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SF conventions, Donald Wollheim and other stuff c. 1970

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  • SF conventions, Donald Wollheim and other stuff c. 1970

    While looking for something related to the Author's Revisions thread I started, I dug out the Jan 1970 fanzine Speculation in which you have a long letter (actually two letters). In it you have a good old go at Heinlein - in fact most people in it are having a good go at Heinlein since there was a special issue on him. You also made some strong comments in the letters about sf conventions and also Don Wollheim, which sound as if you were really peeved with the sf world at the time.

    I know you've traditionally been a bit ambivalent about the sf scene (that might be putting it mildly) so was this just how you felt around that time? Have you always felt part of the sf world (and do you still feel part of it now) or was it just something you got associated with because of the path your career took?

    From your letters and others in the magazine it sounds like there was a lot of vigorous infighting going on around then. Did anyone take any of this stuff personally? Since Wollheim with DAW was your main US publisher in the late 70s/early 80s presumably he didn't? How did you get on with him and how much involvement did he have with your books issued by DAW?
    'You know, I can't keep up with you. If I hadn't met you in person, I quite honestly would NOT believe you really existed. I just COULDN'T. You do so MUCH... if half of what goes into your zines is to be believed, you've read more at the age of 17 than I have at the age of 32 - LOTS more'

    Archie Mercer to Mike (Burroughsania letters page, 1957)

  • #2
    I got on very well with Don and liked him a lot, even though we had very different views on many things (including Stalin, whom he defended after I sold him The Steel Tsar!). My beef with him was that he made a lot of comments in public soon after a meeting in which he could have easily made those comments and given me a chance to reply. As it was, I left that audience. I can't remember much else.
    I've been involved with fanzines and such since I was fourteen or fifteen.
    My earliest fanzines brought me by chance into the sf fan world -- that is to say, I didn't really know it existed until I did my Burroughs fanzine,
    whereupon many people contacted me. From there, I found myself attending (and enjoying) conventions. However, as I got better known, I found that I wasn't being allowed to relax with friends, as in the early days, but constantly being asked to defend or expand my positions re.
    sf. I'm not a great sf reader. I did find most of it naive and badly written when I took over NW. In preparation for my editorship I did a quick course on 'the Golden Age' mainly because I was able to buy a very long run of Astounding/Analog from the 30s to the early 60s,
    cheap. I found most of what I read (by no means all) pretty awful and was baffled by the praise heaped on it. That said, I'd never read an awful lot of sf before that -- Alfred Bester, some P.K.Dick and the writers associated with Galaxy (Pohl and Kornbluth and so on) were the main people I'd read. When I took over New Worlds the policy didn't so much change in relation to the existing genre (which was what happened with the US 'new wave') but tried to develop a form of fiction which combined sophisticated ideas about science AND literature, if you like. Rather than
    adding sex and sophisticated writing to the existing genre (SF Horizons
    wanted to do this, as did Harlan Ellison) I wanted to develop new literary ideas, some of which have since been identified as 'post-modern'.
    It was the spirit of the age, if you like. I thought we could develop a sophisticated literary fiction which also had popular appeal. I think to some degree we did that. Editorials in the early issues I edited of NW
    should give some clues to that attitude -- which didn't come fully formed, of course.

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