In the Strange Land Of Robert Heinlein - 1984-09-05
Still, in those days, writing for the "pulp" magazines was only slightly more reputable than owning a dog track. "I remember I was at a cocktail party in 1939. At that time, I had sold seven stories in Hollywood. There was a gal there, so help me a deputy sheriff, she asked me what I did. I said I wrote. She said 'What do you write?' I said 'Pulp.' And she looked at me and said, 'Well, it's not what you do, it's whether you're happy at it, I always say.' "
Pulp writers were paid by the word, and if Heinlein writes fast now, he learned it when speed was of the pecuniary essence. L. Ron "Battlefield Earth" Hubbard, he says, was "the first writer I ever knew to have an electric typewriter. He was supposed to write at about 4,000 words an hour. I dunno about that -- but I've seen him write letters as fast as he could shove the paper in the roller. Actually, I think Isaac [Asimov] is a little faster."
Pseudonyms upped the take. "One of mine enabled me to fill up most of an issue of Astounding with two names -- Anson MacDonald and Robert Heinlein. Both with the same word-rate." Those were the quality monikers. Others -- like Lyle Monroe and Caleb Saunders -- were available at "fire-sale rates" for the cheaper magazines. Later he would be the first to get sf into the "slicks," including the Saturday Evening Post and later yet the first to break $500,000 for a novel, though never leaving the close sodality of the pulpsters and their heirs. In the '40s "there were about 40 sf writers," the G.M. says. "Now there are about 400. And as a rule, they have their friends and associates from inside their own guild. Nobody else is going to understand them when they talk." Along with veterans Clarke, Asimov, Hubbard & Co., Heinlein's best friends include fellow guildsmen Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, among others.