Raymond Chandler on SF: 'They pay brisk money for this crap?'

Contributed by
Dec 17, 2012

Novelist Raymond Chandler left his literary mark with detective noir classics like The Long Goodbye and The Lady in the Lake, but in a private letter to his agent he took a crack at science fiction—and wondered why anyone would actually pay to read that "crap."

The letter, dated March 14, 1953, is a very interesting window into Chandler's process, and shows just how little he thought of "what they call Science Fiction." After offering an update on his in-progress novel Playback, Chandler has a bit of fun and writes up a few off-the-cuff sci-fi paragraphs. Judging by his take, it's pretty obvious Chandler didn't have much respect for the genre.

Check out the letter, complete with his technobabble-filled mini-story, below:

6005 Camino de la Costa La Jolla, California Mar 14 1953

Dear Swanie:

Playback is getting a bit tired. I have 36,000 words of doodling and not yet a stiff. That is terrible. I am suffering from a very uncommon disease called (by me) atrophy of the inventive powers. I can write like a streak but I bore myself. That being so, I could hardly fail to bore others worse. I can't help thinking of that beautiful piece of Sid Perelman's entitled "I'm Sorry I Made Me Cry."

Did you ever read what they call Science Fiction? It's a scream. It is written like this: "I checked out with K19 on Aldabaran III, and stepped out through the crummalite hatch on my 22 Model Sirus Hardtop. I cocked the timejector in secondary and waded through the bright blue manda grass. My breath froze into pink pretzels. I flicked on the heat bars and the Brylls ran swiftly on five legs using their other two to send out crylon vibrations. The pressure was almost unbearable, but I caught the range on my wrist computer through the transparent cysicites. I pressed the trigger. The thin violet glow was icecold against the rust-colored mountains. The Brylls shrank to half an inch long and I worked fast stepping on them with the poltex. But it wasn't enough. The sudden brightness swung me around and the Fourth Moon had already risen. I had exactly four seconds to hot up the disintegrator and Google had told me it wasn't enough. He was right."

They pay brisk money for this crap?


So, would you like to have seen the continued adventures of K19 and Google?

(Via Letters of Note)