Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday's "Forgotten"...K. A. Laity, FIASCO; Maria Bamford, HOW TO WIN; Toshiko Akiyoshi/Lew Tabackin Big Band, [EPONYMOUS '70S RETROSPECTIVE]....

(Yes, that's a large frog with plastic lips Princess Maria is about to kiss.)

From the occasional series, Stuff My Friends and Acquaintances Have Wrought, comes Kate Laity's 2005-2006 play, or "Revue in Several Parts," Fiasco. (Scroll down on that page and you find the hotlink to the free, printable form...and you can get a sense of the rest of the bibliography, with many links.) Kate had a front row seat, while at the University of Houston, to much of the unhappiness around the levy-failure in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and the actual devastation to the Gulf Coast by Katrina itself, but what most sparked this fine bit of satire was Barbara Bush's charming behavior as the refugees were packed into a quickly mythologized Astrodome, never more mythologized than by Bush herself, as Laity quotes her:

“And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them…”-- Barbara Bush, visiting the refugees of Hurricane Katrina in the Houston Astrodome, 2005

And we're off, in a play that is dedicated to Peter Cook, and does in spots remind one powerfully of a Pete and Dud routine, and in others touches on such mutual influences on Cook and Laity as Spike Milligan and the Goons, Samuel Beckett,
Oscar Wilde, Oliver Goldsmith, and Richard Sheridan (the segment featuring the Bush family is subtitled "The New School for Scandal")(not the one in Greenwich Vilalge, no). Fundamentalist Christianity gets at least as much drubbing as the Bushes themselves (and I'm not sure if the character Hodge is partially after Matt Drudge, despite being most obsessed with the clothing the family is wearing), as well as the presumptions of the wealthy about many things, including their own obligations of various sorts. (The segment that might've been entitled "Waiting for Turd Blossom" combines all of these, and ends with the round "Summer is Icumin In"...which gives a sense of the playfulness that is partnered with the satirical rage here.)

A very amusing exercise. (And happy day after the birthday, Kate!)

Maria Bamford, whose 2009 Christmas Special I continue to recommend, has put out three solo albums of her comedy and occasional singing that I'm aware of, and of these perhaps the second, so far, How to Win, is the best introduction to her work for those who haven't seen or heard her before...certainly, the longform Comedians of Comedy concert dvd (as distinct from the multi-episode series on Comedy Central) isn't recommended by me for her, because as one of the hosts, so to speak, she rushes a truncated set so as to give enough time for the other comedians to get a shot on stage (and on camera)...David Cross and H. John Benjamin's self-indulgent and misfired duo bit is allowed to go on forever, however. More self-assured than in her first concert album (The Burning Bridges Tour) and less self-revealing than in the later, slightly darker Unwanted Thoughts Syndrome (both of which are also urgently recommended...the last also comes with a dvd of her web series, dramatizing her life if she'd had a complete breakdown and fled back to her parents' house to recover), How to Win is also her most outspokenly feminist of the three concerts, and catches her at her most energetic and accessible.

Richard Robinson deserves thanks for mentioning the Mosaic Select release of the Toshiko Akiyoshi-Lew Tabackin Big Band box, which collects their 1970s studio album for RCA, which have never before had a legit cd release in the States (the Japanese discs, not atypically, have cost the Earth). Kogun, Long Yellow Road, Tales of a Courtesan, March of the Tadpoles and particularly Insights have been among my favorite albums, and I have had them on vinyl or cassette, or not at all (though I was able to dub one or two from borrowed copies, those dubs hidden away in one moving box or another) for a lot of years...and now here they are, conveniently together (though why leave out the RCA live album Road Time, I dunno...inclusion of the small-label album Tanuki's Night Out would've been a good thing, too...), documenting the bulk of the work of the LA-based orchestra, before Tabackin's desire to move back to NYC and the breakup of that orchestra (so devastatingly documented in the hourlong Jazz Is My Native Language, the best archival/non-contemporary scene in which involves the recently-emigrated Akiyoshi's appearance on What's My Line ca. 1958, wearing full kimono and kit and signing in in Kanji...the line being, Jazz Pianist). Akiyoshi was able to rebuild a New York orchestra, but as good as they often have been I don't think they've ever quite equalled the LA unit. And Michiru Mariano, a few months older than I am, and quite the heartthrob in the film, went from her recording debut on Insights (in the devastating suite Minamata) to go on to be a major acid jazz recording artist, more or less pioneering the form in Japan before returning to the States...

For more forgotten books, etc., please see Patti Abbott's blog...

Monday, December 14, 2009

music, (very) late for thanksgiving

So here's a post I didn't put up, not being quite satisfied with I'll add this video from local jazz singer/pianist Melody Gardot (and note that if they had more guests of her band's calibre they might still have the show on the air, or at least I would be paying enough attention to know that it was still on the air...). [very late bulletin: 10! is indeed still on WCAU, the local NBC affiliate formerly on VHF channel 10, and it formerly played at 10am..till TODAY pushed to 11a....]

Sweet Freedom was originally a radio show, first on WGMU-AM in Fairfax, VA (the George Mason University station), then on WCXS-FM (now WEBR) in Fairfax, where it was co-conducted for several years by my SO Donna (and our show was followed for a couple of years by my brother's), then on WPPR-FM (aka Radio Mutiny) in Philadelphia. It was always devoted to the jazz, punk rock, electronic music, folk music, spoken word ranging from Noam Chomsky to Harlan Ellison to in-studio interviews with people such as Bob Black, Ted White (for contrast) and Douglas Winter (more gray scales), who wrote an inscription on a book of his to me that scared the hell out of my father. But also a lot of third stream music, which could be pensive and anti-raucous.

So, I thought I'd put up some links, for festivity's sake. Or perhaps I'm simply nostalgic.

The most famous Brubeck Quartet, of alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, bassist Gene Wright, percussionist Joe Morello and pianist Dave Brubeck were my first favorite band...the Miro Reflections album my first favorite suite. This quartet's last album in their first run, Time In, featured this fine excerpt from Brubeck work in progress The Light in the Forest, referring to the forty days of Jesus of Nazareth's fasting. Brubeck plays somewhat freely here, Desmond as usual also not repeating himself. From a concert for German television.

"Koto Song"...same concert, iinm.

The Modern Jazz Quartet were the next band I fell in love with; I got to see them twice, once with Donna, before percussionist Connie Kay's death, both times at Wolf Trap...once opening for a soporific Miles Davis jam band, once with a much more receptive audience while playing as partners with the Kronos Quartet:

"Bag's Groove" (as opposed to "Backgroove")

The MJQ: "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot"

Donna and I were at the Warehouse: Songs and Stories tour stop in DC. The audience wasn't allowed to dance or even stand, and the Huskers weren't in a very good mood...they simply turned up the volume after every song, and said nothing that wasn't a lyric.

Janet Fox, 1940-2009

Well, here's how I put it to the Horror List at Indiana University:

The worst news all day, posted yesterday [Thursday] on LOCUS OnLine:

Janet Fox, 1940-2009
- posted @ 12/10/2009 01:25:00 PM PT
Writer and editor Janet Fox, 68, died [October] 21, 2009 at home in Osage City KS after a long struggle with cancer. Fox began publishing short fiction in the 1970s, and published scores of stories and poems in magazines including TWILIGHT ZONE, WEIRD TALES, CEMETERY DANCE, and others, as well as numerous anthologies. Under house name Alex McDonough she wrote five books in the Scorpio novel series for Ace, from 1990-93. She edited monthly market 'zine SCAVENGER'S NEWSLETTER from 1984-2003, and was secretary/treasurer of the Small Press Writers and Artists Organization.

A.R. Morlan has been named Fox's literary executor, and can be contacted c/o Locus.

See the January issue of LOCUS for a complete obituary.

--She was an underappreciated writer, who in horror notably did a series of stories over a period of years that concretized bromides such as "You can't take it with you" ("Materialist," MAGAZINE OF HORROR, May 1970, apparently her first sale) and "Inside of every fat person..." ("Screaming to Get Out" WEIRDBOOK 12, 1977, and collected in Gerald Page's THE YEAR'S BEST HORROR STORIES VI [1978]), among much else in the horror field, and at least one excellent series of S&S stories, the Arcana sequence, such as "Demon & Demoiselle" (FANTASTIC, October 1978). She bought a poem from me for SCAVENGER'S NEWSLETTER, published in 1989, my first arguably pro sale in fantastic publishing, and despite that desecration SCAV was a fine 'zine.

It's been a bad year for my friends and a bad year for my editors. I didn't know she was ill, and am sorry she's gone.

Todd Mason

[Then I noted, including letting LOCUS know that they had typoed the month, which they have since corrected:]

LOCUS has typoed the month of her death...October, not September. Her funeral was on Hallowe'en, which might've pleased her (if one has to have one, as one more or less does so far...).

From the TOPEKA CAPITOL-JOURNAL [and also slightly corrected]

Janet Kaye Fox
OSAGE CITY Janet Kaye Fox, 68, passed away Wednesday, October 21, 2009, at her home in Osage City. Janet was born October 25, 1940, in Topeka, the daughter of Earl and Luella Dorothy Nordling Fox. She graduated from Osage City High School in 1958 and Emporia State University in 1965. She taught school two years in White City and 15 years at Osage City High School and a number of years after as an instructor for Writers' Digest School. After retiring from teaching she was a writer and had worked as a bookkeeper at Nordling Motors in Osage City. Janet had served as secretary/treasurer of the Small Press Writers and Artists Organization, as well as issuing a newsletter for the group, afterwards establishing Scavengers Newsletter, a monthly market letter for SF/Fantasy/Horror/Mystery writers and artists with an interest in small press published from 1984 to 2003. Her writing career has extended from 1970 through the present, with her work appearing in professional and small press publications. Most of Fox's book length fiction has been written as Alex McDonough, the shared pseudonym under which Ace Books' six-volume Scorpio series was issued in the early 1990s. She wrote all but the first volume. She has also written, under her own name, the [short fiction collection] A Witch's Dozen (2005) and numerous short stories and poems. Janet was a member of the Osage City United Methodist Church. Survivors include a step brother, John Soetebier, Americus; an aunt, Evelyn Slater; cousins, Judy Alexander, Melvin Slater, Phyllis Slater, Rosie Slater and Victoria Rubottom, all of Topeka, Stephen Rubottom of Kent, Washington, Paul James Rubottom of Emporia, Joseph and Carolyn Nordling of Admire and Thomas and Helen Nordling of Osage City; and dedicated friends and caregivers, Sharon Larson and Charles and Deborah Cook, all of Osage City. She was preceded in death by her mother and step father, Luella and August F. Soetebier and her maternal grandparents, Joseph E. and Hannah Matilda Nordling. Memorial services will be at 10:00 a.m., October 31, 2009 at the United Methodist Church in Osage City. Memorial contributions can be made to the United Methodist Church or the CAT Association and sent in care of VanArsdale Funeral Chapel, 107 N 6, Osage City, KS 66523.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday's "Forgotten" Books, Jr.: Eleanor Clymer MY BROTHER STEVIE; Robert Silverberg VOYAGERS IN TIME; Robert Arthur ALFRED HITCHCOCK'S MONSTER MUSEUM

My Brother Stevie by Eleanor Clymer (Holt, Rinehart and Winston 1967) was my first favorite novel; I read it when I was about seven, and it involves a girl permanently abandoned by her parents with the instruction to take care of her junior hellion a kid with a new brother and some very busy parents still fairly recently moved to my third state in three years, this narrative not too inexplicably spoke to me. It was grittier than nearly anything else I read at that age, and seemed to have a good sense of how bewildering everything can be to a kid at that stage of life (you might think things are beyond your control now, and you're correct in too many ways, but cast your mind back to your single-digit years and not long after). A helpful teacher helps put things (mostly) aright.

Voyagers in Time, edited by Robert Silverberg, was the first anthology of sf stories I remember picking up and going through...though most of the stories are at least minor classics of adult science fiction, the book was packaged for the teen market (a number of them are also chestnuts of the anthologies in the field). I knew I'd read David Masson's "Traveller's Rest" somewhere when years later I'd see references to the story in various critical and reference works, but couldn't until restumbling across this anthology remember where the hell it had been. A battered, stripped copy of this one (in its Grosset & Dunlap Tempo edition) was kicking around the house from my early literate years, from the bad old days of mob-dominated paperback distribution, wherein in wasn't too hard for my father to stumble across stripped mass-market editions for sale in the open for a dime each or somesuch, when of course the distributor was legally obligated to destroy these copies after returing the front covers for credit to their publishers (an incredibly wasteful system that probably still hasn't completely died out). The Wells excerpt made the strongest impression at the time...

Alfred Hitchcock's Monster Museum was just one of the several anthologies aimed at young readers specifically that Robert Arthur ghost-edited for Hitchcock to put his name to, as Arthur was also ghost-editing Alfred Hitchcock Presents: anthologies aimed at the adult market at the same time; I read both series together and loved their eclecticism, as I've mentioned multiple times on this blog and elsewhere, as well as their reliability (Arthur was an excellent editor as well as a good writer, and his successors, after his death, often did a reasonable job of keeping up with him--Arthur also edited, in the clear, such YA anthos as Thrillers and More Thrillers and, earlier, had been the editor of The Mysterious Traveler Magazine, branded for his radio series and one of the great "lost" shortlived fiction magazines). The original hardcover editions were interestingly illustrated, and the paperback editions were, for no compelling reason, sometimes abridged.

from "AfredSpace":

Alfred Hitchcock's Monster Museum

Edited by Robert Arthur. "Twelve Shuddery Stories for Daring Young Readers." Illustrated by Earl E. Mayan. Random House New York. @ 1965. 207 pages.
"The Day Of The Dragon" by Guy Endore,
"The King Of The Cats" by Stephen Vincent Benet,
"Slime" by Joseph Payne Brennan,
"The Man Who Sold Rope To The Gnoles" by Idris Seabright [Margaret St. Clair],
"Henry Martindale, Great Dane" by Miriam Allen deFord,
"The Microscopic Giants" by Paul Ernst,
"The Young One" by Jerome Bixby,
"Doomsday Deferred" by Will F. Jenkins [aka "Murray Leinster"],
"Shadow, Shadow On The Wall" by Theodore Sturgeon,
"The Desrick On Yandro" by Manly Wade Wellman,
"The Wheelbarrow Boy" by Richard Paker [sic],
"Homecoming" by Ray Bradbury.

..and, because I thought that "Paker" was unlikely, here's the Contento index:

Alfred Hitchcock’s Monster Museum [ed. by Robert Arthur] ed. Anon. (Random House 0-394-84899-3, 1982, $2.50, 213pp, tp)

ix · Introduction: A Variety of Monsters · Alfred Hitchcock · in [ghosted by Arthur]
3 · Slime · Joseph Payne Brennan · nv Weird Tales Mar ’53
40 · The King of the Cats · Stephen Vincent Benét · ss Harper’s Bazaar Feb ’29
62 · The Man Who Sold Rope to the Gnoles · Idris Seabright · ss F&SF Oct ’51
70 · Henry Martindale, Great Dane · Miriam Allen deFord · ss Beyond Fantasy Fiction Mar ’54
90 · Shadow, Shadow, on the Wall · Theodore Sturgeon · ss Imagination Feb ’51
105 · Doomsday Deferred · Will F. Jenkins · ss The Saturday Evening Post Sep 24 ’49
129 · The Young One · Jerome Bixby · nv Fantastic Apr ’54
169 · The Desrick on Yandro [John] · Manly Wade Wellman · ss F&SF Jun ’52
188 · The Wheelbarrow Boy · Richard Parker · ss Lilliput Oct ’50
194 · Homecoming · Ray Bradbury · ss Mademoiselle Oct ’46

Alfred Hitchcock’s Monster Museum [ghost edited by Robert Arthur] "ed. Alfred Hitchcock"(Collins - Lions 0-00-670696-7, 1973, 45p, 190pp, pb)

7 · Introduction: A Variety of Monsters · Alfred Hitchcock · in
9 · The Day of the Dragon · Guy Endore · nv Blue Book Jun ’34
36 · The King of the Cats · Stephen Vincent Benét · ss Harper’s Bazaar Feb ’29
52 · Slime · Joseph Payne Brennan · nv Weird Tales Mar ’53
78 · The Man Who Sold Rope to the Gnoles · Idris Seabright · ss F&SF Oct ’51
83 · Gone to the Dogs [“Henry Martindale, Great Dane”] · Miriam Allen deFord · ss Beyond Fantasy Fiction Mar ’54
97 · The Microscopic Giants · Paul Ernst · ss Thrilling Wonder Stories Oct ’36
114 · The Young One · Jerome Bixby · nv Fantastic Apr ’54
143 · Doomsday Deferred · Will F. Jenkins · ss The Saturday Evening Post Sep 24 ’49
159 · The Desrick on Yandro [John] · Manly Wade Wellman · ss F&SF Jun ’52
172 · The Wheelbarrow Boy · Richard Parker · ss Lilliput Oct ’50
177 · Homecoming · Ray Bradbury · ss Mademoiselle Oct ’46

--note the Sturgeon is missing from the British paperback, and probably from the US pb as well. I have to wonder what British editorial hand forced the title change on the deFord (or was it H.L. Gold's notoriously heavy hand in the original magazine appearance, finally fixed up in the UK reprint?).

From the Contento indices:

Voyagers in Time ed. Robert Silverberg (Meredith Press, 1967, $4.95, xii+243pp, hc)
· Introduction · Robert Silverberg · in
· The Sands of Time · P. Schuyler Miller · na Astounding Apr ’37
· And It Comes Out Here · Lester del Rey · ss Galaxy Feb ’51
· Brooklyn Project · William Tenn · ss Planet Stories Fll ’48
· The Men Who Murdered Mohammed · Alfred Bester · ss F&SF Oct ’58
· Time Heals · Poul Anderson · nv Astounding Oct ’49
· Wrong-Way Street · Larry Niven · ss Galaxy Apr ’65
· Flux · Michael Moorcock · nv New Worlds Jul ’63
· Dominoes · C. M. Kornbluth · ss Star Science Fiction Stories #1, ed. Frederik Pohl, Ballantine, 1953
· A Bulletin from the Trustees... · Wilma Shore · ss F&SF Aug ’64
· Traveller’s Rest · David I. Masson · ss New Worlds Sep ’65
· Absolutely Inflexible · Robert Silverberg · ss Fantastic Universe Jul ’56
· The Time Machine [chapter xi, xii-part; Time Machine] · H. G. Wells · ex The New Review Jan, 1895 (+4)

For more, mostly younger-readers' (this week) "forgotten" books, please see Patti Abbott's blog.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Jawbox on LATE NIGHT last night

Murphy's Law kicked in (those Very Professionals at ComCast know cable) and my signals were out last night, but it's all on the web today, Jimmy Fallon's amiable but inept chatter, Rachel Maddow happy to mix a drink, Tom Ford attempting drollery. And a pleasant, autumnal reading of three songs by the reunited, one-night-only Jawbox (the two "web exclusives" are followed below by the on-show performance, and you'll probably get a short ad first in each case...the show as a whole, sans web exclusives, is up on Hulu:

OK, the embedded links aren't working, so here are the links:
For "68":

And the link for "FF=66":

And the link for the on-show performance of "Savory":

Monday, December 7, 2009

Maria Bamford's Homemade Hourlong Christmas Standup Special

Slightly more stream-of-consciousness than her standup act, so that Oprah Winfrey is referred to, early on, as "Opes." Dunno if she's saying goodbye to some of this material, much as Jerry Seinfeld used to. But I like her work a lot.

Maria Bamford's Christmas Special! from Punchline Magazine on Vimeo.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Subject Is Jazz: The Future of Jazz (1958)

Featuring members of bands headed by Billy Taylor and George Russell, the latter of whom taught pianist Bill Evans here modal improvisation, which he then brought to the Miles Davis Quintet shortly thereafter and the Kind of Blue session. Though I'm not sure if the performance or the miking/mixing was off in the performance of "Concerto for Billy the Kid," which is presented definitively in the RCA album by the George Russell Jazztet, Jazz Workshop (1956). (The Kid being Evans.) (Donna, my ex, a punk rock fan primarily as a musical enthusiast, always loved the density of Russell's compositions, particularly this one and "Cubano Be Cubano Bop," his early chart for the Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra.)

Very happy to see and hear this.

George Russell's Los Angeles Times obituary, from 26 July. Rest in glory. (Alzheimer's, a real bastard.)

Friday's "Forgotten"...: FIRST WORLD FANTASY AWARDS edited by Gahan Wilson (Doubleday 1977) and (the album) Jawbox: FOR YOUR OWN SPECIAL SWEETHEART

Cover by Gahan Wilson, of course:

From the Contento Indices:

First World Fantasy Awards ed. Gahan Wilson (New York: Doubleday 0-385-12199-7, Oct ’77, $8.95, 311pp, hc)
9 · Introduction · Gahan Wilson · in
11 · Map of Providence · Gahan Wilson · il
15 · The Convention · Kirby McCauley · ar *
17 · About the Fantasy Awards · Gahan Wilson · ar *
19 · The Awards · Gahan Wilson · bi *
21 · The Bat Is My Brother · Robert Bloch · ss Weird Tales Nov ’44
36 · Beetles · Robert Bloch · ss Weird Tales Dec ’38
46 · Acceptance Speech · Robert Bloch · sp *
53 · About Robert Bloch · Misc. · bg *
55 · from The Forgotten Beasts of Eld · Patricia A. McKillip · ex New York: Atheneum, 1974
63 · An Essay · Robert Aickman · ar *
66 · Pages from a Young Girl’s Journal · Robert Aickman · nv F&SF Feb ’73
97 · The Events at Poroth Farm · T. E. D. Klein · na From Beyond the Dark Gateway #2 ’72
137 · A Father’s Tale [Brigadier Ffellowes] · Sterling E. Lanier · nv F&SF Jul ’74
168 · Sticks · Karl Edward Wagner · nv Whispers Mar ’74
187 · Come Into My Parlor · Manly Wade Wellman · ss The Girl With the Hungry Eyes, ed. Donald A. Wollheim, Avon, 1949
198 · Fearful Rock · Manly Wade Wellman · na Weird Tales Feb ’39 (+2)
253 · About Manly Wade Wellman · Misc. · bg
254 · The Ballantines · Misc. · bg
256 · Lee Brown Coye // An Appreciation · Gahan Wilson · ar Whispers #3 ’74
260 · The Bait [Fafhrd & Gray Mouser] · Fritz Leiber · vi Whispers Dec ’73
263 · The Vampire in America · Manly Wade Wellman · ar Whispers Dec ’73
268 · The Shortest Way [Dama (& Vettius)] · David Drake · ss Whispers Mar ’74
277 · From “Chips and Shavings” · Lee Brown Coye · ar Mid-York Weekly Oct 17 ’63
279 · The Soft Wall · Dennis Etchison · ss Whispers Jul ’74
290 · Toward a Greater Appreciation of H.P. Lovecraft · Dirk W. Mosig · ar Whispers Jul ’73
302 · The Abandoned Boudoir · Joseph Payne Brennan · pm Whispers Jul ’74
302 · Cradle Song for an Abandoned Werewolf [“Cradle Song for a Baby Werewolf”] · H. Warner Munn · pm Whispers Jul ’73
303 · Guillotine · Walter Shedlofsky · pm The Fantastic Acros, 1970
304 · The Farmhouse · David A. Riley · ss New Writings in Horror and the Supernatural #1, ed. David A. Sutton, London: Sphere, 1971; Whispers Jul ’74

Okay, so, more than any other single book, except perhaps the Ellison collection/anthology Partners in Wonder, this one's responsible for my typing this bit of electronically-captured prose...for it was a rather delayed but nonetheless welcome celebration and representation of the First World Fantasy Convention, in Providence, RI, in 1975 (venue chosen in honor of H.P. Lovecraft, in whose likeness the annual award statues, the Howards, are struck, from a design by editor and world-famous cartoonist Wilson. I was aware, distantly, of the fannish subculture that had developed around sf and fantasy, and had spread to help create similar subcultures around crime fiction and comics (and was helping to create one around punk rock as this book was being published, even as it had particularly around folk music in the '60s), but this book is also an invitation to the ongoing World Fantasy Conventions and all their sibling gatherings, publication, etc. Isaac Asimov's introductions to The Hugo Winners volumes and the SFWA Nebula Award anthologies also had a similar effect, but they documented the fannish apparatus rather more sketchily than the speech transcripts, the bits of on-the-scene journalism and other matter usually not published in a trade-press (as opposed to fannish-press) book, left out at libraries where not-particularly-innocent children can stumble right across them (I was already a fan of first Life Achievement Award-winner Robert Bloch, whose stories collected here were more rare [at that time] than good, and of Manly Wade Wellman (his sample stories are better and more representative), and certainly knew of J.P. Brennan's and Robert Aickman's work...but I believe this might've been my first exposure to Dennis Etchison, Fritz Leiber, and certainly to T.E.D. Klein and Patricia McKillip, her excerpt being the major representative of non-horror fantasy in these proceedings (though David Drake, whose work I believe I'd seen in The Year's Best Horror Stories annual, skirts the line there, too). Never did develope a taste for Sterling Lanier's club stories in the Brigadier Ffellowes series, in the tradition of Gerald Kersh and Lord Dunsany, among others (who did it better)...Lanier might be remembered longest for being the editor at the Philly-suburb how-to publisher Chilton who encouraged them to take on a much-rejected epic sf novel by newish writer Frank Herbert, Dune, which gave him some leeway to publish some further fiction titles there, including his own work. And Lee Brown Coye...just the other day, the town of Hamilton, NY, saw an auction to fundraise to preserve a mural Coye did there...all in all, a fine anthology, but a more important document (that Stuart Schiff's Whispers magazine started publishing best-of/new fiction anthologies the next year didn't hurt, either).

The newly rereleased album's cover on DeSoto, and the original Atlantic cover.

Meanwhile, a "forgotten" album is about to be re-released...Jawbox was the best of the punk/postpunk bands to form in DC in the late '80s (better than Fugazi, certainly, and better than such wonderful live acts that recorded poorly as Fidelity Jones or Autoclave...), and they did one superb (incorporating their wonderful ep and another anthology track) and one good album on Dischord Records, the legendary DC-based indie label, and went on to sign with Atlantic Records in 1993, the first of the DC punk bands to follow in the wake of Husker Du to take that gamble (it paid off about as poorly for them as for the Minneapolis band...though, having interviewed Jawbox with my then not yet Ex Donna some months back and having been one of their most voluble fans in the various media available to me at the time ["alternative" newspaper, fanzine, radio--the show Sweet Freedom, actually], I ran into J. Robbins at someone else's concert just after they'd signed the contract and just after I'd sold my first short story, and we wondered just how much of the world was breathlessly awaiting our next steps). Since then, Jawbox has broken up (it's been a dozen years now) and while their members, particularly Kim Coletta, have made a real label out of DeSoto Records (formerly an injoke that various DC sorts would slap on their self-released items), having released among much else an excellent odds and ends collection My Scrapbook of Fatal Accidents and now a remastered version of the first, brilliant Atlantic album, For Your Own Special Sweetheart, which I thought sounded pretty damned good the first time promote this rerelease, the band will be reforming to play on NBC's chat show Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on December 8th. Perhaps a tour will follow, which would be nice.

Here's FYOSS, including the song "Motorist" inspired by J.G. Ballard's novel Crash, recorded well before the David Cronenberg-directed film adaptation.

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

Monday, November 30, 2009

Discount Primrose (an Abbott challenge vignette)

Patti Abbott challenged the assembled to write a vignette about WalMart. A sleepy weekend didn't push me in one of the three directions I was thinking of, but this is the one that I actually spooled out:

Discount Primrose

Long ago, folks used to leave the store. I don’t know why or what they did, but that’s what they used to do. The Greeters went to the doors and welcomed people in, weren’t yet the Priests of Walton, or at least not the same way. Remarkable.

[The rest is currently in contractual reservation to the e-book DISCOUNT NOIR, edited by Patricia Abbott and Steve Weddell.]

Copyright 2009 by Todd Mason, solely and entirely.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Friday's "Forgotten" Books: GOLDBRICK by Edward Wellen (THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, November 1978)

Goldbrick by Edward Wellen was an unusual inclusion in the November, 1978, issue of F&SF, for at least two reasons. Most obviously, it not being sf or fantasy in any meaningful way made it unusual, but not unique...the January issue of "competitor" Fantastic would be published shortly thereafter with Jack Dann's short "Days of Stone" which was similarly in a fantasy magazine largely because it was a good story by a writer who often, though not in this case, wrote sf or fantasy...and Goldbrick was also unusual in being a long novella/short novel in one issue of the magazine, printed in a smaller typeface than the rest of the contents so as to cram it all in. Wellen, a fairly regular contributor to both the fantastic- and crime-fiction magazines, was at last report is still alive, though he would be 90 this year and is perhaps not active as a fiction writer (I've not seen any new work from him for a while); he had contributed such near-future borderline sf/cf as the novel Hijack to F&SF's companion magazine Venture Science Fiction, which is one of the relatively few Wellen novels to see book publication (from the Ballantines' Beagle Books imprint); Wellen was a consistently interesting professional, and it seens odd that he's so poorly represented in book form (though Martin Harry Greenberg has certainly not been the only editor to anthologize his shorter work).

Goldbrick is a story of a military man who finds himself ever more tied up with and the target of a terrorist conpiracy; one passage, the description of the aftermath of a torture session, is not extraordinarily explicit but is sketched in so deftly and offhandedly, and gives even the rather breezily cynical protagonist pause, that it's stuck with me through the decades. The balance of the novel is smoothly written and well-worked out, and I'm not sure why, as far as I can tell, this work was never reprinted in book form. It might be that Wellen, who was doing scriptwriting in Hollywood, was not too worried how his prose might be published, or didn't find it worth pursuing as vigorously (or, like not a few writers, looked upon his prose work as a pressure valve, a way of flexing the muscles that would otherwise atrophy in the usual run of scripting).

The excellent cover for this issue is actually for the Jane Yolen story, "Brother Hart"; Bill Pronzini has one of his occasional fantasies, "Cat," in this issue. Ray Lovell's annotated index of this issue follows:

Yolen, Jane Brother Hart ss story to be in forthcoming coll. Dream Weaver(1979); has 1st novel with adult elements, The Magic Three of Solatia(1974; 1984), episodic, a sequence of 4 novellas tracing the impact of three magic buttons & their power on a group of people(Clute)
Budrys, Algis Books br essay: Clarion & other workshops, & the students who want to be sf writers; D.R. Bensen: And Having Writ ...; Arkady & Boris Strugatsky: Definitely Maybe; Poul Anderson: The Earth Book of Stormgate
Young, Robert F. Project Hi-Rise ss
Wilson, Gahan Cartoon ct
Mendelsohn, M. Little Goethe nv his 1st pub. fiction; a univ. professor in England
Pronzini, Bill Cat ss has anth. of sf/f interest, Midnight Specials(1978), Werewolf!(1979), Dark Sins, Dark Dreams: Crime in S. F.(1978), The End of Summer(1979; vt The Fifties: The End of Summer), Shared Tomorrows: S. F. in Collaboration(1979), the last 3 w. Barry N. Malzberg
Searles, Baird Films and Television: Oddity by Homer, An mr/tvr Adventures of Ulysses(1969 TV), originally the mini-series The Odyssey, made by Italian TV in 1969; briefly, Phase IV(1973); Monte Python and the Holy Grail(1974)
De Vet, Charles V. Second Chance ss "I taught school for half a dozen years ... then worked in the Post Office for 27 years ... write an occasional story when an idea comes along that seems too good to let go by"; see his obit in LOC 1997 MAY(#436)
Hoshi, Shinichi He—y, Come On Ou—t! ss (1926-1997) 1st pub. in his coll. The Spiteful Planet and Other Stories(1978); trans. from the Japanese by Stanleigh Jones, Chairman of the Dept. of Asian Studies, Claremont Graduate School(CA); also in F&SF as Hoshi Shin'ichi; obit in LOC 1998 FEB(#445)
Asimov, Isaac Checklist of Isaac Asimov's F&SF Science Essays, 1958-1978, A bib an alphabetical listing by title of the 240 science essays(does not include the essay in this issue), with a very brief description of their subject matter, & in which collection each essay may be found in, & the titles of all the essay collections so far
Asimov, Isaac Science: Fifty Million Big Brothers sces extraterrrestial life possibilities, Part 1 of 2; the possibility of other life in the universe; an update of the essay "Who's Out There?" in 1963 SEP; Part 2 in 1978 DEC(#4202)
Wellen, Edward Goldbrick na "the adventures of Lt. Stonewall J. Buckmaster, on assignment to the 10th Experimental Company"

Please see Patti Abbott's blog for other "forgotten" books this week.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Lawrence Block on Donald Westlake

Block notes that Donald Westlake tried to sell some "modern relationship" short stories in the mid 1960s, to no avail...rather similar, perhaps, to the 1979 Redbook novella, "Call Me a Cab"...(recorded w/o close-in mic at a talk at the Mysterious Bookshop, so rather low-volume at the source).

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Television that mattered to me...

A number of television series, and even a few one-offs (or One Time Onlies as at least one clangorous publication officially dubs them) have had an important effect on me, even if it was only to entertain so adeptly that I had to marvel.

1. Children's educational television: Mr. Wizard, Romper Room, and particularly those long-haul veterans Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and Captain Kangaroo certainly helped get me hooked on the medium in my earliest did such local hosts in New England as Major Mudd and Uncle Gus (an irritable-seeming fellow in a fishing hat, sitting in front of a wall that read The Uncle Gus Show...he was out of New Hampshire, while Major Mudd was a supposed astronaut, a Boston fixture for a while). Post-Sesame Street, a number of the networks and syndicators stepped up their game, giving us Zoom, Make a Wish, Big Blue Marble, and other kid-oriented, fairly elaborate, heavily-edited and quickly-paced augment the older, slower-paced kids' shows (Hodge Podge Lodge, anyone?). Why, they even rivalled Bullwinkle, Flipper and Lassie for engagement.

2. Adult educational television: Simultaneously, there were some interesting if sometimes puzzling (The Great American Dream Machine) series rolling in that were clearly aimed at grownups, that nonetheless (particularly when about the sciences, such as Nova, the National Geographic Specials and the syndicated Time-Life Wild, Wild World of Animals), that were compelling, none moreso than Nat Geo spinoff The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau. And, in 1973, the grim facts of recent world history were packaged impressively in the Granada (syndicated) UK import, The World at War--my cohort in elementary school wouldn't miss it, though my mother was concerned about my seeing the battlefield and aftermath footage, till after she tasked my father with vetting it as well (he soberly suggested that it was precisely what was needed to be said about war).

3. My mother had had similar concerns when she noted I had discovered in 1972 this oddly-named sitcom M*A*S*H, which was one of several funny and sophisticated-seeming newish series being concentrated on Saturday night, when I could stay up long enough to catch them all...she was thinking of Sally Kellerman exposed in the film, but realized that they weren't Quite going that far with the television series, even if the best first few seasons were not the most enlightened statement about feminism in television history. However, such vignettes as when after a grueling surgical session, Trapper John and Frank find themselves trying to catch quick naps on stretchers in the entryway of the surgical tent, and Frank offhandedly gives Trapper a picture of how to create a Frank Burns ("If we spoke during dinner, our father would punch us in the throat."), and how even a wiped-out Trapper has no choice but to accept that understanding...well, it left an impression. As did the other Saturday programs, which by the fall of 1975 had lost All in the Family and M*A*S*H to other days on the CBS schedule, but still could boast, at least in Northern Connecticut, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show and The Carol Burnett Show on CBS, Monty Python's Flying Circus in its first full run on the local PBS stations (syndicated by the Eastern Educational Network, which was also importing this BBC kids' show Doctor Who and a few more obscure items, such as The Goodies), and NBC's new series Saturday Night and Weekend (the latter being an excellent newsmagazine that ran every fourth week in the 11:30p slot).

4. The Really Good repeats. Quite aside from the good movies one could see, popping up here and there, there was a lot of fun old stuff that seemed to a Lot better at certain things, for example being scary, than the current shows such as Night Gallery. There were Saturday afternoon repeats of The Outer Limits on the Boston station that would follow that with The Creature Double-Feature--some of those episodes were more mind-blowing than scary, but it definitely leaned toward monsters and what one critic would term "Television Noir" when looking back from the '70s--and the Hartford station that ran Thriller, hosted by Boris Karloff--still unmatched as a showcase for decent to brilliant horror and suspense drama. There were any number of British series that were at least kind of cool, particularly The Avengers, The Forsyte Saga and this very weird thing called The Prisoner (and The Champions, which struck me as goofy even when I was a kid who could watch Land of the Lost without cringing, but it was fun).

5. The thread of genuinely good, by any reasonable standard, work through the decades...series such as The Rockford Files, Frank's Place or SCTV would stand out even if they hadn't run in very fallow times otherwise...and that the latter series ended its original run in the US on Cinemax "premium" cable was indicative of what was to happen to television, which as stations proliferated and alternatives to broadcast television did also, led to an efflorescence of rather good to brilliant television in the latest 1990s and earliest 2000s, hurt somewhat by the contraction of the networks and cable stations in the wake of the 9/11 and other Bush-era recession-drivers, in attempt to see if sophistication might work again...even the bubblegun series from that period would've tended to look remarkable by the usual standards in the early '80s (say, Witchblade or Brimstone).

In that ferment, such series as Once and Again, Homicide: Life on the Streets, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer were setting the pace for a pack of extemely sophisticated series, often dealing with subject matter that had too often been Starsky and Hutched or Kolchaked in previous series (which is to say nothing about the two excellent television movies that led up to the dismal Kolchak: The Night Stalker series). But the one which continues to impress me more than any other US dramatic series, at very least, was the nearly pitch-perfect blended family serial Once and Again, with its cast of more or less adult adults (as opposed to, say, the superannuated teens of Mad Men or even most of the best sitcoms) and their well-drawn children, coping as best they might with the aftermath of two marriages that end in divorce, and the romance between two of the divorced parents and how this affects the lives of everyone around them. And, eventually, even how it doesn't affect the others' lives, as those lives are sketched in with sufficiently complexity of their own. Excellent cast, writing and production...the pinnacle, so far, of the work of the Herskowitz/Zwick team who had previously been responsible for the series, each better than the last, Thirtysomething, My So-Called Life, and Relativity, and who would go on to the pleasant but relativelty minor web series experiment quarterlife.

Really, just a smashing series. I miss it.

(This in response to another Patti Abbott challenge, to write up one of television series that had a lasting effect or least left an impression on one.)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday's "Forgotten" Books: ELLERY QUEEN'S ANTHOLOGY, SHORT STORY INTERNATIONAL, MAGAZINE OF HORROR, and other reprint magazines/"bookazines"

There are so many magazines that have done interesting things in being devoted to reprints from other sources...these three are among those most important to my reading experience, and at least two of them are among those magazines which help blur the lines, for some at least, between books and magazines.

Short Story International had a brief run in the mid-'60s (1963-66), then came back in the latter '70s with rather more expensive production values (and briefly a companion magazine aimed at kids), a run which managed to continue through the next two decades (though it dropped off newsstands after the early '80s). The concept was the same in both iterations; to reprint stories, and occasionally to commission new translations though usually to reprint its translated stories as well as the ones published originally in English, in the interests of both presenting an interesting array of reading and encouraging international understanding. Sometimes this could make the magazine feel a bit Improving, but generally editors Francesca Van der Ling (first version) and Sylvia Tankel (second) managed to select a good range of work, much of which would be otherwise almost certainly overlooked in the US (and some of the US selections were rather amusing choices, as well, including a reprint of a [Ms.] Sam Nicholson story from fellow US digest-sized magazine Analog; another of similar vintage was Woody Allen's "The Kugelmass Episode," which had already been reprinted from The New Yorker by that ofther fellow US digest The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.) After John Groth's death, they never replaced him as their sole illustrator, and so the covers went over to typeface only. Gibraltar's own E. G. Chipulina was a particular favorite of the magazine, and I certainly enjoyed his stories.

Ellery Queen's Anthology was the big, sloppy reprint cousin of the rather sloppily-produced Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine of the first decade and change of Davis Publications' ownership of the latter magazine (the earlier issues, from Mercury Press, were rather more elegantly produced, and when Joel Davis took over Davis from his father, founder and Ziff-Davis refugee B.G. Davis, EQMM and EQA started to look rather less slapdash again). These productions, which were also published in hardcover by Dial Press and others, were both great ways for Frederic Dannay and company to reprint novellas and short novels that had fallen into obscurity, but also to reprint shorter stories from EQMM, which itself continued to offer classics and obscurities as it pleased Dannay (but far less frequently than in the early years at Mercury). When Davis Pubs. acquired Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and Analog, and founded Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, they too soon had fat "Anthology" reprint companions on the newsstands in the EQA model (though as time went on, the magazine versions started to take on rather more indivuated titles for each issue, and some were mixes of reprints from the two CF and two SF magazines, rather like the books they were producing simultaneously).

The Magazine of Horror was a small-circulation but doughty magazine that ran for most of the '60s and into the earliest '70s, as the primary market to carry the "horror" banner, even while F&SF and Fantastic for most of those years were also fine sources for the fiction, but didn't advertise as obviously (Joseph Payne Brennan's little magazine Macabre also made its way through the decade, but not on newsstands). Put together on almost no budget by editor Robert Lowndes, who had taken on a job at the small publisher Health Knowledge after the collapse of the Columbia magazine line in 1960 (where Lowndes had been editing some of the last pulp magazines, on a slightly larger microbudget, and introducing such writers as Edward Hoch and Carol Emshwiller to the reading public), MOH was the first and ultimately the last of the fiction magazines published by them at his suggestion (among the other titles he also edited for HK included Famous Science Fiction and Worldwide Adventure; MOH's very similar stablemate Startling Mystery Stories was the first to publish F. Paul Wilson and Stephen King, in its tendency to offer new fiction by young writers along with the reprints from famous and obscure older contributors). Hoch published some of his Simon Ark stories with MOH, Ramsey Campbell offered some of his first non-Lovecraftian work there, Joanna Russ and Roger Zelazny placed such notable stories as "Come Closer" and "Divine Madness" (respectively) with the magazine, and I'm sure not too many periodicals have offered the reading public stories by Robert Bloch, John Steinbeck, and Seabury Quinn simultaneously.

For more of Friday's Books, please see Patti Abbott's blog for the rundown of contributors.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday's "Forgotten" Books: LIVING IN FEAR: A HISTORY OF HORROR IN THE MASS MEDIA by Les Daniels (Scribner's, 1975)

from a 1995 interview with Daniels for Tabula Rasa:

Kyla Ward for TR: Just touching on the other non-fiction book, Fear --

Les Daniels: AKA Living in Fear --

TR: "A History of Horror in the Mass Media."

LD: This followed the first book on comics [Comix, 1971], and once again was based on the fact this was something I was interested in. In a way it's dated and superceded now, there were fairly few books even on horror films back then; but what makes it more unique now is that in addition to discussing most of the significant English-language horror films made up till that time, it also tried to deal with the literature, going back to the Gothic novel and so on. I tried to cover so much ground that there's usually only a couple of sentences about anything that I mentioned, and so much written since that in a way it's superficial.

TR: And it also includes certain stories --

LD: It's partially an anthology.

TR: -- you printed Arthur Machen's "The Novel of the White Powder." Thank you.

LD: Well, it's important to me. At that period, I think the concept of the tradition and what had gone before was almost the basis of horror and was of interest to horror writers and people who made horror films; there has been a tremendous leap, it was almost as though I wrote that book at the appropriate time, because since then there has been a big jump in horror in terms of its wide promulgation and acceptance, and at the same time there has been a tremendous difference in the content.

Living in Fear was the first book about (as well as in small part collecting) horror that I encountered, and as a survey it was an excellent indicator that there was a wide world of material awaiting me of which I had only picked up on a small segment so far...albeit with the anthologies and comics I was reading and the Thriller television series playing in repeats locally in Connecticut (even as repeats of the first The Outer Limits series had brightened noirishly my Saturday afternoons in the Boston suburbs a few years before), and the infrequent good films I could see in theaters (tv averaged better, even with all the damned commercials and the cuts in some of the films, at least as often for more commercials...the rare horror film on the PBS stations were a particular treat), I was already aware of quite a range of work.

Daniels, an independent scholar with a continuing love for horror (and a novelist, beginning in the next decade), didn't produce an impeccably researched book, and even I as a ten year old could spot an error or two (he referred to Gene Roddenberry's nonextistant work on The Outer Limits, for example), but the stories recounted and described (of the developement of horror as a field of literature and in related media) and the actual fiction collected in the coffee-table book were often excellent, as well as excellent nudges. As an anthology, others were more important to me, but as a key to the highway...

Certainly Stephen King's Danse Macabre and others which followed Living in Fear never would have such an impact for me, even when written by such well-informed and reflective artists as Ransey Campbell...even now, very few have attempted to match the scope of this one. (Though, for example, E. F. Bleiler's works, among them the first edition of Supernatural Fiction Writers, are always worth the look...even if a look in son Richard Bleiler's 2002 second edition of that compendium would provide one with, among better and worse contributions, an example of my own bit of survey, on Joyce Carol Oates and, in passing, Kate Wilhelm.)

Please see Patti Abbott's blog for further Friday books citations.

Friday, November 6, 2009

FFB: ARGYLL: A MEMOIR by Theodore Sturgeon (The Sturgeon Project 1993)

from Eric Weeks's fine pages on Sturgeon, perhaps using Contento Index data or just in the same format.

Argyll: A Memoir (The Sturgeon Project 0-934558-16-7, July 1993, $10.00, 79pp, ph) Collection of Sturgeon material, including an autobiographical essay about his relationship with his stepfather, a letter to his mother and stepfather, an introduction by Paul Williams, and an afterword by Samuel R. Delany. All proceeds after cost go toward the projected publication costs for Sturgeon’s collected stories.
5 • Introduction• Paul Williams • fw *
7 • Argyll: A Memoir • • bi *
60 • A Letter to his Mother and Stepfather • • lt *
77 • Afterward • Samuel R. Delany • aw *

This was the kickoff (and a sort of fundraiser) for the Sturgeon Project, an attempt by Paul Williams, the founder of Crawdaddy magazine and the person most responsible, after Dick himself, for Philip Dick's current literary reputation...Blade Runner might've gotten made without Williams's earlier advocacy for Dick, most visibly in the pages of Rolling Stone (I believe after Williams sold Crawdaddy to another publisher), but I doubt nearly as much would've been made of it being loosely based on a Dick novel...nor would Dick have published one of his last stories in a 1979 Rolling Stone special issue, bringing his work directly to a much larger audience than it usually saw. Having put together a complete collection of Dick's short fiction (and having helped see most of Dick's unpublished novels finally into print), Williams took on, with North Atlantic Press, a new get all the short fiction of Theodore Sturgeon into a uniform multivolume set. This chapbook was also an announcement of that project, a previously unpublished novella-length memoir by Sturgeon of his early life, and the stepfather who was instrumental in his transformation from E. Hamilton Waldo to Theodore Sturgeon...and not by any means all benevolently instrumental.

The most recent and apparently penultimate volume in the Sturgeon Project, Slow Sculpture, has just been published, and this the first with most of the nonfictional content (story notes, etc.) not the work of Paul Williams, who has been suffering with rather early Alzheimer's brought on in the wake of a horrible accident...he fell and struck his head severely while bicycling. His wife, musician Cindy Lee Berryhill, has been blogging about their experiences in these declining days for Williams, and Noel Sturgeon has stepped in to provide the supplementary material for this volume and the next. While anyone with a copy of the 1971 volume Sturgeon Is Alive and Well... has most of the fiction content of Slow Sculpture, that book has been out of print for a lot of years and this one included a previously-unpublished story, and the novella "The [Widget], the [Wadget], and Boff" (which was half of a Tor Double volume some years back, in that shortlived series), and also a story from the National Lampoon, also reprinted previously on its own.

The story around the publication of this chapbook and the collections it heralded is thus almost as compelling as much of the fiction in those collections, much of it among the best work published in the field of fantastic fiction, and at least good work in several other fields, as Sturgeon was a fine western writer, and wrote some decent crime fiction (including ghosting for "Ellery Queen"). Several contemporary mimetic stories, sometimes with some fantastic dressing to get them into a fantasy magazine "legitimately," are collected in the series as well...including such famous items as "A Saucer of Loneliness" and the mid-'50s Best American Short Stories inclusion "The Man Who Lost the Sea."

Sturgeon, as Kurt Vonnegut would agree (his "Kilgore Trout" is at least as much a satirical portrait of Sturgeon as of himself), even as Samuel Delany does in the afterword here, is precisely the kind of writer whom I was thinking of in my recent explication, on Patti Abbott's blog, of why the blithe construction "literary and genre fiction" (meaning two very different, even oppositional, things) is not only ignorant but pernicious, helping keep some of the best art we have from its natural audience.

Please see Patti Abbott's blog for other "Forgotten" books for this week.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday's "Forgotten" Books: WELCOME, CHAOS by Kate Wilhelm and A FOR ANYTHING by Damon Knight (and...)

Of all the impressive literary couples we've seen (not all happy but nontheless all impressive), ranging from Margaret Millar and "Ross Macdonald" to Mary McCarthy and Edmund Wilson to Marijane Meeker and Patricia Highsmith to Leigh Brackett and Edmond Hamilton to C. L. Moore and Henry Kuttner, few hav been more variously influential as well as literarily impressive as Kate Wilhelm and Damon Knight. The late Knight, my default choice for the best sf writer we've had in terms of his strengths measured all around, had one glaring omission in his c.v.: until CV (1986), the first in a trilogy that continues with The Observers and A Reasonable World, Knight had never written a fully successful novel, after brilliant work at all the shorter lengths, from vignette to novella. A for Anything is one of those not completely satisfying earlier novels, but it remains a valuable, even necessary, read for the short story which serves as preface to the main body of the novel. If a duplicator is created that essentially allows an end to all shortages and material want, what will this mean for human society? Knight's supposition, which sets the groundwork for the retro-feudal society of the somewhat satrical adventure novel that follows, is depressingly believable. The adventure story, drawing on the same traditions that Robert Heinlein and Jack Vance did in their turns (harkening back to Dumas and his peers), is considerably less compelling, but still fun.

While Kate Wilhelm's novel, an expansion of "The Winter Beach" (a novella first published in Redbook in 1981 and collected in KW's Listen, Listen the same year), is also satirical in part and typically for Wilhelm combining aspects from various forms of fiction (this utterly sfnal quasi-apocalyptic novel also incorporates a scathing parody of a typical romance-novel hero of the dashing, preremptory sort). Society is threatened, to say the least, by a new (fairly AIDS-like) disease that kills most of those who contract it...but after it passes for a small minority, it leaves them apparently immortal.

As too often with my FFB entries, this is just a rough sketch of what I'd hoped to get in (and I'll hope to expand it over the weekend), but I'll note in the wake of the recent Washington Post quizzing of writers as to what their favorite horror fiction is, or at least what scared them the most, one of the now-obscure favorites of my youth is David Campton's "At the Bottom of the Garden."

Please see Patti Abbott's blog for more "forgotten" books for this week...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Friday's Forgotten Books: Anthologies from AMAZING

Perhaps the ugliest cover of any anthology drawn from Amazing's fiction contents, although none of the anthologies has been particularly famous for its cover.

Extracted from the Locus and Contento/Stephensen-Payne indices:

The Best of Amazing ed. Joseph Ross (Doubleday, 1967, hc)
· Foreword · Joseph Ross · fw
· The Lost Machine · John Beynon Harris · ss Amazing Apr ’32
· The Worm · David H. Keller, M.D. · ss Amazing Mar ’29
· The Runaway Skyscraper · Murray Leinster · nv Argosy and Railroad Man’s Magazine Feb 22 ’19
· Marooned Off Vesta [Brandon, Shea & Moore] · Isaac Asimov · ss Amazing Mar ’39
· Anniversary [Brandon, Shea & Moore] · Isaac Asimov · ss Amazing Mar ’59
· The Metal Man · Jack Williamson · ss Amazing Dec ’28
· Pilgrimage [revised from “The Priestess Who Rebelled”, Amazing Oct ’39; Meg] · Nelson S. Bond · nv The 31st of February, Gnome, 1949
· Sunfire! · Edmond Hamilton · ss Amazing Sep ’62
· Try to Remember! · Frank Herbert · nv Amazing Oct ’61

The Best from Amazing ed. Ted White (Manor, 1973, pb)
· No Charge for Alterations · Horace L. Gold · nv Amazing Apr/May ’53
· The Augmented Agent [“I-C-a-BeM”] · Jack Vance · nv Amazing Oct ’61
· The Misfit · Roger Zelazny · nv Amazing Oct ’63
· The Dowry of the Angyar [“The Dowry of Angyar”] · Ursula K. Le Guin · ss Amazing Sep ’64
· Placement Test · Keith Laumer · nv Amazing Jul ’64
· The Horn of Time the Hunter [“Homo Aquaticus”] · Poul Anderson · ss Amazing Sep ’63
· Phoenix · Ted White & Marion Zimmer Bradley · ss Amazing Feb ’63
· Rogue Psi · James H. Schmitz · nv Amazing Aug ’62

Amazing Stories: 60 Years of the Best Science Fiction ed. Isaac Asimov & Martin H. Greenberg (TSR 0-88038-216-3, Jul ’85 [Aug ’85], $7.95, 255pp, pb); Anthology of 20 stories which originally appeared in Amazing, with a section of color illustrations showing magazine covers.
5 · Amazing Stories and I · Isaac Asimov · in
9 · The Revolt of the Pedestrians · David H. Keller, M.D. · nv Amazing Feb ’28
29 · The Gostak and the Doshes · Miles J. Breuer, M.D. · ss Amazing Mar ’30
43 · Pilgrimage [“The Priestess Who Rebelled”; Meg] · Nelson Bond · nv Amazing Oct ’39
57 · I, Robot [Adam Link] · Eando Binder · ss Amazing Jan ’39
67 · The Strange Flight of Richard Clayton · Robert Bloch · ss Amazing Mar ’39
75 · The Perfect Woman · Robert Sheckley · vi Amazing Dec ’53/Jan ’54
79 · Memento Homo [“Death of a Spaceman”] · Walter M. Miller, Jr. · ss Amazing Mar ’54
93 · What Is This Thing Called Love? [“Playboy and the Slime God”] · Isaac Asimov · ss Amazing Mar ’61
103 · Requiem · Edmond Hamilton · ss Amazing Apr ’62
115 · Hang Head, Vandal! · Mark Clifton · ss Amazing Apr ’62
125 · Drunkboat · Cordwainer Smith · nv Amazing Oct ’63
ins. · 60 Years of Amazing Stories’ Covers · Misc. Material · il
147 · The Days of Perky Pat · Philip K. Dick · nv Amazing Dec ’63; expanded to The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldrich, Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1964
165 · Semley’s Necklace [“The Dowry of Angyar”] · Ursula K. Le Guin · ss Amazing Sep ’64
179 · Calling Dr. Clockwork · Ron Goulart · ss Amazing Mar ’65
187 · There’s No Vinism Like Chauvinism · John W. Jakes · nv Amazing Apr ’65
215 · The Oögenesis of Bird City · Philip José Farmer · ss Amazing Sep ’70
225 · The Man Who Walked Home · James Tiptree, Jr. · ss Amazing May ’72
237 · Manikins · John Varley · ss Amazing Jan ’76
247 · In the Islands · Pat Murphy · ss Amazing Mar ’83

Amazing Stories: Vision of Other Worlds ed. Martin H. Greenberg (TSR 0-88038-302-X, Sep ’86 [Nov ’86], $7.95, 253pp, pb); Anthology of 15 stories. Includes a center insert (unpaginated) of color reproductions of 16 “Amazing” covers from 1930-1985.
7 · Introduction · Robert Silverberg · in
11 · Strange Wine · Harlan Ellison · ss Amazing Jun ’76
18 · The Cosmic Frame · Paul W. Fairman · ss Amazing May ’55
29 · Or Else · Henry Kuttner & C. L. Moore · ss Amazing Aug/Sep ’53
38 · Sail 25 [“Gateway to Strangeness”] · Jack Vance · nv Amazing Aug ’62
62 · Third Stage · Poul Anderson · ss Amazing Feb ’62
79 · The Stars, My Brothers · Edmond Hamilton · nv Amazing May ’62
116 · The Bald-Headed Mirage · Robert Bloch · ss Amazing Jun ’60
ins. · Artists’ Visions of Other Worlds · Various Hands · il
129 · The Forest of Zil · Kris Neville · ss Amazing Dec ’67
134 · Before Eden · Arthur C. Clarke · ss Amazing Jun ’61
145 · Quinquepedalian · Piers Anthony · ss Amazing Nov ’63
160 · A Dusk of Idols · James Blish · nv Amazing Mar ’61
182 · The Crime and the Glory of Commander Suzdal · Cordwainer Smith · ss Amazing May ’64
197 · We Know Who We Are · Robert Silverberg · ss Amazing Jul ’70
207 · No Charge for Alterations · Horace L. Gold · nv Amazing Apr/May ’53
228 · Titan Falling [Bradley Reynolds] · Gregory Benford · nv Amazing Aug ’80

Amazing Science Fiction Anthology: The Wonder Years 1926-1935 ed. Martin H. Greenberg (TSR 0-88038-439-5, Mar ’87 [Feb ’87], $3.95, 316pp, pb); Anthology of stories from the first decade of Amazing, with an introduction by Jack Williamson. UK price £2.50.
7 · Introduction · Jack Williamson · in
11 · The Metal Man · Jack Williamson · ss Amazing Dec ’28
27 · The Jameson Satellite [Professor Jameson] · Neil R. Jones · nv Amazing Jul ’31
57 · The Man Who Saw the Future · Edmond Hamilton · ss Amazing Oct ’30
77 · The Machine Man of Ardathia [Ardathia] · Francis Flagg · ss Amazing Nov ’27
97 · The Tissue-Culture King · Julian Huxley · ss The Yale Review Apr ’26; Amazing Aug ’27
127 · The Voice from the Ether · Lloyd Arthur Eshbach · nv Amazing May ’31
165 · The Coming of the Ice · G. Peyton Wertenbaker · ss Amazing Jun ’26
185 · The Miracle of the Lily · Clare Winger Harris · nv Amazing Apr ’28
209 · The Man with the Strange Head · Miles J. Breuer, M.D. · ss Amazing Jan ’27
223 · Omega · Amelia Reynolds Long · ss Amazing Jul ’32
241 · The Plutonian Drug · Clark Ashton Smith · ss Amazing Sep ’34
257 · The Last Evolution · John W. Campbell, Jr. · ss Amazing Aug ’32
281 · The Colour Out of Space · H. P. Lovecraft · nv Amazing Sep ’27
318 · The Authors · Misc. Material · bg

Amazing Science Fiction Anthology: The War Years 1936-1945 ed. Martin H. Greenberg (TSR 0-88038-440-9, May ’87, $3.95, 331pp, pb); Anthology of 10 sf stories, with an introduction by Isaac Asimov. Available in the UK for £2.50.
7 · Introduction · Isaac Asimov · in
11 · Robot AL-76 Goes Astray · Isaac Asimov · ss Amazing Feb ’42
29 · Devolution · Edmond Hamilton · ss Amazing Dec ’36
49 · The Four-Sided Triangle · William F. Temple · nv Amazing Nov ’39
79 · The Voyage That Lasted 600 Years · Don Wilcox · nv Amazing Oct ’40
119 · Adam Link’s Vengeance [Adam Link] · Eando Binder · nv Amazing Feb ’40
157 · The Living Mist · Ralph Milne Farley · nv Amazing Aug ’40
197 · Phoney Meteor [as by John Beynon] · John Wyndham · nv Amazing Mar ’41
229 · The Council of Drones · W. K. Sonnemann · nv Amazing Oct ’36
279 · Shifting Seas · Stanley G. Weinbaum · nv Amazing Apr ’37
311 · I, Rocket · Ray Bradbury · ss Amazing May ’44
333 · The Authors · Misc. Material · bg

Amazing Science Fiction Anthology: The Wild Years 1946-1955 ed. Martin H. Greenberg (TSR 0-88038-441-7, Aug ’87, $3.95, 318pp, pb); Anthology of 12 stories from Amazing.
6 · Introduction · Robert Bloch · in
11 · You Could Be Wrong · Robert Bloch · ss Amazing Mar ’55
29 · Breakfast at Twilight · Philip K. Dick · ss Amazing Jul ’54
51 · Operation RSVP · H. Beam Piper · ss Amazing Jan ’51
63 · Satisfaction Guaranteed [Susan Calvin (Robot)] · Isaac Asimov · ss Amazing Apr ’51
83 · Restricted Area · Robert Sheckley · ss Amazing Jun/Jul ’53
105 · Peacebringer [“Sword of Peace”] · Ward Moore · nv Amazing Mar ’50
139 · The Little Creeps · Walter M. Miller, Jr. · nv Amazing Dec ’51
191 · The Draw · Jerome Bixby · ss Amazing Mar ’54
215 · A Way of Thinking · Theodore Sturgeon · nv Amazing Oct/Nov ’53
251 · Skirmish [“Bathe Your Bearings in Blood!”] · Clifford D. Simak · ss Amazing Dec ’50
275 · They Fly So High · Ross Rocklynne · ss Amazing Jun ’52
293 · Chrysalis · Ray Bradbury · nv Amazing Jul ’46
319 · The Authors · Misc. Material · bg

If Weird Tales has never been definitively, representatively anthologized (see my earlier post on this subject), then Amazing, the first sf magazine to be a no-bones-about-it science fiction magazine (as opposed to fantasy magazine with sfnal content, or a dime novel/dime novelesque production) has been ridiculously poorly represented, even as several of the anthologies above are pleasant reading. I picked up a copy of the first Martin Greenberg anthology from Amazing the other day, the one edited in collaboration with Isaac Asimov, and while it's a reasonably decent selection of stories from most of the editorial eras of the magazine, it definitely slights some even more than they deserve (to be sure, Amazing has had long fallow periods, most notably during the T. O'Connor Sloane, Ray Palmer, and Paul Fairman editorial reigns...even though the last was notable for much early, and rarely outstanding but reliably competent, work by a stable of Milton Lesser (who wrote more, slightly later, as Stephen Marlowe), Randall Garrett, Robert Silverberg, and Harlan Ellison--Fairman, who was primarily interested in crime fiction (much like his slightly more engaged predecessor and mentor, Howard Browne), famously would buy stories from this quartet without bothering to read them, and run them in Amazing and its slightly more fantasy-oriented companion Fantastic (and Fantastic's shortlived spinoff, Dream World)...his successor, Cele Goldsmith, working as his secretary and first reader, was apparently responsible for most of the better work to appear in the magazine in those years, as she pulled (perhaps most notably) Kate Wilhelm's first published story from the slush pile. Goldsmith, who married to become Cele Lalli, is perhaps the best-represented editor in the anthologies above, as her run from 1959-1965 was possibly the best period for the magazine, despite being barely supported by its publisher Ziff-Davis (her editorial budget apparently was restricted to paying a penny a word to most writers, less than even the other poorly-paying fiction magazines extant at the time, among which only Astounding, becoming Analog, was also published by a financially secure publisher). But being a ZD magazine meant that Amazing and Fantastic were out in the market and reliably issued monthly during her term, which mixed relatively traditionalist adventure fiction with innovative approaches from folks ranging from J. G. Ballard to Cordwainer Smith to David Bunch to such Goldsmith "discoveries" as Ursula K. Le Guin, Roger Zelazny, Thomas Disch, Sonya Dorman, and Keith Laumer (often but not always rather a traditionalist)...and with some rather goofy materials that might've slipped in largely out of having Nothing Better at hand (fellow magazine editor Bruce Elliott placed a long story about a face drawn on the Moon which causes much shame among humanity, who feel themselves Observed).

Howard Browne had been editor during a brief attempt by ZD to budget its fiction magazines up to the standards of their other magazines, which had paid off rather well for the third issue of Fantastic, Fall 1953, featuring a story attributed to Mickey Spillane at the height of his popularity (it had been ghosted, out of desperation, by Browne when Spillane had described his actual contribution in detail, and apparently Not a Good One though this was less important, in advance in a profile in Life magazine, also at or near the height of its popularlity, the profile published as the Fantastic issue was being put to bed (this issue of Fantastic might still be the best-selling single issue of any fantasy or sf magazine so far, estimated at about 300,000 copies sold). Amazing's somewhat less successful ploy for reaching a mass audience was a story attributed to gossip-mongers Jack Lait and Lee Mortimer, well-known at the time for such paperbacks as New York Confidential, entitled "Mars Confidential"--clearly a joke, but not a successful one. Browne (editor from the late '40s to the early mid '50s, when he formally tossed it to Fairman), had succeeded Amazing's most controversial editor, Ray Palmer, who mixed decent (and less decent) adventure fiction with nut-cult material, had hoped to make a big break from those years--most of the stories from Palmer's years reprinted in the books detailed above are by Robert Bloch, the most talented at sf of Palmer's stable, which also included such natural crime-fiction talents as William McGivern. (Palmer was perhaps the single most energetic proponent in magazine publishing of the notion that "flying saucers" were the spacecraft of alien visitors, and ran a number of pieces in his magazines from a somewhat delusional Richard Shaver, who believed humanity was imperfectly controlled by Lemurians who lived within the hollow Earth...Palmer, after leaving ZD, founded several magazines including the durable "mysticism" and fringe-topic digest Fate). Asimov sold his first story to Palmer, as well, and it unsurprisingly was collected in the above.

Amazing: 60 Years... not only sports a hideous cover, but also is set in the format that game publisher TSR put the magazine in during its early years of publication (giving the interior of the magazine, and the book, a rather drab look when illustrations are not present...the book includes a rather odd selection of issue covers, not all but most from the issues the stories come from). TSR probably kept the magazine (barely) alive, and even rather lavishly produced in its later years at the company, in large part due to Steven Spielberg's purchase of "media" rights and renting the title for his rather unimpressive anthology series, with ran on NBC television in the US in the mid 1980s (the magazine's covers trumpeted the connection for the two seasons Spielberg had been guaranteed by NBC). George Scithers, late of Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine and soon to move on to revive Weird Tales with his partners, produced a magazine not too different from IASFM, albeit with a bit more fantasy content (Fantastic had been absorbed by its older partner shortly before TSR's purchase) and better nonfiction-historical content about the sf field, and blessedly less of Barry Longyear's dire imitation-Jack Vance "Momus" stories which had plagued the latter years of the Scithers Asimov's. The Greenberg/Asimov book doesn't completely slight fiction from Ted White's editorship, during the decade of issues dated from 1969 to 1979, when the magazine's budget was ridiculously small (its publisher, Sol Cohen, treated it as a retirement job, not unlike the 1970s run of that other old pulp hand Leo Margulies as publisher of Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine and its shortlived companions). White nonetheless was able to publish an interesting mix of the traditionalist and avant-garde work, with somewhat firmer grounding in the field than Goldsmith/Lalli had had, and much as his immediate predecessors, Harry Harrison and Barry Malzberg, had also done while trying to move the magazine away from being largely devoted to reprints (but both Harrison and Malzberg chose to stay with the underbudgeted magazines for only a matter of months--White, living in an inherited house and capable of handling art direction and layout as well as editorial tasks, was able to make a longer go of barely being paid for his efforts).

Ah, well...this has turned into quite the late ramble. You could do worse than any of these books, except not Too much worse than Ross's, which is indicative of his rather poor judgment of what had aged well (he'd been the first editor hired for essetially no salary by Cohen when Cohen bought the magazines from ZD on the relative cheap, and while he published some notable new work, such as Avram Davidson's novel The Phoenix and the Mirror, much of that had apparently been in Cele Lalli's inventory when the magazines were sold, and she went on to her career as editor of ZD bridal magazines). Of the last three Greenberg anthos, published before TSR lost interest altogether, the one drawn largely from the Palmer and Browne years is somewhat surprisingly the most engaging, albeit the others are decent cross-sections of their decades. Given a little more support (and continuation), the Greenberg series might've been a decent roundup of the magazine, which throughout its existence managed to publish some remarkably good work under all sorts of remarkably bad circumtances...even as it was often overshadowed by its companions, the Palmer-founded Fantastic Adventures, which was somewhat better-produced at first and notable for late Edgar Rice Burroughs fiction, then as the home of sporadic evidence of Browne's good taste in fantasy fiction: around the turn of the 1950s, it ran such notable work as Fritz Leiber's You're All Alone, Theodore Sturgeon's The Dreaming Jewels, and Robert Bloch's "The Dead Don't Die!" (despite the classically-pulpy title, exclamation point and all, a rather deft and slightly metafictional novella with a genuine sense of unease to go with Bloch's trademark gallows humor), and Fantastic, which for much of its run benefited from being one of the few reliable markets for fantasy fiction in the Anglophone world, and so often averaged of higher quality than its stablemate...particularly during Browne, Goldsmith/Lalli, and White's editorships.

The most recent version of Amazing was shut down, the publisher, TSR heir Wizards of the Coast, claimed, because it was Too Successful, and thus somehow drew too much from the core business of the publisher. That's about Amazing's luck. Nonetheless, as it noted on a lot of its covers over the years..."First in Science Fiction: Since 1926."

See Patti Abbott's blog for other Friday Forgotten Books today...