Commentary: The Story Of A Story – a 1917 editorial about the publication of Jack London’s first story (1899)
Below you’ll find the complete editorial introduction to the January 1917 issue of The Black Cat. Published very shortly after Jack London’s death, November 22, 1916, it serves as an introduction to the republication of London’s first published story, A Thousand Deaths (which appeared in the May 1899 issue of The Black Cat).
A Thousand Deaths is a SCIENCE FICTION story and it was the beginning of Jack London’s career. London would return again and again to SCIENCE FICTION, see our podcasts on Goliah, The Red One, The Star Rover (audiobook and discussion), and The Iron Heel (audiobook and discussion).
The Black Cat’s Editorial Page
Jack London – – – – The Story of a Story
Vagabond, explorer and oyster pirate; fisherman, gold prospector and toiler down among men; sociologist, student of metaphysics, and country gentleman,- Jack London was all of them – Jack London who died the other day. Perhaps his varied activities would fall into three classifications. First and always, he was the adventurer, following many trails and working at many trades; then the country gentleman, living in a more refined, if less invigorating atmosphere; and finally, the professional man of letters, doing his daily stint of a thousand words year in and year out, and making all other pursuits subservient to this one.
It is said of writers that they need not tramp over half the world in order to write great books. But it is quite probable that the man who does see half the world or all of it, for that matter, will sit down to write with a sub-conscious mind overflowing into note books, will in the actual labor of composition command a style of more than ordinary vigor. Jack London died at forty-one, at an age when many men are just starting out to test the broadening effects of travel. Seventeen years before his stories had begun to appear in print, and even at this time, he was drawing upon personal experiences and, first-hand knowledge for the raw material which goes into stories. And
at that time he had been seeing life in its broader aspects for nearly ten years, dating back to the end of his grammar school days and his entrance to man’s estate as a longshoreman.
Thus from the first he experienced none of that writer’s sterility which comes from lack of ideas. His struggle was not with matter, but with form. His years of apprenticeship were wholly dedicated to the mastery of technique and the cultivation of style; while other writers who lived less strenuously, butchered the former and worried along with a hybrid form of the latter as they put all of their energy into the pursuit of an idea that would be sure to take with the editors.
More than seventeen years ago, in May 1899, Jack London’s first story, “A Thousand Deaths,” was published in THE BLACK CAT. Doubtless many of our readers are already familiar with the facts concerning its publication as they are here set forth.
In Martin Eden, the book which more than any other of his is autobiography, London tells the old story of an author’s struggle for recognition. Martin Eden is about to go back to coal heaving, despairing of fame as a writer, when a letter from “The White Mouse” informs him of the acceptance of his story, ”The Whirlpool.’ That is the story in fictional form.
Here is the way London tells of his first acceptance by THE BLACK CAT, written as an introduction to “The Red Hot Dollar,” a collection of tales ‘by the founder of the
magazine, the late Mr. H. D, Umbstaetter.
“As I say, I was at the end of my tether, beaten out, staved, ready to go back to coal-shoveling or ahead to suicide. And then one morning I received a short. thin letter from a magazine.” (Mentioned as The Transcontinental in Martin Eden.) “This magazine had a national reputation. It had been founded by Bret Harte. It sold for twenty-five cents a copy. It held a four thousand word story of mine, ‘To the End of the Trail.’ I was modest. As I tore the envelope across the end, I expected to find a check for no more than forty dollars. Instead, I was coldly informed (by the Assistant Sub-scissors, I imagine) that my story was ‘available’ and that on publication I would be paid for it the sum of five dollars.
“The end was in sight, I was finished – finished as only a “very young, very sick and very hungry young man could be. And then, that same day, that very afternoon, the mail brought a short thin letter from Mr. Umbstaetter of THE BLACK CAT. He told me that the four thousand word story submitted to him was more lengthy than strengthy, but that if I would give permission to cut it in half. he would immediately send me
a check for forty dollars.
“I told Mr. Umbstaetter he could cut it down two halves if he would only send the money along. He did, by return mail. And that is precisely why I stayed in the writing game. Literally and literally I was saved by THE BLACK CAT short story.
“To many a writer with a national reputation THE BLACK CAT has been the steppingstone. The marvelous, unthinkable thing Mr. Umbstaetter did. was to judge a story on its merits and to pay for it on its merits. Also, and only a hungry writer can apprcciate it, he paid immediately upon acceptance.”
That is the story, of the story which marked the genesis of Jack London’s career as one of America’s most robust writers. We republish “A Thousand Deaths” as the first story this month and dedicate this number to the mememory of Jack London, the author, and to the memory of H. D. Umbstaetter, the editor who gave him a hand.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Listening to podcasts, as I have since almost the very beginning of the medium, I’ve noticed that, like old network TV shows spinoffs happen.
Though SFFaudio.com itself predates the start of podcasts it was itself inspired by a TV show (TV Ontario’s Prisoner’s Of Gravity). But as for The SFFaudio Podcast itself, well, as I recall it, the most direct inspiration for the format of the first episodes of The SFFaudio Podcast was a show called Dragon Page: Wingin’ It with Michael and Evo (itself a spinoff of the long running Dragon Page podcast).
That show, incidentally, though long defunct also spun-off, Mur Lafferty’s long running I Should Be Writing podcast.
Later episodes take more inspiration from a show called Forgotten Classics.
And, subsequently, The SFFaudio Podcast has spun off, one with Julie Davis of Forgotten Classics, a couple of other podcasts (taking with them SFFaudio.com’s co-founder Scott D. Danielson):
Reading Envy with Jenny Colvin and Scott D. Danielson
A Good Story Is Hard To Find with Julie Davis and Scott D. Danielson
Perhaps the biggest fan of The SFFaudio Podcast fan, Mirko Stauch, has spun-off a German language show called Arkham Insiders.
Here’s a chart showing some of the connections:
Posted by Jesse Willis
We are trying something new this year, assuming people participate – a best of 2013 compiled podcast.
1. Record yourself talking briefly (under 5 minutes) about your favorite audiobook of the year, or your favorite SFF Audio podcast, or both.
Include your name. Last name, web presence, and location are optional but might make it more interesting.
2. Send file to Jenny (e-mail address on our contact page) by Saturday, December 28, either in an email or link to something like dropbox. If you keep it under a minute a lot of easy recording apps will work, even built in voice memos for iOs.
We will edit them together and it will be our last podcast of the year!
Posted by Jenny Colvin
Too many professionally produced podcasts, including such for profit ventures as CBS’ 60 Minutes podcast, don’t add art to their podcasts.
Making sure your podcast episodes have art should be the final step before you upload your MP3 to your server.
You may think that because there is art on your iTunes page, or in your RSS feed, that means your podcast episodes automatically have art.
They may not!
To guarantee that your podcast episodes have art you must add it the individual MP3 file’s metadata.
There are other programs which allow you to edit your metadata, but there is probably already a program on your computer than can do it for you pretty easily: iTunes.
Here is the official iTunes description of the process:
To embed art within an individual episode’s metadata using iTunes, select the episode and choose Get Info from the File menu. Click the Artwork tab. Then click Add, navigate to and select the image file, and click Choose.
I found it to be a bit tricky so I’ve made a visualized step by step guide showing you how to do it.
To add art to your MP3 file follow this recipe:
1. Start iTunes.
2. Go to File → New → Playlist (or CTRL + N) to make a new playlist.
3. Drag the MP3 file into the now open playlist and click “DONE”.
4. Next, navigate to “Music” (under LIBRARY).
5. You should see a Playlist with the name “Unknown Album” and inside it your MP3.
6. Right-click on the MP3 and select “Get info” – this will create a pop-up.
7. In the pop-up select the rightmost tab, it’s labeled “Artwork.”
8. Now, select the artwork you’d like to add to the MP3 and drag it into the tab.
9. Hit “Ok.” Your art will now be linked to your MP3.
10. Repeat the process every time you make a new MP3 episode.
Posted by Jesse Willis
I love looking at Ward Shelley’s The History Of Science Fiction. It really inspires me.
I’ve, for my own amusement, done a little annotating, adding little thumbtacks noting every podcast READALONG we’ve done. But I’ve only put on the ones that are explicitly named on the chart. So, for example, even though we’ve talked about Tarzan Of The Apes I haven’t noted it because the chart only lists “Tarzan.” Similarly, we’ve done a podcast about A Princess Of Mars but as the chart only reads “John Carter” I haven’t made a notation.
But still and all, I find it fun to look at. And looking at it, it makes me want to add more!
You can click through to see more detail.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Downpour.com, Blackstone Audio’s online audiobook store, is a genuine competitor to Audible.com.
It offers audiobook downloads of titles, from Blackstone Audio’s extensive catalogue, and also those from many other audiobook publishers like Recorded Books, Harper Audio, Penguin Audio, Hachette Audio, and AudioGo.
Their subscription service is almost identically priced to Audible’s, each offers one credit per month for about $15. And, like an Audible credit Audible.com, a Downpour credit almost always gets you one audiobook.
I signed up for Downpour when they started late last Summer. And so far, I really, really like it.
I’ve had an account with Audible.com since 2001. But Audbile.com has always caused one giant problem for me: DRM.
DRM is actually designed to prevent you sharing your audiobook with your friends and family.
But worse, it can also make it difficult for you, the owner of the audiobook that you bought, to actually listen to what you have paid for.
Over the years I’ve spent countless hours trying to make an audiobook, that I bought, play on my audiobook players.
Every single time I’ve bought a new computer, iPod, iPad, or iPhone I’ve spent time authorizing and deauthorizing my devices. Sometimes it just takes a couple of minutes, sometimes hours.
Audible’s DRM makes you have to authorize your iTunes account, and your computer, and your iPhone, and your iPad, and your iPod. And you have to deauthorize your old devices to make the new devices work. You can’t have all of your devices authorized if you have more than three.
I just want my audiobooks to work like regular books, I want them to open up and give me their ideas. DRM cripples your ability to do that.
Downpour.com has no DRM at all. It just works.
In fact it works absolutely perfectly.
You make a purchase, it shows up in your online library, and then it downloads and delivers itself to your devices.
It is smoother than any audiobook service I’ve ever seen. It’s even smoother than Tantor Media’s excellent DRM-FREE download service.
If you use an iOS device for an audiobook, like I do, I’m betting Downpour.com is will work for you.
If you use a different audiobook player Downpour offers MP3s, which work with every audio player.
Posted by Jesse Willis