An Autobiographical Ramble
Found at Joe Haldeman's Tangled Website. Used with permission
What kept me from competing with Marvin Minsky was the Milford Writer's Workshop. This was an annual affair that Damon Knight held at his decaying manse in Milford, Pennsylvania: he would invite twenty-some professional sf writers and two or three beginners to come up for a week-long roundtable workshop. It was not just sitting around and tearing stories apart, though. The important part to me was social, mingling with men and women whose work I had been reading most of my life -- Knight and his wife Kate Wilhelm, Gordon R. Dickson, Ben Bova, Keith Laumer, and Harlan Ellison. Gene Wolfe and Carol Emshwiller were there, fine writers whose work was known to the intelligentsia but not to me, and the other beginners were Gardner Dozois and Charles Platt, who both went on to make their livings writing and editing. . .
Gardner and Jack and I went to one of the last Milfords. Damon and Kate didn't live in Milford anymore, so they held the thing at the Kellogg Conference Center in Kalamazoo. It was memorable for me for several reasons. . .
Another oddity that
I still have difficulty understanding was a story by Gustav Hasford, which
turned out to be the opening chapter of his novel The Short-timers.
Harlan Ellison was the first respondent, and he actually stood on a table
and said that this was the best thing he had ever seen at a Milford; we
should all get down on our knees and thank Hasford for letting us read
it, and on and on in that vein. Damon and Kate commented next, and they
both liked it, too (it was evidently the story that Hasford had submitted
for admission to Milford), and everyone around the circle liked it, until
it came to me. I was almost speechless, but did manage to say that I couldn't
believe that the person who wrote this silly piece of tripe had ever been
in combat. (Hasford made much of being a Vietnam vet.) If memory serves,
everyone else liked it except Gardner, who said he'd never been in combat,
but he had been in the army, and couldn't buy soldiers acting like that
except in a cheesy movie. It did wind up being a movie, Kubrick's Full
Metal Jacket, which I thought was a silly melodrama, but no doubt made
money all around. (Hasford was in the news some fifteen years later, when
he was arrested for having stolen thousands of library books, a houseful,
from libraries around Los Angeles. I have to admit that the newspaper
story filled me with joy.)
Joe Haldeman was drafted in 1967 and
fought in the Central Highlands of Viet Nam as a combat engineer with the
4th Division (1/22nd Airmobile Bn.). He is the author of over twenty
science fiction novels and has won numerous Hugo and Nebula awards.
He is currently a part-time professor at MIT.
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