Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday's "Forgotten" Magazine Issue: THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, April 1973, edited and published by Edward Ferman (Mercury Press)

From the F&SF index-not a perfect tool, as one of the mistakes in Ellison's citations refers to the misbegotten television series The Starlost, which abused Ellison's "bible" and groundwork, as The Starcrossed, also correctly noted as Ellison collaborator Ben Bova's parodic novel about the travesty:

Dean McLaughlin, The Trouble With Project Slickenside nv
Avram Davidson. Books, reviewing:
Donald A. Wollheim (ed): The 1972 Annual World's Best SF; Terry Carr (ed) The Best Science Fiction of the Year; Robin Scott Wilson (ed): Clarion II; Lester del Rey (ed): Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year
Gahan Wilson, Cartoon ct
Thom Jones. Brother Dodo's Revenge ss
Edward Wellen, Chalk Talk vi
Baird Searles, Films: Return to Cobra Island
reviews Cobra Woman(1944), starring Maria Montez; The Undead (1957)
Chris G. Butler, A Coffin in Egypt ss
Gahan Wilson, The Zombie Butler vi 6th story in Moral vignettes series;
Waldo Carlton Wright, Spirit of the White Deer ss
John Sladek, Solar Shoe-Salesman by Ph*l*p K. D*ck ss
andrew j. offutt, Sareva: In Memoriam ss
Isaac Asimov, Science: Down From the Amoeba pop-science essay
Michael G. Coney, The Manya ss 1st story in Finistelle ser.
Walter H. Kerr, poem
Harlan Ellison, The Deathbird nv (Winner-1974 HUGO, JUPITER, LOCUS Awards;
Nominee-1973 NEBULA award)

So, I'd picked this issue up off a stack and browsed the Table of Contents, and realized I couldn't remember reading the Avram Davidson book review column...Davidson, the brilliant fiction writer and former F&SF editor, would occasionally drop back in duting the 1970s to offer a book column, one which otherwise would be conducted in those years by a rotating goup including James Blish till his final illness, Algis Budrys with ever-greater frequency in the latter '70s, Joanna Russ, Barry Malzberg, and others from time to time (the best lineup any fantastic-fiction magazine has ever had in this wise, F&SF in the 1970s, even if Damon Knight didn't publish reviews again in F&SF after 1960, and Fritz Leiber in the 1970s published most of his in longterm "rival" magazine Fantastic, instead). Sadly, this consideration of three of the Best of the Year annuals and a Clarion writing workshop anthology is unusually slight and terse for a Davidson review, if gracious and witty. Oddly enough, one of Harlan Ellison's few book-review essays for F&SF, a year before, was also a rundown of the available BOTYs, and a very good one.

But, quite aside from offering a gorgeous wraparound cover by Leo and Diane Dillon, one of the best the magazine has published (and it's a pity the Dillons and Ellison don't seem to work together any longer--a falling out, or is it simply that the Dillons are too expensive for most of Ellison's publishers these days?), for the best Harlan Ellison story I've read so far (both in terms of its power and breadth and even its flaws being so much of the Ellison geist)...quite aside from that, this issue also contains the one Thom Jones contribution to F&SF, a story which The Pugilist at Rest writer might be ashamed of (or he might've feared that being associated with fantastic fiction or the magazine might tar him somehow, the Vonnegut Perplex or the Hortense Calisher flitter. As it is, it is a reasonably deftly written if rather heavyhanded Orwellian animal fantasy; rather than Lenin and Trotsky with trotters, we have a convocation of Black Panthers and the American Indian Movement and the Young Lords as a Pogo-esque mixture of human-hating animals, including insects and an ill-fated "Tomming" martyr to the Revolution in the form of a cow, sacrificed not altogether accidentally to further the cause (which is greater than the fate of any one constituent, doncha know). Like myself, only fifteen years or so earlier, Thom Jones was a University of Hawaii dropout who took his degree elsewhere.

Ed Ferman's editorship was at least as notable as those around his for the occasional contributions from fiction writers better known for work in other modes...the first F&SF I ever perused, but decided against buying since I had only so many quarters on hand and the magazine was a buck, was the Janauary, 1976 issue...led off by and perhaps best remembered for Joanna Russ's "My Boat," but also featuring Stuart Dybek's disturbing "Horror Movie." Ellen Gilchrist would place her "The Green Tent" with F&SF a decade later.

Some quick notes: Edward Wellen's vignette is one of the few linguistics fantasies, Chonskyite deep structure and all, that I've come across. Wellen, much like such others as Herny Slesar, Fredric Brown, and Miriam Allen de Ford, was a crime fiction/fantastic fiction amphibian, and like them a multiple-story contributor to F&SF and its shortlived sibling magazine Venture Science Fiction. In fact, he was enough of a favorite with Edward Ferman, editor of both magazines from the mid '60s to the turn of the '90s (well, the Venture revival lasted only a year or so at the turn of the '70s), so that Ferman took Wellen's long novella/short novel GOLDBRICK and ran it, despite it having essentially no sf nor fantasy content, in the November, 1978 was more a crime fiction, but the only cf magazine running any long stories at this point was Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, and the only long-form fiction it wanted to run were the ghosted Shayne novellas.

John Sladek's Dick parody was one of a series of short lampoons that Sladek was publishing in those years...I don't have the issue at hand at this moment, but it's a rich and dense parody, and if there's an indispensible line in it, it would be (paraphrased from memory, to be corrected later): "This was the end of existence, they all agreed."

Gahan Wilson contributed a cartoon to every issue of F&SF for 17 years, from Edward Ferman's first issuue till Ferman and Wilson had a falling out...a loss all around, particularly since Wilson's occasional fine fiction for the magazine also ceased.

andrew j. offutt often made a point of using all miniscules in his signatures in those years, and his story is almost a parody of Fritz Leiber's Conjure Wife at the point where I've broken off (I will slog through soon). offutt is probably best known these days for the rather bad relation he's had with his writer son Chris Offutt (who likes capitals). (The whole story is about how much less your kids like you than your spouse does, as well as pulling in some heavy winks about Bewitched the television series, as well.)

Baird Searles was the film, television, and general A/V club reviewer for F&SF from 1969 till moving over to be the book reviewer in Asimov's after the recently late Charles Brown left, in the early '80s. He and his life partner Martin Last ran The Science Fiction Shop in NYC in the '70s, as well. Searles had been preceded in the late 1950s by Charles Beaumont as film reviewer (with William Morrison also submitting at least one stage review), and was succeeded by Harlan Ellison, Kathi Maio, and Lucius Shepard.

Dean McLaughlin was one of the folks who did consistently good, and occasionally great, work for various magazines starting around the turn of the '60s...the last time Davidson, Ellison, and McLaughlin had been in the same issue was a decade before, when Davidson had been editing.

Walter Kerr the poet eventually started adding his middle initial to his F&SF contributions to stave off confusion with the NYC stage critic. F&SF contributor Paul Darcy Bowles felt a similar responsibility.

Isaac Asimov eventually wrote 399 monthly pop-science essays (a few touched only peripherally on science) for F&SF, and credited that series, and the predecessor column in the shortlived first run of stablemate Venture Science Fiction, with inspiring his most prominent public career, as a pop science writer.


Terrie Farley Moran said...

I've only recently begun to appreciate fantasy, thanks to an interest held by my oldest grandson.

I think I would enjoy fantasy shorts most of all.


pattinase (abbott) said...

me, too. terrie is saying everything I am thinking today. All I can think of is fantasy stories.

David Cranmer said...

I'm with the above group but if Todd says it's good I'm there. You recommended an Alfred Hitchcock anthology over a year ago and I just finished it. Damn good reading.

Todd Mason said...

Goodness...I'm getting hits and comments w/o having managed to get my review copy up yet. Ah, well, that tells me what really draws us in...and I'll be looking for a better representation of this gorgeous cover, by Leo and Diane Dillon, for the issue. But, in brief, for reliability and more, F&SF has been (and still is) the best of the fantasy and sf magazines on US newsstands (remember them?) over the last sixty years...others have briefly outshone it, but they've tended to burn out, or at least hit rough patches in their longish runs (notably FANTASTIC, which ran from 1952-1981 [with a sort of brief revival of the title a few years back], or the just revived REALMS OF FANTASY, which had been plugging along since 1994 but had folded earlier this year--another attempt to revive FANTASTIC was shelved in favor of buying and reviving REALMS).

Anthony Boucher was the co-founding editor of F&SF (first issued 1949), at the same Mercury Press that was already publishing EQMM, and was in the process of selling H. L. Mencken's AMERICAN MERCURY (to people who amounted to Nazis/Klan), as Mencken had died and Mercury honcho Laurence Spivak was more interested in his new duties at MEET THE PRESS.

Todd Mason said...

Lawrence Spivak.

Todd Mason said...

Odd you should mention ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS: STORIES TO BE READ WITH THE DOORS LOCKED, David...this issue of F&SF has the first and perhaps only F&SF appearance of a Waldo Carlton Wright story, and as far as I know that particular AHP antho has one of the relatively few other published Wright short stories. And glad you liked the antho...the eclectic and diverse Robert Arthur- and Harold Q. Masur-edited AHP volumes were just that much better than even the rather good to occasionally excellent anthos drawn from AH'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE, itself. A few of the latter are still in print in "instant remainder" hardcover.

Jerry House said...

The Ellison, of course, was the standout. Sladek and Wellen are two of my favs; both strikingly original and entertaining.

I know the issue is 36 years old, but it is still to think of how many of the contributors are no longer with us.

Jerry House said...

still sad.

stupid computer!

SteveHL said...

Todd, I love F & SF but I’m wondering why you picked this particular issue. I think Deathbird is an excellent story and, as you say, the Dillon cover is outstanding. That said, I probably would have chosen one of the October anniversary issues. The 30th anniversary issue from 1979 was actually an anthology of some of the finest stories from F & SF’s first thirty years and must be one of the finest issues of any science fiction / fantasy magazine ever published. Some of my other favorites of the anniversary issues would include:

1967, which includes:

Home the Hard Way by Richard McKenna
The Inner Circles by Fritz Leiber
Camels and Dromedaries, Clem by R. A. Lafferty
The Power of Every Root by Avram Davidson
Corona by Samuel R. Delany

1969, which includes:

Feminine Intuition by Isaac Asimov
Come to Me Not in Winter’s White by Harlan Ellison and Roger Zelazny
The Movie People by Robert Bloch
A Final Sceptre, a Lasting Crown by Ray Bradbury
The Man Who Learned Loving by Theodore Sturgeon
The Electric Ant by Philip K. Dick
Get a Horse! By Larry Niven

1999, which includes:

macs by Terry Bisson
Darkrose and Diamond by Ursula LeGuin
How Heather Moon Kept My Life from Getting Completely Followed Up Again by Ron Goulart
A Hero of the Empire by Robert Silverberg
Fish in a Barrel by Jonathan Carroll
The Shrine for Lost Children by Poul Anderson
The Happiest Day of her Life by Kate Wilhelm
A Fish Story by Gene Wolfe
Crocodile Rock by Lucius Shepard

2005, which includes:

The Calorie Man by Paolo Bacigalupi
The Gunner’s Mate by Gene Wolfe
Boatman’s Holiday by Jeffrey Ford
Two Hearts by Peter S. Beagle

If I were setting forth my requirements for The Best Issue of a Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazine Ever Published, it would need to include fine fiction, no serials, a letter column, book reviews, and (probably) an editorial. I have never decided whether there should be illustrations or not; I lean towards including them, but only if they are worth sacrificing the space that could otherwise be used for fiction.

By the way, did you know that F & SF went to bimonthly publication earlier this year? I hope that doesn’t indicate a really dire financial future for such a fine magazine.

Todd Mason said...

Well, Steve, I picked this issue because I'd been reading it's not the best issue of F&SF, but it is the now-obscure item I'd been reading most recently, and I hadn't finished the novel I planned to highlight this week. I've been so busy that I haven't even written my entry yet.

The 30th anniversary issue is impressive as hell, and was also republished in book form essentially entire, including the special installments from the regular columnists featured (Algis Budrys on books, Isaac Asimov on science, Baird Searles on films and a/v media, and a selection of Gahan Wilson's carttons)...along with a reader-poll-driven selection of the best stories published in F&SF over the decades. Major flaw: no inclusions from either Bloch or Leiber. The only other F&SF issue republished in book form I'm aware of was Edward Ferman's first as editor, which Southern Illinois University Press published between boards as a milestone and memento in the 1980s.

"The Inner Circles," as you probably know, is Edward Ferman's title for what Leiber called "The Winter Flies."

And, yes, I'm quite aware that F&SF has dropped to hefty bimonthly issues, and, sadly, yes, this is a resonse to the rather hostile market we have now to magazines generally, not least fiction magazines. None of our fiction magaziens are truly monthly these days (with the weak exceptions of PENTHOUSE LETTERS, I think, and ONE STORY, likewise).

Also, this issue, as I hope to suggest shortly, is full of reasons why it's inherently interesting, several of them already touched on by Jerry House, aside from containing what might be my favorite piece of fiction (and autobiography) from Ellison, still. And even with a disappointing Davidson column.

Hell, my first issues of F&SF migh well be excellent choices.

Todd Mason said...

And, thanks, Terrie and Patti--you can always do worse than an issue of F&SF or one of the many anthologies taken from the magazine (they started as an annual series) to get at least some of the sense of where short fantasy fiction is now, or has been over the last half-century-plus. This is the only magazine to have published new stories by Shirley Jackson, John Collier, Kurt Vonnegut, Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, Charles Beaumont, Ursula K. Le Guin, Russell Kirk, Joyce Carol Oates, Howard Fast, C. S. Forester, Karen Joy Fowler, Bruce Jay Friedman, Gary Jennings, Donald Westlake, Herbert Gold, B. Traven, Ed Gorman, Bill Pronzini--I think at this point, no one else, not PLAYBOY nor COLLIER'S nor EVERGREEN REVIEW nor PARIS REVIEW has managed to get new fiction from quite this assembly--though they had to settle for reprints for the stories from James Thurber, Joseph Hansen, Jack Finney, and Woody Allen. And F&SF was the magazine that first published Daniel Keyes's "Flowers for Algernon." Along with work from such core contributors as Ron Goulart, Kate Wilhelm, Joanna Russ, Theodore Sturgeon, Fritz Leiber, Robert Bloch, Manly Wade Wellman, Alice "James Tiptree, Jr." Sheldon, Thomas Disch and R. A. Lafferty among so many others.

Sold yet? (So it was FANTASTIC who published Ian McEwan's second US short story after AMERICAN REVIEW, and Sonya Dorman's first prose, and even more Jack Dann than F&SF (and Le Guin's and Disch's and Wilhelm's first stories, and Roger Zelazny's fisrt outside of Scholastic's LITERARY CAVALCADE student contest, even if F&SF got the story that made Zelazny's reputation, "A Rose for Ecclisiates")...just try to catch 'em all.

There are those who say it plays too safe these days...some issues do feel a bit more adventurous than others. I'm still glad to have it, to say the least. And I still miss FANTASTIC and WHISPERS, and am damned glad REALMS OF FANTASY might continue, as might WEIRD TALES's current revival and CEMETERY DANCE...

Todd Mason said...

"A Rose for Ecclesiastes"....It's getting late.