S C I E N C E F I C
T I O N
O R A L H I S T O R Y A S S O C I A T I O N
A R C H I V E S
S E R I E S
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,
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.
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.
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
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 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
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.
SP-10 and SP-11 concern
a special In Memoriam presentation for T. L. Sherred. They are included
here to demonstrate a special use for SFOHA interviews. In this instance,
the original interview appears on tape MSU--12.
The interview was listened
to several times and passages with a potential usefulness for the program
I had in mind were noted. Then a text was written that made use of as
many of these passages as possible,, and the passages were copied in
the order that the text required and with a suitable pause of a few
seconds between each one to assist the technician playing the tape.
This is, of course, a great deal of work, but the result can be enormously
effective. Something similar was done with remarks about John
W. Campbell from those who knew and worked with him. That presentation
is recorded on tape SP--6.
The T. L. Sherred presentation
requires that the text be read with pauses for the playing of the recorded
excerpts. In this case, it permits an In Memoriam presentation for T.L.
Sherred--with T.L. Sherred taking part. Something similar can
be done for any person for whom SFOHA has an interview on tape.
The complete text of this presentation is included after the entry for SP-11.
--Lloyd Biggle, Jr.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.