Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby s_c_baker » Fri May 30, 2014 7:12 am

wotf027
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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby ggeezz » Fri May 30, 2014 7:41 am

Ishmael wrote:
ggeezz wrote:So why is the song from Kary's example wrong? I could say it's because the sole purpose of the song is to hurt. That takes us back to author intent. But wasn't it still "wrong" when Kary didn't know the meaning and thus there was no hurtful intent? Yes. As a society we should kindly explain to Kary why the song is hurtful and then she has a responsibility to stop singing it.


May I suggest that you are conflating two issues: 'wrong' and 'racist'.

Different societies have different views on what is wrong. Secular western society often applies a utilitarian criterion, i.e. generally speaking the public good is better served when people don't sing such songs than when they do. From that standpoint such singing is wrong. That does not make Kary's singing of the song racist. A racist hates another human being on account of his ethnic origins. Was Kary expressing her hatred of anyone? No.


Just for clarity's sake, I want to point out that's basically what I said to Kary after her post.

ggeezz wrote:Technically, the song was racist, but "you singing the song" was not racist. It was, however, still offensive.


It was wrong because it was offensive (more specifically, it doesn't conform to "trying to meet the other party in the middle"), not because she was being racist.

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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby Ishmael » Fri May 30, 2014 9:41 am

s_c_baker wrote: wotf027

Barry Goldwater wrote:I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!

Bob Dylan wrote: Now, I’m liberal, but to a degree
I want ev’rybody to be free
But if you think that I’ll let Barry Goldwater
Move in next door and marry my daughter
You must think I’m crazy!
I wouldn’t let him do it for all the farms in Cuba

Ishmael wrote:Moi?
Last edited by Ishmael on Fri May 30, 2014 9:48 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby Ishmael » Fri May 30, 2014 9:42 am

ggeezz wrote:
Just for clarity's sake, I want to point out that's basically what I said to Kary after her post.

ggeezz wrote:Technically, the song was racist, but "you singing the song" was not racist. It was, however, still offensive.



Mea culpa. Apologies.
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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby LDWriter2 » Fri May 30, 2014 7:26 pm

I wasn't going to comment again, but a comment about Kary's song being offensive caught my attention.


It goes back to my original comment about people seeing what they expect to see or want to see. Which goes back to Resnick and the others problem.
The question is who exactly is it offensive to? Society at large? Maybe it is. All of society? I doubt it very much. On the other hand is it offensive to a few relatively small noisy groups who think they speak for most people--whether it's all of society or one sub group within the society. Many times these groups get the attention but when you really look over who they say are offended, they aren't. Many in these groups-which seem to include those who went after Resnick and the other two get something in their mind and so they act like everyone should feel the same way they do.

So when this sensitive group went after Resnick were all women offended by what what Resnick wrote and said? Most women? Just a few who were have been hurt one way or another by men? Or is it mainly the small group?

The same thing could be asked about Kary's song. Certain people will say it and she was racist no matter what-everything is racist to them, but does that mean it and she is just because a noisy group says it and they were? Others will say it was but that doesn't mean she is. I would respect what they say more because of their attitude.
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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby Mike Resnick » Sat May 31, 2014 9:47 pm

I'm surprised to see this is still going on. SFWA's after new targets these days.

Just to set the record straight, I have never described Bea Mahaffey in
a bikini. I was 8 years old and living 300 miles away when she showed up
at Midwestcon in 1950 -- and in 1950 I don't think anyone but movie
star wannabe's wore bikinis.

Anyway, being the target of the PC Police is nothing new to me. Most of
you weren't in the field when I was writing the "Kirinyaga" stories, which
are told in the first person of an elderly member of East Africa's Kikuyu
tribe. There were 10 in all; 2 won Hugos, 6 more were nominated for
Hugos. But if you -were- around, you might remember the screams of
outrage (and I still have some of the hate mail): how -dare- a white
American man write as a black African man? OutrageousIII

That was a couple of years before they made Rob Sawyer's life so
unpleasant that he resigned as SFWA President a few months into
his first term.

Good ol' SFWA. *sigh*

-- Mike Resnick
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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby LDWriter2 » Sun Jun 01, 2014 9:44 am

Speaking for my self here this type of thing-even though not this specific SFWA controversy--is still fresh because some writers on Google+ have been writing notes about how we need to inclusive in our writings, how female heroes aren't usually as strong as male heroes, sexism in writing-publishers and related topics. So the subject(s) we have discussed is in my mind and in my thinking processes.



As Resnick's case of writing a black MC, he's not the only one to have entered that controversy. Kristine Kathryn Rusch has talked about that since she has a black PI in one of her series. It sounded like she just pretty much ignored the screams of outrage.

But this has effected me. I wrote one novel where I wanted the MC to be half fea and half black, but I chickened out and made her half Armenian because I didn't want the hassle.
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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby s_c_baker » Wed Jun 04, 2014 3:03 pm

I know I should just let this thread die, but I'm just going to drop this link here as pertinent to the preceding debate: Fantasy Writer N.K. Jemisin Explains the Rise of Racism in Fandom
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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby ggeezz » Thu Jun 05, 2014 5:05 am

Anger is good if you can harness it to help you reach your goals. But if it causes you to attack people that are trying to help you, it has become counter-productive.

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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby ggeezz » Fri Jun 06, 2014 7:29 am

Interestingly enough I just watched the Sword and Laser Author Spotlight with N. K. Jemisin. (I'm a bit behind.)

http://swordandlaser.com/home/2014/5/8/ ... -k-jemisin

She briefly touches on the issue starting around 20:35. She eventually says something along the lines of "some people are talking about it angrily . . . and that's a good thing . . . as long as we keep talking the genre will continue to improve."

Like I said, anger can be a good thing. But sometimes it causes you to do things that your calmer, more rational self wouldn't do.

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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby Isto » Sat Jun 07, 2014 11:48 am

Kary English wrote:
If I do not intend my words to be sexist then you may not legitimately describe them as 'well intentioned sexism.'


I'd like to offer up an anecdote in rebuttal of the idea that unintended -ism doesn't qualify as the -ism in question.

When I was in 7th grade, I sometimes rode the bus to school. The city I lived in was very white. My junior high school had four or five black kids, a couple of Asian kids, one or two Indian kids and no Hispanics. As per usual with school buses, the rear seats were filled with rowdy boys, but one of those boys was the brother of one of my friends and sitting with my friend meant sitting in the general proximity of the rowdy boys.

In particular, there was this sing-song chant the boys liked, a chant accompanied by rhythmic clapping and foot-stomping. The stomping got raucous enough to shake the whole bus and the chanting turned into shouting. The tune was catchy, the mood was exuberant, and hey, I liked watermelon, so I joined in.

Verse one was all about watermelon. Watermelon was, in fact, the only lyric, though they pronounced it as "wallermelon," without the t. "Wallermelon. Wallermelon. Waller-MELon! Waller-MELon! WALLer-MELon!"

The second verse kept the same tune but used black-eyed peas instead of watermelon for lyrics.

And the third verse consisted of "spare-rib juice" over and over again.

Finally, I noticed my friend sitting stiff and livid beside me, so I asked her what was wrong. She said she hated that song because the boys were singing it to make fun of two kids up front, two black kids sitting ramrod straight in the front seats. I'm not even sure we knew the word racism back then because our lives were just that sheltered.

Eventually, after several weeks of this, the bus driver stopped the bus, yelled at the rowdy boys and refused to move the bus until they stopped. If they ever sang it again, she said she'd have them banned from the bus.

Even then I didn't understand. I thought the issues was rowdiness. I'd never eaten black-eyed peas, but I liked watermelon and spare ribs, and I had no idea those things had racist connotations. My first introduction to the n-word was when I read Tom Sawyer in school later the same year.

So when I sang that song, I certainly didn't intend it to be racist. But was it? Yes, it was.



I admit I haven't read the original articles (it took me long enough to read this entire thread). But there is a political and a moral and a constitutional? aspect to all this. I approach this from a practical, real life perspective.
First, my comment on Kary's situation. If Kary hadn't asked, she may have sang that song for the rest of her life, not understanding the message she was sending or the hurt she was causing others. Because she didn't want to hurt ANYONE on any side of opinion, she stopped. AND because the bus driver took a stand, she sent a clear message as to what was and was not acceptable. Thus, not perpetuating the racist behavior. You don't have to be a racist to pass it along. Like an illness, you can be a carrier without coming down with the disease.

Second, my experience. I have been the target of a man who thought every female in the office was his to lay hands on. He hired only women... young women. After one meeting he required each one of us give a hug before we could leave. He stood at the door so you couldn't get past until he got his hug. He hit on me multiple times and when he finally got the message that I wasn't interested (and, yes, we were both married), THAT'S when the trouble started. The persecution. The mockery. The purposeful campaign to make my life hell really began. I quit my job, because (back then) that's all I could do. I was granted unemployment with the advice to file charges. I didn't because I didn't want my job back. I didn't want to be anywhere near him or those who watched and allowed it to happen. Those who'd sympathized had to sneak a goodbye, because no one was allowed to talk to me without consequences. I know now that I should have filed charges to prevent the next girl from living my experience.

So, do I think that a few Barbie comments are important enough to speak up? Hell, yes. But not in anger, because that causes the defenses to go up and the ears to close. Attack only causes more attack. But, sometimes people don't realize how a few inadvertent comments can feed those that are prejudice. But once they understand, then they must own all their future comments. For anything after that, isn't just a song.
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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby Ishmael » Sun Jun 08, 2014 2:19 am

I would have no quarrel with what Isto and ggeezz have said. When I actually used to debate for a living, I was always taught 'Lose your temper and you lose the argument.'
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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby amoskalik » Fri Aug 15, 2014 5:44 pm

I recently ran across this thread. I have no intention of reigniting a debate that most of the participants would likely agree is best put to bed, but I did want to say that if all public discourse was done at this level, the world would be a far more civil and productive place. I am in awe of all of you.

I also had a revelation after reading this. It is likely something that is obvious to those of you who have been writing far longer than I, but I haven't heard it mentioned in all the articles and books on writing I've read. It is simply this:

It takes courage to write.

I saw that exemplified here. Starting with Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg. They have written and published many stories and articles over the years, all of which could (and have on occasion) offend someone. I'm sure they were aware of this and the potential blow back each and every time. Courage.

Then s_c_baker takes a position contrary to most on this thread and defends it beautifully, despite the possibility of drawing ire from the aforementioned influential individuals. Courage.

Kary English shares a less than flattering (but wonderfully written) personal anecdote from her childhood. Courage.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Thank you for the thought provoking discussion. I now aspire to be as courageous.
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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby FictionMuse » Mon Aug 18, 2014 11:29 pm

I admit I haven't read the original articles



There it is again.

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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby FictionMuse » Mon Aug 18, 2014 11:32 pm

Mike: We covered the lady writers pretty thoroughly last issue (well, except for the ones we didn’t mention), and now it’s time to move on to the ladies on the other end of the submission, which is to say the editors and publishers.
Probably the first of note within the category was Dorothy McIlwraith, who succeeded the legendary Farnsworth Wright at Weird Tales. Wright earned a place in our history for discovering and developing H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, and (*sigh*) Catherine L. Moore, but McIlwraith was no slouch herself. Her stable included young Ray Bradbury, as well Joseph Payne Brennan and August Derleth, with occasional contributions from Ted Sturgeon and Henry Kuttner. She also enticed Lucy Maud Montgomery, creator of Anne of Green Gables, to write for Weird. Now if I could just forgive her for dumping those gorgeous nude covers by Margaret Brundage…
Well, she may have been the first to edit a major publication, but she was neither the only nor the best, so let me turn the floor over to you while I await the coach’s phone call on how to fix the Bengals’ pass defense.
#
Barry: First, a comment on your last comment in the Dialogue preceding. You lament the gender imbalance in Worldcon Guests of Honor...something like ten to one in favor of men. This is true but not ominous, simply represents a kind of culture lag. Worldcon Guests of Honor are preponderantly distinguished, older figures; if science fiction was male-dominated (numerically) through the end of the 60’s then the flood of brilliant woman writers who dominated our field beginning in the 70’s would only now be approaching (as Connie Willis has) the customary age for this honor. I have no doubt that the imbalance will over the next twenty years be self-correcting. Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny and contemporary reality becomes tomorrow's statuary. As that excellent, dominating female science fiction writer Patricia Cadigan (who emerged in the early eighties and who has twice won the Arthur C. Clarke award for best sf novel published in Great Britain) says, “Trust me on this.”
On to the editorial roster:
Dorothy McIlwraith, that distinguished and distinguishing figure, edited Weird Tales with spirit and fire for a long time (just as the superb Fanny Ellsworth did the same for Black Mask Magazine in the wake of Joseph Shaw, flummoxing non-feminists forever) but in the strictest terms she falls, like Fanny Ellsworth, somewhat out of our discussion...hers was not a science fiction magazine (although Bradbury and Bloch and Frank Long and so many other substantive sf figures published there) and the stories she was acquiring, the magazine she was shaping, fall outside the perimeters of our discussion. Interestingly, the first female editorial figure who came to mind when last time you promised this follow-up was an Assistant Editor, Astounding’s Catherine Tarrant, whose name first appeared on the masthead in 1951 and who was in that position for over 20 years, surviving John Campbell’s tenure and the succession of Ben Bova in December 1971. In her departing statement she noted that she was leaving the magazine in the Spring of 1972, “only when I was sure that it was in good hands and good order”.
Campbell stated often that Catherine edited the magazine, was responsible for every aspect of editing, copy-editing, scheduling and production, “Except that I buy the stories.” Many of Campbell’s writers felt that this statement was disingenuous, that it was Campbell himself who stringently expunged any suggestion of sexuality, any questionable language from the magazine, and he would then deflect animadversion by blaming it all on Catherine. Of course we can now never know, but it is likely that Catherine Tarrant would not have objected to anything John Campbell said or did. They sat in the same small room every working day for those two decades, and according to Ben Bova this maiden lady who lived in Hoboken was helplessly, silently in love with John for all of that time. (Their true relationship, Ben contended, was documented closely by Mark Clifton in his 2/56 Astounding novelette, “Clerical Error”.)
Well, who knows? Catherine Tarrant, regardless, was probably the first woman to find a public editorial role in magazine science fiction. (And when she entered her office in 1951, science fiction was the magazines, and the book publishers were pendant and derivative. Almost everything published by the small presses and reprinted in the important postwar anthologies had appeared first in the magazines.)
Almost synchronous with her entrance was that of Beatrice Mahaffey as Raymond Palmer’s Assistant Editor when Palmer left Amazing to originate a series of his own magazines (beginning with Other Worlds) and I will leave it to you to introduce her; you knew her from the sf community of your early years and were, with so many, an admirer. She was competent, unpretentious and beauty pageant beautiful, as photographs make quite clear. Tell the succeeding generations all about her, please.
#
Mike: Ah, Bea Mahaffey…
She was the only pro I knew in Cincinnati when we moved here from the Chicago area more than a third of a century ago. She was incredibly generous with her time and reminiscences, and I spent a lot of time with her, on the phone and in person, during those first few months while I was learning my way around town.
Anyone who’s seen photos of Bea from the 1950s knows she was a knockout as a young woman. She was invited to Chicago to edit Other Worlds¬ by Ray Palmer when she was barely out of her teens, and in the process she also edited or co-edited Mystic, Science Stories, and Universe. (Some of them were the same magazine under different titles; Palmer changed titles a lot to keep a step ahead of the printing bills.)
There’s an interesting – and non-apocryphal (I’ve seen the trophy) – story involving Bea, Other Worlds, and another Cincinnatian, Legendary Lou Tabakow Lou had sold Bea a story titled “Sven”, which actually appeared on the cover of a 1954 issue.
Well, it just so happened that Isaac Asimov was in town just before the issue went to press, and he stopped by to pay the gorgeous Bea a visit. But he hadn’t called ahead, and Bea was out to lunch when he arrived. He decided to wait for her, and being Isaac, he sat down where he was most comfortable – at Bea’s typewriter – and banged out a story in about 45 minutes. Bea returned from lunch just as he finished, he offered it to her, of course she bought it, and she bumped Lou’s story out of the issue. It appeared in Other Worlds more than a year later.
But it was too late to change the magazine’s cover, which came out boasting “Sven” among its contents – and at the 1955 Worldcon’s Hugo ceremony, Lou and “Sven” received a joke Hugo (an old Oldsmobile hood ornament) for “Best Unpublished Story”).
Another story from nonagenarian Margaret Keiffer, who lives just a couple of miles from us. She’s the widow of super-fan Don Ford, who ran the 1949 Worldcon, and founded both Midwestcon and First Fandom. Don also created CFG (the Cincinnati Fantasy Group), the venerable local club to which Carol and I belong. According to Margaret, during its first few years of existence CFG was populated exclusively by men. Then Bea joined. Then the members’ wives got a look at Bea in her swimsuit at the 1950 Midwestcon. Then the club’s make-up changed to the 50% men and 50% women that has existed ever since.
Bea had emphysema by the time I moved to town. Within a year or two she was pretty much confined to the house she shared with her equally good-looking sister (though she still came to an occasional local club meeting and Midwestcon for another half-dozen years.) I still remember expecting to be blown to Kingdom Come every time Carol and I visited her, because she was a compulsive 3-pacl-a-day smoker, and was also on oxygen. She’d take a deep drag on a cigarette, then a deep drag on her oxygen, then the cigarette, then the oxygen…and why the one never caused the other to explode remains a mystery to me.
We moved to Cincinnati – where we still live – in 1976, and Bea made it to 1987, though she was very weak the last few years. A wonderful, talented, generous lady.
Another lady who deserves mention and then some is Cele Goldsmith. Kay Tarrant was an assistant to Campbell, and Bea edited what were basically minor-league prozines…but Cele edited the digest-sized Amazing and Fantastic when they were major markets (or perhaps she made them major markets, after Ray Palmer had destroyed their credibility with the Shaver Mystery). And she edited them with skill and precision.
How much skill? She’s the one who found and developed Ursula K. Le Guin.
Not enough? Okay, she’s also the one who first published Thomas M. Disch.
Still not enough? Well, then, she’s also the one who discovered Roger Zelazny.
Oh – and Keith Laumer. And she introduced an American audience to the stories of J. G. Ballard.
Of course, she published most of the stars of the day as well, got Fritz Leiber working again after he’d stopped for a couple of years, and did all this in a relatively brief stint lasting from late 1958 until 1965, when Ziff-Davis sold the titles. Cele elected to stay with Ziff-Davis rather than go with the two digests, and spent the next three decades editing Modern Bride. She retired in 1998, and died in a car crash less than four years later.
Given her accomplishments, what I find amazing (fantastic?) is that so few pros and fans even know her name.
#
Barry: Let me if I may expand on Cele Goldsmith (later “Lalli”, but she was single during the six years of her editorship and determined to keep it so; her husband-to-be was in the Accounting Department at Ziff-Davis but she refused a relationship until he left the firm in the mid-sixties) somewhat if I may. She was exceptional…one of the most innovative and visionary of all our editors and yet utterly without pretension or agenda. A 1955 Vassar graduate, she came to Ziff-Davis’ New York offices immediately after graduation and stayed there for 45 years. “I was an English major,” she stated, “and had read widely, but I had almost no knowledge of science fiction until I became Norman Lobsenz’s assistant at Amazing. When I began reading manuscripts I was looking for work I liked. That was my only standard and I guess it worked out pretty well.”
I know this in a primary fashion. In the Fall of 1999 I conducted an hour interview in New York at the suggestion of George Zebrowski, who had convinced the then-editor of Amazing, Kim Mohan, that an interview of a forgotten and under-appreciated editor by a successor editor of the magazine (my undistinguished tenure lasted a brief six months in 1968) might be an important contribution to history. I spoke with her in a Starbucks near the Scott Meredith offices. She had no idea why I wanted to interview her (“I wasn't that important and have been gone for 35 years,”) but was certainly pleasant and forthcoming and the interview was, I felt, a privilege. Before I had completed the transcript Amazing had collapsed yet again and no tana leaves this time. The interview was published four years later in Farah Mendelsohn’s Foundation, and then reprinted a few years later in the last volume (#5) of George Zebrowski’s Synergy. All of this was a long time ago in publishing terms, and Zebrowski’s effort and my own to take Cele Goldsmith from obscurity and place her on a pinnacle have to be seen as unavailing. Stunning editor (and a beautiful woman) who changed science fiction: Zelazny, Laumer, David Bunch, Le Guin, Disch appeared first in her magazine. I am sure that all of them would have become successful otherwise if they had persisted, but maybe without Goldsmith's encouragement they would not. This is another reason why I have long since come to the conclusion that publishing is a blind lottery.
In January 2002, Cele Lalli drove her car into a tree less than two miles from her Connecticut home and apparently died instantly, leaving two daughters and several grandchildren on the West Coast and her husband. She had, she told me, loved the couple of years since her retirement at 65 as editor-in-chief of Modern Bride: frequent trips to the West Coast, pleasant days at home, adulation when she would come periodically to the Ziff-Davis offices, “Where they were always glad to see me and treated me splendidly. No career like mine would be possible any more...come to a publishing firm right after college, rise steadily, stay there for almost four decades, retire voluntarily. I was often asked how could I make the shift from editing science fiction to editing Modern Bride, and I would always say, ‘What could be more amazing or fantastic than a wedding?’”
Of the 60’s magazine (and book) editors, Carr and Wollheim and Moorcock and Pohl and of course the infuriating John Campbell had almost all of the attention and publicity...but very quietly Cele Goldsmith might have been the soul (even more centrally than Moorcock) of the evolving field. Her tragic (and to me pointless) death hurts me to this moment.
Well, I note with equal parts dismay and defiance that I have expended more space on Cele Goldsmith (to whom you had already paid tribute) than might seem justifiable, but je ne regrette pas or however Mendes-France might put it.
The next female editor of great importance was of course Judy-Lynn del Rey who you have noted in the past tends to be a figure with whose stature and brilliance I seem to be obsessed...but I will defer discussion or profile to my next round. There is nothing ancillary about her, there is no argument whatsoever against her overwhelming importance. But before I defer to you, a note on Judy-Lynn’s predecessor, the eponymous Betty Ballantine, still with us in her 90’s, who founded that publisher in 1953 with her late husband Ian, and who was regarded as a co-publisher who in no way could be disentangled from her husband. The iron process of corporate creep forced her and Ballantine out in the early 70’s but surely Ballantine’s adoption of science fiction from the start, the publisher’s support and significantly higher advances than had ever been previously paid, had an enormous and salutary effect upon the genre. Like Cele Goldsmith’s Amazing, the early 50’s Ballantine was a profound element of change.
As you are. Please continue.
#
Mike: I know your high opinion of Judy-Lynn, and also that you wrote at least one book for her, so I’ll leave her to your affections and concentrate on the more recent magazine editors.
Kristine Kathryn Rusch is the one who broke Gardner Dozois’s Best Editor Hugo streak during her stint at The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, where she did a truly outstanding job, so much so that people forget she also was the editor of Pulphouse prior to that. I sold a lot of stories to her, as did many of my peers, and my conclusion is that serious, funny, sad, exciting, whatever, her only qualification was that it be good. I wish she was still editing, but she’s also a Hugo-winning writer – the only person of either sex to win Hugos as both writer and editor – and as you can see from the magazines, she’s been keeping busy.
People also forget that Asimov’s had a pair of editors between George Scithers and Gardner Dozois, but it did. The first, who served about a year, was Kathleen Molony (about whom I confess I know almost nothing). She was succeeded by Shawna McCarthy, now an agent, who served only two years at the helm of Asimov’s but managed to win a Best Editor Hugo in the process.
These days everyone knows who the editor of Asimov’s is: it’s Sheila Williams, who succeeded Gardner without missing a beat in 2004, after a 22-year apprenticeship with the magazine. Year in and year out about half the Hugo nominees in the short fiction categories appear in Asimov’s, and she’s won the last two Best Editor Hugos.
A lady who seems to succeed wherever she goes is Ellen Datlow. She edited Omni starting in 1981, then did the same for Omni Online until its demise in 1998. Just as we were wondering what she would do for a living with her 17-year employer gone, she moved over and edited ¬Sci Fiction through 2005, winning two Best Editor Hugos in the process. She also co-edited 21 volumes (with Terri Windling, another fine lady editor) of The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, and is currently editing The Best Horror of the Year. And, oh yes, she picked up two more Best Editor Hugos in 2009 and 2010.
Not all the post-pulp magazines were digests. One of the longer-lived ones was Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine. It survived for 50 issues from 1988 to 2000. Marion edited the first 45 issues herself, and Rachel Holman took over for the final five issues.
Marion’s editing wasn’t limited to the magazine. As near as I can tell, she edited 16 anthologies, of which 11 were Darkover anthologies, in which she opened up her wildly popular world to others who wanted to write in it.
Another prolific writer who wasn’t limited to producing her own fiction was Andre Norton. Along with well over one hundred novels, she edited 19 anthologies, including five Catfantastic anthologies with Marty Greenberg, and four Ithkar anthologies with Robert Adams.
OK, I see your feet stomping the ground and your nostrils snorting smoke and fire, like Seattle Slew in the starting gate, so I’ll step out of your way while you discuss the most dominant lady of them all.
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Barry: Judy-Lynn Benjamin (1943-1986), Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Del Rey books for the last decade of her tragically abbreviated life (she was afflicted with a classification of dwarfism which cuts off most of its victims by the end of their 40’s) was a figure of towering significance. As one of her colleagues said at her Memorial Service: “She dominated science fiction as John W. Campbell and no one else since...a dominance felt after Campbell’s 1940’s to never be possible again.” She dominated fantasy even more substantively, making bestselling writers of Terry Brooks, Stephen Donaldson, Anne McCaffrey, Alan Dean Foster, and many others. As I wrote some time ago, she taught the genres of science fiction and fantasy a bitter, conflicting lesson: by the late seventies publishers approached them in Judy-Lynn’s fashion or they failed. It was that stark.
Did she almost singlehandedly reduce science fiction to a subsidiary, a pendant to the category of fantasy? And did she set back mass market science fiction forty years? The arguments continue. It was she who bought the “George Lucas” novelization of Star Wars (actually written by Alan Dean Foster) long before the film's release and made it a sensational property, with its sales, franchised successors and fame setting the bar (or base) for mass market fiction. Established sf writers at the Star Wars previews and premiere came away convinced that the literary, stylistic, conceptual advances of the last decades had been rendered irrelevant for the mass audience by the film. Meanwhile and concurrently, Judy-Lynn del Rey was acquiring and promoting in a big way fantasy titles by the writers mentioned above. They became bestsellers. It was her decision from the beginning that if the Dragons of Pern were promoted no less assiduously than the romances of Rosemary Rogers, they would outsell the Rogers title. The lack of a huge audience for mass market fantasy was not inherent in the category itself. It could be corrected through treating Anne McCaffrey’s work like that of Rosemary Rogers (or Jacqueline Susann). Close to four decades later mass market fiction publishing is living in her world...and the genre of science fiction is suffering – in terms of audience – in direct consequence.
I am telling this story backwards, I understand, but being welded to that decision I will recall my lunch meeting with Judy-Lynn in 10/83, a month after the Baltimore Worldcon at which I had made some tentative peace with Lester del Rey (whose antipathy toward the so-called “New Wave” drove his reviews and his persona and infuriated me). Judy-Lynn said to me before we were seated, her line of greeting in fact, “Malzberg, I want you to know that I did not destroy science fiction.”
I was flabbergasted. “What can I say to that? I’m not the conscience of sf, you know,” I said. I paused. “Of course you didn't destroy it,” I said and paused again. “Well, you might have exploited it a little.” We laughed and had lunch and she agreed to consider my proposal for a novel. A month later she offered a contract. “I can't believe we are having this conversation,” she said. The Remaking of Sigmund Freud sold 13,000 copies, got the kind of New York Times review 18-year-old would-be writers fantasize about, and made the final Nebula ballot. “Now that,” someone told me she said in-office, “is a literary novel, and that is literary publishing.” She did not live to see it lose the Nebula, but she did read the Gerald Jonas Times review two months before the stroke she suffered at an editorial meeting effectively ended her life. (She lived with life-support another five months.)
I still, more than a quarter of a century later, find utter clarity on Judy-Lynn, but I do know (and this is what I said to Lester a month after her stroke) that she was probably my last powerful friend in publishing. I've never written another novel non-collaboratively (a 1993 collaboration with Kathleen Koja was never published) and I never will.
Story in reverse, as I wrote. To end with the beginning, Judy-Lynn Benjamin came to work in 1966 as Fred Pohl’s assistant at Galaxy, right out of Hunter College where she had majored in English and written a senior thesis on James Joyce. A very literary type. “The best assistant I ever had,” Fred Pohl wrote later. and except for story selection she ran the magazine (as Catherine Tarrant had run Astounding). She married the widowed Lester in 1971, was recruited with him to run Ballantine’s fantasy and science fiction program the next year, and was so effective that the division became Del Rey books in 1975. Like Campbell, she changed everything. Me too.
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Mike: Judy-Lynn was a power, no question about it. And Ballantine was right to give her her own imprint.
But let me talk about two ladies, both still active, who are publishers, not of imprints, but of major, (relatively) independent mass market houses.
The first is this year’s Hugo winner for Best Editor – Long Form, and of course it’s Betsy Wollheim, publisher (and still very active editor) of DAW Books. A lot of people say they “grew up in science fiction”, but it’s probably more true of Betsy – Donald A. Wollheim’s daughter – than of just about anyone else.
She became the publisher upon Don’s death, and the changes she’s wrought have been truly remarkable. I mean no insult to anyone when I say that the smart money was betting that DAW couldn’t keep going for three years without Don, that it would probably die and the better elements of its backlist absorbed by New American Library. So much for the smart money. Betsy has remade the line in her image, and I’d be truly surprised if it hasn’t averaged five times the sales DAW had during Don’s best year. It’s an instantly recognizable product, carefully shaped by Betsy and Sheila Gilbert, and it’s going to be around for a long time.
The other publisher is Toni Weisskopf, the guiding light of Baen Books. Toni served a long apprenticeship with Jim Baen, learned every aspect of the field, helped him shape the line, and succeeded him as publisher after his death. As with Betsy, Toni is not just the publisher but the editor, and is producing a clearly identifiable and very successful line. She’s kept stalwarts such as David Drake, David Weber, Eric Flint, and John Ringo, and is always adding to her reliable core of writers.
I’ve sold to both these ladies, and you couldn’t ask for anyone more reasonable to deal with.
I’ll tell you something else, something unique to them: they have somehow managed to foster a sense of family and loyalty among their writers, something that the other mass market houses, always owned by faceless corporations and usually by foreign ones, simply haven’t been able to do.
Now, before we run out of words, I intuit that you have another lady to tell us about. One who emigrated to Canada, perhaps?
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Barry: You are of course referring to Judith Merril (1923-1997), who expatriated to Toronto in 1968 and, not unexpectedly, almost alone confronted a moribund, disinterested culture and created a Canadian science fiction community. A remarkable force, Ms. Merril (born Josephine Zissman, she adopted in the mid-forties at the outset of her writing career the first name of her daughter as a pseudonym which then became synonymous with her identity). It is impossible to encapsulate her life, times, talent and contribution within the compass of the few hundred words we alternately allot ourselves for these dialogues. There is an incomplete, tentative autobiography, Better to Have Loved: The Life of Judith Merril, published posthumously in the early millennium, edited and supplemented by her granddaughter Emily Pohl-Weary, which won the 2003 Hugo for Best Related Book and which pretty well, albeit with crucial omissions, implies the nature of a life which was creative, wildly controversial, and scandalous. A militant feminist long before “feminism” had become a catchphrase or a policy, Judith Merril stormed her way as writer, critic, editor, gadfly and incendiary presence for fifty years, and although she has become marginalized, even obscure in these years after her death, she was a figure as central to science fiction as John Campbell or her second husband Frederik Pohl. I cannot attempt summation in this brief, valedictory passage and won’t even try. But a few notes.
And again, narrating a complicated odyssey out of order: Of her sudden decampment in 1968 to Canada, Judith Merril said to me in 1993 (when she was Guest of Honor at Readercon), “I had a stark choice. I was looking for a Revolution and if there was not to be one then I had to get out of the country.” A passionate crusader against the horrendous foreign policy which had sunk the country into the violent, brutal, bottomless trap of the Vietnam War, Judith Merril had been reduced by the time of the Presidential election that year to helpless and impotent rage. There was no Revolution pending. She left the country for friends in Canada, found a temporary abode, and made a deal with the University in Toronto for free lodging in return for her papers and collection. (The Merril Library, an important resource, still flourishes.) She abandoned editing the thirteenth volume of her Best Science Fiction of the Year series which had been so influential, and she abandoned the science fiction community in the United States. She went on a long visit to England where she became this country’s liaison to the British New Wave and brought their work and influence to the States. Illness and age encroached upon her in the late 70’s and she slowly faded, but she remained a presence until the end of her life and her influence was enormous. It became in fact pervasive, and the field of science fiction as it has evolved (or most likely devolved) is the product of that influence. In her anthologies she deliberately broke the partition between what she called the “ghetto” of science fiction and the so-called mainstream. She refused to recognize barriers. Writers like Borges and Russell Baker were published in her Best of the Year, adjoining Bob Shaw and Rick Raphael. Everything was science fiction, she maintained, or it could be.
Ultimately and in no small degree due to her influence, the barriers crumpled over the decades and what we now confront – Michael Chabon wins the Nebula, as do the mainstream fantasies of Kelly Link or Ellen Klages – is in no small way the consequence of Merril’s insistence. There are some (mostly of Merril’s generation or a generation younger) who felt passionately that her eclecticism lost us the field itself, there are those who felt that in regarding 50’s science fiction as a kind of transition she had done a great service, but that is an argument for another Dialogue or three. Regardless, it could be argued that Merril, with John Campbell and Judy-Lynn del Rey, was the third of the great figures of the situation we now confront.
She showed up in the mid-forties as a would-be writer, fell in with Sturgeon and Klass and the pulp markets, became a writer, published probably the most shocking of all first science fiction stories with “That Only A Mother” (Astounding, 1948), and by the early 50’s, collaborating on two serialized novels with Cyril Kornbluth, had become a major figure. Her 1954 “Dead-Center”, published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, became the first story from the genre science fiction markets to appear in a mainstream Best of the Year anthology, Martha Foley’s 1955 volume. (The story is as quietly shocking, as quietly brutal, as Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”.) A considerable figure, Judith Merril, and one whose measure, never fully taken, may never be known.
I wish that she had come back from Canada to succeed John W. Campbell at Analog after his death in 1971.
Dream on.
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Mike: I see we’re well past our word limit again. Talking about the ladies will do that to us every time .
And there are so many yet to mention. I have sold to every mass market house in the field; and only twice since 1981 has my editor been a man. There have been so many wonderful female editors I can’t begin to name them all, even if we had another couple of thousand words, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention those I worked with and immediately came to respect and admire.
Tor has had many truly fine editors since its inception, including some who won Hugos for their efforts; you will never convince me that Beth Meacham wasn’t and isn’t the best of them. Sheila Gilbert brought the Signet line back from near-extinction before joining Betsy Wollheim at DAW. Ginjer Buchanan, and before her Susan Allison, have been the mainstays of Ace’s highly-successful science fiction line for decades. Anne Groell has been doing a fine job at Bantam for a decade and a half, and was finally recognized with a Hugo nomination this year. Then there’s Betsy Mitchell, who made her mark at Bantam, Baen, and Warner, then was Editor-in-Chief at del Rey for a decade. And there are so many others, past and present, who have contributed to the field.
I do have one last woman to mention before we move on to next issue, and she’s not a writer, an editor, or a publisher – but I hate to think where my career would be without her, and that’s my long-time agent Eleanor Wood. I should at least mention that she is far from the only one, as evidenced by Martha Millard, Merilee Heifetz, Shawna McCarthy, my dear friend the late Virginia Kidd, and so many others. Like the editors, we simply haven’t the space to name them all.
When I first started going to conventions half a century ago and meeting the movers and shakers of the field, it was pretty rare to find a woman in the business. My own experience is that these days they outnumber the men, and that may very well be why we’re up from the 100 books a year that were being published when I broke in to the 1,600 we’ve published each of the past few years. I sure as hell wouldn’t argue against it.


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