VULCAN'S HAMMER                    See also  "Time Pawn" and "Vulcan's Hammer"

"Battle of the Brain Machines"

1st.EDITION: ACE, pb, D-457, Sep 1960, 139pp, $0.35, (Emsh) // THE SKYNAPPERS by John Brunner

UK 1st: Arrow, pb, 913300-8, Aug 1976, 154pp, 50p (Peter Elson)


OTHER ENGLISH EDITIONS:


FOREIGN EDITIONS:

  • To a larger image
Livre de Poche, pb, 7138, Librairie Générale Française, 1991, ?, ? (?){ISBN: 2-253-05730-4}

{For the best bibliographic info in French goto: www.multimania.com/ggoullet/pkdick/frames.html Thanks for the cover pix, Gilles}


SL:38 51ff

Dear Scott,

The letter from Don Wollheim about a rewrite of VULCAN'S HAMMER to expand it to 40,000 words has reached me. In some ways the situation looks good, but its a complex situation and I want to discuss it with you point by point, if you will bear with me.

(one) Risk. Since this expanded version would be dead on the magazine market, we would have to sell it to Don or have it not sell at all, I presume. This gives Don all the cards in a spec rewrite. I admire and like Don, and he and I have had a rather long and happy business relationship, but his statements about my rewrite of TIME PAWN make me uneasy -- and well they might.{See: DR.FUTURITY} You know that I worked hard on the TIME PAWN rewrite, and I did what I believed to be a good job, one that would please Don. If I went haywire, its news to me. Also, I got it in very early, far in advance of the deadline. I did everything I could to rebuild the story in the best possible way, and the letter that I sent outlining my intentions was a fair and accurate statement by me of what I intended to do, and what I actually did do. He was not stuck or stung. He had the legal right to reject my work entirely, to request any amount of changes he wished. Now, I say this only because his odd way of reacting -- both in terms of what he said and when he said it -- makes me fear on this VULCAN'S HAMMER job. From my standpoint, Don is an enigma. I honestly can't tell what will please him, obviously. It would take me several months of intensive work to get a rewrite of this story to him and I can't absorb all the risk. Therefore, to go ahead, I must discuss in detail, as I go along, what I am doing. I see no other way out, If ACE can't put up any money in advance.

(two) Defects in the story. VULCAN'S HAMMER is a botched job, in the printed version. I botched it myself. I consider it one of the worst of my efforts. However, parts are good, even superb. If I am to expand it, I must do more than literally put in two words where one now stands throughout. This may bring about another TIME PAWN situation, right? However, it would not be my intention to put in ideas not already there, as I did in TIME PAWN. I would build up the best parts, and eliminate or lessen the weaker parts. I believe that the true body of good ideas lies in the first portion of the story -- in about the first third. The ending is terrible. For three days I have studied the story, made elaborate notes. I want you to pass on to Don these notions regarding the rewrite {...} Here are the notions, expressed informally:

{There follows a page and a half of material on VULCAN'S HAMMER. See: SL:38, p51ff}

(three) If I go ahead and do this on spec, I would like Don and you to permit me to send in, not a finished draft at first, but a carbon -- or my original, if you want -- of my first rough draft. {...}

(four) Other pressing work. {...} Shouldn't I be a little wary of getting too much in VULCAN'S HAMMER and this Don Wollheim s-f notion of "Phil Dick's true vocation"? It might throw me off my real work. which is of course the straight-novel contract. {possibly CONFESSIONS OF A CRAP ARTIST or THE MAN WHOSE TEETH WERE ALL EXACTLY ALIKE} (c) If I am to do any s-f, any bread-and-butter work, since VULCAN'S HAMMER can only be marketed to ACE, wouldn't it be more practical {...} for me to go and do a wholly new s-f novel, based on new ideas, which, if ACE doesn't buy, would be marketable to other houses? I want to do a psychological s-f book in the tradition of my TIME OUT OF JOINT. {...} In other words, it seems to me that I must have some stronger assurance that when I get the VULCAN'S HAMMER work done, I will get a sale from ACE on it. I want to do it -- that is, the job. I'd enjoy it. But it would be real work for me (that TIME PAWN rework almost killed me; it was the hardest job I've done to date). I know VULCAN'S HAMMER would turn out really swell. {...}

I'll hold off further work on VULCAN'S HAMMER, hoping that you can go to Don with portions of this letter, and get from him a more complete acceptance of what I propose to do than obtains at present. I would not mind dealing with him direct, if you want me to. But only if you want it. Okay? And thanks for your willingness to read this long rather rambling letter.

Cordially

Philip K. Dick

{PKD>Scott Meredith, Jan 4, 1960}

Vote for your Worst PKD Story! {...} PKD himself mentioned his idea of personal Hell as being condemned to reading VULCAN'S HAMMER over and over for eternity. I can't say it seemed very inspired to me. Phil often agreed with interviewers who panned any of his books, either out of a perverse pleasure of some sort, or in an attempt to humour the interviewer or not offend him, whatever. {...} -- Paul Rydeen in FDO 6

TTHC    300:   Dick always spoke contemptuously of his last two sf novels of the '50s. He wrote in 1979 that VULCAN'S HAMMER was "my very worst,"  and joked in 1977 that should heaven pass judgement against him he envisioned a "very special" punishment -- "Because you've done a very special thing: you are going to have to read your own books for the rest of eternity ... especially VULCAN'S HAMMER"  And at the time the agency recognized that particular novel's mediocrity, the sub agent commenting "Well written but not at the top of Dick's form. Def. not top market stuff."


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