O R A L   H I S T O R Y   A S S O C I A T I O N                                         

     Series SP is reserved for Special Tapes--edited presentations, laboratory experiments, and so on.  From time to time experiments are performed to see what might be done with oral history other than merely preserving it, and some of these are included here. 

Tapes 1-3 represent an Interviewing Laboratory experiment.  There were two interviewing subjects, Joe Haldeman and Lloyd Biggle, Jr.  There were four interviewers, Barry McGhan, Lee Pelton, George "Lan" Laskowski, and Cris Barkley.  McGhan and Laskowski were high school teachers;  Barkley was a professional interviewer with his own radio program on Station WAIF, Cincinnati.  Pelton was a Minneapolis fan.  They were brave men and the heroes of this particular experiment--they knew that they were putting their efforts on tape to be analyzed and criticized in perpetuity.   

Each interviewer interviewed both subjects on the question, "How did you get started writing?" Interviews were limited to fifteen minutes and timed by the assisting technicians (Tara Edwards and Trudy Adams).  The plan agreed to by the two interviewing subjects, Biggle and Haldeman, was that they would be fully cooperative and make no problems for the interviewers--but that they would not volunteer information.  In a normal interview, a subject frequently will ramble on, using a question as a springboard into other subjects.  In these interviews, the object was to answer questions freely but to limit the response to the answer the question called for, in order to see just what information the interviewers would bring out under these circumstances and how they would go about it. 

Two of the interviewers had several weeks notice of the project -- George Laskowski and Barry McGhan.  The other two were recruited on the scene and had perhaps an hour notice in the turmoil of a Science Fiction convention.  The interviews took place at Nine Billion Names of ConFusion, at the Plymouth Hilton Hotel in Plymouth, Michigan, 1/23/81. 

Each of the first two tapes contains the four interviews of one of the subjects.  On the third tape, Haldeman and Biggle discuss and evaluate their experiences.  Logically, there should have been a concluding fourth tape with a panel in which the four interviewers discuss and evaluate their experiences, but this was not thought of until long afterward. 

     Both Sides.  Interviewing Laboratory.  Joe Haldeman, interviewed on the subject, "How did you get started writing?" by four interviewers in this order:  Barry McGhan, Lee Pelton, George Laskowski, and Cris Barkley.  See the above note for more information. 

     Both Sides.  Interviewing Laboratory.  Lloyd Biggle, Jr., interviewed on the subject, "How did you get started writing?" by four interviewers in this order:  George Laskowski, Cris Barkley, Barry McGhan, and Lee Pelton.  See the above note for more information. 

     Side A Only.  Joe Haldeman and Lloyd Biggle, Jr., discuss and evaluate the experience of the interviews recorded on Tapes SP--1 and SP--2.  See the above note for more information.

Side B. Blank. 

     Both Sides.  "Utopian Change," the Eisenhower Symposium Lecture given by Isaac Asimov at Johns Hopkins University, 3/3/74.  This is the lecture of Tape MSU--2, edited by Charles Oliver to make it more suitable for public playing.  The lengthy introduction has been cut, and the tape arranged on a 60 minute cassette with the lecture on Side A and the Q&A Session on Side B. 

     Both Sides.  Oral History Demonstration.  This was a program presentation by Lloyd Biggle, Jr., at the First Science Fiction Oral History Conference, held at ConFusion 14, January, 1977, at the Ann Arbor Inn, Ann Arbor, MI.  The origins of the conference (at which SFOHA was founded) are discussed, and brief excerpts of SF personalities speaking are presented as a demonstration of the potentialities of oral history.  The master tape is open reel 007.  This cassette was remastered by Charles Oliver.  50 minutes. 

     Side A.  John W. Campbell Presentation, designed by Lloyd Biggle, Jr.    SFOHA has sponsored a number of panels and interviews about John W. Campbell.  This presentation consists of a series of quotes taken from tapes that were available at the time (7/4/80) by Lloyd Biggle, Jr., and engineered by Nancy Tucker.  (It should be noted that material accumulated since then would make possible a much richer presentation.)  There is no commentary on the tape.  The plan was for the person in charge of the presentation to comment on each excerpt before it was played.  There is a lapse of fifteen seconds between excerpts--which proved to be much too long!  This can be alleviated by having the technician (if one is available) run twelve seconds of tape while the next excerpt is announced.

     This tape has been used several times by Biggle, including presentations at the Intensive English Institute on the Teaching of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas, and at the SFRA National Meeting at Midland, Michigan.  Tape SP--7 was used in connection with these presentations, an excerpt from one of Campbell's introductions being played so that the audience could hear Campbell's voice.  Biggle also added his own commentary on Campbell and let the audiences see examples of Campbell's famous lengthy letters to writers.  That of course cannot be reproduced here, but a complete index of the contents of the presentation follows, with the comments that introduced each excerpt: 

     Who was John W. Campbell, Jr., to the writers who worked with him?  What were their experiences with Him?  What did they think about him?

     1.  Theodore Sturgeon knew John Campbell for almost thirty years, and he was very closely associated with him for part of that period.  We asked him--what sort of a person was John Campbell?

     2.  Jack Williamson knew Campbell in the 1930s before Campbell became editor of Astounding, and he had a long association with him.  Was asked him--what kind of a scientist was John Campbell?

     3.  Poul Anderson worked with Campbell and wrote for him for almost 25 years.  He had numerous personal contacts with him during that time.  He talks about the diversity of Campbell's interests.

     4.  John Campbell was a man of strong opinions and strong prejudices, as well as far-out (if not crackpot) ideas.  These were disturbing to many of his friends and associates.  By the end of his life they had in fact ruptured some close friendships.  Theodore Sturgeon discusses this.

     5.  Did Campbell really believe in the extreme positions he sometimes took, or did he simply love an argument?  Gordon Dickson describes the fate of one Campbell argument with Lester del Rey.

     6.  During his lifetime, Campbell was sometimes accused of trying to impose his ideas on writers and attempting to make them reshape their stories to fit the Campbell philosophy.  We asked Poul Anderson if this were true.

     7.  We asked Theodore Sturgeon the same question and got a very different answer.

     8.  Campbell's assistance to writers was legendary.  Jack Williamson describes how Campbell's suggestions helped him with writing problems and in planning a story series.

     9.  Murray Yaco, an outsider who had never written science fiction, describes how he dropped in unannounced to see Campbell and received an article assignment.  Yaco later did the article--about dowsing--and started Campbell on a new fad.

     10.  Stanley Schmidt, a later editor of Analog, visited Campbell as a new writer with only a few published stories, and he describes his reception--with additional commentary by Theodore Sturgeon.

     11.  Lloyd Biggle and Theodore Sturgeon talk about Campbell's public appearances.

     12.  Lou Tabakow, a writer and long-time Science Fiction fan, presents another view of Campbell at science fiction conventions.

     13.  Theodore Sturgeon discusses his indebtedness to Campbell and the ways in which Campbell helped him.

     14.  Writers were sometimes intimidated by Campbell.  Murray Yaco tells how an agent prepared him for this.

     15.  One of Campbell's ideas was that mixed breeding produces superior offspring.  (Campbell himself had a dazzling mixture of nationalities in his ancestry.)  Gordon Dickson describes how Ben Bova--later Campbell's successor as editor of Analog--innocently derailed Campbell on this point.

     16.  Poul Anderson tells of his experiences as an author trying to talk back to Campbell.  He also discusses the stimulation of Campbell's ideas and how Campbell contributed story ideas to writers.

     17.  Theodore Sturgeon has further comments about Campbell as a source of story ideas.

     18.  Poul Anderson discusses Campbell's death.

     19.  And a last word from John W. Campbell, Jr., as related by Theodore Sturgeon.

     Side B has a copy of Tape CM--41, the skit, "Stuck on the Shoulder of the Road to Science Fiction." 

     Both Sides.  "Exploring Tomorrow."  Three SF radio plays broadcast on the Mutual Radio Network in 1957 and 1958.  Each play has an introduction and a concluding commentary by John W. Campbell, Jr.  Flip turn.  64 minutes.

     The plays: 

     "The Mountain of Diamond."  An Earthman and his "inferior" companion find themselves climbing a Venusian mountain in search of a huge diamond when savage natives attack.  A lesson in interplanetary race relations.

     "Meddler's Moon."  A time travel story about a man from the year 2008 who travels 50 years into the past (1958) to visit his grandfather-to-be and make sure that he gets born.

     "The Moon is New."  The first American Astronaut lands on the moon, only to find out that the first Russian is already there...and claiming the moon as Soviet property. 


     Side A Only.  Song by Theodore Sturgeon, "When you gave me your heart..."  The text for this song appears in Theodore Sturgeon's story, "Thunder and Roses".  The melody is by Theodore Sturgeon.  This is the master tape of a concert arrangement for voice and piano, recorded by EMU students on the occasion of Sturgeon's visit as GoH at the convention ConClave, November, 1978.  Master is a 90 minute cassette;  the short selection appears at the beginning of Side A, and copies can be made on 60 minute cassettes.

     Side B.  Blank. 

     Side A Only.  Song by Theodore Sturgeon, "When you gave me your heart..."  This is a copy from the SP--8 master, followed by a second song, "Saucers of Loneliness," by Kittredge Cary, a Boston fan, and recorded by her in a charming "sound on sound" rendition.  It was inspired by Sturgeon's story, "A Saucer of Loneliness."  These two songs were played at the interview presentation, "The Worlds of Theodore Sturgeon," at ConClave, November, 1978, and they appear on that tape (MSU--15).  The selections are only five or six minutes long.  The master is a 90 minute cassette;  copies can be made on 60 minute cassettes. 

     Side B. Blank. 

     Side A Only. Excerpts copied from tape MSU-12 for use in the T.L. Sherred In Memoriam Presentation.

     Side B. Blank. 

     Both Sides. In Memoriam presentation for T.L. Sherred at MidWestcon 37, Cincinnati, June 28, 1986. Howard DeVore reads a script written by Lloyd Biggle, Jr.; Dave Locke is the recording technician. The formal presentation is followed by informal reminiscences from fans and friends of T.L. Sherred:  Howard DeVore, Mary Lu Sherred, Ed Wood. The audio is poor in the Sherred excerpts--this is a problem with such presentations because the procedure involves recording and re-recording them several times. Even when the sound is adequate in the room, the problem of recording from another tape recorder makes it difficult to obtain good results for the taped part of the program.  SP--11 is intended as an illustration with no intention that it be played for the public. The T.L. Sherred In Memoriam presentation could be repeated easily using SP--10 with another (live) reading of the text. 

              T. L. S H E R R E D 

               1 9 1 5 -- 1 9 8 5 

             In Memoriam Presentation 

Text by Lloyd Biggle, Jr.; T.L. Sherred's remarks are taken from an interview recorded for SFOHA on December 3, 1977.  He was one of the most unusual science fiction writers of our time. His output was small, but his style and his approach to his material were so original, and the quality of his work so high, that his total of four stories and one novel constitute a landmark. These excerpts you are going to hear are taken from an interview I did with Tom in 1977--five years or so after he'd had a stroke. His speech faltered while he searched for a word, and sometimes hearing him out required patience, but the result was always worth the effort. 

     When I first met Tom, he was a technical writer--and a very knowledgeable one. Of course it seemed perfectly logical that a technical writer should produce science fiction. I learned only much later that the science fiction came first. 

EXAMPLE 1. "My intention was to be a teacher..."


     His background was a practical one. Note that he began in the shop--at the old Packard Motor Car Company. Later he worked for Ford and then Chrysler. His approach to technology was always that of the man who can build it himself. 

EXAMPLE 2. "I went to an advertising agency..." 

     Jobs like this shaped his writing technique as well as his approach to writing. 

EXAMPLE 3. "I learned under pressure to write very fast..." 

     Out of this came a rushing, breathless style of writing that emerged remarkably in works of fiction.  Around 1946, he went to work on a story that now is celebrated. "E for Effort." How does a classic originate? 

EXAMPLE 4. "I can remember merely thinking that it would make a good story..." 

     The reference to money concerned a joke that Tom and I kept going for years. He had remarked somewhere that he only wrote when he needed the money, and I maintained that the world of science fiction had been impoverished by the fact that Tom had gone through life in a state of regrettable prosperity.  "E for Effort" brought Tom his first fan letter. 

     EXAMPLE 5. "I sent 'E for Effort' to Campbell..." 

     "E for Effort" made a tremendous impression. Fans who were reading science fiction at that time have told me how totally overwhelmed they were by that story. Tom's fiction was unique, and so was his attitude. No one could accuse him of rushing to capitalize on his sudden fame. "E for Effort" appeared in Astounding Science Fiction in 1947. He was not heard from again until six years later, when he suddenly emerged again with two stories: "Eye for Iniquity" in Galaxy and "Cue for Quiet" in Space Science Fiction. The following year there was one more, "Cure Guaranteed," in Future Science Fiction. That was all--four stories. 

     They have been published in Tom's only collection of stories, one of his two books. I'm one of the lucky persons who owns a copy. Tom wrote in it, "This book is under a pen name of Lloyd Biggle." There are several stories that I could tell concerning it. One concerns the title. The stories were submitted without a title. After the collection was accepted, Tom's agent, Virginia Kidd, asked him what he wanted it called. He said, "First Person Peculiar." Some long time went by, and then Virginia got back to him and said, "About the title. Ballantine says that simply won't do at all, and you'll have to think of something else." 

     "Have to" was not a phrase that Tom was likely to pay much attention to.  I can see him sitting back with a shrug and letting the problem work itself out--which eventually it did. Some long time afterward, Virginia Kidd contacted him again and said, "Say--Ballantine has thought of a great title for your book. They want to call it First Person Peculiar." Tom said, "Sounds great," and that is what the book is called. 

     But, sadly, there were only the four stories, and the collection did not appear until 1972. In the meantime, a lot of people were urging Tom to write more stories. 

EXAMPLE 6. "Damon Knight used to want me to write..." 

     In the mid-1960s, Science Fiction Writers of America was founded.  Suddenly it was possible to make lists of writers and their addresses and find out where everyone was.  The results were extremely interesting.  For a few years, back in the 1960s, Michigan was one of the most popular places of residence for science fiction writers. It was second only to New York as a place of residence for SFWA members. This was before everyone decided to live in California. For a time, the Michigan science fiction authors got together once a month for dinner--to talk, exchange gossip and news, paw over each other's plot problems, or whatever. One of the "whatevers" was to continue that needling of Tom about his not writing.  This--or something--had a result.  Tom wrote a novel called Alien Island.  Like everything else, he did it in a rush. No one knew he was at work on it; suddenly there it was, and he was asking us for marketing suggestions. It was published in 1970. Again I am the lucky owner of a copy; this is a fairly rare book. Ballantine suffered some kind of catastrophe--fire or flood or some such thing--that destroyed much of the stock. The losers were the readers who missed it. There is much vintage Sherred in this--his delightful way of tweaking the noses of those in authority, and the boldly imaginative but relentless strokes of logic. 

     Among other things it demonstrated that Tom Sherred might be a dangerous person to know. His friends often ended up in his stories. Here is a bit of dialog between Tom and Mary Lu: 

EXAMPLE 7: "Dana Iverson is my daughter..." 

     When I commented on this, Tom promised me that if he ever wrote a dictionary, I would be on page 1. 

     Alien Island was published; Tom began work on a sequel that was to be called Alien Main. Seventy pages into it he had his stroke. Alien Island had been easy for him to write. He wrote it in a rush, as he had written everything.  Suddenly that great drive he had, that breathless, rushing style, was finished. 

    EXAMPLE  8. (About strokes) 

     And so it ended about 1971. Tom Sherred, T.L. Sherred, aged fifty-six or so, author of four short stories and one novel. Medically retired. It did and does indeed seem a great pity that he didn't run out of money more often. 

     I didn't see Tom with great frequency over the years. It is about a hundred and twenty miles round trip from my home to Utica where he lived.  But when business or personal affairs took me in that direction, I would arrange a free day and spend as much of it as I could with him. I would take him out for lunch or wait until Mary Lu got home so the three of us could go to dinner. Around that, we talked and talked--and talked. Because I am not a talker, that meant that 80-90% of the time he talked. His speech was halting, but if one exercised patience, he was brilliantly good company. My impression is that his condition did improve and his speech did very slowly become more fluent. 

     He had an astonishing range of interests. The civil war. Roman archeology.  He read voluminously in all kinds of subjects--read highly technical material and was equipped to discuss those things with authorities in the field. His memory of technical details in subjects that interested him made it difficult to believe that he'd ever had any problems. His speech was fascinating and so were his letters. I kept urging him to try to write again.  He said he had trouble thinking of words, and I told him, "Tom--we all have trouble thinking of words."  I wondered whether his stroke had just slowed him down to the level of an ordinary human and he thought that was a handicap. 

     He told me many great stories over the years--some of them are even repeatable in public--and when I taped that interview in 1977, I asked him whether he remembered the one about a missing piece of iron. 

EXAMPLE 9. "Oh yes I do remember..." 

     I always thought that there were many parallels--in- personality, in brilliant intellect, in breadth of interests--between Tom and the celebrated Dr. Samuel Johnson, of dictionary fame. Like Dr. Johnson, Tom was a great conversationalist. He even had the same meticulous interest in words and language. If you wanted to know the word for something, Tom knew it.  Slang fascinated him, and he actually made contributions to H. L. Mencken's The American Language. He corresponded widely and was well-known to prominent writers outside the science fiction ghetto. Unfortunately, he had no Boswell. 

     He was always in rebellion against the establishment--in his fiction and in real life.  I remember one amusing example of this.  At one of our monthly gatherings, he wanted to pay his dinner check with a personal check. He wrote the check, and the waitress asked for his driver's license. She took license and check to the cashier. When she returned the license, she said--with a touch of awe in her voice--"Do you know this expired three years ago?" Tom laughed and said, "How about that?" 

What did Tom think about his contribution? 

EXAMPLE 10. "I'm afraid I cling to the old idea..." 

     He saw much pain in life, much evil, much that was ridiculous, and he attacked these things relentlessly in his writing. Perhaps that enabled him to survive to age 70. T.L. Sherred. He is missed.

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