The Memory Remains the same …… -May/June 2022

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The Memory Remains the Same …….

It’s amazing how your memory can get set on an idea that is totally wrong. I just reread an excellent short story collection ‘….Who needs Enemies?’ (1984) by the criminally underrated Alan Dean Foster. I’ve not read it since the mid to late 80’s, there were two stories within that book that stuck with me over the decades, but the strange thing is I was convinced they were Roger Zelazny Stories. I was surprised when they were in this collection not in one of Zelazny’s.

The stories in question were Surfeit the story of a surfing competition on a planet with 3 moons and 100 foot waves. It’s a story of obsession and resilience. The second story The Last Run tells of illegal car racing around cities but at speeds that the Fast and Furious franchise can only dream of. I wonder why I associated these stories with Zelazny? I have two collections of Roger Zelazny short stories ‘The Last Defender of Camelot’ and ‘The Doors of his face and Lamps of his mouth’ and he could write incredibly engaging short stories. My only conclusion is I read them at similar times and that because the title story in Doors involves the sea I got them mixed up in my mind.

There seems to be fewer collections of short stories published today than there used to be, especially single author ones. I’m not sure if it’s the decline of print magazines that have reduced their frequency or just a monetary reason. The lack of places publishing short stories must reduce possible income from this source. Even in the golden age and New wave of Science fiction there were very few authors who could make a living just on short stories. Only the likes of Harlan Ellison managed to have a career built upon the short form. If you read any of Isaac Asimov’s collections published in the late 70s or 80s in his introductions to the stories he frequently tells you about the history of the sale of specific stories. It’s interesting to hear about the working life of a professional author at the time. During both the Golden and New Age of Science Fiction you couldn’t move without tripping over short stories. Magazines such as Asimov’s and Analog were full of them along with more mainstream magazines that would commission short stories. Many books that are now considered classics either started as short stories or were serialised in magazines before making it to print. This brings the importance of editors into frame, one of the most famous John W Campbell who was editor of Astounding from 1937 who helped shape the future of Science Fiction. His strict editorial guidelines pushed Science Fiction. He wanted authors rather than just to think of the technology, to consider that people and social situations were just as important. He helped shape some of the best and most influential writers of the 20th Century such as Robert Heinlein and Asimov. I could basically list the majority of Science Fiction writers from the mid 20th Century and later, Campbell would have had a hand in their success by either printing their stories or suggesting how stories would develop.

I was recently reading the memoir of the Pulp Writer Frank Gruber and in it he seemed to totally discount the role and influence of editors which I found a strange attitude for such a prolific writer. Editors of specific anthologies can still have a huge affect on a writers work. Harlan Ellison’s Dangerous Visions Anthology published in 1967 was so ground breaking that the book was then used for teaching in some schools. The book went on to have a sequel Dangerous Visions Again but the third volume that was due to come out 2 years later never appeared, the Saga and the influence that it’s failure to appear had on the contributors is chronicled in Christopher Priests Essay The Book on the Edge of Forever. It shows plainly how the failure of an Editor can have a negative affect on a writer.

As I have to be my own editor for a lot of things on this blog, my obsessive nature means it can take longer than I expect to get things done. I can sometimes get my lovely Wife to check things and she points out my possible overuse of phrases, mistakes and frequently makes suggestions that help focus what I write. I have 3 articles almost ready to go that should be up in the next couple of weeks, I hope that you’ll find something of interest. I wont make any guarantees about the amount or frequency of publishing articles at the moment but just to say I am trying to get back to a consistent routine and thank you for sticking around.

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