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***


 When Campbell took the piece, I made one cautious stipulation. I knew it would appear in the spring and I knew that in the spring I would come up for my 'oral examinations' - the last hurdle on the path to my Ph.D. I didn't want any austere member of the examining board to decide I was making fun of chemical research and to be sufficiently offended to vote against me on the grounds that I wasn't temperamentally suited to the high honor of the doctorate. - So I asked Campbell to run it under a pseudonym.

 When the magazine with the article finally reached the newsstands, in mid-February 1948, I was appalled to discover that Campbell had utterly forgotten the matter of the pseudonym. The article appeared under my own name and I was scheduled to have my orals within three months. My nervousness was increased when, almost at once, copies of the magazine began circulating in the chemistry department.

 On May 20, 1948,1 had my orals. The examining board had seen the article. After I had been on the grill for an hour and twenty minutes, the last question (asked by Professor Ralph S. Halford) was, 'Mr. Asimov, tell us something about the thermo-dynamic properties of the compound thiotimoline.'

 I broke into hysterical laughter put of sheer relief, for it struck me instantly that they wouldn't play good-natured jokes with me (Professor Halford sounded jovial and everyone else was smiling) if they were going to flunk me. I was led out, still laughing, and after a twenty-minute wait, the examiners emerged, shook my hand, and said, 'Congratulations, Dr. Asimov.'

 My fellow students insisted on forcing five Manhattans down my throat that afternoon and, since I am a teetotaler under normal conditions and have no tolerance for alcohol, I was royally drunk at once. It took them three hours to sober me up.

 After the official ceremonies, on June 1, 1948, I was Isaac Asimov, Ph.D.

 As it turned out, Campbell 's non-use of a pseudonym (and I bet he did it deliberately, because he was smarter than I was) was a lucky break indeed. Not only did the examining board not take it amiss, but the article became, in a minor way, famous, and I with it.

 Although 'Thiotimoline' appeared in Astounding, as did all my stories of the time, it received circulation far outside the ordinary science fiction world. It passed from chemist to chemist, by way of the magazine itself, or by reprints in small trade journals, or by copies pirated and mimeographed, even by word of mouth. People who had never heard of me at all as a science fiction writer, heard of thiotimoline. It was the very first time my fame transcended the field.

 What's more, although 'Thiotimoline' was essentially a work of fantasy, the form was that of non-fiction. Viewed from that standpoint, 'Thiotimoline was the first piece of non-fiction I had ever published professionally - the harbinger of a vast amount to come.

 But what amused me most was that a surprising number of readers actually took the article seriously. I was told that in the weeks after its appearance the librarians at the New York Public Library were driven out of their minds by hordes of eager youngsters who demanded to see copies of the fake journals I had used as pseudo references.

 But back to the summer of 1947 -

 Over a period of five years I had sold fourteen stories, every one of them to Campbell. This didn't mean that he was the only editor in the field, at all. Almost all the magazines that had been published before the war still existed (although only Astounding was really doing well) and would have welcomed submissions from me. Had Campbell rejected any of the stories I had submitted to him, I would certainly have tried one of those other magazines. - But he didn't, so I didn't.

 The magazine Startling Stories, in which I had published 'Christmas on Ganymede' five and a half years before, published a forty-thousand word 'short novel' in each issue. It wasn't easy to get a publishable story of that length every month though, especially since Startling's rate was only half that of Astounding.

 Sometimes it was necessary, therefore, for the editor of the magazine, who at that time was Sam Merwin, Jr., to canvass those authors known to be capable of turning out such a story. About the time I was doing 'Thiotimoline,' Merwin approached me with a suggestion that I write a lead short novel.

 Startling, he explained, had always published stories with the accent on adventure, but, in imitation of Astounding's success, he had persuaded the publisher to try the experiment of publisting stories with a heavier accent on science. Would I consider, then, doing a lead for Startling?

 I was terribly flattered. Also, as I said earlier, I was nervous about having become a one-editor author and would have welcomed a chance to prove to myself that I could write beyond Campbell 's protective shadow. I agreed, therefore, and a good part of the summer of 1947 (when I wasn't engaged in preparing my experimental data for the upcoming Ph.D. dissertation) was spent in preparing a story I called 'Grow Old with Me.' [7]

 By August 3 I had completed first draft. On August 26, I had the first part of it in final copy and submitted that to Merwin. He approved. On September 23 the entire story was submitted and I had no doubt, whatever, of its acceptance. On October 15, 1947, however, Merwin told me that, alas, Startling had decided not to go for heavy science, after all, but for adventure, and that 'Grow Old with Me' would have to be completely rewritten with no guarantee of acceptance after that.

 I suppose it is an indication of how things had advanced when I tell you it was the first time that I did not accept a request for revision philosophically. Quite otherwise! It had been five years and more since even Campbell had rejected one of my stories; how, then, dare a comparative nonentity like Merwin do so? Particularly since he had approached me for the story?

 I made no effort to hide my annoyance. In fact, I seized the manuscript and stalked out of the office, and in an obvious rage [8] I submitted the story to Campbell, giving him a full account of events. - I have always made it a practice to tell any editor to whom I submit a story of any rejection it has previously received. There is no necessity to do this; it is not, as far as I know, an ethical requirement for a writer. I just do it, and it has not, again as far as I know, ever cost me an acceptance.

 As it happened, Campbell rejected the story, but not, I'm sure, because it had been somewhere else first. He told me enough things wrong with the story to make me feel that perhaps Merwin had not been so arbitrary in rejecting it. I thrust the story in the drawer in disgust and thought no more about it for nearly two years.

 The rejection came at a bad time. More and more, I was wrapped up in trying to complete my research, in writing my dissertation, and, most of all, in anxiously looking for a job. There wasn't much time to write, and the rejection had sufficiently disheartened and humiliated me so that I withdrew from writing for nearly a year. This was the third long withdrawal of my writing career, and, to this date, the last.

 I did not find a job; my expected Ph.D. degree was no passport to affluence, after all. That was humiliating, too.

 I accepted an offer from Professor Robert C. Elderfield to do a year's postdoctoral research for him for $4,500, working on anti-malarial drugs, I accepted, though not with great enthusiasm, and started work for him on June 2, 1948, the day after I had officially gained my Ph.D. - At least it would give me another year to find a job.

 By the next month, I had settled down sufficiently to consider writing a science fiction story, 'The Red Queen's Race.' On July 12 it was finished and I submitted it to Campbell. It was accepted on the sixteenth and once again I was back in business.


Figure 4 | The Early Asimov. Volume 3 | The Red Queens Race [9]







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