Friday, November 26, 2010

Friday's "Forgotten" Book: THE HUGO WINNERS, Volumes I and II, edited by Isaac Asimov

Somehow, to someone who started reading sf regularly in the 1970s, the notion of The Hugo Winners volumes being out of print is remarkable, to say the fannish argot, croggling. Even the third Asimov volume, and the much more recent Connie Willis and Gregory Benford-edited volumes which followed Asimov's death, are all out of print...but the similarly astounding decade-long lack of in-print status for The Science Fiction Hall of Fame volumes was rectified by Tor a few years back, and they're still in print today. For now.

Collecting the short fiction which won the World SF Convention polls, with their writers given variations on the trophy pictured on the back cover of the SFBC edition, named in honor of the pioneering editor, publisher and writer Hugo Gernsback, seemed a pretty natural idea. Asimov brought a sense of fannish patter and his toastmaster's skill to the introductions to the three volumes he oversaw; he was originally chosen to edit (as much as editing was needed) as the biggest name in sf who had not ever won the award, which fate he inveighed against with mostly good humor in the individual story introductions as well as the general introductions to each volume, collected as jacketed above for the perennial Science Fiction Book Club omnibus. One clumsy oversight by Asimov, leaving out Fritz Leiber's "Ship of Shadows" from the second volume even when its award-winning status is noted in the appendix, is even worse than the clumsy mistitling of Robert Bloch's "That Hell-Bound Train" as "The Hell-Bound Train" in the first volume...and both are more than indicative of the lack of useful attention being paid to these products by Doubleday, in preparing the trade editions or revising them for the book club.

The stories that won the awards (and since Brian Aldiss's "Hothouse" series of stories won the short-fiction award in 1962, no individual story was selected as representative for inclusion in the book, rather another slight) are at this remove an impressive bunch, though not uniformly so...Bloch's story was also the first no-bones-about-it fantasy to win what began its run as the Science Fiction Achievement Award, though the "Hothouse" cycle, Avram Davidson's "Or All the Seas with Oysters" and the Jack Vance "The Dragon Masters" were almost textbook examples of what was meant by science fantasy, when that term was not being used to cover the whole range of fantastic fiction, as speculative fiction and "fantastika" are often used today. Harlan Ellison's "'Repent, Harlequin!'" can seem a bit precious, in a way that his "I Have No Mouth..." certainly still doesn't, even if the other work in the latter's vein since, from Ellison and others, has taken some of the edge off that story's blade. The Daniel Keyes has always trembled on the edge of excessive sentimentality without falling in; the Leiber which is present, another utter fantasy, is still as powerful a fable now as it was then. Clifford Simak, Arthur C. Clarke, Poul Anderson, Samuel Delany, Robert Silverberg and Gordon Dickson are well-represented by the stories offered...if Anne McCaffrey and Larry Niven are perhaps a bit less so, they also turned out to be perhaps more limited artists than the others, including the modestly-demeanored but diversely-talented Dickson (and it's rather sad McCaffrey is the only woman writer in the book, and Delany the only non-Caucasian, but that's how the field was rewarding folks at the time, and the writers were largely male and overwhelmingly pale)...the Nebula Award volumes had the space to feature all the stories on the shortlists from the final ballots, making for a better representation of the best work in the field, I would certainly argue...but this was and remains a vital book, as do its sequels, and that there's no ebook nor in-print edition for any of the five volumes I've seen really should be addressed.

The Contento index:
The Hugo Winners, Volumes One and Two ed. Isaac Asimov (Nelson Doubleday, 1972, 849pp, hc)
v · The Hugo Winners, Volume 1 · an Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1962
x · Introduction · Isaac Asimov · in
5 · The Darfsteller · Walter M. Miller, Jr. · na Astounding Jan ’55
64 · Allamagoosa · Eric Frank Russell · ss Astounding May ’55
80 · Exploration Team [Colonial Survey] · Murray Leinster · nv Astounding Mar ’56
123 · The Star [Star of Bethlehem] · Arthur C. Clarke · ss Infinity Science Fiction Nov ’55
132 · Or All the Seas with Oysters · Avram Davidson · ss Galaxy May ’58
145 · The Big Front Yard · Clifford D. Simak · na Astounding Oct ’58
193 · That Hell-Bound Train · Robert Bloch · ss F&SF Sep ’58
208 · Flowers for Algernon · Daniel Keyes · nv F&SF Apr ’59
236 · The Longest Voyage · Poul Anderson · nv Analog Dec ’60
266 · Appendix: The Hugo Awards · Misc. · bi
269 · The Hugo Winners, Volume 2 · an Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1971
273 · Here I Am Again · Isaac Asimov · in
280 · The Dragon Masters · Jack Vance · na Galaxy Aug ’62
363 · No Truce with Kings · Poul Anderson · na F&SF Jun ’63
421 · Soldier, Ask Not [Childe Cycle] · Gordon R. Dickson · na Galaxy Oct ’64
477 · “Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman · Harlan Ellison · ss Galaxy Dec ’65
492 · The Last Castle · Jack Vance · na Galaxy Apr ’66
546 · Neutron Star [Beowulf Shaeffer] · Larry Niven · nv If Oct ’66
567 · Weyr Search [Pern] · Anne McCaffrey · na Analog Oct ’67
618 · Riders of the Purple Wage · Philip José Farmer · na Dangerous Visions, ed. Harlan Ellison, Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1967
681 · Gonna Roll the Bones · Fritz Leiber · nv Dangerous Visions, ed. Harlan Ellison, Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1967
702 · I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream · Harlan Ellison · ss If Mar ’67
721 · Nightwings [Watcher] · Robert Silverberg · na Galaxy Sep ’68
769 · The Sharing of Flesh · Poul Anderson · nv Galaxy Dec ’68
800 · The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World · Harlan Ellison · nv Galaxy Jun ’68
813 · Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones · Samuel R. Delany · nv New Worlds Dec ’68
847 · Appendix: Hugo Awards 1962-70 · Misc. · bi

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

Thursday, November 25, 2010

November's "Forgotten" Music: Third Streaming

So, here are four of the best of the many brilliant third stream (jazz/"classical" hybrid) albums I've loved for decades, and all had been essentially out of print, till last month's rerelease of the two Modern Jazz Quartet albums they recorded for Apple Records in the latter '60s, and high time. The Teo Macero tracks on What's New? have been reissued in several Macero compilations over the years, including his own release of The Best of Teo Macero; the George Russell item is barely in print in import status (the Koch disc does include some different bonus tracks than the BMG/RCA Bluebird first cd issue from the 1980s); and the Brubeck Quartet/NY Symphony Orchestra album was repackaged on vinyl, but never actually offered in its entirety on cd...the Bernstein showtune tracks were shunted off onto a showtune compilation disc, and only one movement of four of the Howard Brubeck "Dialogues" has been issued on cd. As in, time for some barking and nipping, and not just of the owners of the RCA masters for Russell.

As with ebooks not exactly solving all our OP books problems, not by a long shot, so too has the failure of mp3 and similar technology to speed certain reissue plows been disenheartening...though thank goodness at least occasional movement in the right direction, such as the Apple remasters, are made. It's a nice reading of "Yesterday" by the MJQ, the bonus track.

Please see Scott Parker's blog for more "forgotten" music, perhaps leaning Xmassy for most (mine will make fine seasonal/solstice gifts...).

Friday, November 19, 2010


Two of the more influential critical volumes in my reading so far, from often maligned critics (I remember a typically inane parody of Simon by David Sedaris in The New Yorker, too representative of both writer and magazine), about which I will have more to write after doctor visits and other business this morning!

And now we dig in a little. Both of these books are out of print, which is ridiculous, but some of Ellison (notably a new edition of Harlan Ellison's Watching with a Leonard Maltin intro) and much of Simon (huge compilations of even longer stretches of his film crit) are still earning some royalties, one hopes. Both men are seen as cantankerous, but are both relatively free of overarching ideology so much as personal conviction in their reviews...which by some benighted folks is a debit. However, both bring a wide-ranging knowledge of the arts (and beyond) to their work, and an incisive writing style, and a love and knowledge of their chose areas of study...even if Ellison (probably in Watching) wonders if Simon isn't just too divorced from the art to be a fully-successful critic; Simon doesn't return that favor, but in Reverse Angle does assess, rather evenhandedly, such other film columnists as Pauline Kael, Andrew Sarris, and the fellow I take to be Simon's greatest model, James Agee (some of whose own critiques have been re-released in the last decade). Ellison's greatest model might be his predecessor not only as brilliant fiction-writer and (often embittered) a/v script-writer but as visual/dramatic media columnist for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Charles Beaumont (the editor of the subject of Jeff Segal's guest FFB from last week, below)...Beaumont, with supplement from William Morrison reviewing stage drama, was F&SF's columnist in the late '50s.

Ellison's "The Glass Teat" was his first regular tv column, for the Los Angeles Free Press around the turn of the 1970s, and The Other Glass Teat almost didn't get published, despite the The Glass Teat being a rather solid seller for Ace Books...Ellison notes that one of the columns collected in Other managed to reach Spiro Agnew, in which the Veep was accused jokingly of masturbating with copies of Reader's Digest, and Agnew let it be known through back channels that He Didn't Like This, and Ace put the first book out of print, and cancelled the contract on the second, allowing Pyramid to have it as one of the new books in their mid-1970s Ellison program (with Agnew by this time already facing his post-political career). This volume includes his reviews of some pretty impressive examples of the good and bad of television of that time, and a valuable example of a script he was commissioned to do for the Young, Hip, Relevant series The Storefront Lawyers...with co-lead Zalman King, of all people, in his pre-softcore (more or less) career (he did do some biker movies around then). And Ellison gets to note how the episode is messed with. The instructional aspect is comparable to his essay "With the Eyes of a Demon...".

Meanwhile, Simon keeps his wit and grace about him even when excoriating some of the worst excesses of the films of the '70s and '80s. His praise for the advances of the art, including the works of Ingmar Bergman and consistent Rara-Avis punching bag The Long Goodbye (as scripted by Leigh Brackett from the Chandler novel and directed by Robert Altman), are at least as searching and enthusiastic as his rending of the gauche and self-indulgent, including such monsters of self-indulgence as Jean-Luc Godard and Barbra Streisand, two of his targets which seem to get him in the worst trouble with the shallow of varying stripes. And, of course, he was in a short film for Saturday Night Live some years back.

Both men are feeling their years, these days, and neither is actively publishing film or television criticism (though Simon is still, I believe, writing about stage drama even after being clumsily fired by New York magazine a few years back. Neither has nothing left to prove, however, and digging into their work, and the work they admire, you will be rewarded if you explore.

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

Friday, November 12, 2010

Guest FFB: Jeff Segal on THE FIEND IN YOU edited by Charles Beaumont (Ballantine, 1962)

My friend Jeff Segal is a writer, a true fan of the outré among much else, and a civil servant native to and residing in the Philadelphia area. (My own FFB offer this week follows, below--TM)

from the Contento index:

The Fiend in You ed. Charles Beaumont (Ballantine F641, 1962, 50¢, 155pp, pb)
vi · Introduction · Charles Beaumont · in
7 · Finger Prints · Richard Matheson · ss *
14 · Fool’s Mate · Stanley Ellin · ss Stanley Ellin’s Mystery Magazine, 1948; EQMM Nov ’51
31 · Big, Wide, Wonderful World · Charles E. Fritch · vi F&SF Mar ’58
35 · The Night of the Gran Baile Mascara · Whit Burnett · ss Transition Fll ’29; EQMM Jul ’65
46 · A Punishment to Fit the Crimes · Richard M. Gordon · ss, 1962
54 · The Hornet · George Clayton Johnson · ss Rogue Sep ’62
59 · Perchance to Dream · Charles Beaumont · ss Playboy Oct ’58
68 · The Thirteenth Step · Fritz Leiber · ss *
75 · The Conspiracy · Robert Lowry · ss New York Call Girl, 1958 (a Lowry collection)
84 · Room with a View · Esther Carlson · ss Fantastic May/Jun ’53
90 · The Candidate · Henry Slesar · ss Rogue, 1961
98 · One of Those Days · William F. Nolan · ss F&SF May ’62
103 · Lucy Comes to Stay · Robert Bloch · ss Weird Tales Jan ’52
110 · The Women · Ray Bradbury · ss Famous Fantastic Mysteries Oct ’48
121 · Surprise! · Ronald Bradford · ss, 1962
127 · Mute · Richard Matheson · nv *

In addition to being an acclaimed fiction-writer and screenwriter for tv and the cinema, the late Charles Beaumont served as an editor. Along with another versatile writer in The Group, William F. Nolan, auto-racing enthusiast Beaumont co-edited the nonfiction theme anthologies, The Omnibus of Speed and When Engines Roar.

He is listed as the solo editor for the psychological-horror anthology The Fiend in You (Ballantine 1962). Beaumont included selections from Group associates Nolan, Richard Matheson (two yarns, in fact) and George Clayton Johnson.

Beaumont's premise, summed up in the introduction, is that the traditional fear-figures--ghosts, shape-shifters, witches, vampires, etc.--were no longer scary. "...After centuries of outstanding service to the human imagination, the classic terrors...have suddenly found themselves unable to get work, except as comedians. [1] We love them, of course. And we feel sorry for them. But we are not afraid of them any more."

So, The Fiend in You offers a "new" horror, a menace which would replace the traditional things that went bump in the night. The new monster he focuses on is The Mind. Beaumont quips, in Robert Blochian fashion, that "These stories must be taken internally. Any one of them could serve to prod the slumbering fiend in you."

The bulk of the contributions were copyrighted 1962. Several had been previously published as recently as '62, though a few of the tales date back to the 1930s and late '40s. With the Mind as monster as a thematic link, Beaumont pillaged distinct genres to fill out this book.

The first of the sixteen stories is Matheson's "Finger Prints," about the male narrator's uncomfortable encounter and subsequent victimization on a bus by a manipulative passenger...or so it appears. I had not previously read the yarn but noted its connection to other very personal short stories and novels by the author which pit a contemporary man against a force which upsets his equanimity and even threatens his masculinity.

The anthology concludes with another Matheson, "Mute," which is the story of a young child, altered by a strange experiment, who nonetheless responds to the affection of a foster mother. It is a perceptive story about an attempt to "advance" an individual and the expression of humanity by which the child connects again with our species was reminiscent of Theodore Sturgeon's work.

Mystery writer Stanley Ellin's "Fool's Mate," as with a few other tales here, had been published some decades previously; the story of one man's cold marriage and hot obsession over chess with no opponent, it shares themes of literal split personality and obsession with several of the other stories. Ellin's dark humor contrasts with the initial grim Matheson tale even as it showcases another horror of the mind.

"Let's have a nightmare" a protagonist suggests in "Big, Wide, Wonderful World," a short work by Charles E. Fritch which depicts what, at first, appears to be a speculative future whose inhabitants are insulated by scheduled doses of medication from the nightmares that would otherwise afflict the population. When Chuck persuades his two friends to go off their regimented meds, just to briefly endure the novel effects, Fritch anticipates the rich and varied rubber reality which still informs everything from Robert McCammon's "I Scream Ice Cream" to, more obviously, The Matrix. The reader is left wiser than the surviving characters.

Whit Burnett's ironic "The Night of the Gran Baile Mascara" involves murder and madness in Spain. Burnett's rich style neatly endows the story with a dream-like quality, right through the climax that circles back to the opening passages.

Richard M. Gordon's "A Punishment to Fit the Crime" is an overtly supernatural story built around the trial of a historic personage and the folks whose gory deaths made him into a legend. The defendant's plea that he is ill and wasn't properly raised encourage the infernal judge to impose a peculiar and exquisitely ironic sentence. The reader's knowledge of historical true-crime might untangle the twist from the ending before they finish it, but the story is otherwise amusing.

Of Beaumont's circle of friends, I have read the least amount of George Clayton Johnson. His effort, "The Hornet," could have been written in the heyday of the pulp magazine Weird Tales. A parable of karmic retribution that anticipates the climax of Peter Straub's novel Ghost Story, it doesn't shoulder as much thematic weight as the other tales from the Group included here but does provide a few moments of light entertainment and an open ending.

Beaumont's own contribution, "Perchance to Dream," addresses the intrusion of nightmares into the real world. The story begins naturally enough, given the objectives of The Fiend in You, with a psychiatric-couch confession and depicts the protagonist's belief that each time he dreams, he will advance one step closer to certain doom. It is well-written and may have resonance with folks disturbed in their waking hours by their particularly trying nightmares. It even offers an alarming Robert Bloch-caliber concluding zinger.

Fritz Leiber's "The Thirteenth Step" toys with a supernatural occurrence at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. The state of mind of the frazzled female protagonist and the cynicism she encounters from other alkies would seem to be the primary reasons that this yarn was included, but the intrusion of the unnatural into a vividly-described mundane setting (one that he might have had some personal knowledge of) very much brands the tale with Leiber's stamp.

Robert Lowry's "The Conspiracy" at first seems like it will match the opening Matheson tale in terms of ordinary folks placed into a psychologically extraordinary situation (a couple and the seemingly drunken woman who claims she lives in their apartment) but takes a trip into the Twilight Zone by the conclusion.

Esther Carlson's "Room with a View," featuring a hungry artist who creates an alternate imaginary world for himself, definitely fleshes out several recurring themes in the book. As with Ellin's "Fool's Mate," it case-studies a gradual descent into insanity and concludes on a fateful, if logical, note. And as with several other stories, the protagonist's obsession, depicted in great detail by Carlson, leads to his undoing.

Henry Slesar's wicked contribution, "The Candidate," establishes the corroding mindset of someone caught up in office politics before introducing what may or may not be the uncanny. The meat of the story, about the power of belief, is an elaborate set-up for its abrupt and chilling twist conclusion. It is one of several stories dwelling on the darker side of obsession and self-delusion but handles these aberrant mindsets differently than do the other tales.

Nolan's peculiar contribution, "One of These Days," drops the reader into someone's already insane mindset, with the entire story rendered off-kilter. It is probably the most peculiar fiction Nolan's written I have read to date, even allowing for Helltracks, his novel-length expansion of the tale "Lonely Train A' Comin'." Here, the subjective narrative that gives "One of These Days" bizarre perspective.

Robert Bloch's "Lucy Comes to Stay" is one of his aberrant-psychology tales, involving here a hapless young woman whose best friend violently schemes to free her from clinging family members. Or is there a best friend? The story was adapted, with relatively restrained changes, for the Amicus-produced, Bloch-scripted horror portmanteau anthology film, Asylum. Decades of writing certainly had not blunted the genre-hopping author's skills and "Lucy Comes to Stay" is as potent as Bloch's Depression-era fiction.

Ray Bradbury's "The Women" is, after the Ellin and the Burnett, the oldest story included in the book. It involves a man caught unknowingly in a rivalry, if one can call it that, between two feminine forces. H. P. Lovecraft, burdened with neuroses over the ladies, might approve of the depiction of one of the "women", though even he might wonder why that vast force would pay attention to a mere mortal. The symbolism of a feminized ocean as casual destroyer should have earned this tale more attention.

Ronald Bradford's "Surprise!" is another yarn that quickly shrugs off the reality-anchor of an opening sentence declaring it set on the hottest day ever in the town of Beaglesville and swiftly descends into the insanity of its characters. The subjective narrative is reminiscent of the Nolan story. While applauding the creativity invested in such stories, I usually find them gimmicky to the point of being difficult to follow since we are offered protagonists that we cannot easily empathize with. However, The Fiend in You would be less complete without such stories.

Beaumont largely succeeds in his objective of showing the many monstrous faces of the Mind, thanks to the variety of tales he included. One wishes that he edited even more anthologies in his tragically short but prolific career.

[1] Though the scope and execution of The Fiend in You is solid, Beaumont knew that bump-in-the-nighters had made a comeback prior to the publication of the book, not just in televised Creature Feature packages and the success of periodicals such as Famous Monsters of Filmland, but also with a revival of new movie production--the colorful Hammer monster costumers, the thickly atmospheric cinema of Italy, the Edgar Allan Poe movies of Roger Corman [including the notable The Masque of the Red Death, adapted by Beaumont and R. Wright Campbell--TM] and aesthetically successful one-shots such as City of the Dead (aka Horror Hotel), The Haunting, Curse (or Night) of the Demon, The Innocents, and the adaptation of Fritz Leiber's novel Conjure Wife which Beaumont himself co-scripted with Matheson, Burn, Witch, Burn! (aka Night of the Eagle). Psychological frights would continue to be popular in fiction and visual entertainment but not to the exclusion of shambling monstrous terrors; the traditional monsters could occasionally still terrify fans, though they often had to be as brutal as the era they were written or filmed in.

--Jeff Segal

For more of Friday's "Forgotten" Books, please see Patti Abbott's blog.

Friday's "Forgotten" Magazines: Dorothy McIlwraith, ed.: WEIRD TALES (March 1948); Howard Browne, ed.: FANTASTIC ADVENTURES (July 1951)

There were two booksellers set up at the NoirCon, a biannual convention wherein I managed (between work obligations, social obligations, and simple exhaustion) to catch about a third of the planned events, at least those at the Society Hill Playhouse. Happily, I did get to meet, non-virtually, Patti and Phil Abbott, Scott Cupp, and Cullen Gallagher, as well as a small slew of other writers and fans (Howard Rodman, the younger, was startled to see me, as I apparently strongly resemble a lifelong friend of his; my response to this was to say, in regard to his friend's regard, "Poor bastard!"). I dropped some change with both sets of booksellers, a number of items, including the promise of Damned Near Dead II, from the new-book vendor, Farley's (based in New Hope), and found myself gravitating toward some decent-condition pulps with the used-book dealers, slightly overpaying for a couple of Weird Tales issues and a Fantastic Adventures.

(As I write, a bulletin comes across NPR noting the merger of Newsweek and The Daily Beast..."Newsbeast" will be all over search engines by midnight.)(Tina Brown has become the first female editor of Newsweek...which at this late date seems a bit odd, particularly as it was under the control of Katherine Graham for quite some time. Certainly, all three of the major US fantasy-fiction magazines on the stands in 1950, Weird Tales, Fantastic Adventures, and Famous Fantastic Mysteries and its stablemate Fantastic Novels, were under women's direction at least in part, between McIlwraith at WT, FA and Amazing managing editor and primary editorial writer and letter-column conductor [Ms.] L. E. Shaffer, and editor Mary Gnaedinger at FFM and FN. But, then, of course, literature has always been More Trivial than Rilly Important Badly-Written news analysis, no? And pulp-magazine fantasy literature...I mean, infra-dig.)

And the two I choose to consider here are among the best issues the two magazines published...the 25th Anniversary issue of WT and the FA featuring Robert Bloch's novella "The Dead Don't Die!" and Theodore Sturgeon's "The Travelling Crag," along with decent or better stories by notable writers, including the best (by some distance--with the possible exception of editor Howard Browne himself) of the Ziff-Davis group of space-fillers, Philadelphia's own William P. McGivern.

Perhaps not so oddly, both magazines feature notable contributions by Bloch and Sturgeon, two of the more revolutionary writers in fantasy and horror, among other forms, of the day. The anniverasry issue of Weird Tales did its best to favor shorter work, so as to cram as many of the notable contributors to both the Farnsworth Wright (Dorothy McIlwraith's predecessor, who was mostly responsible in his cantankerous way for highlighting the work of Seabury Quinn, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Edmond Hamilton, Carl Jacobi and Clark Ashton Smith; Wright resigned for health reasons in 1940 after sixteen years) and the current regime (McIlwraith was mostly responsible for the prominence given the mature or post-slavishly-Lovecraftian work of Robert Bloch, and for featuring Manly Wade Wellman, Ray Bradbury, Fritz Leiber, Theodore Sturgeon, and such now-underappreciated contributors as Alison V. Harding and, in the last years leading up the magazine's first folding in 1954, Margaret St. Clair and Joseph Payne Brennan). Algernon Blackwood and H. Russell Wakefield being examples of horror-fiction writers, already well-established outside the magazine, who were drawn to contibute to WT throughout its original run. August Derleth, already well-established as regionalist and historical-fiction writer, became the most thoroughly enmeshed of this group of writers, as the greatest champion (and arguably also greatest corruptor!) of Lovecraft's legacy, but also a great friend of many other WT writers, through his and his partner Donald Wandrei's small press Arkham House.

This issue, once one is past the handsome cover by Lee Brown Coye (and the Listerine as scalp tonic ad on the inside--bacteria as dandruff-instigator...hmmm), one finds the editorial column largely given over to reminisces by Derleth and Quinn (the latter the most popular writer in the magazine in the Wright years, largely unread today except by pulp fans). I've just started Edmond Hamilton's story, but it feels so far like the kind of thoughtful, often even morose "weird-scientific" fiction of which he was the star provider for WT...though certainly both HPL and CA Smith would skirt that area often enough, and not they alone. (Hamilton saved most of his world-wrecking adventure mode for the more purely sf magazines.) Wakefield's "Ghost Hunt" is the first at least midly famous story from this issue, perhaps less for its own sake than as the source of a rather influential episode of the CBS Radio series Suspense, and in turn as perhaps at least partial inspiration for any number of "documentary" explorations of haunted houses, "live" on radio or television or in the surviving found footage from missing student filmmakers. The most widely-read and, in adaptation, -seen stories from the balance of the issue include what's probably still Bradbury's best suspense story, "The October Game," which is followed immediately by a solid Bloch story, "Catnip"--both widely reprinted, and "Catnip" adapted for the good television anthology series Darkroom; the Bradbury was included in the one early volume of the Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Random House book series not ghost-edited by Robert Arthur so much as by NBC censors, Stories They Wouldn't Let Me Do on TV. Lovecraft's contribution is a minor, rather sing-song, but not terrible, poem; Smith's unusually late story involves sinister crabs (an inspiration for Guy Smith?). Sturgeon's "The Professor's Teddy Bear" is another rather widely-reprinted story, and with good reason, as it packs an remarkable amount of unease into its few words; the Blackwood wraps the magazine (one of his BBC reading stories?) and is handsomely illustrated by Boris fact, Coye, Dolgov and John Giunta are consistently impressive throughout.

Three years later, and for five cents more (over thirty more but less-text-heavy pages), Fantastic Adventures offers a rather less well-composed cover (Robert Gibson Jones could certainly paint a woman figure to the cheesecake standards asked of him, but his women characters tend to seem midly suprised or a bit put out by the supernatural menaces that have snared them). But this issue offers an even better Robert Bloch story, this one a long novelet about latter-day zombies (well before the creatures were beaten back up out of the ground), and the superior illustrator Virgil Finlay has a bit of fun, as well, in portraying the protagonist as Robert Bloch, himself. This story has been collected several times, including fairly recently in Stephen Jones's The Mammoth Book of Zombies, and was adapted for a 1975 television movie, title dropping the exclamation mark (Ziff-Davis magazines in those years loved exclamation points) Romero, and post the great success of The Night Stalker and The Night Strangler as tv movies, among a few others. The Sturgeon, a shorter novelet, is not quite up to his best, but is still readable if a little too easily jocular at first (the kind of exercise a writer doest to get himself going at the keyboard, and this story does date from a period in which Sturgeon was fighting out of his first great writer's block. I've not yet had an opportunity to read the Clifford Simak or Walt Sheldon stories, but their presence in this issue, when surrounding issues are full of contributions from the usual Z-D stable under the usual set of pseudonyms, most issues lightly sprinkled with "outsider" contributions but rarely so much as in this issue, makes me wonder if the famously casual editor Howard Browne wanted to make a few genuinely good issues, in part as illustration, for office-planning/argument's sake, of what he would eventually do with the semi-slick, well-budgeted and fitfully impressive new magazine Fantastic Z-D would first offer in 1952. Ziff and Davis had briefly considering upgrading the packages of Fantastic Adventures and sfnal stablemate Amazing in 1950, perhaps in part in response to the greater sales other competing upgraded established sf titles were seeing, and the mild splash made by the new Magazine of Fantasy (which added "and Science Fiction" to its title witht he second issue), particularly the smashing commercial success of the upgraded Startling Stories and the new Galaxy in 1950-51. But also notable in this issue is that the best of the Z-D stable, young McGivern, not yet ready to strike out on his own with such novels as The Big Heat and Odds Against Tomorrow, and the reliable and occasionally impressive Rog Phillips, along with the ubiquitous and tolerable Paul Fairman (who would succeed Browne as an even more casual editor of the Z-D fiction group, and then move on to a stint as managing editor at Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine after B.G. Davis quit Z-D and bought EQMM to start his new Davis Publications with), are the only "regulars" to contribute fiction, as distinct from the usual many notional filler articles...and while Phillips's is a pleasant, unremarkable bit of whimsey (and the Fairman unsuprisingly less than that), the McGivern is an engaging and slightly haunting bit of surrealism that neatly foreshadows the early major story by Thomas Disch, "Descending" (in Cele Lalli's consistently interesting Fantastic in 1964)...only in the latter, the central metaphor is a protagonist coping with a Kafkaesque array of endlessly descending escalators, while in the McGivern, the protagonist is trapped in a building where the elevator will only go, endlessly, upward...a no more cheering prospect, if less freighted with literary reference in this story than is the Disch. The illustrations in the issue are all professional and usually amusing enough, albeit except for the inside-joking Finlay not as distinctive as the WT doubt in response to editorial policy.

(Indices courtesy of ISFDb)
Title: Weird Tales, March 1948
Editor: Dorothy McIlwraith
Year: 1948-03-00
Publisher: Weird Tales (Short Stories, Inc.)
Price: $0.20
Pages: 98
Binding: Pulp
Cover: Lee Brown Coye
Notes: Vol. 40, No. 3.
Interior art credit for "The House" per Jaffery & Cook The Collector's Index to Weird Tales
2 • Weird Tales (masthead) • (1941) • interior artwork by Hannes Bok
3 • The Eyrie (Weird Tales, March 1948) • [The Eyrie] • essay by Dorothy McIlwraith
3 • 25th Anniversary Issue • essay by August Derleth
3 • Weird Tales, a Retrospect • essay by Seabury Quinn
4 • The Might-Have-Been • novelette by Edmond Hamilton
5 • The Might-Have-Been • interior artwork by Lee Brown Coye
16 • Ghost Hunt • shortstory by H. Russell Wakefield
16 • Ghost Hunt • interior artwork by Lee Brown Coye
19 • Ghost Hunt • interior artwork by E. J. Beaumont
20 • The Leonardo Rondache • [John Thurnstone] • shortstory by Manly Wade Wellman
20 • The Leonardo Rondache • interior artwork by Boris Dolgov
27 • The House • (1920) • poem by H. P. Lovecraft
27 • The House • interior artwork by Boris Dolgov
28 • The Coming of M. Alkerhaus • novelette by Allison V. Harding
29 • The Coming of M. Alkerhaus • interior artwork by John Giunta
38 • The La Prello Paper • (1948) • shortstory by Carl Jacobi
38 • The La Prello Paper • interior artwork by John Giunta
44 • Something in Wood • shortstory by August Derleth
44 • Something in Wood • interior artwork by Boris Dolgov
52 • The October Game • (1948) • shortstory by Ray Bradbury
52 • The October Game • interior artwork by Lee Brown Coye
57 • Catnip • (1948) • shortstory by Robert Bloch
57 • Catnip • interior artwork by Boris Dolgov
64 • The Master of the Crabs • (1934) • shortstory by Clark Ashton Smith
64 • The Master of the Crabs • interior artwork by Lee Brown Coye
72 • The Professor's Teddy Bear • shortstory by Theodore Sturgeon (aka The Professor's Teddy-Bear)
72 • The Professor's Teddy Bear • interior artwork by Lee Brown Coye
78 • The Merrow • (1948) • shortstory by Seabury Quinn
78 • The Merrow • interior artwork by Lee Brown Coye
87 • Roman Remains • shortstory by Algernon Blackwood
87 • Roman Remains • interior artwork by Boris Dolgov

Title: Fantastic Adventures, July 1951
Editor: Howard Browne
Year: 1951-07-00
Publisher: Ziff-Davis Publishing Company
Price: $0.25
Pages: 132
Binding: Pulp
Cover: Robert Gibson Jones
Notes: Volume 13, Number 7.
Cover suggested by "The Dead Don't Die!".
Managing Editor L. E. Shaffer initials the editorial with the initials 'LES'.
Interior artwork credited for each story on the table of contents.
Contents (view Concise Listing)
fep • Men Behind Fantastic Adventures: Robert Bloch • essay by Robert Bloch
6 • The Editor's Notebook (Fantastic Adventures, July 1951) • [The Editor's Notebook (Fantastic Adventures)] • essay by L. E. Shaffer
7 • The Moon? Maybe . . . • essay by Henry Bott [as by Charles Recour ]
7 • Beyond the Veil . . . • essay by John Weston
8 • The Dead Don't Die! • novella by Robert Bloch
8 • The Dead Don't Die! • interior artwork by Virgil Finlay
23 • The Dead Don't Die! [2] • interior artwork by Virgil Finlay
54 • The Magic Transformation • essay by E. Bruce Yaches
54 • Too Good to Be Used! • essay by Pearl Miller
55 • The Cancerous Virus! • essay by Carter T. Wainwright
55 • How Deep Is the Ocean . . .? • essay by Merritt Linn
56 • There's No Way Out! • shortstory by William P. McGivern
56 • There's No Way Out! • interior artwork by Frank Navarro
64 • Just Bleed Old Mother Earth • essay by Salem Lane
65 • "You're Crazy, Doc!" • essay by Sandy Miller
65 • The Zeroth Law! • essay by Jon Barry
66 • The President Will See You . . . • shortstory by Rog Phillips
66 • The President Will See You . . . • interior artwork by Murphy Anderson
71 • Law of the Universe • essay by Peter Dakin
71 • Older Even than Methuselah • essay by U. Arteaux
72 • "You'll Never Go Home Again!" • interior artwork by Leo Ramon Summers
72 • "You'll Never Go Home Again!" • shortstory by Clifford D. Simak (aka Beachhead) [as by Clifford Simak ]
87 • The Universe of Hoyle • essay by John Fletcher
88 • Witness for the Defense • shortstory by Paul W. Fairman
88 • Witness for the Defense • interior artwork by Frank Navarro
93 • "Science and Life" • essay by William Karney
93 • Celestial Rock-Crusher • essay by Jonathon Peterson
94 • Mission Deferred • shortstory by Walt Sheldon
94 • Mission Deferred • interior artwork by Robert Gibson Jones
99 • Preview of Creation! • essay by Lee Owens
99 • The Shrinking Planet • essay by Dale Lord
100 • The Traveling Crag • novelette by Theodore Sturgeon
100 • The Traveling Crag • interior artwork by Lawrence
122 • Reader's Page (Fantastic Adventures, July 1951) • [Reader's Page (Fantastic Adventures)] • letter column conducted by L. E. Shaffer; letters from L. Sprague de Camp and several others
126 • Want to Race? • essay by Frederic Booth
126 • Panacea --- or Phoney? • essay by June Lurie
127 • Spoor from Space! • essay by A. T. Kedzie
128 • The Dying Skyscraper . . . • essay by Jack Winter

For more of Friday's "Forgotten" Books, please look to the guest example from Jeff Segal to post above mine later this morning, and to Patti Abbott's blog .

To Read the FANTASTIC ADVENTURES--the Bloch novella, the Sturgeon, the Simak, the interesting if not fully realized McGivern:…/Fantastic_Adventures_v13n07_1951-07

Friday, November 5, 2010

Friday's "Forgotten" Books: This Week's Links and DEATH QUALIFIED by Kate Wilhelm; IN DEEP by Damon Knight

There has been no lack of brilliant writing married or at least affianced couples, ranging from Margaret Millar and "Ross Macdonald" through Mary McCarthy and Edmund Wilson through Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini, Marijane Meaker/"Vin Packer"/"M.E. Kerr" and Patricia Highsmith to Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, for fairly random selection (and the last family didn't do so badly with the family literary output in their daughter, either). But in fantastic fiction, if not solely in fantastic fiction, alongside such couples as C. L. Moore and Henry Kuttner, Leigh Brackett and Edmond Hamilton, Frederik Pohl and Judith Merril (among many other Futurian interactions), no couple has done more nor completely better than Kate Wilhelm and her late husband, Damon Knight.

So, here are two of their more brilliant books.

Death Qualified: A Mystery of Chaos, is typical of Wilhelm's work in that it gleefully breaks out of any barrier or classification that you might want to put it in. It's a crime-fiction novel, even a legal procedural in part, and the beginning of a series invovling lawyer Barbara Holloway that has become a reliably interesting and challenging set of legal procedural novels...but this one is also a borderline science-fiction novel, a borderline horror novel, has elements of sophisticated romantic fiction and is an utter tour de force as it meshes these elements as Holloway and company peel back the mystery of the death of scientist Lucas Kendricks, working on top-secret materials related to the then still relatively new field of chaos theory. It might be her most popular novel and it might be her best, so a staggeringly rich and diverse career, ranging from contemporary mimetic work such as Margaret and I to suspense novels such as City of Cain to horror such as The Good Children to the influential sf novel Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang.

Damon Knight didn't branch out in fiction as much as his wife did...he was, however, perhaps the all-around best sf and fantasy short-fiction writer working in the 1950s, and while his early novels are uniformly disappointing, in his last decade he published a trilogy, beginning with CV, that demonstrated that he had mastered that form, as well. The guy who wrote the fine joke stories "To Serve Man" (the one The Twilight Zone and The Simpsons have had such fun with) and "Not with a Bang" early in his career was ready to dig deeper almost immediately afterward, and his second collection (if I recall correctly), In Deep collected some of his most brilliant work...not least the powerful and disturbing "The Country of the Kind"...a consideration of the artist's place as misfit, or the misfit's as artist if it's less discomforting, in nearly utopian circumstances. The lead-off story, "Four-in-One," is fascinatingly broken down as a product of the writing process in Knight's book Creating Short Fiction (Knight and Wilhelm were founding and key instructors of the Clarion Writers Workshop; Wilhelm's Storyteller is similarly necessary).

Here's the Contento index:
In Deep Damon Knight (Berkley Medallion F760, 1963, 50¢, 158pp, pb); British Editions Omit “The Handler”.

· Four in One · nv Galaxy Feb ’53
· An Eye for a What? · nv Galaxy Mar ’57
· The Handler · ss Rogue Aug ’60
· Stranger Station · nv F&SF Dec ’56
· Ask Me Anything · nv Galaxy May ’51
· The Country of the Kind · ss F&SF Feb ’56
· Ticket to Anywhere · nv Galaxy Apr ’52
· Beachcomber · ss Imagination Dec ’52

The Brit editions omitting the vignette "The Handler," which also deals pungently with the artist in relation to society, was a woeful error on that publisher's part. These stories, like Wilhelm's novel, are necessary reading, and while there are other Knight collections as good, there are none better.

Knight was also a pioneering critic, and not always the kindest one, and at least one talented writer and lifelong Richard Matheson fan has never forgiven Knight for his criticism of Matheson's work, particularly the quality of his prose...but Knight, nonetheless, remains a genius (I think I can say, as well) and his prose is indeed sterling and playful, as is Wilhelm's.

Patti Abbott is on vacation this week, so I've gathered up a list of the "forgotten" books for this Friday...before finally going to make my own NoirCon plunge. What I'm aware of so far:

Paul Bishop: Whiteout and Black Camelot by Duncan Kyle (Bish is also heavy on the "men's sweat" magazine and other colorful cover illos this week)
Bill Crider: The Godwulf Manuscript by Robert B. Parker
Scott Cupp: Pixie Dust by Henry Melton
Martin Edwards: Heir Presumptive by Henry Wade
Ed Gorman: The Crime Lover's Casebook (aka The New Mystery) edited by Jerome Charyn
Glenn Harper: The Coast Road by John Brady
George Kelley: The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1 (the new edition)
Steve Lewis's The Mystery File, as usual, has a plethora of arguably FFB reviews.
Ann Parker: Rose by Martin Cruz Smith
Eric Peterson: Men, Women and Chainsaws by Carol Glover
James Reasoner: Tarzan and the Lion Man by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Kerrie Smith: Deadly Variations by Paul Myers

If you've done an FFB and I've not listed you, I'll appreciate the update! Patti will be back at it on her blog next week.

Links to Today's Friday's "Forgotten" Books

Patti Abbott is on vacation this week, so I've gathered up a list of the "forgotten" books for this Friday...before finally going to make my own NoirCon plunge. What I'm aware of so far:

Paul Bishop: Whiteout and Black Camelot by Duncan Kyle (Bish is also heavy on the "men's sweat" magazine and other colorful cover illos this week)
Bill Crider: The Godwulf Manuscript by Robert B. Parker
Scott Cupp: Pixie Dust by Henry Melton
Martin Edwards: Heir Presumptive by Henry Wade
Ed Gorman: The Crime Lover's Casebook (aka The New Mystery) edited by Jerome Charyn
Glenn Harper: The Coast Road by John Brady
George Kelley: The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1 (the new edition)
Steve Lewis's The Mystery File, as usual, has a plethora of arguably FFB reviews.
Todd Mason (that guy): Death Qualified by Kate Wilhelm; In Deep by Damon Knight
Ann Parker: Rose by Martin Cruz Smith
Eric Peterson: Men, Women and Chainsaws by Carol Glover
James Reasoner: Tarzan and the Lion Man by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Kerrie Smith: Deadly Variations by Paul Myers

Honorable Mentions:
Peter Enfantino's story-by-story run through the issues of Manhunt magazine
B.V. Lawon's round-up of crime-fiction ezines

If you've done an FFB and I've not listed you, I'll appreciate the update! Patti will be back at it on her blog next week.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Fear of Sanity: the Rally and the Election

Well, I tried, if not extraordinarily hard, to attend the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear at the National Mall on Saturday. My brother and sister-in-law were amused enough by the prospect to fly over from Silicon Valley, so it was an opportunity for a brief family reunion. I wasn't too enthusiastic about the message of the rally, which was predicated on the notion that leftists such as myself were equally culpable with the right for the problems we face, while centrists such as Jon "Stewart" and Stephen Colbert (when not in persona) were comparitively noble creatures of measured judgement and sweet reason. You know, in the manner of such fine centrist administrators as Obama, Clinton, Carter, Ford, Nixon...

(It has occurred to me that Obama has spent his entire political life in areas where the Democratic Party is the inarguably dominant/business as usual/corruption of power/default Establishment party--the not particularly progressive Democratic Party machines, despite occasional and usually smothered outbursts of reform, of Hawaii, Boston/Cambridge, and Chicagoland. This might help to explain a number of his failings, some of which have been much chewed over today, including by he himself.)

And the election has followed, with a very mixed bag of results...notable how many of the Tea Partisans have failed to be elected, particularly when they were making the claim of being the populist expressions in their districts as opposed to just Republicans with vociferous cheering sections (and money from such Republican PACs as the "Tea Party Express")...the most "outsidery/mavericky" of the Teabaggers to be elected, at least to get much national attention, Rand Paul, not only had his father's organization to support him but had a Democratic opponent who attempted to attack him from the right--I tend to think of this as Doing a Joe Leiberman). The Tea Partisans are going to be "tamed," as much as they aren't already. The Democrats got yet another lesson as to why it's necessary for them to not simply be, as they have been for most of the last forty years, the less crazy echo of the Republicans. Harry Reid's smarmy statement of how he and his colleagues need to Work Together, Boldly Ignoring the Far Left and Far Right, to continue offering the kind of clumsy governance they've offered so far is just a small example of the kind of irritation we get to we continue to suffer more from their actions and inactions, as well as those of their fellow corporatists, ranging with few exceptions from the political dead center to the extreme right.

At least on Saturday I didn't quite miss the Philadelphia debut of the traveling version of Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me..., the NPR comedy news-quiz series...I heard it live via WYPR-FM in Baltimore and WAMU-FM in DC, as opposed to the afternoon delay broadcast in Philly by WHYY, while trying to make my way through the ridiculously slow southbound traffic on I-95 (also thus saving the price of a ticket to the Academy of Music, wherein the audience was subjected in person to Bobby McFerrin's aggressive self-congratulation). So slow that I heard the coverage of the rally on DC's FM broadcast signal of C-SPAN Radio for the first hour and a half of its run, excepting the musical introductory set by the Roots (the Philadelphia-based rap/funk band currently working as the house orchestra for NBC's Late Night with a Boring Guy with Good Taste in Music), some of it with John "Legend", with whom they've recently released an album (the Roots were to support the other musical actions throughout the show). Eric and Paula were less fortunate in their attempts to see and hear what was going on...after bad jam ups at the DC-area commuter rail Metro, they were able to arrive about 45 minutes late, and far enough back that the available JumboTrons and loudspeakers could only infrequently be clearly perceived. By the time I made it to a Metro station with iffy parking, I decided to simply go to my parents' home and watch the coverage on Comedy Central and C-SPAN (a pretty rare, if not unique, simulcast).

The rally went on without the small stack of fliers I had in support of my sign proclaiming God Hates Mopes, one of a number of parodies of that fine Christian band of jackasses who enjoy disrupting the funeral services of various people they have no rational reason to disrupt (among those seen at the rally, God Hates Figs and God Hates Snuggies).

The text of my flier (composed in few minutes the night before, and seeming just like it):

God Hates Mopes!
Don’t support the lifestyle choice that depressives and sad-sacks choose to choose for their lifestyles!

Sad people wilt our crops!

Their tears deplete our precious bodily fluids, and lead to unnecessary shortages of the sports drinks WE ALL NEED to keep those fluids topped off!

Their medicines and headshrinking deplete our pocketbooks and wallets, if we’re men who don’t carry purses…the way mopey men sometimes do!

Look at them just moping over there! God Hates Mopes!

Don’t Mope!

The Society to Let Everyone Know That God Hates Mopes Approves of This Message.