Wednesday, February 14, 2024

SSW: Ellen Gilchrist: "Black Winter", THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, June 1995, edited by Kristine K. Rusch and Edward Ferman: Short Story Wednesday

Patti Abbott having posted a link in her consideration of another story by my choice of SSW author this week, I've just read the obituary for Ellen Gilchrist (1935-2024) from the New York Times by one Adam Nossiter, who gives the impression of resenting having to take a lesser role as obituarist after having been four times a bureau chief in the NYT hierarchy, or perhaps simply resents having to write one for a National Book Award winner he doesn't approve of. Gilchrist, to my knowledge, was not a great self-promoter, and if she diminished herself in her memoirs and some commentary over the years, Nossiter seems keen on making sure that's intensified in his not-quite-screed.

"Black Winter" (which can be read here) was Gilchrist's second and last story in F&SF, after her charming fantasy "The Green Tent" in the November 1985 issue (a grandmother and her grandson take the equivalent of a magic carpet ride in title device), and it's a far less cheerful item, a rather (necessarily) grim but not quite hopeless account of two survivors of a 1996 nuclear war, academics, an older woman named Rhoda (possibly not the same Rhoda who is a recurring character in earlier stories by Gilchrist) and her younger male protege Tannin, whom we meet several days after the short war, as they seek out what they can from various abandoned stores and gas stations in the midwest, keeping away from large cities in an abundance of (sensible) caution. Rhoda is writing the story in the form of a letter to her grandson, whom she hopes (but has no way of knowing if he) is still alive, in Germany; they get along, wondering if the fallout will eventually come down upon them in deadly form...and they meet up with some interesting folks with whom they can make some common cause. Rhoda had been noting with some concern the hotspots recurring in the news in 1996: Russia, Ukraine, Iran, North Korea. Things don't change so very much three decades later. 

I had never picked up a copy of the June 1995 issue of F&SF, for whatever reason (I was moving into my last Virginia apartment, at least so far, about then), so I've just read the story for the first time tonight. I read  "The Green Tent" when that issue was new, not so very long after I first read her work with "The Famous Poll at Jody's Bar" in The Atlantic Monthly for August 1982, one of her earlier publications.

It's a fine story, and makes its points well, and it (like "The Green Tent") has never been reprinted, as far as I can tell, anywhere but in an anthology in translation, by the former publisher of the German edition of F&SF (much as "The Green Tent" has only been reprinted, as far as I see, in Fiction, the French edition of F&SF). 

I've been meaning to write Gilchrist's collection The Cabal and Other Stories for a good six or seven years, but I'll have to excavate that volume and finish it. It really has been a tough year on writers I admire. For more of today's short stories, please see Patti Abbott's blog, and her fine review of Gilchrist's "The Presidency of the Louisiana Live Oak Society". 

And I'll seek out some less contemptuous obituaries than the Times's.

Contents: (Edward L. Ferman, editor and publisher)

Contents: (edited by Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Edward L. Ferman, published by Ferman)

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Friday's "Forgotten" Books: THE BEST OF SHADOWS edited by Charles L. Grant (Doubleday Foundation 1988); SIXTY YEARS OF GREAT FICTION FROM PARTISAN REVIEW edited by William Phillips (Partisan Review Press 1996)

Two anthologies with content that is difficult to dismiss, if one was even to try.

Online: all issues of Partisan Review, 1934-2003, at Boston University

Sixty Years of Great Fiction from Partisan Review edited by William Phillips (Partisan Review Press, 1996 [or 1/97], ISBN 0-644377-5-9; $24.95. 425+xx pp, hc); jacket/pb cover painting by Helen Frankenthaler

vii  * Foreword * Saul Bellow * fw
xix * Introduction * William Phillips * in
3 * Two Syllables * Ignazio Silone; translated by Samuel Putnam * ss Partisan Review October 1936 (V. 3#6) 
7 * In Dreams Begin Responsibilities * Delmore Schwartz * ss Partisan Review December 1937
13 * Hurry, Hurry * Eleanor Clark * ss Partisan Review January 1938 (V. 4 #2)
19 * Red, White, and Blue Thanksgiving *  John Dos Passos * ss Partisan Review Winter 1939 (V. 6 #2)
23 * The Autobiography of Rose * Gertrude Stein * pm Partisan Review Winter 1939 (V. 6 #2)
26 * The Only Son * James T. Farrell * ss Partisan Review Spring 1939 (V. 6 #3)
34 * A Goat for Azazel (A.D. 1688) * Katherine Anne Porter * ss Partisan Review May/June 1940 (V. 7 #3)
42 * The Man in the Brooks Brothers Shirt * Mary McCarthy * (nv) Partisan Review July/August 1941
65 * Josephine the Singer, or the Mouse Folk * Franz Kafka; translated by Clement Greenberg * ss Partisan Review May/June 1942 (V.9 #3)
76 * Of This Time, of That Place * Lionel Trilling * nv Partisan Review  January/February 1943
101 * The Hand That Fed Me · Isaac Rosenfeld · ss Partisan Review Winter 1944
111 * Cass Mastern’s Wedding Ring · Robert Penn Warren · nv Partisan Review Fall 1944
135 * The Prison * André Malraux; translated by Eleanor Clark * nv Partisan Review March 1948
141 * The Interior Castle * Jean Stafford * ss Partisan Review  November/December 1946
151 * Two Prostitutes · Alberto Moravia; translated by Frances Frenaye · ss Partisan Review May/June 1950
166 * The Jail (Nor Even Yet Quite Relinquish--) * William Faulkner * ex Partisan Review September/October 1951 (V. 18 #5) (can be read at the link) (apparently freestanding; often referred to as simply "The Jail"; from Requiem for a Nun, Random House 1951)
186 * Gimpel the Fool · Isaac Bashevis Singer; translated by Saul Bellow · ss Partisan Review May/June 1953 (V. 20  #3)
206 * Seize the Day * Saul Bellow * na Partisan Review Summer 1956 (V. 23 #3)
268 * The Renegade * Albert Camus translated by Justin O’Brien * ss Partisan Review Winter 1958 (V. 25 #1)
277 * Any Day Now * James Baldwin * ss Partisan Review Spring 1960 (V. 27 #2)
285 * From the Black Notebook * Doris Lessing * ex (The Golden Notebook, Michael Joseph 1962) Partisan Review Spring 1962 (V. 29 #2)
298 * It Always Breaks Out * Ralph Ellison * ex (Three Days Before the Shooting..., Random House 2010) Partisan Review Spring 1963 (V. 30 #1)
308 * The Will and the Way * Susan Sontag * ss Partisan Review Summer 1965 (V. 22 #3)
324 * Runaway * William Styron * ex (The Confessions of Nat Turner Random House 1967) Partisan Review Fall 1966 (V. 33 #4)
330 * Whacking Off * Philip Roth * ex (incorporated into Portnoy's Complaint Random House 1969) Partisan Review Summer 1967 (V. 34 #3)
339 * Mercier and Camier * Samuel Beckett * ex (Mercier and Camier, Grove Press [US] and Calder and Boyans [UK] 1974; French text published 1970)  Partisan Review 1974 (V. 41 #3--in previous numbering, this would've been the Summer 1974 issue)
353 * Levitation * Cynthia Ozick * ss Partisan Review 1979 (V. 46 #3)
362 * The Idea of Switzerland · Walter Abish · nv Partisan Review 1980 (V. 47 #1)
381 * If on a Winter's Night a Traveler * Italo Calvino; translated by William Weaver; ex (If on a winter's night a traveler 1979 in Italian; Harcort 1981 in English translation by Weaver) Partisan Review 1981 (V. 48 #2)
389 * One Summer's Morning in the Village * Amos Oz; translated  by Nicholas de Lange * vi Partisan Review 1984 (V. 51  #4)
390 * Passport Photograph * Amos Oz; translated by Nicholas de Lange * vi Partisan Review 1984 (V. 51  #4)
392 * The Red Dwarf * Michel Tournier; translated by Barbara Wright * ss Partisan Review 1984 (V. 51 #2)
401 * The Feet of a King * Daphne Merkin * ss Partisan Review 1986 (V. 53 #3)
411 * Proust's Tea * Norman Manea; translated by Mara Soceanu-Vamos * ss Partisan Review 1992 (V. 59 #1)
414 * Weddings * Norman Manea; translated by Cornelia Golna * ss Partisan Review 1992 (V. 59 #1)
422 * Serafim * Tatyana Tolstaya; translated by Jamie Gambrell * ss   Partisan Review 1992 (V. 59 #1)

Two volumes of impressive work from two of the best periodicals (even if Shadows was a series of anthologies in hardcover first, followed by paperback reprints, and never a magazine) in their respective compasses. Neither is packaged as well as the contents deserve--the Partisan Review volume is almost amateurish in that it's a poorly-bound, slightly oversized hardcover, with single-column pages that are laid-out almost as if it was a printout from a word-processing program, just wide enough across the oversized pages to make the eyetracks across those pages tiresome. I haven't yet looked to other Partisan Review Press volumes of  its era to see if they were more professionally-packaged and "better-built"; I'd hope so. The Doubleday Foundation binding and layout of this best-of anthology is a step up from what the preceding volumes of Shadows saw from Doubleday in its cost-conscious days in the '70s and '80s, but I'm not so very impressed with the cover illustration. However, a small pat on the back to Doubleday for publishing ten volumes, more or less timed for release around Hallowe'en, for a decade. As with a relatively small number of further issues of Partisan Review published after its anthology's release, there was a final volume, accurately entitled Final Shadows, released in 1981.

But for our purposes today, I'll cite only how one piece of fiction in each impressed me (to say the least) on first reading. Oddly enough, the fiction of their authors in (particularly discursive) moods can often seem somewhat similar: the offhanded erudition, the waspish (not WASPish) wit, but nonetheless the compassion, of Avram Davidson and Saul Bellow are on display here as readily as in any of their other work, in, respectively, "Naples" (1978) and "Seize the Day" (1956).  "Naples" led off the first volume of Grant's series, brilliantly; it would win the World Fantasy Award for best short fiction in 1979 (the excellent shortlist that year included another Davidson story and a story by editor Grant). I first read it in Shadows (the first volume), in a library copy, shortly after first publication in '78, and I picked up the Playboy Press mass-market paperback not too long after. "Seize the Day" I first read in my copy of  23 Modern Stories (1963), edited by Barbara Howe, which I picked up at a library sale, and read over"night" in a summer visit to Fairbanks, AK, with my family in 1981, visiting relatives and old friends of my parents' who still lived there and near(enough)by. The Bellow collection with "Seize" as title story was shortlisted for the 1957 National Book Award, losing, among several other impressive contenders, to Wright Morris's less well-remembered Field of Vision.

More to say soon, as I post this at Saturday's end...our elder cat is in need of some reassuring attention.

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

SSW: Fred Chappell's 3 (earliest published?) short stories, in Robert Silverberg's SPACESHIP, April 1952, April and October 1953: Short Story Wednesday

Fred Chappell (born 28 May 1936/died 4 January 2024) and Robert Silverberg (born 15 January 1935) were teenaged fantastic-fiction fans in 1952, but were already showing some promise of the kind of writers (and editors) they would soon and continue to become...both had discovered the fiction magazines, among other reading, that would help shape a notable part of both their careers, and were involved in the (somewhat!) organized fantasy/sf/horror-fiction-fandom culture of the late '40s and early ' much so that three issues of young New Yorker Silverberg's fanzine (or amateur magazine meant for other fans and any other interested parties) Spaceship (first published by Silverberg in 1949) would each offer one of three vignettes from young Canton, North Carolina resident Fred Chappell, in Starship's 4/52, 4/53 and 10/53 issues. Prof. Shirley Bailey Shurbutt, in the online "Kunstlerroman as Metafiction: The Poetry and Prose of Fred Chappell and the Art of Storytelling" misunderstands a line (she conflates professional fiction magazines with amateur fanzines) in John Lang's Understanding Fred Chappell in which Lang notes Chappell's statement that he had published two early stories under pseudonyms that Chappell insisted he would not divulge, and also notes that Chappell had two (rather than three) short stories in Silverberg's fanzine (almost correct, though under the byline "Fred Chappell") and Harlan Ellison's fanzine Dimensions (apparently untrue, but a closer look at Dimensions issues here will come soon)...if Chappell also had two early, pseudonymous stories in non-amateur magazines such as Weird Tales or the other sf and fantasy magazines of the early '50s, his attempts to keep them hidden have (as far as I know) succeeded, so far. 

Chappell makes the claim about two hidden stories himself (with implication that they are to professional magazines) in the 2022 documentary Fred Chappell: I Am One of You Forever (which can be seen here, and should be--despite the documentarians choosing, when running a slideshow of fantasy and sf magazine covers over Chappell's soundtrack description of his first publications, throw in an issue of a monster-movie magazine, for no obvious reason other than their confusion, among the fiction magazines). Chappell's sister recalls that Fred first attended a convention, apparently the 1953 Philcon in Philadelphia (which she refers to as a national writers' conference, which is understandable, but not quite correct--so much as a convention of writers, editors, fans in the social sense [the fannish subculture, including those who published fanzines] and fans of the specific writers, et al.), the WorldCon for that year, when he was 14 years old, which Bob Silverberg (in correspondence) suspects is a memory-slip on her part, as Silverberg recalls meeting Fred for the first time face-to-face at the '53 convention, when Chappell would've been 17yo.

The three Chappell stories in Spaceship are juvenilia, but (unsurprisingly) relatively deft fiction for a promising teen writer. They are worth reading, certainly for any fan or would-be scholar of Chappell's work.

"The New Frontier", in Spaceship #17 (1952) (which can be read here, and features contributions by other notable writers and fans as well--not least western and fantastica writer and folk-music critic and magazine editor/publisher Ms. Lee Hoffman), is a bit of a psychodrama, as the widow of an astronaut will find herself triggered into fugue states of communication with her dead husband.

"The Tin Can", in Spaceship #21 (1953) is young Chappell in a somewhat comic mood, albeit also exploiting adolescent insecurities as they persist with his protagonist, who acutely feels his lack of sophistication and self-worth in the company of his fellow astronauts...even after he discovers what looks like an enormous tin can through one of their spacecraft's viewports. A bit of an anticipation of Pop Art here, too. The online reproduction of this story features some rather odd scanning, in (I suspect) an attempt to not damage the fanzine issue too badly, but it's legible. This might also be the least assured of the three Chappell stories in Silverberg's fanzine.

"Brother", in Spaceship #23 (1953) is a slightly more straightforward  story of brothers' rivalry (in a sense), with the middle brother of three boys no little vexed by his elder brother's consistent recounting of the rigors of the elder's life as an astronaut, to the rapt attention of their parents and the youngest brother. Middle brother is both jealous and rather less invested in and actively questioning the glamor of the experience. (Though it had begun earlier, the 1950s were a good period inside and outside the sf community for considerations of how there might not be so very much glory in space exploration, for a number of reasons, most of them inherent in humanity.) 

If these were the stories Chappell would rather not be seen, well, they are both promising efforts by a writer in his mid-teens, and are short enough as well as deft enough to make reading through the typewriter-layout of the fanzine issues worth the look (and enlarging the image on your computer, if necessary) for more than simply historical purposes. 

Thanks to Robert Silverberg, Gordon Van Gelder and Rodrigo Baeza for drawing attention to these early Chappell publications.

For more of today's Short Story Wednesday items, please see Patti Abbott's blog.

Sunday, January 21, 2024

THE TRIALS OF O'BRIEN--the television series (and film)--episodes online at the moment:

 The Trials of O'Brien - Wikipedia
The Trials of O'Brien was, as noted elsewhere in the blog, a 22-episode/single-season CBS television series that had the poor fortune of being slotted in 1965-66 against another new series, NBC's Get Smart, and a remarkably popular older series on ABC, The Lawrence Welk Show. CBS didn't seem inclined toward giving it another chance in a less viewer-deprived slot. Which is a pity, since it was a decent series, even if the humor in the production could be a bit broad at times, rather more deft in other instances. More or less, the regular cast included Peter Falk as gambling-addicted, reluctantly divorcing, somewhat eccentric defense attorney Daniel O'Brien (Falk apparently preferred this role to that of the not dissimilar Columbo);  his much put-upon but deft and devoted secretary Miss G (Elaine Stritch); his soon to be ex-wife and commercial artist Katie (Joanna Barnes); her mother, Margaret (Ilka Chase), his bookie, the Great McGonigle (David Burns), and a police officer of his acquaintance, Garrison (Dolph Sweet).
Circulating episodes of the series are mostly in not the best shape, after multi-generation dubbing from tape to tape...who knows if any legatee of Filmways or MGM have retained masters. Posted version of the one 2-part episode, filmed in color and released in foreign markets (and probably to US tv syndication) as a feature, looks rather better. (Click on the YouTube logo to watch them in full-screen.)
"Over Defence is Done": Pilot episode--guest stars include Murray Hamilton, Vincent Gardenia and Kathleen Cody. A rather hardboiled episode at times.

"Bargain Day on the Street of Regret": Ep. 1o2--guest stars include Herschel Bernardi, Rober Blake, Albert Dekker and Judi West.

"No Justice for the Judge": Ep. 103--guest stars include Burgess Meredith and Barnard Hughes.

An episode which won scripter David Ellis the Writers Guild of America award for best episodic drama script in 1966.

Not available on YouTube. Archived at the University of Georgia (the Walter J. Brown Media Archives) in two parts: 

"A Gaggle of Girls": Ep. 107--guest stars include Tammy Grimes, Noëlle Adam, David Doyle, Valerie Allen and Reni Santoni.

"Charlie's Got All the Luck": Ep. 110--guest stars include Martin Sheen, Tony Roberts and Judi West.

"Picture Me a Murder": Ep. 111--guest stars include Alan Alda, Joanna Pettet, Charles Grodin, Jessica Walter, Harold J. Stone and Claude Akins.

And, finally among what's currently posted, the film version of  Ep. 120 and 121, "The Greatest Game" Pts. 1 & 2, slightly recut as Too Many Thieves, with guest stars Britt Eklund, David Carradine, George Coulouris and Nehemiah Persoff.

Posters for the film version:
Too Many Thieves

Friday, January 19, 2024

FFB: Randy Johnson on THE TRIALS OF O'BRIEN by Robert L. Fish (Rediscovered)

And, unsurprisingly, Randy also put this review up

Reviewed in the United States on January 9, 2014

I was completely unfamiliar with this series. Understandable. 
I was fifteen at the time it aired and mostly watched and read 
science fiction. It only ran for one season and I read elsewhere 
that Peter Falk said he thought more of it than he did his signature 
show Columbo. Daniel J. O'Brien is a lawyer that likes to play the
horses and throw the dice, gamble in general, and is not very 
successful at any of them. He owes everybody, has an ex-wife that 
constantly carps about late alimony in the form of bounced checks, 
and a secretary he's always borrowing money from and is behind 
on her salary. Fortunately for him, he seems to bring out the soft 
spot in women and stays on their good side. Just barely.

O'Brien gets unwittingly involved in a scheme by an old client of his. 
Benny Kalen is a three time loser. That he only got a few years on 
his last conviction instead of a dozen makes no impression. O'Brien 
should have got him off, therefore he didn't deserve to get paid.

O'Brien gets suckered by Benny's wife into being at a bar late one 
night while Benny and a confederate are pulling a stick-up job on 
a finance company that had just opened next door.

Thinks go wrong and there's a dead body. Benny's parole officer had 
warned O'Brien that he heard his name mentioned and believes he's 
in on the job.

Our lawyer is forced to defend his former client, who swears the man 
was already dead and the safe broken into when he entered the office, 
in order to clear his name.

Robert L. Fish wrote this one and is the reason I gave it a try. 
His novel Mute Witness became the Steve McQueen movie Bullitt.