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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Ferdinand Feghoot: Ephemera & Anecdotes (IV)

Information from the seller:

Theodore "Ted" Cogswell& Reginald "Reg" Bretnor

PITFCS Correspondence RE: Writers' Organization & Action Plan
When Ted Cogswell started the Institute for Twenty-First Century Studies and it's two journals (Science Fiction prodom's first such, beginning with the one-shot DIGIT, circa 1958-59, followed by a dozen or so Proceedings of the Institute, PITFCS, which ran up through 1962) the goal was largely that of organizing the professional science fiction community, especially the writers who weren't making nearly as much money as they figured the ought. The proceedings consisted mostly of letters sent to Cogswell by the hundred or so working science fiction authors of that time period, which he laboriously retyped on ditto and mimeo masters, making copies that he mailed to everyone on the list.
Reginald Bretnor helped kick things off with a substantial chunk of a letter he'd originally written to Judy Merrill on these matters, comprising the bulk of the first issue of PITFCS (#127 -- Cogswell thought it best to start high for an aura of being well established...) and the following issue was largely filled with responses to Bretnor, who then gave the matter more serious and strenuous thought, resulting in a seven page letter to Cogswell, very little if any of which seems to have been published. Perhaps because much of it seemed radical.
Two items on the auction block today:
FIRST, the genuine and authentic letter from Cogswell to Bretnor which accompanied the latter's copy of PITFCS #128, typed on a half-sheet of stationary from the Ball State Teachers College in Indiana where Cogswell worked while pursuing his Doctorate. It is dated "Thursday" and signed "Ted." (One small spelling error, caught by Ted and zapped with red ink.)
SECOND: Unsigned and merely a carbon copy, yet nevertheless the piece de resistance of this auction (at least in my estimation...) is Bretnor's original carbon copy of his monumental letter, a tour de force of the problems and pitfalls of the publishing world with a variety of solutions, many of which seem odd from Bretnor who was usually a staunch conservative and leery of any form of social activism.
Money changes everything, I guess...
Among other things, Bretnor advocated that book purchases be made tax deductible, that public libraries collect use-royalties on all recently published volumes, that the government get more heavily into into broadcasting (PBS would not incorporate until seven years later), and he even proposed subscription television when cable TV was still a good decade away!
Oh, what the heck, I must have been in a Cogswellian mood myself this morning because I retyped the whole danged thing (what the heck, eventually I figure I'll put my entire collection of Bretnor correspondence online) so I'll include the full text in this listing below.
Oddly, Bretnor concluded that a writers' organization dedicated to science fiction and fantasy authors alone would not have a prayer, and strongly urged the formation a larger and more-inclusive guild -- but then a few years later (largely prompted by the void left when Cogswell folded up shop at PITFCS) the Science Fiction Writers of America was formed under the leadership of Damon Knight, and has been very successful in meeting the goals set out by Bretnor, though by different methodologies.
In any case, a rare and important document from the early days of Prodom.

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