5) Better to Have Loved: The Life of Judith Merril, by Judith Merril and Emily Pohl-Weary
Then some of my (male) friends and compeers began publishing politely laundered autobiographies of their successes and I was snowblinded by the detergent. Here were lists of stories sold, banquets attended, speeches given, editors lunched, even wives married and divorced, with never a shriek of tear or tremor or orgasm, and hardly a belly laugh anywhere… Somebody, I thought, should tell it like it was.
Well, she certainly did. I remember as a teenager reading with fascination Fred Pohl’s memoir, The Way the Future Was, and thinking that at last I had a real insight into the life of a real science fiction writer. I now know that he wasn’t telling us the half of it; he, Walter M. Miller, Theodore Sturgeon and Fritz Leiber, as well as being giants in the field, had something more intimate in common too.
But this is not a kiss and tell book; it’s a passionate account of a passionate woman, pulled together from drafts and essays by her granddaughter, several years after her death. I’m afraid I skipped some bits – the correspondence between writers about writing and the weather and how much they liked each other, whether from the 1940s or the 1990s, didn’t really grab me, and I also didn’t appreciate the format of shifting typefaces.
There were three chapters though that really came alive: her account of her intense but platonic friendship with Cyril Kornbluth, which coincided with her affair with Leiber (while she was still just about married to Pohl) was a gripping piece of introspective writing; a bit later on, the dramatic account of the shotgun confrontation during a custody dispute between Pohl and Miller, which apparently she could only bring herself to talk about on the record a few days before her death; and, more positively, her account of settling in to Toronto on the wings of resistance to the Vietnam War, which made the city sound recognisably like the one described in
I also really wish I knew more about her mini-documentaries which filled in the rest of the half-hour for CBC’s broadcasts of Doctor Who. The dates aren’t given, but it must have been in the mid-1970s glory days of the series, either late Pertwee or early Tom Baker. I wonder if they will ever be seen again?