.
The results of my letter? Those who had not been paid boycotted Cohen and his publications, but they would have done so in any event. Piers Anthony is the only one I know who was fully paid but continued his boycott because of his personal integrity. He is, as he says, suffering financially because of this, but he is a rara avis among the SFWA. Apparently, most of the SFWA have paid no attention to the facts. They submit new stories to Cohen, and others write book reviews and feature articles for him.
As far as I'm concerned, these are finks. (I use the term in its original sense of "strikebreaker.")
As I said, I resigned from the SFWA, but I found this as difficult as quitting a book club. I continued to receive all the SFWA Bulletins and Forums and Nebula vote forms, plus requests that I pay my dues. I wrote several times, reiterating that I'd quit, but this was to no avail until very recently. Apparently, my latest letters did the trick. But it took two years before the SFWA officials got the idea. Even so, I'm listed as a member in the recent SFWA directory.
Aside from noting the names of those who've published new stories in the Ultimate publications, I ceased to have any interest in SFWA. But Piers Anthony's letter in Ow #16 has dispelled my dormancy, and I've decided to investigate again. This time, I'm writing a long letter directly to the current president, who seems determined to make the SFWA a truly professional and effective organization. He will have access to the SFWA files, and there is nothing to keep him from determining the exact number of authors who haven't been paid for reprints per the agreement.
After reading Anthony's letter in Ow #16, I wrote to Bob Bloch. I knew that as of a year ago he had a long-standing grievance against Cohen because of lack of payment for reprints. Did he still have one?
Here is the pertinent part of his reply, dated June 25, 1973.
"About Theodore White and Solomon Cohen--I wrote requesting payment for all stories, listing them by title: at that time I believe there were eleven or twelve. The count is now fifteen, ranging from a guest editorial reprint currently on the stands to a 25,000 word novelette.
"They paid for one story ($25.00) after printing the new yarn I was ill-advised to sell them by Scott. Scott Meredith [Bloch's agent, P.J.F.] claims to have asked for further payments, listing titles a number of times, to no avail... by my listing, they owe for 14 out of 15 reprints, in their magazines and one-shots."
This is one SFWA member's current report. How many others have had similar experiences? We'll find out. But just this one case is enough to show that Ultimate should still be boycotted.
There is one other person whose experiences I'd like to describe. This is Robert Moore Williams. His case is singular, as far as I know. Amazing had bought first North American serial rights only to his stories. Yet Cohen reprinted them without permission or payment. Williams protested to Cohen and to the SFWA. The SFWA did nothing; as far as I could determine, it did not even investigate Williams' case. If it did, it took no action. At the time I was making my 1968-69 investigation, Williams told me about this. I asked him to send me proof that he had indeed sold first NA serial rights. He did so; he sent me copies of letter from Ziff-Davis officials which indicated clearly that Ziff-Davis had bought first rights only.
Piers says that White has fought Cohen to get reprint payments. This may indeed be so. But White knew years ago that he had lost the battle, and, in my opinion, he should either have resigned from Ultimate or the SFWA. Again, in my opinion, he can't honorably hold both a position as the Ultimate editor and as an SFWA member.
 There you have the current status of The Discussion(s), from the 'insiders'. I DO have a considerable amount of 'outside' comment on Ted & Piers & Harlan , as you might imagine , and that will be in #18. Response to this issue, from all, will go into #19. I have comments of my own...but they will wait. I will not agitate the Anthony/White/ Farmer matter, but I will see it out. As for the Ellison/White/Lupoff matter, Dick has presented his position, and I have mixed feelings about what might result between the other two. But it remains open, and we'll see. Be surprised ... along with me!