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 upt 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 froma 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 subtlties 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))