With apologies to the late James W. Best for appropriating his image (from his 1935 Forest Life in India)

Thursday, 11 April 2013

That's Me Put in My Place

In 1960, in New Maps of Hell, Kingsley Amis took a characteristically wry look at the Science Fiction scene. It is a little treasure well worth searching for (if a somewhat hastily researched one), and in a nod to Amis in the early 1970s old friends and collaborators Brian Aldiss and Harry Harrison put together Hell's Cartographers (1975), which gives some fascinating insights into the professional lives and working practices of a number of top SF writers of the time:

As always, Harry Harrison, who sadly died last year, is particularly good value, recalling his mother-in-law once putting her head round the door while he was trying to write and saying, "Harry, since you aren't doing anything, would you go to the store for me?" He also writes, "When people ask me 'how is the book coming?' I can respond only by blinking a glassy eye and muttering 'which one?'" I was thinking about this the other day, while helping a friend on a gardening job (writers like me must take whatever work they can get). I've been researching a couple of ideas for another book lately, plus he often asks about Weretiger sales – I think he expects them to hit the million mark any day now – so when he said, "How's the book going?" I felt fully justified in stealing Harrison's line. Back home that evening a family friend rang. "Hi Pat, I was wondering if you could do a few hours weeding for me. Loved your book, by the way..."