Since author Mike Resnick was nice enough to post a comment on yesterday’s Goddess of Ganymede, I offered him a chance to share some thoughts about another of his early novels, Redbeard, from Lancer Books. I haven’t yet read this one, having picked it up only within the last couple of months. I knew, however, that Mike held it in similar regard to his Ganymede books, which is to say early work he’d rather everyone forgot.
Unsurprisingly, I’m rather partial to that sort of thing. I suspect Mike is, too, which is probably one reason why he collected several of Henry Kuttner’s early (and sex-infused) science fiction stories in a great anthology entitled Girls for the Slime God.
So, with little to say regarding a book I haven’t yet read, I thought I’d give Mike himself a chance to share some thoughts about Redbeard. To my surprise and delight, he sent me back a long email, which (with his permission) I’ve reprinted below:
Memories of REDBEARD? OK.
I was at NyCon III, the 1967 Worldcon in New York, and while I was there I stopped in to see some of the publishers and editors — none of them science fiction — that I’d been writing for.
One of them was Walter Zacharius, who owned Lancer Books. I’d done some doctor-nurse romances and Gothics for him under pseudonyms, and I thought I’d see if he had any more work for me. When I got there he was amazed at the success of the Conan books. He’d picked them up for a song, these 30-year-old stories that none of the other mass market houses wanted, and hired Frank Frazetta to do the covers — and they were selling like hotcakes. He had no idea why, but he wasn’t a man to let grass grow under his feet, and he decided it had to be the barbarian hero, and he told me to write him a science fiction novel with a barbarian hero.
So I did. And I sent it to Larry Shaw, Walter’s editor, and Larry sat on it for 2 years. I kept writing and phoning every few months, telling him that this wasn’t an off-the-street submission, that his boss had assigned it, but for two years he never looked at it. Then he either quit or was fired — no one was ever quite clear on which — and Bob Hoskins replaced him, found a 2-year pile of unread manuscripts, started with the oldest, and called me his third day on the job, knowing nothing about Walter assigning me the book, to make an offer, which I accepted.
Today I find the book an embarrassment — it’s not the kind of thing I would ever write; it was an assignment from a hack publisher to a 25-year-old kid who didn’t know any better — but surprisingly it got uniformly good reviews, which I guess says a little something about either the state of science fiction, or the state of reviewing, circa 1969. Every reviewer commented the unique characterization; after awhile I realized that all it meant was that they’d never encountered an un-beautiful heroine before.
Thanks for the commentary, Mike!