Heinlein on literary snobs

A small further illustration in support of my thesis in ‘Why are dragons afraid of Americans?’:

In 1949, Robert A. Heinlein’s third juvenile SF novel, Red Planet, was summarily rejected by Alice Dalgliesh, his editor at Scribner’s. The tone of the rejection quite justifiably sent him into a fury. Here is an excerpt from a letter Heinlein wrote to his agent, Lurton Blassingame, on March 4, 1949:

I think I know why she bounced the book — I use “bounced” intentionally; I hope that you do not work out some sort of a revision scheme with her because I do not think she will take this book, no matter what is done to it.

I think she bounced the book from some ill-defined standards of literary snobbishness — it’s not “Scribner’s-type” material!! I think that point sticks out all through her letter to me. I know that such an attitude has been shown by her all through my relationship with her. She has spoken frequently of “cheap” books, “cheap” magazines. “Cheap,” used in reference to a story, is not a defined evaluation; it is merely a sneer — usually a sneer at the format from a snob.

She asked me to suggest an artist for Rocket Ship Galileo; I suggested Hubert Rogers. She looked into the matter, then wrote me that Mr. Rogers’ name “was too closely associated with a rather cheap magazine” — meaning John Campbell’s Astounding S-F. To prove her point, she sent me tear sheets from the magazine. It so happened that the story she picked to send was one of my “Anson MacDonald” stories.

I chuckled and said nothing. If she could not spot my style and was impressed only by the fact that the stuff was printed on pulpwood paper, it was not my place to educate her. I wondered if she knew that my reputation had been gained in that same “cheap” magazine and concluded that she probably did not know and might not have been willing to publish my stuff had she known.

—Robert A. Heinlein, Grumbles From the Grave

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