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American Science Fiction, Classic Novels of the 1950's
Algis Budrys

A Conversation with Algis Budrys

AMAZING: Recently in a speech you defined the difference between speculative fiction and other fiction as that between an ordinary character in an unusual setting and an unusual character in an ordinary setting. As I heard this, it occurred to me: where does "Who?" fit in? It has an unusual character in a relatively ordinary setting, and still it's speculative fiction.

BUDRYS: If you consider that the rather ordinary human being is trapped inside his own setting and carries it around with him, then it all comes clear.

AMAZING: Setting in the sense of personal condition and psychological state, rather than geography?


AMAZING: Did that book start for you with an idea of the overall plot, or with the image of the man with the featureless metal face?

BUDRYS: It started literally with the image. I was doing a lot of work for Fantastic Universe magazine, which bought covers without their being tied to any particular story. I turned a corner in their offices, and there was the Kelly Freas painting, which subsequently ran on the cover of the magazine, and which was later adopted for the Lancer Books paperback edition of the novel. It also appears in Kelly's art book. It just immediately captured my imagination entirely, and I had to write a story around it, which was contrary to the magazine's policy. They never had a story that fit the cover, but I wrote one anyway. It was a short story, set on the Moon, and it had a very weak, trick ending, but it had the basic situation in it. And they ran it. About six months later I realized I could build an entire novel around that character and that situation if I pulled it off the Moon and threw away the weak trick ending. I went to a book publisher with the idea and got a contract on it.

AMAZING: This book brings up the subject of books dating, and then not dating. It seems very contemporary, except parts take place in a sort of alternate 1960's, with no Hippies or Vietnam War. Is it dating, or is it just now slipping back into seeming more contemporary than it used to be?

BUDRYS: Obviously it is dating to some extent. In the Ballantine Books edition five years ago, I had to insert references to a brief Russo-Chinese war that nobody in the West understood the outcome of. The purpose of that was to reintroduce the credibility of having Asiatics in contact with my protagonists. I had to find some way to get the Chinese back into the story, even though the Chinese and the Russians had split since the book had been written. As far as missing the Vietnam War, there are a lot of copious references to civil unrest, and a lot of military unrest. It's kind of generalized, but it was put into the book because I could see it coming. One thing that's not dating but will date, was that in a book written in 1954 I predicted $.75 packs of cigarettes, $.50 bus fares, all these things that when the book first came out would catch the reader's eye and keep reminding him that the book was set 20 years in the future. Now the future has arrived and I hit it exactly right. I even predicted that they would make a major motion picture out of the life of Cleopatra, only I called it Queen of Egypt instead of Cleopatra. So there are things in it that should have dated but haven't. Still, I think it is getting to the point now that, unless I can make the transition to being H. G. Wells, where it doesn't matter that the story of The Invisible Man is set in the 19th century, the book's going to date out from under me.

AMAZING: It seems to me that as long as you have two political blocks in tension, the rest will take care of itself, because this is a very personal story. Which brings us back to the matter of the unusual character in the ordinary setting, which you say is a feature of fiction other than speculative fiction. This time you don't seem to be following the rule.

BUDRYS: Well actually I do follow it. But if you'll take a look, the central character of "Who?" is this prosthetically altered human being, and it's a way of individualizing him while still falling within the parameters of speculative fiction. The central character of Rogue Moon is an outright raving maniac by any mundane assessment of his character. As a matter of fact, all of them are. They're just different kinds of maniacs. The central character of The Iron Thorn is essentially Tarzan the Ape-man. The central character of Michaelmas is the master of the world. These are ways of introducing a well-rounded character into a kind of literature in which it is extremely difficult to deal with a truly individualized protagonist, because if you do that you stand a very real risk of confusing the hell out of the reader who does not understand why the hell the character is doing what he is doing.

AMAZING: Many people complain that there are too many flat characters in science fiction, I suspect because it is true. Is this because of the inherent difficulties of the form, or because the authors aren't trying?

BUDRYS: Well, in the length of time I have been hearing that remark—it must have been 40 years now—I'm sure hundreds of writers have deliberately tried. What I'm saying is that the organics of the field, the very nature of it, make it extremely difficult to truly individualize the protagonist. Now, with various kinds of skills, with various degrees of skills, you can come close. But I think the nature of the field is such that it may be wiser—for the benefit of the average reader—if the average writer devotes all of his inventiveness to the background, and sketches in an acceptable character, a character much like those who have proven popular in the past, which I don't think that's bad. I don't think this is an imposed rule at all. I think it is something which springs organically from the nature of speculative fiction.

AMAZING: Then does the classic complaint of the mainstream or academic critic come from a failure to understand the nature of speculative fiction?


AMAZING: Does all this constant examination of the nature of the field in criticism affect the way you write? Does it make you write better?

BUDRYS: It makes me write better criticism. I don't think it has any effect on my fiction one way or the other.

AMAZING: What should a critic accomplish?

BUDRYS: I think that the kind of critic I am, which is essentially a book reviewer who sometimes glorifies his reviews into a semblance of critical essay writing—I think his mission is to give the reader a chance to judge whether a book is worth buying or not, to present to the readership over a period of time a consistent and coherent view of the state of the art, and of the trends within the art, and a historical basis of the art. In other words, to be a kind of informal historian who keeps updating the history.

AMAZING: Then this would mean that criticism is either retrospective or dealing with what is presently being written, but it never leads?

BUDRYS: I don't think the kind of criticism I'm talking about can lead. Perhaps some types of academic criticism, in which you go into the eschatology of these things and take a nice forensic approach, and start constructing theoretical structures which can sometimes be very convincing, might persuade one or two writers to deliberately write in such a fashion. If one of those writers happens to be a genius, you might even be able to create something which makes a strong impression on the field. I don't think that happens very often, and I think that art that is written to theoretical specification is usually very awkward. It's bum art. This is why I said that my critical studies and my critical writing don't affect my fiction at all, because I've deliberately compartmentalized the two things. I think all writers should do that. I think that in a book review, when you address a particular writer, unless you're giving him specific nuts and bolts advice, like "Charlie, you're using too many adverbs," any broad-stroke, generalized advice you may be giving him is actually directed at the reader and other writers. It is not really directed at the nominal target, because if he starts listening to you, you've done him a lot of harm.

AMAZING: Then do broad critical theories mean anything at all?

BUDRYS: Well, yeah. Every once in a while in the French Foreign Legion, they used to shoot a criminal, just somebody who had committed some sort of offense against the uniform code of military justice, and they did it pour encourager les autres, to encourage the others. You do these things for the benefit of the apprentices, for the benefit of the interested non-professionals, for the guidance of future historians, and I think that's where the value lies.

AMAZING: Have you ever found the criticism of your own work to be particularly helpful or harmful?

BUDRYS: Not to me as a writer. I don't think any critic has ever said anything to me at any point that has changed by a fraction the way that I write or the things that I write about. What happens is that when you get egoboo from some source that you respect, it heartens you, and it gives you a certain amount of confidence. It also helps to sustain you over the course of a longish career, if you keep track of how often the critics have been wrong. In my case, for instance, it has been extremely heartening. When I wrote Rogue Moon and it first appeared—and Rogue Moon is of course now a classic; everybody now agrees to that, or else they are keeping mum about it—the general statement was, "This wild and incoherent book is a major disappointment from the author of Who? which this book in no way resembles, and we're terribly sorry to see this young man throwing away the promise that was expressed in his earlier novel." Okay? All right, fifteen years go by, and I bring out Michaelmas, and now it's, "This novel is a strange departure for the author of that classic, Rogue Moon, etc. etc." So the fact that major parts of the science fiction community, as distinguished from the mundane community, failed to read and understand the ending of Michaelmas does not bother me very much, because they failed to read and understand Rogue Moon and then ten years later they put me in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame for it.

AMAZING: What was the overall response to The Iron Thorn? I recall letters in If after the serial had appeared saying, "Oh, the old decadent Earth ending again." Was this typical?

BUDRYS: That's one of those books that I probably shouldn't have written the way I did. But if you happen to be a young novelist or a young artist or a young musician, you probably ought to read that book. I think you might find it's a very good novel. It's about what it's like to be an artist, and the terrible things the world does to you.

AMAZING: To backtrack a great deal, how did you first become interested in science fiction?

BUDRYS: Okay, I was predisposed toward science fiction by having the first three books I'd ever read or had read to me be Night Flight and Wind, Sand and Stars by Saint-Exupery, and the full Defoe text of Robinson Crusoe, all of which are either technophile books, or, Defoe's book is actually—sometimes in my classes I even refer to it as such—proto-science fiction or proto-speculative fiction. It has many of the characteristics of science fiction. And then when I got into the second grade in PS 87 in New York, they were circulating a magazine called Young America, which for some reason or the other was reprinting what seemed to be a lot of juvenile science fiction, a couple of Carl H. Claudy short stories. At the Earth's Core was serialized in it. From that I went to Planet Comics. I very quickly began haunting the libraries for anything that had a speculative element to it. The first thing I ever created was a four-panel comic strip called "BRGA," which was penciled on the endpapers of my Robinson Crusoe. There was this little one-man flitter shooting around among the stars and planets. So I was off. By the time I was eight or nine I had discovered most of the pulp magazines, and there was no doubt in my mind. When I was nine I wrote my first story.

AMAZING: When did you actually realize you were going to be a writer, as opposed to attempting your first story?

BUDRYS: Right then.

AMAZING: Did you work continuously from then on?

BUDRYS: Yeah. I didn't vow any big oath at the age of nine, but it was obviously something I was strong at. It was something I could do that nobody else knew I could do as well as I did. By the time I was eleven I was collecting rejection slips and I was bound and determined. There was no question in my mind whatsoever. I was going to be a science fiction writer. Everything I did aimed at that. Everything.

AMAZING: How long till it started to look like you were going to start selling?

BUDRYS: In every writing club or class I was ever in, I was always the best, and I figured that put the odds on my side, that at any given stage of development I was above average. Then when I was about seventeen or eighteen, I began writing stuff that read pretty good to me. It didn't seem to have any major, obvious flaws in it. Chunks of it appeared to me to be fully satisfactory. And that was the kind of reaction I began getting from the editors, too. I began getting back letters and little notes instead of printed slips. A few months before my twenty-first birthday, I got a note from Jerry Bixby, who was then the associate editor at Startling and Thrilling Wonder, saying that he'd read the story of mine, he'd liked it, and wanted to buy it, but Sam Mines, his boss, had vetoed it. But Jerry felt that if I made one simple change in the manuscript, I could surely sell it somewhere. In fact that is the story that I eventually sold to Astounding, my first sale there. They'd bounced it once, but it went in the second time in a Frederik Pohl Literary Agency Folder, because Jerry had brought me around to Horace Gold's apartment. We were all playing poker together. I had met Fred, and Jerry recommended me to him as a client even though I had never sold anything. Fred took me on, and sure enough, starting in March of 1952, I was selling at least one short story a month, and sometimes showing a higher frequency than that. I sold my first novelette sometime toward the end of that year, and I had a contract for my first novel sometime around the beginning of 1953. It was a nice, steady progression. So, from about the age of 20, there was no doubt in my mind that I was already, in a sense, part of the professional establishment.

AMAZING: When the story went to Astounding the second time, had the change Bixby suggested been made, or was it exactly the same story in a Pohl folder?

BUDRYS: The change was made. There was a scene in which a guy's buddy gets a sledgehammer right through his space helmet, and the protagonist, I think quite naturally and normally, throws up at this spectacle. But that was in poor taste in those days, so out it went, and the story sold, otherwise unchanged.

AMAZING: Do you think the agent made a big difference? I can imagine all the paranoid would-be writers out there who will read this interview and say, "Oh, he did it because he had an agent. I haven't got one, so I can't."

BUDRYS: To a degree, that's probably true. I think it was easier for me to start selling in high volume, not only because my stories were coming in in a nice bright red agency folder by agency messenger, instead of in the slush mail, but because I had the consistent advice, encouragement, and nagging of my agent behind me, who kept giving me directions, and beating me about the face when I was lazy, doing all sorts of things. I had a mentor at that time, a coach. Playing poker with Horace Gold every Friday and meeting half of the editors and writers in town didn't hurt either. I tell you it's not necessary to do it that way. In fact, the common rule of thumb is that any agent you can get before you're published is an agent that's not worth having.

AMAZING: What do you think would have happened if there'd been a Clarion Workshop back then?

BUDRYS: I don't know if I would have gone. Too poor. But let's assume I would have. I think I would have gotten a lot of encouragement from Damon Knight and some of the other writers, and roughly the same thing would have occurred.

AMAZING: How much writing technique do you think can actually be taught usefully, in the sense that you take someone who hasn't got it, and you teach him, and then he does and his stories get better?

BUDRYS: It depends entirely on the individual. Some people who are potentially good writers are organized to see a story as a dynamic mechanism, as a kind of device for transmitting fiction to the reader's head. Those are the people that very quickly assemble tips on technique and very quickly learn to apply them. They may not show immediate, dramatic improvement to a professional level overnight, but they will show signs of having assimilated it. In a few months or a very few years, their work will have reached a professional standard in that respect. There are other writers for whom this approach is not personally useful. They're just not organized inside to think in terms of mechanism when they think in terms of story. They think in terms, apparently, of some kind of personal emotional experience. What I'm saying is that this view is the one that's paramount in their minds. We're all aware of the fact that it's an emotional experience. We're all aware of the fact that it's mechanism. In fact, there's a balance. But some of us respond primarily to one aspect or another. For the people who have to feel their way through a story, nevertheless, it will do them no harm, and it will help them if they get editing jobs. It will help them to talk with other writers. And writers occasionally change their orientation. A couple years from now they might be ready to use what they've learned.

AMAZING: It seems to me that there's a danger that these people will never become objective enough to tell if the technique is any good. If the emotion is there for them that may be enough, and they may just freeze in that position.

BUDRYS: Well, they may. I'm positive that Clarion does some harm to writers. I believe, or I wouldn't have taught there, that it does much more good than it does harm. There is no question in my mind that some people get discouraged or frozen. There's no way to tell how many of them never should have been there in the first place, would never have made it anyhow. So that's an imponderable. I know that some particular instructors have damn near destroyed an entire workshop in a week's time with the techniques that they've applied. Those instructors hopefully have been weeded out. But if the basic question is, "Is Clarion any good?" the answer is firmly, "Yes." Does Clarion produce a cadre of younger writers who are more sophisticated and more knowledgeable at any earlier age than they otherwise would have been? Again, yes.

AMAZING: How did you conduct things when you were there?

BUDRYS: I usually teach early in the six-week course, usually the second or third week. The first week is always taught by Robin Wilson, who is very nuts and bolts. He takes a very workmanlike approach, and hands them the basics. In the last couple years he has also been relying on a manual written by Damon Knight, which is full of nuts and bolts. Every conceivable nut and bolt, from how to type a manuscript to how to make copyediting marks, and a lot of practical and theoretical stuff in between. My job is to create a transition from this—to embed it more firmly in their consciousness and show them how it works—and move them toward some of the later instructors who are going to be talking to them in terms of self-expression, and finding an individual mode of writing. So my stuff is half-and-half. I start out by talking about the seven parts of a story. I define what you mean by beginning, middle, and end. I give them some rules of thumb for systematically examining a story that feels wrong, to find out where the problem is. I acquaint them with the idea that just because the ending feels bad, the ending may not be the part you want to rewrite. The problem may actually be in the middle where you didn't properly set up the ending. That kind of thing. I just expose them to the idea that a story is not inviolate, and in particular that a manuscript is not inviolate. You do go back and cut here and add features there, and you're not committed to anything until you finally come out with a manuscript that represents the story you're sure is finished. That's a startling idea to many young writers, and it's time they heard it.

AMAZING: What do you think would have happened if early in your career very heavyweight critics had proclaimed you the genius of the age and had started writing texts on your first two novels? What can that do to a young writer?

BUDRYS: I have no idea, and frankly this is something that preyed on my mind, as I'm sure it preys on the mind of every young writer, because all young writers are constantly teasing their minds with this kind of sweet fear. The thing I would have liked to have seen my writing do was make me rich. That I would have liked to see, to have it propel me into income levels such that I wouldn't have to worry about going out and getting a job.

AMAZING: Well, that wasn't too possible for an sf writer in the 1950s.

BUDRYS: It was barely possible, but not too possible.

AMAZING: Do you think the '50s was a good time to start writing science fiction?

BUDRYS: Yeah, for guys like me. But that's kind of begging the question, because I think guys like me came along as a result of the existence of the 1940s type Astounding science fiction. That's a long thesis about which I am writing part of a book. I can't give you a compact answer here. But I think that many of us, Sheckley, Phil Dick, Mike Shaara—who is now coming back into the field and was a very hot article in the early '50s—a lot of us were in effect created, tailored into our roles by the experience of reading Astounding, and therefore, when we arrived at the point where we became professionals, we arrived at the point for which nature and nurture had fitted us. So yeah, it was a ball. It was a lot of fun. There were constant economic worries, but, Good Lord, we felt like the young lions, all of us, and that's an awfully good feeling.

AMAZING: Did you find the field at all restrictive at this time? For instance, Donald Westlake left the field in the early '60s because he felt it was too staid and conservative. Did you feel any of that?

BUDRYS: No, I didn't. But then, first of all, all the other guys did, and I didn't because I was perfectly happy writing for John Campbell. I had something like twelve stories over a course of sixteen issues of Astounding. I saw Campbell at least once a week over a period of several years, and at least once a month over a period of five years. I was happy as a clam with Campbell. Phil Dick couldn't work with him. Sheckley didn't want to work with him. Shaara didn't want to work with him. Most of them were much more comfortable selling to Galaxy, but I didn't want to work with Horace Gold. I had worked for him as his assistant editor by then. But basically, I was a Campbell man, and as long as Campbell was effective, and Campbell and I were on the same wavelength, I could not have been happier.

AMAZING: Did writers get typed then the way they do now? Especially in the late '60s, if somebody sold two stories to Campbell, that made them "an Analog writer" which meant they were dismissed by everyone else.

BUDRYS: In the '50s if somebody said, "Oh you're an Astounding writer," it was the equivalent of saying, "Oh, you do it for the best." There wasn't as much of this kind of categorizing and analysis going on. You gotta remember that Damon Knight's book, In Search of Wonder, which codified the whole idea of criticism of the genre from within, didn't come out until the middle 1950s. It wasn't until the 1960s that it became a matter of course that anybody who took the field seriously actually expressed that opinion in the form of critiques and book reviews. So in the '50s when I was getting started, there were very few people who were going around with this kind of straightjacket to slip on you.

AMAZING: In that sense then, the '50s were less restrictive?

BUDRYS: In that sense. It was pretty damn restrictive if you didn't like working for Campbell, because then you were stuck with Horace Gold, and if you didn't like working for either one of them, then you were stuck with two-cent and one-cent-a-word markets.

AMAZING: Did Campbell feed you ideas and shape stories the way he did with a lot of other writers?

BUDRYS: Yes. He didn't shape stories very much, except by the tried and true method of bouncing the ones he didn't like, and from that you got an input that there were certain things you shouldn't do. He occasionally expressed something that might be interpreted as a helpful hint. But what he would do is sit there and toss ideas in general at you. He'd sit across the desk from you and have one, two, and three-hour conversations about the nature of, for instance, invulnerability. Campbell would ask a question like, "How would you create an invulnerable superman?" A truly invulnerable superman, someone who is proof against any form of attack. And eventually one or other of us worked around to the idea that it would be someone who would not be noticed, someone who would never be attacked. Then the question became, "Well, nevertheless, is this person vulnerable to something?" And out of that came stories like "Nobody Bothers Gus." About half the time I would just walk in cold with the idea. Some of my best-known, best-remembered Astounding stuff was never written for Astounding. It was bought by Astounding after the original market had for one reason or another not taken it. That's true of a novelette called "The End of Summer," which was my first Astounding cover story. It was written for a book called Star Short Novels that Fred Pohl was putting together. Fred bought it and the Ballantines bounced it, because my name wasn't big enough, and John Campbell bought it immediately. Another one was "The Executioner," which was written for If around a Kelly Freas cover painting. If bounced it because it had, quote, all that philosophy stuff in it, end quote. So Campbell bought it and ran it with Kelly Freas illustrations, but with a Christmas cover. Simultaneously, If published an issue with a story in it called "The Executioner" by Frank Riley and the Kelly Freas cover around which I had written my story. So I would guess that with Campbell and me it was about fifty-fifty. I might as well state something that I have been not saying in public for a very long time. Back in the 1950s, had Campbell quit his job at that point, he would have named me his successor. That's how close we were.

AMAZING: What do you think would have happened if you had been editor of Astounding/Analog all these years?

BUDRYS: I'm very glad you asked me that. I wouldn't have been editor of Astounding all these years. I would have botched it up in a matter of a year or two. I would have been terrible at it.

AMAZING: Because you didn't have his capacity for reading more bad science fiction than anyone who ever lived?

BUDRYS: That's not the hard part of editing, particularly not the hard part of editing a magazine like Astounding or Analog. You've got an entire personality for the magazine that has to be maintained. It can only be modified over a very long run. You have to be able to talk to people, contributors and readers, on a certain level and from a certain frame of reference. Despite Campbell's high opinion of me, I could not have done that at the time. I'm not sure I could do it now.

AMAZING: Campbell had a lot of science and pseudo-science hobbyhorses. They tended to get into people's stories. Did he ever try to get you to write a story based on, say Dianetics, or his ideas on psionics?

BUDRYS: He didn't try to get me to do that kind of thing. Very occasionally I'd play with it, simply because it was interesting-looking grist for the mill, like the "Nobody Bothers Gus" superman who has this mysterious psionic power which makes him not noticed. And I did a double-barrelled satire on E. B. Cole's Philosophical Corps stories in which the benevolent Earthmen go and straighten out these backward planets undercover, and a psionics story at the same time. That eventually came out as a rather straight and rather undistinguished novelette called "Chain Reaction" by John A. Sentry, which is just a straight, psionics Philosophical Corps story in a sense. But in the first draft it had a character who kept going around saying, "Right, Chief. Yes, Chief." That was all the dialogue he ever had, which was the function of any subsidiary character in any E. B. Cole Philosophical Corps story. And the names of all the alien characters were anagrams for the phrase, "I had one grunch but the eggplant over there." ((Laughs)) And if you look at "Chain Reaction," if you can find it anywhere, you'll find that there are still aliens in it with names like Chugren. But Campbell went blind to that story. He could not read it as a satire. He said, "Gee, it's a pretty good story but there are some weaknesses in it. You've got this character—you should know better—who says nothing but 'Yes, Chief,' and you really ought to fix that. Give him some more dialogue." So it was a rare occasion in which Campbell wanted to buy a story, gave me specific suggestions, and I wanted to sell the story badly enough that I followed those suggestions even though they were completely off the point of what I had been trying to do. Which is why I put Sentry's name on it instead of my own.

AMAZING: Did E. B. Cole catch on?

BUDRYS: I don't know. I don't know E. B. Cole from a hole in the wall. For all I know he never existed, or he was a voice that came out of a barrel. Actually I suspect that he was a very nice, sincere person who was thrilled to be able to write selling fiction and felt that he had developed quite a nice following in a very good market. It's one of those cases of somebody who could never sell to another editor, who flourished for a little while, and then vanished when Analog stopped publishing him.

AMAZING: I wonder how those cases work, because I know there still is a demand for the Philosophical Corps. In fact, the collection of those stories is a very sought-after book.

BUDRYS: What can I tell you? It's a sure-fire formula. Whenever you go you can fantasize that you're a secret agent of an advanced culture and that you're straightening out the poor backward planet. That's a fantasy that appeals strongly to many bright, speculative-fiction-prose teenagers, who are the way they are because they are in fact displaced from the society in which they were born. So that kind of story has a very strong appeal to young readers, and I presume that that is the bulk of the E. B. Cole readership, whether they are chronologically young or not.

AMAZING: What I notice is that it's popular in fandom. I suspect this may be another manifestation of the fans-are-Slans fantasy. Which brings up another subject. Did you ever have anything to do with fandom before you became a professional?

BUDRYS: Oh yeah, I had a lot to do with it. I published two issues of a fanzine. Lin Carter, as a matter of fact, was my first subscriber. I did a lot of letterhacking, and corresponded with a fair number of fans—fairly big name fans of the time. I went to the 1947 Philadelphia worldcon and some meetings of the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society, made a big trip up to New York at one time to go to a regional con there. Regional cons, mind you intended to have a total membership of 100. The Philadelphia worldcon of 1947 had a total membership of less than 175. But yeah, I was a member of the N3F, all kinds of things.

AMAZING: Did your being in fandom—as opposed to reading science fiction—have anything to do with your wanting to be a writer? You know how it can become social climbing in a fannish context.

BUDRYS: No, it wasn't like that. I had reached my decision to be a science fiction writer before I even knew there was such a thing as fandom. I knew there were letterhacks, but I had no idea there was anything like fandom. I revered the writers not as individuals, but as byliners. I never laid eyes on any professional writer of any kind until I went to the Philcon, and by that time they were old friends of mine in terms of their bylines. I never saw a fan react to the sight of a pro until '47, and by then I was 16, and I was well on my way.

AMAZING: We're almost to the end of the tape, so what have you got upcoming?

BUDRYS: Nothing that's going to surface immediately. I'm doing a lot of recasting and revising. And I'm doing this non-fiction critical stuff for Southern Illinois University Press. I'm doing something for the science fiction issue of Northwestern University's Triquarterly Literary Magazine if that issue still has space open. I'm finishing up a contemporary novel about science, and Doubleday and I have a contract between us on an anecdotal book on bicycling. And we're working on the special Algis Budrys issue of F&SF.
Author Profile

Algis Budrys

Algis Budrys

Tim Powers on Who?

Read Biography

Algis Budrys—“Who?” The Original Short Story

Like more than a few of the 1950s’ classic science fiction novels, Algis Budrys’s Who? began as a short story. He wrote it––he later claimed––having been inspired by a Kelly Freas painting he had seen in the offices of Fantastic Universe, and published it in that magazine in April 1955. Here is the original “Who?”

A Conversation with Algis Budrys

Algis Budrys discusses his novel Who?, along with many other subjects, in this interview with Darrell Schweitzer published in Amazing Stories in November 1981.

Audio: Algis Budrys—“Protective Mimicry” on X Minus One (1956)

Other Novels by Algis Budrys

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