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 Monad...as 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.


































































































































































































































































































17 comments:

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

I used to love THE ARMCHAIR DETECTIVE and have several of the issues you've posted here - thanks Todd.

Todd Mason said...

I'm glad to have, in one form or another, the survivors we have today...but it's hard not to miss those which are gone, even as THE RAP SHEET and FILE 770 continue along with MYSTERY*FILE, for example, in electronic form.

Walker Martin said...

I never got into the Science Fiction Eye but I have all the Armchair Detectives and many of The Scream Factory issues. Mystery*File has been around forever in form or another and Steve Lewis is doing a great job with it as an online magazine. I look at it everyday.

Todd Mason said...

And you notably contribute to MYSTERY*FILE, you should mention if modesty doesn't forbid. SF EYE could get a bit clubbish at its worst, and sometimes the naivete of the (in other matters) sophisticates contributing was a bit exasperating, but I enjoyed it more than nearly any other magazine of its sort...and contributed to it trivially, which is more than I can say about TAD or TSF. I certainly hope you caught up with MONAD, which I suspect you'd like better.

George said...

Like Sergio, I loved THE ARMCHAIR DETECTIVE. I'd drop everything when it arrived and would read it straight through!

TracyK said...

I can only find two of my issues of ARMCHAIR DETECTIVE now, I must have lost the rest in a move long ago. Reading them is very nostalgic.

Todd Mason said...

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW introduced me to Ed Gorman, and so many others. ALGOL had "Richard Lupoff's Book Week" the review column; and Frederik Pohl's and Robert Silverberg's columns. NECROFILE had a column from Ramsey Campbell before the now also defunct VIDEO WATCHDOG did. Fritz Leiber had his columns in FANTASY NEWSLETTER and LOCUS (and, probably, AMRA. There's all kinds of wonder that resided in those magazines...

Walker Martin said...

I have to admit that I was surprised when VIDEO WATCHDOG went out of business. I even received a bankruptcy notice from the Lucas' lawyer.

Richard Moore said...

I subscribed and enjoyed several of the publications mentioned. For pure pleasure, I loved getting SF Review and the other Geis publication. I need to dig up the box with those issues. I subscribed to Locus early and Mystery Scene--even the isue or two that were newsprint. Fantasy Newsletter I enjoyed. I recall Karl Wagner had a column there. The Armchair Detective I find myself looking at more now that I've had time to catch up on writers who had long interviews in TAD but at the time I had not discovered them. Science Fiction Eye I watched being born as for years I was in a writers group started by Ted White. Steve Brown was a member, as were at various times Dave Bishoff, Ed Byers, Charles Sheffield, Kathleen Ann Goonan, and Elizabeth Hand. I was sorry to see Eye discontinued after Steve and his significant other moved to Asheville, NC where they had a couple of thriving businesses to keep them busy. I would recommend Crime and Detective Stories (CADS) published in England by Geoff Bradley. The focus is primarily on British writers but includes film and radio adaptations as well as print. CADS has published more than 70 issues and is still going strong.

Todd Mason said...

Walker--it's tough for a film magazine that isn't fluffy to get by, and the irregular publication schedule wouldn't encourage advertisers.

Richard--I still need to look at CADS...my chauvinism when it came to sticking with US magazines above was in part driven by not being able to find the UK equivalents in those days, except via mail order, particularly after Moonstone Bookcellars went out of business in my DC-area years (1984-96). Seems that Ed Gorman...probably with Robert Randisi, though perhaps before he got involved, even sent out a slim issue or two of the beta of MYSTERY SCENCE through DAPA-EM as a part of Robert Napier's mailing package with his fanzine...were you in on those? Even OUTWORLDS was not something I got to see, though it was wrapping up as I discovered fanzines in 1978...nor was I aware of the John D. MacDonald magazine, though I was aware of the Sherlockian items from the Irregulars and others, even by the early '90s...

Todd Mason said...

Well, OUTWORLDS wrapping up is overstatement...but it was slowing down, and never much tried for newsstand distribution like most of these others did...MIMOSA was my primary Big Deal, null-newsstand fanzine in the 1990s...and I'm not sure if it was FACTSHEET FIVE or something else that put me onto the Lynches' work...in fact, I should add F5 to the citations above...

Richard Moore said...

Yes, I was a member of DAPA-EM (a mystery Amateur Press Association "Elementary My Dear APA"), I joined around mailing 52 or so after moving to Washington and stayed to the end. Bob Napier, Crider, Geoff Bradley, Jeff and Ann Smith, the Len & June Moffatt, George Kelley, Art Scott and a bunch of others through the decades. I enjoyed Napier's letter zine and contributed now and then. I hadn't thought of the Moonstone Bookcellars in years. I loved that place. Once I left Capitol Hill in 87 for downtown, I could walk to Moonstone on my lunch hour. I never took the JDM zines either the Shine's or the Moffatt's and regret that. But then I always regret what I missed even though I grabbed enough to keep me occupied and amused.

Kelly Robinson said...

Elizabeth George looks like a teenager on that cover.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Todd, I'm the odd man out wanting to get in! This was a fascinating read of sf, fantasy and mystery magazines. I'm familiar with "The Armchair Detective" though I have never read one.

Todd Mason said...

Kelly--a quarter century in the past can do that. By the time I met Marcia Muller a couple of years after that photo of her, she looked a bit younger than she does there.

Well, Prashant, the vast amount of material I didn't see, but did hear of, certainly made me feel similarly...these days, you can see examples of some online, and their online heirs in the cited cases...

Todd Mason said...

Richard--it's indicative of my Not Seeing them at the time than I'd forgotten there were two notable JDMcD fanzines. Nowadays, at least one blog. Moonstone Booksellers being one of those impressive bookstores that die with their owners...Gene's Books in King of Prussia, PA, being another example...I, too, have always had more than enough to read...but the unslakable thirst for more being the Collector's Deadly Sin and Not So Secret Ecstasy...

neer said...

Hi Todd

Hope you are able to find this comment. Here's my FFB for today:

Satyanveshi (Seeker of Truth) Vyomkesh by Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay

http://inkquilletc.blogspot.in/2016/11/forgotten-book-satyanveshi-vyomkesh-by.html

Thanks.