|Vol. 9 No. 3||
–e*I*50– (Vol. 9 No. 3) June 2010, is published and © 2010 by Earl Kemp. All rights reserved.
Contents – eI50 – June 2010
Cover: “Away Team,” by Ross Chamberlain
We Missed Earl…Earl Missed This, by Robert Speray
An Alternate History of the Early SF Magazines, by Will Murray
Remembering J.G. Ballard, by Rob Latham
Two Pieces of Silverberg, by Michael Hemmingson
The Story Behind the Golden Age of Pulps, by Earl Terry Kemp
Back cover: “Halcyon Days,” by Ditmar [Martin James Ditmar Jenssen]
THIS ISSUE OF eI is in memory of those wonderful 1950-60 years of the University of Chicago SF Club and all those superb people who made those years possible. I think of you all very often. Live long and prosper.
As always, everything in this issue of eI beneath my byline is part of my in-progress rough-draft memoirs. As such, I would appreciate any corrections, revisions, extensions, anecdotes, photographs, jpegs, or what have you sent to me at [email protected] and thank you in advance for all your help.
Bill Burns is jefe around here. If it wasn’t for him, nothing would get done. He inspires activity. He deserves some really great rewards. It is a privilege and a pleasure to have him working with me to make eI whatever it is.
Other than Bill Burns, Dave Locke, and Robert Lichtman, these are the people who made this issue of eI possible: Jacques Hamon, Michael Hemmingson, Earl Terry Kemp, Rob Latham, Will Murray, Art Scott, and Robert Speray.
ARTWORK: This issue of eI features original artwork by Ross Chamberlain, Ditmar, and Brad Foster.
…Return to sender, address unknown…. 38
The Official eI Letters to the Editor Column
Artwork recycled William Rotsler
By Earl Kemp
We get letters. Some parts of some of them are printable. Your letter of comment is most wanted via email to [email protected] or by snail mail to P.O. Box 6642, Kingman, AZ 86402-6642 and thank you.
Also, please note, I observe DNQs and make arbitrary and capricious deletions from these letters in order to remain on topic.
This is the official Letter Column of eI, and following are a few quotes from a few of those letters concerning the last issue of eI. All this in an effort to get you to write letters of comment to eI so you can look for them when they appear here.
IMPORTANT…PLEASE READ THIS: Due to having moved, changed ISPs, and having my PC “upgraded,” I have lost most all email intended for me. Hopefully this situation will be corrected shortly and things get back to what passes as normal. However, along the way I have lost several things from my PC that were very valuable to me…starting with my address book. I have lost contact with not only my family but old friends who exist mostly within my address book.
IF YOU CAN HELP ME, please send me email addresses for Ditmar, Lawrence Block, Hal Dresner, Brad Foster, Michael Moorcock, Agberg, and numerous others.
Along with all the changes, including everything Microsoft that I have avoided like disgusting plagues were installed on my PC, grabbing control of all my actions and working for Microsoft, NOT for me. This includes the latest version of Word that is incomprehensible to me and is giving me all kinds of extra problems.
And, nothing for this letter column.
I did receive an email from Chris Garcia praising Harry Bell’s artwork and then that message promptly disappeared from my PC forever.
Hopefully, with any luck, the next issue of eI will carry LoCs.
Write me…I’m lonely.
by Robert Speray
Earl has been a welcome guest at the annual Los Angeles Vintage Paperback Show but could not make it this year.
For the eI record, or at least what can be posted public, here’s what Earl missed. Next year he will be a guest again. The wild parties in his room will be back on the agenda.
Even though the show has a single day when it is “held”, it fills more than one day for many visitors.
Collectors who come from out of town will check in to the hotel a few days early and join carpool book-shopping trips organized by the show’s host, Tom Lesser. It’s a good chance to get to know other collectors while driving around town looking for bargains and needed books.
That’s my plan on some years, but this year had me on another path, meeting up with southern California collectors met during earlier trips to the show.
In fact, attending the show was a great excuse for a week’s vacation in Southern California starting with a visit to San Diego.
I took down a few boxes of Greenleaf books found during the past year to review with Robert Bonfils, who lives in San Diego. He’s my authority for identifying the cover artist for Greenleaf books, particularly the ones done by him, rather than by other artists told to emulate his style.
It’s always fun to share the book covers with Bob, showing him images he hasn’t seen in almost 40 years.
Bob is doing well but problems with his knees keep him from walking easily, so he was not a guest at the paperback show this year.
Driving north led to a visit with Lynn Munroe (Lynn Munroe Books) in Orange, CA. He showed me the items he’s found during his research of an artist, for an upcoming sale list. He also knows the best places for sandwiches, barbecue, and breakfast. Looking at a bunch of striking paperback covers and men’s magazine illustrations, topped by a feast of barbecue ribs with friends made for an excellent day.
Attila Gyenis (Jack Kerouac specialist), from Mad River in Northern California, showed up and we checked out the local used book store, Bookman, walking distance from Lynn’s house. We both found some needed titles, including one obscure Donald Westlake paperback spotted by Attila. He knew about the scarcity of the book by reading Lynn’s catalogs! It’s odd how a visiting book collector can find great books even in an area that gets mined by experts.
Next up, was a visit to West Los Angeles to see Tony Jacobs (Vintage Sleaze bookseller), and his new store, near the 405 and Santa Monica Blvd. He’s doing the reverse of what most book sellers are doing. He’s moving from a web-based used book business to opening a store where his stock of eclectic books can be seen in person.
On the way north from Orange, we dropped off to visit the central Goodwill book store. This is a new model for Goodwill—to have a specialty store, just for selling books and media that have been donated.
There was a good selection of books, but no vintage paperbacks. I looked hard at some laserdiscs but ended up only buying the cassette version of Greenberg’s Lectures on How to Listen to and Understand Great Music from the Teaching Company.
At Tony’s place, there was a big selection of Greenleaf books. I found a copy of the elusive CA966 - Home Is The Humper, with a wild cover by Robert Bonfils. The tag line on the cover could be used to describe Tony’s stock of books,
“Drugs, Thugs and carnal kicks galore!"
The store is located near Sawtelle Blvd which is packed with Japanese businesses. After looking through Tony’s stock, we had a tasty lunch of soba noodles, along with a visit to the Giant Robot store where we saw the latest trends in toys, models, and $50 t-shirts.
Tony took us around to the small and hidden Westwood Memorial Park cemetery where Marilyn Monroe is buried. I spotted headstones for other celebs too. Rodney Dangerfield, Dean Martin, Roy Orbison, Minnie Riperton, and Frank Zappa. Buddy Rich’s spot had a metal vase with two drum sticks poking out. Where else but Los Angeles.
For dinner we ate at a hidden gem within sight of the Santa Monica Pier. Bruno’s Italian Restaurant. Tasty food, fair prices and traditional checkerboard table cloths. The antipasto plate was huge and the house wine was more than drinkable.
There is a tradition of the show week to visit Black Ace Books on Saturday morning. Rose Idlet puts out extra stock of bargain books and we all look closely at her well organized shelves for want-list books. This year, Rose broke her arm during the Saturday open hours. She continued to sell books through the day but by evening she was out of commission and did not make it to the show on Sunday.
Rose handles many operational details of the show on Sunday, so her associate Lacey Beer was field-promoted to cover those duties. She was busy at Black Ace handling that challenge on Saturday.
A must-do when in Los Angeles is to visit La Luz De Jesus Gallery. It is the same neighborhood as Black Ace Books, so Saturday is the right day for the visit.
They always have an interesting show featuring the best of the Los Angeles Juxtapoz Magazine art scene. This trip, the show was the Annual Group Show, featuring 300+ works from 150 artists.
While driving around the valley on Saturday with Lynn Munroe, we spent time at the Fab Hot Dog shop in Reseda, instead of another book store. These days, getting my first Bald Eagle and Coney Island dog gets priority.
A big event of the paperback show for long time collectors is the party at Tom Lesser’s house on the Saturday evening before the show. This gives collectors a chance to visit and chat, with some book dealing going on around the edges. Many of the rarest books change hands at this party, long before the show opens the next day.
Tom and his wife Sherri put on a great party, and this year was no exception. A table full of food, a refrigerator full of drinks, and rooms full of book collectors.
The place becomes electric with conversations as collectors get a chance to visit face to face for a few too-short hours.
I was happy to meet Marty Swiatkowski and David Allsberry who flew in from Cleveland to attend the show for the first time. They both share my interest in a completist collection of digests, a niche in the vintage paperback hobby for those who can handle not finding things.
In the days leading up to the show, there was a lot of anticipation and discussion about the expected size of the crowd attending the show.
Carol Summers was busy this year, helping to promote the show locally. Paid advertising in a local paper’s web site was used for the first time to tell the general public about the show, hoping to find an audience outside of the existing paperback collector group.
A dedicated web site LA-Vintage-Paperback-Show.com was created to promote the show.
Would the advertising pay off, with larger crowds at the show, giving dealers more chances for a successful day?
The promotion worked. The early crowd was huge.
Locals with an interest in older paperbacks were
able to find out about the show, which they otherwise may have missed.
Bruce Brenner (Vintage Paperbacks) was working on a project in San Diego and was only able to get up to the show for Sunday. In previous years, he’d be part of the crew running around the city in the days before the show, but work jammed him up this year.
Worse yet, if Earl had been at the show, and had an after show party in his room, Bruce would have missed it
because he had to get back to work on Sunday afternoon.
Gary is editor of Paperback Parade, the only fanzine for paperback collectors still being
published. He also hosts the New York City Collectible Paperback and Pulp Fiction Expo, to
be held this year on September 19, 2010.
Stuart Ng has brought something that has Greg’s interest.
Collecting vintage paperback is a hobby that doesn’t cost much. Prices are low for most books and there are many bargains at every show. It is easy and cheap for someone to get a nice selection of interesting books. There has never been a better time than now to buy vintage paperbacks.
Buying collectible books on the internet is one choice, but a buyer can not tell how well the seller describes condition. Having a chance to buy the books in person at a show gives the buyer a real advantage. The book can be handled and examined before buying it. And seeing the books in person is much nicer than seeing a scanned image of the cover. The books are nice to look at and even better to handle.
The show brings in experienced dealers who know what books to bring and what collectors will appreciate. There is nothing better than seeing the selection in person.
There were plenty of books in average condition with low prices for readers and completist collectors looking for missing numbers.
The stock was mostly vintage paperbacks, but there was also digests and pulps, along with original cover art, hardbacks, newer paperbacks, associated items, and the generally interesting kinds of things that show up at collector shows.
Earl was a missing guest. He missed the chance to talk
with visitors to the show.
Tom Lesser works hard all year to bring together the pieces that make the Los Angeles Paperback Show a success.
He invites the guests and schedules their time. He stays in contact with collectors around the world, encouraging them to attend.
He organizes the book shopping trips for collectors in the days before the show. He hosts the Saturday night party at his house.
He’s famous for helping collectors build their collection by finding key books they need.
The entire experience of a show visit as reported here comes directly out of the work that Tom has done for 30-plus years to make it happen.
On the day of the show, Tom is busy but always makes time to ensure that guests are comfortable and that they enjoy themselves.
Ann Bannon was a popular guest this year, attracting a crowd of fans,
but she did not see Earl Kemp.
By early afternoon, the crowds dropped a bit and there was more visiting going on, with some maneuvering for late afternoon deals in play. In the late afternoon, a few dealers lowered prices dramatically to attract volume sales to clear out their stock.
At the end of the day, the dealers packed up their inventory and loaded up their cars. I joined a group of collectors and dealers visiting over food around the corner from the show at Iong Kee Seafood Restaurant. It was an unexpectedly excellent dinner.
The lead topic of discussion was how the show went. The consensus was that it was another good one, with the number of visitors and shoppers up a bit from the year before, and the quality and selection of items for sale as good as ever.
We did miss the few regulars who didn’t make it this year, Earl being one, and hoped that next year would bring everyone back.
It was one more great show with good books, good food, and good friends.
That’s the Los Angeles Vintage Paperback Show that Earl missed.
by Will Murray
The history of the Science Fiction pulps has been reasonably well documented. The first magazine to regularly feature SF was Hugo Gernsback’s Electrical Experimenter, later Science and Invention. In 1926, Gernsback begat Amazing Stories, which led to Air Wonder Stories and Science Wonder Quarterly in 1929, which in turn compelled William Clayton to launch Astounding Stories of Super-Science at the top of 1930, at which time the space race was on—the race for newsstand rack space that is.
The field tumbled merrily along with 1937, when John W. Campbell took over editing Astounding from F. Orlin Tremaine, and inaugurated a second, more serious phase, properly called the Golden Age of Science Fiction.
A lot of history goes unrecorded, of course. False starts, course corrections, roads not taken. Even in that nascent period encompassing slightly more than a decade, there’s a lot you don’t know.
The first true rival to Gernsback’s dominance was not Clayton, but Fawcett Publications. They published such fare as Captain Billy’s Whiz Bang, Triple X. and Battle Stories.
The Author & Journalist reported their plans in their June, 1928 issue thusly:
Clearly, this was to be a magazine along the lines of Science & Invention, not Amazing Stories. Unstated was the projected title of this periodical. Publishers often keep such things close to their chests, lest a quick-footed rival scoop them.
In this case, the Fawcett title is not lost to history. In January 1928 they registered for trademark Startling Stories, citing use since December 1927. No doubt there is an ashcan issue of Startling Stories on file at the Library of Congress.
Startling Stories was never issued, of course. Early on, it closed to fiction. Associate editor Weston Farmer said in the August A&J, “Our needs in the line of fiction have just about been cared for, and we are well stocked with such stuff as we desire. We will therefore probably not be in the market for any more fiction. Our greatest need is for fact items and illustrated short fillers of from 100 to 300 words. Articles having any mechanical interest whatever are always welcome.”
Fawcett continued to promise Startling well into 1930, but apparently the Depression killed it. I imagine the launch of Modern Mechanics and Inventions (later known as Modern Mechanix and Mechanix Illustrated) as a rival to Popular Mechanics and Gernsback’s Science and Invention late in 1928, absorbed the non-fiction inventory. Its earliest issues reprinted three retitled Edgar Rice Burroughs novels, but no new fiction.
Astounding Stories of Super-Science sprang up at the top of the year. Editor Harry Bates promised a fat two cents a word, saying, “We want fantastic pseudo-scientific fiction, especially meccano-fantasy with good story and human interest values.”
The term “meccano-fantasy” obviously never caught on….
Hard on the heels of Astounding, Hersey finally announced his new venture. The April 1930 A&J carried the first report:
Good Story Magazine Company, Inc., 25 W. Forty-third Street, New York, is preparing to publish a magazine devoted to fantastic, pseudo-scientific, and imaginative stories. Harold Hersey, editor, writes: “Stories may range from 6,000 to 50,000 words, although the greatest demand at present is for stories under 25,000 words. Quick-moving, human-interest plots, filled with action and color, are essential. Clarity of diction and simplicity of plot presentation are prime factors. Make your stories plausible, so they will hold a convincing element. Put over an illusion and hold it throughout. Strong characterization, combined with human interest, will be stressed in all plots. Quick, snappy openings desirable. Love interest optional.” Stories will be paid for on acceptance, rates presumably about 1 cent a word. An instructive bulletin, giving instructions for writing fantastic stories of the various types required, is available for intending contributors. Mr. Hersey notifies contributors that he will be away from the editorial offices from April 15 to June 15, during which time no manuscripts should be submitted.
By the time Astonishing Stories finally straggled out, it was called Miracle, Science and Fantasy Stories. It lasted a paltry two mediocre issues. Its mediocrity can be traced in part to Hersey’s thinking behind launching a rival to the higher-paying Astounding. Knowing that more stories would be rejected than accepted by Bates, he was poised to scoop up Astounding’s rejects for half the going rate—or less. As an editorial strategy, it was a lot less work than training a new group of writers to provide SF pulp stories with a specific slant.
Of course, Hersey’s roots went all the way back to Street & Smith’s Thrill Book, a bungled 1919 stab at a magazine calculated to break open the fantasy-SF territory, which he edited. Hersey later admitted he had been too timid to go all the way with The Thrill Book. As an adventure magazine salted with early SF stories by Murray Leinster and others, it failed after eight months.
“No one, anywhere, had come up with the notion that this kind of story was leading in a definite direction, except Bill Ralston, insofar as I can recall. ...others like myself were keenly interested in futuristic stories, but none of us visualized a magazine given over to it entirely.”
Hersey may have had another reason for challenging William Clayton’s Astounding Stories. In his 1937 autobiography, Pulpwood Editor, Hersey claimed, “I discussed plans with Clayton to launch a pseudoscience, fantasy sheet, but he did not issue Astounding Stories until about a year later.” If we take Hersey at his word, this means that he had started Clayton thinking about such a project in 1927, the year Hersey left Clayton’s employ.
The Depression crushed that first SF pulp boom before it could completely detonate. If Fawcett was still considering Startling Stories as a traditional SF pulp, it was dead by 1931. When the Clayton chain went bankrupt in 1932, Astounding found a new home at Street & Smith, under the editorship of F. Orlin Tremaine and Desmond Hall.
In 1937, Tremaine was promoted to assistant editorial director under Frank E. Blackwell. Astounding Stories needed a new editor. Enter John W. Campbell.
But not just yet—
Before Campbell was offered the position, it was given to another S&S editor. Not just offered, but given. He took possession.
John L. Nanovic, editor of The Shadow, Doc Savage, and several other top-selling S&S titles, recalled to me the following:
Nanovic and Campbell had adjoining offices, and whenever the former needed technical advice on a Doc Savage story, Campbell was only too happy to help.
As Astounding editor from 1937-71, the Campbell revolutionized science fiction. “Campbell was just absolutely the best choice for that,” Nanovic notes. “He did a hell of a job.”
But there’s more to the story. Nanovic revealed to Al Tonik, “When we bought the Clayton books, Ralston [S&S General Manager H.W. Ralston] gave me all of them to read and decide which ones I wanted, which ones would go to others, etc. I read Astounding—and couldn’t understand a word.”
Nanovic distinctly recalled putting together an entire issue of Astounding from its existing inventory. What is not clear is whether this when S&S first took over the title, or just before Campbell was selected. Further, it was Nanovic’s recollection that “I think Orlin Tremaine, the Clayton editor, who came with the books and kept some of them, suggested Campbell….”
He almost destroyed the magazine, too. In the post-war period, Nanovic tried to lure Campbell away from Astounding.
“When I left Street & Smith,” Nanovic related, “about two years later, a client I knew needed a technical writer. Campbell would have been perfect, and they were offering $25,000 a year, I called John: ‘John, this is a good client with a good company.’ He wouldn’t take it. He wanted to edit the magazine. I don’t know what he was getting, but he wasn’t getting $25,000 a year. The magazine never made $25,000 a year!”
In fact, Astounding circulation as reportedly an anemic 50,000 copies a month when Campbell took over—far below the top circulations of The Shadow and Doc Savage, which hovered between 250-300,000. Air Trails was then trembling on the brink of cancellation at 80,000 copies, but it was an advertising medium.
Astounding’s 1937 numbers were clearly in cancellation territory. But it had an angel. S&S President Allen L. Grammer was a big fan of the magazine. He kept it on the schedule.
“It should have been killed years ago, but they kept it,” Nanovic said flatly. “It never made any money. It just eked out an existence. If Grammer had not liked it, it would have died two days after he arrived.”
Allan Grammer became President of Street & Smith in the autumn of 1937, around the time Campbell was brought aboard. He looked at the string of magazines—and numerous S&S titles were abruptly cancelled with their December cover dates. If Nanovic’s assessment is correct, Astounding Stories would have expired in the middle of serializing E.E. Smith’ Galactic Patrol, its final issue the only first to reflect John W. Campbell’s editorial vision.
Talk about alternate history!
- - -Promag cover scans Courtesy Jacques Hamon Collection http://www.collectorshowcase.fr
Remembering J.G. Ballard*
by Rob Latham
J.G. Ballard died on April 19, 2009 of an inoperable cancer that had spread from his prostate to his ribs and spine—a diagnosis he details in the final chapter of his 2008 memoir Miracles of Life with the calm, clinical directness characteristic of the author. During the 1960s, Ballard made a name for himself in SF with a trilogy of disaster stories—The Drowned World (1962), The Drought (1964), and The Crystal World (1966)—that challenged just about every convention of the genre: rather than battling doggedly to preserve the remnants of civilization in the face of monumental adversity, his protagonists pursued a psychic accommodation—almost a mystical fusion—with the forces destroying their worlds. Ballard was widely condemned by hard-SF types for this perverse connivance with catastrophe, so at odds with the genre’s characteristic defense of scientific reason and heroic action. Indeed, his work was at the center of furious debates surrounding the New Wave movement in both the US and Britain, with his 1970 anti-novel The Atrocity Exhibition marking either a high point of sophisticated experimentation (from the perspective of the pro-New Wave faction) or a nadir of cynical incomprehensibility (in the view of the anti-New Wave crowd).
But Ballard wasn’t finished shocking sensibilities: his mid-career trilogy—Crash (1973), Concrete Island (1973), and High-Rise (1975)—was no less apocalyptic despite its abandonment of overt SF scenarios. Scathing evocations of contemporary culture, the novels exposed the secret pathologies lurking beneath the veneer of advanced urban life: the soaring motorways, the glass-and-steel skyscrapers, the vast apparatus of consumerist mass-media only served to stimulate “the infantile basis of our dreams and longing” (as Ballard put it in the introduction to a French edition of Crash). Modern technology had done little more than “provide us with hitherto undreamed-of means of tapping our own psychopathologies”—as in Crash’s harrowing depiction of a subterranean cult of car-crash worshippers or High-Rise’s corrosive vision of a luxury apartment house descending into tribal warfare. This conviction that technoscientific progress is intimately entwined with psychosexual and moral regression is Ballard’s most quintessential theme, linking his early SF with his most recent fictional work, a quartet of novels—Cocaine Nights (1996), Super-Cannes (2000), Millennium People (2003), and Kingdom Come (2006)—that explore the deviant pleasures of crime and terrorist violence in a high-tech suburban world. So consistent and recognizable is his vision of the world that the term “Ballardian” has even made it into the Collins English Dictionary as a reference to “dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes and the psychological effects of technological, social and environmental developments.”
Ballard’s career began in the mid-1950s, writing exclusively for the British magazines New Worlds and Science-Fantasy, both edited by John Carnell. Judith Merril reprinted two of his stories in her Year’s Best S-F series—“Prima Belladonna” in 1957 and “The Sound-Sweep” 1960—but it wasn’t until 1962 that he had a real breakthrough into the US market. Ballard’s twentieth short story, “The Insane Ones,” debuted in the January issue of Amazing, which in rapid succession also published “The Thousand Dreams of Stella Vista,” “Thirteen to Centaurus,” and “Passport to Eternity.” The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction featured “The Garden of Time” in its February issue, and Fantastic ran “The Singing Statues” as its cover story in July. At the same time, his first four books appeared from Berkley Medallion: the novels The Wind from Nowhere and The Drowned World (both of which had previously been serialized in the Carnell magazines) and the collections The Voices of Time and Billennium, which gathered fifteen of Ballard’s first nineteen stories from New Worlds and Science-Fantasy.
The following two years continued the pattern: a new story in Worlds of If (“The Time-Tombs”), two in Amazing (“The Sherrington Theory” [a.k.a. “The Reptile Enclosure”], and “The Encounter” [a.k.a. “The Venus Hunters”]), and three each in Fantastic (“A Question of Re-Entry,” “The Sudden Afternoon,” and “The Screen Game”) and F&SF (“Now Wakes the Sea,” “The Lost Leonardo,” and “The Illuminated Man”). Berkley brought out the collections Passport to Eternity in 1963 and The Terminal Beach in 1964, which together gathered another eighteen of the author’s stories, including a number of those listed above, along with some new and old New Worlds and Science-Fantasy titles. Ballard’s third novel The Burning World (a.k.a. The Drought) also appeared from Berkley in 1964, so that by the end of that year the vast majority of the author’s fictional output to date had been made readily available to American SF readers.
And how was this outpouring received? There is every evidence that it was embraced warmly, at least until the emergence of the New Wave controversy on US shores a few years later, when Ballard’s name became a dirty word for a hard-core contingent of writers and fans. By the time Crash was published in 1972, it was clear that he was no longer writing even for an SF audience, and the anti-New Wave crew were happy to wave him an airy goodbye. Yet reading through Ballard’s early work again, especially his short fiction—a task facilitated by the US publication of The Complete Stories of J.G. Ballard in 2009—shows how clearly linked to significant trends within the genre his vision of the world always was. His early stories, tackling such contemporary issues as suburban malaise and the hucksterism of advertising, would have been comfortably at home in an average issue of Galaxy during the 1950s, beside the work of Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth, Robert Sheckley, and Fritz Leiber. Even his perverse disaster stories, while breaking from the hallowed British mold of John Wyndham in depicting protagonists who do not struggle to rebuild civilized life (in fact, his “heroes” are anti-Robinson Crusoes, seeking to accelerate the entropic breakdown of social order), fit neatly within a more pessimistic tradition of irremediable catastrophe that goes back at least to Ward Moore’s Greener Than You Think (1947) and George R. Stewart’s Earth Abides (1949). Like the central character in Richard Matheson’s The Shrinking Man (1956), his heroes slowly lose touch with “normal” humanity and begin to perceive hidden universes of meaning beyond the boundaries of ordered society.
Until the end of his life, Ballard insisted that science fiction was the most important form of literature to emerge during the twentieth century. A 2004 compendium entitled J.G. Ballard: Quotes, edited by V. Vale and Mike Ryan, includes such juicy nuggets as the following: SF is “the apocalyptic literature of the twentieth century”; the only “the literature that responds to change”; it is “far more expressive of the key imaginative response to the 20th century than the so-called ‘mainstream’ novel.” “No other form of fiction,” he asserts with his usual audacity, “has the vocabulary of ideas and images to deal with the present, let alone the future.” On the other hand, the number of SF writers Ballard singled out for praise was always relatively small, consisting primarily of Ray Bradbury. Golden Age giants like Heinlein and Asimov he scorned as purveyors of a kind of “fantasy fiction about the future”; John W. Campbell he called “a baleful influence.” One can understand SF authors and fans bristling when they come across malicious observations such as the following: “People within the Science Fiction world never regarded me as one of them in the first place. They saw me as the enemy. I was the one who wanted to subvert everything they believed…. I’m some sort of virus who got aboard and penetrated the virtue of Science Fiction and began to subvert its DNA.”
Ballard was clearly mocking this view, based as it is on the standard caricature of his work advanced by the anti-New Wave crowd. In fact, although his personal encounter with the genre was oblique and late in coming, largely because he spent his formative years in Asia (several of them in a Japanese P.O.W. camp during WWII, events described in both his memoir and in his best-selling 1984 novel, Empire of the Sun), his discovery of SF was his salvation as a writer, and he never turned his back on what he saw as the unique possibilities and value of the field. Miracles of Life shows how his late-adolescent and early-adult reading—which included Modernist literature, Surrealist artistic theory, and psychoanalysis—seemed to provide “an escape route, a secret corridor into a more real and more meaningful world”; yet though these materials fired his mind, they led only to abortive attempts at creative writing, “‘experimental’ short stories, which usually proved the experiment had failed.” Things changed for the better when, during a six-month stint of RAF flight training in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Ballard encountered American magazine SF, especially the new digests Galaxy and F&SF: here was a fiction that boldly engaged the contemporary world of “television, advertising and the American media landscape” in a style that was “often as elliptical and ambiguous as Kafka.” Soon, under the encouraging hand of Carnell, he was publishing his own strange and haunting SF stories, “looking for the pathology that underlay the consumer society, the TV landscape and the nuclear arms race, a vast untouched continent of fictional possibility.” As this history shows, it was SF that entered Ballard’s bloodstream like a virus rather than the other way around.
It is too bad—especially now that Brian Aldiss, Robert Silverberg, Harlan Ellison, and even Michael Moorcock have been dubbed Grand Masters by the SFWA, indicating that the white-hot passions surrounding the New Wave during the 1960s and 1970s have finally cooled—that Ballard’s work will never be similarly acknowledged, since it seems to me that postwar SF has produced, with the possible exception of Philip K. Dick, no finer writer, none more attuned to the perplexities and pitfalls of the modern technoscientific world. Of course, even had Ballard lived to be 100, he would never have been named a Grand Master, not only because of wounded sensibilities still lingering from his incendiary fictions and aggressive manifestoes, but also due to the potential embarrassment of having him, like Marlon Brando with the Oscar or Jean Paul Sartre with the Nobel, refuse the award and rebuke the Association that gave it to him. After all, toward the end of his life, he turned down British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s invitation to be named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire with the dismissive comment: “I am opposed to the honors system. The whole thing is a preposterous charade.” Yet the fact that his fiction never won a single Hugo or Nebula, and in fact only one genre award of any kind (the 1980 British SF Association award for best novel for The Unlimited Dream Company), is really appalling and rather sad, given his importance to the history of the genre.
Ever opinionated and voluble, Ballard had the last word. In the May 11, 2009 issue of The New Yorker, published a month after his death, a brief tale appeared entitled “The Autobiography of J.G.B.” This gentle apocalyptic fantasy, in which the protagonist awakes in a world mysteriously emptied of all life save for the birds in the London Zoo, is classic Ballard, filled with his trademark lyricism and compelling imagery. Despite being abruptly abandoned and isolated, the character stays upbeat, making “preparations for survival” by gathering a stockpile of food and weapons; comfortably ensconced in his suburban home, he amiably feeds the birds and resolutely prepares “to begin his true work.” This haunting little story reminds us that, though he has left us now, the author’s strange, stoic spirit soldiers on in some quiet suburb of the mind that he has made all his own.
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*Revised and expanded from an original appearance in Science Fiction Studies, November 2009, and used with the permission of Rob Latham.
Two Pieces of Silverberg
by Michael Hemmingson
A Case for Plagiarism
I sat down to enjoy one of Lawrence Block’s Andrew Shaw softcore titles from Nightstand, College for Sinners (1960)—as most of the Shaws are enjoyable—and was surprised, perhaps disappointed to discover that the little novel is a direct rip off of one of Robert Silverberg’s titles for Bedstand books, Campus Love Club by David Challon (1959), reprinted in 1962 by Midwood as Campus Sex Club by Loren Beauchamp.
Both books are set in a thinly disguised upper Manhattan institute, Metropolitan College in Silverberg’s novel, unnamed in Block’s, but obviously Columbia University. Both are about a sexually awkward young man who gets the chance to join an exclusive sex club of undergraduates (the book was reprinted in 1973 by Greenleaf’s Reed Nightstand as The Libertines).
The Shaw book is not an exact word-for-word replica of the Silverberg Challon book—College for Sinners is told in the third person while Campus Love Club is told in the first, the former a bit more humorous in the narration than the later. In both books, the protagonists, eager to lose their virginity, employ the services of a Harlem streetwalker; in Silverberg’s, the prostitute does not speak any English and in Block’s, the woman talks in street slang, calling her john “baby” every other sentence. However, both protagonists are so nervous they are incapable of an erection, thus they do not lose their virginity. Later, both young men in each book take out a campus tramp, a girl who never says no, and are deflowered in that manner.
Note the peculiar similarities when membership of both clubs is explained
“Membership is limited to fifteen—five sophs, five juniors, and five seniors. Each September the juniors are entitled to sponsor five new men for membership…Membership is limited to undergraduates, and you can’t remain a member for more than three years.” (Campus Love Club, p. 68-70)
“We have twelve members, no more, no less. Four each from the sophomore, junior, and senior classes. Two men and two women. Each year four members graduate and four new sophomores are invited to join the society.” (College for Sinners, p. 64)
While the group in College has six men and six women, the group of fifteen men in Campus has a sister group of women comprised of fifteen from Chelsey College, an all-girl’s school that is connected to Metropolitan (like one of New England’s Seven Sisters, Vassar or Smith—the sister college for Columbia is Barnard).
Both sex clubs have an apartment in Greenwich Village for orgies—dues are $20 a month in Campus, $50 a year in College. Sexual arrangements are the same: no female member may deny sex for a male member, and vice versa. No one spends a night alone.
Both books have similar consequences and wrap-ups. Not exact, mind you—in Campus, the NYPD raids the group’s orgy house after they kidnap and drug a girl and force her into sex acts, and when a guy comes to rescue her, a fight breaks out…in College, the protagonist finds true love and becomes disgusted with the immoral ways of his collegiate colleagues, so sends an anonymous letter to the Chief of Police, outlining what happens, what night they can be found, and who these people are.
In Silverberg’s, there is tragedy at the end, the narrator’s life ruined as he goes on without a college degree, the other members disgraced and one committing suicide. This is usual for Silverberg whose work—sleaze, SF, or fantasy—has a dark bent. Campus ends on a more happy note as the protagonist has found love.
But these books are too damn similar to not take note.
So what happened here?
I asked Silverberg if anyone knew he was David Challon back then and he said no—in fact, seems only the past 10-15 years that many of Silverberg’s pen names in sleaze have come to light (there is no mention in a 1978 bibliography, which only lists a handful of Don Elliott books).
Did Lawrence Block pick up the Challon novel and like it so much that he did his version—seemingly plagiarized—and figured no one would ever notice?
No one ever has, until now.
Did he see the Challon manuscript while at Scott Meredith in 1959 and think, Wow, what a story….
Did he forget reading it and wrote this one as the concept lingered in the back of his mind? The books are only a year apart. One might say, well, maybe there was an item in the news about such a club at Columbia or NYU, or a rumor going around—that’s reasonable, but the fact that both protagonists try to lose their virginity the same way, and both have erectile challenges while with a hooker, and the rules of the sex clubs are quite similar, are evidence that this is not a coincidence or shared idea in the creative either.
Read both for yourself, if you wish, and you be the judge.
Lynn Munroe pointed this out to Block and Block didn’t remember where he got the idea for College for Sinners, nor did he recall seeing the David Challon manuscript at Scott Meredith.
But what the hell, eh…does it matter? No, it doesn’t. I don’t want it to seem like I am out to say, “Ha, I caught you in a youthful folly, Mr. Block!” My interest is academic.
This will be a curious footnote in the history of paperback publishing,
I sat down with Slaves to Sin by S.N. Burton (Gaslight Book #134). I read the opening, I felt like I had seen it before:
It was a hot September afternoon just before my sophomore year at East Coast Junior College was about to open, and I was lying in the sack in my dormitory room, fourth floor of James Hall, overlooking the noise and clamor of Amsterdam Avenue. The room was dusty and bare, like a shell waiting for its occupant to climb in. (p. 5)
When I got to the narrator’s name, Jeff Burnside, I thought, Wait a minute…
I picked up the second version of Silverberg’s book, Campus Sex Club by Loren Beauchamp (Midwood #F206, 1962), and read the opening:
It was a hot September afternoon before my sophomore year at Metropolitan was about to open, and I was lying in the sack in my dormitory room, fourth floor of Hendricks Hall, overlooking the noise and clamor of Bryant Avenue. The room was dusty and bare, like a shell waiting for its occupant to climb in. (p. 5)
In the David Challon Bedside edition (1959), Campus Love Club, it is Columbia University. (Note: Silverberg told me he was never paid for this book, as well as a couple of others, so re-sold them to Midwood with various changes.)
Yes, Slaves to Sin is a rip-off, plagiarized edition of Silverberg’s book. Not exactly word-for-word—Burton changes little things here and there, adds in a sentence or two, leaves out some parts from Silverberg, but it is essentially the same damn book. Burton keeps all the character names, however.
Yet another curious footnote in the publishing history of vintage sleaze. The question now is: are there are other books that tell this same story of a campus sex club?
The Short Career of Calvin M. Knox
Calvin M. Knox first appeared on the sf scene in 1958, writing book reviews for British magazine Science Fiction Adventure and stories in short-lived pulps such as Original Science Fiction Stories and Super Science Fiction. In 1958, half of an Ace Double, Less We Forget Three, consisted of three novelettes, was Knox’s first book, followed by a 1959 Ace Double, The Plot Against Earth. Knox did not publish another novel until 1964, again an Ace Double: One of Our Asteroids is Missing. After that, Knox disappeared—the name, not the writer, as Calvin M. Knox was one of Robert Silverberg’s many pen names.
Silverberg has explained to fans at conventions and on his Yahoo Group, The Worlds of Robert Silverberg, that the pseudonym was created when fellow writer Judith Merrill told him he’d never sell to John Campbell at Astounding Science Fiction with a “Jewish-sounding” last name—Silverberg came up with the most Protestant-sounding name he could conjure: Calvin M. Knox.
Knox sold to Campbell.
From 1959 to 1965, the bulk of Silverberg’s output—because the sf and crime pulp markets had dried up—were softcore erotic novels under the names Don Elliott, John Dexter, David Challon, Mark Ryan, and Loren Beauchamp (Nightstand, Bedtime, and Midwood Books); faux sexology studies as L.T. Woodward, M.D. (Belmont and Monarch Books), a biography of the Marquis de Sade and a self-help guide on managing money as Walter Drummond (Regency Books, edited by Harlan Ellison), and a series of archeology and history titles for young readers under his own name. Generally, he used pen names in sf when magazines had too many manuscripts of his, using Ziff-Davis house names like Ivar Jorgensen or half a dozen for Imagination SF, where he often wrote entire issues because he had a $500-a-month contract to mass produce fiction.
Knox wasn’t a completely dominant faux identity. Silverberg published a short story, “The Silent Invaders” in the October, 1958 issue of Infinity Science Fiction as Knox, then in 1963 expanded the story into a novel for Ace under his real name. One of our Asteroids is Missing was Silverberg’s farewell publication to a pen name that had served him well.
by Earl Terry Kemp
How It All Began…
1. The Sperm Donor Story
To begin, at the very beginning, limits must be set. But it isn’t beyond the scope of things to say that it all began for me in another lifetime. At the very least, in my father’s early incarnation as the Second King of Chicago Science Fiction fandom, which was before he became the Fourth King of Porn as part of Bill Hamling’s nefarious enterprises.
As the Second King of CSF fandom, my father was among other things, the President of the University of Chicago fan club in the early 1950s, although not a student (except through the UofC extended education program). And with a gaggle of like-minded friends he founded, established, and led Advent:Publishers, Inc. into the scholarly institution it has become, now over fifty years later.
Did I mention? He was also Chairman of the 20th World Science Fiction Convention in 1962. You know the one, where Heinlein won his Hugo for Stranger in a Strange Land.
He also had the most fabulous pulp collection…ever. Easily surpassing the legendary collections of Frank M. Robinson and such (in fact, Frank acquired some of those magazines for his own collection). Read on, if you have any doubts.
(Oh, in case you’re wondering. The First King of Chicago Science Fiction fandom was my father’s erstwhile partner, Bill Hamling. Read Sam Moskowitz’ The Immortal Storm for the details.)
2. I Was Born…Under a Wandering Star
So, I was born into a major Science Fiction fan family. Quite a thing, quite an experience growing up Science Fiction (rather than Country or Urban or just plain Stupid).
I have many fond memories of my childhood and fandom. Chasing after Harlan, snapping photos of him constantly sticking his tongue out at me. Dreading being the center of one of his mercurial harangues about off-topic details, all full of his anger and bluster.
Quite a character.
And there was Big-Hearted Howard DeVore, whom my father introduced me to as a baby-sitter (I was seven) during the 20th World Con. Keeping me out of the way, out from under foot, Howard let me pick through (for free) his extensive paperback collection that was for sale in the Huckster Room. It was my first real, personal, encounter with science fiction on my own as Howard handed me copies of the Skylark series, of the John Carter series, everything by Heinlein that he had in stock, plus the most interesting odds-and-ends.
Quite a character.
There were so many others, and other encounters, some encouraging, some disappointing. But those were the first.
I was hooked twice. Once by birth. The second time by the very stuff of life that is at the heart of all science fiction, fantasy, and horror…its sense of wonder (ta-da).
3. Have Pulp Collection…Will Travel
There were many family moves, and then there was one big one from Chicago to San Diego in 1965. My father gafiated from fandom then when he became the Fourth King of Porn. His fabulous collection of hardcover books gathering dust on newly made bookshelves while the dust jackets were ripped up by (my) constant use and reading.
And the pulp collection, that amazing, wonderful, startling mass of bizarre, imaginative covers, lay dormant in boxes in the garage until one day the washing machine malfunctioned and flooded. Salvaging and repacking those pulps was my first real connection to them, as well as several boxes filled with the most incredible sleaze.
I was twelve. I made a checklist of the collection for my own use, marking off copies after I’d read them.
Almost ten years later, I was still checking off copies.
4. The Beginning of the End
It was 1975. My father, and his boss, Bill Hamling, had lost their big court battle after fighting all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. They irritated the wrong people (President Nixon), they published the wrong book (The President’s Commission on Pornography and Obscenity), they were going to prison.
It was summer break and I came home from the University of California at Berkeley (where I was a student) for a last “freedom” visit. And there was Frank M. Robinson, in the garage, surrounded by disheveled stacks of pulps, sweating rings in his old-man T-shirt as he perused his own checklist. Chortling loudly to himself with each find.
Now Frank had been a fixture in our house, in our family, since I was born. I remember when he was writing his end of The Glass Inferno around our swimming pool, dressed in plaid shorts, a white T-shirt (sans sweat rings), and his golf beret (hiding his sensitive balding head).
There he was, in the garage, with MY pulps.
I knew what he was doing.
God, how I cringed as I followed around behind him, repacking boxes now so much more empty. I had my trusty checklist out as I noted copy after copy now forever gone, forever lost, gone to reside on Frank’s specially built bookshelves (sloping at an low angle to preserve the fragile edges of the poor quality paper).
5. Gone…But Not Forgotten
Skip forward another ten years. For nearly ten years I’d cherished the picked-over remains of my father’s fabulous pulp collection. The scarred remnants that had endured years of washing machine floods, decay and predation by nature, and neglect. The worst part had been a very bitter divorce wherein the remains of the book, paperback, and pulp collection had been fought over with more bile than the children held in common.
Major parts were missing, never to be replaced.
And soon, for my own stupid and bitter reasons, the rest of the collection followed into that same oblivion.
But they were replaced in kind, in fact they financed, my first hardcover specialty press collection.
Oh, what a wonderful collection, all those Fantasy Press, Shasta, Prime Press, Gnome and, oh yes, Arkham House titles.
6. The Anthem Series
During the next decade I transformed everything I owned, and all the money I earned, into my collection of The Anthem Series. Now The Anthem Series came about when I discovered an off-beat gem, The Index to the Science-Fantasy Publishers by Jack Chalker and Mark Owings. It became my Bible (and it still is!).
In this ancient and forgotten tome of arcane lore, I found the keys and secrets to the specialty publishers. It was my guide to collecting. What fun I had! From bookstores, all dusty and creepy, to conventions, high prices and crowds, all in my quest. And for a brief moment, I had it all, signed and in mint condition.
I need to pause here. Take a moment of silence for lost friends. Gone…all gone.
Sold entirely to finance the purchase of my house, and surrounding lots.
I think of it as the house that Arkham built.
7. The Quiet Desert
Here I live, my oasis, in my Casa de Corazon, out in the desert, miles from anyone. God, I love it.
It is here that I began my first major project: The Anthem Series.
Picking up where Chalker and Owings began, I conceived of a complete bibliographic work regarding all the specialty publishers from the Golden Age of Science Fiction, complete with cover scans and a synopsis (and review) of all the stories contained within those titles.
This labor-of-love has been years in the making. Each rough draft has found its way onto the Internet inside the pages of my father’s ezine, eI. Even now, the final pages have yet to be written.
It’s been truly great, working with my father, publishing my work. Some day, soon, I dream of making a printed hardcover copy available to the public.
But there was a major delay in that daydream. In all my efforts and in my desire to be complete and accurate, I stumbled, almost fell, over the next major project of my life: The Golden Age of Pulps.
8. Jacques Hamon: www.collectorshowcase.fr
This is when and where it really began, sometime in 2004-05. I had started my work on The Anthem Series following a series of conversations with my father. He had encouraged me to develop my idea of a “complete” telling of the specialty press story. As the work progressed, with deadlines set by my father for parts to be posted on the Internet, I became more interested in making my work the definitive work on these titles, the source that all others would, of necessity, refer to, steal from, copy, and ideally, cite.
In order to become this, I went further and farther than I had originally planned. At some point, early on, but after the first segment, Fantasy Press, had been posted, my father introduced me to Jacques Hamon and his superlative website. There I found yet another key to the kingdom of wonder.
Contained therein were cover scans from all those fabulous pulps that I had once read, and yes, once owned myself. Complete with story listings. I used it as a resource, finding and annotating my subsequent segments of The Anthem Series with the source of all those short stories (and some rewritten novels).
It was while trying to search his website in a comprehensive manner that I stumbled over my next major project.
The first thing I did was to compile all the contents from Jacques’ website into a searchable MS Word document. It looked really neat, complete with thumbnail cover scans, contents, etc. I shared my results with Jacques, who then, in turn, encouraged me to go further.
So I did.
9. One Dark Night…A Blinding Flash
It really did happen one dark night.
I was finding the word document too cumbersome to search, and not as complete as I wanted. There were discrepancies in details, not due to Jacques, but from the original, printed source.
Then I hit upon it. What was needed was a database. A complete, comprehensive tool for research and inquiry. In this database, discrepancies could be resolved. Sure, there had been other attempts at this, indexes on compact disc using HTML, and other websites (the excellent one by Locus), but all lacked.
They lacked the ability to search. They lacked the ability to print reports. None was entirely complete, containing all the pieces, such as cover scans and contents with those other key, and necessary, attributes cited above.
Also, they all contained, what I (and I alone most likely) considered to be obsolete and unnecessary information, such as page numbers. This one component has been the cause of much internal debate over my approach to compiling a database.
But when all is said and done, I could conceive of no reason to continue creating tools that contained obsolescent information. So, I followed the European model supplied by Jacques on his website. Essentially my reasoning went like this: Contemporary users of this type of information will most likely (in the majority of cases) never see the actual copies. In many cases, the actual copies are so obscure, or so rare, as to be unavailable. What purpose is a page number? The user of my database will discover the source of those stories of interest and then can find them in hardcover or paperback to read.
Another thing popped up in the development of my database. Computers sort, alphabetize, text much differently than is traditional. The only way to accomplish the traditional method is to defeat and cancel the efforts of the computer. As time goes on, why would one want to do so. Spending vast amounts of time and energy to defeat the speed and ability of the computer.
As we all march into the digital age, so too must the bibliographer and indexer.
It’s a brave new world out there, and tradition notwithstanding, there are new tools out there as well. Let’s use them, and leave the hackneyed and obsolete behind.
In a short space of time, most all the titles indexed into any index or database will almost entirely cease to exist except as a digital record.
Let’s step forward and embrace the new age. There is no other way. We can not preserve the decayed corpse of the past and insist that it remains alive and useful.
10. Rolling Dem Bones
From Jacques’ website, I compiled nearly 28,000 entries (he has more now, but that was back then). Next, I used every printed resource I had, notably Donald Day (titles and artists for back covers of Amazing Stories and Fantastic Adventures) and Donald Tuck.
Any researcher would be lost, wandering in the dark, without Tuck. His three-volume encyclopedia (Advent:Publishers, Inc.: The first edition set is still available directly from the publisher!) is the fountainhead.
Hours turned into days, days into weeks, as I pored over those three volumes, gleaning everything I could. Returning to only find more details.
Of note: I created a pseudonym database based on his information. This special database has been a key tool in finding correct author attributions in my final production.
And, then, almost overnight, or so it seemed, I had over 58,000 entries. Only it wasn’t overnight, it was six months later. Six months of working twelve hours a day, seven days a week.
In an email, I mentioned this to Jacques. His interest encouraged me to go even further. This was around Christmas of 2007.
So, I pressed the envelope.
Flash forward one year.
Still working twelve hours days, seven days a week. Jacques pressed me for my results. It seems I work better under some kind of loose deadline. My research was in pieces, a bit here and a bit there. At this point, I couldn’t tell how many entries I had. So, I compiled part of what I had, built a rudimentary application, and sent it to him.
By then I had posted several segments of The Anthem Series. I had advanced my notion of completeness one more step and had begun to include the subsequent first paperback appearances of those titles.
If the reader of this article will take a second, they might realize the single thread between these two major projects. By this time I had discovered that nearly all the stories in all the specialty presses of The Anthem Series had been first published inside the covers of the pulps.
Pulps that are so scarce as to be unavailable. And this was, or is becoming, the case with the specialty titles, scarce and unavailable. Even the first paperback appearances are elusive in so many cases.
But that is the thread, continue it forward in time to find those stories, and read them.
When I sent Jacques that first compact disc, I had been working almost exclusively on the database for eighteen months. I had also finished my rough draft and posted several segments of The Anthem Series. I was fatigued from the work, and disappointed from the lack of input regarding my postings.
But the lack of input wasn’t discouraging, it was merely puzzling. Some elusive piece of a great karmic puzzle that has eluded me entirely throughout my life. It has been my single, most disheartening experience in fandom, the complete and almost utter lack of feedback. It goes back to my earliest experiences, writing letters to famous writers, to editors, to other fans…and never receiving an answer.
For instance: when I discovered those pulps in the garage when I was twelve, I was filled with questions. I began writing letters to people (addresses from my father) asking questions. Never any answers, never a returned letter.
Many years later, when I was eighteen and attending the Los Angeles World Con, I was in the First Fandom suite. A slightly drunk Ed Wood (Advent partner) focused his misty eyes on me, from some deep reservoir of memory he dredged up the fact that I had written him several questioning letters (all never answered). He slurred his offer to me that now he was ready to answer those questions.
I was shocked, and embarrassed. Embarrassed for him. I demurred.
That was it. My typical encounter with all elements of fandom.
Except with Jacques, who has been a stout and strong ally, encouraging me to continue with my database, telling me that it would be of keen interest to European fandom.
That was enough.
11. Off to the Races
Flash forward one more year.
Now it has been over two and half years in the making. Scattered pieces on dozens of compact discs. It is November 2009. My father is now eighty. I finally begin the process of compiling all the pieces together into one big lump.
In several conversations with my father I insist that the project is not ready, not complete enough. He insists that I move forward, those missing pieces will fall into place as time goes by.
Over three months of even more intense work passes. I try several times to take a much-needed break, even telling Jacques that I am. But I continue work. It has become a compulsion, an addiction.
The pieces start to come together. The database is slowly built, up from 58,000 entries eighteen months earlier to over 171,871 entries. From the over 6,000 cover scans Jacques initially sent me, I had acquired over 13,333.
The most fun was building the application.
Why MS Access?
Over the years, I had built several applications, and had some knowledge of how to get where I wanted with this program. I had built the San Diego Sheriffs Jail Information System, the San Diego Sheriffs Property Management System, and the Mohave County Voter Registration System. Yet, all those applications were as nothing compared to what I needed in order to develop this database fully.
By no means do I consider myself an expert. But in seeking expert help, I found all their offered solutions did not work. Time and time again, I was forced to rethink the problem myself and find my own solution.
The final product works and does what I wanted it to do.
That’s all I can really say.
Like a proud father, I think of it as a thing of beauty.
And like an anxious father, I look forward to its debut.
12. Back to the Future…
And that, in summary, is that. How this database, and why, it came into being. A project almost eighty years in the making, over two and half years in development. I have created a new and unique tool, a relational database application, The Golden Age of Pulps.
I will always, only, consider it to be “nearly” complete. Ideally, there will always be more information, more scans, better scans, to enter into the database. Ideally…
I look forward to true experts helping to advance this project with said updates, and with further enhancements of the basic application.
If the current edition, Rev 0.1, is any indication of the possibilities, then the next edition, Rev 0.2, will be a real masterpiece.
You can help make it one.
Buy a copy!
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