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New: Campbell's Letters to R. D. Swisher, Worth Reading 
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Post New: Campbell's Letters to R. D. Swisher, Worth Reading
This gets a bit complicated. Briefly, a new collection of John W. Campbell's letters has been published.

Fred Pohl explains it well in his two-part review:

To tell it backwards:

Lulu has a print-on-demand book called Fantasy Commentator, which one can order here.

(After hitting Preview button: "Your message contains too many URLs. The maximum number of URLs allowed is 5." WHAT? Damn. I'll split this into two articles, then. Continued on next rock.)

Bill Higgins

Tue Nov 08, 2011 10:52 pm
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Post Re: New: Campbell's Letters to R. D. Swisher, Worth Reading
(Continued from previous rock)

Alice Becker published it, with the help of Prof. Eric Lief Davin.

Those in the know will recognize the title; it's the final issue of a fanzine edited by the long-lived A. Langley Searles, who published The Fantasy Commentator for, like, a jillion years.

It contains one long article by Sam Moskowitz, editor, SF historian, and fan.

Most of the article consists of lengthy quotes from letters written to Robert D. Swisher, SF collector and fan.

John W. Campbell, Jr., legendary editor and writer, wrote the letters between 1936 and the late 1950s.

Swisher and Campbell became friends when Campbell was a beginning writer. The letters had a huge amount of chatter about photographic hardware and darkroom techniques, intermingled with news about Campbell's publishing career and, later, his day-to-day work as editor of Astounding Science Fiction, Unknown, Air Trails, and other book and magazine projects. Moskowitz extracted the personal and literary parts, skipping the camera-bug talk and connecting the letters with his own narrative of their historical context. (Perry Chapdelaine, who compiled volumes of Campbell's letters, rejected the Swisher letters, but Moskowitz was willing to try making sense of them.)

I've read maybe 15% so far. For those interested in Campbell and his times, there is much to be learned. Moskowitz has done a good job of filling gaps, for the most part, explaining who the many namedropped authors, editors and fans were and what was going on in the science fiction world. The reader must endure some inevitable Moskowitzisms, but the thing is a treasure trove of Campbell's thought during the most productive years of his career.

One could also wish for better layout, maybe some chapter breaks. With so many people running through the letters, one wishes for an index. Most awkwardly, Moskowitz inserts many details in parentheses, but these are not distinguished (such as with square brackets, or italics) from parenthetical material written by Campbell, so the reader is left to puzzle out the difference.

Nevertheless, this final issue of the pioneering scholarly fanzine, decades in preparation, offers a valuable look at Campbell and the writers of his times. Well worth ten bucks.

There is a modest amount of information about Heinlein, who became a close friend of Campbell for a time. I have found a couple of unexpected tidbits related to my antimatter history, and some eyebrow-raising revelations about the Cleve Cartmill "Deadline" affair. In the letters we can see the seeds of tales that were embellished in frequent later telling. I hope to post a bit more here when I get a chance.

File 770 also noted the publication of this issue.

Bill Higgins

Tue Nov 08, 2011 10:56 pm
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