Thursday, January 10, 2008

Martin Morse Wooster, Silver Spring MD, USA

Many thanks for Challenger #26. Mike Resnick says that Writers Guild members summoned to Los Angeles to meet with producers have to by contract, "be flown first class, driven by limo, all meals paid for, and stay in five-star hotels." Gee, how can I get a contract like that? I'm lucky if someone pays me to stay in a Motel 6! But I do like Resnick's stories of the high life, and I hope he has many more of them to share with Challenger readers.

As for your comments about "the only duty of an artist is to tell the truth" - well, again, artists shouldn't kowtow to a finicky public or ham-handed editors. But reasonable editing and reasonable requests from fans ought to be taken in stride. Of course fen can sometimes be swill; I remember in the great documentary Trekkies DeForest Kelley recalling how someone asked him for a blood sample "for my collection." (Apparently, the doofus made the request more than once.)

I'd like to know who had contributed to that collection.

But writers shouldn't be like Anthony Burgess, who, I was told, would take any book sent to him for a signature and sell it. I just read a profile of Sir Paul McCartney in The New Yorker where McCartney explained that he'll happily sign anything admirers bring him, but he won't allow any photos. That seems fair to me.

You interviewed Robert A. Heinlein! Can I touch you? [No!] But seriously, "A Show of Hands" was a good piece, and I'm glad you dusted it off. I'm sure you'll hear from Heinlein fans about it
- and I hope you don't hear from those who think their hero was flawless. (And do you still just collect the autographs of Hugo winners, or have your tastes changed?)

If you ever read Challenger #1, you'll read how I wasted much of my first worldcon-- in 1969 -- bugging writers to sign their books. A fan could spend the whole con doing that.
So now that I have better things to do at a convention, I only go out of my way to get autographs on award winners
... or classics... or first novels...
or anything else that catches my eye.

I'm sure many of the comedians Mike Resnick speaks of were really funny. (I know the names of at least half of them.) But where is someone who is interested in these comedians going to hear their work? How many radio stations broadcast comedy? Many record stores have cut their comedy sections to a bare minimum. So it's perfectly understandable that no one under the age of 60 has ever heard the work of Severn Darden or Mina Kolb.

Greg Benford is right that no one has really replaced Carl Sagan, and that Sagan did more good than harm. But isn't the reason there's no Sagan successor the natural reluctance of professors to popularize their work? Britain has many "TV dons" who are good at popularizing history. We certainly need more scientists who are good at explaining science to the public.

Best I've ever seen, Jacob Bronouski of The Ascent of Man, but even he couldn't compete with the magnificent "Mr. Wizard", Don Herbert, just this season passed beyond the physical world to the place where all things are known.


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