Some who play a part in changing the world are hardly recognized. Jim Baen, who has died following a stroke at the age of 62, science-fiction editor and founder of the U.S. science-fiction publisher Baen Books, was one such.
His role as a cultural warrior was a proud one. He contributed very significantly, below the radar of sociological and cultural commentators, to the strengthening of Western culture.
He also did something not many cultural warriors, and not many publishers, can claim: he may have contributed directly and significantly to the West winning the Cold War.
Not bad for an ex-hippie who left home at 17, lived on the streets for several months and finally enlisted in the U.S. Army to avoid starving.
SF author David Drake said that the two books Jim Baen most remembered as formative influences were Fire-Hunter, by Jim Kjelgaard, and Against the Fall of Night, by Arthur C. Clarke: “The theme of both short novels is that of a youth from a decaying culture who escapes the trap of accepted wisdom and saves his people despite themselves. This is a fair description of Jim Baen’s life.”
After the Army (where he spent some time in Bavaria intercepting Soviet radio signals) he became a hippie managing a coffee shop in Greenwich Village.
He entered publishing as an assistant in the Complaints Department of Ace books, the beginning of what was to be a lifetime career in science-fiction publishing. Baen books was founded in 1983. Military SF author David Drake wrote:
“He never stopped developing new writers. The week before he died, Jim bought a first novel from a writer whom Baen Books had been grooming through short stories over the past year.”
BAEN BOOKS OFFERED AN ANTIDOTE to leftism generally in science fiction. It helped rescue science-fiction publishing from the leftist, nihilistic “New Wave” science fiction that had arisen in the 1960s and was concerned, in parallel with postmodernism and deconstructionism in other literature and art, with denigrating Western traditions and values. The “New Wave” was never really popular (New Worlds, the major New Wave magazine in Britain, was bailed out by public money after the buyers and readers stayed away in droves), but it might well have had the purely negative achievement of driving traditional science-fiction writers out of publishing. Baen Books gave — and still gives — a voice to stories of traditional Western values like honor, patriotism, chivalry, duty and military valor.
It was probably Jim Baen, more than any other, who rescued the “military science-fiction novel,” carrying on into the future and to other worlds the highly honorable tradition associated with the likes of Hornblower and C. S. Forester, and offering a voice against the anti-Western adversary culture so common in modern literature. In its way, and without beating up any obvious political message, Baen Books has played its part in the Culture War, on the right side.
Baen Books also gave me my own break into professional science-fiction writing. Multiple award-winner Larry Niven, working with Baen, looked to expand his “Known Space” stories (“Ringworld,” “The Ringworld Engineers,” etc.) with stories of the wars, referred to off-stage in his books, between the peaceful humans of several centuries hence, and the alien, tigerish Kzin. Larry Niven felt he could not write about the wars close-up, and it was decided to open the series to other writers.
Several SF Greats such as Steve Stirling, Dean Ing, Donald Kingsbury and the late Poul Anderson contributed. I also, with some temerity, and a complete unknown, sent Larry Niven a story (he remained editor of the series).
My story was accepted and so far ten more stories totaling 400,000 words have followed. Baen Books’s dealings with me have always been prompt, courteous and professional. Also compassionate. I once asked Jim if I could have an advance on a story: he sent me twice the amount I asked for.
The distinguished science-fiction and fantasy artist and illustrator Stephen Hickman told me: “It was Jim Baen who lent me $15,000 towards buying our new home when we moved out of the awful Washington, D.C. Metro area, and further helped secure the home loan by guaranteeing a certain amount of work to me in writing — I ask you to try and imagine any other publisher in the lenticular galaxy doing to same …
“And I remember being surprised and very touched at finding that I was by no means alone in being so indebted to this man for his support and friendship.”
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online