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art by Wi Waffles

Diamond Doubles

Eric Brown began writing when he was fifteen, while living in Australia, and sold his first short story to Interzone in 1986. He has won the British Science Fiction Award twice for his short stories, has published over forty books, and his work has been translated into sixteen languages. His latest books include the SF novels The Serene Invasion, Satan’s Reach, and the crime novel Murder by the Book. He writes a regular science fiction review column for The Guardian newspaper and lives near Dunbar, East Lothian. His website can be found at: ericbrown.co.uk.
The disappearance of the noted science fiction editor Dan Woolover around the 10th October, 1966 was a cause of great mystery, as were the other disappearances in the area of Tubb Street, Brooklyn, around the same time. However, letters discovered recently at Mr. Woolover's office might shed light on the affair.
T. Traveler
22 Tubb Street
Brooklyn
New York.
24th May, 1965
To Dan Woolover
Diamond Books
1121 Avenue of the Americas
New York
N.Y. 10037
Dear Editor,
Please find enclosed the ms of my first novel Life in 3065, at 45,000 words, for your consideration. I think it would make a very creditable companion to a novel by a "Bigger Name" in your Doubles line of paperbacks. It's an account of everyday life in the year 3065.
Yours in anticipation, T. Traveler.
15 July, 1965
Dear T. Traveler,
Thanks for letting us take a look at your novel Life in 3065. After careful consideration, we've decided to pass on this one. While we thought the writing of a high caliber, and the characterization well done, we considered the novel lacking in plot. Please try us again.
Yours, Dan Woolover
25th August, 1965
Dear Dan,
Many thanks for your encouraging note, a rejection though it was. Please find the ms of my novel Life in 3075, at 40,000 words, for your consideration. I've taken note of your critique and made this one a little more plotted, including a sub-plot about a murderer.
Yours in expectation, T. Traveler.
11th October, 1965
Dear T. Traveler,
Thanks for letting me see your novel Life in 3075. Again, neat characters and the writing is strong... but by plot I mean a progression of events that flow from the consequences of actions taken by the protagonists in the course of the story. What we have here is a mere list of things done by the central character--and what was all that about a strain of altered humanity which feeds off its fellow man? Cannibalism is a big no-no with our readers. To give you some idea of what we're looking for, pick up Vengeance from Vega by Philip E. Low, available now from Diamond Doubles.
Yours, D. Woolover.
10th December, 1965
Dear Dan,
Many thanks for your letter of the 11th October. I'm sorry you did not care for my realistic depiction of life in the year 3075. I took your suggestion and bought a copy of Vengeance from Vega by Philip E. Low, and while I did enjoy the gosh-wow sense-of-wonder plot, I found the novel less than satisfying. For one thing, in the year 2567 Vega will not be colonized, and a race of blue toad-like creatures will certainly not eradicate the colony and then invade Earth. I found this aspect of the story highly unsatisfactory.
Meanwhile, for your edification, please find enclosed the ms of my third novel, Life in 3085.
Yours in apprehension, T. Traveler.
20th February, 1966
Dear T. Traveler,
I'll give you this, you're prolific, and persistent.
Look, we're a SF imprint publishing action-adventure novels. Your novel, which find enclosed, is frankly more mainstream than SF. Merely writing a travelogue set in the year 3085 and listing a few neat labor-saving gadgets--and the antigrav elevator is a non-starter, by the way: antigrav is impossible--doesn't make the novel science fiction.
In our novels we want space-going heroes who show the aliens what's what, a fast-paced plot, and a happy ending.
Feel free to send us something containing all of the above, and I'll be a happy man.
Yours, D. Woolover.
25th March, 1966
Dear Dan,
I'm sorry you didn't care to take my fourth novel, which I thought my very best.
In my fifth novel, Life in 3095, which is even better than my last one, I take an in depth look at society and customs in that year. I've taken your suggestion and written a more plotted account of life in the future.
Trusting you will like this one...
Yours in continuing hope, T. Traveler.
2nd May, 1966
Dear T. Traveler,
Please find enclosed the ms of your novel Life in 3095. For all the reasons stated in previous correspondence, the ms is not what we're looking for. And why this preoccupation with cannibalism?
I'd be grateful if you desisted from sending us any more of your work.
Yours, D. Woolover.
5th June, 1966
Dear Dan,
I am most offended by the tone of your last letter.
I would like to take this opportunity to state that your opinions expressed in your previous letters of rejection betoken not only an inability to appreciate fine literature, but also to foresee future trends. Call yourself a SF editor!
For your information (and I have been keeping this fact to myself in previous letters, for fear of earning your ridicule) I have first-hand experience of life in the fourth millennium as I hail from that era. Hard though it will be for you to credit, I was born on the 1st of May, 3055. In the year 3099 I made the unfortunate error of embroiling myself in an escapade that was deemed by the authorities to be less than legal. I was sentenced to mandatory time-transference--to wit, transportation to the Cretaceous Period, there to live out a short life alone while I bewailed my crimes. However, I can only assume that the chrono-sling developed a malfunction, and I found myself stranded--happily--in the year 1965.
Being possessed of a way with words (according to my AI-instructor) and an acute memory, I elected to earn a crust--as I think you say--penning Science Fiction novels.
I very much regret that you do not possess the ability to recognize talent when you see it.
And for your information, antigrav-elevators are possible--and will be invented in 2075.
Yours in disappointment, T. Traveler.
29th July 1966
Dear T. Traveler,
Now there's a story! It has everything--crime, punishment, devices gone wrong, unintended consequences. Hogwash, of course--but just what I'm looking for! Write it up as fiction in 40,000 words, with added spice--i.e., love interest and aliens--and you've got yourself a contract.
And as for you hailing from the fourth millennium… Look, buddy, I get all sorts writing for my outfit: nutty university professors and loons, hacks with delusions of grandeur and would-be messiahs. I don't know where you fit on that list, but if you say you're a time-traveler from the fourth millennium, that's fine by me. Just so long as you produce the goods.
Yours, D. Woolover.
30th August, 1966
Dear Dan,
Please find enclosed the ms of my SF novel Stranded in Time, at 39,000 words, for your consideration. I've "spiced it up" for the market, and thus consider it far from my best work.
But, as they say, needs must...
And I must register my displeasure at being placed in the same category as "loons and hacks with delusions of grandeur." One day, perhaps, I will be able to prove the veracity of my claim that I hail from the fourth millennium.
Yours, T. Traveler.
23rd September, 1966
Dear T. Traveler,
Hot-diggety! Stranded in Time has everything. I loved the scene where the hero was flung back in time with his broad sobbing buckets and the Tau Cetians in hot pursuit. Great stuff! This is just what we're looking for.
Please find enclosed the contract for $750; sign both copies and return.
Publication is slated for March next year, and we're putting you back-to-back with The Two Headed-Thing from Antares by John Racket. And how about this for a strap-line: "He paid for his crime by being stranded in time!"
And if you're ever in the neighborhood, drop by--I'd love to meet you, Mr. Traveler.
PS--One thing... you said you were flung back in time for the error of embroiling yourself in an "escapade that was deemed by the authorities to be less than legal." I hope you don't mind me asking just what your crime was?
Yours, D. Woolover.
4th October, 1966
Dear Dan,
I'm delighted to have placed a novel with you at last, and I look forward to its publication with anticipation.
You made an assumption in your last letter that I must hasten to correct. You presumed I was "Mr." Traveler. However, you were wrong. I am not a male of the species... and furthermore--and this might surprise you--nor am I technically speaking a female. We have come a long way, in the fourth millennium, in the science of genetic alteration, and several years ago I elected to undergo genetic-somatic-chromosomal modification. For your information I resemble a human being only from the head up (which makes passing for human in this age not too difficult); however, from the neck down...
Well, perhaps you would care to drop by my apartment one evening, Mr. Woolover, and see for yourself.
And my crime? I think that would be better discussed over a few drinks, don't you? Or perhaps even a meal. My treat.
Yours with relish, T. Traveler.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

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