The reception of Malzberg’s sarcastic tale Herovit’s World in the field of science fiction has been decidedly mixed. The text is a bitter and funny but also hard-hitting exploration of the often miserable circumstances of writers who are trapped writing subliterate fare for relatively little remuneration. Many of Herovit’s musings about work in the field—the pay per word, the insularity of a genre in which most people know one another, the cultivation of ancient grudges, the infighting, and the interaction with less-than-generous fans at conventions and through the mail—ring true and have upset many readers who could detect unfavorable parallels to themselves in Malzberg’s iconoclastic text.
Angry denunciations of Malzberg, however, were not the only responses. Among fellow writers, Harlan Ellison and Robert Silverberg have praised Herovit’s World respectively as “long overdue” and “one of the most terrifying visions ever to come out of science fiction.” Academic critics have found much to like in Malzberg’s merciless satire of the genre, its working conditions, and the effect of strictly commercial work on writers with higher literary ambitions.
Science-fiction stories with science-fiction writers as characters predate the 1973 publication of Herovit’s World, but none has been as unflinchingly deconstructive of the world they describe. Jonathan Herovit’s world is light years apart, for...
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