Saturday, June 23, 2007

Regarding Roger Elwood

I belong to a Yahoo news group called Fiction Mags, moderated by Paul DiFillipo. Today Robert Silverberg reported that apparently the well-known and rather controversial anthlogist Roger Elwood passed away. Elwood is best known for cranking out so many anthologiess in the 1970s that he essentially crashed the market. Raising his ghost generated a lot of conversation. I weighed in in what was certianly the longest post I've ever made, and since it has some funny anecdotes, I thought I'd repeat part of it here.

"As someone who's s-f consumption over the years has been almost all short stories, I appreciate anthologies and I hunted up many over the years. I've found them in some pretty strange places, too. I found a pristine 1950s copy of "Adventures in Time and Space" used as a book shelf decoration in a used furniture store. The owner was bumfuzzled when I offered to buy the book. I think I gave him a dollar.
That being said, over the years I've picked up and put down most Elwood anthologies I've found. His taste and modus operandi was obviously scattershot; I always could find any worthwhile stories he included in another, better. anthology someplace.
"The only Elwood anthology I ever picked up was "Visions of Tomorrow: Am Interstellar Collection", and that was because it had a Gardner Dozois story I had never read, "The Storm".
"That book also led to a funny incident. It has a stupid, garish cover, with some of demon open-armed in a desert landscape. It obviously was some kind of pre-existing art work that the publisher slapped on the cover. It has nothing to do with anything inside. It's so ugly that I once sat the book down in an armchair and while I was gone my dog growled and attacked the book! I ran back and saved it, but she ate the TOC and the first page of acknowledgments. Now that's a bad cover.
"Before that, I once took the book with me to a school board meeting. As a community newspaper editor, I sometimes have to occupy myself while a board meets in executive session behind closed doors. I will often sit and read a book. One time I took this ugly-ass Elwood book. I was sitting there in the board room, with a few of the school administrators who were also waiting for the board to reconvene, holding the book up chest-high and reading it when I looked over and saw the other people giving me strange looks. I forgot about the cover; they probably thought I was reading a Satanic bible. I put the book down and explained what it was. Since then, I take the cover into consideration when I toss a book in the briefcase.
"Oh, and I agree that Gardner is probably under-rated as an anthologist. He certainly tries to be comprehensive. If you read the honorable mention list in the back of each annual edition, you appreciate how much work he does. He goes through some very small publications and e-zines. I've had eight HMs in the past three editions of his YBSF; six of them were from small e-zines. In two cases, the e-zines were so small I'm the only HM they ever received. I'm amazed he saw the stories in the first place, so he certainly works very hard. He also has good taste and discernment."

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