Friday, February 12, 2016

FFB: NO LIMITS edited by Joseph Ferman (Ballantine Books 1964); THE BEST OF TRIQUARTERLY edited by Jonathan Brent (Washington Square Press/Pocket Books 1982)

August 1964...aside from your servant, two other and more immediately impressive creations were introduced to a largely indifferent world. From Ballantine Books, an original publication collecting short stories, a novelet or three and a novella from the magazine Venture Science Fiction, which had published nine issues in 1957-58, before being formally merged with its elder sibling, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (which Mills became the editor of, as founding editor Anthony Boucher moved on; Mills had been assisting at F&SF, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, and the other Mercury crime-fiction magazines; after publishing Daniel Keyes's "Flowers for Algernon" and much else at F&SF as editor, he moved on to become one of the more important literary agents of his time). From Northwestern University, issue #1 of a newly reformulated little magazine, TriQuarterly, which in its initial series, beginning in 1958, had essentially been a campus-bound magazine devoted to student and faculty contributions; Charles Newman, who had come to Northwestern as a professor in '63, wanted to make a more sophisticated and widely-appealing project of the magazine. 

Both magazines were consciously and rather successfully attempting to advance the art of literature. Robert P. Mills, as editor of Venture (Joseph Ferman was its publisher, as head of Mercury Press), was hoping to feature sophisticated adventure fiction (hence in part the title), but also, as the contents took shape, sexual themes and somewhat greater attention to bringing emotional resonance to satirical sf became common factors of Venture's fiction...not least in the several contributions from Theodore Sturgeon, but also in the work of Avram Davidson, Algis Budrys, Leigh Brackett, Judith Merril, Poul Anderson, Walter Miller and C. M. Kornbluth, among others. If the magazine might not have had No Limits, there were certainly fewer in several ways than other magazines had imposed. Newman for his part wanted to make TQ a home for post-modernist fiction and poetry, and attendant nonfiction. It would, through the next decade and a half and a bit more, take on innovations in format and offer special theme issues devoted to specific writers (such as Sylvia Plath, Vladimir Nabokov and Jorge Luis Borges) and international literature and genres of fictional form and beyond (such as the visual issue 32, "Anti-Object Art" [1975], which was Newman's last as editor, and with guest editors Lawrene Levy and John Perreault; the cardboard covers featured a pocket containing five cards of photographs of Robert Smithson's "Spiral Jetty"); another issue was devoted to a narrative told in photographs.  
Venture had a UK edition (and an otherwise identical, two-months delayed Australian edition) from 1963-65, which reprinted a different mix of stories from the US edition, and immediately added stories from F&SF, under the editorship of Ronald Weeks. The Fermans (Joseph's son Edward started editing F&SF and other Mercury Press magazines in the mid-'60s, including probably ghost-editing No Limits) relaunched Venture for another short run in 1969. TriQuarterly continued under the editorship of Elliott Anderson, eventually co-editing with Robert Onopa and Jonathan Brent, for the balance of the '70s. Then, in the wake of too many issues of interesting work (apparently the science fiction issue was the Last Straw, for a university which also cancelled its English department sf course reportedly for being too popular, following a western issue and one devoted to Love/Hate that featured some elegant but straightforward-seeming feminist adventure fiction), first Onopa, then Anderson, then Brent (who was formally editor of one issue only) were fired from the magazine and replaced by one Reginald Gibbons, who was very careful to minimize the achievements of the previous editors at every opportunity over his decade as editor, which resulted immediately in the magazine becoming much less innovative and much less widely-admired--more conventional and less important, and eventually in TQ becoming a grad-student-staffed webzine. The 20th anniversary issue/anthology, edited by Gibbons and Susan Hahn, doesn't at any point acknowledge this book. 

There are at least mildly classic stories in these anthologies, and at least several others in the case of each author that might've been opted for instead...Kornbluth's "The Education of Tigress Macardle" is the more humorous side of the same coin that inspired his unfinished story, completed by Frederik Pohl as "The Meeting" ("Two Dooms" might've been included
instead);  the stories by Davidson and Miller are among their best-remembered work, but others of theirs for the magazine are impressive, and the Sturgeon here could easily have been "Affair with a Green Monkey"...and so on. The at least near-classics in the TQ book include the Oates story, the Brautigan duo, and the Sayles; Elkin (in relation toward Nabokov) and Singer are elegantly represented; Baumbach's metafiction is clever; though Borges, Carol Emshwiller and many others had major stories in the magazine as well. MacMillan amounts to a key TriQuarterly "discovery", with the seeds of his first two novels as well as stories in his only collection gathered from the magazine; in the other, Asimov was happy enough with his story collected in the best-of to name a retrospective collection for it, and it probably should be noted that not only did Sturgeon's Educated Estimate (aka Law: 90% of everything is mediocre or worse) first get widespread audience in his (first recurring magazine) books
the 1969-70 US revival
column, but Asimov began a regular science column first in Venture, which moved over to F&SF upon the merger of the two, and that column helped spur Asimov's pop-science career, in many ways the primary work of his life till his last years, when fiction finally was paying even better. Sturgeon, for his part, would later have continuing book-review columns in Galaxy, National Review (!), and Hustler (!--though during Paul Krassner's editorship). Sturgeon was the kind of writer who could and did sell a short sf story to Sports Illustrated.

Sadly, these anthologies were by no means pushed hard by their publishers... Ballantine was at one of its lower ebbs in '64, and while 50c for a slim, nine-story paperback wasn't extremely expensive, it wasn't cheap; $4.95 for a mass-market paperback, even with 20 stories ranging from vignettes to novellas, in 1982 was ridiculous (and earlier Washington Square Press releases at least had been published on heavier, perhaps acid-free paper and otherwise looked like their production value might begin to justify their inflated price, as with the similar Doubleday Anchor line of rack-sized paperbacks). A handsome-enough generic over on the Venture book (and no mention of the source magazine anywhere), and an even more generic cover (which has not been previously online) on the TQ. And while women contributors are underrepresented in both volumes (and didn't achieve parity in the magazines, either), at least neither volume is the completely stag affair too many anthologies of this sort had been in their years.
(courtesy WorldCat)
The Best of TriQuarterly
Editor: Jonathan Brent
Publisher: New York : Washington Square Press publication of Pocket Books, 1982, pb, 310 pp
Introduction / Jonathan Brent
Two stories: Revenge of the lawn; A short history of religion in California / Richard Brautigan -- #5, Winter 1966
How I contemplated the world from the Detroit House of Correction and began my life over again / Joyce Carol Oates -- #15, Spring 1969
Notes on the present configuration of the Red-Blue conflict / Robert Chatain -- #16, Fall 1969
Three meetings with Vladimir Nabokov / Stanley Elkin -- #17, Winter 1970
Altele / Isaac Bashevis Singer -- #18, Spring 1970 (translated by Mirra Ginsberg)
From The Tunnel : why windows are important to me / William H. Gass -- #20, Winter 1971
The traditional story returns / Jonathan Baumbach -- #26, Winter 1973
The warden / John Gardner -- #29, Winter 1974
From Lookout Cartridge / Joseph McElroy -- #29, Winter 1974
Sacrifice / Ian MacMillan -- #40, Fall 1977
Autoclysms / Michael Anania -- #40, Fall 1977
The missing person / Maxine Kumin -- #42, Spring 1978
Caye / T. Coraghessan Boyle -- #42, Spring 1978
Blue day / Arnost Lustig -- #45, Spring 1979
The first clean fact / Larry Heinemann -- #45, Spring 1979
Two shoes for one foot / John Hawkes -- #46, Fall 1979
In the town of Ballymuck / Victor Power -- #47, Winter 1980
Walking out / David Quammen -- #48, Spring, 1980
Dillinger in Hollywood / John Sayles -- #48, Spring, 1980
Amarillo / Jonathan Penner -- #50, Winter 1981
Notes on Authors / Anon. (presumably Brent).

Index to Venture Science Fiction's three iterations
Index to Triquarterly through 1997 and issue #100

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

Issue 20, Winter 1971

Speculators are wishing hard on this one now because of the Cormac McCarthy...

Issued as a two-volume set...Winter 1976...

Complementary covers (and issues!), above and below (the first issue of Venture)
Sturgeon's seemingly awkward title is masterfully employed in the story...

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Friday, February 5, 2016

FFB: THE LITTLE MAGAZINE IN AMERICA: A MODERN DOCUMENTARY HISTORY edited by Elliott Anderson and Mary Kinzie (TriQuarterly 43/Pushcart Press 1978)

When a little magazine has a 750-page issue, the nature of little magazines might need explication. Happily, issue 43 of TriQuarterly amply demonstrated what (however arguably) little magazines were, at least, in the 20th Century...and its influence in the field when it was published was sufficient that the University of Chicago Press, down the street and across the way from Northwestern, the latter still the home of the online echo of the heroic years of TQ, has published last year a new, shorter collection that echoes this one in content and title, The Little Magazine in Contemporary America (which also struggles to clearly establish, if not quite define, what a little magazine is)(in case you're on tenterhooks, some would insist, or at least would in 1978, that any college/university-sponsored magazine, such as TQ itself, didn't qualify as a little magazine...when I was appointed to editorship of Hawai'i Review, I had to explain to one ex-schoolmate why a "little" magazine wasn't a "mini" magazine, but instead the adjective referred to the circulation rather than the dimensions of the issue itself).

The contents of this issue/volume (Pushcart Press basically took the camera-ready pages of the magazine issue, added a not quite good index, and replaced the unusually unimpressive TQ cover with the funereal image at left, on their hardcover and trade paperback editions) are an interesting array of memoirs, interviews, survey essays and similar materials, from movers and shakers in the small-press literary magazine world, stretching back to the early years of the likes of transition and The Sewanee Review, from the no-budget mimeographed beginnings of Story magazine and the complete run of Neurotica, to the fairly elaborate productions of  magazines published as multiple pieces of literary art, shipped in a box (a concept emulated from time to time over the years since) and the at-first  well-produced paperback issues and eventual slick and Beat-erotic Evergreen Review.
And how people loop in and out of  the magazine culture as documented here...August Derleth, the Wisconsin regionalist, horror fiction writer, Lovecraft devotee/Arkham House editor and publisher, and Solar Pons (ersatz Sherlock Holmes) chronicler, was also a bit of a labor radical early in his literary career, and a contributor in the 1930s to The Anvil, the Proletarian litmag which was merged with (and co-opted by) Partisan Review; Derleth reappears in 1958 as a force for reaction, as the sole prosecution witness from the literary community against the (rather slick) magazine Big Table, founded to feature contents of a suppressed issue of Chicago Review, which was pulled from publication by the University of Chicago after Chicago Daily News complaints of the Beat literature and other Filth published there; the Post Office censors decided, in those immediately pre-Lenny Bruce-prosecution years, to get upset about The Naked Lunch excerpts and Kerouac contributions in the new magazine (speaking of  those who recur in history: Judge Julius J. Hoffman found in favor of Big Table as not obscene, a decade before presiding over the Chicago Seven trial). 

Just another example of the ambitious and impressive projects tackled by TQ in the 1970s, before the gibbons of reaction at Northwestern U. made their resentment of the vital nature of the magazine manifest. 

The WorldCat index: 
Prefatory note / Elliott Anderson & Mary Kinzie --
Of living Belfry and Rampart: on American literary magazines since 1950 / Michael Anania--
Academia and the little magazine / Charles Robinson --
Felix Pollak, an interview on little magazines / Mark Olson, John Judson, Richard Boudreau --
Little magazine in its place : literary culture and anarchy / Robert Boyers --
Kenyon Review, 1939-1970 / Robie Macauley --
Southern review and a post-southern American letters / Lewis P. Simpson --
On editing Furioso / Reed Whittemore --
On Anvil / Jack Conroy --
On Partisan review / William Phillips --
Memoir of a 50 year old publisher on his voyage to outer space
/ Seymour Lawrence --
Orl : hallelujah on a straw / Theodore Weiss --
Manifesto (sotto voce) / James Boatwright --
Karl Shapiro, an interview on Poetry / Michael Anania, Ralph J. Mills, Jr. --
Care and funding of Pegasus / Joseph Parisi --
Origin / Cid Corman --
On Black Mountain review / Robert Creeley --
Daisy Aldan, an interview on Folder / Dennis Barone --
Kulchur : a memoir / Lita Hornick --
Neon, Kulchur, etc. / Gilbert Sorrentino --
Leroi Jones, an interview on Yugen / David Ossman --
Backward glance O'er beatnik roads / Krim --
On Big table, Chicago Review, and the Purple Sage / Peter Michelson --
On Trace / James Boyer May --
Gall of Wormwood in printing over 66 issues and still continuing / Marvin Malone --
Robert Kelly, an interview on Trobar / David Ossman --
El corno emplumado, 1961-1969: some notes in retrospect, 1975 / Margaret Randall --
Dust: a tribal seed / Len Fulton --
On Kayak / George Hitchcock --
Doing caterpillar / Clayton Eshleman --
Blue suede shoes, issue (Babe Ruth essay) / Keith Abbott --
History of Io, 1964-1976 / Richard Grossinger --
Discussion of little magazines and related topics / Anne Waldman, Larry Fagin --
On Fiction / Mary Jay Mirsky --
Enterprise in the service of art / George Plimpton --
Stridency and the sword : literary and cultural emphasis in Afro-American magazine / Eugene Redmond --
Little magazine/small press connection : some conjecture / Tom Montag --
Behind the writer, ahead of the reader : a short history of Corinth Books / Ted Wilentz, Bill Zavatsky --
On Pushcart Press / Bill Henderson --
Who do they think they are? A personal history of the Fiction Collective / Jonathan Baumbach --
Report on the Fiction Collective / Gene Lyons --
The little magazine today / Felix Stefanile --
Annotated bibliography of selected little magazines / Peter Martin.

Please see Patti Abbott's blog for more of today's books.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Friday's Forgotten Books: TEENSPELL edited by Betty M. Owen (Scholastic Book Services 1971); BENCHMARKS REVISITED by Algis Budrys (Ansible Editions 2013); Damon Knight issue, F&SF, November 1976

The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards...among the training programs for the young creative and/or intellectual aspirant, there have been worse batting averages. Actress Frances Farmer won for an essay in 1931; the next year, Robert McCloskey and Bernard Malamud were among the winners, after the founding of the contest in 1923; in the period of 1954-1956, awards went to Roger Zelazny, Robert Redford, Peter Beagle, Joyce Carol Oates, Peter Steiner; Redford's award was for a painting. (Earlier in the decade, Alan Arkin won with a sculpture; the next year, abstract filmmaker Stan Brakhage won with a short story.) 1947 was a bumper year: Edward Sorel, Sylvia Plath (rather less traumatically than her Mademoiselle win); Langston Hughes was one of the judges. And Scholastic has published with fair frequency collections of the awarded work, though in the 1970s the volumes weren't annual as they have been of late, after the 2005 folding of Literary Cavalcade, the flagship Scholastic Magazine (albeit one of a handful) for the awards for a half-century. 

Betty M. Owen edited two of those volumes from the 1970s, this one collected work from the turn of the decade, and it demonstrates a lot of promising work. Not any of it first rate, but there are glimmers of what these youngsters will eventually be able to do, if they kept at it...Joyce Maynard, perhaps the most consistent award-winner in the contest's history (picking up an award for every year from 1966-1971 except for 1969; Stephen King won in '65, Carolyn Forche in '67), offers the best single story here, "Do You Wanna Dance?"; she gets her New York Times Magazine essay and extended date with Salinger in '71, and goes on from there. Most of the fiction, essays and to some extent the poetry is reminiscent of what Joanna Russ once described in a critical essay as one of several species of mechanical rabbit...those by young amateur writers being rabbitoids with pieces obviously missing, but put together with endearing earnestness. And occasionally there's a telling line, such as in Michele Kitay's "Wings" (about a younger college-student son visiting his aging parents on their farm after the elder, farmhand-by-necessity son was killed in an accident), at their first reunion dinner together: "Everywhere you looked, there was that empty chair." Aside from Maynard, I'm not aware of any of the 1967-71 contributors to this volume (Forche is not included) having had a sustained literary career (though Kitay might be the Kitay listed in LinkedIn). 

The Russ essay appeared in the special Damon Knight issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, which is about as good as transition as there is to considering the second collection of Algis Budrys's similar review essays for that magazine; Russ was stepping away from F&SF reviews at this point (though she'd return with four columns in 1979-80) even as Budrys was coming out of retirement from his half-decade of Galaxy columns in 1970 to begin his decade and a half as a Knight-influenced essayist for this somewhat less unstable magazine (F&SF continues publishing today; Galaxy folded, with weak attempts at revival to follow, in 1980).  David Langford and Greg Pickersgill, the proprietors of Ansible Editions or at least the joint presenters of this project with help from several others, did us all a great service in taking on the project of reprinting all of Budrys's F&SF review essays, in three volumes titled in recognition of the collected Galaxy essays, Benchmarks: Galaxy Bookshelf (SIU Press 1985).  Budrys, in a footnote:

'There was never such a thing as one "pulp fiction"; the standards of fiction would vary from medium to medium and genre to genre and sometimes from issue to issue, and the famous hack of folklore has been vanishingly rare, but never mind; if we don't simplify these matters, we'll be here all day in the hot sun."

Re-reading these, since I would read them as they appeared in the magazine, is revealing in part because of how much they nudged my own thought along, how much his challenge to all sorts of conventional thought about speculative fiction and all sorts of other matter suited me down to the ground.  You can see the beginning, in this volume, of what drew the Scientologists to hire him to administer the Writers of the Future contest and edit the anthologies from it (Budrys, who was never afraid to note how popular if not always good Hubbard was as a writer in the 1940s, took the opportunity to review together the new, deeply-flawed novels by Hubbard, Asimov  and Clarke--Battlefield Earth, Foundation's Edge and 2010: Odyssey II--and noting how their flaws and strengths were more similar than one might at first think)--among the most controversial things Budrys did during his career, even if it can be seen as taking some of the CoS's money and putting it to a useful (and Scholastic-esque) purpose. (The first Writers of the Future anthology featured the fledgling writers Karen Joy Fowler, well before Sarah Canary much less The Jane Austen Book Club, Nina Kiriki Hoffman and David Zindel, among others; Budrys didn't shrink from describing its assembly in one of the columns.) Conversely, younger hands such as George R. R. Martin and Stephen King have their work similarly sapiently anatomized and assessed, as do the then very new, such as Zoe Fairbarns, and the not so new at all, including particularly useful essays on the memoirs of Lloyd Arthur Eshbach and Jack Williamson, and a then-new translation of Zamaytin's We that marked a vast improvement on previous attempts. (Because her review was appended to one of Budrys's essays, the YA lit specialist and then associate editor of F&SF, Anne Jordan, gives us a fine review of  a notional volume by Hildebrandts mixing fantasy illustration and some fictional content with cookbook recipes.) The third volume, Benchmarks Concluded, carries some of the last, relatively tired columns written when Budrys was feeling the burn-out that had also afflicted him while turning out the last Galaxy columns, but not so much here, when his essays were appearing nearly every month and at times last such length as to make this one of these essentially 250ish pp. volumes the one which covers the shortest period of time. They are frequently brilliant, and one can mostly regret not being able to ask Budrys the next question when he is just a bit vague (when so, usually intentionally so, though not always--these were written to publishing deadline) or referring to something just a bit beyond the periphery of the eyepiece he provides. They are always worth reading.

For that matter, one might as well make note of the November 1976 Damon Knight issue of F&SF for its totality, with its brilliant Knight story (and appreciation by Theodore Sturgeon), fine and notable stories by David Drake and Russell Kirk, a solid L. Sprague de Camp, and another of the series of stories by Philip Jose Farmer purporting to be written by Kurt Vonnegut characters.

  • 5 • I See You • shortstory by Damon Knight
  • 17 • Damon Knight: An Appreciation • essay by Theodore Sturgeon
  • 26 • Damon Knight Bibliography • essay by Vincent Miranda
  • 29 •  Cartoon: "... but then I realized in order to make it work I'd have to invent a socket and God knows what else." • interior artwork by Gahan Wilson
  • 32 • Saviourgate • [Ralph Bain] • shortstory by Russell Kirk
  • 48 • Children of the Forest • novelette by David Drake
  • 66 • Books (F&SF, November 1976) • [Books (F&SF)] • essay by Joanna Russ
  • 66 •   ReviewThe Clewiston Test by Kate Wilhelm • review by Joanna Russ
  • 70 •   ReviewMillennium by Ben Bova • review by Joanna Russ
  • 70 •   ReviewStarmother by Sydney J. Van Scyoc • review by Joanna Russ
  • 71 •   ReviewComet by Jane White • review by Joanna Russ
  • 72 •   ReviewCloned Lives by Pamela Sargent • review by Joanna Russ
  • 72 •   ReviewStar Trek: The New Voyages by Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath • review by Joanna Russ
  • 74 • Moses • shortstory by Ken Wisman
  • 95 • Films: See Logan Run • [Films (F&SF)] • essay by Baird Searles
  • 98 • The Coronet • [Incorporated Knight] • shortstory by L. Sprague de Camp
  • 109 • The Comet That Wasn't • [Asimov's Essays: F&SF] • essay by Isaac Asimov
  • 120 • The Doge Whose Barque Was Worse Than His Bight • [Ralph von Wau Wau • 2] • novelette by Philip José Farmer [as by Jonathan Swift Somers, III ]

  • Everyone's more prompt than I am with their reviews at Patti Abbott's blog.