Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday's Frequently Overlooked: Our (Paper and Ink) Fiction Magazines

The three or seven people who look at this blog regularly already know that I'm a fool for fiction magazines. I've been reading them, at first spottily, for essentially all my literate life (my earliest reading memories include a DC comic and what was probably either an Ultimate Publications or Popular Library [the 1960s Wonder Stories or its successor] pulp-magazine-fiction reprint magazine, and scattered issues of Children's Digest, Humpty Dumpty and Hightlights followed soon after), and consistently since (finally) discovering where I could buy new issues of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine in December, 1977 (having been tempted to invest the Whole Dollar in an issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in late 1975, when my comics still cost a quarter, and the quarters weren't that common [I did manage to scrape up a dollar for a National Lampoon about then, much to my mother's disapproval]).

So, in these days of circulation falling for all sorts of magazines, and the continuing collapse of the remaining decent newsstands (even in the big-box bookstore chains, themselves struggling to survive), giving the current crop a try is worth considering...there's a Real Good chance that a post here is only preaching to the converted, but in the off chance that any of this is useful and/or new information...and these are only the items that I believe to be still publishing and which are not solely webzines, or even webzines which are getting some best-of anthologies published in book form. Though of course all or nearly all of these have some web presence today...and some of the better magazines, such as Subterranean and Fantasy Magazine, have gone web-only after a run as paper-and-ink publications with at least some limited newsstand presence. And in each category below, my suggestions are not exhaustive (though in crime fiction they might well be close).

The Crime Fiction Magazines:
Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine
Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine
The Strand Magazine
Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine
Out of the Gutter

Prose Humor (even if the first is much more widely-read online, and the second is largely, not completely, cartoon-oriented):
The Onion
Funny Times
Private Eye

Fantastic Fiction/Speculative Fiction Magazines (a very imcomplete list):
The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
Weird Tales
Cemetery Dance
Realms of Fantasy
Black Gate
Black Static
On Spec
Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet
Electric Velocipede
Asimov's Science Fiction
Analog Science Fact and Fiction
Albedo One
Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine
Space and Time
Dark Horizons

Eclectic/Contemporary Mimetic Fiction Magazines (a very, very, incomplete list, heavily weighted toward the ones I see and read most often):
Zoetrope All-Story
Black Clock
Tin House
Alaska Quarterly Review
A Public Space
Iowa Review
Southwest Review
The Antioch Review
PGS: Philippine Genre Stories
The Paris Review
Glimmer Train

Western and other historical fiction, and romance and erotica (and other sports!):
While there have been a number of western (most impressively Louis L'Amour's Western Magazine) and romance titles (Five Great Romances ran for about a decade) over the last thirty years (one newish romance title was publishing last year, but I haven't seen it since), and there have been even a couple of wider-ranging historical fiction and adventure-fiction magazines (Paradox recently became web-only), there are no non-virtual magazines of these stripes currently publishing that I'm aware of. Romance, particularly, is heavily invested in three-novella and other anthologies. Erotica, which had a number of non-virtual literary magazines going a decade or so ago (ranging from Yellow Silk to Paramour to Blue Blood to Libido) seems to have shrunken, in the cold bath of the current climate, to Penthouse Letters and perhaps a few straggling imitators which I never see. The most prominent sports fiction magazine, baseball review Elysian Fields Quarterly, has not returned from its planned and possibly permanent hiatus begun in 2009.

See Patti Abbott's blog for the roundup of Friday's Forgotten Books


Richard Robinson said...

I only wish I had time to read the magazines / journals / genre specials or whatever people call them these days. Back in the day let's say over 40 years ago and leave it at that, I read F&SF, Galaxy, Astounding/Analog and occasionally even If. You'll notice the lack of mystery mags there, I was completely focused on SF at the time.

Later, I moved on to paperbacks and finally stopped reading the magazines at all. Never have gone back, which is too bad, I guess, but it's a matter of time, or rather of having too little of it.

Todd Mason said...

I certainly rarely get a chance to read an issue cover to cover these days, or most books that I'm not looking at for the first time for FFB. So, you have my sympathy. Hell, I don't have time to do this blog as well as I'd like.

Evan Lewis said...

Great roundup, and a few I hadn't heard of. Thanks!

Todd Mason said...

40+ years ago, IF might've been a much better magazine than ANALOG...Hugo voters thought so, for what that's worth. Though if we go back to the transition year (1960), both were having rather fallow periods (Robert Bloch had a good story in IF, that comes to mind...). Avram Davidson's F&SF, 1961-1964, was the best that magazine has been (though it's been pretty solid)...and Cele Goldsmith/Lalli's FANTASTIC and AMAZING were having good years then, too...

Todd Mason said...

You're quite welcome, Evan. I am certainly open to suggestions I've foolishly overlooked.

George said...

You might be right about IF being better than ANALOG during those years Fred Pohl was running things. I enjoyed WORLDS OF TOMORROW, too.

Todd Mason said...

I was just looking at one of the last issues of the Pohl/Guinn WORLDS OF TOMORROW this Pohl notes, he was most happy to use WOT as the place for work that Wasn't quite right for IF or GALAXY when he got them to where he wanted them...Samuel Delany's "The Star Pit" led that issue. Odd to think that might not be an ornament to either of the older magazines...

Phillyradiogeek said...

Todd, did you ever pick up any of Marvel's adult magazines from the 70s (published under the Curtis label), such as SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN or RAMPAGING HULK? As you know, they tended to feature more "mature" stories than their comic book counterparts.

I ask because Marvel is making a small attempt to revive that type of magazine. They published an IRON MAN B&W special recently, and will publish another based on the Greek god Ares, a major character in Marvel comics the last few years.

Todd Mason said...

Actually, Brian, I didn't, much...but Marvel did let Gerry Conway, he more recently of LAW AND ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT, test the waters with a horror-prose fiction magazine in the then-standard digest-sized format, THE HAUNT OF HORROR--one of A. A. Attanasio's first stories in first issue, George Alec Effinger in the clear and as "John Diomede," and Harlan Ellison's short story "Neon" pasted up badly so they ran it correctly in the second, and last issue...then they revived that title, with Conway still editing I believe, as the horror anthology title in that same group. I gather that that Marvel's later sf anthology comic in the same series took its cues from HEAVY METAL yet managed to be even more nihilistic. I had picked up that Marvel had recently revived HAUNT OF HORROR recently for a year or so as an adult-audience horror comic magazine, even as IDW's DOOMED also seemed to inspire DC to revive HOUSE OF MYSTERY and Dark Horse to revive the Warren title CREEPY...but I haven't read any of those, nor actually held any as yet, aside from DOOMED.

My last "mainstream" comic was DC's WEIRD WAR TALES which I purchased essentially nostagically as late as 1977, though I continued to regularly read MAD for a year and change later, before the fiction magazines (including such sources of fiction and other involving reading as THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY) took over my periodical habit...even though I was also assiduously reading Walt Kelly's and Jules Feiffer's cartoon collections...and certainly NATIONAL LAMPOON was still in its heyday then, and hard to miss, as was HEAVY METAL in its first years. What actually got me to pay attention to standard-format comics again was Pacific Comics adapations of Michael Moorcock's fiction that friends lent me in 1983, and I didn't get to be a collector of any periodical comics title again till I read some LOVE AND ROCKETS issues while visiting my former high-schoolmate Deb Fox in 1987. That, and the likes of WIMMEN'S COMIX back issues and TWISTED SISTERS got me going in looking more deeply into the old undergrounds and their contemporary heirs.

And, of course, Gahan Wilson was in every issue of F&SF for almost two decades, and some of the back issues of GALAXY I collected featured Vaughn Bode comic serials, among what other inputs helped keep me interested in graphic lit...

Did you catch the tail end of those '70s titles as you came up?

Phillyradiogeek said...

Sadly, no. Perhaps surprisingly, I didn't become a serious comics reader until 1988, when a comic shop opened around the corner from my house, and then I was, and still remain, mostly a capes and tights follower.

I'm trying to change that, however. Just last Friday I picked up from the Philly library a collection titled MARVEL ROMANCE. Yes, a small collection of Marvel's romance titles from the 60s and 70s. That's a genre I always thought to be out of place in the comic book world, however wrong of me to think that, but I've also been curious, and with this the weekend of Love, I thought "What the hell." I may do a review of it on the blog once I'm finished.

Todd Mason said...

It was either BUST or BITCH magazines, or both, that have had articles over the last several years about the interesting aspects of the better romance comics...certainly the spinner racks of my mid-'70s childhood was a bit light on them, but the comics distribution was Very spotty for all titles in those years (and I was mostly looking for horror comics--Charlton's and Gold Key's TWILIGHT ZONE as well as DC's WEIRD WAR and Marvel's pre-Code reprints in TOMB OF DARKNESS--and hero comics with a "dark" edge...the Spectre, Batman, Werewolf-by-Night. The Hulk and Sub-Mariner would do).

Todd Mason said...

Lois Tilton, in her last column for the folding INTERNET REVIEW OF SF or IROSF, writes about the seeming generation gap between the Usual Suspects on the contents pages of the paper/ink fiction magazines and those in the webzines:

Richard Robinson said...

Fascinating discussion here. I had been very long away from comics reading until 1997 when Mark Alessi began his start-up of CrossGen Comics (later renamed CrossGen Entertainment). The core comics appealed to me, and I got involved enough to get to know Alessi, the admin people and most of the artists. I was even written in as a character in the title Mystic, being Jazzrat, owner of Jazzrat's nightclub. I bought not only Crossgen comics but a wide variety of things, for several years, then it all fell apart. Now I only buy an occasional issue of Conan, published by Dark Horse.

C. Margery Kempe said...

I really wish there were more humour mags. I am as bad as many people with not supporting magazines -- fiction usually because I rarely find anything I like in their pages -- but I do and have supported a number of obscure British comedy and comic history magazines like KETTERING and MUSTARD and I suppose you could also include THE IDLER in that group as well, though it's more general info, because I mostly got it for the humour writing and film essays.

Oh, and as you just reminded me PRIVATE EYE: Peter Cook would be proud, they just had their best circ year ever.

Todd Mason said...

Rick--that's pretty amusing! AFAIK, I've been Tuckerized (distantly) only once, in a woman character named Todd in a novel by someone I respect enormously. I'm not sure of it, but it did seem an odd coincidence otherwise. Keeping up with Joe Lansdale-scripted comics along hard enough. Then there are those very independent comics writers, such as Kate Laity...

Kate--me, too...more humor magazines, and good ones, would be a very good thing (we haven't even had SPY, much less PUNCH, for far too long). Thanks for the suggestions of MUSTARD and KETTERLING, though the latter is apparently more a magazine about humor and humorous work...rather in the manner of MYSTERY SCENE or LOCUS or NYRB in their foci, or VIDEO WATCHDOG in its. Recently revived, THE BAFFLER might be the closest US analog to THE IDLER.

Todd Mason said...

Among the titles I miss the most: FANTASTIC (in its good years, mostly in the early '50s, much of the '60s and the 70's), THE REALIST, CRANK! and ONTARIO REVIEW.

Todd Mason said...