Monday, May 30, 2011

Women editors in fantasy and sf at midcentury...

Laurie Powers has a nice bit of remembrance of Cele Goldsmith, later married to become Cele Lalli (and I didn't know for a long time that "Cele" sounded like "seal"), winner of a special award of not quite Hugo status at the 1962 World Convention (John W. Campbell, Jr., won a relatively undeserved award for the previous year, if one deserved for his career)...Laurie was under the impression that Goldsmith was one of the few editors of the fantastic-fiction magazines in her decade (essentially 1955-1965, as she passed from serving as assistant to the inept Paul Fairman into full editorship of Fantastic and Amazing in 1958, which lasted till her publishers, Ziff-Davis, sold the magazines out from under her in 1965, at which point she moved over to ZD's bridal magazines for the balance of her career). Though Laurie mistook the Goldsmith/Lalli magazines for pulps, a status Fantastic never had (despite merger with its pulp predecessor, Fantastic Adventures, in 1954) and Amazing gave up when Fantastic was founded, in 1952.

Goldsmith/Lalli was one of the great women magazine editors in fantastic fiction, but was hardly fact, there were almost more female editors of the fully-professional magazines before her than there have been since, even with Ellen Datlow's major projects and Shawna McCarthy and Kris Rusch as editor and/or former editor of two high-profile magazines each; Sheila Williams at the head of Asimov's, and such magazines as Weird Tales in its current Ann VanderMeer-edited inpulpation and Hildy Silverman's Space and Time hovering at the edge of not-little-magazine status.

Well, here's my (revised) comment at Powers's blog:
It should be noted, that Fantastic and Amazing weren't pulps any longer when Cele Goldsmith began editing them, or even when she was, as assistant editor, pulling the decent stories out of the slush pile (such as Kate Wilhelm's first story) to put in the magazines to supplement what Paul Fairman was buying without reading from reliable pros.

Amazing had gone to (initially expensively semi-slick) digest sized issues with the foundation of Fantastic in 1952, and both remained in that format till Fantastic's absorption by Amazing during Elinor Mavor's editorship in 1980, and Amazing retained it till game company TSR reformatted the magazine as a large-sized slick in the 1980s. So, they were no more pulps than Dell's Zane Grey Western was. [Laurie, the granddaughter of a prolific pulp-fiction writer, is more familiar with western fiction than with fantastic fiction, hence some correspondences cited.] One of Mavor's issues, after the merger:

Goldsmith wasn't the dominant editor of her time (frankly, in the early '60s in the magazine field, there wasn't one...but a number of excellent ones), but was one of the most eclectic, publishing relatively experimental work by the likes of Ballard, Thomas Disch, David Bunch, Ursula K. Le Guin (though Le Guin began rather conservatively), Harlan Ellison, and others alongside some old-fashioned material by E. E. Smith (the Zane Grey of sf) and others, as well as artists as important as Leiber (somewhere between the Elmer Kelton and the Walter Van Tilburg Clark of sf and fantasy)...Barry Malzberg and particularly Ted White's versions of the magazines were about as good, and as adventuresome, but didn't have the Ziff-Davis distribution might behind them and were never monthly.

Along with Wilhelm and essentially Le Guin and Roger Zelazny (who had published juvenilia elsewhere), among Goldsmith/Lalli's "discoveries" were Disch, Ben Bova, Keith Laumer, and I believe Sonya Dorman as a prose writer (like Disch, she was simultaneously a widely-published poet).

Mavor and Goldsmith/Lalli were the only female full editors of Amazing and Fantastic, but Lila aka L. E. Shaffer was doing more than her share of the work editing Fantastic Adventures (Fantastic's predecessor) and Amazing during Howard Browne's official tenure (much later editor Kim Mohan is a male Kim).

Among the other female editors in sf and fantasy pulps and digests in the 1940s into 1950s and onward, one should look into:

Dorothy McIlwraith, who did brilliant work as editor of Weird Tales for the second half of its original run (Leiber, Robert Bloch, Manly Wade Wellman, Margaret St. Clair, Ms. C. L. Moore, and Moore's husband Henry Kuttner, along with Leigh Brackett's husband Edmond Hamilton, all published some brilliant work there, and they by no means alone); McIlwraith was compelled by the publisher to sign herself as simply D. McIlwraith while simultaneously editing Short Stories magazine...

Mary Gnaedinger, long-term editor of Famous Fantastic Mysteries and Fantastic Novels, which reprinted from the early Argosys and All-Storys, and eventually would reprint novels published in hardcover, going as far as to reprint both Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" and Ayn Rand's Anthem in the last issue...(most of the reprints were better than the latter, I hasten to add, and the magazines published some important original fiction as well)...

Bea Mahaffey, who worked with Ray Palmer, who had been Ziff-Davis's first editor of Amazing and Fantastic Adventures before striking off on his own...his most durable title has turned out to be the paranormal magazine Fate, but he was still interested in publishing fiction magazines in the 1950s, and Mahaffey was editor of the best of them, Universe...notable for publishing Theodore Sturgeon's pro-gay-acceptance story "The World Well Lost" in its first issue, in 1953...

And among those in editorial support roles, Larry Shaw worked for several publishers in latter '50s on magazines, and his (first, I think) eventual life partner, Shirley Hoffman, often helped out, under the name she used in her fannish writing and eventually in her fantasy, sf, and Spur-Award-winning western writing as well, Lee Hoffman.

There're more, of course...Judith Merril didn't edit magazines, but anthologies like nearly no one else in her time (including collaborating with husband Frederik Pohl to ghost-edit Tomorrow, the Stars, officially "edited" by Robert Heinlein), for example...but, well, yup, there're still quite a few out there for you to look into.

But Cele Goldsmith/Lalli was never a pulpster...

(And it's time again tomorrow for Tuesday's Overlooked Films and/or Other A/V!)


Richard Moore said...

Very good summary of fantasy/SF women editors. Not sure of your meaning regarding Larry Shaw's " (first I think) eventual life partner" in reference to Lee Hoffman. I think Lee was his first wife but that only lasted a couple of years in the fifties.

Noreen Shaw, another active fan, would be more deserving of the "life partner" title, although I'm not certain she would have cared for that term. I was in a mystery apa with Noreen for some years and she worked for a library in Los Angeles and could not wait for retirement to come so she could move back to Ohio. She did move back but had only a few years to enjoy retirement before she died.

I wish I had known Lee as by all accounts, she was such an engaging personality and certainly was an excellent writer. She was also an important figure in the the NYC folk scene.

Richard Moore said...

Realizing I concentrated my first comment on a minor point, I wanted to circle back to speak of Cele Goldsmith. It was her Amazing Stories that hooked me on SF magazines and my first subscriptions were to Amazing and Fantastic. Astounding was next with F&SF quick to follow.

But Goldsmith's magazines had a special place in my heart and I always pulled for them as the underdogs. I wrote her when I was 14 and was thrilled to get a personal letter back from her.

Keith Laumer and Roger Zelazny were two talented writers who first made impressions in her magazines. I could not wait for each issue of Fantastic to arrive with Laumer's WORLDS OF THE IMPERIUM.

Fantastic was also where I discovered Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories. The first was in the all Leiber issue of Fantastic in November 1959. It had "Ill Met in Lankhmar" which is still one of my favorite of the series.

My impression was that her Fantastic had a little more sparkle than Amazing. But I loved them both.

Todd Mason said...

FANTASTIC was almost always a slightly better magazine than AMAZING through the decades, in part I suspect because the commercial competition for good fantasy fiction was always less...even in the times when FANTASTIC would run some sf as routine as AMAZING's could be. (I do remember being slightly puzzled that Ted White, in what turned out to be his last issues of the magazines, placed a borderline fantasy story by Steve Utley in AMAZING and a fairly straightforward sf by SU story in FANTASTIC...but perhaps that was precisely because he liked the latter better.)

I hedged bets a bit in re: Hoffman because I couldn't remember if they had married, either...I knew that Noreen Shaw had been with him longer (albeit he died so relatively young). But LP in this case means basically the person you're spending your serious time with, not necessarily your whole life, whether that be a spouse or steady. And, indeed, Lee Hoffman was an excellent writer, in every field she turned her hand to...including what little I've seen of her folkie journalism/crit.

I hedged a bit on both Zelazny and Le Guin as Goldsmith "discoveries" because both had published elsewhere first, Zelazny famously in the Scholastic Magazines publication LITERARY CAVALCADE while still in high school. By all accounts, Goldsmith was a very kind person, as well as an editor learning all she could about fantasy and sf as quickly as she could, when she got the gig working with a boss, Fairman, who clearly didn't give a damn. And Ziff-Davis never made things easy for her, publishing the magazines monthly till they sold them but also keeping her editorial budget low.

That All-Leiber issue was a hell of a thing, and a nervy as well as generous thing for Goldsmith to do, even given that we're talking FRITZ LEIBER here...though "Ill Met in Lankhmar" would have to wait till F&SF in 1970, when Leiber was coming out of another alcoholic block, after the death of Jonquil Leiber...though "Lean Times in Lankhmar" was in the FANTASTIC Leiber issue, even as "Ship of Shadows" would be the featured fiction in the special Leiber issue of F&SF a decade later, and FANTASTIC did publish the two origin stories that led up to "Ill Met": Cele Goldsmith published "The Unholy Grail" in 1963 and Ted White "The Snow Women" in 1970.

Todd Mason said...

And, thanks! for the comments and benisons!

Richard Moore said...

It was actually "Lean Times in Lankhmar", the story that WAS in the November 1959 issue that is a favorite and just blew me away when I read it. My aging brain flipped the two titles and I should never write anything these days without checking the facts.

It was the first in the series I had read and then I came upon the issue of Other Worlds with another. Fairly soon I learned of the Gnome Press collection TWO SOUGHT ADVENTURE and ordered it. I liked the original Unknown stories but they were different, and not as satisfying in some ways as "Lean Times in Lankhmar".

The humor in "Lean Times" certainly attracted me but it was also the satirical look at religion that excited me. For a kid barely in my teens in rural Georgia almost fifty years ago, it seemed wonderfully daring and it expanded my view of what was possible in fantasy and SF.

George said...

Like Richard Moore, I discovered SF magazines through FANTASTIC and AMAZING edited by Cele Goldsmith. When you look at what quality zines she put out on a shoe-string budget, you have to be impressed.

Todd Mason said...

George--something which unfortunately remained true throughout the terms of all the editors at Ultimate Publications, from Joe "Ross" (who did a pretty poor job, but published some impressive work almost in spite of himself) through Harry Harrison, Malzberg, White and Mavor...with the budget only going up when the combined magazine was sold to TSR, who benefited almost immediately from Spielberg's purchase of title rights and story options for his disastrous tv series.

Rich--yes, the later (than UNKNOWN) Leibers have more maturity, unsurprisingly, and a grace and fluidity that even the best of the earliest work (the novella that first appeared in NIGHT'S BLACK AGENTS, heavily co-authored with Harry Fischer, "Adept's Gambit"). The last F&GM stories Leiber wrote could at times be a bit tired or slight, I think in part because Leiber had fallen into the habit of using his characters to ease back in after blocks and blackouts.

Leiber pretty consistently demonstrated the edges of what could be done with fantastic fiction...moreso than almost anyone else, and I'm not sure anyone has surpassed him, though some might've equaled.

Richard said...

Nice article. I always used to mispronounce Cele as well!

Gary Farber said...

"I always used to mispronounce Cele as well!"

And thus we know that neither of you is Jewish. :-)

I have to thank Richard Moore, or I would have been asking the same questions about yyour initial references to Noreen (with whom Larry published many fanzines, including the newszine AX, whereas I don't recall many, if any, with Lee) and Lee.

I otherwise second most of the assertions in the discussion here.

Todd Mason said...

! had certainly encountered Celeste, Celia and Selena, but never Cele in my youth. I assumed it might well be "Say-lay" or even "Chay-lay"...certainly the circumstances in which I encountered her name put celestial thoughts into the back-brain...