Trufen.net’s story of the day announces Jeff Berkwits will be the new editor at Amazing and that Ted White has already determined Berkwits lacks the necessary skills for this job.
Say what you will about Ted and his crystal ball, I’m sure he’s right. Ted has edited pro magazines, he ought to know. What’s more, I have a little experience in this line myself. It’s just that I was lucky enough not to get the dream job.
Berkwits is embarking on a desperate gamble that all his gifts as an editor and writer can be trained up fast enough to make the crucial difference in Amazing’s commercial survival. And he’s the kind of promising novice a scuffling prozine publisher will inevitably turn to.
When Jim Baen was leaving Galaxy in the 1970s, out of the blue Jerry Pournelle told me (entirely seriously) that I should apply to take over the job and that he’d put in a word for me. Well, I thought it over logically for about twelve seconds before getting swept up in the dream. I wrote the best application letter I could and mailed it off to Baen at Galaxy. Then I waited. Then I heard nothing. Then I read in Locus that Hank Stine had been hired as Baen’s replacement.
In hindsight one can see that Galaxy was already on the verge of a financial tailspin that could not have been halted by the resurrection of John W. Campbell. Hank Stine merely received the privilege of riding the bomb down to the target, like Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove.
However, Stine was editor of Galaxy long enough to find my job application in his in-box, scrawl an insulting answer on the back in red pen, and mail it back to me. Really, it was a hilarious and pathetic gesture. Didn’t he have bigger things to worry about? Yes Hank, you were right, I did not have any credentials to aspire to that job.
In the mind of a science fiction fan, editing a prozine is a dream job. Who could turn it down? But I exaggerated when I said I was lucky not to have been picked. One of the things that distinguishes a fan is looking for external validation, and wouldn’t I have “proved” something to the sf community even by editing Galaxy into the ground? Er, don’t answer that.
As for Berkwits, I wish him luck and success. Been there. Almost did that.