Martin H. Greenberg: In Memoriam
"Acti Labores Jucundi"
Even now, a year later, it’s hard to believe that he’s truly gone.
For more than fifteen years, seven days a week, he was as constant as the sun, as unchanging as the tides. He was usually the first person into the Tekno Books office, and often the last one to leave. Marty could always be found sitting behind his spectacularly unorganized desk (although he always claimed to know where everything was—which was a constant source of amusement to everyone else in the office) working at his computer, reading one of his innumerable military magazines or trade journals, or talking to one of a hundred different authors, agents, editors, or publishers we were working with.
The quote from Cicero at the beginning translates to, "Work that has been performed is pleasant." Marty had this quote on a magnet on his desk for years, and his wife, Rosalind, was kind enough to give it to me, where it sits on my desk now. While thinking about what I was going to write, I saw those words, and it immediately brought back memories of Marty doing what he loved—creating books.
To the best of my knowledge, there are two authors who have said that writing was nothing but pure joy—Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury. Even though it isn’t quite the same thing, creating a new novel series, anthology, or nonfiction book and seeing it through to completion was exactly like that for Marty as well. He once said that he was lucky enough to have worked in two fields (the other was political science) where, if he hadn’t been paid for it, he would have done them both for free. And just looking at him as he went about the day-to-day operation of the company, you know that was true.
For him, the work itself was more than pleasant—it was a labor of joy. And every time we received a new book— whether it was a reprint anthology, or the next novel in a New York Times-bestselling series—Marty always had the same expression of exuberant glee on his face when he saw it. Although he had three lovely, intelligent, and accomplished daughters, Madeleine, Kari, and Kate; in a sense, Marty also had more than two thousand five hundred (give or take) other children as well—every book that he created or helped to create.
Along the way, he got to know quite a lot of people in the publishing industry as well. To many, Marty was a giant in the field—the creator of anthologies and novels almost beyond counting. His various books had given dozens, probably hundreds of authors their start in the business with the first sale of a short story, or perhaps a novel. And Marty’s thoughtfulness and goodwill went beyond simply giving people the chance to write. I know of at least one author who had let us know that, if not for a call from Marty at a particular point in his life, he might not have kept writing. Marty didn’t know that at the time—he just had a book project, and thought this author might be the right man for the job. It turned out he was more right than he knew. When we discovered that we had inadvertently not been paying an author royalties due him because of a succession of address changes over the past several years, Marty insisted on sending him the full amount immediately. Upon receiving the payment, the author contacted us and said he didn’t know anyone else in the industry that would have done that.
During my time at Tekno Books, I did just about every task one can think of doing at a book packager, and a few that surprised even me. What I came away with after all was said and done was an even more immense love of books, no matter what form they appear in—print, audio, or electronic—fiction, nonfiction, short story or novel. I had already had a deep love of reading from childhood, but I also learned to appreciate what went into creating a story or series—and that is what I saw every day while working with Marty. Simply put, he loved his work. Every day he went into the office was a joy for him. Every idea he came up with could be the next bestselling book we published. Every sale he made was a win for him, a win of the best kind, for it meant working with people that he liked on another project that he loved. Every finished book he had a hand in creating was a treasure to him. Every author, agent, editor or publisher he worked with was a valued colleague, and more likely than not, a dear friend. Going with him to a convention was literally seeing a who’s who of people throughout publishing finding him, shaking his hand, ready to discuss potential projects, or just to say hello, or to thank him for a story or novel that he’d helped publish. He especially treasured the various awards, particularly the lifetime achievement awards, bestowed on him from grateful authors’ organizations for everything he did in and for publishing and authors.
The stories about Marty are many, varied, and legendary. Almost everyone who’s met him has one or more, and I’m not going to take up precious space here telling about how Marty first introduced himself to Isaac Asimov, or how what became a multi-million dollar franchise of novels and nonfiction with Tom Clancy was spawned (literally) from an idea off the top of Marty’s head (if you see me at a convention and want to know more about either, just ask, and I’ll be happy to tell you).
I would like to say that for all the stories that have already happened, there will certainly be more to come. Except that there won’t be, not any more. The seemingly inexhaustible font that was his mind has been stilled forever. There will be no more wondrous, brilliant, crazy, off-the-wall ideas on any subject he thought of. No more turning to me from his computer, or setting down whatever magazine or trade journal he was reading and saying, "I have an idea for a book…"
And yet, I know that his legacy will live on. Marty’s memory will surely live on in the thousands of people he dealt with and helped throughout his career. But is it the twenty-five hundred-plus books, each one representing him, that will go on far into the future. For every time a fan picks up one of his anthologies, every time a reader begins a novel that wouldn’t exist without his spark of an idea, Marty’s legacy will live on.
And if there is some kind of afterlife—if there is a great Writers’ Convention in the Sky—I like to think that Marty’s there, holding court with Isaac, Ray, and many, many others: Anne McCaffrey, and John D. MacDonald, Leigh Brackett, Henry Slesar, Jack Ritchie, Stuart Kaminsky, Theodore Sturgeon, Keith Laumer, Algis Budrys, and many, many more. There’s also the editors he worked with, such as Frank D. McSherry, Brian M. Thomsen, Mike Baker, Michael Graves, and others. And the agents who are no longer with us too, Ralph Vicinanza, John Hawkins, Virginia Kidd, and everyone else too numerous to count, but for whom Marty always had a smile and a kind word—and more often than not, some business to discuss.
No doubt Marty’s laughing and joking with all of them—and all the while, he’s got a twinkle in his eye as he comes up with that next great book idea.
— John Helfers
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