Thoughts . . . by Mark Rich

. . . scribbled . . . scrawled . . . trimmed . . . typewritten . . . grubbed up . . . squeezed from circumstance . . .

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Four Reasons for Silence

For quite some time it has been on my mind to make mild noises again in my quiescent blog.

A series of situations made it seem more appropriate to keep my thoughts unaired and publicly unshared, however.

Two years ago Martha and I were jointly leaving a job situation that had made the two of us a bit angry. Whatever reasons we may have had, why make uncomfortable protests that benefit no one?

During the same period, one of Cyril Kornbluth's collaborators started making unmeasured statements about my C.M. Kornbluth, and about me. The statements verged on the absurd. To avoid a fruitless war of meaningless pixels, even though observers were poised and eager to witness a war of words, electronic silence on the matter seemed my best option. I had devoted many years and had written hundreds of thousands of words in developing the picture offered by my book.

To have defended my book adequately would have meant repeating it, word for word, footnote by footnote.

Soon after this, "reviews" of my book began appearing on Amazon. The "reviewers" spoke in outrage or disgust about my book's contents while making it obvious they had not read it. In one case the reviewer stated outright that he had not read my book.

While one or two of these were expunged by the Amazon editors, I believe one or two remain.

A hallmark of these literary oddities, by these presuming "reviewers," is their insistence on trotting out the supposed facts of Kornbluth. They note that Kornbluth was a highly prolific writer, and that he drank a lot.

Readers of countless introductions to Kornbluth stories would gather these impressions. Those who gave my book a full reading, however, should feel considerable hesitation about standing behind either statement.

While Cyril was clearly capable of tossing off quality writing under pressure -- true of many among us -- his creative work reflected a studious and careful approach. He developed his capacity for careful literary work during his teen years. Later, in producing the works of his maturity, he labored and sometimes struggled; and he balanced his rough drafts, sometimes quickly produced, by subjecting them to intense and prolonged periods of consideration and revision.

His output per year, in the 1950s, was relatively low.

As to drinking ... Cyril does fall into the category of writers who drink. This category includes a huge group of us. Cyril seems not to fall into the category of writers who need to drink to write, however. His command of prose is durably precise, cogent and clear-headedly rational -- to an intimidating degree.

Worth noting, too, for those who have not read my book: Cyril went through several periods when the meager income that was coming in must have gone in its entirety to home and family expenses. For prolonged periods, drinking money must have been tough to come by. This seems especially, and painfully, to have been true near the end.

Those who trot out such "facts" about Cyril Kornbluth are drawing a picture of the poorly-known man from the image of a widely-known boy. In the small realm of late-1930s science fiction fandom, Cyril was a fairly famous teenager. Cyril's life as an adult, however, was almost entirely unknown until publication of my book.

I hope these "reviewers" are making that mistake. Otherwise they are being a bit too easy about insulting the man's memory.

Returning to silences ... early in 2011 I found that the judgeship for the World Fantasy Awards, which had been proposed to me the previous November, was becoming reality: so suddenly I was doing a great deal of reading which I felt I should not, as judge, be talking about in public. So, again, I felt encouraged to remain mum about matters on my mind.

In the same week that the WFA panel of judges was winding up its work, I accepted work at a vineyard -- eagerly, since between judging and maintaining house and garden I had almost zero income for a period of months.

This work offered perfect fodder for this blog.

The future of matters at the vineyard and winery, however, kept changing from week to week, sometimes day to day, due to the vagaries of the owner's changeable mind ... upsetting me considerably, at times ... making me feel uncomfortable writing about enough matters that I, again, felt ...

Cheers ...

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