"Clarion: A Reminiscence and a Reevaluation"

by Grant Carrington

An editorial about the Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy workshops in the June 1975 Fantastic science fiction magazine.

    The May 1970 issue of AMAZING contained a letter from Glen Cook that read in part: "Clarion is the only place where persons interested in writing science fiction and fantasy can actually study the trade under acknowledged masters in the field . . . Bob Silverberg told Harlan and I he could not openly support the workshop because he did not believe writing could be taught. Talent cannot, we'll all agree. But if you begin with talented people and teach what can be taught (mechanics, style, etc.), you get tremendous results. . . . There have been 22 full-time students in the two years since its inception. . . . Thus far, 15 have made sales to professional markets, to: Again, Dangerous Visions, New Dimensions, Infinity I, F&SF, If, Galaxy, New Worlds, Generation I & II, Swank, Adams, Knight, Avante Garde, FANTASTIC, Vision, Starship '69, and others. There have been , at least count, 23 short stories, two novels, two TV scripts, one play, several articles, two songs, 'about 25 poems,' and an 'Indian Pageant' sold by workshop students. At least three of those student are now full-time, self-supporting writers. One man has sold ten stories in less than three months. . . . Harlan tells me that of all the people he has taught at the University of Colorado Workshop (mainstream), a massively sized thing, only two have ever sold anything."
    Well, more than four years have passed and the Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers' Workshop has passed on to Tulane University, Michigan State University (Clarion East), and the University of Washington (Clarion West). The seemingly impressive statistics that Glen quoted in 1970 no longer seem to hold up quite so impressively. But before we take a look at what's happened in the past four years, let's examine Glen's statements more closely.

    The Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers' Workshop was organized at Clarion State College, Clarion, Pa., in 1968. It was patterned after the Milford Conference. Robin Scott Wilson, an ex-CIA man who had taken a job as English professor at Clarion, was its founder. Robin had written several science fiction stories, including some humorous spy stories, and had attended one of the Milford conferences. (Harlan Ellison's introduction to Robin's story in Again, Dangerous Visions is worth reading, in this regard.) The Milford Conference, orginally organized by James Blish and Damon Knight in Milford, Pa., was an intense weekend or more each year in which professional sf writers criticized each others' work-in-progress. Robin felt the concept could be applied to beginning writers.

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