Register or log in:

F&SF Forum » Issue Contents

The Stars My Destination - in F&SF!

(12 posts)
  • Started 2 months ago by Chris DeVito
  • Latest reply from Mark Pontin

  1. Chris DeVito

    . . . almost.

    THE STARS MY DESTINATION was originally announced to be serialized in F&SF beginning in the June 1956 issue, under the title THE BURNING SPEAR (F&SF, March 1956, p. 124). The June 1956 issue of F&SF announced that the serialization would be delayed because Bester had been "attacked by some striking creative afterthoughts" complicated by Bester's "urgent TV commitments which made it impossible to revise the novel immediately. We'll be bringing you THE BURNING SPEAR later on—and in a form even more exciting than when we announced it" (p. 33). However, that was the last mention in F&SF, and the August 1956 issue of Galaxy announced that the new Bester novel would start in the October issue. Because Horace Gold -- editor of Galaxy -- threw a shit-fit and insisted that Galaxy had the rights to Bester's next sf novel, and threatened legal action. There are more details in Jad Smith's book ALFRED BESTER (University of Illinois Press, 2016). Fascinating stuff, Arthur!

    Posted 2 months ago #
  2. Gordon Van Gelder

    If you want a challenge, Chris, see if you can find a copy of the October 1940 issue of SOUTH SEA STORIES. It contains "Treachery on Camoia" by Alfred B.

    The one copy I've found online is too rich for my blood:

    Posted 2 months ago #
  3. To illustrate just how busy Bester was back then, I offer the following excerpt from my June 15, 2016 write up for an episode of Nero Wolfe he wrote for its broader timeline interest here. Every Saturday I post a Golden Age of Radio episode, some of which Bester wrote, including for The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe. While finishing up this radio series he was also writing The Demolished Man, showing how he could write for both mediums--radio and novels--each with their own requirements.

    And then a few years later when TV came to be all the rage, he began writing for it and was working on The Stars My Destination--again two mediums but switching from radio to TV while still penning novels. Quite the talented (and busy!) man.

    "Of interest to SF fans is that none other than SFWA Grand Master Alfred Bester (1913-1987) wrote nearly all 26 episodes of the 1950-51 era Nero Wolfe reboot. Bester also penned scripts for other radio shows during the 1940s, among them Nick Carter–Master Detective, The Shadow, and Charlie Chan, several episodes of the first two we have presented here over the years. Those interested in timelines will note that The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe aired its final episode in late April of 1951. Alfred Bester’s classic, award-winning novel The Demolished Man began its three-part serialization in Galaxy magazine approximately eight months later, in January of 1952, winning the first-ever Science Fiction Achievement Award in 1953 (retroactively named the “Hugo” in 1955) following its book appearance in 1952. How long had Bester been working on this novel? Was it in the works while he was writing episodes of Nero Wolfe? Was it written after the radio show ended, and in a relatively short period of time? Given lead times for magazines to shepherd a typewritten story through the editing and production process to finished product and to appear on the newsstand or in a bookstore, the novel could possibly have been written and fast-tracked by editor Horace Gold during the eight months between the demise of Nero Wolfe, if indeed it was begun after the show ended. It’s interesting to speculate on such rather peripheral matters, so in the spirit of these things I would guess the novel was in the works before the Nero Wolfe series came to its end. In either case, Bester was a busy man at the time writing for two mediums, each with distinct requirements and not something every writer could do, and do well."

    Posted 2 months ago #
  4. MattHughes

    An entirely tangential aside, occasioned by YouTube throwing a suggestion at me: in 1959, there was a pilot for a Nero Wolfe television series. The actor playing Archie Goodwin was William Shatner.

    Posted 2 months ago #
  5. CWJ

    Talk about synchronicity. Only half an hour ago my wife mentioned getting that same YouTube suggestion. Maybe everyone got it, only I was too wrapped up in Marble Racing to notice....

    Posted 2 months ago #
  6. JohnWThiel

    The situation with Bester parallels the situation in "The Proud Robot" by Lewis Padgett where Gallagher had been working for two motion picture producers simultaneously and one claimed exclusive rights on his scientific labors (the Sonotone Brothers) while the other (Harrison Brock) had usurped his work.

    Posted 2 months ago #
  7. Mark Pontin

    Interesting how much work Bester produced as a writer in his prime. Beyond the material people have brought up here, he also churned out comic books during the 1940s and is responsible, for instance, for Green Lantern's signature doggerel:

    In brightest day, in darkest night,
    No evil shall escape my sight.
    Let all who worship evil's might,
    Beware my power Green Lantern's light!

    I think that's it, right? It does stick in the mind over the decades. Like 'Tenser, said the tensor ...' etc.

    Bester's short stories from the 1950s (and very early 1960s), written contemporaneously with his two great novels, are arguably the one single-author anthology you might give someone if you wanted to show them how good American SF was.

    I'm thinking particularly of the STARLIGHT: THE GREAT SCIENCE FICTION OF ALFRED BESTER version from 1976 and stories like "5,271,009" and "Fondly Fahrenheit," both originally in F&SF in 1954. That anthology, or some version of it, is probably worthy of a Library of America edition at this point.

    Still, to put things in perspective -- and reassure mere mortals -- those classic Bester stories were published at about yearly intervals, except for 1954. He seems to have spent a year thinking up each one before he wrote it between other work.

    What finished Bester is what finishes off a few good writers -- he became an editor. In Bester's case, he got a plush gig as a senior editor at HOLIDAY magazine from 1963 to 1971, during the golden age of American magazines. Here's a sample of his journalism --

    The steady middle-class level paycheck, expense account, and relative easy living without having either to hustle or do the hard work of actually writing anything but the occasional piece of journalism when you felt like it -- it'll do it to a writer almost every time.

    There's an apocryphal story about Michael Bloomberg walking through the offices of Bloomberg News a few years back and looking at all the people there, then demanding, "Who the hell are all these people?" On being told they were editors, Bloomberg supposedly responded, "Fire them! Hire more writers!" There's a lot to dislike about Bloomberg, but I kind of approve of that.

    Admittedly, that lifestyle has mostly gone the way of the dodo in the age of Google-Facebook, and then COVID19. ATLANTIC magazine, which is one of today's relative success stories, let go something like forty-eight employees yesterday.

    In any event, it does almost always end. In Bester's case, HOLIDAY magazine folded in 1971 and he lost the expense account and steady middle-class paycheck. Unfortunately, he'd also lost his hustle while he'd had the gig, and he never found another one like it. Then he tried to go back to SF writing and found he'd lost his chops there, too. Of the stories he wrote in the 1970s, only "The Four Hour Fugue" comes anywhere near the classic Bester, and the less said of his late-period novels the better.

    Between that, health issues, and his wife's death, he ended as an alcoholic who wrote a will leaving his literary estate to his bartender. A sad final act for someone who'd been such a meteor.

    Posted 2 months ago #
  8. JohnWThiel

    You seem to think he wrote only two sf novels. THE COMPUTER CONNECTION is an example of further novels he wrote. Who can forget the illustrious Fee-5?

    Posted 2 months ago #
  9. Mark Pontin

    @ Chris DeVito --

    I looked at a small slice of the Jad Smith book via Google. Looks interesting.

    If you feel like giving a final report here after you finish it -- just a couple of lines -- I'm trying to figure out if I want to invest time in reading it myself.

    Posted 2 months ago #
  10. Chris DeVito

    Gordon sez: "...see if you can find a copy of the October 1940 issue of SOUTH SEA STORIES. It contains 'Treachery on Camoia' by Alfred B."

    Would love to get a copy of that issue (at a more reasonable price), because it actually includes two Bester stories, as Jad Smith discusses in his Bester book; the other is "The White Man Who Was Tabu," which appeared under the house pseudonym Alexander Blade. Smith calls "Treachery on Camoia" "predictable and overwritten," but devotes several pages to "The White Man Who Was Tabu," "Bester's first attempt to use depth psychology to transform the typical genre hero into an edgy antihero" -- a clear precursor (Smith argues) to both Demolition and Burning Spear/Tiger/Stars My Destination.

    Mark Pontin: I recommend the Bester bio. Haven't finished it yet, but it's got lots of rare info (see above).


    Posted 2 months ago #
  11. JohnWThiel

    In researching Bester, it is very troublesome looking for all his stories because he used house names as well as having numerous pseudonyms of his own.

    Posted 2 months ago #
  12. Mark Pontin

    @ Chris DeV --


    @ John T. --

    John Thiel wrote: "You seem to think he wrote only two sf novels. THE COMPUTER CONNECTION is an example of further novels he wrote. Who can forget the illustrious Fee-5?"

    I've done my best to forget it/he/she, my friend.

    As I said in my post: "the less said of his (Bester's) late-period novels the better."

    And actually there were not two, but three (or indeed four, if you count PSYCHOSHOP, the fragment Roger Zelazny fixed up after Bester passed)late-period novels: THE COMPUTER CONNECTION, GOLEM 100, and THE DECEIVERS.

    Posted 2 months ago #

RSS feed for this topic


You must log in to post.