THE MELTING POT is a safety valve for Speculation, a place where you can react to the outrageous stuff I sometimes publish. Last issue had a high heart-attack quotient (to use the Tony Sudbery/ Doug Barbour phrase) Judging by the 57 letters received, most of them well worth quoting from. It is a pity that the lettercolumn must be kept down in length this time, although I shall print a large batch of other letters in Spec-34.
So much time has gone by that I'd better remind you of the subjects which provoked the diatribes below, the first letter follows on from my navel-gazing in my last editorial:-
Upplandsgatan 28, 2Tr
I imagine the reason why I admire Speculation so much - despite violent disagreement with practically all the editor's opinions - is its quality of intelligent representativeness. The re-viewersI always excepting the occasional nitwit, really work pretty hard at getting down to meaningful statement of important principle; the correspondents argue with great energy, producing at the same time a fascinating spectrum of science-fictional self-portraits1 warts and worries and all; and the amount of sheer information put access is nothing less than tremendous.
In a way, then, sly private likes and dislikes are actually rather irrelevant to what I get out of reading and using Speculation. It so happens, for instance, that most of the writings of Larry Niven bore me desperately -- but I'm sufficiently interested in all aspects of today's sf to want to keep a well-informed eye on him nevertheless.
So to me it seems most advantageous that there should be a journal like Speculation where the Niven presentation is made with careful enthusiasm, where he is discussed by people who know what they're talking about, and where he himself, when he appears is bound to be on his best behaviour.
Robert Silverberg is another case in point. He is a more interesting writer than Niven because a more dangerous one -he has this sweet trick of taking the tritest cliches of the contemporary mind, or mindlessness, and serving them up as fairly intense sf. The drugs, the fucks, the schmucks de nos jours - they're all grist to his mill, and THE BOOK OF S~ULLS might be seen as spelling out the rationale for murder a la Charlie Manson, the ultimate mind-expander.
Silverberg strikes me as a single-minded pop-literary careerist, a South California swami with a cash register and the gift of mesmerism, and I can't say that I'm very impressed by what Brian Stableford makes of him in his essay in Speculation 31-32. But the very act of reading that essay was what forced me to think through my own attitude to Silverberg, and it's surely fair to be grateful to Stableford for his homework while at the same time considering him rather a clunk for his woolly-minded admiration of a very sneaky author.
Now, Pete, I know you don't think I should be allowed to get away with disparaging remarks like these on Niven and Silverberg. YOU keep urging - and very flattering it is, to be sure - that I should enter the arena, take up the cudgels, make like a missionary, and try to convince you.
TO be absolutely frank: Why the hell should I bother? I know what I like and what I dislike, and white I'll always be glad to do what I can for the sf field as a whole I don't give a dam how others do their picking and choosing within it. I was a professional critic once, delivering opinions by the yard, but nowadays my ego doesn't seem to get any kicks at all out of telling others what to do or not to do.
Sure, I'd be delighted if everybody went over to my way of thinking and joined the congregation of Saint Philip Dick and the Blessed Drian Aldiss - but I'll be nobody's churchwarden. Dick and Aldiss are there for me, and I'm pretty sure they'll be there for posterity as well when the Nivens and the Silverbergs have been washed away by the torrents of time.
In the meantime, my overriding personal concern is every individual's basic task of finding and holding on to a sense of order
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