Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Something Ed Gorman asked me...

Ed flattered me by asking how it was that some of my middling years seems to be aware of what was going down in fantastic fiction in the 1950s. I responded, inadequately:

I read the nonfiction that was coming out ca. 1978 (the golden age of 13 for me), the year I started reading the various fiction magazines I could find and obtain (cf and contemporary mimetic/eclectic as well as sf/fantasy/horror), religiously…and my high school libraries (Londonderry, New Hampshire for 8th grade and frosh year, Honolulu’s private school Punahou where I missed overlapping with Obama for Soph on) were obliging enough: the former to stock the likes of James Gunn’s ALTERNATE WORLDS and Franz Rottensteiner’s bad but colorful THE SF BOOK and Peter Nicholls’s SF AT LARGE essay collection (and the Londonderry public library had Damon Knight’s THE FUTURIANS, which I checked out half a dozen times...and developed a mild crush on Doris Baumgardt aka Leslie Perri); the latter had Knight’s IN SEARCH OF WONDER and Blish’s ISSUE AT HAND and its first sequel (the second wouldn’t be published till my adulthood). I bought the paperbacks of Pohl’s THE WAY THE FUTURE WAS and the Nicholls SF ENCYCLOPEDIA (I still remember the day I stumbled across the table of remaindered books in Liberty House, Honolulu’s upscalish department store chain--renamed during WWI, natch, along with the liberty pups and the liberty slaw--and saw copies of the fat Nicholls encyclopedia, which I hadn’t seen in the pulp before though I’d read reviews, on sale for $4 a pop), and dug around for Kyle’s coffee-table books and HELL’S CARTOGRAPHERS…as well as all the historical retrospective anthologies (and vintage best-ofs) I could find, as well as attending to the autobiographical material in the collections and anthologies offered by Ellison, Asimov, and whomever else chose to do…and, of course, read the columnists in the fiction magazines, including “R. E. Porter” in EQMM, and branched into the bigger fanzines/semiprozines I saw advertised in the digests, such as ALGOL/STARSHIP and SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW, where the increasingly impressive (to me) book critic and apparently major fiction writer Algis Budrys was interviewed by some guy named Gorman.

Though I’d gleaned some things even a few years earlier, reading, among my father’s other pbs and book club editions, Baen at Award’s THE BEST FROM IF, V. 3 volume that included Geis and Del Rey’s farewells to the magazine, and buying Harrison’s NOVA 4 as a gift for my father (from a spinner rack of mostly Manor Books, at the same drugstore with the comics spinner racks and the small newsstand with F&SF and others on it), with a version of Bester’s HELL’S CARTOGRAPHERS essay in it.

And I collected older digests, and read them. Couldn’t get TOO far with, notably, OTHER WORLDS’s more run of the mill stuff, but was slightly croggled to see that 1970s BATMAN comics scenarist David V. Reed/Dave Vern (whose work I read new as a younger kid) not only was mentioned by Bester in that NOVA 4/HELL’S CARTO essay, but also was in Ray Palmer’s stable. People got around! How bout that! Even if they weren’t well-known except in certain circles…thus my awareness began of the "hidden" history that laid there in plain sight, if one took a look...

Les Daniels’s history of horror in mostly pop culture, LIVING IN FEAR, probably was the hook that got me going with the literary-history/crit habit, as I was a horror-seeking machine, though eclectic, as a younger kid (read that about ten and living in Connecticut, finding Daniels’s similar book on comics not long after).

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