And isn't it about time after these two thousand years or so that someone noted that biting the hand that feeds you requires quite a bit of courage?
To begin with, then, the 'most controversial speech' was actually titled "The Shape Of Science Fiction To Come." But had nothing to do with it. I believe (to make only one point of many) that the newest writer mentioned is Chip Delany who won a Nebula for BABEL 17 in 1966 -that'-that's seven years ago now.
Secondly, all this about lucid, plan, unmannered styles, in lucid, plain unmannered English means one thing and one only : short sentences. In other words hamberger - meant you don't have to chew because a machine has chewed it for you. It is easy to understand, but it lacks the fibre to hold more than simple meanings; its insight runs out through all those spaces between the periods and capitals.
And thirdly the reason the sf of thirty years ago (not just Smith, though he is bad enough but Doc Savage and so on) sell to well today (as they do) is that they give their public entertainment as predictable as a cowboy movie. There are heroes in these books who are just what the public feels the heroes in books should be: sexless untempted, unimaginative defenders of the status quo.
There are ray guns that work like ray guns are supposed to work, and rocket ships that are just like automobiles but better. I don't mean to blame the men who wrote these! these novels - they were daring men with original ideas. But the people who read them today are not.
*There were other reactions to Fred Pohl's speech, which I would have used if space had permitted. Mike Coney in particular really must be quoted: "The real controversy in Fred's speech, "he says, "concerns his statement that the 'real importance of SF rests on ' and then he mentions Weinbaum, ERB, Doc Smith and Heinlein. Now that is calculated to drive Charles Platt out of his tiny, tiny little mind "
I being with letters from nice people praising Spec, and I'll close the lettercolumn with yet more egoboo for yrs truly. This one is really good, friendly letter that I simply couldn't ignore; it gave me a warm glow of pleasure on the morning I received it. Thank you, Valdis Augstkalns, for your kind words I appreciated them!
Valdis A. Augstkalns,
1426 22nd Street,
Parkersburg, W. Va, 26101
Your thoughts on directions for Spec in 32 have at last driven me to commit a ' letter longer than a note. Forgive if I start off at a bit of a tangent with a true story of big time publishing which I have at second hand but from a reliable source.
There was a young lady once who edited one of those silly book club magazines the main purpose of which is to tout next month's books. The job bored her and after a while she got a brainstorm and convinced the club's management to alter format. Authors of books accepted by the club were asked but not required to contribute up to 5000 words of anything they cared to write about.
They did with, as the phrase goes, joy in their hearts.
The editrix would arrange the material (subjects covered ranged from aardvarks to zymurgy) into an attractive packaged, agonize over and then find some place to squeeze in a brief note on next month's books, and publish. The transformation of the magazine was rapid are the results seemingly a triumph of taste. The magazine became in fact more interesting than the book club it served. Soon enough it became obvious that management had no choice but terminate the experiment.
A sad story. The lady is scouting around for backers so that she can resurect the experiment and I wish her luck, but I do not expect her to recreate that brief, bright, shining moment.
AS far as I can see, Spec is in the same position as our lady of Camelot enjoyed. You have a group of literate, intelligent, and interesting contributors who seem to write pretty much what pleases them on subjects that interest them. Sf may be the focus but is by no mean, the boundry of concern.
I conclude that one chooses a direction for a magazine by choosing the people who appear in it and they choose a direction by writing what they write for it. YOU are precisely correct in suggesting that a direction emerges automatically from this nest of feedback loops. Moreover, I think this is how the direction should emerge if the magazine is to be an organic entity worth publishing and reading. I am almost tempted to assert the dogmatism that this is the only way a direction can emerge.
I do not know what your personal opinion of Spec is (it must be reasonable since you continue to publish); I am quite happy with what you are doing. I see hundreds of titles each year and find very few that are worth publishing even on toilet paper. Little mags mostly: bad poetry and un-
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