Robert Silverberg recalls that it’s always been exceptionally rare to make a living from writing science fiction.
When I broke into the business 55 years ago you could count the number of full-time science fiction writers who could pay the rent and eat regular meals on the fingers of one oddly proportioned hand. Poul Anderson, Gordy Dickson, Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur Clarke, Robert Sheckley, maybe Jack Vance, and….well, who else? Jack Williamson? Perhaps he had begun teaching by then. Asimov was still a college professor who wrote s-f on the side. Ted Cogswell was a professor also. So was James Gunn. Phil Dick was a full-timer, but lived at the poverty level. Sturgeon didn’t do much better. Del Rey dabbled in editing and occasional agenting. Harry Harrison did editing work, wrote comics, whatnot. Leiber was an editor for Science Digest. Jim Blish wrote p-r stuff for the tobacco institute. Cyril Kornbluth worked for a wire service. Fred Pohl edited and agented. Alfred Bester wrote for the slicks and TV.I’m not sure what Phil Klass did for a living — he wasn’t teaching yet — but he couldn’t have lived on the proceeds of what he wrote. Kuttner and Moore — I don’t know; they did venture somewhat into television and mystery novels.Leigh Brackett was a part-time Hollywood writer and her husband Edmond Hamilton earned most of his living writing comic books. Mack Reynolds and Fred Brown had fled to Mexico, where a dime went as far as a dollar did here.