Friday, August 31, 2012

On the retirement of Science Fiction giant Stanley Schmidt

A couple of days ago I was surprised and dismayed to learn that Stanley Schmidt had retired as the editor of Analog magazine (here is the Locus Magazine announcement). This is the end of an era in science fiction. Dr. Schmidt had edited Analog for 34 years and introduced us to all kinds of amazing authors. He was known for (among many other things) speed reading every single submission the magazine received, and having a near-infallible memory both for stories he had bought and stories he had rejected.

His retirement is more personal for me, though, because I was one of the many unpublished authors he has discovered in the slush. It's thanks to him that I am a published author today, and thanks to him that I have now had two cover stories, one magnificently illustrated by Bob Eggleton and the other by the legendary Michael Whelan. The depth of my gratitude to Stan for noticing me, appreciating my work, encouraging me, and supporting me in the field cannot be measured.

I remember what it felt like to get my first acceptance letter. Ever. From anyone. And it was from Analog!! I got the SASE in the mail just as I was running out to take my preschool kids to their gym class, and the sight of it put me in such a panic I could scarcely drive. I opened it in the lobby of the gym class, and when I saw that Stan had said, "I like Let the Word Take Me" I started hyperventilating. He requested some alterations to the story to make sure my physics were well in line for his more expert readers (the gecko people used to stick to walls, but now they don't), and the story appeared in July/August 2008.

At the time, that story was unique. I had written only one linguistics SF story, so when I realized I had sold it, I thought to myself, "I should try to write another one." So I wrote "Cold Words," and sent it to Stan, and in his acceptance letter he asked if I was going to the Nebulas that year, or Westercon, because he would like to meet me. I think I was torn between squeeing and fainting. By the time I got to the Nebulas, Stan's plans had changed and he hadn't been able to make it, but I discovered he had mentioned me to people. It's this kind of quiet support that I can't thank him enough for.

I did meet Stan at Westercon that year, however, by flying out to Arizona and back on the same day. He and I were on a panel together with Sheila Finch, who had originally suggested I submit to his magazine. We talked about alien languages for an hour, and it was awesome. Stan has studied so many languages it's just amazing, and he's full of stories about them (on that day, it was Swahili especially). The funniest thing about meeting him was that he wore the same kind of canvas sun hat that my dad always wore for playing tennis. He is softspoken, with a quiet sense of humor, a rapier intelligence, and an incredible internal drive.

Analog will no doubt miss him. Fortunately, he's being succeeded by Trevor Quachri, who has worked with him for years. I've always enjoyed working with Trevor myself, and I'm sure he'll do great new things for the magazine. I'm hoping that Stan will have the chance to do more of his own writing, as he says he intends to. Having heard a little bit about the ideas he works with in his own writing, from our occasional lunchtime conversations, I think we have some great things to look forward to from Dr. Stanley Schmidt.

If you would like to read an interview with Stan, Paul Levinson has one here.

1 comment: