Friday, December 2, 2016

FFS(&E&RP): some uncollected Wilma Shore short stories (and essays and one radio play) online (and one Joseph Payne Brennan poem)

Two blogposts over the last half-decade isn't Too much to devote to the late, brilliant Wilma Shore, whose career is briefly limned here and here, so here's a third...along with, in the latter, links to the un-"protected" online archives of the magazines that ran these items (and a couple of posts offering both the script and the recording of the playlet she wrote with her husband for Orson Welles's CBS radio series).  An amusing set of magazines, too...there are a few other writers, but no too many, who might tie together the folded but extremely influential sf magazine Galaxy (which published among so much else Damon Knight's "To Serve Man", the first form of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, Frank Herbert's Dune Messiah and Ursula K. Le Guin's "The Day Before the Revolution"--Galaxy in its first decade particularly was the home of the kind of satire Kingsley Amis dubbed the "comic inferno"--eventual editor Frederik Pohl was Amis's choice as the best of 1950s sf writers), Good Housekeeping (now ever more a "service" magazine at well over a century of publishing), and the Communist-sponsored quasi-revival of the more broadly radical and also hugely influential magazine The Masses, retitled for the new decade The New Masses.  All of these stories are worth reading, the essays as well, and the playlet just a bit slight and humorously sentimental, but not extraordinarily so (and probably pitched just so to Welles or at least at his request). 

"Goodbye Amanda Jean" is a savage bit of satire, set in a version of 1970 U.S. that allows hunting humans for meat, but where killing just for sport is frowned upon, to say the least (and shooting a teenage girl pedestrian from a moving car, rather than from a stopped one or on one's own feet, is utterly illegal if possibly not prosecuted); Shore barely allows the reader time to gather much at all before Amanda Jean's father has failed to shield his daughter from a crosstown neighbor of sorts, and has, still stunned, accepted a side of the kill for dressing and refrigeration. The loss and injustice of it all still rankles him, and it might just be time to take retribution into his own hands...while staying more inarguably within the law. Bloodsport was in the air at the turn of the '70s, and Shore's story is unrelenting and as plausible as sending National Guard units onto various state university campuses and pointlessly dragging out a war in Vietnam while expanding it to neighboring countries. More startling to me is how much this story, which after appearance in Galaxy has only been reprinted in Robert Silverberg's anthology Alpha 2, and which I've read for the first time this week, prefigures the nature and the method of the satire I applied in one of my better stories, "Bonobos," published a decade back in Claude Lalumiere's webzine Lost story, as human/bonobo behavioral crosses might suggest, is as drenched in sex as this one is in violence, and is by intention funnier than Shore's story, but Shore's is the better story, and the laughter here is meant to have what Avram Davidson once referred to as a big bubble of blood in it, in describing a similarly incisive satire. A number of people to whom I've recently mentioned the Shore story remember it well, from reading it decades back. 

The newer of the two stories from The New Masses, "The Story of Dorothy Anstable", is a much more muted affair, but has an early example of the kind of overbearing stage mother, living through her family, who will recur in some of Shore's other stories; Dorothy also is fortunate enough to have her story retold by her rather slow-witted elder brother, so by the end, we're (or at least I'm) not exactly sure of all the details of how thoroughly her mother's obsession with the daughter's reliable promptness and attendance record, and the minor but Official recognition of it and the petty fame that has accrued with that, has derailed her daughter's life, but we have some sense of it. The least of these stories, but it still has a bit of a chill to it. Speaking of a bit of a chill, the story is immediately followed by an example of historical blank verse, about George Custer and Crazy Horse and their encounter, by none other than the relatively young Joseph Payne Brennan...never much of a poet, and sometimes a rather clumsy constructor of prose but not by any means always, and clearly like his Arkham House editor and publisher August Derleth at least an occasional contributor to the politically radical press. Wilma Shore and Joseph Payne Brennan, both praised by Avram Davidson, though AD liked Shore's work better.

"Some Day I Have to Buy a Hat" is a much more probable item to have sold to Good Housekeeping, the account of an obstetric nurse doing a favor for a young patient of her boss's private practice, during World War II, in the face of the disruption the war was causing. A far more humane tale than the first two, albeit by necessity just as cognizant of the ugly realities of its times, if also noting that some tragedy can be ameliorated, to some extent, by the kindness of relative strangers. (Shore's essay "What Happened to the Slicks?" notes that this kind of story, not at all shying away from what was happening in a world at war, was now something found in women's magazines that might previously have preferred more purely escapist, if also feminism-tinged, fare. ) It's notable that her story is the first piece of fiction one finds in the GH issue, blurbed by them "A story on the hard-boiled side, but there's a fair chance you'll like it." Shore later stories would get cover credits at the magazine.

"Decision" is the oldest of these stories, and much more deftly and complexly deals with racism, classism, sexism and the exigencies of Getting By under unfeeling bureaucracy and general inequity than something like the fairly recent film The Help, not too tough for a good short story written by an observer as sharp as Wilma Shore was when this was published in 1941, when the clumsy US bureaucracies were still coping as they did with the leftovers of the Great Depression, not quite yet also coping with US involvement with the war.  The last lines are almost inexorable, and still sting today. 

You can do much worse than visit with these stories and more, and the occasionally reprinted stories and memoirs, in one anthology or occasionally several, including the O. Henry Award Prize Stories, Best American Short Stories and the Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction's volumes over the decades, that await you from Ms. Shore's not so small set of contributions, along with those behind paywalls and the like from The New YorkerCosmopolitan, The NationThe Antioch Review, Women's Studies Quarterly, The Ladies Home Journal, The Saturday Evening Post and other magazines, or seeking out her two books, the short story collection Women Should Be Allowed and the apparently charming, Edward Lear-ish children's picture story Who in the Zoo? Perhaps I'll need to do more than I have so far to advocate and excavate here. 

Much more traditional books and more reviewed at links collected at Patti Abbott's blog.

Monday, November 28, 2016

some Wilma Shore fiction (and drama) online:

The following links are to facsimile PDFs of stories and articles I've found so far, without need of a JSTOR, ProQuest or other membership, which latter will allow much greater access to a variety of her other stories and noted in my earlier post on Shore, one can read a handful of short stories and  a "casual" essay if you have a New Yorker subscription.

"Goodbye Amanda Jean"
from Galaxy, July 1970

"Go and Catch a Falling Star"*
from Good Housekeeping, August 1949

"The Story of Dorothy Anstable"
from The New Masses, 15 July 1947

"I Can Get Along Fine"*
magazine title: "I'll Get Along Fine"
from Good Housekeeping, January 1946

"Some Day I Have to Buy a Hat" 
from Good Housekeeping, November 1942

from The New Masses, 13 May 1941

*included in the collection Women Should Be Allowed (E. P. Dutton, 1965), Shore's only volume of short stories published so far, and as far as I can tell one of only two books with her 1976 children's picture book Who in the Zoo?...though she helped produce The California Quarterly at the turn of the 1950s as well...

radio playlet:
"Something's Going to Happen to Henry"
by Wilma Shore and Louis Solomon
for The Orson Welles Almanac, 1 December 1941 episode, with Janet Gaynor, Joseph Cotten, Ray Collins, Glenn Anders.
paired in the episode below with "Wilbur Brown, Habitat: Brooklyn," by Arthur Stander,  with Orson Welles, Ray Collins, Glenn Anders

amusing that feminist writer Shore has her only Galaxy story in the same issue as the first part of one of Heinlein's, shall we put it, more controversial (and Not Greatest) novels...

"What Happened to the Slicks?" (on the improvement in slick-magazine fiction during World War II), The New Masses, 12 September 1944
"Young America Paints" (a review of a show of children's paintings at the NYC Museum of Natural History) The New Masses, 14 May 1940

JWA: Jewish Women's Archive
FictionMags Index

The recently late Robert Vaughn cited her in his blacklist history/PhD dissertation, Only Victims.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Friday's "Forgotten" Books (and Magazines): post-festival edition, 25 November 2016: new links

This week's set of links to the reviews of literature cited below; perhaps a few more less than stellar examples, by the reviewers' reckoning, than usual, but no lack of gems (some less obscured than others, to be sure!). Patti Abbott will be back on the gathering stick next week. Happy post-Tday, USians, and for that matter our Britons and Canadians and our token (I think sole) Australian and Indian (one each) this week...and to all you readers, with thanks to everyone.  

Patti Abbott: on Shirley Jackson

Sergio Angelini: Nocturne by "Ed McBain" (Evan Hunter)

Frank Babics: Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, July 1965, edited by G. F. Foster (featuring Clark Howard, Ed Lacy and Richard Deming, among others)

Mark Baker: E is for Evidence by Sue Grafton

Friday, November 18, 2016

FFM: THE ARMCHAIR DETECTIVE, THE SCREAM FACTORY and SCIENCE FICTION EYE (and MONAD) among the vanished critical magazines...

The Penny Press fiction magazines, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, Asimov's Science Fiction and Analog Science Fact and Fiction will with the January issues decrease frequency from 10 issues a year to bimonthly with added pages per issue, in the manner of the fatter bimonthly issues that The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction has been publishing for several years.  So, we don't have even theoretically monthly newsstand fiction magazines now, even if we do have a small slew of fiction titles at most Barnes & Noble stores and at too few other newsstands. AHMM has just published its 60th anniversary issue, while EQMM has been celebrating its 75th year of publication all through 2016; Asimov's will be publishing its 40th anniversary issue soon, while Analog celebrated its 85th birthday in 2015.  The UK-based Crimewave hasn't published an issue  for several years, so the only other crime-fiction titles to get much newsstand distribution at all these days are The Strand (usually three issues per year since 1998) and the even more infrequent horror and suspense magazine Cemetery Dance (usually one or two issues per year of late, since 1988)...the criminous nonfiction (critical and publishing news) magazine Mystery Scene joins them.  That magazine, founded by Ed Gorman and Robert Randisi, and edited in recent years by Kate Stine, can often be found with Locus, the not dissimilar magazine about science fiction and fantasy and to some extent horror (a strong component of early coverage in Mystery Scene, as well), and Romantic Times, about romance fiction...

But Kate Stine had another similar job earlier, as editor of The Armchair Detective, the first elaborate quarterly crime-fiction fanzine that I came across, and the first to have much of a presence on newsstands, from the earlier years of Allen J. Hubin's stewardship. By the time I came across it, it was publishing generally interesting (if at times a bit potted) articles on all sorts of crime-fiction writers and historical trends, and considerations of film and related media, book reviews...and, frequently, at least a little new fiction in most issues in the early 1990s...a time one could also find, on better newsstands, Stephen Brown's Science Fiction Eye (originally co-edited and -published by Dan Steffan, and which became SF Eye for its last two issues), dealing with sf but also fantasy and as much related matter as possible, and Bob Morrish, John Scoleri and Peter Enfantino's The Scream Factory, a magazine about horror and related matter in all media. While TAD was meant to be encyclopedic, touching on every sort of crime-fiction they could pack in (most other CF critical magazines to follow often started out with a more limited focus, even if, for example, Jim Huang's The Drood Review, the first version of Clues, before Elizabeth Foxwell's revival, or Steve Lewis's initial newsletter form of Mystery*File began with a similarly wide remit), SF Eye tended toward explorations of the bleeding edge as much as possible, as it was in part a vastly more elaborate extension of the intentionally modest-looking one-sheet Cheap Truth, the original organ of the nascent Cyberpunks. TSF seemed to take from both column A and column B, seeking to report on the
full range of horror (in fact, one of the best-loved issues was about "the Worst in Horror" through the decades), but also expressing special love for the more flashy sorts of horror, including the better work offered by the nascent Splatterpunks and other practitioners of even more copiously bleeding edge materials. And SF Eye and Scream Factory both ran at least some fiction as they went along, as well...these weren't the first fantastic-fiction critical magazines to have a certain heft to them, by any means; Armchair had taken some of its inspiration from such earlier magazines about fantastic fiction as Amra, George Scithers's heroic fantasy critical fanzine, The Arkham Collector, the second and less elaborate magazine from August Derleth's horror and fantasy specialist book publishers Arkham House (their little magazine of some decades before, The Arkham Sampler, had been more a mostly-fiction title), as well as such fairly elaborate productions as Inside SF/Riverside Quarterly, Science Fiction Review, and the later Fantasy Newsletter;  the recently late Douglas Fratz's
Thrust (later Quantum) would eventually merge with SF Eye, while the most
elaborate long-running critical magazine in sf/fantasy circles, Algol, later Starship, took on as professional an appearance as it could, with very handsome full-color covers, before being folded into editor/publisher Andrew Porter's more frequently-published competitor to Locus, Science Fiction Chronicle (among other magazines of note during the decade were NonStop and Lawrence Person's Nova Express, while the best guide to the exploding "zine culture" was Mike Gunderloy, and eventually his partners' and successors' Factsheet Five, taking its title from a reference in a John Brunner story). The Scream Factory eventually folded, giving way to the more criminous bare*bones; the short-lived newsmagazine Horror and the rather more durable critical magazine Necrofile followed (and Paula Guran's email newsletter DarkEcho), as well...but while they lasted in the '90s, the most exciting and diverse of the critical magazines were our cited trio (and that they all presented a bit of fiction didn't hurt, in my estimation)...with the few issues of Damon Knight's return to critical magazine editing, and writing criticism, being the notable counterpoint as described below:

Friday, December 28, 2012

FFB: MONAD: Essays on Science Fiction [except when they are about fantasy or are poems about a writer's life, and such], Number One (September 1990), edited by Damon Knight (Pulphouse)

the paperback edition
Monad, Damon Knight's last editorial project, produced three issues or volumes (1990-1993), depending how you looked at the hardcover and paperback editions published by the busy, and soon overextended, small house (Pulphouse Publishing briefly attempted, amid all their other projects, to publish their eponymous fiction magazine weekly). But it was a good and useful series of books (or issues)...from perhaps the last great decade for publishing  non-academic critical magazines in a non-virtual format, on paper rather than on the web. And Monad was as spare and lean (with no illustration and a single column of easy-to-read typography on the pages) as most of the other major magazine productions of that era were busy, whether we looked to The Armchair Detective or Science Fiction Eye (soon SF Eye, to be less exclusive) or The Scream Factory...even the similarly no-nonsense Necrofile, like TSF about horror fiction and related matter, didn't have the bare bones elegance of Monad...nor would bare*bones, the more crime-fiction-oriented successor to TSF, and the direct ancestor of the blog of that title.

Knight had begun writing criticism along with his earliest published fiction (and cartoons and illustration), in the 1940s, the critical writing sparked by the example of Frederik Pohl's reviews, and Knight's mostly published in the better examples of the more "sercon" (serious and constructive, which could be taken at face value or imply an earnest dullness) fanzines of the day, as well as in Knight's own fanzine, Snide. In the 1950s, Knight and Lester del Rey co-edited and published two issues of Science Fiction Forum, as a more purely critical little magazine/fanzine, but apparently did no more till Knight revived the title Forum as that of the house organ of the Science Fiction Writers of America, of which he was a primary founder and its first president. While some projects like this one ran indefinitely (Inside Science Fiction became Riverside Quarterly, and lasted forty years in all), many more have been mayflies (Harry Harrison and Brian Aldiss's SF Horizons managed two similarly impressive issues in the mid-'60s). Others, such as the titles mentioned above, had intermediate-length runs, and made names for themselves at least in certain circles...anyone who suffered through my squibs on this blog knows that I'm tempted to try to trace as many of those as possible, but I will desist for a moment (noting only, for example, that SF Eye had roots in Bruce Sterling's one-sheet zine Cheap Truth as well as editor/publisher Stephen Brown's work on such earlier, more conventional critical magazines as Douglas Fratz's Thrust). 

Index of the contents courtesy ISFDb:

The contributions to the first Monad are suitably impressive, and, as often the case with Knight's works, begin with a matter of some controversy, as Knight notes that his original announcement of the series called for essays from writers of fantasticated fiction, rather than from fans or academic students of any tenure or "anecdotalists" (such as, one suspects, Sam Moskowitz); Knight prints Tom Whitmore's letter objecting to this policy, and in his editorial Knight notes that it's not so much a ukase as a flexible statement of intent. But, he continues, only the writers of speculative fiction are working from the inside of the art.  The balance of the book is laden with anecdote, but not solely the anecdotal.

Ursula Le Guin's essay is driven in large part by her recent completion of a fourth volume, Tehanu, in what had been for some years the Earthsea trilogy, and how over the course of writing the component novels, each in its turn, the very fact that she was a woman writing about outsiders in the heroic tradition (a dark-complected man, a woman, children) hit home, and slowly a critique of hierarchy and authority developed as her feminism and anarchism coalesced through her resolution and exploration of these tensions. Even as she credits particularly T. H. White and Tolkien for expanding the idiom before her, it's difficult to see how most of the more ambitious epic fantasy since her contribution would've been written without the example of her work (and that of Fritz Leiber and Jack Vance, among a small number of other most influential folks--I shall have to return to Le Guin's other critical writing to see how much her predecessors such as C. L. Moore, Leigh Brackett and Sylvia Townsend Warner, to say nothing of Woolf and her Orlando, nudged and influenced her). 

The Aldiss is an excerpt from his then-just-published book-length memoir, Bury My Heart at W. H. Smith's (the British bookstore); Aldiss had served as literary editor for the Oxford Mail newspaper from early on in his career, and had had some commercial and artistic success with his contemporary-mimetic fiction along with his fantaticated thoughout his career. The Disch is a poem, apparently originally in his1972 limited-edition chapbook The Right Way to Figure Plumbing; "An All-Day Poem" is, in part, how art helps the artist cope with the great ugliness, and small reverses, life hands us (Disch's mother is losing her fight with cancer as he writes). Bruce Sterling takes a somewhat bemused pass through the realms of modern literary theory, the post-Structuralist, post-Derrida and Bakhtin era (and this inspired an answer essay for the second Monad by John Barnes). And Knight rounds us out with a fine short essay that limns his early childhood first  experiences with injustice (and the other Large Things mentioned in the title) and how he found them recapitulated in the crotchets of fellow editors and similar folk in his professional career as an artist.

Knight was one of the pioneering critics of note in fantastic-fiction circles, and remains controversial to this day (he would not stay his hand when he felt an affront to the art was being perpetrated, and Ed Gorman hasn't forgiven him for that yet). And yet Monad's three issues/volumes are a nice core-sampling of the most influential and serious critical writers active in its years (with some exceptions, such as Knight's great students Algis Budrys and Barry Malzberg, and Joanna Russ, who was already scaling back her critical writing in the face of health matters).  Knight, like most of the more ambitious writer/editor/publishers in the field of the popular critical magazine, would tend to move online for much of what he wrote in this wise after much as he continued with this kind of activity, as opposed to his writing instruction activities, as reflected by his Creating Short Fiction.

For more of today's literary choices, please see Patti Abbott's blog. Next week, I'll be filling in for her here.