It was ironic that I met Waldemar Kumming for the first time in many years and he gave me a copy of his fanzine Munich Round-Up#163 at Intersection, the con at which John Brunner died. This excellent issue (available from Engadiner Strasse 24/81475 Munchen/Germany) contained Brunner's guest- of-honor speech from Helicon 1993. It was quite long and told a miserable tale of woe.
He started by thanking the concom for bringing him to Germany, and said that this might have to be his last con ever, not because of illness but because he is broke and unable to sell enough to survive on and pay off his debts. I was shocked to read this from a man who had published 90 books including such major works as Stand on Zanzibar, Shockwave Riders, and The Sheep Look Up.
I guess that the situation is not unique. A correspondent just mentioned that a successful British SF writer of the '40s and '50s, William F. Temple, ended his days "selling notions from a tray in the lobby of a London railroad terminal." But still, while Temple was a good writer and his novel The Four Sided Triangle had been made into a movie, he just wasn't in the same league as John Brunner.
After adjusting for inflation, Brunner hit his financial peak in the early '70s. Even then he had to sell his home in London to get out from an intolerable mortgage and buy a more economical home in the hinterlands. Then disaster hit in the form of high blood pressure. He was put on medication which totally changed his personality and made him extremely unpleasant, and also incapable of concentrating on his writing. For over a year he was incapable of completing a single manuscript.
His problems continued with an inability to sell many of his ideas, but then he got his best advance ever. Six months into the book his wife Marjorie had a stroke, was hospitalized for a few months, and died. He was unable to finish the book, had to renegotiate the advance, and return part of it. He had other contractual disasters, had some books rejected, and had bad luck with publication schedules on others. If Tooth and Claw had been published when completed it would have hit a peak in interest in Rotweiler dogs, but coming out well after the panic the book was dismissed as an exploitation novel. His life took an upswing after he married his second wife, Lily, and was able to get settled again. (He had much bureaucratic red tape to go through since she was from Mainland China.) In his happiness he was able to write the farcical Muddle Earth.
His life continued, however, on a downward spiral after that brief respite. He lost productive time on uncompletable novels or ones he couldn't sell, and slowly sold off prized possessions in order to survive. He had to give up his two-hour-a-week secretary and vices like cigars. His dedicated word processor was dying and was going to have to be replaced with a computer, and the disks transferred to new format. He was afraid he was going to have to sell his house.
I wonder how he did during the two years between the speech and his death.
Fortunately I didn't see him during his bad phase but I always found him delightful at cons. The last time I saw him was as a surprise at a recent Lunacon when he was a last-minute replacement GoH. I remember having a delightful meal with him and John Boardman. He had interesting LoCs in the NIEKAS lettercol and I reprinted several of his con speeches. I was very sorry to learn that his later years were so tormented.
Mark Blackman: Brian Thurston, who reads for me, commented that while he likes to watch the Olympics, he is put off by the "official this & that" of the games. For instance, the athletes are supposed to be in top physical shape and follow good eating habits, yet the games are sponsored by Budweiser and MacDonalds...very unhealthy food. He suggested that each bottom loser be given a sixpack of beer to guzzle down fast, and then all run in a special closing race. Anyone who finished would get a special gold medal.
I have probably contacted briefly Al Zimmerman but never got to know him or he me, hence the desire for the meeting. It might finally happen the week before this disty when I am in NY for the International Space Development Conference. John Malay: My ex partner on NIEKAS lived in Laconia NH, whose zip is 03246 while mine is 03226. In typesetting the colophon, he sometimes used his zip instead of mine, and the resultant mail arrived rubber-stamped "mail delayed by wrong zip code." Things will be even worse now that much mail is sorted by optical character recognition scanners without human intervention. On the other hand I remember visiting Charlie Brown in his Bronx apartment in the late '60s when he got a letter addressed to Ted White and no other information than Bronx on the envelope. Who knew what in the PO? As a matter of fact Ted then lived in Brooklyn and as far as I know never lived in the Bronx.
Do the suburban Barnes & Noble superstores have used, review, and remaindered sections like the Bargain Outlet at 5 Ave & 18 St? I go bookhunting in NY for the specialty and used books. John Boardman: I have no use for the gunnies. I think the NRA is a bunch of perverts who commit self-abuse while fondling their midnight specials. Also, I have no use for Luddites, and am very pro-tech. However, I canÆt help seeing a parallel between the gunnies saying ôGuns donÆt kill peopleö, and your saying that technology is not responsible for its ill effects.
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