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Editing with Gardner

June 17, 2018 at 9:00 am
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It has been a few weeks since Gardner Dozois died.   I’m still having a hard time coming to grips with it.   He was such a huge presence in the field, such a gigantic personality, it still seems inconceivable that he’s gone.  I posted about our friendship below,  about the laughter he brought with him wherever he went… but I wanted to write about his legacy as an editor as well.

It’s been harder than I anticipated.   Every time I start this post, it hits me all over again, and I realize that I will never see him again.

I need to say something, though.   Not for Gardner — there are dozens of memorials all over the net, speaking of his talents  — but for myself.

There’s really not much that I can say that has not already been said.   As an editor, I think, Gardner had few peers.   Over the decades our genre has been fortunate in having a succession of amazing editors: H.L. Gold, Anthony Boucher, Terry Carr, Damon Knight, Robert Silverberg, Donald A. Wollheim, Cele Goldsmith Lalli, Ellen Datlow, Ben Bova, Ted White, Fred Pohl, and Groff Conklin all come to mind, and many more.   But two figures tower above them all: John W. Campbell, the editorial genius who gave SF its Golden Age, for whom not one but two memorial awards are named… and Gardner Dozois.   His stint as editor of Asimov’s can rightly be compared only with Campbell’s decades at Astounding and Analog, and was similarly influential.  He discovered and nurtured more new talents than I could possibly remember or recount… among them, myself.   Not at Asimov’s, no.   I was already well established before Gardner got that gig.  No, he found me long before, in his first editorial job… reading the slush pile at Galaxy.  It was in that pile, in the summer of 1970, that he came across my short story “The Hero,” and passed it along to editor Ejler Jakobsson with a recommendation to buy.   That was my first professional sale, and came during the summer between my senior and graduate years at Northwestern, when I starting to seriously contemplate what I wanted to do with my life.   That sale, and the publication that followed, went a long way toward making that decision for me.   It’s no exaggeration to say that I might not be where I am today if Gardner had not fished me out of the slush pile in 1970.

Many decades later, I had the honor and privilege of working beside Gardner on a series of anthologies that I am still very proud of.    We were both huge Jack Vance fans, so the idea of a doing a Dying Earth anthology was a natural for us… and when Jack gave us permission, we were thrilled.   SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH was a tribute anthology as well, and the best kind: one that Jack Vance was actually able to read and appreciate while he was still with us.  I hope he liked reading that book (the tributes at least) as much as Gardner and I liked doing it.

I’ve never met anyone who was as well read in SF and fantasy as Gardner Dozois, but like me, that was never all he read.   He loved mysteries and thrillers and historicals as well; so long as the tales were gripping and well told, he never cared what the imprint was on the spine.   So the next thing we tackled after the Vance books were the crossgenre anthologies: massive books with very broad themes, featuring work from outstanding writers from a dozen different genres.   WARRIORS was the first.   It did so well that we soon followed it with DANGEROUS WOMEN and ROGUES.   Those did even better.   They won awards, got great reviews, and even more importantly, introduced thousands of readers to some great new writers they might never have encountered, if we hadn’t put them between covers with their familiar favorites.   Gardner and I did a couple of fun genre mash-ups as well.   There was DOWN THESE STRANGE STREETS, crossing private eye stories with fantasy and SF, and SONGS OF LOVE AND DEATH, an SF/ fantasy/ romance hybrid.

Last, but definitely not least, were our two “retro SF’ collections, OLD MARS and OLD VENUS.   Damn, those were fun to do.  Gardner and I shared a deep deep affection for the lost solar system of our youth, the Mars of the canals and dead cities and vanished races, the Venus of endless swamps and dinosaurs and web-footed Venusians.  And we discovered, to our delight, that a lot of writers shared that love, and had been waiting all their lives for a chance to set a story on the Mars and Venus of yore.   Those books were easy to edit; we had to beat off writers with a stick.   Both books won awards.

The sad part is, it ended there.   I didn’t want it to.   Neither did Gardner.    I loved working with him, and we had more anthologies we wanted to do.  We wanted to follow OLD MARS and OLD VENUS with OLD LUNA, and maybe down the line OLD MERCURY, or a book set in the asteroids.   Done retro, like the first two.  We talked about doing more crossgenre books.  A second WARRIORS, a second ROGUES, a second DANGEROUS WOMEN, maybe one called VILLAINS or HEROES or (this would have been fun) SIDEKICKS.   The publishers were interested.  The earlier books had sold very well.   Gardner was interested.   I was the one who demurred.   As proud as I was of those books, as much as I enjoyed working with Gardner, I did not have the time.   WINDS OF WINTER was late and getting later, and the editing had taken more of my time and energy than I thought it would.   “I can’t take on anything more right now,” I told him.  “We’ll do them later, once I’ve delivered WINDS.”   So Gardner went on to edit THE BOOK OF SWORDS and THE BOOK OF MAGIC by himself (he could have edited all these books by himself, he never actually needed me, we just enjoyed working together).    I contributed stories to both books (a reprint to MAGIC, since I did not have the time).    There would be plenty of time to do ROGUES 2 and OLD LUNA and SIDEKICKS and all the rest, after all.   All the time we needed.   Just as soon as I got King Kong off my back… we even kicked around the notion of a reprint anthology we wanted to call THE HUGO LOSERS.   After all, we were the guys who founded the Hugo Losers Party… just yesterday, in 1976….

We’d do all these books tomorrow.  Next month.   Next year.   Real soon now.

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow…

He’s gone now, and I fear he has taken all those books with him.   I may edit other anthologies in the future (in addition to the Wild Cards series, which I imagine I’ll be editing till I join Gargy at the Great Worldcon in the Sky), but I could never bring myself to edit those particular books, the ones we had talked about doing together.   It just wouldn’t feel right.

Gardner Dozois won fifteen Hugo Awards as Best Editor, a record that will never be broken, I expect.   He and I won some Locus Awards and a World Fantasy Award as well, and I will always cherish those.   It was an honor to know him, and to work with him.   I miss him so much.

 

 

 

 

Current Mood: melancholy melancholy

Reading Vic

February 23, 2018 at 6:21 pm
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Vic Milan has left us… but his words and his work live on, so long as he is being read.

Tor has asked me to announce that his new story, “EverNight,” is now available to purchase in ebook on Amazon and other retailers. Here are the links:

https://www.amazon.com/Evernight-Tor-com-Original-Victor-Mil%C3%A1n-ebook/dp/B079Y7NC1N/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1519227187&sr=8-1&keywords=evernight+victor+milan

http://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250198167

For those looking for his recent books, the first three volumes of his DINOSAUR LORDS series are available via mailorder from the Jean Cocteau Cinema:

http://jeancocteaucinema.com/product-category/author/m-p/milan-victor/

All the dinosaur books are autographed.

Some of his fans have emailed to ask if there will be more dinosaur books coming. My understanding is that he had done an outline for three more volumes, and had written some portion of the first of those, but did not have a contract to continue the series. How much material he left behind, or whether he would have wanted someone else to finish the books, I cannot say. If I learn more, I’ll be sure and let his readers know.

He does have one more Wild Cards story coming out in TEXAS HOLD ‘EM, scheduled for release in hardcover in October. It features a new character, Dust, and Candace Sessou, the protagonist of “EverNight,” and I know Vic was very pleased with it.

Current Mood: sad sad

Another Ace Falls

February 13, 2018 at 10:18 pm
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Our writing community here in New Mexico, and the world of SF and fantasy in general, took a blow this afternoon when our friend Victor Milan died after two months of suffering and struggle in a series of Albuquerque hospitals.

I first met Vic not long after I moved to Santa Fe in 1979. Outgoing, funny, friendly, and incredibly bright, he was one of the cornerstones of the New Mexico SF crowd for decades, a regular at Bubonicon in Albuquerque, the perennial masquerade host at Archon in St. Louis, a fan, a lover of ferrets and collector of guns, a gamer (I can’t tell you how many times we stayed up till dawn playing Superworld, Call of Cthulhu, and other RPGs with Vic, and laughing at the outrageous antics of the characters he created). But above all, he was a writer.

He wrote all sorts of things, in and out of our genre: westerns, historicals, men’s action adventure, more books than I could possibly list… but it was in science fiction that he did his best work. CYBERNETIC SAMURAI and CYBERNETIC SHOGAN were two of the best known from the old days. More recently, he was finding new readers by the score all around the world with his DINOSAUR LORDS series.

He was also a Wild Cards writer, of course; one of my aces. In a sense he was the father of Wild Cards. It was Vic who gave me the Superworld game as a birthday present back in 1983, and it was those long long nights of playing Superworld that eventually inspired me to start Wild Cards.

Vic was an integral part of the series right from the very start, and the characters he created were among our most popular. Among them were the Russian ace Molniya, the Harlem Hammer, the twisted German psychopath Mackie Messer, Dr. Pretorius, Ice Blue Sibyl, Flipper, Dust, the Darkness… and above all, Mark Meadows, aka Cap’n Trips, and his “friends” Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Starshine, Moonchild, Aquarius, Cosmic Traveller, Monster… and the Radical. The long saga of Mark Meadows began in volume one, and was brought to a close in volume twenty, SUICIDE KINGS. It was a long strange trip indeed, and every step of it was exciting, thanks to Vic.

Sadly, Vic’s health has not been good in the past few years, and it finally gave out on him. But his warmth, his wit, and his talent will be long remembered by everyone who knew him, and his words will live on after him.

And, as irony would have it, he has another story coming out tomorrow on Tor.com. It’s a Wild Cards story called “EverNight,” set in the catacombs of Paris and featuring Candace Sessou, the Darkness, a character he introduced in SUICIDE KINGS. The link will not go live until 9 am EST tomorrow, but once it does you can read the story here, for free:

https://www.tor.com/2018/02/14/wild-cards-evernight-victor-milan/

It saddens me that Vic did not live long enough to see his story on Tor.com, or appreciate the gorgeous piece of John Picacio art that adorns it (he was a huge fan of John’s)… but I hope that many of you will read “EverNight.” If you like it, do leave a comment. I think that would have pleased him.

I believe that Vic may have another book or two in his DINOSAUR LORDS sequence coming out, but I am not sure of that. I do know that he will be represented in two more Wild Cards books. He has a story in TEXAS HOLD ‘EM, due out in October, and a collaboration in the book we’re doing now, JOKER MOON. Would that I could say that there will be many more after that, but I fear those will be the last.

Fare thee well, Vic. It was an honor knowing you.

Current Mood: sad sad

Ursula K. Le Guin, RIP

January 24, 2018 at 2:43 pm
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I was very saddened to hear of the death of Ursula K. Le Guin, one of the great SF and fantasy writers of the past half century.

Over the years, I had the honor of meeting Le Guin a few times, but I cannot claim to really have known her as a person. Our encounters, such as they were, were all at conventions or Nebula banquets or writer’s workshops, and they were all brief and forgettable.

But I certainly knew her work… as anyone who calls themselves an SF fan surely must. She was one of the giants. A gifted storyteller, dedicated to her art, she influenced a whole generation of writers who came after her, including me. THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS ranks as one of the best science fiction novels ever written, in my estimation, and THE DISPOSSESSED and THE LATHE OF HEAVEN were splendid works as well. The original Earthsea trilogy occupies a similar lofty position in the fantasy pantheon (though it was badly served by its television adaptation).

The Golden Age of Science Fiction is usually reckoned to have been the Campbell Era at ASTOUNDING, and its Big Three were Heinlein, Asimov, and Van Vogt. Yet as important as that era was, for me the true Golden Age will always be the late 60s and early 70s, when the Big Three were Roger Zelazny, Samuel R. Delany, and Ursula K. Le Guin. We shall never see their like again.

The world is poorer today.

Current Mood: sad sad

Happy Holidays

December 26, 2017 at 5:52 pm
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Merry Xmas and Happy New Year to all my friends and readers out there.

I had a lovely Christmas Day with friends and family, and Santa was very good to me. I hope the same is true for all of you.

Even so, I look forward to the new year. I thought 2016 was a bad year, but 2017 was even worse… if not so much for me personally, then certainly for a lot of my friends and loved ones, and for the nation and the world as a whole.

I hope better times are ahead for all of us.

Current Mood: contemplative contemplative

Dare I Eat A Peach?

September 21, 2017 at 12:57 pm
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Yesterday another birthday came and went.

(And thanks to all those who sent me cards and emails. You’re very kind. Love you all).

I had a good day with family and friends, but…

69

Really.

Urk.

How did that happen?

Seems like only yesterday I was one of the Young Turks of Science Fiction.

What a long strange trip it’s been…

And I still have a ways to go, I hope. Lots of stories still to tell.

(And yes, Mr. Prufrock, I still eat peaches).

Current Mood: contemplative contemplative

Another Sadness

September 14, 2017 at 6:40 pm
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I’ve been trying for several days to write something about the death of Len Wein.

It’s been hard. The words stick in my throat. Len was not just a professional colleague, as Jerry Pournelle was. Len was a friend. An old, dear friend. He lived in LA and I lived in Santa Fe, so we never saw each other more than a few times a year, but I cherished all the time I spent with him and his wife, Chris Valada. I don’t have a bad memory of Len, and I doubt that anyone does. He was a sweet, kind, funny man, and a joy to be around, to share a meal with (even though he always refused to “eat anything that looked like itself”).

Len and I went way way back. We were both there when comics fandom was being born, and we met for the first time in a place called the Workingman’s Circle, at the 1964 New York Comicon. The first comicon… and Len Wein was one of the kids who made it happen, one of the organizers, while I was the first fan to send in $1.50 for a membership. We were both in high school at the time. Many years later, at a San Diego Comicon with its 150,000 members, I turned to Len and sad, “See what you did?” He just laughed and replied, “Who knew?”

You don’t need me to tell you about his career, his professional accomplishments, his creations. If you don’t know who Len Wein is, you’ve never read a comic book. He created Wolverine, the New X-Men, Swamp Thing, the Human Target, Lucius Fox, and, oh, about five hundred other characters. Maybe a thousand. Most of those were created under the old work-made-for-hire contracts so common in the comics industry when Len stared out, so he had no ownership of any of them, and made very little, if anything, from all the movies and TV shows that featured them. (Lucius Fox was the exception to that, since he was created later, under a contract that gave the creator more rights, In one of the little ironies of life in the comics biz, Len made more money from Lucius Fox than he ever saw from Wolverine). If it had been me, it would have made me incredibly bitter to see my creations making billions while I got some loose change, but Len never bitched about it. He knew the rules when he signed the contracts, he would always say. And he loved seeing his creations on the big and little screens. There was no bitterness in the man, and no anger that I ever saw.

He loved comics, and he loved life, and I’m just one of the many who loved him.

((Comments allowed, but only about Len)).

Current Mood: melancholy melancholy

Talking Over Thai

July 21, 2017 at 6:09 pm
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So a couple of months ago, while I was out at Stokercon in Long Beach, on the mighty Queen Mary, I went out with Scott Edelman for Thai food (yum), and he recorded our conversation for his EATING THE FANTASTIC podcast.

The food was great, and the talk was fun. You can check it out at:

http://www.scottedelman.com/2017/07/21/down-drunken-noodles-with-george-r-r-martin-in-episode-43-of-eating-the-fantastic/

Scott and I both emerged from comics fandom of the 60s, so be forewarned, there’s a lot of talk about the Good Old Days.

Current Mood: contemplative contemplative

Saying Farewell

June 7, 2017 at 8:01 pm
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Last weekend Parris and I drove up to Denver to attend the memorial service for our friend Ed Bryant, who died in February.

It was a long drive and a sad occasion, but I’m glad we went. It’s still hard to believe that Ed is gone. The last time I saw him was in November, in Tucson, when he was toastmaster and I was guest of honor at Tuscon. The first time… that must have been ’73 or ’74, as best as I can recall, at Harlan Ellison’s house in Sherman Oaks. A lot of years, a lot of cons.

Connie Willis emceed the event, eliciting both laughter and tears from the large crowd that had gathered to say farewell, most of them in Hawaiian shirts and baseball caps.

Many others rose to speak as well, including me. Ed left a lot of friends.

Ed was a talented writer and a great workshopper, who mentored and encouraged many writers younger than himself and helped them on their way. He was one of my Wild Cards authors, creator of Sewer Jack and Wyungare. But most of all he was a sweet, kind man, with a warm smile and a gentle wit. Science fiction and fantasy will be poorer without him.

Memorials like this are not for the deceased so much as they are for those left behind, I believe. It was good to get together with so many others who cared about Ed, and to share our memories of him, with laughter and love.

Current Mood: sad sad

A Poem, on Memorial Day

May 29, 2017 at 5:29 pm
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I have posted this before, but it comes to mind every year on Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day.

Kipling said it better than I ever could.

Words to keep in mind.

Current Mood: sad sad