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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Silverberg to Moskowitz

Silverberg, Robert. SIX TYPED LETTERS SIGNED (TLsS), all to "Dear Sam" [Moskowitz], each about 1/2 page or less, dated: 8 October 1951; 11 February 1952; 14 December n.y.; 17 February 1962; 19 August 1963; 7 July 1968, all signed "Bob.". The letters cover a period of 17 years, starting in 1951, when Silverberg was 16 - and the editor/publisher of a fanzine, SPACESHIP. Moskowitz had written, ordering some back issues as well as a subscription. Silverberg informs him that some of the back issues are sold out and that he will credit this payment for those to extend his subscription. He thanks him for suggestions made about the publication. "I've been working on the artwork problem for quite some time - as well as various other format bugs. The current issue (#14) shows some of the changes which I've made, but the improvements probably won't show for a while... I'll appreciate your comments on the current issue when you get it, and I'd be happy if you'd care to contribute something for one of the future issues." A sign of the early literary activity of Silverberg, who would go on to become not only one of the most prolific sf authors of the postwar period, but one of the most highly-regarded. Writing in Clute and Nicholls (eds), The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1993), p. 1107, Brian Stableford says, "He remains one of the most imaginative and versatile writers ever to have been involved with sf. His productivity has seemed almost superhuman, and his abrupt metamorphosis from a writer of standardized pulp fiction into a prose artist was an accomplishment unparalleled within the field." The second letter, written four months later, from the same Brooklyn address, contains Silverberg's congratulatory comments on M's history of early fandom, THE IMMORTAL STORM, which had just been published. "I thought it a most impressive work, which will probably rank with the FANCYCLOPEDIA, the Kennedy reviews, and other similar works." He suggests that he bring it up to date, saying that he would "probably have a greater sale, since most everybody likes to find his name in a history." In response to an ad by Moskowitz (as a dealer) in STF Trader, the young Silverberg orders an old issue of FANTASY MAGAZINE and asks that it be packed carefully since the "Brooklyn post office gives the mail quite a buffeting." The third letter, its year undated but written sometime after 1956 (since it refers to a magazine story of that year) and with a return address of West End Avenue in New York, is brief, answering a bibliographic question that Moskowitz had evidently asked him. "The Robert Howard story was 'White Smoke Rolled' - DOUBLE ACTION WESTERN Dec. 1956. Not a bad yarn, and sort of a parallel-world fsy." In turn, he asks M (in his capacity as dealer, one imagines) if he has had "Any luck with the Brand book?," presumably referring to Max Brand, the prolific author of Westerns and other genre fiction. The fourth letter, dated 1962, mentions a recent move to Goodridge Avenue in New York and concerns payment for some books bought from Moskowitz, "...Olaf Stapledon at $29.40 and Philip Wylie at $35.28. Ted [Carnell] also notifies me of payment having been made on Shiel and Heard..." Carnell was a British editor, anthologist and literary agent, whose "contribution to UK sf was enormous." - Clute and Nicholls (eds), The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1993), p. 196. Carnell was apparently acting as some sort of agent between Silverberg and Moskowitz. The fifth letter, written about a year and a half later (August 1963), from the same address, is addressed to both Sam and his wife Chris. It refers to the brouhaha with Ted White. Silverberg notes that M's lawsuit against White is coming to trial in October and asks politely but firmly that he not be included among the New York fans that M plans to subpoena as witnesses. "I'm neutral. It's my considered opinion that both sides have merit, and also that both sides are at fault. I wish the whole thing had never blown up. Nothing I could say in court could conceivably help your case - or hurt it either. I ask out of friendship that you refrain from dragging me into it, and if you insist on calling me anyway, well, I'm afraid our friendship will be at an end." He notes that he is busy and doesn't want to lose productive time. "If I told you how much it would cost me to take a day off and testify, it would seem like bragging, so I'll simply point out that you're both professional people and can understand that nobody is going to reimburse me for any time I'm compelled to waste." The last letter, written in 1968, notes that his place on Goodridge Avenue had been damaged in a fire and that he is living temporarily in the Bronx. He mentions some books that he needs to replace, thanks him for the return of a borrowed book and mentions his review of Moskowitz's just-published anthology SCIENCE FICTION BY GASLIGHT. "I hope you'll forgive me for taking a few swipes at your prose style, which isn't getting more elfin with the years. The general tone of the review otherwise can best be summed up by quoting the final line: 'This is a splendid book - an item for the basic s-f shelf.' It sure is. What a fine job!" The lot of six letters provides a sketch of the changing connection between two of the key figures of American genre sf. The first three letters are typed on good-quality note paper, the third with a blue border; the next three are on cheap letter-size paper, browning with age. 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. Besides old creases where folded for mailing, the first letter has two faint triangles of offsetting from some other acidic paper at lower corners, the second has a 2 cm hole near the top, above the salutation; else the lot is in very good to fine condition. (#100297)

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