THIS being the postmortem issue on the August number, we were prepared to
print both the accolades and the vituperation called forth by THE LOVERS. But
in all the millions of letters received, only about three readers disliked or
were otherwise disgruntled about the story. At the risk of seeming pedantic,
we rise to say this augers well for the maturation of science fiction.
by Rory M. Faulkner
Dear Mr. Mines: May I offer my heartiest congratulations on the
August issue of STARTLING STORIES? I want to tell you how I appreciate your
courage and your editorial acumen in giving us Farmer's wonderful story, THE
LOVERS. In my useless opinion, this will become the top science-fiction story
of the year.
In spite of all the prattling of Gold and Boucher about their
intentions to use only adult S-f, I doubt if either of these editors would
have dared use this story. It breaks every known taboo in science fiction so
far, and yet this is done in a way to give absolutely no offense-not even to
an old gramma like me! Farmer never exceeded the bounds of good taste in his
presentation of the facts of life, and in addition he told a moving story
beautifully and sympathetically.
I read it a second time, and in this second reading was struck by
the sheer craftsmanship this young man displays. By mere allusions, and the
use of terms that were self-explanatory to the thoughtful reader, be built up
a clear picture of a hierarchy of future government; we were not bored by
tedious exposition of the subject. The man will go far. ...
We're real happy you not only responded to the story, but you caught
the meaning and mood of the cover perhaps better than anyone else. Not so many
interpreted the baby woggle-bugs happily playing down there as a sinister touch,
but that's exactlv what it was meant to be. And let's hope your opinions aren't
as useless as you put it. How can they be when they agree with us?
For a military analysis we take you now to . . .
WASP, MISSILE TYPE
by John P. Conlon, WO/JG
Dear Sir: I saw your statements anent "The Lovers" in your latest
issue, and it seems to me that there, is much to what you said. I am not going
to say much about the literary, biological, moral, or religious aspects of the
story. I am certain you will hear from everyone but HST. And one thing I am
sure of, If Edwin Sigler reads your mag these days, there will be a letter
arriving at your office some day, no doubt engraved upon an asbestos shingle,
due to the warmth of contents.
The story had a very well worked out foreign background, extra
terrestrial, or what ever else you say The "beetlejuice" part was amusing. If
Farmer got his idea from the popular phrases for drinks, I hope he never takes
up the title of "Old Panther Sweat." to tone it down a bit. ...
HEART AND WONDER
by Forrest J. Ackerman
Dear Sam and Jerry: I suppose it may have been 10 years since I last
wrote a letter to STARTLING STORIES, altho I have a mint collection from the
first issue. Credit Philip Josť Farmer's 50,000 fascinating words for the
once-in-a-decade communique. THE LOVERS was a truly startling story to discover
in your pages, and augues well for STARTLING's approaching adulthood. Fourteen
years ago your basic appeal was frankly blood and thunder; with sincere,
outspoken science fiction like THE LOVERS the approach gratifyingly grows to
heart and wonder, mind and emotions. I applaud this trend, and at the most
recent meeting (the 774th) of our Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, fans and
pros present echoed my sentiments. ...
by John R. Phillips
Dear Sam: I open with a trumpet fanfare for Farmer's THE LOVERS, which
was every bit as good as you blurbed it to be. This story caps a series of
improvements in good old SS that have thrust it head and shoulders above the
other pulps. ...
by Denny Zeitlin
Dear Sam: I am absolutely flabbergasted! THE LOVERS was more than you
said it would be! This was positively the greatest story I've seen in any of
your mags for the past four years. Hats off to Farmer! ...
BEMS AND EMOTIONS
by Sid Sullivan
Mines dear Sam: Can Farmer keep it up? If so, in him you have an
author to outshine every other in this field, a Hemingway of science-fiction.
hand him the unusual themes, the novel ideas that the other authors are afraid
to touch. Who else has ever taken the controversial subject of intercourse and
reproduction between two totally different species of beings and woven such a
technically superb story around it? How few have given their bems such sincere
emotional values as well as history and culture that is well described, yet
remains subordinate to the theme itself. All too often the reasons for the men
and bems being what they are and where they are are slapped in like misplaced
footnotes. Not so in THE LOVERS. I hope to find that Mr. Farmer is an exceedingly
prolific writer. THE LOVERS will not seem creaky and ancient in ten years for
although terms and phrases may have changed by then, people and their emotions
and motives won't. ...
We've bought a novelet from Farmer called MOTHER, with an even more
unusual theme than THE LOVERS. It's scheduled for TWS, December. This is the
last, I think, of his biological stories except for a sequel to THE LOVERS now
being planned and a new novel tentatively titled A BEAST OF THE FIELDS which we
haven't seen yet, so can't tell you anything about it. But he seems profilic
enough, which should make you happy.
ACID AND ETCHINGS
by Robert E. Briney
Dear Sam: Cometh an opinion: THE LOVERS is one of the three greatest
science fiction iiovels published in magazines in the last ten years. I doubt if
the theme of sex has ever received such a mature treatment before in the
magazines. The story involves a number of themes that are by no means new, but
the treatment and quality of the writing were phenomenal. I can imagine the
hornets' nest the story will stir up, too ... All I can say is a hearty
congratulations, and thank you for printing it.
The picture which the novel gives of the future society of the Earth
should draw no little comment, too. It has been a long time since I've seen
such a biting, acid-etched portrait of a race's decline. The whole thing is so
painstakingly and completely developed that it makes one uncomfortable to read
(Mrs.) Barbara Harris
...You have a justifiable brag due on THE LOVERS. No music is dearer
to mine ears than sound of crashing literary barriers and the one labeled
miscegenation made a splendid noise. Further, this story has all the elements
of human conflict that go to make up my favorite brand of literature. Ah,
Pathos! (Did I hear a cynic snarl "Bathos?") ...
PASS THE DDT
by J. T. Oliver
Dear Mr. Mines: THE LOVERS was a fine, realistic story. Especially
liked the tragic ending. After all, it's hard enough to get along with girls of
your own kind-how could you expect to be happy with a woman who was completely
different in mentality and physical make-up? Even if she had confided in him,
how do you think it would have worked out, with him growing old and impotent and
she still young and full of life? A sad thing, of course, but it goes to show
what will happen when the aliens come, and we start marrying them. Even with the
best of intentions, it won't work out. I found Jeanette's kind quite repulsive
when Farmer explained them fully. I cannot imagine myself marrying a creature
like that. I'm not religious at all, so my objections to such a union are not
based on church-code, but on, I suppose, instinct. It was a good story, though.
The insects Who pretended to be people were good. I'd like to see another story
by Farmer. ...
Anyone who's ever tried to go on a picnic in July can be pardoned for
having some slight bias against insects, but JT you'd have had to be equipped
with X-ray eyes to spot anything insectal about Jeannette. She was a
warmblooded creature and, to the eye, very mammalian. Nothing Caterpillar about
her at all. Well, no accounting for tastes.
by Victor R. Juengel
Dear Sir; The diverting, delightfully different description of
dalliance dealing with a daring, dashing, dauntless, debonair dastard dawdling,
dispensing drink and defloweriiig a dainty, delicate, dreamy damsel leaves one
decidedly daft, deranged with delusions and a dementia driving one to drain the
Despicably devoted to drunkenness, the deliciously delectable dove of
damask dermis diaphanously dressed in decorative, dangling decollete deserves
better than to descend to a detestable, depraved dipsomaniac.
The droll deviations of dead dogma deceitfully depicted by a decrepit,
doddering, despotic dragon whose distressing diatribes are destined to bring
despair and disillusionment to the dapper dandy deliberately designing
despicably devilish debauchery with the dazzling, desirable dear must be
deplored as desecrative and the depressing dismal dotard, often derelict in
duty, deposed, decried, disparaged and drastically dealt disintegration, death
The doleful debacle depicted by the dismally, disappointing
denouement is demanded by the deadly duplicity of the devasting darling, for
who desires dozens upon dozens of daughters? There is no dearth of distaff
Doubtless you delivered many a dented denarius to the domicile of the
deft delineator-a simple deduction. Dandelions to you for the drooly, ducky
discovery for it is distinctly a definite departure demanding a dispatch to the
deceased Darwin to deal with decalcifying dryads. It would be disastrous to
leave us discontented, dissatisfied, desolate and despondent by a dampening
discontinuance of such daydreams.
Let others demur, disapprove and dislik, even despise the deportment
and deeds of the duo, deeming the distracting demoiselle a decadent
demimondaine lacking decorum and decency. I declare in defense the dawn of a
new day is denoted. I defy debate to damper my dander and would be doomed to
deep dismay if some diligent dabbler did not duplicate despite defects without
The "d" on our typewriter just melted and dripped off on the floor.
Which alone deters us from doing dirt to dabbler Juengel and his droll
dodderings. We throw you to the fen.
THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
by James Fenimore Cooper, Jr.
...My feelings regarding THE LOVERS were expressed better than I could
do it in your blurb and editorial. Let's hope Farmer does not turn out to be a
"one-shot" writer. The cause of SF could be immeasurably furthered by his
INSULT TO IGNOMINY
by Craig Sutton
Dear Sam: Egad, man! After finishing that opus by Fritch, I couldn't
restrain myself any longer. Not a moment! That takeoff on Captain Future is
one of the best satires I've ever seen in SF. Really, Sam, you've got to get
more on that line. You shouldn't have included it in the same ish with The
Lovers-Major Venture and the Missiiig Satellite simply stole the whole show.
I thought The Lovers was good, yeah...but Mr. Fritch takes the blue ribbon.
by Anthony De Luna
Dear Mr. Mines: I had to get this letter written before my feelings
about THE LOVERS left me if they ever would. It was truly a fine and moving
story on a subject in science fiction which I knew would inevitably come to be
If Philip Josť Farmer is Philip Josť then there is no doubt in my mind
that (he?) is the find of the year, but after finishing the story I couldn't
help but feel that the author's style was all too familiar. If my hunch is
correct, he is not a new writer, but an old writer with a new name. After
careful consideration I have boiled down my assumption to one person. I will not
mention the writer's name since I do not wish to get involved any deeper. In the
event that I am wrong, well, THE LOVERS was a good story and Philip Josť Farmer
will definitely go places.
Haven't the foggiest idea whom you have in mind, though we suspect it
may be a woman writer from your questioning the "he" up above. But in any case,
Farmer is Farmer, not Brackett or St. Clair. He's young, he's a recent graduate
of Bradley University (1950), he is married and has two children, he works in a
steel mill in Peoria, his wife is a lab technician, a newspaper picture he sent
me in connection with some local publicity on THE LOVERS makes him look like a
cherubic Jackie Cooper (that dates me, huh ?). Also I can't see the resemblance
in style you mention.
QUICK HENRY, THE CHLOROPHYLL
by Ronald Voigt
Dear Chordate Arthropod (Dunno what it means but it sounds good.):
Being a fan of SS ever since the days of Sargeant Saturn (may he rest in Xeno),
I've finally built up nerve (or verve) to compose (hah!) this letter (finis.)
Some of the fen might think "The Lovers" was "for the bugs", but I
think it was "shib." It seems that not only must we worry about our best friend
being a Martian, now we worry about her/him being the cousin of a potato bug.
by Emily Holveck
Dear Editor: Ignoring your advice, I read the whole editorial on THE
LOVERS before I read the story. Having been fooled many times before by big
build-ups, I started reading the story fully prepared for disappointment. Now
I can only use an outdated expression to tell you bow good it was-it was out of
The imagination shown was magnificent. How did he do it? just when I
thought I knew what was coming, Farmer twisted it into something else. There
was no forecasting what was going to happen at any time.
I hope all your writers will soon be putting out such outstanding
stories. As for Farmer, he has good color, suspense, understanding and food for
thought in his story. I hope he continues. Give my regards to all your authors.
They deserve all the thanks they get.
by Ray Nelson
Dear Sir: I ought to sue you and Philip Josť Farmer for alienation of
affections. THE LOVERS caused a three hour argument between my wife and myself.
I holding that Jeannette's "relatives" were a menace to the human race and ought
to be wiped out, and she holding that the "relatives" were just as much people
as we were and that my attitude was just "race prejudice."
But I won't sue, because the very fact that a mere story can cause
such controversy is a point in its favor. We did agree on one thing, that it
was a pretty darn good story. The treatment of sex was wonderful. I was
expecting a True Love tale of the Doomed Love of a Spaceman for a Beautiful
Alien Girl and instead I get ... an insect that I rather suspect is nibbling
away at the foundations of our Late Pseudo-Christian civilization. Bully for
THE DISTAFF SIDE
by Perdita Anne Nelson
Dear Sam; This, sir, is the first letter I've been moved to write to
a promag in quite some time and it's all because of THE LOVERS. (And only
because of THE LOVERS, I might add.) That was a fascinating and wholly
unexpected story. Being always sceptical of rhapsodic editorials, I made no
special haste to get around to reading the longest story in the issue since I
usually do leave them for last. When I finally got to it, I was caught entirely
off guard by actuallv having it be a darn good story. Congratulations on THE
POSTULATES AND PROFESSIONALS
by Philip N. Bridges
Dear Sir: While it is still fresh in my mind I want to express my
appreciation for that fine story, THE LOVERS, which you presented in the August
issue of STARTLING.
I was very glad to see a biological story, a rarity in itself, so ably
presented. The writing was good, and the technicalities excellent. A former
geneticist myself, I can say that there were no scientilc errors obvious to me,
and that there was nothing impossible in the biological postulates of the story.
For once we have a story whose plot depends on the science involved; not just a
space opera. A fine story!
Not too many good biological stories have been printed; the type is
obviously more difficult to make glamorous than space opera, which is almost
foolproof in the hands of a competent writer. It requires more imagination to
work with biological themes. Approval from a pro is highest praise indeed.
by Carol McKinney
Dear SM: I finally got a copy of SS after nearly a year without either
SS or TWS, and things have really changed, it seems!
The cover was wonderful, super, scintillating. Yes, it was the August
1952 issue, featuring THE LOVERS! The story was as good as you said it would
be, a sf story with a new twist. Probably a lot of readers will cuss and discuss
the un-ending, pro and con, but to me it made no Difference. Let's have another
story soon by Farmer. (I do hope after all is said and done he isn't a
by Wallace Parsons
...But when I read THE LOVERS I forgot all the others. You picked the
best stf story will be written within the next ten years. In your editorial you
said you hope it will be surpassed. But this story is so far ahead of modern
stf that I'm sure it won't be. I fell in love with Jeannette myself, as deeply
as Hal, and felt the same remorse at her death. You have a great new writer
there; don't lose him. ...
...The letter column was good. The best letter was by Philip Farmer.
Trust a good author to write a good letter. ...
STANDARDS AND STANDBYS
by Joe Gibson
Dear Sam: No comment on your recent editorials concerning good science
fiction. I'm not too sure you have all the returns in yet. But The Lovers, this
August SS, impressed me as having an "atmosphere" reminiscent of stf before the
thud-and-blunder era. Which is something we should never have lost. ...
HEROES AND CLINCHES
by Jim Harmon
...Which should bring us past your ballyhoo-did some Horace Gold rub
off on you, Sam?-to the novel, THE LOVERS by Phillip Josť Farmer-for those who
have just tuned in. (Gad, I feel witty, today.)
The story is very good, however I can't see how you could get quite so
enthusiastic about it. It certainly isn't as significant in the field of science
fiction as were van Vogt's SLAN and WORLD OF A when they first appeared or as
the recent DEMOLISHED MAN by Alfred Bester-or to compare it with stories of a
more comparable length, as Heinlein's GULF or Bradbury's THE FIREMAN. It is
remarkable that such a finished story should come from a young beginning writer
(his first sale?) but it doesn't make it an all-time great in the field. It is
a mature story-characterization, situations, and environment are all logically
consistent with one another. The theme is not completely original, but the
treatment was fresh. Farmer's explanatory dialogues fell a little flat in
spots. It would have been better if he had followed the fiction writer's first
rule-show rather than tell-a bit more diligently. I realize the value of
underwriting but I think a bit of purple would have been more effective in
spots. For instance, I did not feel a strong emotional reaction at Jannette's
death. I think I would have if there had been a "I'm going but I'll love
you-always"-"No, no, you can't leave me" scene. Corny, clichecal, perhaps, but
highly effective. Farmer does possess the attributes that can make a great
writer-he has talent, imagination, human awareness, and other less definable
things-but he needs development in the sheer mechanics of writing. ...
by Joseph Dunlap Willcox
Dear Mr. Mines: SS has shown great improvement lately, but I think you
overestimated THE LOVERS. Mr. Farmer has written an above average story but it
has the plot of a Merritt tale and an ending much like DWELLER IN THE MIRAGE and
it lacks the descriptive power which made the Merritt backgrounds so beautiful.
Farmer's characters are not as lifelike as Merritt's and the latter never was
strong in this respect. Farmer is not the author the Master of Fantasy was. ...
We've got no quarrel over vour taste in lovers, but comparing Farmer
and Merritt really threw us. The two couldn't be more unlike. Merritt is the
original master of the purple prose, where Farmer's style is fast and sparing
of adjectives, clipped, modern, economical. Merritt wrote fantasy which was
practically indistinguishable from fairy tale, whereas THE LOVERS is anything
DON'T LOOK BACK
by Bruce Barnett
...That's the way it always is. I thought THE LOVERS was the best
story I've read in a long time, but I won't ask for more like it. Too many
editors have been influenced by the cry for "more like it." Then when it comes,
it comes in such reams of copy that everyone gets good and sick of the whole
idea. The original story then can be said to "creak" and can be relegated to the
forgotten position of all antiquated stories. The classic example of this is the
little-mourned demise of Captain Future. He was overworked so much that even the
satire in MAJOR VENTURE was positively sickening.
All anybody asks is a new idea once in a while, an idea that is, used
once and then LET ALONE! And stop worrying about whether it's science fiction or
not. If it isn't I don't think anyone will die of it. And if they do-well-tsk,
This is a novel idea, one which would occur only to an incurable
idealist. To how many scenes of childhood joys have you returned, only to find
disillusionment? Well, it has happened to all of us. In cold fact, however, it
sometimes happens that a theme is unfinished and will bear a sequel. It even
happens sometimes that the sequel is better than the original. So brace
yourself, Farmer is doing a sequel to THE LOVERS.
WHAT? NO CAP FUTURE?
by Henry Moskowitz
Mines Dear Sam,
The Lovers-The first time I heard of this story was when I made one of
my "weekly" trips to your office. We started talking about Captain Future (Who
else?). We got around to where you told me about this MSS you got in on the
sludge line and Bix read it. He said there was stuff to it and told you to read
it. You did and bought it. Or I hope you did. Anyway, you said that I might not
like it because of my apparent leaning toward space opera. I made no comment
then, but I told you I'd let you know what I thought of it after I read it.
Well, I've read it. And I think it is the best novel SS has printed
so far this year, except for The Hellflower. I could say something like this:
GoshWowGeeWhizOhBoyOhBoyOhBoy! (Thanks, Greg.) But I won't. (I already have.)
In fact, the words suitable fail me. But this I will say: It would seem to me
that Philip Josť Farmer will be 1952's "Walter M. Miller, Jr." Last year Miller
was the top new author of the year. His star is shining brightly. And Farmer's
first gleam of his star is brilliant. I hope to see TL, in hard-covers by year's
A good thing for you that Farmer's story was so good. He had a letter
in the TEV. I figured that his took up the space that my missive would have
taken. The letter was good, too. So all is forgiven. ...
by William S. Hawkins
...I was amazed and somewhat thrilled at the breadth and depth of
story that your editorial policy allows. By far-the best was THE LOVERS by
Philip Farmer. The ending, somehow did not quite live up to the rest of the
story. I cannot exactly describe the exact point where it did not; but it just
was not quite as good as the remainder. ...