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ANNOUNCER: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.
Did you ever read Buck Rogers? Of course you have; for at one time or another you've all been interested in science fiction.
More than two hundred delegates are here in Cincinnati for this weekend at a gathering; as the Seventh World Science Fiction Convention. Convention Chairman, Charles R. Tanner says that the convention delegates are followers of the future before it gets here. And he goes on to point out that the atomic bomb was actually foreseen over twenty years ago in science fiction and that today, the atomic age is a reality.
So, at this time I'd like to introduce to you a gentleman who knows much more about science fiction than you or I, I'm sure -- of the Gnome Press, formerly connected with radio stations in New York state, Mr. Dave Kyle.
DAVE KYLE: Thank you.
Science fiction is a very unusual field and I know quite a few people know nothing at all about it. We have some celebrities here tonight -- Jack Williamson, Fritz Leiber Jr., E.E. Smith, Ph.D., Judy Merril, and E.E. Evans; all of whom are well known authors of science fiction.
Tell me, as our board of strategy tonight, what the introduction to science fiction, of someone who knows nothing about it should be.
FRITZ LEIBER JR.: I would say that the person who is interested in science fiction today, or who wants to become interested in science fiction can find any number of ways to further that interest. Science fiction is in magazines of several sorts, in books, and in fact, I believe that we'll be seeing it in the pictures more than in the past.
KYLE: You mean something like "Mighty Joe Young".
LEIBER: Well, that belongs to the sort of imaginative literature that's called fantasy, the fairy tale for adults.
KYLE: Ah, now we have two distinct facts here; we have science fiction and we have fantasy fiction. Well, science fiction convention I guess, means that we don't think we care for fantasy fiction.
What would you say, Mr. Evans?
E.E. EVANS: No, we care for both the science fiction and the fantasy and also what is known as "weird" and any of the off-trail writing. It is called a science fiction convention merely for convenience, but it takes in all four types of literature and art.
KYLE: But of course this is not confined to just a masculine readership?
EVANS: No, probably twenty-five percent of the readers belong to the fair sex.
KYLE: Do you visualize more and more feminine readers, Dr. Smith?
E.E. SMITH: Yes, definitely.
I think that anyone who is interested in exercising his or her imagination is going to be interested in science fiction and the other forms of fantasy.
KYLE: Well, Mr. Williamson just had a book published this past month by Simon and Schuster. What do you think of the trend toward "popular" science fiction?
JACK WILLIAMSON: It's a very pleasing trend and it seems to me that as science and its effects on everyday life becomes more and more apparent, more people will become interested in science fiction which is the projection of possibilities into future times and other worlds.
KYLE: Well, I can readily follow that. All you people here are representative of authors. I'd like to take a look at the other side of the picture; the artists. We have over here, Hannes Bok, and Mr. Grossman. Hannes Bok is a well-known fantasy artist, whose pictures many people undoubtedly recognize but whose face perhaps hasn't been seen by many.
Well, Hannes; what's your conception of art in science fiction?
HANNES BOK: Well, you know all art is art, whether it's in science fiction or not, but it has to make all things seem possible. Fantasy, of course, has to be done very photographically and realistically because to draw a Martian and do it quite modernly and sketchily, well, people can't believe it's quite possible. You do it photographically and people say subconsciously, he must exist because this looks like a photograph.
KYLE: I see, well then, you think that there is definitely a chance for realism in fantasy and science fiction?
BOK: Oh, I think fantasy is about the best of all forms of art because you have free rein and can do exactly as you like.
KYLE: Why don't you ask your compatriot there, Mr. Grossman, what his ideas are on the subject?
BOK: That's right John; what do you plan to do with the commercial aspects of fantasy art?
JOHN GROSSMAN: Well, I believe in trying out your imagination. I draw mostly just gadgets and things like that; the more mechanized type of thing. In regard to fantasy, I like to draw machinery; it's more intriguing to me. That is, rather than figures or something like that; I get a bigger kick out of it. I don't care too much for fantasy because I don't know too much about it.
KYLE: Ted Carnell is the editor of this new English magazine, "New Worlds". He is a well-known science fiction fan, active for many years in this sort of thing. And for the first time, he's come to America to visit at this convention and meet the people with whom he's corresponded for years.
Now let me turn this interview over to a real science fiction fan who for many years was called America's number one fan, Forrest J. Ackerman. Well, Mr. Ackerman, if you'll carry on as MC here, I'll step out of the picture.
FORREST J. ACKERMAN: Thank you, Dave.
Ted, I was just looking over that cover. You know, I've been reading science fiction since 1926 and of course in that time I've seen hundreds of covers on the American magazines. I think that's one of the finest I've seen on either side.
TED CARNELL: Well, that's very nice to know, Forrie, because you know, I don't think that it's very good really. But it's something a bit different. We haven't exactly the same set-up in Great Britain that you have here. You have a very long record of good magazine publishing. England isn't such a good magazine publishing country at all whereas we specialize in books -- and we're finding a great deal of difficulty in producing a magazine which will conform to the readers' tastes and yet not differ too greatly from the American counterpart -- and that particular cover is one of a long line of -- I should say -- dismal failures. But we think we're beginning to get somewhere, along the line that you have already blazed.
ACKERMAN: Well, what I particularly liked about it was that it's up to tomorrow in its concept, you might say. I think it won't be long before we'll be seeing that sort of thing in reality; rockets to the moon -- and too, a cover like that will attract a higher type of reader.
CARNELL: I would like to say one word here, Forrie, before we pass away from the cover. The artist who painted it has never read a science fiction story in his life, and he's never done any drawing of fantasy either. But I really think he has done a good job.
ACKERMAN: Now, out in Hollywood before I left, Bob (Tucker), I was talking on the phone to John Payne. I don't know how many people are aware that this well-known movie actor is himself a science fiction fan. He was telling me that he's interested himself in your detective book, "The Dove". Is that true?
BOB TUCKER: That's true. I understand that Mr. Payne himself sometimes writes science fiction under a pen name.
ACKERMAN: I ran across him when I was in the Army, but I could not pin him down to just what the pen name was.
TUCKER: He didn't want to influence an editor into buying his stories, so he adopted a pen name.
Ted brought up something a moment ago which strikes me as typical of science fiction fans. Here are four of us who started out as mere fans and each of us in our own way has worked up to something. Ted has become an editor, and you have in turn become an agent, and, I understand, a prosperous one. I branched off a little bit -- I'm writing detective stories now -- and this young man who was able to buy an original cover for forty-eight dollars is the most successful of us all. I think that the one value of science fiction fans that is seldom touched on is that quite often it is a proving ground for the future professionals. You run off the names of the professionals who started as fans; just dozens of writers, almost, you could say, and numerous artists. Yesterday they were just young fellows reading their magazines and turning out their amateur publications; today they're either editing for slicks and pulps, writing for slicks and pulps, or selling to them as an agent. I think that fandom is a wonderful proving ground from the professional science fiction angle.
CARNELL: We have exactly the same set-up in Britain where as far back as ten or fifteen years, science fiction fans who had grown up with it had become highly successful authors. Several of them have recently had books about science fiction published in England, which is very rare; the British publisher does not really understand the fantasy fiction field from the book angle.
KYLE: If I may sneak in on this little conversation, Mr. Carnell, I understood you to say that the publishers don't really understand science fiction. Just by some strange coincidence we have gathered on the other side of the studio some representatives connected with the publishing end of science fiction.
So I'd like to shift the camera over to our publishers, who are, from left to right; Lloyd Eschbach of Fantasy Press, Jim Williams of Prime Press, and Melvin Korshak of Shasta Publishers. Inasmuch as I'm figured in on this, I think I'll introduce Mr. Korshak as MC and let him take over so I can sit down.
MELVIN KORSHAK: Okay, Dave; why don't you just take a seat and we'll kind of throw this problem around a little bit.
The publishers in this field seem to feel that we are publishing tomorrow's fiction today, that we are putting the headlines that you'll read in the newspaper tomorrow, into book form at the present time. Now, just to get some different slants on this, I'd like to call the audience's attention to Mr. Eschbach of the Fantasy Press in Reading, Pennsylvania -- and he in turn will give you some idea of what Fantasy Press sees in science-fantasy fiction and what they're doing about it.
LLOYD A. ESCHBACH: Mel, it seems to me, that as you mentioned, science fiction is the fiction of tomorrow being published today. But it's a whole lot more than that -- first of all it's good entertainment. It's the sort of entertainment which lets the people escape from the present, awakens their imaginations, and at the same time, gives them a vision of what modern science can perhaps develop in the future, so that we, as publishers of science fiction in book form, are doing more than just providing entertainment. We are actually opening the future to the general public.
KORSHAK: But never let us forget that the important fact is entertainment. After all, people are interested in entertainment in all mediums, and I think that our most important job is to provide that entertainment.
ESCHBACH: Well, obviously, Mel, if we don't entertain, we can't sell books, so entertainment value has very naturally come first. At the same time I think we're providing a type of entertainment that isn't found anywhere else.
KORSHAK: Well, I don't want to argue that because I'm 100% with you. However, we have a number of people and it's a possibility that there might be other slants on the same thing. Jim, you have the Prime Press in Philadelphia and you have books all over the country. Why don't you give us an idea of what you feel is the importance of this type of literature.
JIM WILLIAMS: Well, we've covered the entertainment idea fairly well and possibly the extrapolated science of the future, and beyond that, there isn't much more. If it's a good story -- it can be a good science fiction story, a good fantasy story, a good detective story -- they're all published primarily for one purpose, and that is, to make good reading. They're not textbooks, and they're not supposed to be.
KORSHAK: Well, even besides that, and I want you to come in on this Dave, this field is unusual in publishing, in that there are a number of specialists who are doing nothing but publishing in this particular line. I'd like you to comment on that.
KYLE: As we are here representative of the specialists, we have a very unusual operation in the publishing field. We're giving to the reading public a type of literature that's long been ignored; a type that is in demand and is certainly proving that it is growing in popularity every minute. Your discussion of the entertainment value of literature is a very interesting point, because after all, that's what literature is for. But I'm glad to see that Lloyd sort of eased up on the point that he made in Convention Hall yesterday, about entertainment being the primary reason for science fiction. I might be a little too idealistic, but I think that science fiction is one of the best forms of education we have today. I mean that in the sense that we can prepare the people of America and the people of the world for progress. The outstanding example of that is of course, that in 1944 one of the science fiction magazines published a story on the atomic bomb which caused an investigation by the FBI because they couldn't believe that any layman had any knowledge about the atomic bomb. Well, the fact that something like that exists is proof to me that people as a whole are familiar with the rate of progress the scientific world is reaching. I think that science fiction will be able to give to the reading public of America a new conception of mankind's progress.
WILLIAMS: What you tried to express, Dave, and you did it very well, was that by shooting the books out and taking them so far in the imaginative field, although scientifically there's some point of take off, that you prepare the people for what normally will come out of straight facts.
ESCHBACH: It may be changing the subject, Mel, but it may be interesting to the public to know that we too are science fiction fans -- that we started out as science fiction fans.
KYLE: That's right. I remember when I met Mel at the Chicon in 1940 when I took an automobile trip across the country and back; I measured it by my flat tires. I had twenty-four.
WILLIAMS: I understand, Lloyd, that outside of being a publisher you had experience as a writer in the field in the early days.
KYLE: As a matter of fact, Lloyd, aren't you the Author Guest of Honor at the convention?
ESCHBACH: Yes, but that's a queer state of affairs.
KYLE: Well, that means you're sitting on the wrong side of things. If the camera will move over to my right, we'll have the authors on whose side you really should be.
We have Doc Smith, Dr. C.L. Barrett, E.E. Evans, and Judy Merril back with us again. Tell me; you just heard the publishers talk about the publishing business. What do you take exception to? As authors you must take exception to some of their remarks.
E.E. SMITH: I take exception to very few things that they said. In fact, before we go any further with this, I would like to reinforce something that was said about the way science fiction has anticipated actual scientific developments. I have an autographed book which was written by John W. Campbell, entitled "The Atomic Story".
KYLE: By the way, John W. Campbell is the editor of "Astounding Science Fiction".
SMITH: Right. And his autograph, when I got that was one of the proudest moments of my life; because he said, "To Doc Smith, who commercialized atomic energy twenty-five years before the Manhattan Project was ever heard of".
KYLE: Well, that's really something, doctor. Let me ask you this -- what are you commercializing on now?
SMITH: Well, inertialess and special drives which will take us through space at the rate of multiples of the speed of light.
KYLE: Using that measure of twenty-five years you used in predicting atomic energy, do you think we're going to have space travel in the next twenty-five years?
SMITH: No -- that is, we will have space travel in a small way. I believe that I will live to see the first rocket trip to the moon, and I hope to live to see the first trips to the planets by way of a space dock in space, to fuel rockets which will go to the moon, from which they will take off for the planets. Now, as far as deep-space travel is concerned, which we as authors and fans have played with for at least twenty years, that is not in the foreseeable future, because the strict application of mathematical and physical principles does not seem to permit the development of velocities greater than the speed of light.
KYLE: Well, that's really a fascinating thing, I'm sure, to our audience. To me it doesn't sound out of this world at all, although it may be, by a few million miles.
DR. C.L. BARRETT: Dave, you'd better correct one thing. I'm a collector, not an author.
KYLE: I was just going to get to that. I'm afraid I got carried away listening to Doc Smith.
BARRETT: You're so used to eulogizing him as "Skylark" Smith that you tried to include me in the same category.
KYLE: That's right, Doc Barrett, you represent the opposite side.
BARRETT: We're the rank and file; the ones who are not authors, editors, or publishers, but the ones who read it and collect it. I've been collecting it since 1923 and I've accumulated some four thousand books and six thousand magazines. I don't collect as many pictures as some of the others; I don't have the space for it. But it's the most fascinating type of literature and we are the only group which will go to our authors to tell them what we don't like about their stories.
Doc Smith will tell you that I've driven clear to Michigan to tell him what I don't like about his stories, and to argue with him for hours about the incongruities that occasionally creep into the science attempted.
KYLE: Well, thank you very much for the two sides of the story, one from the readers and one from the authors.
So, leaving you at the studio, I'll turn you back to your studio announcer.
ANNOUNCER: Thank you very much, Mr. Kyle.
Ladies and gentlemen, you've just seen and heard a very fascinating discussion, carried on by Mr. Kyle, our moderator, and authorities who are meeting in Cincinnati this week for the three day gathering of the Seventh World Science Fiction Convention.
I think that by now, Mr. Kyle, we realize that the reality of the future is certainly based on today's knowledge and that science fiction's growing popularity indicates the changing perspective of this world.
This has been a production of WLW-Television, The Crosley Broadcasting Corporation.