June 20, 2015

Finest Hour 100, Autumn 1998

Page 04

By RICHARD M. LANGWORTH


The syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman wrote: “You don’t get through your Fifties without a whole lot of reflection where you’ve been and what you are doing next. Those of us who did it all, and then some, in our Forties, hear the unmistakable sound of doors closing behind us….There are doors opening in front of us as well. But we know there isn’t time to go bounding through them all. We have to pick carefully and boldly, to triage what we want to do, and what we want to quit.”

Pondering this sage advice, I have come to conclude that what I want most to do is to write. I was astonished to realize, through John Plumpton’s new Finest Hour index, how few major articles I’ve written over the years. Despite all the nice things readers say about the product, what I am mainly doing is editing the work of others, whose efforts I have the honor to refract. If I were to continue devoting myself only to the ideas of others, I would not be the first to be swallowed up whole by a magazine. Publishing often eats writers and spits them out as editors.

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Scott Edelman, the editor of Science Fiction Age, wrote: “The list of writers silenced, or at least witness to a severe falling off in their output by becoming editors, goes on. So it is with no small sense of trepidation that I continue to edit the magazine. Will I continue to write? Will I continue to remember how to write? The joys of writing and those of editing are different. Sometimes an editor is like an explorer, stepping over a mountaintop to see a glorious new land below, calling others to come and see. But what an editor is not is a creator from whole cloth, weaving something out of nothing. Only a writer can know the joy of doing that.”

Mr. Edelman concluded that if one tries hard enough, it may just be possible to do both. By involving myself less in administration—and soon—I hope to be able to prove his thesis. Editorially, there is one accomplishment that eludes us. These pages contain many words of encouragement or praise from many great personages—but we have yet to receive a letter from one of them saying, “I was inspired to [enter some grand accomplishment] by reading Finest Hour.” That is a letter it would be nice to receive some day.

I don’t try to hide the pride I take in FH. Always we can find (and do) a weakness, a department, a column, whatever, that needs strengthening, needs attention. But oh my, what a performance. I sit here, writing this column, and survey the issue about to unfold. Senior Editor Ron Cynewulf Robbins continues to prove what a superb and original writer he is. Alfred James contributes one of the most wonderful Churchill eulogies ever written, by his father Francis, in 1965. To whom has Senior Editor John Plumpton turned for the last fourteen years to relate what Churchill was doing 100, 75 and 50 years ago? To FH. Where else could one find, for the first time in English, a wonderfully droll account of Churchill in the 1910 Dundee election by Luigi Barzini, the leading Italian journalist of the early Twentieth Century? Lady Soames, historian of her family; Martin Gilbert, the great biographer; John Frost, chief supplier of “International Datelines”; David Coombs, preeminent authority on Churchill’s paintings; Dean Acheson on Leadership; Curt Zoller’s Churchilltrivia; Douglas Hall’s Churchilliana; William Dales on the Malakand; Sir Winston himself, the master craftsman, whose words resound regularly herein, by courtesy of his grandson….

The list grows, and it is overpoweringly satisfying to know that FH has established that no one or two people are indispensable to its continuance as the international focus of interest in Winston Churchill: the journal that keeps the tablets. I look at the magazine and say to myself that this is a venture kept alive by men and women who dare to believe that Churchill’s inspiration isn’t dead, can’t be permitted to die, who have made sure that they, their children, and their grandchildren will always have, to plead Winston Churchill’s cause and irradiate his reason, this litle beacon of faith.

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