Tweet, Bishoff, and Martin — or — My First Paying Gig

Senior year in college. A special seminar class in science fiction is offered by the Chair of the English Department, Dr. Roald Tweet, a professor from whom I had already taken a couple classes (American Renaissance and the regular Science Fiction class). The special speaker toward the end of the quarter? You’ve heard of him, I know you have.

George R.R. Martin.

Now this was WAAAAY before Martin’s current superstar popularity based on his A Song of Ice and Fire megaseries. This was before Wild Cards. This was before his Hollywood days (story editor on the 80s revival of The Twilight Zone; writer, executive story consultant, and producer on Beauty and the Beast). This was back when he was writing mostly science fiction instead of big, fat, epic fantasy books. He was somewhat of a local boy, too, living in Iowa, long before his New Mexico days and his New Mexico ways. My college, my alma mama, was Augustana College, in Rock Island, Illinois, so it wasn’t too far for Martin to travel.

I was a big Martin fan, back in the day. I own only two autographed books: one is Tanner’s Tiger by Lawrence Block (an impulse purchase when Block came through our area on a book tour back in 2003) and Martin’s first short-story collection, A Song for Lya (1976). So, needless to say, I was psyched for Martin’s visit. For two weeks before the fated day, I reread all of Martin’s output that I could get my hands on, going without TV and skipping classes to get everything read. The night he appeared at our seminar, he read an excerpt from one of his then-current works (I forget which), spoke a little about being a science fiction writer, then took questions.

I think I asked over half of the questions that evening. Which probably made me an overbearing douche, but hey, it landed me my first paying writing gig. Lemme ‘splain.

Also attending Dr. Tweet’s SF seminar class that evening was a recent graduate and Augustana bookstore operator, Murray Bishoff. I had become friends with Murray through the bookstore, which, surprise surprise, was one of my hangouts during college (main hangouts included: the college radio station, where I worked; the student union, which housed the radio station; East Hall, which housed the English Department; the library, where I also worked; and Murray’s bookstore, also located in the student union). Murray was my gateway drug to dollars for words. Lemme ‘splain further.

Murray wrote a somewhat-famous (infamous, if you listened to the detractors) column called “Now, What?” for the leading publication for comic book fans, The Buyer’s Guide to Comics Fandom (later retitled The Comics Buyers Guide when editor/publisher Alan Light sold it to Krause Publications). Murray wrote about the comics industry, interviewed writers and artists, previewed upcoming projects, and basically was *the* news source about comics at the time. So, when he wrote up the George R.R. Martin appearance for TBG (as it was called), he let Alan Light know that the majority of the questions asked that evening came from me. Based on that, Alan offered me a column writing about science fiction in its many flavors: films, comics, books, and TV.

The column, titled FutureView, appeared in the spring of 1978. What did that first column cover? Why I disliked Star Wars. Yup, it’s true. As an action movie, Star Wars is okay, even thrilling at times. As science fiction, it’s dreck. But I’ve already covered that years ago and am not going to wade through it again.

The debut column made a (very) small splash. (I was never a major contributor, as shown by the omission of my name in the Wikipedia article.) Other columnists were calling me names, letter writers were calling me names — it was interesting, to say the least. I led with my chin and took some hits, but I was all right with it, for the most part. You know why?

I was a published writer.

The gig lasted only a couple of years, but it sure was a lot of fun.

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About Bruce Diamond

Despicably proud old man. Text-extruding asshole (thank you, John Scalzi) with a skewed vision on life, pop culture, writing and general assholiness. Not a scholar, not a gentleman, not Martin or Lewis. But still trying to make life fun and funny.
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