I read this book while I was still in grade school–Master of Life and Death by Robert Silverberg. Its theme was a harsh government response to “overpopulation.”
Now I’m reading Hell’s Cartographers, autobiographical sketches by prominent science fiction writers who had long careers; and the first essay is by Robert Silverberg.
Fascinating! And it’s a paradox. Silverberg attained financial success as a writer when he was still very young, and yet he was haunted by a conviction that all he’d done was to become a hack who cranked out reams and reams of bilge. And he tells you how he did it! Gee, I never even though of doing most of the things he did to grow his career. And I haven’t yet read how he resolved his inner conflict. All I see is that you can become a big success without doing anything worthwhile.
I suspect that one of the lessons I’ll learn from this book is that each and every published writer must follow his own path to “getting there.” My own path has been long and convoluted: didn’t get a novel published until 1986. If only I’d thought of schmoozing with other individuals in the publishing industry!
But would my own work have been the better or the worse for it?
Once upon a time I wrote a perfectly serviceable thriller that a major magazine would have bought and published–if, and only if, I rewrote it to plug in some sleazy sex scenes. I agonized over this for quite a while; but my wife warned me that if I did it, it would surely come back to haunt me. And how could I ever present such work to my Aunt Betty, the nun, or Uncle Bernie, a Methodist minister? So I didn’t make the changes, and that was that.
Hell’s Cartographers, I think, will be quite an adventure for me.