Monday, November 29, 2010

Who is Fred Pohl?

From Wikipedia (just to start out with. What Asimov has to say about one of his best friends will be covered in future entries.)

Frederik George Pohl, Jr. (born November 26, 1919) is an American science fiction writer, editor and fan, with a career spanning over seventy years. He won the National Book Award in 1980 for his novel Jem. Other well-known novels include The Space Merchants (written with Cyril M. Kornbluth) and Gateway.

From about 1959 until 1969, Pohl edited Galaxy magazine and its sister magazine if, winning the Hugo Award for if three years in a row. His writing also won him four Hugos and multiple Nebula Awards. He became a Nebula Grand Master in 1993.

Pohl won the 2010 Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer, based on his writing on his blog, "The Way the Future Blogs".

Early life and family
Pohl is the son of Frederik George Pohl (a salesman) and Anna Jane Pohl. Pohl Sr. held a number of jobs, and the Pohls lived in such wide-flung locations as Texas, California, New Mexico and the Panama Canal Zone. The family settled in Brooklyn when Pohl was around seven.

He attended the prestigious Brooklyn Tech high school, but due to the Great Depression, Pohl dropped out of school at the age of 14 to work. It was not until 2009 that he was awarded an honorary diploma from Brooklyn Tech.[2]

While a teenager, he co-founded the New York–based Futurians fan group, and began lifelong friendships with Donald Wollheim, Isaac Asimov, and others who would become important writers and editors.

During 1936, Pohl joined the Young Communist League because of its stands in favor of unions and against racial prejudice, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. He became president of the local Flatbush III Branch of the YCL in Brooklyn. Pohl has said that after the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of 1939, the party line changed and he could no longer support it, at which point he left.

During World War II, Pohl served in the U.S. Army from April 1943 until November 1945, rising to sergeant as an air corps weatherman. After training in Illinois, Oklahoma, and Colorado, he primarily was stationed in Italy.

Pohl has been married five times. His first wife, Leslie Perri, was another Futurian; they were married in August 1940 but divorced in 1944. He then married Dorothy LesTina in Paris in August 1945 while both were serving in Europe; the marriage ended in 1947. During 1948, he married Judith Merril; they divorced in 1952. From 1953–1983 he was married to Carol M. Ulf Stanton, with whom he collaborated on several books. Since 1984, he has been married to science fiction expert and academic Elizabeth Anne Hull, PhD.

He fathered five children: Ann (m. Walter Weary), Karen (m. Robert Dixon), Frederik III (deceased), Frederik IV and Kathy.[3] Grandchildren include writer Emily Pohl-Weary.

Since 1984, he has lived in Palatine, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. He was previously a resident of Red Bank, New Jersey.

Career
Pohl began writing in the late 1930s, using pseudonyms for most of his early works: Pohl's first published piece was a poem, "Elegy to a Dead Planet: Luna," in the October, 1937 issue of Amazing Stories credited to "Elton Andrews."[4][5]

From 1939 to 1943, Pohl was the editor of two pulp magazines - Astonishing Stories and Super Science Stories. Stories by Pohl often appeared in these magazines, but never under his own name. Work written in collaboration with Cyril M. Kornbluth was credited to S.D. Gottesman or Scott Mariner; other collaborative work (with any combination of Kornbluth, Dirk Wylie or Robert A.W. Lownes) was credited to Paul Dennis Lavond. For Pohl's solo work, stories were credited to James MacCreigh (or, for one story only, Warren F. Howard.)

In his autobiography, Pohl says that he stopped editing the two magazines at roughly the time of the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. Works by "Gottesman," "Lavond," and "MacCreigh" continued to appear in various SF pulp magazines throughout the 1940s.

Pohl started a career as a literary agent in 1937, but it was a sideline for him until after WWII, when he began doing it full time. He ended up "representing more than half the successful writers in science fiction" — for a short time, he was the only agent Isaac Asimov ever had — though his agenting business went bankrupt in the early 1950s.

Pohl began publishing material under his own name in the early 1950s. He collaborated with friend and fellow Futurian Cyril M. Kornbluth, co-authoring a number of short stories and several novels, including a dystopian satire of a world ruled by the advertising agencies, The Space Merchants.

Though the pen-names of "Gottesman", "Lavond" and "MacCreigh" were retired by the early 1950s, Pohl still occasionally used pseudonyms even after he began to publish work under his real name. These occasional pseudonyms, all of which date from the early 1950s to the early 1960s, included Charles Satterfield, Paul Flehr, Ernst Mason, Jordan Park (two collaborative novels with Kornbluth) and Edson McCann (one collaborative novel with Lester del Rey).

From the late 1950s until 1969, Pohl served as editor of Galaxy and if magazines, taking over at some point from the ailing H. L. Gold. Under his leadership, if won the Hugo Award for Best Professional Magazine for 1966, 1967 and 1968. Pohl hired Judy-Lynn del Rey as his assistant editor at Galaxy and if.

In the mid-1970s, Pohl acquired and edited novels for Bantam Books, published as "Frederik Pohl Selections"; the most notable were Samuel R. Delany's Dhalgren and Joanna Russ's The Female Man. Also in the 1970s, Pohl reemerged as a novel writer in his own right, with books such as Man Plus and the Heechee series. He won back-to-back Nebula awards with Man Plus in 1976 and Gateway, the first Heechee novel, in 1977. Gateway also won the 1978 Hugo Award for Best Novel. Two of his stories have also earned him Hugo awards: "The Meeting" (with Kornbluth) tied in 1973 and "Fermi and Frost" won in 1986. Another notable late novel is Jem (1980), winner of the National Book Award. Pohl continues to write and had a new story, "Generations", published in September 2005. A novel begun by Arthur C. Clarke called The Last Theorem was finished by Pohl and published on August 5, 2008.

His works include not only science fiction but also articles for Playboy and Family Circle and nonfiction books. For a time, he was the official authority for the Encyclopædia Britannica on the subject of Emperor Tiberius. (He wrote a book on the subject of Tiberius, as "Ernst Mason".)

A number of his short stories are notable for a satirical look at consumerism and advertising in the 1950s and 1960s: "The Wizards of Pung's Corners," where flashy, over-complex military hardware proved useless against farmers with shotguns, and "The Tunnel Under the World," where an entire community of seeming-humans is held captive by advertising researchers. ("The Wizards.." was freely translated into Chinese and then freely translated back into English as "The Wizard-Masters of Peng-Shi Angle" in the first edition of Pohlstars (1984)).

He was a frequent guest on Long John Nebel's radio show, from the 1950s to the early 1970s, and an international lecturer.

Pohl was the eighth President of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, taking office in 1974.

He is a member of the all-male literary banqueting club the Trap Door Spiders, which served as the basis of Isaac Asimov's fictional group of mystery solvers the Black Widowers.

Pohl received the second Eaton Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by the University of California, Riverside.

Pohl's work has been an influence on a wide variety of other science fiction writers, some of whom appear in the 2010 anthology, Gateways: Original New Stories Inspired by Frederik Pohl, edited by Elizabeth Anne Hull.



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Friday, November 26, 2010

Who is John Campbell?

In any writing Asimov did that mentioned his past, John Campbell looms large. Campbell only bought one of Asimov's first several stories (Fred Pohl bought most of them) but it was Campbell whom Asimov kept trying to impress with his writing, and it was Campbell who published his most long-lived creations - "Nightfall" and the Foundation series, and who, according to Asimov, came up with the three laws of robotics.

Here's his bio from Wikipedia:
John Wood Campbell, Jr. (June 8, 1910 – July 11, 1971) was an influential figure in American science fiction. As editor of Astounding Science Fiction (later called Analog Science Fiction and Fact), from late 1937 until his death, he is generally credited with shaping the so-called Golden Age of Science Fiction.

Isaac Asimov called Campbell "the most powerful force in science fiction ever, and for the first ten years of his editorship he dominated the field completely."

As a writer, Campbell published super-science space opera under his own name and moody, less pulpish stories as Don A. Stuart. However, he stopped writing fiction after he became editor of Astounding.

Biography
Campbell was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1910. His father was a cold, impersonal, and unaffectionate electrical engineer. His mother, Dorothy (née Strahern) was warm but changeable of character and had an identical twin who visited them often and who disliked young John. John was unable to tell them apart and was frequently coldly rebuffed by the person he took to be his mother.

Campbell attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he befriended Norbert Wiener, one of the godfathers of computers. He began writing science fiction at age 18 and quickly sold his first stories. By the time he was 21 he was a well-known pulp writer but had been dismissed by MIT: he had failed German. He then spent one year at Duke University, from which he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in physics in 1932.

He married Dona Stewart in 1931, and they were divorced in 1949. He married Margaret (Peg) Winter in 1950. He spent most of his life in New Jersey and died at home.

Writing career
Campbell's first published story, "When the Atoms Failed," appeared in the January 1930 issue of Amazing Stories when he was 19; he had had a previous story, "Invaders from the Infinite", accepted by Amazing's editor, T. O'Conor Sloane, but Sloane had lost the manuscript. Campbell's early fiction included a space opera series based on three characters, Arcot, Morey and Wade, and another series with lead characters Penton and Blake.

This early work established Campbell's reputation as a writer of space adventure; and when he began in 1934 to publish stories with a different tone, he used a pseudonym derived from his wife's maiden name.

From 1930 until the later part of that decade, Campbell was prolific and successful under both names. Three significant stories published under the pseudonym are "Twilight" (Astounding, November 1934). "Night" (Astounding, October 1935), and "Who Goes There?" (Astounding, August 1938). "Who Goes There?", about a group of Antarctic researchers who discover a crashed alien vessel, complete with a malevolent shape-changing occupant, was filmed as The Thing from Another World (1951) and The Thing (1982). "Who Goes There?" published when Campbell was only 28, was his last significant piece of fiction.

John held the Amateur Radio Callsign W2ZGU, and wrote many articles on Electronics and Radio for a wide range of magazines.

Influence
In late 1937, F. Orlin Tremaine hired Campbell as the editor of Astounding. Campbell was not given full authority for Astounding until May 1938, but had been responsible for buying stories somewhat earlier. He began to make changes almost immediately, instigating a "mutant" label for unusual stories, and in March 1938 changing the title of the magazine from Astounding Stories to Astounding Science-Fiction.

Lester del Rey's first story, in March 1938, was an early find for Campbell, and in 1939, he published such an extraordinary group of new writers for the first time that the period is generally regarded as the beginning of the "Golden Age of Science Fiction," and the July 1939 issue in particular. The July issue contained A. E. van Vogt's first story, "Black Destroyer," and Asimov's early story "Trends"; August brought Robert A. Heinlein's first story, "Life-Line", and the next month Theodore Sturgeon's first story appeared.

Also in 1939, Campbell started the fantasy magazine Unknown (later Unknown Worlds). Although Unknown was canceled after only four years, a victim of wartime paper shortages, the magazine's editorial direction was significant in the evolution of modern fantasy.

Campbell is widely considered to be the single most important and influential editor in the early history of science fiction. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction wrote: "More than any other individual, he helped to shape modern sf." After 1950, new magazines such as Galaxy and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction moved in different directions and developed talented new writers who were not directly influenced by him. Campbell often suggested story ideas to writers (including, famously, "Write me a creature that thinks as well as a man, or better than a man, but not like a man"), and sometimes asked for stories to match cover paintings he had already bought.

Asimov said of Campbell's influence on the field: "By his own example and by his instruction and by his undeviating and persisting insistence, he forced first Astounding and then all science fiction into his mold. He abandoned the earlier orientation of the field. He demolished the stock characters who had filled it; eradicated the penny-dreadful plots; extirpated the Sunday-supplement science. In a phrase, he blotted out the purple of pulp. Instead, he demanded that science-fiction writers understand science and understand people, a hard requirement that many of the established writers of the 1930s could not meet. Campbell did not compromise because of that: those who could not meet his requirements could not sell to him, and the carnage was as great as it had been in Hollywood a decade before, while silent movies had given way to the talkies."

The most famous example of the type of speculative but plausible science fiction that Campbell demanded from his writers is "Deadline," a short story by Cleve Cartmill that appeared during the wartime year of 1944, a year before the detonation of the first atomic bomb. As Ben Bova, Campbell's successor as editor at Analog, wrote, it "described the basic facts of how to build an atomic bomb. Cartmill and ... Campbell worked together on the story, drawing their scientific information from papers published in the technical journals before the war. To them, the mechanics of constructing a uranium-fission bomb seemed perfectly obvious." The FBI descended on Campbell's office after the story appeared in print and demanded that the issue be removed from the newsstands. Campbell convinced them that by removing the magazine "the FBI would be advertising to everyone that such a project existed and was aimed at developing nuclear weapons" and the demand was dropped.

Campbell was also responsible for the grim and controversial ending of Tom Godwin's famous short story "The Cold Equations". Writer Joe Green recounted that Campbell had "three times sent 'Cold Equations' back to Godwin, before he got the version he wanted.... Godwin kept coming up with ingenious ways to save the girl! Since the strength of this deservedly classic story lies in the fact the life of one young woman must be sacrificed to save the lives of many, it simply would not have the same impact if she had lived."

Editorials and opinions
Campbell was well known for the opinionated editorials in each issue of the magazine, wherein he would sometimes put forth quite preposterous hypotheses, perhaps intended to generate story ideas. An anthology of these editorials was published in 1966.

Slavery
Green wrote that Campbell "enjoyed taking the 'devil's advocate' position in almost any area, willing to defend even viewpoints with which he disagreed if that led to a livelier debate." As an example, he wrote, Campbell "pointed out that the much-maligned 'peculiar institution' of slavery in the American South had in fact provided the blacks brought there with a higher standard of living than they had in Africa.... I suspected, from comments by Asimov, among others — and some Analog editorials I had read — that John held some racist views, at least in regard to blacks." Finally, however, Green agreed with Campbell that "rapidly increasing mechanization after 1850 would have soon rendered slavery obsolete anyhow. It would have been better for the USA to endure it a few more years than suffer the truly horrendous costs of the Civil War."

In a June, 1961, editorial called "Civil War Centennial," Campbell argued that slavery had been a dominant form of human relationships for most of history and that the present was unusual in that anti-slavery cultures dominated the planet. He wrote, "It's my bet that the South would have been integrated by 1910. The job would have been done — and done right — half a century sooner, with vastly less human misery, and with almost no bloodshed.... The only way slavery has ever been ended, anywhere, is by introducing industry.... If a man is a skilled and competent machinist — if the lathes work well under his hands — the industrial management will be forced, to remain in business, to accept that fact, whether the man be black, white, purple, or polka-dotted."

Smoking
Campbell was a heavy smoker throughout his life and was seldom seen without his customary cigarette holder. In the Analog of September, 1964, nine months after the Surgeon General's first major warning about the dangers of cigarette smoking had been issued on January 11, Campbell ran an editorial, "A Counterblaste to Tobacco" named after the similarly named anti-smoking book by James I of England. In it, he stated that the connection to lung cancer was "esoteric" and referred to "a barely determinable possible correlation between cigarette smoking and cancer." He claimed that tobacco's calming effects led to more effective thinking.

Pseudoscience and fringe politics
In the 1950s, Campbell developed strong interests in alternative theories that began to isolate him from some of his own writers. He wrote favorably about such things as the "Dean drive", a device that supposedly produced thrust in violation of Newton's third law, and the "Hieronymus machine", which could supposedly amplify psi powers. He published many stories about telepathy and other psionic abilities.[22][23][24]

In 1949, Campbell also became interested in Dianetics. He wrote of L. Ron Hubbard's initial article in Astounding that "It is, I assure you in full and absolute sincerity, one of the most important articles ever published." He also claimed to have successfully used dianetic techniques himself.

Asimov wrote: "A number of writers wrote pseudoscientific stuff to ensure sales to Campbell, but the best writers retreated, I among them...." Elsewhere Asimov went on to further explain, "Campbell championed far-out ideas.... He pained very many of the men he had trained (including me) in doing so, but felt it was his duty to stir up the minds of his readers and force curiosity right out to the border lines. He began a series of editorials ... in which he championed a social point of view that could sometimes be described as far right (he expressed sympathy for George Wallace in the 1968 national election, for instance), although few right-wingers would subscribe to some of his opinions, for example his new-age theories of psi powers. There was bitter opposition to this from many."

In the eyes of others
Damon Knight described Campbell as a "portly, bristled-haired blond man with a challenging stare." "Six-foot-one, with hawklike features, he presented a formidable appearance," said Sam Moskowitz. "He was a tall, large man with light hair, a beaky nose, a wide face with thin lips, and with a cigarette in a holder forever clamped between his teeth," wrote Asimov.

Asimov said that Campbell was "talkative, opinionated, quicksilver-minded, overbearing. Talking to him meant listening to a monologue...." Knight agreed: "Campbell's lecture-room manner was so unpleasant to me that I was unwilling to face it. Campbell talked a good deal more than he listened, and he liked to say outrageous things."

British novelist and critic Kingsley Amis dismissed Campbell brusquely: "I might just add as a sociological note that the editor of Astounding, himself a deviant figure of marked ferocity, seems to think he has invented a psi machine."

British SF novelist Michael Moorcock, as part of his "Starship Stormtroopers" editorial, would claim Campbell's Stories and its writers were "wild-eyed paternalists to a man, fierce anti-socialists" with "[stories] full of crew-cut wisecracking, cigar-chewing, competent guys (like Campbell's image of himself)", who had success because their "work reflected the deep-seated conservatism of the majority of their readers, who saw a Bolshevik menace in every union meeting". He viewed Campbell as turning the magazine into a vessel for right-wing politics, "by the early 1950's... a crypto-fascist deeply philistine magazine pretending to intellectualism and offering idealistic kids an 'alternative' that was, of course, no alternative at all".

SF writer Alfred Bester, an editor of Holiday Magazine and a sophisticated Manhattanite, recounted at some length his "one demented meeting" with Campbell, a man he imagined from afar to be "a combination of Bertrand Russell and Ernest Rutherford." The first thing Campbell said to him was that Freud was dead, destroyed by the new discovery of Dianetics, which, he predicted, would win L. Ron Hubbard the Nobel Peace Prize. Campbell ordered the bemused Bester to "think back. Clear yourself. Remember! You can remember when your mother tried to abort you with a button hook. You've never stopped hating her for it." Bester commented: "It reinforced my private opinion that a majority of the science-fiction crowd, despite their brilliance, were missing their marbles."

Campbell died in 1971 at the age of 61 in Mountainside, New Jersey. At the time of his sudden death after 34 years at the helm of Analog, Campbell's quirky personality and eccentric editorial demands had alienated a number of his most illustrious writers to the point that they no longer submitted works to him.

Asimov's final word on Campbell was that "in the last twenty years of his life, he was only a diminishing shadow of what he had once been." Even Heinlein, perhaps Campbell's most important discovery, and a "fast friend," eventually tired of Campbell.


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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Introducing Encyclopedia Asimova: The Website

In one of Isaac Asimov's many Black Widower short stories, he has his writer character, Manny Rubin, tell a story about Isaac Asimov. Asimov, says Rubin, carries an encyclopedia with him to parties. When someone brings up a subject he says, "Speaking of concrete, the Encyclopedia Britannica has a very nice article about it. It's only 350 pages away from their article on me." And then he shows them the article on himself.

Asimov is spoofing his ego in this story, but that's where the idea of the web version of the Encyclopedia Asimova came from. It will be an encyclopedia entirely centered around Asimov. So, the definition of Physics will be "a subject Asimov wrote about in this book and that essay." The defiintion of Astronomy will be "a subject Asimov wrote about in this essay and these books." And so on.

In between the alphabetical entries are brief exhortations to "Educate yourself" with links to non-fiction books by Asimov on a variety of subjects. (Some of these books are out of print, and you can pick them up for a penny. Of course, you then have to pay $3.99 for postage.)

CHeck it out at: http://volcanoseven.com/EncyclopediaAsimova/index.html
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Monday, November 22, 2010

Lost Asimov: "Masks" and "Big Game"

On February 3, 1941, the day John Campbell accepted his story, "Liar" (a positronic robot story), Asimov set to work on "Masks," another attempt to get into Unknown.

"I wrote a short one, called "Masks," (1,500 words) "and heaven only knows what it was aobut, for I don't." Campbell rejected it, and "it is gone, it no longer exists."

After three years, Asimov was doing well as a writer - he'd just written "Nightfall" - which made the cover of Astounding.

At this point, John Campbell started a new feature in Astounding called Probability Zero, a department of short-shortd , 500 to 1000 words, which were to be in the nature of plausible and entertaining Munchausen-like lies. He was specifically hoping new writers would try their hand at these, but wanted to see the pot with stories from established writers first.

Asimov wrote "Big Game", and submitted it to Campbell on November 234, 1941. Campbell rejected it. He writes,"I wish I could remember what "Big Game" was about, for I thought enough of it to submit it to try sunitting it to Colliers magazine (an over-awing slick) in 1944, and it was of course rejected.



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Friday, November 19, 2010

Lost Asimov: "The Brothers" and "The Oak"

"August [1939] was even worse", wrote Asimov in his afterword to "The Secret Sense" in The Early Asimov, in discussing his early story writing and the world situation.

"All Europe rang with the hideous possibility of war, and on Sept 1, WWII began with the German invasion of Poland. I could do nothing during the crisis but listen to the radio. It was not till September 11 that I couldsettle down long enough to start another story, "The Brothers."

"The Brothers" was science fiction, and all I remember is that it was about two brothers, a good one and an evil one, and a scientific invention that one or the other was constructing. ... It too was never placed and no longer exists."

Asimov wrote another story which he submitted to Campbell, which was accepted, and a couple more that were rejected. Then, he tried to get into Unknown again.

"It was about time that I made another stab at Unknown, and I did so with a story called "The Oak," which, as I recall, was something about an oak tree that served as an oracle and delivered ambiguous statements. I sumbitted it to Campbell on July 16, 1940 and it was promptly rejected.

One of the bad things about writing for Unknown was that the magazine was one of a kind. If Unknown rejected a story, there was no place else to submit it. It was possible to try Weird Tales, a magazine that was older than any science fiction magazine, but it dealth with old-fashioned, creaky horror tales and paid very little to boot. I wasn't really interested in trying to get into them. (And besides, they rejected both "Life Before Birth" and "The Oak" when I submitted them.)

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Lost Asimov: "The Decline and Fall" and "Life Before Birth"

"In February 1939" writes Asimov, "I wrote a story called "The Decline and Fall."

It was rejected by Campbell as well as the other SF magazines of the day.

"It no longer exists and I remember nothing about it."

One would think that the title would provide a clue. "The Decline and Fall" certainly sounds like the "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," so perhaps an early version of what were to become the Foundation stories?

After this failure, Asimov did have a success (after a lot of rewriting) with what would become entitled "Black Friar of the Frame", which he does recognize as a precursor to the Foundation series.

As for "Life Before Birth":
In 1939,Street & Smith began the publication of a new magazine, Unknown, with John Campbell as editor.

Unknown caught my fancy at once. It featured stories of what are now called "adult fantasy," and the writing seemed to my 19-year-old self to be even more advanced and literate than Astounding. Of course I wanted desperately to place a story in this new and wonderful magazine.

"Life Before Birth" was an attempt in this direction, but aside from the mere fact that it was a fantasy, I remember nothing more about it. ... It never placed anywhere and no longer exists."

.



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Monday, November 15, 2010

Lost Asimov: "The Weapon", "Paths of Destiny", "Knossos in its Glory"

John Campbell was not the first editor to buy an Asimov story, that was Fred Pohl of Astonishing Stories with "The Callistan Menace." However, Raymond Palmer of Amazing, was the first to publish an Asimov story, "Marooned Off Vesta." He received $64 for it.

"Marooned off Vesta" appeared in the March 1939 issue of Amazing Stories, "The Callistan Menace" appeared in the April 1940 Astonishing Stories.

Asimov's third published story was "Ring around the Sun," published in Future Fiction in March, 1940.

In August 1938, Asimov was finishing his third year of college, and was trying, without success, to get into medical school. He was 17.

"The next three stories took not one month, as had the previous three, but three months. And all were clearly well below the limits of salability even in the most permissive market. They were "The Weapon," "Paths of Destiny" and "Knossos in its Glory." Campbell rejected each one in short order....

All three stories are now gone forever. I remember nothing at all two of them, but "Knossos in its Glory" was an ambitious attempt to retell the Theseus myth in science fiction terms. The minotaur was an extraterrestrial who had landed in ancient Crete with only the kindliest of intentions, and I remember writing terribly stilted prose in an attempt to make my Cretans sound as I imagined characters in Homer ought to sound." [Asimov describes the story this way in The Early Asimov, and uses the exact same paragraph to describe it in In Memory Yet Green.



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Friday, November 12, 2010

Lost Asimov: The Irrational Planet

Asimov next wrote "Stoway" and brought that to Campbell. It was rejected, but he then submitted it to other magazines, while working on a new story. A year later, it was accepted by his friend Fred Pohl for publication in the 2nd issue of Astonishing magazine. [Truth to tell, as I read The Early Asimov, it seemed that it was really Fred Pohl who kept Asimov afloat during his early years of writing, but I'll develop that theory in a later entry in this encyclopeida.]

The third story Asimov wrote for publication was "Marooned off Vesta." Before submitting it to Campbell, he also wrote "The Irrational Planet" and "Ring Around the Sun."

Feeling "The Irrational Planet" to be weak, he never submitted it to Campbell. He submitted it to Thrilling Wonder Stories, who rejected it. There rejection letter was so pleasant, though, that he ended up sumitting it to Campbell, then to five other magazines, all of whom rejected it.

"I don't even remember the plot, except that I'm pretty certain that the planet of the title was Earth itself."

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Lost Asimov: Cosmic Corkscrew

Isaac Asimov discusses his story "Cosmic Corkscew" in his anthology The Early Asimov.

Asimov began to dabble in writing when he was 11 years old. At age 14 he took a writing class in which his teacher was not supportive. Fortunately this spurred Asimov to greater effort rather than causing him to give up.

Asimov writes:
It was not until May 29, 1937 (according to a date I once jotted down-though that was before I began my diary, so I won't swear to it), that the vague thought occurred to me that I ought to write something for professional publication, something that would be paid for! Naturally it would have to be a science fiction story, for I had been an avid science fiction fan since 1929 and I recognized no other form of literature as in any way worthy of my efforts.

The story I composed for the purpose, the first story I ever wrote with a view to becoming a 'writer,' was entitled "Cosmic Corkscrew."

He wrote only a few pages before he lost interest...the prospect of having to write for others more difficult than when he was just writing stories to please himself.

A year later, in May, 1938, Astounding Science Fiction, changed its publication schedule from the third Wednesday of the month to the fourth Friday. Asimov worked in his father's candy/newstand, and was unaware of the change in publication date. He actually went down to the offices of Astounding Science Fiction to find out what was going on - and found to his relief that it hadn't ceased publication, just pub date.

But he was fired witn newfound enthusiasm to finish the story, and did so.

On June 21, 1938, he returned to Astounding Science Fiction with the story and asked to see John Campbell, the editor. Campbell, only 28 at the time, and just off his own successful writing career, saw him, took his story to read, and they talked for over an hour.

Two days later, Asimov received the rejected story, which gave him full reasons for the rejection. "He didn't like the slow beginning, the suicide at the end." He also didn't like the first person narration , the stiff dialog, and the length, 9,000 words...too long for a short story, too short for a novelette.

Asimov put the manuscript of "Cosmic Corkscrew" into a drawer and went on to write new stories. Eventually, the manuscript vanished, and is presumed destroyed.

The plot according to Asimov
In ["Cosmic Corkscrew"] I viewed time as a helix (that is, something like a bed spring.) Someone could cut across from one turn directly to the next, thus moving into the future by some exact interval but being incapable of traveling one day less into the future. My protagonist made the cut across time and found the Earth deserted. ALl animal life was gone; yet there was every sign that life had existed until very shortly before-and no indication at all of what had brough about the disappearance. It was told in the first person from a lunatic asylum, because the narrator had, of course, been placed in a madhouse after he returned and tried to tell his tale.

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Lost Asimov, A Summary

I bought The Early Asimov (several years ago) from a used book store via mail.

I expected to find every single one of Asimov's early stories (that had been published) presented in chronological order.

Not so. All I received were those stories of Asimov that had never been published in other anthologies.

That annoyed me no end. But, I know it was a financial decision - a dedicated Asimov fan would thus have to set out and buy all these other anthologies in which the missing stories appeared, thus increasing the profits of the publishers and of Asimov (and later, of his estate.)

Then, many years after The Early Asimov had been published, Asimov Gold was published. And this one claimed to publish every Asimov story ever written. I looked at it with much excitement, therefore...but no. The claim was a base canard. It should have presented every Asimov story chronologically, it did not. Those stories that appeared in The Early Asimov were not included. (Or if they were, they sure weren't done chronologically.

Now that used bookstores are all online, it's possible to assemble quite a large collection of Asimova for only a little outlay (for most of the books). Sadly, what you normally buy are de-accessioned library books. They cost 1 penny, and the postage is $3.99. (At least, that's how I formed by collection of Asimov's Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction essay anthologies.)

In The Early Asimov, Asimov shares the titles of the 11 "missing" Asimov stories - stories he wrote that were not published and are now irretrievably lost.

1.Cosmic Corkscrew (9,000 words)
2. This Irrational Planet (3,000 words)
3. The Weapon (4,000 words)
4. Paths of Destiny (6,000 words)
5. Knossod in its Glory (6,000 words)
6. The Decline and Fall (6,000 words)
7. Life Before Birth (6,000 words)
8. The Brothers (6,000 words)
9. The Oak (6,000 words)
10. Masks (1,500 words)
11. Big Game (1,000 words)

I'll share the history behind these stories in my next entry.

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Friday, November 5, 2010

The History of the Futurians Will Continue...

As soon as I can find my book, The Futurians, written by Damon Knight. It's funny, I made it all the way from my old home in Yorktown, VA to my new home in Cheyenne, Wyoming with it safely placed where I could lay my hands on it... now that I'm in Cheyenne and unpacking all my boxes of books into my bookcases, I can't find it.

I had been following Knight's story about Asimov up until the first convention that Asimov attended that the rest of the Futurians weren't allowed to, and then segued from Knight's book to Asimov's autobiography to fill in all the gaps Knight had left out.

Now that the convention is taken care of, I want to return to Knight's book and continue chronologically... whcih I will do as soon as I can find it.

In the meantime, I'll share information on Asimov's early stories. That'll be coming up in my next entry in.... Encyclopedia Asimova.

Encyclopedia Asimova is updated every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Immortal Storm pt 13

Asimov continues describing his experience at the first Science Fiiction Convention, on pg 245 of his biography.
In the afternoon we saw the motion picture Metropolis, a silent movie that had been made in 1926. I thought it was awful.

Afterwards there were speeches by the various editors. Weisinger, as a part of his statement, said, "I didn't know you fellows were so sincere!" and that made Time magazine, which ran two columns on the convention in its next issue.

The various notables in the audience were introduced to the general membership, and at about 7 pm John Clark called out, "How about Asimov?"

There was shouting and I stood up in pleased confusion. I made my way toward the stage and I remember receiving a healthy shove forward by a grinning John Campbell as I passed.

Leslie Perri made gestures and faces at me as I passed, but I didn't know what she meant. Later, she told me with exasperation that she had meant I ought to make a stirring appeal on behalf of the Futurian exiles-but that had never occurred to me. I just blushed prettily, thanked the audience for their applause, and referred to myself in an agony of insincerity as the "worst science-fiction writer unlynched."

Shortly thereafter it was time to go home, and I left.

According to my diary, "I had a simply marvelous time."

The next Futurian meeting, on July 4, had many outsiders as guests, since there were a number still in town though the convention had ended. It was a chance for the exiles to have a microconvention of their own. I met David A. Kyle for the first time at that meeting.
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Monday, November 1, 2010

The Immortal Storm, Pt 12

Asimov continues describing the first science fiction convention he attended, on pg 244 of In Memory Yet Green

The morning was an informal session where everyone introduced themselves to each other. I met Frank R. Paul, the famous science fiction illustrator, who was guest of honor. I also met such authors as Ross Rocklynne, Nelson S. Bond, Manly Wade Wellman, Harl Vincent, and John D. Clark. (Some I met only that one time and never again. Some became lifelong friendsa. It's impossible to tell in advance how it will turn out.)

There were some well-known fans such as Forry Ackerman, Jack Darrow, and Milt rothman. I met Mort Weisinger, the editor of Thrilling Wonder Stories, who had rejected everything of mine he had seen, but whom I had never met before.

Also present were people I had already met, such as [John] Campbell, [Charles] Hornig, [L. Sprague] de Camp and [Jack] Williamson.

At lunchtime I went out and joined the Futurians. They did not berate me for my treason. Rather, they considered me a spy in the enemy's camp, though what good it did them to have a spy, I couldn't say. I told them everything that had happened, then went back in. Leslie Parri, which was the name under which Pohl's girlfriend worked as a writer/illustrator, went in with me.

TO BE CONTINUED

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