Read The Wind Between the Worlds Online

Authors: Lester del Rey

The Wind Between the Worlds

The Wind Between the Worlds
The Galaxy Project
Lester del Rey
Series Editor Barry N. Malzberg

The Wind Between the Worlds
Copyright © 1951 by World Editions, Inc., renewed 1979 by Lester del Rey

The Wind Between the Worlds
by Lester del Rey
Copyright © 2011 by David Drake

Jacket illustration copyright © 1954 by the Estate of Ed Emshwiller
Cover art to the electronic edition copyright © 2011 by RosettaBooks, LLC

Special materials copyright © 2011 by RosettaBooks, LLC

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

Electronic edition published 2011 by RosettaBooks LLC, New York.
ISBN e-Pub edition: 9780795321238


The first issue of
, dated October 1950, already heralded to the highest standards of the field. The authors it published regularly contributed to the leading magazine
, writing a kind of elegant and humanistic science fiction which although not previously unknown had always been anomalous. Its founding editor, H. L. Gold (1914–1996), was a science fiction writer of some prominence whose editorial background had been in pulp magazines and comic books; however, his ambitions were distinctly literary, and he was deliberately searching for an audience much wider and more eclectic than the perceived audience of science fiction. His goal, he stated, was a magazine whose fiction “Would read like the table of contents of a literary magazine or
The Saturday Evening Post
of the 21st century, dealing with extrapolation as if it were contemporary.” The magazine, although plagued by distribution difficulties and an Italian-based publisher (World Editions), was an immediate artistic success, and when its ownership was transferred with the issue of August 1951 to its printer Robert M. Guinn, it achieved financial stability for the remainder of the decade.

published every notable science fiction writer of its first decade and found in many writers who would become central figures: Robert Sheckley, James E. Gunn, Wyman Guin, and F. L. Wallace, among others.
revivified older writers such as Frederik Pohl and Alfred Bester (whose first novel,
The Demolished Man
, was commissioned and directed page by page by Gold). John Campbell fought with
and remained an important editor, and
The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
(inaugurated a year before
) held to high standards of literary quality while spreading its contents over two fields, but
was incontestably the 1950s’ flagship magazine for the acidly satiric, sometimes profoundly comic aspect of its best contributions.
had a lasting effect not only upon science fiction but upon literature itself. J.G. Ballard stated that he had been deeply affected by
. Alan Arkin, an actor who became a star after 1960 and won an Oscar in the new millennium, contributed two stories in the mid-fifties.

At this point Gold was succumbing to agoraphobia, physical ills, and overall exhaustion (some of this perhaps attributable to his active service during WWII) against which he had struggled from the outset. (There is creditable evidence that Frederik Pohl was the de facto editor during Gold’s last years.) Gold would return some submissions with notes like: “Garbage,” “Absolute Crap.” Isaac Asimov noted in his memoir “Anthony Boucher wrote rejection slips which read like acceptances. And Horace wrote notes of acceptance which felt like rejections.” Despite this, the magazine retained most of its high standard and also some of its regular contributors (William Tenn, Robert Sheckley, Pohl himself). Others could no longer bear Gold’s imperiousness and abusiveness.


In the view of James E. Gunn, science fiction as a genre finds its peak in the novella (17,500–40,000 words) and novelette (7,500–17,500 words). Both forms have the length to develop ideas and characters fully but do not suffer from padding or the hortatory aspect present in most modern science fiction novels. The longer story-form has existed since science fictions inception with the April 1926 issue of
Amazing Stories
, but
developed the form to a consistent level of sophistication and efficiency and published more notable stories of sub-novel length than any other magazine during the 50s…and probably in any decade.

The novella and novelette as forms make technical and conceptual demands greater, perhaps even greater than the novel, and
writers, under founding editor H. L. Gold’s direction, consistently excelled in these lengths. Gold’s most memorable story, “A Matter of Form” (1938) was a long novelette, and he brought practical as well as theoretical lessons to his writers, who he unleashed to develop these ideas. (John Campbell of course, had also done this in the 40s and continued in the 50s to be a directive editor.) It is not inconceivable that many or even most of the contents of the 1950’s
were based on ideas originated by Gold: golden technology becomes brass and jails its human victims when it runs amok—is certainly one of his most characteristic.


Lester del Rey (1915–1993) was one of the ten or twelve writers most closely associated with John W. Campbell’s “Golden Age” 1940’s
Astounding Science Fiction
. His most famous story is probably the 1938 robot romance “Helen O’Loy”, his best the 1942 novella “Nerves”, a prescient documentary of catastrophe in a nuclear plant, expanded in the 1950’s to novel length. Del Rey was among the early group of prominent Campbell writers who Horace Gold pursued for Galaxy; “The Wind Between the Worlds” was his second contribution to the magazine. (His first was the time paradox story “It Comes Out Here” which appeared a month earlier, it was a Campbell reject long lost which del Rey reconstructed from memory.)

Del Rey, noted for his humanistic and often sentimental work, published a controversial religious (or anti-religious) novella, “For I Am A Jealous People” in Fred Pohl’s 1956
Star Short Novels
and slowly drifted from magazine fiction to juvenile novels (some of them ghosted by Paul Fairman) in the late 50’s. His editorial background (the short-lived
Space Science Fiction
in 1952 and an earlier term at the Scott Meredith Literary Agency) led him in the mid-seventies to become one of the two founding editors, with his wife Judy-Lynn of Ballantine’s Del Rey Books where he became a powerful editor of some very successful fantasy novels. (Terry Brooks’
Sword of Shannara
was an early discovery.) Judy-Lynn died in 1986 at the age of 43, at the top of her career, Lester slowly drifted into semi- and then full retirement and died a recluse. He was named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America in 1991.


David Drake, a veteran of the Vietnam Tank Corps, is the author of the Hammers Slammers series which over the last quarter century have become the most successful military science fiction series in the history of the genre; he has also published many bestselling fantasy novels and short stories in
and elsewhere.


COVER IMAGE: “Space-Time In One Easy Lesson” by Ed Emshwiller

Ed Emshwiller (1925–1990) was
’s dominant artist through the 1950s. His quirky images, perspective, and off-center humor provide perhaps the best realization of the magazine’s iconoclastic, satirical vision. Emshwiller was—matched with Kelly Freas—science fiction’s signature artist through the decade and a half initiated by this color illustration. He and Carol Emshwiller, the celebrated science fiction writer, lived in Long Island during the period of his prominence in science fiction. (Nonstop Press published
Emshwiller: Infinity X Two: The Art & Life of Ed and Carol Emshwiller
, a joint biography and collection of their work in visual and literary medium, in 2007.) In the early 70s, Emshwiller became passionately interested in avant-garde filmmaking, and that passion led him to California, where he spent his last decades deeply involved in the medium of independent film and its community. He abandoned illustration: in Carol’s words “When Ed was through with something he was really through with it.” He died of cancer in 1990. His son, Peter Emshwiller, published a fair amount of science fiction in the 80s and 90s.

The Wind Between the Worlds
by Lester del Rey

The novella
by Lester del Rey appeared in the September 1942, issue of
. It was a triumph, universally praised to a degree that not even Robert Heinlein’s work was afforded. According to Campbell, every reader who ranked the stories in that issue chose
as the best, a unanimity which del Rey claims he saw equaled only once.

wasn’t merely successful in its own day. In the early 1970s, the membership of the Science Fiction Writers of America voted it as one of the ten best novelettes and novellas in the field.

John W. Campbell, the editor of
, probably wasn’t surprised that del Rey had written a masterpiece, since he had been a strong supporter of del Rey since receiving his first story in 1937. Campbell sent del Rey encouraging letters and requests for more stories, and he frequently paid him the bonus the editor reserved for stories which he particularly liked.

Many other people must have been surprised, however—including, I think, del Rey himself, though he doesn’t explicitly say that. His production of fiction slacked off a great deal following the success of
. After World War II ended, he took a job as an agent and stopped writing science fiction.

Despite Campbell’s enthusiasm for him, del Rey had been a journeyman writer who had gotten everything right one time. The fact that many people (almost certainly including Campbell himself) asked del Rey to duplicate
was both irritating and frustrating.

Then in 1949 something changed: Horace Gold asked del Rey to write a science fiction suspense story like
for the new magazine he planned,
. Del Rey agreed to try after seven years of refusing such requests.

It would be easy to say that the difference was that Gold was offering three cents a word, a pay rate never before seen in the science fiction field. Campbell had raised
’s pay to two cents/word a few years earlier, which was twice (or more) the rate of any fantasy or science fiction magazine since the failure of the Clayton chain in 1933.
The Magazine of Fantasy
(after the first issue,
The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
) had just appeared and matched
’s rate, but Gold was offering half again as much as the best.

I am inclined to doubt that money alone changed del Rey’s mind. Campbell had, after all, doubled his rate after
was published without enticing del Rey to try to repeat his success.

The high word rate was only part of the new magazine.
was going to be really
; in Gold’s mind, it was going to read like a general news magazine of the next century and compete for sales not with existing science fiction magazines but with
on the newsstands of the present.

Gold was selling the future, not only to readers but to the authors he wanted for his new magazine. Lester del Rey was one of the authors Gold recruited, and he bought Gold’s vision.

Del Rey went to work. On his description, it appears that the only editorial requirements were that the story have the effect of
—that is, that it be a fast-paced science fiction suspense story—and that it be 15,000 words. Unlike John Campbell’s frequent behavior, Gold didn’t suggest a particular theme or development for the author to follow.

The (short) length was a problem, however.
had been 30,000 words, and even so del Rey felt that he could have used more room. (In 1956 he expanded the novella to book-length.) Still, he proceeded.

Del Rey had created a written formula and charts on how to develop suspense in a story before he plotted
. He had lost those materials during a move, however. On his telling it, he did not first reread the earlier novella and break it down into elements to build up into the new framework. Instead he played with ideas on paper until he found one which he thought would work. The differences between the structures of the two stories are significant and support his description.

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