Editors and Zyklon B

I still owe you a letter that Jack sent a publisher discussing his thoughts on editing. But while I’m trying to find it, let me tell something else that I witnessed:

“Gold and Iron” in some publications has a really strange ending. Our hero, and the girl he essentially beat into submission, got with child, and generally disgusted kiss and make up at the end, and walk off into the sunset hand in hand.

John Schwab (aka “Hercules”) and a group of us were sitting around with Jack. Herc says, “you know, I always thought the ending of Gold and Iron was rather strange.” Jack asked why. Herc said that he couldn’t see the two of them getting married, etc… Jack said, “I never wrote that!”. Well, Herc described where he thought the novella should have ended. After some working at it, we pieced together this bit of editorial obscenity:

Some editor didn’t like the way Jack ended the story. So, they reversed the last two chapters, added some glue material, and fudged up a fake ending…

Some of these guys (and Vassar girls) are sniffing Zyklon B, if you ask me.

That’s one of the reasons 200-odd people worked so hard on these books.


  1. töff said,

    July 12, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    Having recently had my first tiny sale of fiction, having gone through three detailed revisions, and then having see the final version in print, which differed from the third submitted draft, I know understand first-hand what it’s like to slave over every word and phrase and nuance, then to release it to print, at last to see that it changed after I let it go. In this case, the change was innocuous at worst–but, still, it was a change.

    What some of those guys did to Vance’s work was just … criminal.

    > I still owe you a letter that Jack sent a publisher discussing his thoughts on editing.

    I’m still hoping to see the one(s) he wrote about punctuation, esp. commas.

  2. wrycur said,

    July 13, 2010 at 7:39 am

    The guilty editor for Gold and Iron may have been Frederick Pohl, who is not too bad of a SF author himself. I know it was he who refused some of Jack’s fictitious quotes (first done by John Dos Passos in Midcentury, I think) at the start of chapters of the Demon Princes series.

    I’m sure some of our errata are Jack being Jack, as Bob says.

    • rclacovara said,

      July 13, 2010 at 2:25 pm

      Many of the stories have a very tortured publication history: I’d have to see if we even know where the mess started. “Moon Moth” is a favorite of mine; it has been published in 14 languages, about 45 times. I can tell where some of the errors originated from… but that’s an exception. We had a copy of the manuscript for that one.

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