Though 1998 marks my twentieth anniversary as editor, Analog and I go back a long way. Some of my earliest memories are of covers on my father's issues of Astounding. I couldn't read them, but I knew there must be something fascinating behind those pictures.
When I could read, I read little but nonfiction, having forgotten those covers and found my few attempts at fiction boring. When Dad suggested I try science fiction, I said, "You mean that crazy stuff with the rockets and robots?"
"It's not all crazy," he said, handing me three volumes of Astounding that his uncle had bound. "Read what's at the bookmarks."
Three stories later, I was hooked. I began reading all the SF I could get my hands on, including Astounding. Some years I bought it off newsstands; some years I subscribed; some issues I rescued from Grandpa's attic. Other magazines I sampled, but Astounding was the one that felt like "my" magazine. I could count on it for stories that I enjoyed reading, and the kinds of ideas my heretical young self liked to kick around.
Not just in the stories, but also in John W. Campbell's editorials, which I found fascinating even when I didn't agree. I began to envy Mr. Campbell his job. It never entered my mind that I might someday actually have his job, but I loved the idea of a job that included a guaranteed monthly soapbox and the chance to hobnob with authors.
In junior high I had a good friend with a bigger allowance and a better science fiction collection than mine, which he would bring to school but not lend overnight. I taught myself to speed read so I could read a borrowed novelette while pretending to pay attention to my social studies class.
And he and I wrote storiesSF storiesand traded comments on them. Soon I got the crazy idea that I'd like to get a story printed in a magazinemaybe even Astounding (which about then was metamorphosing into Analog).
It seemed a high and distant goal, and I wasn't sure I could do it. But I began submitting, and collecting printed rejection slips. As I got more and more of them, I began to suspect I wasn't cut out to be a commercial writer, and rationalized that I was more interested in writing what I wanted than in selling.
In my last undergraduate summer, I produced a long novelette that I knew was different from anything I'd done before, though I still wasn't sure it was commercial. If it got only printed rejection slips, I told myself, I would quit wasting postage.
I don't know whether I would have kept that resolve. That story came back with a typed, signed letter from John W. Campbell saying he liked my style and hoped I would try him again.
Needless to say, I did. After my first year of grad school in physics, I began a determined assault on the magazines, sending out a short story or novelette every month and determined to sell one within a year.
I sold threeto Analog. The third even got a Kelly Freas cover. I kept freelancing while professing physics at Heidelberg College (in Ohio), and finally met John W. Campbell during a New York meeting of the American Physical Society.
I worked closely with John for three years, mostly through correspondence. It was a terrible shock to come back from a vacation and see his obituary in the SFWA Bulletin. I felt a great sense of personal loss, for he was, in a very real sense, my literary father.
He was also the driving force behind one of the most important parts of my lifelong education, and the only market I'd had much luck with. What was to become of the magazine I'd grown up with, and my barely-budded literary career?
Fortunately, Ben Bova took over. Not only did he keep my favorite magazine alive and growing, he kept buying my stories. He even helped a slight and forgettable short story grow into the novels The Sins of the Fathers and Lifeboat Earth, both warmly received by Analog's readers and later published as paperbacks.
After seven years, Ben was ready to move on, and to my amazement (astoundment?) he wanted me to replace him as editor. He blames this decision on his observations of my SF class at Heidelberg, which I taught using methods shamelessly stolen from John Campbell. It sounded like too much fun to pas up, but would mean a major uprooting of my life. Not to worry, Ben assured me when he broached the subject; none of this would happen for at least tw years. Two months later, he called me up to say he'd just resigned.
So, I had to make all those decisions quite suddenly, and I think I made them right. Editing Analog is a lot of fun, though of course it has both ups and downs. Many writers I grew up knowing only as names on storie became friends; but too often and too soon I find myself writing thei obituaries. On the other hand, I get the rare but incomparable thrill of discovering new writers. I have largely cut myself out of my own best marke for short fiction, since I'm reluctant to publish my own stories. (Though I can be talked into it if another editor I respect tells me, "I can't use it but think you should.") The monthly soapbox is a continual source of fu both for me and for the faithful readers who take keyboard in hand to attack whatever I say
And the future? Well, the future is what Analog is all about: we want to build a good one, and we think it can be done. That kind of attitude has far more to do with the continuing character of Analog than the popular misconception that "It's all rivets." And "continuing character" does not mean that the magazine keeps doing the same thing, any more than I am the same four-year-old who looked at Astounding covers and wondered what they meant.
I hope to keep steering Analog through new territory for quite a while When I leave I'll make every effort to leave it in hands I can trust to kee it a magazine that Iand, I hope, youwill want to read
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