Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Tao of Terry Carr


It is the common lot of even the best editors to be forgotten. There are exceptions, but they are few and far in between. Probably the best forgotten editor I ever knew was Terry Carr.  He bought my first novel for a revival of the Ace Specials line, a short but prestigious selection that included the first novels of Kim Stanley Robinson, Lucius Shepard, Howard Waldrop and an obscurity  by the name of William Gibson. What an eye for talent the man had!

Recently I received the second volume of Feast of Laughter, an R. A. Lafferty bookzine, which I'll try to do credit to just as soon as I can find the time.  Among many other gems, it contains a reprint of an interview that Tom Jackson did of Lafferty back in 1991.  When asked what influence Terry had on Lafferty's work, Lafferty replied as follows:

Terry Carr taught me that a story must begin with a bang. As a consequence the first book of mine he edited and published, Past Master, had in its first paragraph:

[...] There was a clattering thunder in the street outside. [...] the clashing thunder of mechanical killers, raving and ravaging. They shook the building and were on the verge of pulling it down. They required the life and blood of one of the three men [...} now [...] within the minute.

Well, maybe all stories don't have to begin with a bang, but all Terry Carr stories had to begin with a bang of some sort. Terry also told me that 'You can lose a reader, completely and forever, in fifteen seconds. Never leave him even a fifteen-second interval without a hook to jerk him back.' Anything else Terry told me is contained in those two very good pieces of advice.

Which is every word of it God's own truth. If you doubt me, go back and reread A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, say, or À la recherche du temps perdu. You'll see.


1 comment:

Bruce said...

Terry Carr was the editor I -most- wanted to sell a story to, back when I started sending stories out in the 1980's. Never managed. Heartbreaking when I got a note from Robert Silverberg that Terry had died, and returning the manuscript that had been on Terry's desk.