How I Met Space Vulture
Gary K. Wolf, Archbishop John J. Myers
(the authors of Space Vulture)
and Moshe Feder, their editor, at TOR.
When you’ve been reading science fiction and fantasy as long as I have, it’s a red-letter day when you’re lucky enough to stumble across a concept or story premise you’ve never seen before. It’s even better when that precious and rare new thing under the sun is ingeniously implemented to produce a great story.
So I was thrilled when I tried a slim volume a close friend pressed upon me with his enthusiastic recommendation and discovered that Who Censored Roger Rabbit? was just such a story. I immediately went out and bought my own copy and resolved to keep an eye out for more work from its clever author, Gary K. Wolf.
As it turned out, it wasn’t long before I spotted the man himself at a science fiction convention and introduced myself as his enthusiastic fan. This was long before the movie version, of course, so neither Roger nor Gary were really famous yet, and he was delighted to learn of my appreciation of his creation.
As the years passed and my editorial career careened in all sorts of odd directions, I always enjoyed bumping into him, and never failed to express the hope that someday we could work together.
Early in the new millennium, I found myself at Tor Books, and made the novice mistake of sending Gary a package that was actually intended for his near namesake, Gary K. Wolfe, a professor at Roosevelt University in Chicago and a distinguished reviewer for Locus. I contacted novelist Gary to explain, we had a lovely chat catching up, and made a date to have lunch at the worldcon.
There, Gary told me about how he and John Myers, his best friend since their boyhood in a tiny Illinois town, had decided to reread Space Hawk, the Anthony Gilmore space opera that had turned them both on to Science Fiction.
To their dismay, Space Hawk turned out to be terrible! It wasn’t nearly what they’d remembered it being like through the veil of 50 years of nostalgia. So they decided to write their own space opera, one that could be as good as Space Hawk should have been. I was immediately charmed by the idea, especially when he told me that his pal Johnny had grown up to become the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Newark, NJ!
So I was all the more disappointed when the first version they showed me was painfully corny and self-indulgent. It just wasn’t publishable or even fixable, with its near future setting, revived frozen Nazi, and two central characters who were obviously stand-ins for Gary and John.
I went back to Gary and broke the bad news. They needed to toss what they’d done and think again. If they did, they’d have to recognize that while what they’d written amused them, it would never have delighted the boys they were. They appreciated my frankness, and agreed to try again.
I started sending them copies of some of my own favorite space adventures as examples and inspiration. In response, they came up with a completely new concept, with a much better story and more engaging characters, and Space Vulture as we now know it was born.
It’s a book that works simultaneously on two different levels. For long-time science fiction fans like John and Gary and me, it‘s a fond, tongue-in-cheek homage to the pulp SF that dominated the field in the 30s and 40s and determined its popular image into the 50s and 60s. For those of junior generations, for whom the word “pulp” only denotes the interior of a fruit, it also works on its own as an entertaining, broadly humorous, and engaging story. I’d like to think there will be contemporary versions of the young Gary and John who will get the same kick from Space Vulture that they got from Space Hawk, and be similarly launched on a lifetime of science fiction adventure.
--Moshe Feder, Flushing, NY