Friday, November 29, 2013


by James V Taurasi Sr. from the June 1952 Other Worlds

[James V Taurasi Sr. (1917-1991) was a noted fanzine publisher and editor from the mid-1940s through the late-1950s. His Science Fiction Times, one of the earliest sf and fantasy newsletters (or newszine), was honored with four Hugo Awards for Best Fanzine. He began reading science fiction almost with the first Gernsback Amazing Stories and knew all the early science fiction editors personally. Other Worlds could not have picked a better person to profile them.]

The Amazing Stories Era: Gernsback and Sloane
SCIENCE-FICTION editors are a queer breed of people. They could originally have been editors of the swellest slicks in the publishing field (and some of them were) but let one of them edit a science-fiction magazine, and thereafter he calls himself nothing but a science-fiction editor and fan. The other magazines he edited no longer count. All he'll talk about is the scientifiction magazine he's editing or has edited. With no exception, they're all like that.
It all began in 1926, when the "papa" of the pulp scientification magazines, Hugo Gernsback, decided to put out a magazine devoted exclusively to science-fiction stories. He had been publishing science-fiction in all his magazines for years.- About the best of these were the stf serials in his Science and Adventure, a magazine similar to Popular Science of today. He had even tried an all "Science-Fiction" edition of that magazine with great success.
Hugo Gernsback has been a science-fiction fan from his early childhood; he coined the term "science-fiction" to describe his favorite brand of scientific literature. In fact he also coined the word "'scientifiction" from which we get the abbreviation "STF". His first all-stf magazine was to have been called Scientifiction, but afraid that it would scare away readers who would misunderstand what it contained, the name Amazing Stories was finally decided on and Amazing Stores it was, the first in the field.
Sam Moskowitz in his "Immortal Storm" (the history of fandom) summed up the work of Gernsback when he stated: "Hugo Gernsback did something for the science fiction fans that had never been attempted before; he gave them self-respect. He preached that those who followed this sort of reading matter avidly were not possessed of a queer taste, but actually represented a higher-than-average type of intellect. And he tried to lay down rules for science fiction. Primary among these were plausibility: nothing was to appear in the stories he published that could not be given a logical scientific explanation." (Quoted from Fantasy Commentator, Fall, 1945.)
Hugo Gernsback left Amazing Stories in 1929 and soon after started another quartette of stf magazines. This time he called them, Science Wonder Stories, Air Wonder Stories (which combined a year later into Wonder Stories and is still being published today as Thrilling Wonder Stories), Scientific Dectective and Wonder Stories Quarterly. He edited and published Wonder Stories until 1936 when he sold it to Standard Magazines, Inc.
While publishing Wonder Stories, Gernsback gave the then budding science fiction fandom a much needed shot in the arm by forming the "Science Fiction League" to which many fans credit the foundation of modern fandom. Again we turn to Moskowitz's "Immortal Storm" for a summation. In Part 2, Chapter 8 of this history, Sam stated: "Looking back from the vantage of a decade's perspective, we are forced in fact to admit that the Science Fiction League was more beneficial and important to fandom than any organization which preceded or followed it. Not only did it actually create the fan field as we know the latter today, but it gave the field something that it had never possessed before: a realization of its own existence." (Quoted from Fantasy Commentator, Winter 1945-46.)
Thus, Hugo Gernsback is not only the father of the science-fiction magazine, but the god-father of science-fiction fandom as well.
Many volumes could be Written about Hugo Gernsback, the man, but it would be best to let his good friend, the popular author, Dr. David H. Keller, who knew Gernsback personally' when he was at the height of his stf publishing, tell you about him.
Writing on Gernsback in the tooth issue of Fantasy-Times, Keller stated: "When I first met Gernsback in New York he impressed me as a polished cosmopolitan rather than the usual chauvanistic American. Tall, brunette, energetic, he seemed, in spite of quiet mannerisms, to have a boundless reservoir of energy to be used in editorial or financial emergencies. He always took home with him a brief case filled with manuscripts which 'he read in bed between the hours of 11 P.M. and 2 A.M. He rarely allowed social engagements to interfere with his editorial work. He was a genial host; in his moments of relaxation told interesting tales of his boyhood in Europe. At the age of 14 he wired a convent in Luxemburg, his home city, so that the Mother Superior could ring for her subordinates when she desired their presence. This convent was closed to men and it was necessary to secure Papal Dispensation to enter and install the electrical, system."
Gernsback has only attended one meeting of any science fiction fan club in the world. His one appearance was at the March 1950 meeting of "The Eastern Science Fiction Association." Here he stated that he gave up science-fiction publishing because he could' no longer get the kind of stories he wanted. He admitted that he knew nearly nothing of modern stf, and confessed that he hardly recognized it as the same species of story.
Gernsback is now in his mid-sixties and is still an editor and publisher. He publishes Radio-Electronics, the leader in its field. Last year his famous book "Ralph 124C41 plus", was reissued, and this year it will appear in England as a pocket book.
Under Gernsback, as managing editor, was Dr. T. O'Conor Sloane, Ph.D., who stayed on with the magazine Amazing Stories, after Gems-back left it in 1929 and later became full editor until the magazine was sold to Ziff-Davis in 1938. Dr. Sloane was a picture of the ideal scientist. Tall, slim and with a long white beard, he looked the part fans associated with stf editors. He also has the honor of being the oldest man ever to edit a 'stf magazine. Born on November 24, 1851, he was 87 when he left Amazing. He passed away in the early 1940s, having reached the age of go plus. Although he accepted and published many excellent interplanetary stories, he was .of the opinion that man would never conquer space and would never reach the moon.
The Astounding Science Fiction Era: Tremaine and Campbell

F. Orlin Tremaine is the editor who really knocked the whole stf publishing field for a loop. He was the Editor of Street and Smith assigned to run Astounding when they purchased it in 1933. Tremaine soon had the magazine on the top of the heap. Here's what Moskowitz says about him. Once more we quote from "The Immortal Storm:" "When Clayton Publications was sold to Street & Smith in 1933, Astounding Stories reappeared after a six month hiatus under the editorship of F. Orlin Tremaine whose reputation at that time was at its all-time high. A science fiction fan himself, Tremaine managed within two years' time to rocket Astounding to the leading position among fantasy pulps, printing such high quality of popular fiction that his two competitors were almost forced out of the running." (Quoted from Fantasy Commentator, Spring 1949.)
In fact it was only a few years later that both competitors were sold. Wonder in 1936 and Amazing in 1938.

Tremaine became editorial director in 1937 and appointed the popular author John Campbell, Jr., to the position of editor for Astounding, a position he still holds today.
Tremaine soon left Street & Smith and has since done numerous editorial and publishing assignments.
He had his own book publishing company for awhile and has since been editor of numerous magazines. He is an author in his own right with numerous stf and detective stories under his belt.
He proved he was still a good stf editor, by publishing the stf magazine Comet, in the early 1940s. Though it published only five issues and was greatly handicapped by a company that could only pay the lowest of rates and employed a poor quality printer, Comet came close to becoming the king of the then published stf magazines before the company went bankrupt and the magazine folded. Had he had a better company to publish it, Tremaine would have made Comet the leading stf mag.
Tall and slim, Tremaine has always been interested in stf fandom, attended numerous club meetings and conventions. Today he is an active member of "The Fantasy Veterans Association" (having served in the US Army in World War I) and is presently book editor of the magazine Check.
John W. Campbell followed Tremaine as editor of Astounding Stories and continued to keep it at the high level upon which Tremaine had placed it. His first change was to rename the publication Astounding Science Fiction. Now the Astounding part of the title has all but disappeared. Many fans are certain that Campbell would like to make it plain Science Fiction, if he could. Campbell was a very popular writer, one of the best, before he tied himself to an editorial chair, and many scientifiction experts believe the field lost one of its best authors when this happened. Campbell has always had a yen for editing a scientific magazine like Scientific American, but the closest he's been to this is when he took over Air Trails and changed the name to Air Trail Science Frontiers and included space travel items in it. But the readers of the magazine wanted only airplanes and soon Campbell was left with only Astounding under his control. Among his well-liked editing ventures was Unknown, still a much sought after mag. fans have asked time and time again to be revived. Unknown died via the paper shortages of the last war and though it looked like it might be revived after the war, to date it has not. A slight gleam of it was seen in 1948, when an
annual From Unknown Worlds was published. To his credit it can be said that Campbell kept Astounding published monthly through the last war, the only stf mag to do so, and has kept the stories in the magazine on top level all through the years. Some fans greatly resent Campbell's  dragging Hubbard's dianetics into Astounding. They feel that it has no place in a stf magazine. Currently, besides editing Astounding, Campbell is putting together an anthology of stories from his magazine to be published by Simon and Schuster early in 1952.

In the next installment, the Standard magazines, Thrilling Wonder Stories and Startling Stories, and their editors, Mort Weisinger. Julius Schwartz, Sam Merwin Jr., Sam Mines and Jerome Bixby.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Charles Lee Jackson II, author of The Emperor's Gambit, at Loscon 11/29

Charles Lee Jackson II, author of The Emperor's Gambit and The Emperor Marked for death and creator of the Emperorverse, will be attending Loscon on Friday the 29th he will be appearing on a panel about Ray Harryhausen (from 1pm to 3pm). He will be easily found around and about the convention the rest of Friday and most of the day on Saturday the 30th. Meet CL, get an autograph, take a photo, have a chat... he's a very personable and friendly fellow and he'd be happy to make your acquaintance. If you own a copy of one of his books you can bring it to be signed. And even those who bought an ebook edition can get a 'showcard' with autograph from the author." 

"Loscon is a Science Fiction Convention dedicated to members and fans, held each year during the Thanksgiving weekend in the Los Angeles area. November 29 – December 1, 2013 at the LAX Marriott Hotel."

Monday, November 25, 2013

Out from Futures-Past Editions: Jean Marie Stine's Herstory & Other Science Fictions


Rings with Truth!" writes Amazing Stories of Jean Marie Stine's science fiction.

In this first-ever collection of her shorter work, you will discover why The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction hails her work as "razor-blade fiction" and the award-winning fantasist Fritz Leiber said she writes with "passion, pain, real pluck [and] a good eye for physical detail." Here you will find novelettes and shorts from Amazing Stories, Galaxy, Pegasus, SF Sagas,and other publications.

Meet the unforgettable Amy, a little girl with a doll, who lives where life is at its most dangerous -- "In the Canal Zone." What if God really was female? What if one woman had the power to make it so? Read about her world-changing decision in "Herstory." What is a woman? How many different kinds of woman are there? Discover one answer in "Jinni's So Long at the Fair," a peek into a dark harrowing future and a love that linked two ages. When a corrupt governor discovers there are some crimes even he balks at, his life is in danger and he must turn for help to the newest incarnation of the legendary sorceress, , . What is truth? Pontius Pilate wanted to know. One man finds out when he has an encounter on "The Darkside of the Moon." (JMS's story inspired in part by the life of Richard Shaver.) Then in "Phantom of the Aquarius," "Feelin' Bold," and "Reckless" you'll meet Sven Fort, a man fleeing a doomed future for an ideal past, who just can't help destroying the golden ages into which he flees.

As a special bonus you will find "No Exit," co-written with Hugo and Nebula winner Larry Niven.

"Stine exploits beautifully a full-blooded, taunt style which bears comparison with the best mainstream fiction." Foundation (U.K.)

Check out Jean Marie's only science fiction collection and see what the critics are talking about.


Interview by Jean Marie Stine

[This never-before reprinted conversation was originally published in an issue of the Los Angeles Reader in mid-1984 (at the time of the Dune movie's release).]

JMS: In Dune, written in the early '60s, you were one of the first to question the danger of modifying the ecology of a particular environment to try to "improve" human conditions. 
HERBERT:  Let me give you a little example on that one.  About 20 years ago the U.S. and West Germany pooled their resources -- well, we put in most of the bucks and the people - and went into North Africa, and all across most of the southern veldt of the Sahara.  We dug a lot of tube wells - we drilled them, put pumps on them and brought water up.  We did a good thing and then we walked away from it, more or less.  Technologically we sure as hell walked away from it.
What happened was that they had more water and more grazing areas.  More arable land was opened up, more cattle were put on the land, and the population grew to equal the new food supply.  Then about five years ago, the rainfall, cyclic rainfall, decidedly decreased.  Three years ago it went, practically dry.  Of course the water table went down much faster because they were pumping.  Right now as we sit here talking, 2,000 people a day are dying in that area.  You can't go in and fix one thing to make everything all right in a complex situation. It's like an internal combustion engine.  If there is only one thing wrong you may happen on the one thing that fixes it.  But chances are much larger that by just doing one thing you create other problems you're going to have to adjust.  And you have to keep adjusting until you create a balance.
For instance, one of the side effects of what we did in some of those North African villages was that we broke down the social system.  Women previously went to the well for water, which they carried back on their heads, and the well was where they solved all their community problems.  By piping water into the houses we cut off that link in their society and all hell broke loose.  There were family feuds, murders, all kinds of things that had never occurred in these places, in that particular way, ever before.  The Green Revolution was another, similar con game.  We went in with a technologically based system into primitive countries, and where before they had depended on manure and animals to pull their plows and that sort of thing, we made them dependent on special soil additives and special seed stock which was, by the way, very vulnerable to disease.
JMS: In Dune one of the groups is trying, through genetic manipulation and selective breeding, to produce a mental superman, a Kwisatz Haderach, who can see and predict the course of future history, guiding humanity along the best path for its development.  But in Children of Dune, the hero's son, after achieving a state of radically expanded consciousness, says, " no Kwisatz Haderach."
HERBERT:  You know what we're discussing, don't you?  We're discussing prescience, prediction, and free will.  Very old ideas.  I started analyzing what people really mean when they use these words.  In the first place, and I've said this time and again, if I were to hand you right now an exact and unswervable heartbeat-by-heartbeat prediction that nothing could change your future or what's going to happen to you from now to the moment of your death, your life would be instant replay, an absolute and utter bore.  You'd be sitting there at this instant saying: "Well, next he's going to say..." You'd know it all.  Eighty tedious years if you're unlucky.  Ten if you're lucky.  That's why I blinded the hero in the second book.  He doesn't need his eyes.  He knows everything that is going to happen.  He chose to put himself on that monorail.
What most people want when they talk about futurism -- all the companies that hire me to play futurist for them -- they don't want the future, they want now locked in.  FDR, he did it.  In 1933 he appointed a committee called the Brain Trust.  They were given the primary job of "determining" what the course of technological development and innovation would be for the next 25 years and what influence this would have on our lives.  What had they not come up with?  That's the fascinating thing.  Faster-than-sound travel, transistors, antibiotics, atomic power, World War II, are just a few small items that these Brain Trusters missed.  What does this say to us?  It says that if you look at history carefully the surprises are the things that turn us upside down as a society.  Asimov in his Foundation Trilogy has the Second Foundation, which can predict the course of the future, and he has his character the Mule in there, his wild card, but again totally within scientifically predictable norms.  Horseshit!
What technology does to us is distribute the wild cards farther and farther afield.  Because really what's going on is that the amount of energy that can be aimed and released is getting greater and greater and falling into the hands of smaller and smaller groups.  The availability of this energy is also being disseminated all through this society.  Something I proved conclusively in my research for White Plague.  I got on the horn and I started calling suppliers of equipment I would need to engage in recombinant DNA research myself in my basement.  I introduced myself only as Dr. Herbert.  I didn't elaborate.  You know, what's the difference between a Doctor of Letters and a Doctor of Medicine?  Anyway, I asked, "How, does my purchasing department get your XR 21?"  Their reply was, "When your check has cleared, we will ship."  Anything I wanted.
Now does that mean I want to clamp a lid on it?  No way!  That would only drive it underground and make a black market, which is what we do with hard drugs.  We create a black market.  A very profitable black market by the way, which can buy the inviolate Briefcases of diplomats, buy the police force of an entire major city or enough of it that it makes no never mind.  You know what happened to the heroin the cops seized in The French Connection?  It vanished from the police property room in New York City.  You can't control these things with a lid.  In fact if you try, like a pressure cooker, you only create dangerous, explosive pressure.
Survival of the species depends on adaptability, and that depends on variability, variation.  I think that big government is one of the major dangers in our world.  It tends to homogenize a society, and our strength is in our variations.  The bigger it is, the worse it is.  Small governments, small societies -- developing their own mores, their own social systems, their own people, going their own ways to a limit -- do not endanger their neighbors.  I hope to God we get off the planet soon, because that's what will happen in space.  The difficulty of communication across space at our present level of technology dictates that if we get off this planet with a viable breeding population of humans, and if they scatter into different directions, each group is going to develop in its own way.  Variation means the species will survive.  And that's what I'm addressing in the Dune books.

JMS:  You said earlier that your original vision of the Dune saga encompassed only the material in three volumes culminating with Children of Dune. Why did you write more? 
HERBERT:  I had a character who wouldn't get out of my head. it fascinated me to think of what kind of a society would develop if it was under the thumb of one individual for 3,500 years.  You know, it's kind of like an amplification of the Pharaonic dynasties but all in one dynasty.  So I had that character firmly in mind.  It wouldn't get out.  So I said, "Okay, here's your society after 3,500 years.  What happens?  What has happened?  What do we become?"  I was also questioning another major premise: that we know what peace is.  And yet for that to be true, every person would have to know themselves in the classical sense.  Every Person would, have to know: "Why am I doing this?  What are my motives?  What is my unconscious direction?"  Well, that is a big issue, you know.  A much bigger issue than people generally realize.  So I'm saying, "All right, you think you know peace and what it would mean and you think you know what the future can bring.  Here's a guy that's going to give it to you for 3,500 years and enforce it.  The only violence is his.  Experience it for the term of the book, and see how you like it."  It's a little demonstration project like 1984.
And all of these premises are the same premise when you come right back to it.  That evolution cuts off right here.  And this is the destiny of humankind, not a death wish, in my books.  That's what I'm playing with in the seventh book, moving toward showing the kind of government that finally evolves out of the situation I've been creating.
I've been playing these games all along.  Not popular games.  But obviously there are 15 million people worldwide who have said, "Hey, this is interesting."  So I have an audience out there.  And I'm talking to them, saying, "Take another look at a these precious premises upon which we have based our governments and our ideas of leadership.  Let's take a good, long, hard look at things.  Do they really work or do we continue to make mistakes - the same mistakes over and over and over?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Science Fiction History: 1954 Autobiographical Profile by Jerome Bixby Star Trek, Fantastic Voyage Author

Long before he penned television and movie classics like Fantastic Voyage, "Mirror, Mirror" "Day of the Dove", "Requiem for Methuselah", and "By Any Other Name", Jerome Bixby was a young short story writer trying to make a living selling yarns to any publication that appeared likely. His sly comedy, "The Battle of the Bells" appeared in the September 1954 issue of Imagination (the illustration for the story is reproduced below). Along with the story the editors requested a 500 word bio, and Bixby supplied one. This "About the Author" contains some illumination stories for fans of Fantastic Voyage,  Star Trek, and his other work for the screen and tv. Bixby wrote:

"Was born in Hollywood, January 11, 1923, at 3:48 A. M., began rolling slowly eastward, and fourteen years later found myself in New York City.
"In the interim I'd had measles, whooping cough and mumps all at the same time; bit a dog and apoliceman; outrun a tornado; flown a kite bearing a message to an angel (Lon Chaney's—and it came down without the message), and read a pulp magazine.
"The magazine was Street & Smith's old Wild West Weekly, one half of whose total wordage every issue consisted of gunshots written out as "Crang-g-g-g!" Soon I graduated to Doc Savage, Bill Barnes, Operator #5, G-8, The Spider, ad nostalgium (collected, swapped, ran a store for the neighborhood kids in my garage) . . . and at last to Astounding, because I wondered how the rocketships on the cover flew without wings. I immediately grew antennae, and haven't stopped reading science fiction since . . . and a year afterward, at thirteen, I sold my first story I ever wrote. To Astounding, you ask? Nope—to Wild West Weekly. Crang-g-g-g!
"My first ironclad ambition was to be a concert pianist; was just beginning to shape up when somebody broke my fist with his jaw . . . that ended that. Turned to composition; was an early member of The New Chamber Music Society, and had some radio and recital performances of piano works. Dropped music for ten years then (had a stomach to support)—but now the bug is starting to bite again: am sketching an orchestral work.
"Have worked as: soda jerk, office boy, lathe hand—(break here for military service: Air Corps, last war) —record salesman, insurance investigator, pianist in a dance band, portrait sculptor, freelance cartoonist, and recently (since '49) as a stf editor on and off. The ons have included Planet, TWS, Startling, Galaxy and Beyond; during the offs I've free-lanced. Five wonderful years . . . I only hope the next five are half as much fun.
"Likes: cats (her name is En-gram), Beethoven, bittersweet chocolate, Prokofieff, Adlai Stevenson, summer, and disputatious sophistry.
"Dislikes: overexuberant dogs, liver, 99% of all popular music, the advertising racket, mobiles, coffee that isn't quite sweet enough, and big fat cars with chromium smiles.
"Am 5'10", weigh about 135, and have muscles only in my fingers. I am content as I review the list to those who like and dislike me. I write my stories in a 4' by 4' closet, because I grind my Royal at night and sleep days when I hit a writing streak, and people who aren't crazy like to sleep at night . . . a man banged on the door and told me so.
"I'm glad to be alive, and in this country. I would, however, happily employ time-travel, catalepsy, deep freeze, transposition of souls or any other workable device in order to escape the childswarm of not-quite-yets and just-around-thecorners (and the goofball demands) of this gestating century." —Jerome Bixby

Watch for news of a new collection of Jerome Bixby's short stories and novelettes with a very personal introduction by his son, Emerson Bixby from Futures-Past Editions. Visit the Jerome Bixby Facebook page here: