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February, 2008 : Essay:

Galaxy Magazine and Robert Silverberg's Development as a Writer

Robert Silverberg is one of the most influential, prolific and award-winning science fiction writers, with his work from the mid-sixties to the mid-seventies standing out as one of the best decades of writing in the genre. Silverberg's career demonstrates the complexity of the relationship between science fiction writers and commercial markets. Like every SF writer, Silverberg wrote for specific markets, editors and word rates; the romantic notion of authors as geniuses working independently of markets and commercial pressures is especially inaccurate in the production of science fiction. Much of this study focuses on how Silverberg progressed from being a prolific minor writer to the best SF writer of his time largely through his relationship with Galaxy magazine from the early sixties through the mid-seventies.

Robert Silverberg's career began in the 1950s when he was one of SF's boy wonders, publishing his first story in 1954 while still in college and winning the Hugo for most promising new writer two years later. Silverberg's first stories highlight the multifaceted relationship he developed with SF markets. He wrote "Road to Nightfall" in 1954—a story that depicts cannibalism in post-apocalyptic NYC—but did not publish it until 1958 in Fantastic Universe. Most of the editors he submitted the story to rejected it because they found it depressing and negative. The editors did not reject it because of a taboo on cannibalism, but because they felt an SF story should show a narrator using his ingenuity to overcome obstacles. As Silverberg points out, "most science-fiction editors of the day preferred stories in which the central figure transcends all challenges and arrives at a triumphant conclusion to his travail" (Best 2). In "Road to Nightfall" the moral, decent protagonist does not overcome obstacles; instead, hunger reduces him to cannibalism before killing him.

But despite the example of "Road to Nightfall," Silverberg's early career does not fit the storyline of the independent genius who rebels against commercial pressures. Silverberg accommodated his writing to the demands of editors and enjoyed great success. Although his bibliographer credits him with 550 fiction sales, Silverberg suspects the total is closer to 750 (Phases 13). He sometimes had more than one story appearing in the same magazine under pseudonyms such as Robert Randall (with Randall Garrett), Ivor Jorgenson, David Osborne and Calvin M. Knox. Although he published in the stronger magazines of the time such as Galaxy and Astounding, many stories appeared in the second-tier magazines such as Fantastic Universe, Amazing Stories, Fantastic, Imagination, Infinity and Science Fiction Adventures. Silverberg was a veritable factory, producing a story a day Monday through Thursday, then on Friday visiting the various editors and selling the stories (Phases 55). The problem with this productivity is that he cranked out fiction based on pulp formulas rather than crafting unique work. Some of the writing overcame these limitations—see for example "Sunrise on Mercury", or "Warm Man" from the collection Phases of the Moon, or other '50s stories such as "Mind for Business", "The Overlord's Thumb" and "Journey's End". Even weaker Silverberg can be quite good, but it is not close to the quality of his work a decade later when he wrote with more care.

Silverberg points out that "I have never made any secret of the fact that my primary (though not only) concern as a writer in the 1950s was to earn money. I was out of college and on my own in the adult world; I had an apartment to furnish, rent to pay, and all sorts of other new real-world expenses to meet" (Phases 85). Silverberg started writing when many pulp magazines were still extant, giving him access to a range of markets. He managed to make a good living, eventually buying "a magnificent mansion" (Phases 83) in NYC in the early sixties.

Silverberg developed a reputation as a talented, prolific writer who could produce work according to an editor's specifications. He could write stories based on cover paintings or at particular lengths—and write them fast! In the late fifties, Silverberg determined "that to live comfortably in New York, he had...to write 50,000 words a month; even at a penny a word that would assure him a monthly income of $500,—a figure comparable at the time to the salaries received by his friends who had started work in one of the sciences or in engineering" (Clareson 10). He achieved his goal of financial security, but many of the routine adventure stories did not live up to his early promise.

It should be pointed out that even when Silverberg was mass-producing his early work, his stories are generally among the best in the magazines. He produced professional-quality work more quickly than most writers.

In the late fifties and early sixties, science fiction magazines were hit by distribution problems and many went out of business. That reduced the number of markets and made it difficult for Silverberg to survive (Phases 85). The markets also became more cautious and demanded predictable work. Since he wanted to maintain his high standard of living and grew disgusted with the artistic limitations of the SF magazines, Silverberg started writing erotica and books on science (Phases 83).

What drew Silverberg back to writing SF was Frederick Pohl, the editor of Galaxy and Worlds of If. Pohl believed that Silverberg had the talent to be one of the best writers in the field and "agreed to buy any story I cared to send him—a guaranteed sale—provided I undertook to write it with all my heart, no quick-buck hackwork. If he wanted revisions, I would pledge to do one rewrite for him, after which he would be bound to buy the story without asking anything more of me. If I turned in a story he didn't like, he would buy it anyway, but that would be the end of the deal" (Phases 87). For these guaranteed sales, Silverberg would get three cents per word, which was the highest rate for SF magazines at the time (Phases 87).

The first story produced under the arrangement was the superb tale "To See the Invisible Man", which Pohl published in one of Galaxy's companion magazines Worlds of Tomorrow (April 1963). The story—inspired by a sentence from Borges—depicts a society in which certain crimes are punished by making the criminal socially invisible. The criminal is not literally invisible; he's branded and everyone refuses to see or interact with him. Silverberg extrapolates a social structure and character from Borges's basic concept, portraying the loneliness and anguish of the character subjected to this punishment.

The deal with Pohl encouraged Silverberg to write about more complex themes and utilize more sophisticated narrative strategies. He began to take pride in his work and to plan and revise (Phases 101). He wrote the stories "The Pain Peddlers" (1963), "Neighbors" (1964) and "The Sixth Palace" (1965) for Pohl, all of which display more craftsmanship than his earlier work. The five stories of the "To Open the Sky" series, which were published in Galaxy in '65 and '66, demonstrate the improvement. The episodic stories chart the rise of the Vesper religion on Earth. As the traditional religions lose their appeal, the Vespers become the dominant faith on Earth, promising immortality through bodily regeneration, development of ESP and opening the galaxy to humanity. The stories show a concern with psionics, death, exploration and spirituality. They don't have the depth of character development of the stories from a couple of years later, but they are effective.

"Hawksbill Station" (August 1967) was nominated for the Hugo and Nebula, and, according to Silverberg, dramatically improved his reputation as a writer (Best 99). Galaxy featured the story on the cover and profusely illustrated it, which indicates Silverberg's growing importance as a writer. "Hawksbill Station" depicts a future in which the government uses a time machine to exile political dissidents in the Cambrian period.

The tale is written in the lyrical prose style that readers now associate with Silverberg, not the pedestrian prose of the fifties. In "Hawksbill", Silverberg develops his unique voice, writing, instead of a standard adventure yarn, a tale only he could have produced.

The novella depicts well-rounded characters, a gallery of aging and mentally deteriorating left-wing dissidents: Marxists, Trotskyites and Anarchists who endlessly debate ideology. Silverberg provides a realistic portrayal of leftists: I attended graduate school with a similar menagerie of leftists, and they do indeed argue and debate ideology ad nauseam.

The eccentric, bizarre prisoners include the sexually-disturbed Ned Altman, who has not seen a woman since entering prison eight years ago and is sexually frustrated enough to have homosexual relationships with several prisoners, even resorting to rape. Eventually, he tries to build a woman out of dust and garbage.

The most impressive aspect of the novella is Silverberg's evocation of the Cambrian, the first period in which multicellular organisms more complex than sponges or medusoids evolved, well before the dinosaurs, when trilobites and other arthropods teemed in the oceans. Most land areas in contrast were badlands and deserts devoid even of plants and insects. The bleak rocks and the empty, lifeless landscape around the prisoners symbolize their bitter experiences and mental states.

"The World Inside" series was published in the early seventies, with one of the stories garnering a Hugo nomination. The series focuses on overpopulation, which was a major theme in the SF of the sixties and early seventies. Environmentalists predicted apocalyptic doom for the earth because of overpopulation and scarcity of resources. This scare has proven overwrought since improved technology has caused many raw materials to become more abundant despite increased population. Improved agricultural techniques and fertilizers have made it possible to grow more food than environmentalists predicted and free markets have proven resilient and flexible. John Brunner and Harry Harrison both wrote dystopias about overpopulation, The Sheep Look Up and Make Room! Make Room!, that were superseded by later events.

Silverberg's overpopulated future presents an interesting, unusual take on these issues because he depicts a civilization that "solves" problems of overpopulation, but only by creating a society that destroys many human freedoms. Most humans live in Urbmons, vast vertical buildings containing hundreds of thousands of residents. By putting its citizens in Urbmons, this future society can house everyone and create space to grow food.

An individualist would find life within the buildings miserable. People live on top of one another with limited space, so no conflict is tolerated and conformity is rigidly enforced. People are thrown down the chute if they deviate from the norm. Since this society has developed ways to deal with overpopulation, no birth control is practiced and it's considered "bless-worthy" to have many children.

In these stories Silverberg takes advantage of the post-Dangerous Visions freedom to explore erotic subjects. Nightwalking is common; men walk from apartment to apartment to have sex with women; it's considered unbless-worthy to refuse to have sex with anyone. Jealousy and possessiveness can get a person thrown down the chute. This future world exemplifies free love gone amuck.

Most of the protagonists are nonconformists struggling to live in this confining society. The protagonists in "The Throwbacks" are a married couple that has unbless-worthy feelings of jealousy and competition. They're throwbacks to the pre-Urbmon belief system of jealousy and monogamy. This point is interesting because despite the free love and Silverberg's lack of prudishness, he seems to favor heterosexual monogamous relationships and depicts promiscuous sex as ultimately boring and less satisfying than sex combined with love. The series is reminiscent of Brave New World in that it demonstrates that free love and casual drug use can be empty hedonism rather than liberation.

The series concludes with a weaker, dated story. The protagonist is a musician who uses trendy sixties slang, gets drugs from a "groove dispenser" and "trips" on a powerful drug, the multiplexer, which seems to be a heavy dose of acid. Much of the story revolves around the trip and how he enters a communion with all the minds in the Urbmon. As we will see, achieving a telepathic union, whether through drugs or other means, is an important theme in Silverberg's work.

The Nightwings series consists of "Nightwings" (September 1968 Galaxy)—which was nominated for the Nebula and won the Hugo award—"Perris Way" (November 1968) and "To Jorslem" (February 1969), which was nominated for the Nebula. The stories are far future SF or science fantasy, a genre that Silverberg writes particularly well. The stories are SF but read like fantasy, a genre mixture—somewhat reminiscent of Vance's Dying Earththat allows Silverberg to write in a rich, lyrical prose style. The stories depict an earth divided into genetically engineered guilds—Watchers, Defenders, Changelings, Flyers, Dominators, Rememberers, Pilgrims, Indexers and Somnambulists. The narrator is a Watcher, a guild that observes the stars to warn Earth of alien invasion. When the invasion occurs, the Watcher loses his profession, and Earth is defeated in a day, but it turns out to be a fortunate fall because Earth is shattered out of its complacency and pride and gains a chance at redemption. The second two stories depict Earth after the invasion and show the Watcher's pilgrimage to Jorslem.

The Watcher's pilgrimage, and the redemption offered Earth, demonstrate the importance of spirituality in Silverberg's work: he portrays here, as in a number of other stories, characters undergoing a religious metamorphosis, which can be either destructive or redemptive, depending on the character's inner state at the time of the metamorphosis. In "To Jorslem", the aged Watcher is shed of his sins and returns to his youth, whereas his vain and selfish companion Olmayne is destroyed.

The contrast between isolation and communion concerns most of the characters. In the first tale, the Watcher's equipment connects him to the stars and allows him to transcend his personal limitations. In the later stories, the star stone, a religious device given to pilgrims, connects him to the "Will"—which stands for the Divine will—and ends his individual isolation. The final story concludes with the Watcher entering a new guild, which attempts to redeem humanity through love and communion.

The two serials, A Time of Changes (which won a Nebula and was nominated for a Hugo) and Downward to Earth, also depict religious themes and the attempt to transcend individual limitations. Silverberg takes spiritualism and religion seriously as intellectual questions worth thinking about rather than stressing a particular dogma.

Downward to Earth (serialized in Galaxy from November 1969 through March 1970) revolves around a pilgrimage by the former administrator of the colony world Belzagor. Gunderson is an imperialist administrator who in his tour of duty did not treat the intelligent natives on the planet, the nildoror (elephant-like aliens) and sulidoror (bipedal aliens), as his equals. He condescended to them and tried to educate them in Earth's music and culture. He is a colonial administrator who—similar to a Kipling character—he believes that imperialism can uplift the natives. During his time as an administrator, he resisted all that was strange or unique about Belzagor. After the colonial system was dismantled, Gunderson worked in a different post. Years later, consumed with guilt over his mistreatment of the natives, he returns to the planet to try to understand the nildoror rebirth rite and their strange connection with the sulidoror.

I was initially skeptical about Silverberg's portrayal of the nildoror because they physically resemble elephants, and that resemblance seems unlikely since they are an alien species with a different evolutionary history. But Silverberg justifies that similarity through the idea that certain life shapes are common throughout the universe, for example, the bipedal humanoid shape, a torpedo fish shape or a general elephant shape.

The nildoror do not have hands, just trunks that are less flexible than an opposable thumb at building things, so their culture emphasizes spirituality and inner development over technology. Their culture and religion make them interesting characters, especially as Gunderson explores their mysteries.

Gunderson undergoes striking changes. When he returns to the planet, he begins to embrace the strange by dancing with the nildoror and thus taking part in their religious rites, demonstrating that he is now open to their culture and way of being. He maintains his interest in Belzagor spirituality even though he sees characters that have experienced horrible metamorphoses because of alien parasites. He encounters Kurtz (an allusion to Heart of Darkness), who has undergone a metamorphosis into a monster after the alien rebirth rite. Kurtz committed terrible sins against the aliens and his degenerative metamorphosis reflects his corrupt spirit.

Despite Kurtz's degenerative metamorphosis, Gunderson's desire to seek redemption for his sins is strong enough for him to continue on his pilgrimage. The nildoror rebirth rite—like the rite in "To Jorslem"—can either be enlightening or horrible depending on one's inner state. Gunderson experiences a spiritually uplifting rebirth and vows to turn himself into a prophet and bring the rite to humanity.

A Time of Changes (serialized in Galaxy in 1971), which won the Nebula and was nominated for the Hugo, depicts a future colony world, Borthan, which has a taboo against self-expression. The people on this world are ruled by a covenant, which requires that their private affairs remain private, creating a taboo that extends even into grammar; the Borthans use "one" in sentences because they consider "I" or "me" obscene. As a consequence, little love exists between parent and child, or wife and husband. Individuals cannot trust one another, and most interactions—even a visit to a religious drainer or confessor—are handled through contracts. The only meaningful relationships occur between an individual and his/her bond sister and bond brother. The bond kin are not actual relatives; they are chosen at birth and are the only people a Borthan can bare his/her soul to, apart from the drainers. If someone describes his/her personal problems or even uses inappropriate grammar such as "I" or "me," then that person is a "selfbarer" and is ostracized or prosecuted. The emotional solitude and sparse communion with others is made tolerable by the relationship to the bond-kin and by the Borthans' close communion with God.

The protagonist, Kinnall, meets the Earthman Schweiz, who convinces him to take a drug that enables two people to open themselves to one another in a communion of minds. Again, as in "The World Outside," Silverberg uses the motif of a drug that creates a telepathic rapport. Like the protagonist of Downward to Earth, Kinnall turns himself into a prophet. Kinnall violates the selfbaring taboo with many people, creating a mingled consciousness with dozens of characters (similar to the group mind the Watcher establishes with the other members of his guild in "To Jorslem").

Schweiz teaches Kinnall to say "I love you," which is difficult for him because it uses the vulgar word "I," involves selfbaring emotions and destroys his solitude. Taking the drug and committing the sacrilege of self-baring is a crucible that Kinnall endures to metamorphize into a person capable of love and communion.

The drug's communion of minds is usually positive although it tragically drives Kinnall's bond-sister, the only woman he ever loved, to suicide. Although Time of Changes concludes with Kinnall's arrest, it still offers hope. The novel is Kinnall's autobiography, and he believes that it will be passed around from person to person and liberate his society from its emotional isolation.

This novel is well-written enough, with a strong enough narrative voice to remind me of the intense, well-rounded characters of Gene Wolfe. The novel also possesses a powerful emotional intensity and is unflinching in its examination of themes.

Tower of Glass (1970, nominated for a Nebula and a Hugo) is a tale of hubris and tragedy. Krug is an industrialist whose company creates and markets androids of varying levels of competence and intelligence. The androids are living, vat-grown creatures, constructed from modified human DNA, that humans treat like robotic slaves rather than living beings. Despite their treatment, the androids have free will, creativity and emotions. Since Krug is their maker, the androids worship him as the earthly manifestation of God.

Krug is unaware of the androids' worship and finds their awe disturbing. He has made a fortune off building androids and thinks of them as mere machines.

Krug is obsessed with a message aliens have sent humanity from a distant civilization 300 light years away and utilizes android labor to build a tachyon tower to respond. Since tachyons are particles that travel faster than the speed of light, they will enable Krug to communicate with the aliens in real time. The tower is a vast structure; the largest in human history, and, like the Tower of Babel, signifies human hubris or pride. Krug wants to communicate with nonhuman intelligence and is willing to spend part of his vast fortune to build the tower and an interstellar space ship. The irony is that he lives among a nonhuman intelligence, the androids, that he refuses to recognize.

The androids are split into two factions: one, a religious group led by Thor Watchman that worships Krug and thinks he will liberate them when they are "worthy", and the political group—which resembles the civil rights movement in the United States—that wants to free androids through political reform.

The story is inundated with mythic elements. Krug's son Manuel descends into the android underworld like the traditional hero of myth and witnesses the misery of their lives. He then tries to use that knowledge to save them, but unlike Christ—a reasonable analogy since Manuel is Krug's son—he fails, prompting the story's tragic ending.

When Krug finds out about the android religion and admits he has no intention of liberating them, the androids rebel in an orgy of rape and murder, destroying the society that created and enslaved them. The story depicts a failed religious redemption as mankind and Krug pay a harsh price for their hubris and willingness to use other intelligent beings. It also demonstrates that the SF marketplace was more open to darker tales in the sixties and seventies than it was in the late fifties.

Many of Silverberg's themes of the previous decade converge in Dying Inside (Galaxy 72; nominated for Nebula and Hugo), another dark, pessimistic tale, which depicts the life of David Selig, a telepath in his early 40s who feels his power failing and is traumatized to lose the only thing that makes him unique. Selig is an alienated and isolated man whose telepathy connects him with the minds of others. His power is limited to receiving the thoughts of others; he can't control other people's minds or send his own thoughts.

Selig is a failed superman whose powers have not even enabled him to establish a conventionally successful life; instead, he ekes out an income writing term papers for students at Columbia. Although Selig complains his powers make him a freak, he encounters another telepath, Nyquist, who manages to become successful and well-adjusted despite or even because of his powers. Selig might have become maladjusted regardless of whether he had powers.

The novel explores the themes of drugs and mysticism. Selig's girlfriend takes acid, and he suffers a bad trip through his telepathic rapport with her. Because of Selig's inner weakness and limitations, he is incapable of a positive spiritual change like the Watcher and Gunderson; instead he suffers a negative alteration like Kurtz. At the End, he loses his telepathic ability and is alienated and spiritually impoverished.

The story uses many motifs of science fiction's New Wave, especially the concept of entropy when it portrays the internal death of Selig's telepathy. It even includes an essay Selig writes on entropy. His powers slowly deteriorate and wind down, becoming inconsistent, less powerful and finally dying, like entropy working its way through the universe.

Dying Inside demonstrates Silverberg's technical virtuosity. It contains three-dimensional characters, well-developed themes and some interesting metafictional techniques. The point of view repeatedly shifts from third person to first person as a way to indicate flashbacks and delve deeper into Selig's mind. Selig writes letters to various public figures, reminiscent of Bellow's Herzog. The novel builds meaning and significance from a variety of literary allusions. In one unusual scene, the protagonist directly addresses the reader and takes him/her on a tour of his apartment. Instead of the metafictional technique breaking the fictional dream, it works so flawlessly the reader can read straight through without being distracted. The point of view shifts function just as effectively, making the characters' mindset easier to understand without distracting the reader from the narrative flow.

A careful examination of Silverberg's career can tell us a great deal about the role of the author in science fiction. The rise in Silverberg's reputation is indicated by his name being prominently displayed on the cover of magazines, the art illustrating his work and the numerous award nominations. His response to commercial pressures, accommodating or resisting at times until he discovered his own voice, remains more complicated and interesting than the romantic myth of the writer as an independent genius free of external pressures. It'salso a more interesting story than the notion that commercialism is innately bad for art. The SF marketplace provided Silverberg with a variety of places to sell his work and to develop his potential as a writer, while the higher-quality SF magazines, especially Galaxy, provided him with a forum to pursue his thematic interests, allowing him to create work that stresses the difficulty of human communication and demonstrates the dehumanizing effect of emotional isolation.

Works Referenced

Clareson, Thomas D. Robert Silverberg. Mercer Island, Washington: Starmont House, 1983.

Miller, Stephen T. and Contento, William G. Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Weird Fiction Magazine Index (1890-2005). Locus Press CD-ROM.

Silverberg, Robert. The Best of Robert Silverberg. New York: Baen Publishing, 1986.

. Phases of the Moon. New York: ibooks, 2004.

A Bibliography of Silverberg Stories in Galaxy and If from 1963-72.
( ss=short story, nv=novella, n=novel )

  • To See the Invisible Man (ss) in Worlds of Tomorrow Apr. 1963
  • The Shadow of Wings (ss) in=20 If July 1963
  • The Pain Peddlers (ss) in Galaxy Aug. 1963
  • Neighbor (ss) in Galaxy Aug. 1964
  • The Sixth Palace (ss) in Galaxy Feb. 1965
  • Blue Fire (nv) in Galaxy June 1965 [Blue ]
  • The Warriors of Light (nv) in Galaxy Dec. 1965 [Blue Fire]
  • Where the Changed Ones Go (nv) in Galaxy Feb. 1966 [Blue Fire]
  • Lazarus Come Forth! (nv) in Galaxy Apr. 1966 [Blue Fire]
  • Open the Sky (nv) in Galaxy June 1966 [Blue Fire]
  • Halfway House (ss) in If Nov. 1966
  • By the Seawall (ss) in If Jan. 1967
  • Hawksbill Station (nv) in Galaxy Aug. 1967
  • Bride Ninety-One (ss) in If Sept. 1967
  • King of the Golden World (ss) in Galaxy Dec. 1967
  • The Man in the Maze (n) in If Apr., May 1968
  • Going Down Smooth (ss) in Galaxy Aug. 1968
  • Nightwings (nv) in Galaxy Sept. 1968 [Watcher]
  • Perris Way (nv) in Galaxy Nov. 1968 [Watcher]
  • To Jorslem (nv) in Galaxy Feb. 1969 [Watcher]
  • Sundance (ss) in F&SF June 1969
  • Downward to the Earth (n) in Galaxy Nov., Dec. 1969; Feb., Mar. 1970
  • The Tower of Glass (n.) in Galaxy Apr., May, June 1970
  • The Reality Trip (ss) in If May 1970; given as "Reality Trip" on story.
  • The Throwbacks (nv) in Galaxy July 1970 [Urban Monad]
  • The World Outside (nv) in Galaxy Oct. 1970 [Urban Monad]
  • We Are Well Organized (nv) in Galaxy Dec. 1970 [Urban Monad]
  • A Time of Changes (n) in Galaxy Mar., Apr., May 1971
  • All the Way Up, All the Way Down (nv) in Galaxy July 1971 [Urban Monad]
  • Dying Inside (n) in Galaxy July, Sept. 1972

Copyright © 2008, Robert Bee. All Rights Reserved.

About Robert Bee

Robert Bee is a freelance writer living in New Jersey. For his dayjob he manages a library in Trenton. He has published over 30 short stories and a dozen book reviews in magazines, e-zines and anthologies such as Outer Darkness, Parchment Symbols, Letter Magazine, Blue Murder, Parageography, Alienskin, Glyph, Cabal Asylum, Welcome to Nod, Nocturnal Ooze, Dark Krypt, Kings of the Night.

COMMENTS!

Feb 19, 04:18 by IROSF
Have something to say about Silverberg or this essay?

The article can be found here.
Feb 19, 12:43 by N. K. Jemisin
Interesting -- thanks for mentioning some stories of Silverberg's that I hadn't yet read. One thing, though -- in this retrospective, I found it interesting how <em>noticeable</em> it is that Silverberg's sexism and heterosexism has informed so much of his early work. AFAICT, this is around the time that he made his infamous comment that James Tiptree (really Alice Sheldon) could not possibly be a woman. I'm surprised that this essay hasn't made note of that aspect of his early career. It's possible to praise yet still examine critically and thoroughly, isn't it?
Feb 20, 05:43 by Bob Blough
I was really glad to read this essay. Robert Silverber of this period is my favorite SF writer ever. From 1967-1976 he was the best. Since that time his short fiction has remained illuminative and dazzling in technique while his novels have devolved (at least compared to the peak of writing in he 60's and 70's)into pleasant, if not very memorable, reads. This just skirted the depths of this remarkable writer. I would love to see a more in-depth work from you. An in depth work would include "nojojojo"'s criticism which is worthy of an essay all by itself.
Feb 20, 12:37 by Daniel M. Kimmel
Excellent, thoughtful essay that reminded me how much I liked reading Silverberg when I got into SF. It also reminded me how much of his stuff I *haven't* read. I'll have to pick up some of his books at my next con. :)
Feb 20, 20:48 by Robert Bee
Thanks for responding to the essay everyone. In response to nojojojo, I do feel that my essay was "critical," I just discussed a different set of critical issues than nojojojo brings up. My essay focused on the trajectory of Silverberg's career, significant themes, and concepts. I did criticize many of his aesthetic limitations such as a tendency to write too fast and an overly pedestrian style in his early work. I did mention Silverberg's preference (bias) for "heterosexual monogamous relationships", but it was not the foucs of the essay. bobblough is correct that nojojojo's concerns could make a different essay, just not the one I chose to write.
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