Love in the Cornfield

by Walter A. Willis

(from Spaceship #17 April, 1952)

Sometimes there doesn't seem to be much hope for the world. Europe is full of Old World suspicions and New World atomic bomb bases. In Asia the great powers are defending democracy and justice to the last private soldier. South America is whirling around at thirty revolutions a minute. Everything is in a hell of a mess. Nearly everyone hates nearly everyone, and the newspapers are working on the rest. But in all this animosity there recently appeared one tiny gleam of hope, one oasis of loving kindness. A group of men who had apparently been natural enemies suddenly turned to one another with innocent affection. Pulp editors began to love one another. They greeted each other like longlost brothers. They fell weeping on each other's necks. It was touching. People began to point them out to the UN.

It was Palmer who started it. One day he came right out and threw his readers into a dead faint with the news that there were other sf mags in existance besides his own. Recklessly he went on to blurt out that some of them sometimes printed good stories. All over the country, readers with weak hearts went blue in the face and died with staring eyes. The other editors rubbed their hands and gloated. This was the end of Palmer. Years of editing Fate had finally had their inevitable result. Palmer had joined the ranks of the coverlet pluckers. But no. Palmer seemed to be no crazier than he ever had been. His mag survived. It didn't exactly go from strength to strength -- it wasn't in a position to -- but it seemed to be doing all right. The other editors were heartily ashamed of themselves. They began to fill their editorials with glowing tributes to other magazines. It got so you hardly knew what mag you were reading. Sometimes you felt like sending it back and asking the publishers to change it for one of the others, if they were so damned good; this one certainly wasn't up to much.

You half expected to see Rog Phillips start reviewing prozines in the CLUBHOUSE. "Now here's a very interesting little mag from a young fellow in California called Anthony Boucher. Tony has started this mag with a young fellow-pro called McComas and they are doing a very fine job. In fact, I'd like all of you to dig into your pockets and send these two young fellows a couple of hundred dollars to help them with this fine job they're doing. I know you won't regret it. I don't think I've ever seen a better mag since the one I reviewed just above. The printing is just fine -- I don't know how they find the time -- and the stories are just tops. Some of these pro-authors, I think, could teach us fans a thing or two about writing. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see some of them in fanzines one of these days. The paper these lads use in their mag is very white and the printing comes out nice and black. There isn't too much artwork inside, which will please people who don't like too much artwork in magazines, but what there is is very fine and it must cost them a lot of money. With this issue I got a nice letter from Tony telling me that my sub was overdue and I had better renew it. I'm certainly going to do that, and I think all of you should write to Tony for a copy of this very fine magazine of his and see just what these pro-editors can do. If you haven't seen one of these prozines for a long time you don't know what you have been missing."

But this happy state of affairs was too good to last. Somebody had to come along and spoil it. First, those two unscrupulous scoundrels, Campbell and Gold, preferred producing good magazines of their own instead of praising everyone else's. Now they're even insulting one another in public, just as if they were more interested in pleasing the public than in scratching one another's backs. Let us hope such selfishness will not lead other editors to take an unfair advantage of their brothers by printing good stories, and similar underhanded tricks.

And now here's Mr. Fairman. No one can accuse him of these unethical practices, but he leans too far in the other extreme. He strikes an even worse blow at the mutual admiration society movement. He goes too far. He is destroying public confidence in the sincerity of the praise editors bestow on one another. Look at this in the first IF: 'No greater boost could be given an infant publication than Howard Browne's name on the cover.' Offhand I could think of quite a few names that would be better infant-boosters, but I don't suppose Bob wants this annish devoted to a reprint of the author's index of the Don Day checklist. 'Amazing is the best science fiction your money could buy.' You talk for your own money, Mr. Fairman. I've no doubt Browne could lay his hand on his pocketbook and swear that his mag has the biggest circulation, but to say it is a good magazine is like calling 'Chopsticks' the greatest piece of music ever written. People run shouting down the streets when Amazing prints a good story. The rest of this ridiculous blurb is devoted to Mr. Browne himself. Devoted? It's crazy about him. Apparently he's an "astounding ((he means amazing)) mixture of Balzac, a ten-ton dynamo, and Peter Pan." Fairman doesn't say what attributes he has of each, but he insists he's a "great guy". Also that when he does a thing he does it in a big way. Certainly it seems that when he writes a bad story he writes a real stinker, and when he makes a fool of himself he does that in a big way too, as when he threw his 150,000 circulation into a lone fight with little Fanvariety. But the real case against Fairman's Mr. Browne is this quotation from Fenster's Norwescon Report in Incinerations No. 4:

"Howard Browne, editor of Amazing Stories, was approached by Jerry Waible with: 'Say, I've got a really hot idea for some of your authors to get to work on. The earth is full of big caves, see, and these caves have sub-human monsters living in them that cause all the trouble up here on the surface by using rays -- why, you could work up a whole series, and --' But Browne had turned away, saying to Dorthy de Courcy, 'Somebody ought to bring this boy up to date.' He wasn't smiling."

These last three words are the most damning indictment I ever heard.

Data entry by Judy Bemis