Saturday, October 30, 2010
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
John Raney has it made. The thirty-five year-old Texas rancher lives on twenty-six thousand acres north of Fort Worth and is married to a pretty blonde-haired woman named Betty who has given him three husky boys. John made his money in oil and horses, owns his own plane along with a private airstrip on the ranch. He is recognized in Texas as a Mr. Big and is respected as an honest businessman.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Friday, October 22, 2010
Saturday, October 16, 2010
MacDonald was living in Clinton, New York when he wrote "Cosmetics," and during that same period he authored a weekly newspaper column in the local newspaper. The following excerpt comes from the March 25, 1948 edition of The Courier, a month after "Cosmetics" appeared and two months before his second s-f story -- "The Mechanical Answer" -- was published. Reading between the lines, one can detect JDM's interest in a new market for his work, now that he had actually been published in an s-f magazine, and now that the field was -- as he termed it -- turning away from the "world of wooden men and steel space ships" and toward more "believable" stories with "oddly prophetic situations."
Frequently these days we come face to face with the staggering platitude that this is indeed an odd world and an odd time to be in it.
While little men in laboratories are concerning themselves with the chore of exploding our planet with all the thoroughness of a dynamite stick jammed through a decayed apple, certain segments of our population are avidly collecting science fiction which makes such a catastrophe as impressive as the blast from a cap pistol on the Fourth of July.
The intense interest in science fiction has grown as quickly and as impressively as a certain odd-looking cloud over Hiroshima. (Accent on the second syllable, please.)
For many years science fiction was published without attracting much attention. Wells, A. Huxley and Verne fathered the breed. In the pulp magazines, the science fiction story became nothing but a Western with space ships instead of horses, heat pistols instead of 44's and far galaxies instead of the red-rocked mesa.
This world of wooden men and steel space ships rightly deserved the obscurity it achieved.
But now and again a story would be published in which the writer managed to make his characters human. The more gifted writers, gifted both scientifically and artistically began to put believable people into oddly prophetic situations.
In fact, one imaginative character during the peak secrecy of the Manhattan Project published a story wherein somebody fiddled around with uranium and made a bomb. If he had gotten two cents a word for every word he said to the FBI after that story was published, he would be a wealthy man.
A city went up in smoke, with a flash as bright as the sun. Science fiction suddenly became yesterday's news flash. A few hundred thousand fans were acquired.
The Saturday Review of Literature for February 28th, this year, carries a long editorial by Harrison Smith on this current phenomena in the publishing world.
The new fans of science fiction have dug through the files of old copies of various pulp magazines, and have found therein stories for their collections.
The Saturday Evening Post has published five science fiction stories within the past year by Robert Heinlein and Gerald Kersh.
Good publishing houses have come out with anthologies of merit. We strongly recommend, for the curious, one called Adventures in Time and Space published last year by Random House, edited by Raymond J. Healy and J. Francis McComas.
In addition five new publishing houses have recently been born, with the object of handling only science fiction and fantasy: Arkham House, Fantasy Press, Prime Press, Hadley Publishing Company and Fantasy Publishing Company.
And they all sell every copy of every book!
Circulation of pulp magazines in the science fiction field has grown. Sam Merwin, Jr. edits two pulps for Standard Magazines, Inc. and John W. Campbell, Jr., edits one for Street and Smith. (For the citizen who picks his magazines off the news stand arid cares what thinkle peep, the titles are the kiss of death: Astounding, Thrilling Wonder, Startling.) There are others in the field, but these three are the toppers.
But In addition to this crescendo of Interest, there is one very special manifestation which could only exist in the science fiction field.
The readers, the fans themselves, have banded together in groups and they publish their own magazines—called fanzines. They are usually mimeographed and they contain criticism, offers to buy and sell science fiction and some fiction. There are nearly forty of these 'fanzines' being published. There are additional ones in England. Letters to the editors of the pulp magazines come from all over the world.
No other aspect of American letters Is expanding as rapidly as science fiction.
So, we say, this is a strange, strange world. We are in the atomic age. If we get sharp enough with the atom, we may arrange to make this planet uninhabitable. Maybe that fear is deep in the hearts of all of us.
Maybe science fiction is like the comforting words of a wise parent:
"Don't worry, little man. When you bust up this planet, I'll buy you a new one. A nice new green one. Two hundred light years away."
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Friday, October 8, 2010
Reading the few wartime letters that Hugh Merrill quotes in his biography reveals the fact that John's desire to write was not a secret he kept to himself. And it was not, as the famous legend goes, something he merely knocked off because of military censorship. Dorothy's secret submission of "Interlude in India" to Story magazine was only the most obvious act in her role of allowing John to become a writer. In the long run, it was the confidence she had in his abilities, the encouragement and support she gave him, the courage to persevere even through the worrisome beginning months when the money almost ran out, that marks her most important contribution to the role of JDM the writer. Her name never appeared on the cover of any book, but without her, neither would have John D MacDonald's.
An interesting postscript. In 1951 MacDonald published his fourth novel, a violent thriller titled Judge Me Not. The hero was named Teed Morrow, a man who worked for a city manager hired to weed out an utterly corrupt political administration. Teed was a good guy, although he liked to sleep around with the wrong women, and he didn't control public monies or estates, but his first name simply can't be a coincidence. The town is clearly located someplace in upstate New York. Perhaps MacDonald was only using a cool-sounding first name drawn from his wife's past, perhaps he was playing a joke, or perhaps he was trying to communicate something deeper. It's a question that needs to be left for further research.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Or did he?
He arrived at the courthouse in White Plains to a mob scene. In addition to the dozens of reporters standing outside, scores of county employees who had known and worked with him for years had left their posts to run over the the courthouse and witness the spectacle. The presiding judge was an old friend, as was the DA and several members of the grand jury. Teed hid his face underneath his derby and "appeared near collapse" as he entered the courthouse. There the indictment was officially delivered and a bail hearing was set for the following day. He was immediately taken to the county jail, where he stayed until his eventual trial. The bail hearing would prove meaningless, as Teed was broke and had no way to meet any sort of bail that might have been set.
With Teed off to prison, it was left to his former boss Charles Miller to fight a rear guard action in an attempt to keep himself out of trouble. On July 11 he appeared in Surrogate Court to defend himself against any possible personal liability. He was allowed to obtain application to submit new accounting for eight of the estates that had been robbed, with a promise to submit seven more when they could be sorted out. Miller's personal liability in all of the cases was covered by bonds, and "practically all" of the companies that had issued these indemnity bonds were thought to be in good condition. Recall that this scandal took place in what is widely believed by historians to be the worst year of the Great Depression, and many, many insurance and indemnity companies had gone under, leaving their policy holders naked to liability. That concern, in addition to the total weight of this whole affair took its toll on Miller. On August 20, after having dinner at his summer home in Winstead, Connecticut, he suffered a massive heart attack and died instantly. The New York Times account of Miller's death dryly mentioned that the Teed affair was "believed to be a contributing factor" in his death.
To be continued...
Monday, October 4, 2010
Willard -- who Dordo called Bill -- was the son of Leonard and Helen (Uptegrove), both Westchester County natives who had married in 1902 but who had not produced an offspring until eight years later. Bill was their only child, and he was attending Syracuse as a Business Administration major, following in the footsteps of his father who had served in the Westchester County Government for over thirty years.
To be continued...