Saturday, December 23, 2017

one memoir

Not So Good a Gay Man: A Memoir by Frank M. Robinson (Tor, 2017)

A couple years ago I read and reviewed memoirs by a pair of science fiction writers who had since died, Daniel Keyes and Jack Vance. Like them, Robinson got into the field in the years immediately after WW2, and where they both served in the merchant marine, Robinson was in the US Navy. For this one, the author died before the book was published. But he's like Vance in one other respect, having little to say about his fiction, or how or why he wrote it.

One theme that runs through the book is of trying to figure out his homosexual identity in a time and place where the world was trying to tell him that did not exist, and of his relief and self-understanding when he finally found an open community to belong to. But that's incidental for most of the book, and there's just as much on his experience as an editor, mostly for men's magazines. (Keyes also had a lot of experience in editorial trenches.)

Like a lot of first-drafted (presumably), self-written memoirs, much of it is very disjointed. Most of the anecdotes read as if half the story was scissored out. It gets much more coherent near the end, when he moves back to San Francisco in the early 70s and meets Harvey Milk; this is also the point when he began collaborating with Tom Scortia, and begins saying a little more about the fiction-writing as well. But the accounts of his part in Milk's career are an undifferentiated mixture of what he experienced, what he was told at the time, and what he read about later. Then it quickly moves on to the AIDS epidemic, and then the Milk film, and ends. Except for his brief early stint working for Ray Palmer and Howard Browne, at no point in the book does the science-fiction community play any part, though local SF societies are where I knew Frank from.

Interesting book, and I'm sorry there's not more to it.

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