In one way or another, the letters here illuminate all we have so briefly sketched. From a hopeful winter of 1934, comes a precious hundred dollars courtesy of an Ed Bodin literary agent to a host of desperate authors fighting for a place in that keenly competitive pulp–fiction market. From a somewhat healthier summer of 1935, comes Ron’s formal greeting to readers of Adventure as “a tall red-haired chap with a service background.” From an altogether prosperous 1936, comes the editorial back-and-forth for a first full-length novel, while Florence McChesney of Five Novels Monthly wonders “if you’re doing a flying story for me next.” Then follows a contemplative exchange of notes on characterization, an equally contemplative sequence from a thoughtful season in Manhattan and several wry words on fencing with irascible editors. While very much to the point of the troublesome editor, comes a choice selection of letters to-and-from John W. Campbell, Jr. on the reshaping of speculative fiction despite John W. Campbell.
The greater point: For all we have seen in explanation of
L. Ron Hubbard’sliterary triumph, here is the deepest view yet. Here is the huddling with editors to firmly lay down story lines, then the “wondering what the hell they’ll find wrong this time, certain that it will be different than the last.” Here is that “jittery frame of mind” at the first blank page, and “all the fun I want in twisting plots and trying out stunts of technique.” Here is the crafting of tales to satisfy the banker, plumber, bellhop and grocer – all while striving for perfection, “because if we achieve perfection then we have come as close to the activity of the self as a mortal can get.” In short, here is the literary life of an author as only an author can express it, and then only to another who lives it.
In addition to personal correspondence as such, we include Ron’s 1936 open letter to New York columnist O. O. McIntyre in defense of the pulps, his equally open advice to “word weary” fledglings and the transcription of his radio discussion with Ed Bodin and Arthur J. Burks, a.k.a. “Mr. Pulps” himself. We further include his letters in farewell to the pulps from 1949, his notes to Robert Heinlein upon returning to a literary life in the 1980s, and much else relating to what followed from the very crucial, “. . . and then, by god, I’ll write.”
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