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've spent the last six years practically outside the business of writing; science fiction or anything else. I've had a little job doing a retread job in the service, I've spent the last eighteen months out of the last two years in central Brazil, and so I'm pretty much out of touch.
That's the reason I'm here; to try to find out.
Now, one of the reasons I went to Brazil was to try to find old, ancient cities. Nobody down there ever heard of any of them. Colonel Lindbergh is supposed to have seen ruins back in the jungle someplace. Colonel Percy Fawcett has been lost since 1922. When I first went down to Brazil two years ago, he had just been found in two places at the same time a thousand miles apart.
Percy found all the cities. As soon as we find Percy Fawcett, I'll have something to tell you about them. I didn't go down there looking for him, but every writer who has gone down there has. They have hunted for him in the bars of the coast cities. He is lost somewhere in the Matto Grosso.
I went that far, anyway. I became a little discouraged. I took my wife along with me and she walked me to death every day. So I got to thinking that this Amazon business is not all it's cracked up to be. You read a lot of books about the Amazon and about the long snakes and about the alligators and about all the stuff that falls in your hair. I didn't find any of that. I went a lot of places Americans hadn't gone -- my wife was the first white woman in lots of them -- and there just wasn't much of anything to it.
And we didn't find any ruined cities except those built by the Portuguese 250 or 300 years ago.
So I didn't particularly prepare anything on it, but I did want to say one or two things to you which I think will be a lot closer to your heart, because I'd much rather listen to you people. I'll tell you why in just a moment.
Mr. Smith here mentioned that we didn't know anything, but I know one thing that fans ought to know. I wonder if any of you realize how actually much authority you carry in this business of science fiction? I can tell you from personal experience that I have been in and out of magazines on account of three letters.
I was telling some of the boys at lunch today -- not on science fiction and other sorts of things -- how I lost on a series which was paying my rent just because a publisher happened to see a kid on a train reading one of his magazines. He said, "Son, how do you like that magazine?"
The boy said, "I like it fine, but," he said, "this thing I just read I don't like."
Unfortunately, it was my story.
So what happens? The publisher goes back to his office and he kills this series. So I have to change the guy's name and start all over again.
You have a great deal of power in the pulp paper offices, especially in this pseudo science business, if you use it. Now I noticed something in your comments up here today about how you have a committee. I suppose it's something like an executive committee. Well, if those fellows really bear down, if you've got somebody that works and you follow out what they find to be a pretty good job, you can really exercise this authority.
Now, I'm speaking from three different kinds of jobs I've held in my time which makes me a pretty good science fan, too, because it gives me three necks to stick out. For five years, I headed a writer's group. For two years I was the vice president and for three years I was the president. I had an executive committee and, boy, they were good in telling me what to do. They were always around, but never to do anything. That's one thing that your executive committee and your president must take in their stride; that's the way people are and if you all had to decide things, you'd never get anything done as you realize when you start to do it.
Three people are an awful lot to get to decide on a particular thing and get it done.
Don't try to do your stuff as a pressure group. Write as individuals from all over this United States. You know blamed well that there are a lot of good writers coming up, a lot of youngsters that have really got something on the ball; they need to be boosted and they need to be helped to get up into cover names. I want to assure you that in a very brief period of time, the very best of them slip away; you can't invent stories every day of your life for thirty years and get away with it.
Believe me; I know. I'm just twenty-nine years at it. That's how close.
If you had some way of keeping in contact with one another and you really wrote letters to your magazines -- not as a group, but as individuals -- you could practically dictate the contents of magazines, believe it or not.
I want to switch around a little bit. There was one man who wanted very much to come here. We planned until a couple of days ago. He was invited; Rene Lafayette.
He writes for John Campbell. The only thing was, he couldn't come without bringing Ron Hubbard, who didn't get an invitation. But Ron was going to come along with him anyhow since they're practically inseparable1.
The only difficulty is that Ron had to go to the hospital in Bethesda yesterday or the day before for a checkup. He got pretty badly shot up during the war; how it's affected his fiction, I don't know. That's something you'll have to decide. He had to go down to find out whether he'll draw a pension or whether he'll have to go on writing this stuff and take you fellows' rough stuff in the magazines all the time.
I'm not going to wait for a question period or anything of that kind. I'm going to call it short because I would like to hear from you people and know more about what makes you tick.
Believe me, it's very necessary that I know that, because when I know what makes you tick, I can continue to make a living, which I'd like to do, if you don't mind.