A Conversation with Joe Haldeman
Updated: Jun 11
Today we have the pleasure of chatting with Joe Haldeman, a legendary writer who is a mainstay at the World Fantasy Convention. Named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Joe Haldeman has earned steady awards over his 50-year career: his novels The Forever War and Forever Peace both made clean sweeps of the Hugo and Nebula Awards, and he has won three more Hugos and three more Nebulas for other novels and shorter works. Three times he’s won the Rhysling Award for best SF poem of the year. He won the World Fantasy Award for short story in 1993 for “Graves.” In 2012 he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. His latest novels are a trilogy, Marsbound, Starbound and Earthbound, and a stand-alone novel titled Work Done For Hire. The graphic novels of The Forever War and Forever Peace are out from Titan.
Joe was a combat soldier in Vietnam, which strongly influences some of his work. The movie rights to The Forever War have been sold to Warner. When Joe’s not writing or teaching – he’s retired from M.I.T., where he taught every fall semester for 30 years -- he paints, bicycles, plays the guitar, and spends as much time as he can out under the stars as an amateur astronomer. He’s been married to Mary Gay Potter Haldeman for 54 years.
WFC2020: Joe, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. You’ve won about every award there is. Does any single award stand out as particularly special?
JH: The first Hugo, by all means, for The Forever War. The Nebula for that novel was awarded first, though, and that was a big night, too.
WFC2020: I’m sure those were both never-to-be-forgotten moments. The Forever War was published early in your career, but it’s still gaining new readers. And now there’s a graphic novel. Tell us how your partnership with graphic artist Marvano came about.
JH: Marvano (Mark Van Oppen) read The Forever War when it came out, I think in English (though of course he also reads other languages). The Dutch translation may have been the first European edition, soon followed by German and French, and he could have read any of those. Mark found me at a Worldcon, I think in London, and asked whether I'd like to collaborate on a graphic novel -- and of course I said yes.
WFC2020: It looks great, and is definitely on our To-Read-Soon list. We love “first” stories. How did your first novel sale come about?
JH: I sold my first novel, War Year, by sending the manuscript to the publisher -- Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, at the suggestion of author and editor Ben Bova. But The Forever War, my first successful book, was rejected by 19 publishers before it sold to St. Martin's Press. (I met the editor, Thomas Dunne, at a boozy party thrown by the Science Fiction Writers of America in New York City. He bought the book a short while later.)
WFC2020: That boozy party certainly paid off in spades! Which of your books would you recommend to new readers who may not be familiar with your work?
JH: If they read science fiction, I recommend The Forever War. If they like thrillers, Tool Of The Trade. General readers might prefer the Worlds trilogy -- Worlds, Worlds Apart, and Worlds Enough And Time (all of which are told from a female point of view). My most recent novel is Work Done For Hire, about a future soldier who is a retired sniper.
WFC2020: You’ve been a regular attendee at World Fantasy Convention for a number of years. What’s your favorite memory from WFC?
JH: Winning the World Fantasy Award for the short story “Graves.”
WFC2020: The award ceremony is always a highlight at World Fantasy Convention, especially if you win one of those coveted awards. What are you working on now?
JH: A science fiction novel called A Woman's Way and another called Phobos Means Fear. I'm also supposed to write a short comic play for the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, not due for another week, which I'd better start pretty soon.
WFC2020: Where can we find you on the Internet?
Joe Haldeman and his wife Gay are two of the people you’ll get to hang out with in Salt Lake City. Be sure to check out his blog and his website and bring your favorite Joe Haldeman books from home for him to sign. And it’s a fair bet to say you’ll be able to find a few to add to your collection in the WFC 2020 dealers’ room.