Science fiction critic/editor/fan John J. Pierce is at it again. For the second time this year, he's gotten a letter to the editor about science fiction published in The New York Times. Last January, as previously seen on this blog, he weighed in on Heinlein's ever-controversial Starship Troopers.
Today, the NYT printed his response to a snooty article on Philip K. Dick. The article was one of many that take the "science fiction for people who hate to admit that worthwhile literature is science fiction" tack: take a single science fiction author (Bradbury, le Guin and Vonnegut are common examples) and proceed to argue that the author has some special talent that is completely different from the bulk of science fiction authors, and that their literary value is mutually exclusive to the science fictional aspects of their work. So, this article will note Dick's origins in pulps and Ace Double paperbacks, and then follow it up with "you don't read Mr. Dick for his prose". In response, Pierce notes that "it saves a lot of time and a lot of reading to anoint a single science-fiction writer as the only one worthy of consideration". To provide some examples of equally worthy authors, he plugs Theodore Sturgeon, Fritz Leiber and James Tiptree Jr. The latter did recently earn some attention from the NYT when a biography of her received a front-page book review; and only last week, a letter to the editor focused on science fiction author Leigh Brackett's screenwriting career.
Also, Pierce accurately notes that the recent film The Last Mimzy "hasn’t inspired the slightest interest" in Henry Kuttner, who wrote the source story "Mimsy Were the Borogoves". (Many of the reviewers didn't even realize that the credited author "Lewis Padgett" was Kuttner's pseudonym.) For me, the missed opportunity involved was a huge disappointment; it seemed like Kuttner was about to get his due at last, and that Hollywood would finally "get it", and realize the large amount of source material lying around by people not named Philip K. Dick. Alas.
At least the grand old The Best of Henry Kuttner collection has been brought back into print as a tie-in book, complete with Ray Bradbury's excellent introduction. As it so happens, the "Best of" series (in which Pierce edited three of the volumes) also had an entry for Dick; the entire series was published in the late 1970s, just before Blade Runner catapulted Dick into the spotlight.
Addendum: Sha LaBare points out in the comments that I should have credited Kuttner's wife and fellow writer C. L. Moore as co-author of "Mimsy Were the Borogoves" (as well as most of the other stories in The Best of Henry Kuttner).