In the Barn, p.1Piers Anthony
IN THE BARN
Again, Dangerous Visions, 1971
More than any other writer, Piers Anthony is responsible for there being an Again, Dangerous Visions and a forthcoming final volume in (what has now become a) trilogy. I talked about that a bit in the general introduction to this book, but I think it bears repeating here, in Piers's own little section preceding "In the Barn," which is very much the kind of story that was being sought when DV was first conceived.
In the introduction to David Gerrold's story, which you've just read, if you're dealing with this literary entity sequentially, I noted that David had come to sf not through the traditional channels accepted by the old-line afficionados, but via TV, a totem and a route of his times. Rather than struggling up through the pulp magazines, writing crap at a penny-a-word for ten years, or pounding out witless action paperbacks for a grand-and-a-half (for four months' work), Gerrold got his break into sf paid handsomely for a different kind of dreaming. But not till he had written those penny-a-word stories for the magazines - in some ways lesser work than his TV script - was he accepted by the cadre. The mass of sf readers and fans are a fickle people. They don't take to newcomers all that quickly, though the editors and their fellow-writers do. The fans seem loath to raise to the heights too quickly, those new writers constantly banging on the doors and breaking the windows of the house of sf glory.
Most frequently, the fans will have known about a writer for some time, will have followed his life and his career, particularly if he started out in the ranks of fandom, writing for the amateur magazines, finally selling a story here, a story there. And eventually, when a fan turned writer has paid sufficient dues in the eyes of the omniscient observers, they will grudgingly admit him to the ranks of the professionals, even though he may have been selling for ten years. It is a peculiar kind of peer-group acceptance, and it's as Robert Silverberg once said: for that kind of writer, his public progress in the craft is like that of the Chambered Nautilus, the cephalopod that moves through the various rooms of its shell till it emerges and dies. In effect, it carries its past on its back. So, too, do sf writers who have to win the approbation of sf fans. The fans never forget. They find it difficult to deal with the reality of a writer today, as he is. They see him still as eighteen years old and trying to effect the metamorphosis from amateur to pro. It can be a killing thing, forever shadowed in the eyes of one's "audience" by the ineradicable record of what one has been. Some writers never outgrow the need to win the praise of that tiny coterie of vocal fans. And there are writers in our genre whose work has been stunted forever because fans did not want them to move forward, change, expand. If you doubt the truth of these remarks - and I await with a certain stoicism the inevitability of fan magazine response to these harsh criticisms of The Faithful - you need only ask Isaac Asimov how he feels when fans tell him the best thing he's ever written is "NightFall," published in 1941, years before the first of his hundred-plus books. You need only ask Philip K. Dick or James Schmitz or Robert Heinlein or any of the many other writers who avoid contact with fandom, why they have chosen to absent themselves from close contact with organized fans and their publications. You need only ask Kurt Vonnegut why he fought so hard to have the words "science fiction" disassociated from his work. That is, if you can track them down.
Only rarely in our field does a writer emerge quickly and totally, like Athena from the forehead of Zeus, whole and complete, writing the way he or she wants to write, and giving very little of a damn for the opinions of the fans with their frequently already-formed conceptions of what is acceptable in the genre.
It happened with Sheckley, and it happened with Ursula Le Guin, and it happened with Lafferty, and it happened with Norman Spinrad, and it happened with Tom Disch . . .
And it happened with Piers Anthony.
He came into being between the closing of Dangerous Visions to contributors, and the book's publication. In that one year - 1967 - Piers Anthony's Chthon (pronounced thőn) was published by Betty Ballantine (whose antennae For new writers are supersensitive and almost always amazingly accurate) and was an immediate sensation. It was nominated For both the Hugo and the Nebula in that year, and though it missed copping the awards, the name Piers Anthony was suddenly a first-rank one. His work began appearing in a all the top magazines, and more important, what he wrote was talked about. He became a focal point of controversy, and when his contentiously exciting replies to critics began appearing in the fanzines, it was apparent here was a man who was willing to stand toe-to-toe with all the self-styled little literary dictators, and punch the shit out of them when their opinions were muddle-headed or impertinent or uninformed. And often when they weren't.
I met Piers A. D. Jacob at Damon Knight's 1966 Milford (Penna.) Writers' Workshop, and while it took some time till later for us to become what each of us would call "friends," we developed instant respect for one another. I know I did for him, and he assures me the reverse was true. Though I don't recall Piers ever raising his voice at that workshop - a situation in which obsidian idols would become hysterical - his presence was felt, and he had the strength oF personal conviction to attack with solid literary judgments some of the gods in attendance. When we all went out to dinner at one of the lesser dining spas in Milford, Piers ordered a special vegetarian meal (with some difficulty), and my respect for him increased at the manner in which he handled the remarks and stares of his fellow writers. It was clear that Piers was his own kind of man, that he had decided in what way he could best support the kind of life he felt he needed to enrich himself, and in the most laudatory senses of the word he was a "strange" man. In some ways he is the most interesting of all the interesting people who write sf. The fascination of the man, incidentally, carries over strongly into his work, and - if I can be pardoned equating the writer with what he writes - where his soul resides in life has much to do with the depth of his stories.
In any case, Piers was too late for DV, but he wrote a very long, very perceptive review of the book for one of the fanzines, and in it he mentioned that if there was to be a sequel, he would rain fire and brimstone on me if he was overlooked. At that point, contemplating no companion volumes, I regretted having closed the book just before the advent of Anthony, because I was deeply impressed by "Chthon."
And later, when Larry Ashmead shunted my little red wagon onto the spur leading to A,DV and it became obvious I should not repeat anybody who'd been in the first volume, I started drawing up a list of writers I wanted in this book. The first name on the list was Piers Anthony. He seemed to embody all the qualities necessary for an appearance in a book intended to carry forward the ideas of DV: he had come to prominence during the period of "the new wave" (God forgive my use of that phrase), he wrote in a style and with a verve peculiarly his own, he had a sound grounding in the disciplines of the best sf of the past, he was outspoken, his themes were fresh and different, and he was brave.
So I solicited a story from him.
He sent me a manuscript titled "The Barn" and I liked it very much. I made a few suggestions for revision and wondered if he'd mind adding "In" to the title.
Here, in part, was his response, included with this introduction to the man himself, as a (hopefully) interesting insight into how an editor and a writer can work together.
October 14, 1968
When I saw the ms of "The Barn" back, I knew my work had bounced . . . yet again, and of course that particular piece had no real hope of publication elsewhere. You had nicely preserved the ms by backing it with cardboard, though, and used your own envelope. I had enclosed postage but not envelope because I had figured you would want the story. Ah, well, and I t
Business first: can do. You ask for revision not deleting the meaty portions, but intensifying them by increasing the protagonist's personal involvement. You are talking my language. Fact is, the version of the story I showed you I knew was sketchy, because I concentrated on the brutality, the shock value. As it stood, I did not consider it high-class literature - yet it seemed to me it could be improved quite a bit by filling in more on the hero (?), Hitch. His own background, a frustrated love affair, some kind of emotional parallel to what he saw in the barn - but I didn't do it a) because it would have lengthened the story, that might already be unacceptable because of what it described, and b) because it would have required additional work and craftsmanship, and I've put my full skill into my work only to have it bounced by all markets too many times already. One does hesitate to open his vein too far if he suspects his blood is draining not into a patient clinging to life but a rank sewer.
OK - it seems to me now that we see eye-to-eye on this story, that lengthening and strengthening of personal involvement will not be effort wasted on you, and I shall go to it. You suggest that Hitch might fuck (that word won't be used in the story: not because I'm prudish, but because it would strike at a different cerebral level than I'm aiming for in this story) her, and feel an attachment. So what I have in mind is to run through the sick scene - hand-milking, anal temperature, heated erection (What is the term for perpetual and painful erection? I needed it for this story, couldn't remember it, and couldn't find it listed. I thought it was peripeneurises or some such, but found no such word in my dictionary. Damn frustrating, to know the word exists but not be able to pinpoint it.) pretty much as before, then have the contact with Iota, the teen-aged breeder, be too much . . .
Main reason I stick to novels now is that I have yet to fail to sell an sf novel, yet still can not sell more than about one story in five, though it is the same skill applied to each form. Seems as though the magazines are determined to bounce anything with any reasonable spark of originality or imagination - but let's not get back into that gripe. You proved the truth of any complaints I might make when you published DV. (You know, I haven't seen any other editor claim he would have published "Riders of the Purple Wage" either. They still claim it is a wide-open market, but they don't mention that . . .)
You say you created A,DV just for me? I find that hard to believe. How about this: you are afraid that if you don't include me, I will review it again . . . anyway, whatever the weight of various factors, I'm glad you had the first and will have a second. The field does need this type of shaking up. Even more, the field needs the replacement of about four magazine editors . . . but that's another matter. You realize, I trust, that you won't be able to come up with another "Purple Wage," and that all the people who condemned it will then condemn you for not duplicating the feat? Yeah, you know.
Lastly, the baby. She's a year old now, been walking since 9˝ months, has shoulder-length hair, is impossibly cute. My prejudice, of course - except that everyone who sees her agrees. Name is Penelope - "Penny' - kind of you to inquire. I can't do much writing on the days I am taking care of her (my wife works 3 days a week, thus I work the remaining 4), but should be able to handle the "Barn" revision this coming weekend. You should be hearing from me again, then, in about a week.
And then, just five days later, I received the following . . .
October 19, 1968
Here, 4,000 words longer, is "In the Barn." I incorporated your notions and mine, and have what I believe is a superior version. I have not proofread it, so there will be typos etc., but wanted to get it out to you as soon as possible. Hurricane Gladys passed by here in the last day, and we were without power for 17 hours, so portions of the manuscript were typed by kerosene lamplight.
This revision helped take my mind off a different problem. Four days ago I had a call from the last publisher I submitted my novel "Macroscope" to, Avon. He was ready to offer an advance of $5,ooo without significant revision . . . but it turned out he hadn't read the last 90 pages. Since those very pages made another publisher change its mind, I advised him to finish the ms, then make his offer again if he still felt the same. He said ok, he'd call back in a day or two . . . and that was the last I heard. Ouch! Did I scare him off?
As it turned out, Piers had not scared off Avon's editor, George Ernsberger, and "Macroscope" was published in 1969 to mixed, but controversial, reviews.
In the last few years Piers has run afoul of the Recession-produced wearies even longer-established, bigger-name writers have come to know. (We can thank Messrs. Nixon, Agnew, Mitchell, Rogers et thugs for that condition of life: possibly the most innovative method yet devised for "balancing the economy." They may balance it so well that within a short time we'll all be back on the barter system, which might not be a bad idea at that. Anyhow . . .) Yet he has continued to write, and his work continues to be marked by vigor, innovation and a commendable fearlessness.
I think "In the Barn" will surprise, delight and possibly even shock a few of you; but whatever its final judgment by critics and posterity, it holds for this editor the essence of what this book attempts to do in advancing sf and the fiction of the imagination.
As for the man behind the story, I include here his autobiographical musings, in many ways as fascinating as the stories they helped produce. Friends, I give you Piers A.D. Jacob.
"I was born in Oxford, England on August 6, 1934, thus (I think) beating out John Brunner for the honor of being the first contemporary sf writer to be born in that particular locale by about six weeks. Both my parents graduated from Oxford University, which is why I happened to be there at the time. They both went on to obtain Ph.D's in America, while I went on to become an, er, science fiction writer. Happens in the best of families. I lived in England to about the age of four, when I joined my parents in Spain. They were doing relief work under the auspices of the AFSC (American Friends Service Committee), feeding milk and food to the hungry children during the Spanish civil war. I believe my father, Alfred Jacob (brother, that fouls up my pseudonym, doesn't it) was head of the Spanish AFSC relief project. When Franco took over, things became dubious; my family's sympathies were with the Loyalists, who lost that war. One day my father disappeared. After several days he managed to smuggle out a note, and thus was documented what the new government had denied: he had been thrown in jail. One of those holes with a trench for sanitary facilities and no separate bathrooms for the female prisoners: the sort you read about in novels but don't really believe exist. They do exist. He got out, but the agreement was that he would depart the country. That spared the Fascists having to admit they had made a mistake. I don't know what happened to the stores of food for the starving children after that, but I doubt they went where intended. We boarded the Excalibur (this is from memory, so I don't guarantee ship or spelling, but I think that's it) and steamed for America in August, 1940. It happened to be the same ship and the same voyage that the Duke of Windsor made, going to the Bahamas. Remember, he was King Edward VIII of England, who reigned for less than a year until he abdicated in order to marry an American divorcee. I had my sixth birthday on that voyage, celebrated by a cake made of sawdust (they were short of party supplies: WW II, you know) and a harmonica present. I played the latter endlessly, and I wonder to this day whether the one time King of England had to grit his teeth at the interminable racket.
"School in America was no fun. I attended five schools while struggling through first grade, flunking it twice. Those first grade schools were in five states, too: Pennsylvania, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and New York. If I were to judge states by that sampling, I would rate Pennsylvania at the top, New Hampshire in the middle, and the rest at the bottom. In New York they were trying to teach me to pronou
"College was a kind of paradise. All the food I could eat (and I ate more than any person my size I know, without gaining weight) and almost complete freedom. It was a no-grade system, so there was no class pressure except the student's own desire to learn, and my desire was not particularly strong at first. Much of that freedom was wasted, as I did not achieve puberty until age 18 and did not shave until 21, but I did learn the essentials, as demonstrated by the fact that I got married upon graduation. For my thesis I wrote a science fiction novel, at 95,000 words the longest thesis in the history of the college until that time, 1956. It never sold, but years later I reworked one segment of it for a contest and won $5,000. I was drafted into the army in March, 1957, took basic at Ft. Dix and Survey training at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma.
"The army was not paradise. I, as a pacifistically inclined vegetarian, barely made it through basic (about a third of my cycle didn't - illness, mostly). They called me 'No Meat.' When the time came for me to make PFC they pulled a battery rank-freeze. I went to the battalion C.O. and next day exactly one PFC stripe came down: mine.
"In 1959 we moved to Florida, where we stayed. We had medical problems, so that we were married eleven years before we had a baby survive birth. Our first, Penny, came in 1967, and our second, Chery, in 1970; both bright, cute little girls well worth waiting for. Penny walked at 9˝ months and spoke 500 words by 18 months; not sure I can do as much myself, some days! We're basically settled and happy, and now I've even conformed to the writer's image by growing a beard.
In the Barn by Piers Anthony / Fantasy / Science Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes