Being the editor of Analog isn't easy. I know. I've been there. Yet Stan Schmidt makes it seem as if he'd been born for the job-and just maybe he was. There are three major qualifications needed to run Analog:
John Campbell, my predecessor at the job and undoubtedly the most influential individual in the history of science fiction, once said, "The job of the editor is to find a good writer in a bad story." That is, the editor must be able to recognize talent even in a writer's awkward first efforts, to nurture that talent and help it flower.
Stan Schmidt meets all those requirements, and more.
Stanley is a highly-respected writer of science fiction, one of the precious few who has consistently blended real sci-ence with strong character-driven fiction. Tales such as Newton and the Quasi-Apple and The Sins of the Fathers are science fiction at its intriguing and thought-provoking best.
Stan is a physicist, and he has used his training in physics as a springboard from which he has expanded his interests into biology, sociology, and many other aspects of science. His book, Aliens and Alien Societies (Writer's Digest Books, 1996), is an invaluable guide for writers who want to know how to create believable aliens in their science fiction stories.
Above all, Stan is a teacher. He was teaching physics and science fiction writing at Heidelberg College, in Ohio, when I first met him. I once attended one of his writing classes, and immediately recognized that this is the person to edit Analog after I retired from the job.
There is another qualification that the editor of Analog must have: the editor must be able to deal with a hundred thousand or so readers who have six hundred thousand or so opinions on every subject under the sun. Stan does that with much more equanimity than I ever had, and a lot of good humor.
Analog, of course, is known as the bastion of "hard" science fiction. But the magazine is much more than that. It is the central nervous system for a large, cantankerous, extremely bright and knowledgeable gang of men and women of all ages, all political persuasions, all socioeconomic levels, who are connected to one another, intellectually and emotionally, through the pages of the magazine.
Since Campbell's time, the editorials in Analog have been used by the editor to provoke, prod, inspire, ignite, and anger the magazine's readers into thinking, questioning their own assumptions, looking at the world with fresh insights. And maybe writing a publishable story. Many a writer's career began by responding to an Analog editorial that stirred his or her guts. Stan knows how to do that, as the angry letters -and stories- he receives prove amply. He puts on that bemused smile of his when he talks about the angry letters. He knows that the opinions expressed in the editorials are not necessarily the personal opinions of the editor, but many times the readers are too incensed at a given opinion to recognize that fact.
Analog is also the breeding ground for new writers, much more so than any of the other magazines in the field. Readers, writers and fans should be extremely grateful to Stan for that. Like his predecessors, Stan has sacrificed a good deal of his own writing time to help other writers to succeed. That kind of selflessness is rare, and should be treasured.
He spins off story ideas to writers. For example, he turned a chance meeting at a Chicago Worldcon into a writing partnership and a top-notch story. Stan bumped into Joseph H. Delaney and Marc Stiegler while taking his morning walk outside the hotel. Stan introduced them to each other and the three of them started talking about writing and stories (what else?). Stiegler mentioned an idea he had about a self-aware computer program, which he hadn't been able to get into because it required a detailed knowledge both of computers (which he had) and of law (which he hadn't). Delaney, the attorney, allowed as he had been wanting to write a similar story, but he didn't know enough about computers to get started. "Godfather" Stan paired them, and the result was Valentina.
Stan is not helpful only to young writers, either. My latest Analog story began in a conversation we had in his office the last time I visited New York.
Moreover, he is a man of many talents. He plays musical instruments, mainly brass. He hikes in the countryside. He travels around the world. He is equally at home in a publisher's office, a physicist's lab, or a tent in the wilderness.
When "ordinary" people begin to travel in space, I fully expect to see this extraordinary man among the very first.
As I see it, there is only one thing lacking in Stan's brilliant, multi-faceted career: he has never been awarded a Hugo. This seems a shocking failure on the part of science fiction fandom, and I certainly hope it is rectified in the very near future.