Donald A. Wollheim

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Donald A. Wollheim
Wollheim, Donald.jpg
Born Donald Allen Wollheim
October 1, 1914
New York City, New York, USA
Died November 2, 1990 (aged 76)
New York City, New York, USA
Pen name David Grinnell
Arthur Cooke
Millard Verne Gordon
Martin Pearson
Braxton Wells
Graham Conway
Lawrence Woods
Occupation Publisher, editor, writer, critic
Nationality American
Period 1934–1990[1]
Genre Science fiction, fantasy
Subject Science fiction (non-fiction)
Spouse Elsie Balter

Donald Allen Wollheim (October 1, 1914 – November 2, 1990) was an American science fiction editor, publisher, writer, and fan. As an author, he published under his own name as well as under pseudonyms, including David Grinnell.[2]

A founding member of the Futurians, he was a leading influence on science fiction development and fandom in the 20th century United States.[2]

Wollheim as fan[edit]

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (first edition, 1979) calls Wollheim "one of the first and most vociferous sf fans."[3] He published numerous fanzines and co-edited the early Fanciful Tales of Space and Time. His importance to early fandom is chronicled in the 1974 book The Immortal Storm by Sam Moskowitz[4] and in the 1977 book The Futurians by Damon Knight.[5]

With Frederik Pohl and John Michel, 1938

Wollheim organized the first science fiction convention. A group from New York met with a group from Philadelphia on October 22, 1936 in Philadelphia. The modern Philcon convention claims descent from this event. Out of this meeting, plans were formed for regional and national meetings, including the first Worldcon.[6]

Wollheim was a member of the New York Science Fiction League, one of the clubs established by Hugo Gernsback to promote science fiction.[5] When payment was not forthcoming for the first story he sold to Gernsback, Wollheim formed a group with several other authors, and successfully sued for payment. He was expelled from the Science Fiction League as "a disruptive influence"[6] but was later reinstated.

In 1937 Wollheim founded the Fantasy Amateur Press Association, whose first mailing (July 1937) included this statement from Wollheim: "There are many fans desiring to put out a voice who dare not, for fear of being obliged to keep it up, and for the worry and time taken by subscriptions and advertising. It is for them and for the fan who admits it is his hobby and not his business that we formed the FAPA." In 1938, with several friends, he formed the Futurians—arguably the best-known of the science fiction clubs. At one time or another, the membership included Isaac Asimov, Frederik Pohl, Cyril Kornbluth, James Blish, John Michel, Judith Merril, Robert A. W. Lowndes, Richard Wilson, Damon Knight, Virginia Kidd, and Larry T. Shaw.[6] In 1943 Wollheim married fellow Futurian Elsie Balter (1910–1996). It proved to be a lasting marriage and a publishing partnership.

The Futurians became less fan-oriented and more professional after 1940. Its conferences and workshops focused on writing, editing, and publishing, with many of its members interested in all three.[6]

Wollheim as author[edit]

Wollheim's first story, "The Man from Ariel", was published in the January 1934 issue of Wonder Stories[1][7] when he was nineteen.

His author photo: Don Wollheim & daughter Betsy (1954)

He was not paid for the story, and he learned that other authors had not been paid either and said so in the Bulletin of the Terrestrial Fantascience Guild.[8] Publisher Hugo Gernsback eventually settled with Wollheim and the other authors out of court for $75, but when Wollheim submitted another story to Gernsback under the pseudonym Millard Verne Gordon, "The Space Lens" was published in the September 1935 issue[1] but he was again not paid.[9] His third known story was published in Fanciful Tales of Time and Space, Fall 1936, a fanzine that he edited himself.[1] That year he also published and edited another short-lived fanzine, Phantagraph.[1]

Wollheim's stories were published regularly from 1940; at the same time he was becoming an important editor. In the 1950s and 60s he wrote chiefly novels. He usually used pseudonyms for works aimed at grownups, and wrote children's novels under his own name. Notable and popular were the eight "Mike Mars" books for children, which explored different facets of the NASA space program.[3] Also well-received were the "Secret" books for young readers: The Secret of Saturn's Rings (1954), Secret of the Martian Moons (1955), and The Secret of the Ninth Planet (1959). As Martin Pearson he published the "Ajax Calkins" series, which became the basis for his novel Destiny's Orbit (1962).[3] A sequel, Destination: Saturn was published in 1967 in collaboration with Lin Carter. One of his most important books, however, was nonfiction; The Universe Makers (1971) is a discussion of themes and philosophy in science fiction.

One of Wollheim's short stories, "Mimic", was made into the feature film of the same name, released in 1997.[10]

"In true editorial fashion, he was honest about the quality of his own writing", says his daughter Betsy. "He felt it was fair to middling at best. He always knew that his great talent was as an editor."[11]

Wollheim as editor and publisher[edit]

Robert Silverberg said that Donald Wollheim was "one of the most significant figures in 20th century American science fiction publishing", adding, "A plausible case could be made that he was the most significant figure — responsible in large measure for the development of the science fiction paperback, the science fiction anthology, and the whole post-Tolkien boom in fantasy fiction."[6]

Wollheim edited the first science fiction anthology to be mass-marketed, The Pocket Book of Science Fiction (1943).[6] It was also the first book containing the words "science fiction" in the title.[11] It included works by Robert A. Heinlein, Theodore Sturgeon, T. S. Stribling, Stephen Vincent Benét, Ambrose Bierce, and H. G. Wells. Shortly before World War II, he edited two of the earliest periodicals devoted entirely to science fiction, Stirring Science Stories and Cosmic Stories.[12]

Ace Double, The Brain Stealers/Atta (1954)
Avon Fantasy Reader No. 10, edited by Donald Wollheim

In 1945 Wollheim edited the first hardcover anthology from a major publisher and the first omnibus, The Viking Portable Novels of Science. He also edited the first anthology of original sf, The Girl With the Hungry Eyes (1947), although there is evidence that this last was originally intended to be the first issue of a new magazine.[6] Between 1947 and 1951 he was the editor at the pioneering paperback publisher Avon Books, where he made available highly affordable editions of the works of A. Merritt, H. P. Lovecraft, and C. S. Lewis' Silent Planet space trilogy, bringing these previously little-known authors a wide readership.[13] During this period he also edited the influential Avon Fantasy Reader for eighteen issues, and the Avon Science Fiction Reader for three. These periodicals contained mostly reprints and a few original stories.

In 1952 Wollheim left Avon to work for A. A. Wyn at the Ace Magazine Company and spearhead a new paperback book list, Ace Books. In 1953 he introduced science fiction to the Ace lineup,[2] and for 20 years as editor-in-chief was responsible for their multi-genre list and, most important to him, their renowned sf list.[3] Wollheim invented the Ace Doubles series which consisted of pairs of books, usually by different authors, bound back-to-back with two "front" covers.[13] Because these paired books had to fit a fixed total page length, one or both were usually abridged to fit, and Wollheim often made other editorial alterations — as witness the differences between Poul Anderson's Ace novel War of the Wing-Men and its definitive revised edition, The Man Who Counts. Among the authors who made their paperback debuts in Ace Doubles were Philip K. Dick, Samuel R. Delany, Leigh Brackett, Ursula K. Le Guin, and John Brunner.[13] William S. Burroughs' first book, Junkie, was published as an Ace Double.[13] Wollheim also helped develop Marion Zimmer Bradley, Robert Silverberg, Avram Davidson, Fritz Leiber, Andre Norton, Thomas Burnett Swann, Jack Vance, and Roger Zelazny, among others.[6] While at Ace, he and co-editor Terry Carr began an annual anthology series, The World's Best Science Fiction, the first collection of what they considered the best of the prior year's short stories, from magazines, hardcovers, paperback collections and other anthologies.[6]

In the early 1960s Ace reintroduced Edgar Rice Burroughs' work, which had long been out of print, and in 1965, Ace bought the paperback rights to Dune.[6] (Herbert's title worried Wollheim, who feared it would be mistaken for a western.)[11] Eventually, Ace introduced single paperback books and became one of the preeminent genre publishers. Ace and Ballantine dominated sf in the 1960s and built the genre by publishing original material as well as reprints.[6]

The famed Ace editions, now collectors' items

There was a time when no paperback publisher would publish fantasy. It was believed that there was no public for fantasy and that it wouldn't sell. Then Wollheim changed everything when he brought out an unauthorized paperback edition of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings in three volumes — the first mass-market paperback edition of Tolkien's epic.[13] In a 2006 interview, his daughter Elizabeth said:

He called Professor Tolkien in 1964 and asked if he could publish Lord of the Rings as Ace paperbacks. Tolkien said he would never allow Lord of the Rings, his great work, to appear in 'so degenerate a form’ as the paperback book. Don was one of the fathers of the entire paperback industry. He'd spearheaded the Ace line, he was the originating editor-in-chief of the Avon paperback list in 1945, and I think he was hurt and took it personally. He did a little research and discovered a loophole in the copyright. Houghton Mifflin, Tolkien’s American hardcover publisher, had neglected to protect the work in the United States. So, incensed by Tolkien’s response, he realized that he could legally publish the trilogy and did. This brash act (which ultimately benefited his primary competitors as well as Tolkien) was really the Big Bang that founded the modern fantasy field, and only someone like my father could have done that. He paid Tolkien, and he was responsible for making not only Tolkien extremely wealthy but Ballantine Books as well. And if he hadn’t done it, who knows when — or if — those books would ever have been published in paperback.[14]

Tolkien had authorized a paperback edition of The Hobbit in 1961, though that edition was never made available outside the U.K.[15] Eventually, he supported paperback editions of The Lord of the Rings and several of his other texts, but it is difficult to say whether he was persuaded to do so by the manifest economic wisdom evident in sales of the Ace editions. In any case, Ace was forced to cease publishing the unauthorized edition and to pay Tolkien for their sales following a grass-roots campaign by Tolkien's U.S. fans.[16][17] A 1993 court determined that the copyright loophole suggested by Ace Books was incorrect and its paperback edition was found to have been a violation of copyright under US law.[18] (At this time, the U.S. had yet to join the International Copyright Convention, and most laws on the books existed to protect domestic creations from foreign infringement. Houghton Mifflin was technically in violation of the law when they exceeded their import limits and failed to renew their interim copyright.) In the LOCUS obituary for Donald Wollheim, however, yet more detail emerges.

Houghton-Mifflin had imported sheets instead of printing their own edition, but they didn't want to sell paperback rights. Ace printed the first paperback edition and caused such a furor that Tolkien rewrote the books enough to get a new copyright, then sold them to Ballantine. The rest is history. Although Ace and Wollheim have become the villains in the Tolkien publishing gospel, it's probable that the whole Tolkien boom would not have happened if Ace hadn't published them.[6]

DAW Books[edit]

Wollheim left Ace in 1971. Frederik Pohl describes the circumstances:

Unfortunately, when Wyn died [in 1968] the company was sold to a consortium headed by a bank. ... Few of them had any publishing experience before they found themselves running Ace. It showed. Before long, bills weren't being paid, authors' advances and royalties were delayed, budgets were cut back, and most of Donald's time was spent trying to soothe authors and agents who were indignant, and had every right to be, at the way they were treated.[6]

DAW Books logo used from 1972 to 1984

Upon leaving Ace, he and his wife, Elsie Balter Wollheim, founded DAW Books, named for his initials. DAW can claim to be the first mass market specialist science fiction and fantasy fiction publishing house.[2] DAW issued its first four titles in April 1972. Most of the writers whom he had developed at Ace went with him to DAW: Marion Zimmer Bradley, Andre Norton, Philip K. Dick, John Brunner, A. Bertram Chandler, Kenneth Bulmer, Gordon R. Dickson, A. E. van Vogt, and Jack Vance. In later years, when his distributor, New American Library, threatened to withhold Thomas Burnett Swann's Biblical fantasy How Are the Mighty Fallen (1974) because of its homosexual content, Wollheim fought vigorously against their decision. They relented.

His later author discoveries included Tanith Lee, Jennifer Roberson, Michael Shea, Ian Wallace, Tad Williams, Celia S. Friedman, and C. J. Cherryh, whose Downbelow Station (1982) was the first DAW book to win the Hugo Award for best novel. He was also able to give a number of British writers — Michael Moorcock, E. C. Tubb, Brian Stableford, Barrington Bayley, Michael Coney — a new American audience. He published translations of international sf as well as anthologies of translated stories, Best From the Rest of the World. With the help of Arthur W. Saha, Wollheim also edited and published the popular "Annual World's Best Science Fiction" anthology from 1971 until his death.

Recognition[edit]

Upon Wollheim's death in 1990, the prolific editor Robert Silverberg argued (above) that he may have been "the most significant figure" in American SF publishing.[6]

Robert Jordan credits Wollheim for helping to launch his (Jordan's) career. Wollheim made an offer for Jordan's first novel, Warriors of the Ataii, though he withdrew the offer when Jordan requested some minor changes to the contract. Jordan claims that Wollheim's first, 'laudatory' letter convinced him that he could write, and so he chose to remember the first letter and forget about the second.[19][20] The novel was never published, but Jordan went on to write the immensely successful Wheel of Time series for a different publisher.

Marion Zimmer Bradley refers to him as "a second father", Frederik Pohl calls him "a founder",[6] and Robert Silverberg says he was "seriously underrated" and "one of the great shapers of science-fiction publishing in the United States".[13]

From 1975 Wollheim received several special awards for his contributions to science fiction and to fantasy.[21]

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame inducted him in 2002, its seventh class of two deceased and two living persons.[22]

Selected works[edit]

World's Best Science Fiction, 1965-1971 (with Terry Carr)[edit]

The Annual World's Best SF, 1972-1990 (with Arthur W. Saha)[edit]

Novels[edit]

  • Across Time (as David Grinnell)
  • Destination: Saturn (as David Grinnell)
  • Destiny's Orbit (as David Grinnell) (published as an Ace Double with John Brunner's Times Without Number)
  • The Edge of Time (as David Grinnell)
  • The Martian Missile (as David Grinnell)
  • Mike Mars and the Mystery Satellite
  • Mike Mars in Orbit"
  • Mike Mars Around the Moon
  • Mike Mars, Astronaut
  • Mike Mars at Cape Canaveral (vt "Mike Mars at Cape Kennedy")
  • Mike Mars Flies the Dyna-Soar
  • Mike Mars Flies the X-15
  • Mike Mars, South Pole Spaceman
  • One Against the Moon
  • The Secret of The Martian Moons (1955, Winston Science Fiction series)
  • The Secret of The Ninth Planet (1959, Winston Science Fiction series)
  • The Secret of Saturn's Rings (1954, Winston Science Fiction series)
  • To Venus! To Venus! (as David Grinnell)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Donald A. Wollheim at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB). Retrieved 2013-04-18. Select a title to see its linked publication history and general information. Select a particular edition (title) for more data at that level, such as a front cover image or linked contents.
  2. ^ a b c d Smith, Curtis C. (1981). Twentieth Century Science Fiction Writers. New York: St. Martin's. pp. 596–98. ISBN 0-312-82420-3. 
  3. ^ a b c d Nicholls, Peter (1979). The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. London: Granada. pp. 660–61. 
  4. ^ Moskowitz, Sam (1974). The Immortal Storm. Westport, CT: Hyperion Press. 
  5. ^ a b Knight, Damon (1977). The Futurians. New York: John Day. ISBN 0-381-98288-2. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o LOCUS, December 1990, Donald A. Wollheim: Obituaries and Appreciations, pp. 68–70.
  7. ^ Silver, Steven H. "Debut Science Fiction". Retrieved 2007-09-21. 
  8. ^ Speer, Jack (1939). Up to Now. Full-Length Articles. 
  9. ^ Davin, Eric Leif (1999). Pioneers of Wonder. New York: Prometheus Books. ISBN 1-57392-702-3. 
  10. ^ Donald A. Wollheim at the Internet Movie Database.
  11. ^ a b c Personal interview with Elizabeth Wollheim. April 27, 2009.
  12. ^ The New York Times, November 3, 1990, Section 1, p. 18.
  13. ^ a b c d e f Silverberg, Robert (1997). Reflections & Refractions: Thoughts on Science Fiction, Science, and Other Matters. Grass Valley, Calif: Underwood. pp. 253–56. 
  14. ^ LOCUS, June 2006, Betsy Wollheim Interview.
  15. ^ "The First Paperback Edition of The Hobbit". Retrieved 2009-04-27. 
  16. ^ Reynolds, Pat (2004). "The Lord of the Rings: The Tale of a Text". 
  17. ^ Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. (1981), The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, especially #270, #273 and #277, ISBN 0-395-31555-7 
  18. ^ Eisen, Durwood & Co. v. Christopher R. Tolkien et al., 794 F. Supp. 85, 23 U.S.P.Q.2d 1150 (S.D.N.Y. 1992), affirmed without opinion, 990 F.2d 623 (2nd Cir. 1993).
  19. ^ McAlpine, Rachel. New Zealand interview with Robert Jordan at the Wayback Machine (archived June 24, 2002).
  20. ^ Kleffel, Rick. Fine Print interview with Robert Jordan.
  21. ^ "Wollheim, Donald A.". The Locus Index to SF Awards: Index of Literary Nominees. Locus Publications. Retrieved 2013-03-26.
  22. ^ "Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame". Mid American Science Fiction and Fantasy Conventions, Inc. Retrieved 2013-03-26. This was the official website of the hall of fame to 2004.

External links[edit]