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Saturday, July 18, 2009

More Sam Moskowitz

From LW Currey:

1.
Gunn, James. TWO TYPED LETTERS SIGNED (TLsS) AND ONE TYPED NOTE SIGNED (TNS), to Sam Moskowitz, the first,1 page, dated 23 January 1989, on note paper, the second, 1/2 page, dated 23 May, 1989, the third, 1/2 page, dated 30 May 1989, on a postcard, all signed "Jim." Accompanied by a photocopy or computer printout copy of unsigned two-page letter from Gunn to Robert A. Collins, dated 27 December 1988. Two groups of letters, the first touched off by an unfavorable review of Gunn's THE NEW ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SCIENCE FICTION (1988) by Rob Latham published in SFRA NEWSLETTER. Gunn forwards a copy of a letter he sent to SFRA's editor, Robert A. Collins, complaining, not so much about the original negative review as his subsequent treatment after sending in a letter of reply to the review. Gunn points out to Collins that the problem with replying to reviews is that, by the time the author has laboriously refuted the reviewer's points in a subsequent issue of the periodical, the readers have lost interest, and, in any event,the reviewer is always given the last word. Gunn also objects to reviews that don't admit the necessarily subjective nature of that work and regrets that reviewing is not subjected to the same degree of scrutiny as scholarship: "...the problem with Latham's review ... was that it accepted as a matter of faith that truth was available and that Latham was the sole possessor of it." Gunn also takes issue with Latham's criticism of an inclusion in the encyclopedia of an article by Poul Anderson as an example (presumably) of clubbiness or lack of academic rigor. "Everyone who would rather read an entry in an encyclopedia by Poul Anderson on 'Alien Worlds' than one by Rob Latham (or another critic) that includes 'metaphorical uses,' please raise your hand." Gunn's cover letter to Moskowitz, thanks him for copying Gunn on his own correspondence with Collins and lamenting that "so much time, energy, and space is being wasted on nonproductive issues.... I am beginning to realize the truth of the old saying: Don't get into a disagreement with a person who buys ink by the barrel." He expresses puzzlement at the "extremity of passions" swirling around the issue, given the history of Collins' friendly relations with him and stated admiration of his work. This note has a handwritten postscript noting that "Mark Hassler has written a good review for EXTRAPOLATION in which he gets into the reviewing issue." The second part of the correspondence comprises three items, of which the first is a half-page letter from Gunn to Moskowitz, asking for suggestions that would help him with a planned lecture on the subject of "The Future of Libraries and Libraries of the Future." Gunn lists a dozen or so novels and stories that he plans to discuss and asks SM if he can think of any "major uses" of the motif that he has omitted. The second item is a carbon of SM's 1 1/2 page reply, listing and summarizing five items that use the motif of fantastic libraries, written by David H. Keller, Eric Frank Russell, A. E. van Vogt and H. P. Lovecraft. SM goes on to commiserate with Gunn over the pneumonia he had mentioned he was recovering from, gives him some doctorly admonishments to rest up and kvetches about his own ailments. The final item is a postcard from Gunn to SM thanking him for the reading suggestions and good wishes. The first group offers a sharp picture of the infighting in the world of sf and fandom. The second group presents a valuable little bibliography of a motif that should be of special interest to book readers, libraries. Gunn taught English at the University of Kansas, where he was born and raised, and published both fiction and nonfiction in the sf field, starting in the 1950s. Sam Moskowitz was one of the pioneers of genre science-fiction scholarship, approaching the subject from historical and sociological as well as literary vantage points; editing anthologies, magazines and book reprint series; and championing the work of obscure authors as well as the genre itself. Though not always meticulous in his research or discerning in his taste, he took seriously a field of literature that academic critics ignored until much later, and blazed many of the trails that they smoothed out later. In saying that he made up in enthusiasm what he lacked in rigor, it could be argued that the former virtue was, at the time, the more needed one. The first two items have faint creases where folded for mailing and old staple holes; the two other letters have some faint creasing at upper right corners and the SM letter has some carbon smudges, but all are near fine; the postcard is fine. (#100287)

2.
Gunn, James. TYPED LETTER SIGNED (TLS). 1/2 page, dated 5 June 1972, to "Dear Sam" [Moskowitz], signed, "Jim." On The University of Kansas letterhead. Gunn asks for help from Moskowitz on a history of science fiction he is preparing for Prentice-Hall (ALTERNATE WORLDS: THE ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF SCIENCE FICTION [1975]). He wants photographs of material belonging to SM and asks that SM give him a quote on what these would cost to prepare. Gunn taught English at the University of Kansas, where he was born and raised, and published both fiction and nonfiction in the sf field, starting in the 1950s. Accompanied by carbon of SM's reply, TLS, 1 1/2 pages on letter-sized pulpy paper, brown with age, with very short tear in margin of each sheet. SM politely tells Gunn that he is too busy to help him with his request and that, furthermore, he is at work on a similar project himself, so that helping Gunn would present a conflict of interests. SM marvels at the sudden surge in publishers' interest in the history of science fiction, enumerating all the current and in-progress projects of which he is aware, not neglecting to blow his own horn as a pioneer in the field. The letter has one or two emendations and a handwritten postscript. Interesting as a document of the period when science fiction was gaining academic respectability. Faint crease near bottom, else fine. (#100286)

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