In 1949, when he was in his mid-20s and studying for his master’s degree in English, James E. Gunn submitted a piece of science fiction to a pulp magazine. “One day, I got a letter saying, ‘I like your story “Paradox,” and I’ll pay you $80 for it,’” he recalled in a 2008 interview. “My wife says it was probably the most transforming experience in our lives when we realized someone would actually pay me to sit in front of my typewriter.”
He remained particularly proud of the plot — about a drunken bum abducted by telepathic aliens who, once they read his delirious mind, abandon their plans to subjugate humanity.
Decades later, he ran into Sam Merwin Jr., the publisher who had bought “Paradox,” at a science fiction writers convention. He introduced himself by saying, “You probably don’t remember, but you bought my first story.”
“Merwin said, ‘I can