Vector #65

Dear Malcolm,

I really don’t understand James Blish: is his memory failing him, is he fishing for compliments in a very curious way, or has his dislike for me reached such heights that his reasoning powers have suffered? (++ Puzzled readers are referred to Vector 62, p. 34 ++) I could answer him that he underrates me: he has no idea of what expressions of contempt I am capable when he thinks I have treated him with the utmost contempt “up to now”. But such flippancy probably isn’t necessary. Besides, what he says simply isn’t true; for one thing, James Blish hardly is in a position to pass any judgement on all I have written about him, for the simple reason that there undoubtedly is much that he has never seen; and while most of it is unfavourable, not everything is unfavourable. As to the specific case of Solaris, I have quite explicitly commented (in a letter to him) on several points of his F&SF review that I thought especially perceptive; so why should Blish now be “stunned” to find his name included in an enumeration of people who liked Solaris; or indeed, why should he think such a mere listing has any special significance either for him or me? And that makes me the devil who would quote Scriptures?

I must also deny that my favourite word “for the rest of us” is “dishonesty”: my favourite word probably is “hack”. I may have used “dishonesty” one or two times, and if Blish wants to assert that I used it more often than that, or more often than hack, he is invited to count it. It seems to me that Blish may be allergic to this word since he himself likes to apply it to such journals as Time Magazine or Partisan Review; but I certainly once accused him of literary cheating.

What I’d like to know of Mr Blish now is whether he includes the fact that I translated his “Cathedrals in Space” in my German language fanzine, or that we made him a German offer for A Case Of Conscience among the alleged “expressions of utmost contempt”? It’s of course Mr Blish’s privilege as an author to prefer bad translations to good, a paperback deal to a combined hardcover/paperback sale, and the publisher of Lewis B. Patton, Dorothy Eden and Poul Anderson to the publisher of T.S. Eliot, Hermann Hesse and James Joyce; but the fact that we made him an offer is hardly evidence for his claims and I should also think that offering somebody a contract is of somewhat greater significance than a few remarks in the most ephemeral of publications, the sf fanzines.

Franz Rottensteiner

Dear Malcolm, I was glad to see your discussion of the last Hugo awards, disseminating the information Locus gave us. I have felt extremely unhappy about the whole thing, ever since I read that Locus. It is almost impossible to say anything about it, though, and I don’t know who to say it to. I do immensely appreciate the honor — it is a real honor — of being nominated and voted for by all those people, all those strangers who have “met” one only in one’s book — it gives me a pleasure that no nomination or award from a selected jury could give. But this “Australian ballot” (my conviction is that it’s called that because it turns everything upside down) spoils it all. My novel, which clearly placed a poor third, comes in second; Anne McCaffrey’s, which as clearly placed first, comes in third! Well, all that juggling and recounting is supposed, I suppose, to insure justice. But it doesn’t. First place is first place, and when people vote for it that’s what they want — and that is the only place the business end of science fiction, the editors ad publishers, are going to pay any attention to at all. They couldn’t care less who makes second, third, and fourth; all they care about is The Prize. I think the book that received the most votes for The Prize should get the prize. And, if justice or consolation is what the Hugo committee are after, then perhaps they could designate all the second-third-fourth-fifth people, the runners-up, as “Hugo Honor Books” or something, as the Newbery Awards committee has recently taken to doing.

As it is, I haven’t been able to bring myself to vote on the Hugo nomination at all yet this year, because I have this feeling that however I vote they will add it up to come out to just the opposite of what I meant!

Your reply to Chistopher Evans’ letter in No.62 is absolutely right — for England! — but alas, not for America. There are a few excellent reviews (Horn Book for instance) and reviewers, but in egneral writing for children puts one in a ghetto just as writing sf does: and people say to me with hearty camaraderie, “I know you write for children, do you write real books too?” In fact, to put it rather crudely but I think accurately, literature for children here is considered woman’s work — in every sense of the word.

Ursula Le Guin