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.


Unknown said...

Looks like an excellent issue, overall.

I seem to remember that Wellen entered the SF field with a splash, having a couple of stories in the same issue of a digest, maybe INFINITY. Or maybe my memory is completely wrong.

Evan Lewis said...

Interesting stuff! And I remember seeing this cover.

David Cranmer said...

I never knew of this issue and a few of the contributors are also new to me.

Being a fellow New Yorker,I'm very familiar with Mr. Dann. As a matter of fact, he lived in Binghamton, NY which is only about 45 minutes from my old stomping ground.

C. Margery Kempe said...

Considering the year, the cover is surprisingly effective. I don't think I know Wellen at all.

Todd Mason said...

Bill--it was an excellent issue, even if the Hochi translation was a bit stiff, as I recall, and Robert F. Young's last stories are not the ones he'd want to be remembered by, I think.

A quick glance suggests Wellen had a good year in GALAXY magazine in 1953, with several short stories...perhaps that's what you recall? That does seem to be some of his earliest work. I first became aware of him through his crime fiction, often vignettes in ALFRED HITCHCOCK'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE that rarely tended to be as merely cute as others' vignettes there might be.

Evan--It is a striking cover, somehow even better in the reality than in photo. I wonder how the painting looks.

David--Well, aside from Shinichi Hoshi, still not a name to conjure with in US sf (as opposed to Japanese...where the most reliable magazine, HAYAKAWA'S, is celebrating a big round-number anniversary), the folks in this issue were all good-sized wheels at one point or another, though Charles De Vet, having like Robert Young a bit of a renaissance in 1978, also like Young never broke out beyond the "sometimes interesting solidly professional" status in most folks' assessment.

These days, Jane Yolen is almost as famous as Isaac Asimov, and with kids, I supect she's moreso. Baird Searles reviewed films and tv and similar things for F&SF for a decade, while co-owning and running the Science Fiction Shop in NYC; he took offense at the first fan letter I ever sent anyone (well, he was overly touchy, but had a point). He briefly reviewed books for ASIMOV'S, after that, and Harlan Ellison became the next film, etc., reviewer for F&SF. Gahan Wilson contributed a cartoon for a decade and a half to every F&SF, and Algis Budrys is eulogized on this blog.

Kate--F&SF had an interesting mix of rather bad covers (usually about one or two a year in its monthly run) and any number of brilliant ones...the September and October covers for this year were also memorable, and the Emshwiller cover (his first in years) for Thomas Disch's ON WINGS OF SONG (also reviewed below on this blog) was also memorable.

Wellen was certainly too good to be forgotten, in the best tradition of this running exercise.

Todd Mason said...

Also, David--Mendelsohn hasn't published much, if any, other fiction I've seen, but "Little Goethe" is a fine one-shot (a genuinely good treatment of the superannuated baby trope that has been the subject of so many bad movies); and Jack Dann has been resident for a decade or so at least a bit farther down the road, in Australia (he's edited an antho or so collecting Australian work).

Lionel Messi said...

המאמר טוב

Todd Mason said...

You're welcome. Any reason you're posting this in Hebrew on an English-language blog?

Unknown said...

Because he can.