Vintage Treasures: Science Fiction Discoveries edited by Carol and Frederik Pohl

Vintage Treasures: Science Fiction Discoveries edited by Carol and Frederik Pohl

Science Fiction Discoveries
(Bantam Books, August 1976). Cover artist uncredited

Five years ago Steven H Silver had a daily column at Black Gate in which he covered Science Fiction Birthdays for a full year. His choice for November 4, 2018 was Kara Dalkey, and Rich Horton had this to say in the comments.

I suppose the only other candidates were M. T. Anderson (I’ve liked a couple of his recentish short pieces a fair bit) and an interesting one: Babette Rosmond, who had a couple of pieces in Unknown in the early ’40s, then a quite interesting short novel, Error Hurled, in a Fred and Carol Pohl anthology in the ’70s.

Rosmond of course was an important editor — first at Street and Smith (Doc Savage was one of her titles) and later in magazines like Seventeen. She also wrote several contemporary novels (including one set among pulp editors), and she was an activist for more woman-led treatment of breast cancer. Interesting person.

The anthology in question was Science Fiction Discoveries, published in 1976, the fourth anthology Fred and Carol edited together, and the first to contain all-original stories. It had an impressive line-up — including a Thousand Worlds novelette by George R. R. Martin, an Azlaroc tale by Fred Saberhagen, and stories by Robert Sheckley, Scott Edelstein, Roger Zelazny, Doris Piserchia, and others. But the contributor that captured my interest was Babette Rosmond, with the complete novel Error Hurled, her sole science fiction publication. Rich is right — Rosmond was a fascinating person, for multiple reasons.

[Click the images to discover larger versions.]

Inside cover and the first page of Carol and Fred’s introduction for
Science Fiction Discoveries

Rosmond sold her first short story to The New Yorker when she was just seventeen. She was hired as a pulp editor at Street & Smith for two of their most popular publications, Doc Savage (1944 to 1948) and The Shadow (1946 to 1948). Her fellow editor at Street & Smith was John W. Campbell, who bought her first genre story “Are You Run-Down, Tired-,” for the October 1942 Unknown Worlds (co-written with Leonard M. Lake), and “One Man’s Harp” for the anthology From Unknown Worlds (August 1943).

Rosmond drew from her day-to-experiences for her debut novel The Dewy Dewy Eyes (1946), the tale of a young woman thrown into the challenging pulp magazine business. But it was fifteen years later, with a series of non-fiction articles in places like McCall’s, that her writing truly made her famous.

Here’s an excerpt from her Wikipedia bio.

In February 1971 she found an olive-sized lump in her breast and was diagnosed with breast cancer. The traditional treatment was a radical mastectomy, which required removal of the entire breast as well as surrounding tissue, muscle, and lymph nodes. Two of her friends had that procedure and reported being unhappy with their choice and the resulting side effects. In response to her refusal to undergo a radical mastectomy, her doctor was condescending and insulting and told her she would be dead within three weeks.  Through an article in McCall’s by Dr. William A. Nolen she learned about Dr. George Crile, Jr. at the Cleveland Clinic. Crile was a leading advocate in the United States for procedures that removed much less material, a simple mastectomy, which only removes the breast, and a lumpectomy, which removes only a small amount of tissue. Then extremely controversial, these treatments are now standard instead of using a radical mastectomy in all cases. Crile performed a successful lumpectomy on Rosmond and her cancer did not reappear until the late 1990s. She said “I think what I did was the highest level of women’s liberation. I said ‘No’ to a group of doctors who told me, ‘You must sign this paper, you don’t have to know what it’s all about.'”

Under the name Rosamond Campion, she began writing about her experiences. Her article in the February 1972 issue of McCall’s, “The Right to Choose,” generated more mail than any article in that publication’s history.

Babette Rosmond was at the forefront of women’s health in the United States, and her position and voice in the publishing business gave her the opportunity to write about it.

Babette Rosmond in 1964

Babette Rosmond died in 1997. In 2012 The New York Times published a fine piece on the impact she had, titled “The Right to Choose Your Cancer Treatment.”

Here’s an excerpt.

Before there was Betty Ford, the outspoken first lady who brought breast cancer awareness to the wider public, there was Babette Rosmond, a diminutive New York City writer and editor who went public with her diagnosis of breast cancer 40 years ago, three and a half years before the first lady. If Mrs. Ford is remembered for her grace and honesty, we should remember Ms. Rosmond for her courage and persistence. What Ms. Rosmond demanded of her doctors — the right to choose her cancer treatment — is now the minimum that cancer patients deserve.

When Ms. Rosmond discovered an olive-size lump in her left breast in February 1971, she was 49, the author of six novels and an editor at Seventeen magazine. It so happened that Ms. Rosmond had two friends with breast cancer, both of whom had experienced psychological and physical side effects from radical mastectomy, the extremely disfiguring operation routinely used by surgeons to treat the disease… Ms. Rosmond would have none of this. She essentially bullied a surgeon into performing only the biopsy. When the tumor turned out to be cancerous, he told her she needed an urgent radical mastectomy.

Ms. Rosmond demurred, asking for three weeks to consider her options. The surgeon, who had never before encountered such resistance, called her a “very silly and stubborn woman.” Then he played his trump card. “In three weeks,” he said, “you may be dead.”

Fortunately for Ms. Rosmond, a few surgeons had begun to rebel against the one-step radical mastectomy. One was Dr. George Crile Jr., of the Cleveland Clinic, who had concluded that the radical mastectomy made no sense for smaller cancers localized to the breast… Ms. Rosmond had a partial mastectomy and was very content with her choice”…

As a journalist, Ms. Rosmond knew a good story, and she soon published The Invisible Worm, an account of her experiences, under the pen name Rosamond Campion. The book’s subtitle boldly announced her message: “A Woman’s Right to Choose an Alternate to Radical Surgery”…

Definitive studies published by a University of Pittsburgh surgeon, Dr. Bernard Fisher, in The New England Journal of Medicine in 1985 showed that for early-stage breast cancers, survival was no different for radical mastectomies, simple mastectomies or what he called segmental mastectomies. Women with breast cancer today actively choose among these more limited operations, along with the options of radiation and chemotherapy.

Rosmond lived to be 75. Her breast cancer never returned.

The other anthologies edited by Carol and Frederik Pohl: Science Fiction: the Great Years
(Ace, January 1973), Jupiter (Ballantine, December 1973), Science Fiction: The Great Years,
Volume II (Ace, February 1976). Covers by unknown, John Berkey, Don Ivan Punchatz

Carol and Frederik Pohl edited a total of four anthologies together. All were original paperbacks. The other three reprinted older stories; they were:

Science Fiction: the Great Years (Ace, 349 pages, $1.25 in paperback, January 1973) — Cover artist unknown
Jupiter (Ballantine, 283 pages, $1.25 in paperback, December 1973) — Cover by John Berkey
Science Fiction: The Great Years, Volume II (Ace, 276 pages, $1.50 in paperback, February 1976) — Cover by Don Ivan Punchatz

We covered both volumes of Science Fiction: The Great Years at Black Gate; follow the links above to read those articles.

Here’s the complete Table of Contents for Science Fiction Discoveries.

Introduction (A Dialogue) by Carol Pohl and Frederik Pohl
“Starlady” by George R. R. Martin
“The Never-Ending Western Movie” by Robert Sheckley
“The Age of Libra” by Scott Edelstein
“To Mark the Year on Azlaroc” by Fred Saberhagen
“An Occurrence at the Owl Creek Rest Home” by Arthur Jean Cox
“The Force That Through the Circuit Drives the Current” by Roger Zelazny
“Deathrights Deferred” by Doris Piserchia
Error Hurled, by Babette Rosmond (novel)

Science Fiction Discoveries was published by Bantam Books in August 1976. It is 282 pages, priced at $1.50. It has never been reprinted, and there is no digital edition. The cover art was uncredited, but it looks like Lou Feck to me.

See all our recent Vintage Treasures here.

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