by Lou Aronica
I’m marking a special homecoming today, and I thought I’d share it with you. Many, many years ago (okay, many, many, many years ago), I was an assistant in the Publisher’s Office at Bantam Books. As a way of getting more deeply involved in operations of publishing, I’d begun working on building up the company’s science fiction program. There were some very important writers on the Bantam science fiction list – people like Ray Bradbury, Ursula K. LeGuin, Samuel R. Delany, and Frederik Pohl – but the program had gone quiet in recent years, and it seemed in need of new energy. If nothing else, I had plenty of energy.
One day, I was given a large science fiction manuscript and told that I’d just become the book’s new editor. This was surprising in a number of ways, but mostly because I’d never actually edited a book before. I’d read some manuscripts for other editors, but this was an entirely different level of responsibility. I found this all terribly exciting, especially because the author of the manuscript had published one previous novel and it had done very well. I wasn’t getting a castoff; I was getting a book with potential.
The author was David Brin, and the manuscript I’d been given would be published under the title Startide Rising. Startide went on to win both the Nebula and Hugo Awards, and both the author and his neophyte editor experienced very big changes after that. David went on to write New York Times bestsellers, win another Hugo, and be regarded as one of the finest science fiction writers of his generation. Largely because of the success of Startide Rising, I was able to launch the Bantam Spectra sf/fantasy imprint where I got to work with an extraordinary team of writers and publishing pros, ultimately become Deputy Publisher of Bantam and then Publisher of Berkley Books and Avon Books, and eventually learn how to edit a manuscript.
Dave stayed with Bantam even longer than I did (I was there for fourteen years). He moved on to publish his most recent novel, Existence, at Tor, and in 2008 I launched The Story Plant, an independent fiction publisher. Dave and I stayed in touch, seeing each other on occasion when he passed through New York. However, I assumed our professional relationship was just a very happy memory.
Then last summer, as my family and I were preparing to leave for a vacation, I got a call from Dave. “I was wondering if you’d be interested in publishing my new story collection at The Story Plant,” he said. Let me see, I thought; a writer I’ve always admired, a New York Times bestselling writer I’ve always admired, a New York Times bestselling writer I’ve always admired who was also the first author I ever worked with. Am I interested? Yes, I was interested.
That collection, Insistence of Vision, was published on March 22. It’s a wonderful collection, filled with the wonder, optimism, wry humor, and huge cognitive leaps that distinguish David Brin’s work. There’s even a novella-length piece set in the Uplift universe, the world of Startide Rising. For me, though, it represents something very precious – the opportunity to reunite with the great science fiction writer who in many ways gave my publishing career flight.
You can read more about Insistence of Vision here.