From 1952 to 1963 the most penetrating critic of the field of magazine science fiction was known as "William Atheling, Jr." Guessing his real identity was not easy, because his dissection did not spare even his other ego, noted SF author James Blish. Shedding his protective covering, Mr. Blish assembled many of the Atheling papers and edited them into this book. It is virtually a text for would-be writers of science fiction. Nor is its value limited to that genre; the rules of good writing are universal, and Atheling's critiques are not restricted to the peculiarities and special interests of science fiction.
These essays take aspiring authors and editors by the hand and lead them painstakingly through the dense forests of "said-bookism," the treacherous moors of "repetitive phrasing," and other forbidden territories. And even old hands will find cause to wonder and reflect, and perhaps even to re-evaluate professional skills too long taken for granted.
No subject is too sacred or taboo for Atheling's shredding typewriter; from sex to God, from religion to satirical poetry. No author is spared the bloody mark of his relentless lash; from Anderson to Heinlein to Zirul. No editor or publisher is spared hisor itsdue share of responsibility.
But most importantly, The Issue at Hand is not justor even primarilya textbook for students of writing. It is a vastly entertaining collection in its own right, affording many hours of pleasant informative reading and re-reading, urging the reader ahead with the wry comments, unexpected humor, and undeviating attention to standards that were the hallmarks of William Atheling, Jr.
Table of Contents
- Some Propositions
- Some Missing Rebuttals
- Rebuttals, Token Punches and Violence
- A Sprig of Editors
- Cathedrals in Space
- Negative Judgments: Swashbungling, Series and Second-guessing
- One Completely Lousy Story, With Feetnote
- One Way Trip
- The Short Novel: Three Ranging Shots and Two Duds
- The Fens Revisited: "Said" Books and Incest
- An Answer of Sorts
- A Question of Content