Saturday, December 8, 2007

Pangborn

I hope to write some more about this in the future, but I've said that before, elsewhere, so don't hold your breath.

The background is this: my wife, Amy, performer, soft sculptor, puppeteer, storyteller, former librarian and inspiration for many a fictional character, used to be married to a fellow then named just Freff, now Connor Freff Cochran. Freff is something of a character himself, but this isn’t about that. A few years ago, Freff became Peter Beagle’s business manager, but this isn’t about Peter Beagle, either.

When Beagle was still a wunderkind, he made contact with Edgar Pangborn, author of Davy, Mirror for Observers, West of the Sun, etc. If you have not read those, it’s because you are young, or because you do not read science fiction. Trust me, science fiction readers Of a Certain Age, have all read Edgar Pangborn.

Edgar died too soon, in 1976, just short of his 67th birthday. He was survived by his sister Mary, with whom he had been very close all his life. Mary was both a chemist who worked for the State of New York, and a writer herself. Indeed, it was a literary family; their mother was Georgia Wood Pangborn, a popular writer of ghost stories and such, who appeared in Harpers, and other “slick” magazines in the first part of the 20th century.

Mary Pangborn lived until 2003. When she died, Peter Beagle became both her heir, and the executor of the literary estate of both Mary, Edgar, and presumably Georgia Wood.

The Pangborns’ literary files were the usual: a mess. The task of organizing and storage was contracted out to a librarian known to Beagle’s business manager, i.e. my wife Amy. So, for the past four years or so, we’ve been host to the Pangborn papers, some of them going all the way back to Georgia Wood. In fact, we have the original, handwritten manuscript of Georgia Wood Pangborn’s only novel, Roman Biznet, among other things.

There is, obviously, far more to all this than I can properly write about here. Eventually, I expect real scholars to have a field day. Until that happens, we keep the stuff safe, dry, and (all praises to Ho-Masubi and Pele, may they not visit us too harshly), unburned.

I can say this, however. There is one unpublished manuscript of Mary Pangborn’s, titled Friar Bacon’s Head, that would, in a just world, be published immediately. But I don’t have a good feel for the publishing world right now, other than to note that a single fantasy/romance by a dead author does not seem to be what publishers are looking for.

I can also say that a great amount of the Edgar Pangborn material is probably not very commercial, in any sense, now or ever. For that matter, I have my doubts that, for example, Mirror for Observers would pass muster on today’s publishing scene.

But, and this chills me to the bone, Edgar Pangborn’s published works are a small fraction of his written output, even granting that he rewrote incessantly. And he was one of our very best.

3 comments:

Keith said...

As a fan of Pangborn's ever since I read A Mirror For Observers as a teenager more than 40 years ago, I can only hope that some of this material will be made available on the Internet. Given the current state of commercial SF publishing, that might be the only way we'll ever see it. Perhaps you could consider using Amazon's e-publishing service.

James Killus said...

keith,

It's not my call in any case. I'm sure that Peter and Connor are exploring all the possibilities.

Jay said...

I'm not as pessimistic as Keith. I'd suggest contacting Tachyon, or NESFA Press, or even Baen as publishers likely to be interested in creating at least one volume out of what you have. Good luck, seriously.