Friday, June 15, 2018

FFB: ADVENTURES IN THE SPACE TRADE: A Memoir by Richard Wilson (Drumm 1986); FANTASTIC WORLDS Nos. 3, 4 & 5, edited by Sam Sackett (Sackett/Kemble 1953); COLD SNAP by Thom Jones: Limited Promotional Sampler (Little, Brown 1995}

The Very Small Press, and a Brief Form of a Little, Brown Book

Richard Wilson isn't  "The Forgotten Writer" of the 1950s and '60s, but he'll do till another unjust example asserts her or himself (next week, no doubt). In his youth one of the NYC-based Futurian Society group of fan writers, editors, artists and more, Wilson wasn't ever the flashiest nor most prolific of the bunch, but his wry and empathetic approach was notable early on...and that he was not too prone to pomposity might be suggested by his most sustained series of works being the stories about the protean Harry Protagonist (with the first two stories meant to be retro-fitted into the series in a mooted collection that has not yet appeared):
Even more remarkable, even given his primary career, more than simply his day job, for most of his adult life was as a wire-service journalist (first for the small Trans-Radio Press, as the primary staffer in Chicago, then for Reuters in NYC--sometimes working with his wife, Doris "Leslie Perri" Baumgardt, and his old friend and collaborator Cyril Kornbluth), he published only three novels, the last in 1960 and that a short one, released as half of an Ace Double with one of Andre Norton's novels, and a novella, "The Story Writer", in 1979. But when he did publish, he was often collected in the year's best volumes and on the shortlist for or winning the SFWA's Nebula Award, and at least two of his stories from the late '60s, "Mother to the World" (1968) and "A Man Spekith", were widely hailed and (it was perhaps hoped) suggested a newly sustained re-engagement with writing new fiction. As it turned out, not so much, till after his retirement from a position as instructor and archivist at Syracuse University...and those stories were not collected in a Wilson volume till well after his death in 1987, in a pair of volumes edited by John Pelan, collecting his best short work, issued by Ramble House with the unfortunate amateurish packaging that well-meaning imprint tends to offer. 

The late Thom Jones, best known still for his first collection The Pugilist at Rest, is not a forgotten writer at all, though he's not a name to conjure with at this point...he apparently wished to have readers (and editors such as Joyce Carol Oates and Raymond J. Smith) forget what I think might be his first published story, "Brother Dodo's Revenge", a fine animal fantasy from a young writer which seemed to most embarrass him in its publication site, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, March 1973, an issue where he shares space with Avram Davidson, the poet Walter Kerr, John Sladek, Edward Wellen, Dean McLaughlin, Waldo Carlton Wright, and, it's true, Andrew Offutt in one of his more presentable efforts in the 1970s, an unusually stag cast for the magazine, and what is probably still Harlan Ellison's best single shorter work, "The Deathbird", as the cover story, a cover by Leo and Diane Dillon. But, then again, one must keep up appearances, particularly if one is a pompous and ambitious up-and-comer in the 1990s. Hence my never actually purchasing a Jones volume, but I do have this expensively-produced, die-cut example of a promo sampler of stories from his second collection, as issued in early 1995 as an enticement to reviewers and particularly book-buyers, on the wholesale and perhaps even retail level (I don't remember if we had stacks of these to put out at our bookstore, but it seems likely).

And then, back in the earliest 1950s, there were (as there had been going back to the 1930s and would continue to be to the present) the more ambitious examples of the fannish small press, with few "semiprozines" (the mildly budgeted little magazines of the fantastic-fiction community, which made token payments to contributors) but a few more ambitious fanzines, which featured some notable contributors offering fiction and essays and other writing and art which was perhaps not quite right, or too eccentric or personal, for the paying markets. 
Fantastic Worlds, Summer 1953
as above
Fantastic Worlds, Fall 1953
as above

Most of the reason these have caught my eye is the early publication of fiction by David R. Bunch, who would continue to be one of the more interesting if polarizing contributors to the field, mostly in the form of vignettes and short fiction, much of it set in a future human society of Moderan, where humanity has become increasingly flensed by literal as well as metaphorical and spiritual mechanization...the satirical variations he ran on this theme, and in other allied work in other settings, was usually deft and engaging. (To place him in the firmament, perhaps consider him as somewhere between Theodore Sturgeon and R. A. Laffterty, and pulled a bit toward the "Cordwainer Smith" orbit, but with the intensity of focus of some of Barry Malzberg's work.) And that these three issues, at least, are online, and ready for all to see. It's a useful service, being able to dip into the content, if not necessarily the context, of these productions of their time...and unlike the back issues of the professional magazines, copies of this and other fannish productions are even less likely to come to the open electronic or surviving bookstore market.

More to come on all these items...but for more of today's books, please see Patti Abbott's blog.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

FFM: A January 1951 Newsstand Photo...and some of the magazines on display...

Getty Images is handling orders and rights for this photo, which Paul Di Filippo drew to the attention of Facebook Vintage Pulp and Paperback forum members:
-which they might ask not be reproduced here, in this non-commercial context:

The following issues, available in January 1951, are visible in the photo:
Comment: a pretty good example of how Sam Merwin was doing good things with the Thrilling Group sf magazines, even if Edmond Hamilton, Leigh Brackett's husband, was still writing "Captain Future" stories (however, I would have then and still do prefer seeing those to the fringe "nonfiction" both John Campbell and Ray Palmer would engage in in their magazines, Palmer having just left the Ziff-Davis magazines, below, in Howard Browne's hands...and the tendency for both Campbell and Palmer to ride hobbyhorses, which was going to begin seriously marring Astounding by the latter '50s, and would become even more pronounced in the magazines Palmer would publish as well as edit.

Howard Browne's issues would tend to resemble Ray Palmer's, only lacking any of Richard Shaver's crackpot "revelation" fiction...after the spike of impressive fiction, particularly in Fantastic Adventures, in 1950, as Browne had hoped to offer an "upgraded", at least semi-slick version of Amazing...which saw one "ashcan" dummy prototype, but went no least until the rather handsome, semi-slick Fantastic,  and then Conflict and The Seven Seas/Tales of the Sea, appeared in 1952 and 1953 respectively, with Amazing retrofitted in '53 as well. But the larding of little fillers, and even talented writers such as William McGivern and Rog Phillips often delivering simply competent fiction, rather than their best efforts, all too often.  Fantastic and to some extent the short-lived titles and Amazing did step up their games for a couple of years, but by 1955, mediocrity would rule OK again, as Browne left for a Hollywood career and Paul Fairman took over with an even less engaged approach to editing...though Browne, then Fairman, were fortunate in having as an assistant from the mid-'50s onward Cele Goldsmith...who would become editor herself by decade's end. 

From the same publishers as Startling Stories, which had a slew of corporate names...
Slightly unusual for a western magazine to dig back as far as the 'Teens for all but the biggest "names"...though Raines was at least at the edge of that sort of reputation.

The Rex Stout novella indexed below as reprinted in 3/52 EQMM:
and in the 1952 collection, Triple Jeopardy:

    The American Magazine [v151 #2, February 1951] (Crowell-Collier, 25¢, 8½" x 11", cover by Peter Stevens Sumner Blossom, editor. Details from (No image available for this issue's front cover.)

All the Mercury Press titles lined up, including the then recently-sold American Mercury...

Anthony Boucher doing double-duty at EQMM, even as he co-edited his own magazine, below:

I first read an excerpt of this novel in the 1977 "250th Anniversary" issue of The Saturday Evening Post...(please click to enlarge the images below)

Issue Date: February 1951; Vol. LXXII, No. 326 
UNTOLD FACTS IN THE KOREAN DISASTER ... William Bradford Huie, editor.
DOWN TO EARTH: Alan Devoe on Hunting
THE MYSTERY BUS RIDE ... Robert Lowry.
THE VOICE OF MARGARET TRUMAN: A Critique ... Dr. Putzi Sczerbowski, LL. D.M.
CONFESSIONS OF A WAR LACKEY ... Lt. Comdr. James Monroe Madison, USNR
FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE: Night over South Africa ... Robert de Koch.
THE YOUNG THIEVES ... Chandler Brossard.
THEATRE: The Young Man Named Fry ... George Jean Nathan.
MOVIES: The Death of the Hero ... William Poster.
BOOKS: Noble Hawks and Neurotic Woman ... Chandler Brossard.
TV AND RADIO: What Hath Two Billion Dollars Wrought? ... John Tebbel.
WHY NO KOREAN WAR SONGS? ... John Tasker Howard.

About American Mercury...
That's the January issue of The New American Mercury in the photo, just after the sale of the magazine by Mercury Press to the first in a succession of ever more rightwing and soon particularly anti-Semitic and racist owners...this first set, under editor William Bradford Huie, were more in the mode of William F. Buckley, Jr....who would be an intern at the magazine under the next administration in 1955, and would leave it to go found National Review. Up through the end of the Mercury Press years, it published a lot of interesting work, including Walter Miller, Jr.'s first short story, and some impressive George Salter covers while a Mercury Press title. 

The Reporter, 23 January 1951

John Norris queried about Masterpieces in the Comments below; turns out it was a Ziff-Davis color plates reproductions of famous paintings magazine, presumably meant to be an annual, at least, that probably never saw a second issue, at least under that logotype. (Click to enlarge any of these images.)

Some of the paperbacks John also identified:

(though I think I like the composition, if not the execution, of this Canadian cover even better:)

Looks like it's the Graphic rather than the Harlequin edition of Roeburt's Corpse on the Town:

And the last issue of the expensively-produced, lavish fashion and arts magazine Flair, as Fleur Cowles's pet project is shut down in the face of paper-shortage fears in as the Korean War heats up (her husband's publishing company was most notable for Look magazine, Life's chiefest rival among large-format photojournalism magazines; Venture was a later, expensive project). Possibly Ronald Searles's first US publication.

For more conventional Friday Books entries, please see Patti Abbott's blog.