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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

In the Beginning: Tales from the Pulp Era by Robert Silverberg

I've been collecting Silverberg's story collections but hesitated on this one.  He writes:
"I have to confess, right up front here, that you will not find a great deal of poetic vision in these stories, or singing prose, or deep insight into character.  Nor are these stories that will tell you much about the human condition."
He needn't confess.  Describing what a work isn't, isn't necessary.  Just say what it is.  I haven't read or bought books by authors whom I've admired because they belittled their own work--Bear, Fowler, Powers.  On the one hand, you don't want to raise expectations, so that the reader never reads your stuff again. But on the other, the reader might like it.

I reciprocated for Fowler when she asked me to sign a story.  I dismissed the tale, flushing, embarrassed that my literary hero was asking me for a signature.  What if she didn't like it?  Unless the work is really bad, please don't dismiss it.  Let the reader decide.  Point out what the tale is or attempts, or that it was early work.

In Silverberg's essay, the lines that follow are enough.  These are simple pulp tales written speedily for the money.  That's descriptor enough.  If a person doesn't like pulp, they won't buy it.  For those that do, they'll buy it.

The collection's tales and the accompanying biographical material are a romp....  Aliens come to Earth seeking advanced technology, but the lines are long--at least two year long.  ...unless you can think of a way to shorten the time, like play on human preconceptions of danger.

Or an escaped prisoner--one who is always optimistic he'll get out of this fix--crash-lands on a planet where he will have to be a Robinson Crusoe... only the natives have different plans.

The plots aren't fresh but fun.  The biographical material sold me.  How did Silverberg establish homself?  If you enjoy Silverberg's Reflections columns for Asimov's magazine, you'll find this one a similar treat.

Speaking of which, why hasn't anyone collected his Reflections columns?

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