I have a new Appendix N post up at Castalia House:
RETROSPECTIVE: Berserker by Fred Saberhagen
Fred Saberhagen is a pretty neat author if you ask me… but it seems to me that he largely unknown to people below a certain age cutoff. He’s not as obscure as A. Merritt… but still…! If you want your son to develop a passion for reading, then this is a good choice to just “accidentally” leave layin’ around the house.
Stop Blaming Anne Rice — “I am generally way out of touch with trends, except now and then I am surprised to find myself leading one, like sympathetic vampires.” (More here.)
Citation Needed — “Saberhagen’s amazing writing never managed to escape the dreaded “sci-fi ghetto” and gain mainstream popularity — but here’s where it gets weird! Quite a few famous pieces of Sci-Fi owe a huge debt to Saberhagen and his Berzerkers, with Star Trek being the biggest example of this, swiping the Berserker concept not once, but TWICE.” (More here.)
Fred Saberhagen Drafted into Gaming… Again — “Another boost to Saberhagen’s interest in computer gaming came when he heard that Arizona-based gaming company Flying Buffalo was using Berserkers in a space warfare kind of game called ‘Starweb.’ He wrote the company and got them to say the term ‘Berserker’ was used with his permission. ‘I didn’t figure I could get any money from this,’ he says, ‘but I’d get some publicity if they used it. And they said, ‘Do you want a free game?’ I said, ‘Sure, I’ll try it out.’ It was kind of fun, but it was one of those things you could sink endless amounts of time and energy into.'” (More here.)
From “All-Time Favorite Writer” to Obscure Appendix N Entry — “During this year-1977, and the year’s not over as I write-that first Berserker story has earned several times, in reprint fees, what I received for its first magazine appearance; my evil robots have established footholds in the realm of board- and computer-games; and new stories in the series are still in demand and still being written. I have begun to suspect that if the histories of science fiction written fifty years from now take note of me for anything, it will be for the Berserkers. I think I can now begin to understand in a small way the mixed feelings that Conan Doyle developed for Sherlock Holmes.” (More here.)
Saberhagen’s Beserker concept (barely) predates the Daleks — “The idea of automated war machines that no one can turn off was original with me, in the sense that at the moment I began to use it I was not aware that anyone else had done so. There seems to be no doubt that I was wrong. I stand ready to be corrected, not having the evidence before me, but I believe Sturgeon’s ‘There Is No Defense”‘ is an example of an earlier use, dating from 1948. Others have used the same basic idea since I began, and others will use it in times to come. The point I want to make, though, is that this idea fit me, worked well for me, almost became identified with me, precisely because it came out of the bottom of my subconscious and through the top of my head. Writers who have had things suddenly go right, as if of themselves, will know what I mean.” (More here.)
The Variety of Story Types is the Touchstone of the Berserker Series — “The open-ended, Berserkers for example, is where characters come and go and they might come back or they might not and you can go to another world where things are entirely different, except the Berserkers are still the same, basically, when you show up there.” (More here.)
Toni Weisskopf: What invention or scientific leap in understanding would you most like to see made in your lifetime?
Fred Saberhagen: Someone should figure out just how the genetic code got started. Its only analogies in the physical universe seem to be human language and computer code. (Interview here.)
Also, this is cool: Both Roger Zelazny and Poul Anderson have written a story set in Fred Saberhagen’s Berserker universe. And Fred Saberhagen also coauthored a book with Zelazny!