Friday, September 30, 2016

FFB Redux for Anthologies week: PARTNERS IN WONDER by Harlan Ellison and collaborators; 1978 best of the year short fiction anthologies

I've had a few too many All-Night sessions of various taxing sorts over the last few months, and last night was yet, as the most monotonously anthology (and fiction-magazine)-oriented of FFBers, a redux post of two of the reviews from past years that perhaps could use a few more eye tracks...sorry if you find them a bit slight or overfamiliar!  TM (Please see Patti Abbott's blog for the fresher examples from other contributors!)

The Contento Index:

Partners in Wonder Harlan Ellison (Walker, 1971, hc)
· Sons of Janus · in
· I See a Man Sitting on a Chair, and the Chair Is Biting His Leg · Harlan Ellison & Robert Sheckley · nv F&SF Jan ’68
· Brillo · Harlan Ellison & Ben Bova · nv Analog Aug ’70
· A Toy for Juliette · Robert Bloch · ss Dangerous Visions, ed. Harlan Ellison, Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1967
· The Prowler in the City at the Edge of the World · nv Dangerous Visions, ed. Harlan Ellison, Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1967
· Scherzo for Schizoids: Notes on a Collaboration · ms Knight Nov ’65
· Up Christopher to Madness · Harlan Ellison & Avram Davidson · ss Knight Nov ’65
· Runesmith · Harlan Ellison & Theodore Sturgeon · ss F&SF May ’70
· Rodney Parish for Hire · Harlan Ellison & Joe L. Hensley · ss Swank May ’62
· The Kong Papers · Harlan Ellison & William Rotsler · ct The Kong Papers, William Rotsler & Harlan Ellison, 1969
· The Human Operators · Harlan Ellison & A. E. van Vogt · ss F&SF Jan ’71
· Survivor No. 1 [“The Man with the Green Nose”] · Harlan Ellison & Henry Slesar · ss Knave Sep ’59
· The Power of the Nail · Harlan Ellison & Samuel R. Delany · ss Amazing Nov ’68
· Wonderbird · Harlan Ellison & Algis Budrys · ss Infinity Science Fiction Sep ’57
· The Song the Zombie Sang · Harlan Ellison & Robert Silverberg · ss Cosmopolitan Dec ’70
· Street Scene [“Dunderbird”] · Harlan Ellison & Keith Laumer · ss Galaxy Jan ’69; this story has two different endings. The version with the Ellison ending was in Galaxy, the version with the Laumer ending was in Adam Mar ’69 as “Street Scene”.
· Come to Me Not in Winter’s White · Harlan Ellison & Roger Zelazny · ss F&SF Oct ’69

There are certain books which will change your life, though usually only very slightly. This was one of those for me, an a young reader, which more than any other early reading experience brought home the sense of a writer's life and the community of writers. It's available as an e-book, which is the source of the link to the introduction, but I read the Pyramid edition with the Leo and Diane Dillon cover design pictured here, part of the series they did of Ellison paperbacks for the publisher (some reissued by Jove after the purchase). This is almost certainly the only version of an Ellison book to be blurbed with the employment of Jimmie Walker's mid-'70s catchphrase.

The stories here, in what was the first collection of collaborations between one writer and several others that Ellison was aware of (I think there was at least one previous example, but it eludes me at the moment), are a mixed lot (and include a series of cartoons with William Rotsler which struck me as Just OK even when I was ten, not Rotsler's best work in the form, certainly--though I'm still fond of Fay Wray in the clutches of the big ape as he scales the Empire State, and someone shouting up from below, "Trip him, Fay!"). Even the best of them are almost invariably not quite up to the best of either collaborator, but they do have a special flavor...even when, as with the the two stories by Robert Bloch and Harlan Ellison individually, the collaboration is more along the lines of nudging inspiration...resulting in a decent Bloch story, since his was merely commissioned for Dangerous Visions, and a rather better sequel to that story by Ellison, who was mildly obsessed with what he was asking Bloch to do (both stories being sequels to Bloch's early story "Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper," one of those stories which follow their creators around for their entire careers, and one of the most widely plagiarized stories written in the last century). The antic comedies, such as the Laumer and Davidson collaborations, are often more successful than the attempts at more serious work, but the darker humor of the Sheckley and Silverberg stories are certainly effective. And, of course, while I'd read a few Davidson stories before this book (in anthologies attributed to Hitchcock), this was the first opportunity I had to read Davidson's delightful nonfiction, in this case an acocunt of an incident that Ellison also recounts, and the comparison of the two versions is telling and extremely entertaining.

And the Bova story, "Brillo," was even ripped off for at least two tv series, though only actionably for one.

Still a valuable read, and the ancillary material might be Ellison at his best at this, at which he is one of the best.

For more "Forgotten" Books, please see Patti Abbott's blog, though updates will be delayed while she Shakespeares.

The first edition, from Walker & Co.

I picked up (either purchased or found in libraries) all these volumes (with the exception of the Pushcart item) 
back when, and I was fascinated not only by the contents themselves but also by the choices made among the short fiction published in 1978, a good chunk of which I'd read as it was offered in the magazines and original anthologies. Looking at their contents now, I'm impressed, if not universally, any more than I was back then, by the quality of the selection--it was a good year to start reading new fiction, though it's usually if not always a good year to do so. It's rather telling that the fantasy (and horror) volumes have no overlap or shared stories, and neither do the eclectic/contemporary mimetic volumes, but the sf volumes certainly do. Also notable to me, as it was then, how certain books demonstrate, if not the desire to include Names at the cost of quality, then at least a certain kindness or nostalgia toward some of the writers...certainly Terry Carr, in the first two volumes of his fantasy annual, included two of the worst Stephen King stories I've least Gerald Page and Ed Hoch selected rather better, though not Year's Best, stories from King for their books. The Stephen Donaldson story was also not up to most of the rest of the Carr fantasy selections. Lin Carter likewise could let nostalgia and desire to play up Conan and such overwhelm his annual, but Arthur Saha, who would inherit the series on his own after Carter's death, probably was already being felt in this volume in some of the more innovative choices.

Multiple appearances across several volumes include those of John Varley, with four appearances of two different stories (three reprints of "The Persistence of Vision"), four appearances with three different stories for Michael Bishop and three with three for Thomas Disch (the O. Henry volume was indexed for WorldCat by a proud fellow Minnesotan), three inclusions of two stories by Gregory Benford, likewise three inclusions for two stories by Joan D. Vinge, and, as noted, three appearances with three different stories by Stephen King. It really was a very good year for Disch and Bishop amd Janet Fox.

Among the particularly brilliant stories (among many) I remember are Dennis Etchison's "The Pitch" (Horror), Bill Pronzini's "Strangers in the Fog" (Detective),  Fox's "Demon and Demoiselle" (Carter/Saha Fantasy), and Gregory Benford's squicky "In Alien Flesh" (several). John Varley's "The Persistence of Vision" certainly blew me (and the award voters) away in 1978 and into the next year, though even from the first reading it struck me as more fantasy than sf, and perhaps in more than one way (though Varley's sexual libertinism certainly struck a chord with 13yo me, and I'm somewhat in sympathy with that attitude still, with certain reservations).  Look at all that established and emerging talent in the Pushcart...and all the others...

The Year’s Best Horror Stories: Series VII ed. Gerald W. Page (DAW 0-87997-476-1, Jul ’79, $1.95, 221pp, pb)

The Year’s Finest Fantasy Volume 2 ed. Terry Carr (Berkley 0-425-04155-7, Jul ’79, $1.95, 311pp, pb); Series continued with Fantasy Annual III.

The Year’s Best Fantasy Stories: 5 ed. Lin Carter  and Arthur W. Saha (DAW 0-87997-510-5, Jan ’80, $1.95, 204pp, pb)

The 1979 Annual World’s Best SF ed. Donald A. Wollheim & Arthur W. Saha (DAW 0-87997-459-1, May ’79, $2.25, 268pp, pb)
  • 7 · Introduction · Donald A. Wollheim · in
  • 11 · Come to the Party · Frank Herbert & F. M. Busby · ss Analog Dec ’78
  • 37 · Creator · David Lake · nv Envisaged Worlds, ed. Paul Collins, Void, 1978
  • 64 · Dance Band on the Titanic · Jack L. Chalker · nv IASFM Jul/Aug ’78
  • 87 · Cassandra · C. J. Cherryh · ss F&SF Oct ’78
  • 96 · In Alien Flesh · Gregory Benford · nv F&SF Sep ’78
  • 122 · SQ · Ursula K. Le Guin · ss Cassandra Rising, ed. Alice Laurance, Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1978
  • 133 · The Persistence of Vision · John Varley · na F&SF Mar ’78
  • 181 · We Who Stole the Dream · James Tiptree, Jr. · nv Stellar #4, ed. Judy-Lynn del Rey, Ballantine, 1978
  • 206 · Scattershot · Greg Bear · nv Universe 8, ed. Terry Carr, Doubleday, 1978
  • 239 · Carruthers’ Last Stand · Dan Henderson · nv Analog Jun ’78

The Best Science Fiction of the Year # 8 ed. Terry Carr (Ballantine 0-345-28083-0, Jul ’79, $2.25, 372pp, pb)

The Best Science Fiction Novellas of the Year #1 ed. Terry Carr (Ballantine, Sep ’79, 328pp, pb)

Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year (1978) ed. Gardner R. Dozois (Elsvier-Dutton, 1979, hc); Also in pb (Dell Aug ’80).

courtesy WorldCat: 

Best detective stories of the year, 1979 ; 33rd annual collection  
edited by Edward D. Hoch. 
New York : E.P. Dutton, 1979. 209 pages

Quitters, Inc. / Stephen King --
Little paradise / Zena Collier --
The man in the lake / Ernest Savage --
Strangers in the fog / Bill Pronzini --
Delayed mail / Jack Ritchie --
Filmflam / Francis M. Nevins --
The fire man / Elizabeth A. Lynn --
The adventure of the blind alley / Edward Wellen --
The cloud beneath the eaves / Barbara Owens --
The closed door / Thomas Walsh --
Truth will out / Ruth Rendell --
Checkpoint Charlie / Brian Garfield --
Rite of Spring / Jerry Jacobson --
The golden circle / Patricia L. Schulze --
Captain Leopold Incognito / Edward D. Hoch --
The leech / Frank Sisk.

courtesy Contento/Stephensen-Payne Miscellaneous Anthologies:

The Best American Short Stories 1979 

ed. Joyce Carol Oates & Shannon Ravenel (Houghton Mifflin, 1979, tp)

[This citation in WorldCat is annoyingly shorthanded...particularly where the writer's name isn't so obvious as with Herbert Gold or Alice Adams.]
Prize stories 1979 : the O. Henry Awards  edited and with an introduction by William Abrahams. 

"Includes story by Minnesota author Thomas M. Disch."

Weaver, G. Getting serious.--
Bromell, H. Travel stories.--
Hecht, J.I want you, I need you, I love you.--
Goldberg, L. Shy bearers.--
Heller, S. The summer game.--
Pfeil, F. The quality of light in Maine.--
Leaton, A. The passion of Marco Z--.--
Thomas, A. Coon hunt.--
Molyneux, T.W. Visiting the point.--
Oates, J.C. In the autumn of the year.--
Baumbach, J. Passion?--
Zelver, P. My father's jokes.--
Gold, H. The smallest part.--
Van Dyke, H. Du Côté de Chez Britz.--
Smith, L. Mrs. Darcy meets the blue-eyed stranger at the beach.--
Caputi, A. The derby hopeful.--
Schwartz, L.S. Rough strife.--
Yates, R. Oh, Joseph, I'm so tired.--
Peterson, M. Travelling.--
Disch, T.M. Xmas.--
Adams, A. The girl across the room.  

  The Pushcart prize, IV : best of the small presses  
edited by Bill Henderson.   591 pages

Introduction : about Pushcart Prize, IV --
Home / by Jayne Anne Phillips --
From laughing with one eye / by Gjertrud Schnackenberg Smyth --
A renewal of the word / by Barbara Myerhoff --
Ice / by AI --
In another country / by James Laughlin --
The daisy dolls / by Felisberto Hernández --
Snow owl / by Dave Smith --
Lot's wife / by Kristine Batey --
The stone crab : a love poem / by Robert Phillips --
Night flight to Stockholm / by Dallas Wiebe --
Literature and ecology: an experiment in ecocriticism / by William Rueckert --
Ghosts like them / by Shirley Ann Taggart --
Elegy / by David St. John --
The ritual of memories / by Tess Gallagher --
Plowing with elephants / by Lon Otto --
Meeting Mescalito at Oak Hill Cemetery / by Lorna Dee Cervantes --
A Jean-Marie cookbook / by Jeff Weinstein --
dg The politics of anti-realism / by Gerald Graff --
Winter sleep / by Mary Oliver --
Wildflower / by Stanley Plumly --
Letters from a father / by Mona Van Duyn --
Early winter / by Max Schott --
My work in California / by James B. Hall --
The ownership of the night / by Larry Levis --
The Spanish image of death / by César Vallejo --
For Papa (and Marcus Garvey) / by Thadious M. Davis --
A vision expressed by a series of false statements / by John Love --
Jeffrey, believe me / by Jane Smiley --
Sweetness, a thinking machine / by Joe Ashby Porter --
To Ed Sissman / by John Updike --
The man whose blood tilted the earth / by M.R. Doty --
Lawrence at Taos / by Shirley Kaufman --
Contemporary poetry and the metaphors for the poem / by Charles Molesworth --
Another Margot chapter / by R.C. Day --
Sitting up, standing, taking steps / by Ron Silliman --
Made connections / by Michael Harper --
Anonymous courtesan in a jade shroud / by Brenda Hillman -
A woman in love with a bottle / by Barbara Lovell ---
Proteus / by Judith Hoover --
Quinnapoxet / by Stanley Kunitz --
Things that happen where there aren't any people / by William Stafford --
Lechery / by Jayne Anne Phillips --
Civilization and isolation / by Vine Deloria --
from Kiss of the spider woman / by Manual Puig --
Running away from home / by Carolyn Kizer --
The biography man / by Gary Reilly --
The nerves of a midwife: contemporary American women's poetry / by Alicia Ostriker --
Forgive us / by George Venn --
The hat in the swamp / by Paul Metcalf --
These women / by Christine Schutt --
Johnny Appleseed / by Susan Schaefer Neville --
Some carry around this / by Susan Strayer Deal --
The stonecutter's horses / by Robert Bringhurst --
Grandmother (1895-1928) / by Cleopatra Mathis --
Rich / by Ellen Gilchrist --
Pig 311 / by Margaret Ryan --
American poetry: looking for a center / by Ishmael Reed-
I show the daffodils to the retarded kids / by Constance Sharp --
Dream / by John Willson --
Living with animals / by Margaret Kent --
The trial of Rozhdestvov / by Russian Samizdat --
Contributors notes --
Outstanding writers --
Outstanding small presses.

For more of this week's books, 
please see Patti Abbott's blog...


Saturday, September 24, 2016

1st draft, first passages: Camilla Ann Mason, nee Rocchi...Micci...Mom 1937-2016

Mostly getting it down here, so that I can cut and know where to fill in what missing data I can gather. Probably won't be electrifying and, at first at least, too TM-centric, though I'll try to avoid that last as much as possible. 

My mother, Camilla Ann Mason, was born 9 February 1937,  the second to last child of Dora Mae Rocchi, nee Ratliff, and Andy Erigo Rocchi. Her siblings, I believe in correct chronological order of arrival, were Mary (who married and took the name Coldiron) aka Sis, Leoma aka Nay (first Hall, and after her first husband Kelly died, whom I knew well when I was a young child, she eventually married Charlie) Broker, Lucille (Lambert), James "Jock" Rocchi (whose wife, Connie, was probably the closest to us, Micci's kids, of the in-laws/aunts and uncles after the Alaska years--my first almost five, and before my brother was born), Lucille (Lambert), Louis Rocchi, Sylvia Nierman, Ruby A. Rocchi (about here, who died in infancy when left in the insufficient care of some subset of her insufficiently attentive or experienced older siblings and caught something that she just couldn't fight off), Andy (who picked up the unenviable family nickname Piddle--don't know if anyone ever wised off about Piddle and Jock), then Micci, then Sarah (Cochenour at time of death)...the baby of the family, she passed a couple of years before Mom, in part due to one of the traits we tend to share, diabetes (I'm the lucky one that way in our nuclear unit).

Aunt Ruby wasn't the only Rocchi to come to an untimely end. Andy Erigo, how he came by "Andy" I don't know yet, came into the U.S. from Milan via San Francisco, rather than Ellis Island, at the turn of the last century...somehow, he made his way to the coal mines of West Virginia, where he met the young Dora Mae, who had been on her own by the age of 13...of Cherokee and some Irish ancestry, a long line in the mountains and hills, after the early waves of immigration and those who evaded the forced marches of the Trail of Tears. Erigo, for whom my brother Eric is named in part, was apparently liked well enough by his bosses to get some sort of supervisory role, and reportedly that didn't sit well with a colleague, who rigged a cave-in to create a vacancy. Which it did, when my mother was about six. She barely remembered her father; she remembered how much he reviled Mussolini. Her mother never remarried, supplemented her widow's pension with I'm not sure what kind of work, apparently eventually had a busy social life. Saturday night, and then Sunday morning at the Church of God Dora Mae and Erigo had joined together (he couldn't find a Catholic church at that time if he'd wanted to, I gather, around Welch). The kids all got a start there, but Mom was pretty turned off by it at a young age...perhaps disapproval of a merry-enough widowed mother, perhaps other sorts of hypocrisy. Camilla was a Christian all her life, and never a member of a church again. 

Andy's son Andy became a police officer, which was one way not to go down into the mines. But he did go into the wrong bar one night after his shift, and someone came up behind him, as the story goes, and brained him. Sometime in the mid '60s...if I ever met him, I was an infant.  

But between the death of her father and moving out on her own at the turn of the '60s, Micci had a fairly good time of it...popular and pretty, gregarious throughout her life, she enjoyed her high school years, she told me, and had boyfriends who, for example, let her do a little spinning and patter on their local radio shows. After high school, she took secretarial courses, got an Associates degree at a community college, and soon moved with her lifelong friend Connie to Alexandria, Virginia, where she initially worked for an optometrist, but soon took her first Civil Service job, with the National Archives. She met a man, who happened to be an airplane pilot (if I remember correctly), things got pretty serious, they got engaged...and he took a job based in Fairbanks, Alaska, of all places. 

Which didn't work out too badly for Mom, as her sister Leoma was already living in Fairbanks, with Kelly and their kids, and Micci was able to land a job as a secretary with the FAA, the Federal Aviation Administration, in Fairbanks. Done deal. Till she arrived, to find that her fiance had been playing around during the interim between his arrival in Alaska, and hers...and she wouldn't tolerate that. But she was there, initially living with Leoma and Kelly, and over the next few months, a young technician, mostly working on radar stations and other air traffic electronics around the state for the Administration, and she began to hit it off. I suspect his hobbies such as auto racing and mountain climbing didn't put her off...she eventually was willing to play along with the auto racing, at least (in the cross country races, she served as navigator). She married her new beau, Robert Mason, Bob to most people, Rob to her, on 25 October 1963. They bought a house, settled in, joined a bowling league, and decided to become parents. (Big mistake, as you can guess.) Sometime in the typically dark not quite polar winter of 1963, not long after 23 November, they successfully conceived your undersigned. As if to warn them of the error, on 27 March  1964, the worst recorded earthquake in North America (second strongest recorded so far worldwide) beat the hell out of Anchorage, the largest city in Alaska, and the towns on its southern coast (and attendant tsunamis took casualties as far away as California), but five hundred miles inland, near the center of the state, Fairbanks wasn't too badly hurt. Sadly, not all my parents' friends were so fortunate. I arrived independently and volubly on the scene in August, no doubt anticlimactically. 

Nasty neighbors led to relocation from one Fairbanks house to another, and in 1965 Kelly borrowed my father's brand new Jaguar to take a spin, and didn't realize the semi he was trying to pass on the left was just about to make the kind of wide left turn they do on a narrow highway; the car was totaled and Kelly laid up for a while. But the worst tragedy they had to muscle through was probably the 1967 Chena River flood, which eventually put about 3-4 feet of water into our house and many of the houses around the city for several days. They had a lot of interactions with insurance agencies in those years, and faced a mountain of mother went back to work for the FAA by the time I was about two, with my cousins as primary sitters for me when available, and the next door neighbors the Mendenhalls, particularly Mrs. Lois and their daughter Theresa. Aside from the Mendenhalls, their best friends in Alaska were a couple also associated with the FAA, Rae and Andy Billick. What I remember best about Alaska are mostly very good things: my parents teaching me to read with Dr. Seuss, Little Golden Books and the like; hanging out with a Native nations girl, also 4, and her 3yo brother, whose backyard adjoined our next-door neighbors' (I remember finding their mother very pretty as well as very kind to me), and with one or two others on our street; I remember my rocking-horse toy and backyard swing set.

By 1969, my parents were ready to leave Alaska, mostly with the prospect of a promotion for my father; he'd be working in Airway Facilities in the New England sector of the FAA, based in Boston at Logan Airport, and my mother would take another FAA secretarial position there; we drove from Fairbanks to Oklahoma City in the summer of '69, in a pickup truck with a camper conversion; only two could sit in the cab at a time, so much of the trip I was up in my bunk above the cab (not recommended for 4yos  in most auto safety manuals these days, I'm sure, reading or staring out the front window next to the bunk. Or I'd sit up front with one or another of my parents, while the other rode in the camper space, sitting at the kitchenette or getting a nap. We spent a couple of months in OKC so that my father could be trained in Lawton, at an FAA academy there, and then onto our new house in West Peabody, Massachusetts. The disruption of their lives by leaving their friends and family in Alaska didn't do them any favors, I think, and the Boston area isn't the warmest welcome for newcomers at the best of times; they were still paying down debt and had some difficulty securing day care/after school day care for me, as I  continued the Kindergarten that had begun in Oklahoma, and then went onto elementary school in 1970. My parents were making do, and a little better than that, when my mother found herself, slightly surprisingly given some precautions they'd taken, pregnant again in the spring of 1970; she worked up till it became problematic, and on 25 January 1971, a second son, James Eric Mason, arrived. I was fascinated. By the time I was seven, I was changing the occasional (very occasional) diaper, with these new paper/plastic disposables now on the market. I had had several infant health scares over the first couple of years (why my teeth are beige, as I was one of the lucky mid-'60s tetracycline babies--never have tried to get them capped, it never seemed the most urgent matter to attend to); Eric, despite being misdiagnosed as allergic to milk products (and therefore one of the early enjoyers of soy baby formula, not cheap atop other expenses), was otherwise healthy; apparently I had been a rather quiet baby; Eric not so much.