George Scithers 1929-2010

George Scithers, editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction, Amazing Stories, and Weird Tales died yesterday of heart attack.

Scithers started out as a big name SF and fantasy fan, and is credited with coining the term “sword and sorcery” for his fanzine Amra. His first pro sale was to Worlds of If in 1969 (oddly, the only issue of the magazine I ever actually bought on the newsstand). When Asimov’s was founded in 1977, he was named the magazine’s first editor, turning it into the top selling magazine in the field (at a time when magazines were contracting).

He was best known for developing new talent at Asimov’s. Scithers created a checklist rejection slip, which told authors what was wrong with their work. Any up and coming author would quickly learn to avoid the mistakes he pointed out and quite a few successful names in the field got their start due to George’s encouragement.

He was editing Asimov’s when I was first breaking in. After about four rejections, he wrote that he would like to see more of my work. I had never considered it “my work” before. It was as though I had hope of being a real author. Finally, he sent a story back saying he’d buy it with a few minor revisions. After three more complete rewrites (before word processors), I had made my first pro sale to him.

I’m sad to hear he’s gone. His encouragement was just what I needed when I was starting out.

Asimov’s was the first SF magazine I subscribed to, starting in 1979 - so I read a lot of what Scithers edited (and some of what he wrote). Until I got to college (where I had access to a lot more to read), I’d read each issue IAsfm as soon as I got it (and usually reread most of the stories) - so I remember all those early issues very well. Was your first sale “The Munji Deserters” (or do I have your real name wrong)? I certainly remember that story!

Yes, that was it. Scithers has left Asimov’s by the time the story was printed, but it appeared in the last issue that he edited.

I worked for him for a few months in 95 as a slush pile reader. He was cheerful and very wise. His collection of (I don’t know how to label it) um neat stuff was huge and wonderful.