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***** Feature Articles *****
** THE WORLDS OF IF CONNECTION: The If Magazine connection to "Star Trek"
The following is an answer to an e-mail inquiry about my first sold story, "Operation High Time," in Worlds of If Magazine and the connection between Worlds of If Magazine and Star Trek.
Sent: Monday, April 03, 2000 9:06 AM
Subject: Early Days
I hope this gets through to you. I doubt that you know me, though I have written several books and many articles on the history of science fiction and I am currently revising my History of the SF Magazine as a 3-volume series to be published by Liverpool University Press.
I am at the end of Volume 2, which runs from 1950-1969, and have made reference to your first story "Operation High Time" in If, as one of the If-firsts. It's part of a section in the book where I make links between growing interest in TV space opera, such as Star Trek, and how If seemed to meet that need more than any other of the magazines at the time.
I'd be interested in knowing how you came to submit a story to If and how you then moved on from that to Star Trek fandom. I'm interested in exploring any possible links between the two.
Thanks for your help,
Yes, I remember you! I'm so pleased you were able to find me, and I'd love to know what trail of breadcrumbs led you to <www.simegen.com>.
As you can see from our domain, especially the Sime~Gen section, (<www.simegen.com/sgfandom/>), "Operation High Time" started something that's burgeoned beyond expectations. And yes, there are a number of major, critical cross-linkages from S~G into and out of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry, Leonard Nimoy, and ST fandom.
How did I come to submit a FIRST STORY SALE to If ???
I'd been reading If since grammar school (early 1950's). I read Amazing, Astounding, Analog, Galaxy, and F&SF, etc. all the way back to the 1930s editions (Planets of Wonder) from used bookstores and still have some of them!
I read and reread every word, cover to cover. I always turned first to the editorials, read all the stories, then read the editorials again, and came to understand the stories on a new level because of the discussion in the editorials.
I knew Fred Pohl only from years and years of his editorials and his own novels -- and John Campbell's counter-editorials to Pohl's Pohl-emmics. (Later, getting to know Fred personally, I discovered he really is that smart).
When I was a new mother, I chose to launch a writing career while waiting for the kids to go to school -- rather than going back to lab work in chemistry full time and abandoning my kids to day-care. (I actually did try day-care for a while, and it was very bad for the kids).
I took the Famous Writers Course -- a correspondence course in writing that later fell into ill repute for their marketing practices (which were actually very, very bad). They promised the wannabes that they'd sell a story by the 4th lesson. Hundreds and hundreds signed up for that over-priced course, and only a very sparse handful of us ever sold anything -- only a couple by the 4th lesson. I was one of those few who sold by the 4th lesson.
"Operation High Time" was my own version of the homework for Lesson 4 -- I rewrote all the lessons and instructions to suit the sf field, which I knew better than any of the instructors did. SF violated most of the principles they were teaching, but I knew what I was doing, and so I learned.
I applied the principles of the first 4 lessons to my own personal problem of selling an sf story to Fred Pohl.
The most basic principle was "study your market." Of all the editors and magazines in the sf field, I knew Fred Pohl's preferences best. I carved a tiny piece out of the gigantic Universe I had been inventing and working on for 10 years or more, wrote a story that was Tailored (see Star Trek Lives! for The Tailored Effect -- that's what I'm referring to here, the principle of the Tailored Effect) specifically for Fred Pohl, and he bought the story.
That's right, my first sale was bought on its first submission by applying the principles taught in the Famous Writers School. And that story sold for $90 and then went on to found a groundbreaking, unique 8 novel-, two short story-, sf series that has spawned a fandom and a phenomenon shaped pretty much the way that Star Trek itself developed.
The first novel in the series, House of Zeor was in print continuously in various editions and languages for twenty years while the series developed. HoZ was also used in STL! as an example of the Tailored Effect. I sold the expensive HoZ hardcover to 65 Spock fans on a money back guarantee and never had one returned. HoZ delivers the Spock Effect as described in Star Trek Lives! "Operation High Time" delivers the Fred Pohl Effect.
House of Zeor sold to Doubleday while I was in Louisiana visiting my co-author Sondra Marshak on Star Trek Lives! We were transcribing and working on the interviews with Leonard Nimoy and Gene Roddenberry that appeared in the book. (At that point, we hadn't yet sold Star Trek Lives!)
A short time later, Fred Pohl bought Star Trek Lives! for Bantam (He had become the SF editor for Bantam after leaving Galaxy). Joan Winston, my other co-author on STL! had encountered him at WorldCon in Toronto and mentioned that we still hadn't sold that book which he had already rejected. A couple months later, James Blish fell ill and couldn't deliver a ST novel which was already scheduled into production, and Fred called us up and asked if STL! was still available and ready for production. It was he bought it. We now have the rights back and are exploring electronic publication possibilities.
Meanwhile, the other ingredient in the success of the Sime~Gen Universe novels was my writing of the Kraith Series of Star Trek fanzine stories. Note: when we went online, we changed the colophon from Sime/Gen to Sime~Gen because we're not "slash."
In the 1970s, "Kraith" took the ESP ingredient of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover novels and added that to Star Trek to tell a new kind of Star Trek story. In addition, Kraith used not the 'anthology' structure of aired-Trek but rather the format that "Babylon 5" made famous in the 1990s as the "story arc."
Kraith gathered more than fifty creative people -- writers, poets, artists -- together to create this alternate universe ST tale. Kraith became so popular that several groups of ST writers here and in England spun off Alternate Kraith universes. In the 1980s, there was an article in the New York Times featuring Kraith and Jean Lorrah's "NTM" ST fanzine stories.
Jean Lorrah had become (in 1980) my co-author on Sime~Gen, with her novel First Channel. Jean and I first encountered each other because we were contributors to Devra Langsam's famous (first) Star Trek fanzine, Spockanalia. After much work on Sime~Gen, Jean went on to write a number of professional Star Trek novels, along with her own universe, Savage Empire, to which Winston Howlett, another ST fanzine writer and editor, contributed a professional novel (Wulfston's Odyssey). (Winston now has a web site on simegen.com). Joan Winston and Winston Howlett both worked for ABC-TV, in different departments.
For me, the real significance of Kraith was as a laboratory to develop and test my theory of what it was that made Star Trek spawn a whole world full of fanzines, conventions, artwork, and an ever growing fandom that wouldn't let the show die.
My theory was "The Tailored Effect." I developed and field-tested the theory in Kraith -- it worked, as noted above. Kraith, as a fictional product, behaved just the way Trek did. It attracted creative writers who contributed their own ideas, spawned controversy and alternate universes, and an ever-growing body of work.
I took the principles developed in Kraith and applied them to Sime~Gen, and again it has worked and is still working.
Yes, the scale of Kraith and S~G is sub-microscopic compared to ST -- and the full proof is not yet in because ST has recently done some things that S~G has not yet accomplished. But I can see the seeds of those accomplishments starting to quicken.
Sime~Gen went for 8 novels in its "first incarnation" (Classic S~G if you will). That period ended with Jean Lorrah's own DAW book, Ambrov Keon in 1986 -- as Trek barely limped to the finish line of 3 seasons.
The fans of Sime~Gen would not let it die. They've produced and published more words of professional quality fiction in the Sime~Gen fanzines than were published professionally and for decades there has been an annual Sime~Gen gathering, hidden inside the annual Darkover Grand Council Meeting. Trek was also kept alive in the fanzines and conventions.
About ten years after Ambrov Keon was published by DAW books, the fans of Sime~Gen who had become scattered onto the Internet began to gather again via a LISTSERV.
The cost of paper and the shrinking interest in fiction printed on paper made fanzine production impractical; and in the mid-90s, the fanzine editors declared the twenty-five years of Sime~Gen fandom at an end.
Within a couple of weeks of the mailing that announced the end of the fanzines, there was a concerted response among online fans -- again, sub-microscopic compared to the response to the cancellation of ST, but of the same emotional texture.
Over the next three or four years, one little step at a time, a thousand-man-hours at a time, S~G fen have rebuilt the universe again online, with many stories and novels posted for reading, IRC rpg's, listserv, and much more, including a functioning online version of one of the 5 fanzines devoted to Sime~Gen on paper. One of the Sime~Gen fanzines, The Tecton Star (an APA'ZINE) is still publishing on paper and is posted online as well. And the fans are still pouring out fiction -- with one difference.
Though the fans who wrote for the paper publications insisted on writing "main line" (to canon) Sime~Gen, online fans are finally branching out into "alternate universe Sime~Gen" and having a ball at it.
Thus, the final test of The Tailored Effect has been met. Sime~Gen has, just like Trek and Kraith, spawned alternate universes with their own vitality in a medium vastly different from that in which the "main line" was originally presented. Note: ST was a TV show, and spawned alternate universes in paper-printed fanzines. Sime~Gen was a series of novels printed on paper, and the fans refused to write Alternate Universe on paper, but now do alternate-universes in cyberspace, published on web sites. So the final test has been passed.
Well, no, not the final-final test. ST went on to reincarnate with new series, new characters, in new eras, and was still successful. In fact, there's likely to be yet another new Trek that I expect I will love.
At this time, S~G has not accomplished that. But there are several projects being worked on that would qualify as something similar. Perhaps we are in the era that Trek went through with the Animated ST Series.
We have a Sime~Gen novel that is not sf/f almost ready to be marketed. We have a Sime~Gen movie script that is on the market and doing very well but not sold yet. House of Zeor is available for free reading on the web at <http://www.bb.com> and being read and making new fans. The old crumbling paperback Sime~Gen novels are going for astronomical amounts of money on the auction-sites.
You asked about the connection between "Star Trek" and "Operation High Time" and If and ST. I've sketched some of that from my own perspective, but there's more than that to the story of Sime~Gen, and each person who tells that story will tell it completely differently.
You can see the article "The Trek Connection" on my sf/f review column web site at <http://www.simegen.com/reviews/rereadablebooks/>.
That will lead you to the Acknowledgements in my current book on Tarot. For more on the Trek/S~G connections, you should look at <http://www.simegen.com/sgfandom/welcommittee/>, particularly the item on Theodore Sturgeon, whom I first met in person at a Trek convention.
Note that Kraith is an amalgam of aired-Trek and Darkover. Darkover is an amalgam of sf and ESP-fantasy, as is Sime~Gen. Marion Zimmer Bradley introduced me to Astrology and Tarot as a way of learning to plot. Theodore Sturgeon's wife read Tarot for me once in San Francisco -- I believe it was at a Trek convention, or possibly a WorldCon with a fringe-fan track.
Now, Jean Lorrah and I have teamed up with a number of Sime~Gen fen who are also Trekfen and created the WorldCrafters Guild on simegen.com where we are teaching what I learned from the Famous Writers School. (I was also one of the few to finish the whole two-year FW course.) We teach the fundamentals of "The Tailored Effect" with one major difference. We don't charge the students any money. They pay us in words and thus become professional writers. See <http://www.simegen.com/school/>.
You can explore all of what's been completed so far (there's much more to come of course) by starting at www.simegen.com and drilling down into the domain.
By the way, my first published writing was a letter to the editor for If Magazine when I was in 7th grade, and it brought me an invitation to join the N3F (the National Fantasy Fan Federation), which I did and became a letter hack and joined my first story-robin. Fred Pohl was at that time a member of the N3F. I am still a member. Now they're online!
This e-mail essay is already too long, and we haven't even discussed Isaac Asimov or Hal Clement or Gordon R. Dickson or Bob Tucker or all the other If writers who were and are perennial features at Trek cons and who have been helpful in the development of Sime~Gen. If Doc Smith were still alive, he'd be among us, too. My tribute to Doc Smith is on the web page of our Buffy Parody Contest -- <http://www.simegen.com/contest/parodycontest.html>.
It is the Trek Space-Opera parody novel Captain Proton. That book is chuck-full of allusions you would miss if you weren't steeped in If and Galaxy, etc. Roddenberry would have laughed and enjoyed the whole Captain Proton shtick. According to our click-through stats, that book cover is getting clicked-on by Buffy fans even though they're not entering the contest.
Now just think about what that means. There is a Buffy/If connection if you know where to look for it. If you're curious about that, you should go to <http://www.simegen.com/reviews/rereadablebooks/1993.html>. Click on March and April and read "Proposal for a New Genre Name."
Buffy (like "Forever Knight") belongs to that new Genre described in that article. The article had been sold before to other magazines, one of them sf; and I re-wrote it to conform to the Monthly Aspectarian's slant. Later, I rewrote it again for a feminist magazine that didn't buy it, and that feminist version is now also posted online as an example item in our Writer's Workshop section: <http://www.simegen.com/school/workshop/IntimateAdventureFem.html>.
My entire review column ("Re-Readable Books"), is criss-crossed with interlinking connections among the writers, readers, and fans of the sf/f field and the fiction they produce, viewed as a conversation among writers. Some of those writers are Sime~Gen fans who grew up to write novels of their own. They may be two generations removed from Fred Pohl's If Magazine, but the heritage is there.
Live Long and Prosper,
***** News *****
* AWARD NOMINEE: Margaret L. Carter tells us that her vampire novel, Dark Changeling (Hard Shell Word Factory, 1999), has been named a finalist in the horror category for the Eppie, the "big" award for e-books, given by the EPIC organization. The novel also ranks No. 3 on the horror best-seller list for peanutpress.com, an e-book distributor. It is topped only by two novels by Stephen King.
* RESTSTOP WRITERS NEWSLETTER'S AWARD: The simegen.com site was given this award for having one of the best writing resources they have come across online.
* FOUNDING 400: Karen Litman reports 298 orders for Hardcover, 193 orders for Paperback, and 37 orders for Paperback ONLY. Some people may have ordered more than one copy of the book. Some people in the record have never stated a preference for either book, so they have "no order" with their names. We need 400 hardcover orders before we're able to publish. Anyone who orders the hardcover can have a name as "Naztehr [Name] ambrov Zeor" listed in the book. Those interested in signing up can do so at <http://www.simegen.com/form1.html>.
If you are unsure of your status, contact Karen through ZeorWel@juno.com. Karen checks that address every few days and can check the database for the name. A form for change of address should be on the same web site as the original form.
* WORLDCON IN CHICAGO. If you are planning to be at the convention, dont forget the Sime-Gen party. Larry Ulrey (email@example.com) is the contact for the party, which is tentatively scheduled for about 9pm on Friday, 1 September. Information about the convention can be found at <http://www.chicon.org/main/top.htm>.
* SITES TO REMEMBER: To sign up for classes, go to <http://www.simegen.com/school/SchoolForms.html>.
To volunteer, go to <http://www.simegen.com/agreements/helpwanted.html> for the latest openings.
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