Episode 158: Live with Malcolm Edwards and David G. Hartwell

Recorded live in San Antonio, Texas at  LoneStarCon 3, this week’s episode sees our intrepid podcasters once again depending on the vagaries of hotel internet connections and Skype calls to bring you the very best in science fiction podcasting.

This week Gary and Jonathan are joined by Malcolm Edwards, Managing Director of Orion Books, and David G. Hartwell, senior editor at Tor.  In a freewheeling discussion, these two enormously experienced and respected giants of the science fiction publishing industry discuss contemporary publishing, editing, and their deep and abiding love for science fiction.

We would like to thank David and Malcom for joining us, and hope you enjoy the podcast. We would also like to thank everyone who nominated The Coode Street Podcast for the Hugo Award this year (it’s greatly appreciated) and send out our sincere congratulations to all the 2013 Hugo Awards winners.

Why do people write science fiction?

Last weekend I sat in on a discussion with Malcolm Edwards and David G. Hartwell about science fiction, publishing and editing. It’ll form the basis of an upcoming episode of the Coode Street Podcast, and I strongly recommend it. We can give too much attention to the aging white male demographic in SF, but these two men really have achieved remarkable things and lived through fascinating times. The editors of The Shadow of the Torturer, Mythago Wood, Empire of the Sun, Neuromancer, and many, many more: iconic books that evoke worlds when you hear their titles mentioned.

During the discussion, Malcolm and David touch on how difficult it can be for a writer to make their living from writing SF in 2013. David mentions that for a long period of time there were possibly five people in the field making a full-time living from writing SF, and that we may be returning to those days. Publishing is sufficiently complex that I don’t know if that will prove to be true or not, but I was struck by David’s comment that at one time writing SF was a holy mission, a passion that drove writers, almost regardless of economic benefits (or the lack thereof). And I wondered, is that still true for writers today? I think it is, I suspect it is, and I bet I could point to a number of writers for whom I believe it is true, but I think I want to find out. I’m considering doing a new limited series of short interviews/podcasts to ask that very question: why do you write SF and do you feel a burning passion to do so? I think the answers would be fascinating…


Frederik Pohl

Frederik Pohl has died. If you’re reading this and wonder why this is important, there’s a clue or two here. Pohl started publishing in 1937, attended the first Worldcon in 1939, and was part of pretty much everything interesting in science fiction for the next 60 years.

As a writer he co-wrote some of the best satire the field has seen with C.M. Kornbluth, and one of the greatest space adventures too. His fiction was sharp and smart and dark and sometimes sly.  There’s a taste of what he could do in his short fiction. He was also an incredible editor, editing Galaxy and If magazines, the influential Star anthology series and novels like Samuel R. Delany’s Dhalgren and Joanna Russ’s The Female Man. He  was instrumental in publishing Cordwainer Smith, R.A. Lafferty and many others. Pohl was an influential literary agent, a Hugo Award winning blogger, and even wrote for the Encyclopedia Brittanica back when that really meant something.

I had a chance to talk to Pohl once. I was at the launch for Scot Edelman’s SF Age at the 1993 WorldCon in San Francisco. The event was held in a large room with big circular ottomans that people were sitting on.  I was sitting on one with Jeremy Byrne, when I noticed an elderly couple sitting on the other side of the ottoman (about six or eight feet away). It was Pohl. I was so overcome I couldn’t say anything. I remember whispering in an awed voice to Jeremy “that’s Fred Pohl!”. I couldn’t imagine actually talking to him. I wish I had, because then I could have thanked him for the many hours of pleasure his work gave me, how much I’d loved The Space Merchants and Gateway and Man Plus and The Years of the City. It’s a mistake I won’t make again.

My old friend Charles Brown said the thing that made Fred Pohl so impressive was that he constantly interested in and engaged by the world. He travelled extensively, often with Charles, and that was reflected in his work. With his passing, I think the first great Golden Age of Science Fiction has finally ended. Vale.

2013 Hugo Awards

The 2013 Hugo Awards were presented at Lonestarcon 3 today.  The full results and the detailed statistics are now online. My enthusiastic, effusive and possibly slightly embarrassingly over the top congratulations to all of the winners and nominees. Special congratulations to the first Australian woman ever to win a Hugo, Tansy Rayner Roberts, who won for Best Fan Writer and to Pat Cadigan, whose Edge of Infinity story “The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi” won for Best Novelette. I’m very proud to have published the story.

My thanks also to everyone who nominated and voted for me for Best Editor, Short Form and for the Coode Street Podcast for Best Fancast. I can assure you very genuinely that every nomination and every vote is appreciated, and that it is an honour to have appeared on the ballot. Now, back to work!