Remembering the golden age of pulps with Robert Silverberg

A reader writes, "An original interview with Robert Silverberg on the subject of his early work as a pulp writer and editor for Amazing magazine. Posted yesterday, for Poulpe Pulps: A Silly Website, which features pictures of the octopus in pulp art. Silverberg: what an elegant and gracious writer!"

RS: Back in my pulp-mag days I worked from about 8:30 to noon, took an hour off for lunch, and worked again from one to three, for a work day of five and a half hours or so. I wrote 20 to 30 pages of copy in that time, doing it all first draft, so that I was able to produce a short story of 5000-7500 words in a single day. If I had 3000-worders to do, I usually wrote one before lunch and one after lunch. At three o'clock I poured myself a shot of rum or mixed a martini, put a record on, and sat down to relax until dinnertime, reading and perhaps sketching out the next day's work on a scrap of paper. This was the Tuesday-to-Friday routine. I never worked on Saturday or Sunday.

On Monday I made the rounds of the editorial offices to visit some mix of John Campbell, Howard Browne, Larry Shaw, W.W. Scott, and Bob Lowndes–editors of Astounding, Amazing, Infinity/Science Fiction Adventures, Super Science Fiction, and the various Lowndes titles–to deliver the previous week's work. Sometimes I stopped off at my agent's Fifth Avenue office to pick up checks, also. (I took the subway downtown from my apartment on West End Avenue in Manhattan.)

In weeks when I was writing a novel, I followed a five-day schedule, doing about thirty pages a day, so a typical Ace novel would take me six or seven days to write. I produced a lot of copy that way–a million words a year, or more–and since nearly all of it was contracted in advance, I didn't have to worry about rejections very much. (Now and then I would aim a story at Campbell or Gold or Boucher, where nothing was guaranteed in advance, and if they turned it down I delivered it to one of the lesser magazines, which bought it. Nothing went unsold for long.)

You'd be hard pressed to find a nicer guy with a drier, kinder sense of humor in science fiction; getting a chance to chat with Silverberg is always a highlight of my trips to WorldCon. Not to mention that the guy's a writing machine and a living legend.