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May 21, 2002

Who is Edgar Harris?
Posted by Teresa at 11:18 AM *

I doubt his claim that he’s the former Sports Editor at Science Fiction Age. He’s been around for a while. He knows a bit about comics, less about about the computer industry, and seems to be familiar with Texas. He knows more about genre movies than I do. On the other hand, he knows squat about fandom, and makes the kind of lame, self-important jokes you get from pros and industry people who think “fans” = “random jerks who bug me at conventions”. (In fandom, we call those people “jerks”, and avoid them, which leaves them with nothing to do but spend their time bugging pros.)

But he definitely knows the professional SF world. Try his “Bridge Publications Announces ‘Fanfic Writers of the Future’ Line” — or, even better, his “SFWA changes entry criteria for membership”:

“The basic requirements for SFWA membership previously required that a writer have three short stories or one full-length fiction book or a dramatic script appear through professional paying markets,” said Caroline Crawford, SFWA spokeswoman. “However, over the late Eighties and early Nineties, we found the organization flooded with members who received their accreditation through sales to the Writers of the Future or Pulphouse magazine, and although they never managed to get published again, they had lifetime membership so long as they paid their membership dues. Since we find ourselves flooded with members who do nothing more than put ‘Member, SFWA’ on their letterhead and throw tantrums if they don’t get guest badges at local conventions, besides voting in SFWA elections against any provisions to remove members unpublished in a decade or more, we had to go to further extremes to enliven the organization and clear out the dead wood.” Those “further extremes” consist of talent competitions completely unrelated to writing.

“Simply put,” said Ms. Crawford, “any current or incipient member of SFWA must be able to impersonate a cartoon character to the satisfaction of an independently selected jury. No exceptions.”

The better you know SFWA, the funnier that gets.

Edgar Harris knows the industry, both trade books and magazines, and his viewpoint is editorial; see “Tina Brown to Take Over Editorship of Asimov’s” and “St. Martins Starts ‘World’s Worst Science Fiction Imprint’ With First Hardcover Printing of Eye of Argon”. His editorial POV, and the fact that he’s not true mainstream (they’d never say “Literary SF Publishers”), are both evident in “Literary SF Publishers Announce ‘International Slushpile Bonfire Day’”:

“We’re burning everything,” said Pablo Redondo, the organizer of the event and the only editor willing to appear on television. “All of the manuscripts with no merit other than the tag ‘Member, SFWA”’ on the cover page. The manuscripts where the author didn’t bother to read the submission guidelines and dumped off the copy to a magazine that doesn’t buy that sort of fiction, or doesn’t buy fiction at all. The manuscripts where the author already registered the story for a copyright ‘to keep editors from stealing their work’. The Wesley / Worf slash fanfiction sent in ‘just in case we had an interest.’ The manuscripts sent in on toilet paper or on Hello Kitty note paper, and the manuscripts sent with death threats against any editor who plans to reject it, and the 3000-page ‘sequels’ to popular books written because the author didn’t like how the original ended. We’re making a big pile in the middle of Times Square, and every editor with a slush pile is invited to pitch in.”
So who is Edgar Harris? I don’t know, and if anyone else does they’re not talking to me. Speculations I’ve heard are on the level of “Gordon van Gelder and possibly Bryan Cholfin collaborating with someone from Texas,” which sounds like someone’s guess.

I don’t think it’s Greg Cox or Kim Kindya; they’d have made funnier jokes about media fandom, and there’d have been a column about vampire fiction. Paul Stevens? Don’t know. Ellen Datlow? Ditto. John Klima and Jim Minz are busy. So’s John Ordover. And if it were Keith DeCandido, he’d have confessed by now.

Comments on Who is Edgar Harris?:
#1 ::: Tim Kyger ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2002, 05:43 PM:

I always thot it was the return of Vincent Omniaveritas... [sic]

#2 ::: Al von Ruff ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2002, 07:42 PM:

Edgar Harris is a pseudonym for Paul T. Riddell,
producer of inflammatory reviews and essays for SF Eye and Cyber-Psychos AOD.

#3 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2002, 07:45 PM:

Possibly. What's your source?

#4 ::: Al von Ruff ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2002, 10:21 PM:

Pretty sure that info came from Riddell himself.. He updated his bio at the ISFDB after coming out of "retirement".

See also "The Edgar Harris Papers", hosted at Riddell's site (

#5 ::: Bob Webber ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2002, 11:40 PM:

The quality of the writing seemed extremely variable, even within essays. Some of it seemed similar to other "Paul T. Riddell" I've read, but some parts weren't that clunky. Tin ear, real or feigned, for British names and phrasing. Probably has confused feelings, grudges, or both about Harlan Ellison, Michael Straczynski, other well-known figures he considers to be above themselves.

Probably posts to Usenet under several pseudonyms, some of them simple variations on a them.

#6 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2002, 02:43 AM:

I'm hurt I didn't even make it onto your short list of nominees. Unless you assume I'd have confessed even faster than Keith.

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