Friday, November 11, 2011

FFB: NEGLECTED VISIONS edited by Barry N. Malzberg, Martin Harry Greenberg and Joseph D. Olander (Doubleday 1979)

Neglected Visions is an interesting anthology in several ways, not least in being a fine collection of short fiction, much of it previously uncollected and all of it out of print at time of publication in 1979; also, it was the first collaborative anthology between prolific anthologists (and frequent collaborators) Barry Malzberg and Martin Harry Greenberg (Barry, whom I've quizzed briefly about this book, remembers Joseph Olander's role as being relatively slight, and that Olander was approaching his retirement from work with Greenberg), as well as being a relatively early book in both their compilation careers. Also unusually, Malzberg and Greenberg/Olander take credit for discrete selections here, with Barry putting in the Mark Clifton, Kris Neville, Peter Phillips, Norman Kagan and F.L. Wallace stories, and his collaborators including the Christopher Anvil, Randall Garrett, Robert Abernathy and Wyman Guin items. Along with getting one more story in, Malzberg also provides a general introduction, and the selectors switch off introducing the stories themselves. Malzberg and Greenberg would do something altogether similar again in Uncollected Stars (Avon, 1986), which I briefly reviewed sometime back, with collaborators Piers Anthony and Charles G. Waugh (in that same review I cited Ramsey Campbell's Fine Frights, which shares the Phillips story with this one...the only story among them I'd read before picking up Neglected Visions).

None of these stories are particularly well-known even among most fantasy and sf "insiders" with the possible exception of Randall Garrett's remarkably thoroughly worked-out "The Hunting Lodge" (a breathless adventure of an assassin's attempt to kill one of the nearly-immortal "senators" who have divvied up North America into personal fiefdoms), a work cited by James Blish as well as the editors here as a jewel, sadly rare in the torrent of facile work he produced to order to fill the pages of Astounding Science Fiction in the latter 1950s and early 1960s, when editor John W. Campbell, Jr. seemed to have grown weary of his task, and was often editing on autopilot (Garrett, by himself and in collaboration particularly with Robert Silverberg or Lawrence Janifer and often under pseudonynms, apparently appeared more times in the magazine than any other contributor of fiction). Garrett would actually try again with his frequently impressive Lord D'Arcy stories in the early '60s and onward (among scattered other examples of solid or better work), but old hacking habits died hard. This cover inspired a lot of machismic discomfort in the sf-fan community at the time, inspiring jokes about, ho ho, the model being John Campbell's "wife"...

Big Digression: It's little wonder that along with the winnowing of the flood of digest-sized sf and fantasy magazines that popped up in the early 1950s to augment the pulp titles, with opportunist publishers aware of the success of the new Galaxy (particularly), Fantastic and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and the reinvigorated, more mature and briefly more successful than ever Startling Stories and its stablemates, that Earl Kemp's Who Killed Science Fiction? struck such a chord in 1960, as the book publishers were pulling back from their experiments with sf in the early '50s, the potential for ever more mature, well-written and adventurous sf seemed to be disappearing, and as Astounding and Galaxy languished [along with the latter's newly-purchased stablemate, If, treated as a commercial step-sibling] even as they continued to include good and better fiction with the mediocre and worse, F&SF under Robert Mills was the blandest it would be for decades, if still good [Mills had done better at the shortlived companion Venture Science Fiction previously], and Fantastic and Amazing were only beginning to recover from the utterly disinterested editorship of Paul W. Fairman, under his former assistant, the green but adventurous Cele Goldsmith...and all the other magazines in the field were dead by the end of 1960, H.S. Santesson's Fantastic Universe (the last issue had a garish cover and the beginning of a serialization of The Mind Thing by Fredric Brown and stories by Robert Bloch and Jorge Luis Borges; it was a stablemate of the US edition of The Saint Mystery Magazine, which Santesson also began editing in '59, succeeding Sam Merwin, who had edited Startling and would move on to Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine) and Robert A. W. Lowndes's Science Fiction (the last title of the Columbia pulp and digest chain, publishers of some of the last crime-fiction and western pulps and the last sports-fiction pulp) being the last stragglers to fold. End of digression, pretty much.

The book begins with a story by retired psychologist Mark Clifton, who turned to sf as a medium for social criticism with vigor, but also (as Malzberg notes) with a keen commercial sense of how to appeal to his primary editor, John Campbell, by writing the kind of stories (about psionic abilities and other ESP-related matters) that JWC was particularly fascinated by in the early to mid 1950s; with "Clerical Error," Clifton was able to strenuously criticize specifically his former profession and the adjoining one of psychiatry, the government cult of classified information, and the tension between actual creative thought and survival in bureaucracy, essentially all matters close to Campbell's heart as well; Barry suspects the rather easy ending was created either in anticipation of Campbell's desire for such, or at his editorial command. The story has not aged badly, as, ridiculously, the degree of these problems hasn't lessened in the slightest since 1956, where it hasn't worsened. Barry has been championing Clifton fairly consistently since the latter 1970s, at least, and has been instrumental in bringing at least some of his work back into print, though the collection (co-edited with Greenberg), The Science Fiction of Mark Clifton (Southern Illinois University Press, 1980), as Barry recalls, sold less than 700 copies--not that SIU Press did much to support it. Clifton's novel with Frank Riley, They'd Rather Be Right, won the second Hugo Award given to a novel, in 1955.

"Christopher Anvil" (Harry Crosby)'s "Mind Partner" is also a story about madness, identity and perception, by another "pet" writer of Campbell's, though perhaps it's notable that this story, which Barry suggests is Anvil's best and it's certainly the best I've read by him, was published in Frederik Pohl's Galaxy instead. This one offers a private investigator trying to help bust an apparent drug ring, who move from mostly well-appointed house to house, but leaving a wake of despondent, psychotic addicts whenever authorities close in but fail to apprehend them. It turns out the pushers can alter perception in remarkably labyrinthine ways, including those of anyone who threatens them; our protagonist goes through a not quite recursive set of experiences as dark (in implication often more than in incident) and as well-told as the best of Philip Dick's similar work, and even though this was not one of Barry's choices, it's certainly akin to Malzberg's work in this mode, as well. Like the Clifton, it has a rather too-neat ending, but remains strange and engaging throughout.

Kris Neville's "Ballenger's People" is the story in the book closest to Malzberg's heart, "the best thing [Neville] has ever written and the best American short story published in its crazy year." as he puts it in the story's headnote; yesterday, he noted in email, "[It] had an enormous influence on my work; I read it at exactly the right time (1967 when published in Galaxy)." It tells the story of a man named Ballenger, whom we discover contains multitudes as well as a pure and abiding love for a percussionist named Angelique and, not irrelevantly, a bone to pick with a Columbia Record Club-style company he had bought his previous love-interest's videotapes from. It is a deft study of not quite functional madness and its affects on those around the madness or treating with their own less obvious sort, akin to both Malzberg's work and Robert Coover's, among others'. And thus, it, too, as is the Garrett which follows, to a great extent another story about identity, perception of identity, and distortion.

"Lost Memory" continues to be a very grim joke, both the title pun and the story as a whole, losing little of its power on rereading, about well-meaning robots doing their best to return an apparently fallen alien machine to mechanical health...while the human within the damaged spaceship they've found does his best to find a way to help them understand his plight. Malzberg notes that he almost chose Phillips's "Dreams are Sacred" over this one, but noted that what made the choice easier was how many writers had echoed "Dreams" over the years, including Barry himself, while "Lost Memory" seemed to serve as the last word on its theme. "Junior," by Robert Abernathy, which follows, is a much lighter sort of conceptual breakthrough comedy, involving a rebellious young male among a society of sentient and hidebound as well as shellbound mollusc-like creatures. It's a bit cute for my taste, but is pleasant and clever enough. It was a Greenberg/Olander choice and Barry also looks upon it fondly.

"Laugh Along with Franz" by Norman Kagan was another important story in Barry's career, inasmuch as it challenged him to consider writing sf professionally, as well as providing the example that the kind of thing he wanted to write could be published in sf media. Rather in the mode of the film of The Graduate, only more imaginatively and earlier, and even moreso in the mode of such satirical writers (at least when in that mood) as Herbert Gold and Herbert Gold and Bruce Jay Friedman or Muriel Spark, only as informed as their fellow-travelers Ray Nelson or (Ms.) Jody Scott (and certainly Malzberg as well) by sf tradition and, of course, by such allied work as Kafka's as well as by the Beat-begetting-Hippie counterculture, the story deals with a young software engineer at IBM (redubbed ICM) coming to some realizations about what really matters in life, and what might just be a tissue of lies, convenient for the powerful.

Wyman Guin, perhaps more exclusively famous (to the extent that he is) for What Is Reality fiction than anyone else in sf, thanks to his once widely-reprinted "Beyond Bedlam" (far superior to Evan Hunter's slightly later drugged society story "Malice in Wonderland," if perhaps missing the snappy ad lines of Huxley's most famous fiction), is instead represented here by a mildly misogynist but otherwise deft fantasy, "My Darling Hecate." Guin didn't quite learn the right lessons from Fritz Leiber's Conjure Wife, in this story of an accidental but nonetheless powerful witch, who has remarkable powers she can barely control, when she puts her mind to it. But, again, it plays out rather cleverly, particularly in the manner in which her subconscious plays havoc with the world around her.

I'd just begun the Wallace story, as I write this, the previous night, and while it starts promisingly, with yet another sort of spy or agent making his way through a dangerous city on a world inhabited by amphibian humanoids, I might or might not get to finish it before revising this later today. Barry is almost as enthusiastic about Wallace's work as he is about Clifton's; he sees Wallace's fiction as similar in approach and in reframing the questions we should be asking in science fiction, though Wallace was writing for (the no less demanding, and in both similar and different ways eccentric) H. L. Gold, founding editor of Galaxy, who grew more removed from his editorial work in later '50s less from simply burning out, as Campbell was, than by the weight of failure to achieve his ambitions with his magazine, and the effects of both WW2-induced agoraphobia and pain meds he took, even before an auto-accident during an attempt to go out nearly killed him; this is why Frederik Pohl was apparently editing Galaxy and If in all but title no later than 1960, and gradually doing more and more of the work for some time before that. That Wallace was so strongly associated with Gold's version of the magazine might've been a contributing factor in Wallace leaving sf in the late '50s, not finding Pohl the same sort of editor; as Malzberg notes, Wallace published some mystery novels and then ceased writing fiction.

And I've finally noted, all these stories come from either Campbell's Astounding (before its retitling as Analog in 1960), or from Gold's Galaxy and Beyond, or Pohl's 1960s Galaxy (and Pohl had been pretty deeply involved with Galaxy as a contributor of fiction and literary agent for a lot of the other contributors from nearly its beginning under Gold).

All told, while this book (moreso than the latter Uncollected Stars), has fiction which tends to cluster, as repeatedly noted, around questions of perception and identity, while touching on rather than for the most part dealing directly with other great themes that sf can lend itself to, it's an excellent book to sit and read. And, like the later volume, if not quite to the same extent as the Clifton collection, it was not a commercial success. Like nearly every other book published in the Doubleday Science Fiction imprint, particularly at the production nadir of that line in the late '70s, it's poorly bound (the trade hardcover has a glue binding, not sewn, and in every other way is identical to the probable SF Book Club edition of the time, another arm of Doubleday), given an inept cover (in this case moreso than most even for D-day...just look at it), and, as Barry notes, "Doubleday packaged the book contemptuously and dumped it as they dumped all Doubleday sf. Sales were miserable." The Doubleday Science Fiction imprint depended on library sales for nearly all of its income (and was hardly unique in this in hardcover publishing at the time, or for at least a decade or so beforehand and after), and expected those sales to come to a certain amount whether a given book was good, bad or indifferent; no one in Garden City was going to make much effort to help distinguish any given item published thus. The Asimov books would sell better, and Ellison's Dangerous Visions anthology too, or at least sell consistently for longer, but Asimov didn't write much sf any longer, and his sf books from Doubleday were usually about as clumsily-packaged as everyone else's. Everyone else could cry themselves a river. And even as The Simarillion was setting sales records for hardcover fiction, and the Levin/Tryon/Blatty/King/Rice horror blockbuster trend was starting to become impossible to ignore, no one at D-day was going to try to suggest that a Doubleday Fantasy or Doubleday Horror imprint might be a useful, much less a profitable, idea...nah, those books could continue to be "Doubleday Science Fiction" if they were by some writer a D-day staffer had editorially/promotionally decided wrote sf, five or fifteen years previously...hence, for example, the mislabeling thus of Manly Wade Wellman's John the Balladeer novels in their original editions. (Wellman's historical fantasy novels, too:)

And, frankly, these stories remain (at least) good reading, though they also remain difficult to find without seeking out this long out-of-print volume or their original magazine appearances...but you could do much worse with much more effort. The story headnotes and the pointers to more work by the assembled alone might be worth the few bucks to pick up a library discard like mine, in decent shape (mine from the Public Library of Des Moines).

And many thanks to Barry Malzberg for letting me pepper him with questions.

upgraded slightly from the Contento index:
Neglected Visions ed. Barry N. Malzberg, Martin H. Greenberg & Joseph D. Olander (Doubleday, 1979, hc) 212pp. Each of the stories is followed by a selective bibliography of the author's other short fiction (and the anthologies and collections where they have been reprinted) and novels.

vii · Introduction · Barry N. Malzberg · in
1 · Clerical Error · Mark Clifton · nv Astounding Feb ’56
35 · Mind Partner · Christopher Anvil · nv Galaxy Aug ’60
65 · Ballenger’s People · Kris Neville · ss Galaxy Apr ’67
77 · The Hunting Lodge · Randall Garrett · nv Astounding Jul ’54
109 · Lost Memory · Peter Phillips · ss Galaxy May ’52
122 · Junior · Robert Abernathy · ss Galaxy Jan ’56
130 · Laugh Along with Franz · Norman Kagan · nv Galaxy Dec ’65
153 · My Darling Hecate · Wyman Guin · nv Beyond Fantasy Fiction Nov ’53
171 · Delay in Transit · Floyd L. Wallace · na Galaxy Sep ’52

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


K. A. Laity said...

I think Manley Wade Mellman remains one of those writers I haven't quite got around to -- or maybe read as a wee one and can't recall. Shall indulge.

mybillcrider said...

Great commentary, Todd.

Todd Mason said...

Thanks, Bill!

Kate, I suspect you won't be terribly upset that I nudged you toward Manly Wade Wellman ficton. (And I still think the partially vanished woman in the BEYOND cover painting at least slightly resembles you...let, as Patti put it some time back, someone take a bite out of you so we can see more clearly....)

Todd Mason said...

(Manley Wade Mellman being Larry "Bud" Melman's gentlemanly cousin...)

George said...

Barry N. Malzberg is an underrated writer. And I consider him a brilliant anthologist. I'm with Bill: Great commentary, Todd. You've outdone yourself this time!

Walker Martin said...

Excellent post Todd. During this period in the fifties and sixties, I was reading all the SF magazines, cover to cover, not to mention all the back issues I was collecting. I probably read all these stories but I see that I've buried the anthology so successfully that I cannot read the editorial comments. I'll have to buy another copy.

Todd Mason said...

Thanks, George. UNDERLAY is just one of his brilliant, poorly-published novels...and I might've mentioned to you the spectacle at Readercon this year, when Barry's talk on Mark Clifton was slotted against the "Kirk Poland Bad Prose Competition"...Kirk Poland being one of the character constructs, I write advisedly, in the shattering of the identity of hack writer Herovit in Malzberg's most famous novel, or most famous along with BEYOND APOLLO, HEROVIT'S WORLD. So Barry's own creation, and the Stuffed Owl/Bulwer Lytton-style competition Barry's not so crazy about having named for that creation, actually helped deplete Barry's audience for discussing a matter rather important to him. The irony wasn't remotely lost on him, particularly as he was sure most of the folks at the Poland readings had no idea he'd created Poland, if they even knew who Malzberg was at all (though at Readercon, I suspect the percentage of attendees who know who Barry is is pretty sizable).

Todd Mason said...

Thanks, Walker, and we must stimulate the second-hand economy, no? Here's a question for you and the assembled: a fellow on FictionMags has asked for a consensus as to which were the most important (I'm taking him to mean in terms of prestige as well as money and circulation) of the fiction magazines that concentrated on contemporary mimetic fiction (or, like PLAYBOY, offered it up in a mix of other sorts) from 1960-1966...what would you all nominate?

J F Norris said...

And is that tag "INAPPROPRIATE" below the naked man a further inside joke about Campbell's "wife?"

I enjoyed this post more than any other I've read of yours. I especially liked reading the inside dope on how Doubleday treated its SF line. I always wondered why Wellman's Silver John books were released as SF.

Walker Martin said...

I see Todd's question as a very complex one. If we consider money and circulation, then the answer has to be PLAYBOY because their circulation was way over a million in the 1960-1966 period and they paid many times what the SF digests were paying per word.

But if we stick to most important then I would choose GALAXY during 1960-1966. Fred Pohl was excellent as editor of the magazine just as HL Gold was during the early 1950's. Pohl was responsible for providing a market in GALAXY for Robert Silverberg and others to write their very best fiction.

Todd Mason said...

Well, I've enjoyed writing it more than (certainly) most of them, at least (considering how much time I've devoted, that's a Good Thing). While that "inappropriate" judgement of stripping down does have story significance in "The Hunting Lodge" (and consider how another hunting lodge has become at least a minor but troublesome point in the contest between plutocrats in the GOP for the presidential nomination), at least one gay-viewers' beefcake website (where I cadged this image), they, too, where wondering what was so inappropriate and how they might get into some of that impropriety (the same artist had done at least one earlier male-nude ASTOUNDING cover). Meanwhile, I'd always thought the man in the painting was holding an actual mammalian heart of some kind, but no, as we find out in passing.

Todd Mason said...

Ah, Walker, but I was too recondite, or you read my note too quickly...the guy's looking for eclectic but primarily contemporary mimetic titles, so THE SATURDAY EVENING POST checks in, too, in its last full-strength years, and my thoughts after that ran to magazines as diverse as ESQUIRE, REDBOOK, PARTISAN REVIEW, KENYON REVIEW, and NEW WORLD WRITING (which can be dismissed by the persnickety as a periodical book, instead, much as NEW DIRECTIONS might...and if so, my suggestion might run to EVERGREEN REVIEW, certainly one of the hqs of the avant-garde and definitely still a magazine then).

Todd Mason said...

Yeah, I'd have to say that GALAXY and IF and WORLDS OF TOMORROW in that period tended to get better and better, and Edward Ferman was definitely finding his feet fast in the tough job of following Avram Davidson at F&SF (Joe Ross didn't have an enviable task at FANTASTIC and AMAZING following Cele Goldsmith/Lalli's undersupported work with even less resources to draw on, though both Harry Harrison and Barry in their brief succeeding tenures managed to do a little better with the titles, and Ross did get some notable new work, such as Davidson's THE PHOENIX AND THE MIRROR. Ted White, who could handle being in that position for a decade managed to make FANTASTIC as good as anyone's magazine at the time, and AMAZING at times surprisingly good and usually readable. Eleanor Mavor had to dance as fast as she could, and then TSR came in and threw money around for a while.

Meanwhile, Robert Lowndes at Health Knowledge/MAGAZINE OF HORROR and its stablemates and Charles Fritch at GAMMA in those years did interesting things...and would a few more issues of SHOCK really've hurt? The good one by that title, I mean....

Todd Mason said...

Or, even, Elinor Mavor. A name I love to misspell.

Anonymous said...

Looks like a hell of an anthology, and one I don't have. I've read most of the stories, but still... Knowing you have a bias against ASTOUNDING I was surprised to see two covers, but you made up for that in your text. I know, I know, you just didn't like Campbell as an editor and think Pohl and others did a better job in that regard (and I'm not arguing with you, exactly), but it was ASTOUNDING that brought me into SF in the early 1950s at the tender age of 7 or 8, so it's still my personal favorite. I went back later and picked up all the back issues to Jan 1950 and have read every one of them - on through the ANALOG years until about 1985 - more than once, though they are, sadly, gone now, the victims of an errant teenaged thief who traded the entire set for a lid of grass. Not that they were in mint condition, but there have been many, many times I've wished I still had them, if for the interior illustrations if nothing else, though I do love a lot of the stories too and it's fun, now, to reread the book reviews by Miller.

Anonymous said...

Apparently this was never published as a paperback? That's surprising.

Todd Mason said...

Well, Rick, I'm not sure it's fair to say that I have a bias against ASTOUNDING so much as a bias against the deification of Campbell, or worse and more common, the doubleness of thought that recognizes the flaws in ASTOUNDING when featuring Everett B. Cole stories and the most trivial Garrett stories, occasionally leavened by some excellent work, but demands they should be given a pass because of all the good work Campbell did, particularly in the '40s. If we (reasonably) hold AMAZING and FATE's Ray Palmer responsible for the irresponsible and dull Shaver Mystery and flying saucer material, we should definitely also hold Campbell responsible for pushing Dianetics, dowsing and the Dean Drive, and demanding his writers write stories with psionics and/or humans as superior to all other sentient creatures, Necessarily Superior. He steer the field for the better more than any other single magazine editor, but that wasn't his whole career, and the reflexive denigration of, say, STARTLING STORIES and PLANET STORIES ca. 1950 in comparison with ASTOUNDING is simply ridiculous, even given that STARTLING and PLANET have improved by either becoming a bit more like ASTOUNDING or in finding other ways to similarly become more literate.

Sorry to read of that theft...a weird choice for a cash-in or know, getting reading copies again won't cost too terribly much for the 1950-onward issues...

And, you know, I'm not even sure they issued an SF BOOK CLUB edition of NEGLECTED VISIONS...

Todd Mason said...

Or, take for example the second, SFWA-poll-driven FANTASY HALL OF FAME book. Silverberg and whoever was helping decided to require the earliest stories for consideration be published in 1939, because, after all, that was when UNKNOWN was first published, and that of course was the beginnings of modern fantasy. I hope the utter blinkered fatuousness of that is already sinking in. UNKNOWN was a great magazine, that among other things was the child of innovations pioneered by writers for WEIRD TALES, STRANGE TALES, THE STRAND and, of course, such folk as Thorne Smith and James Branch Cabell. "But that doesn't allow us to kiss the dirt JWC tread upon!"

Walker Martin said...

Richard, it looks like we have similar timelines in SF. I discovered Sf at age 13 with GALAXY in 1956. I immediately bought all the back issues and I soon discovered ASTOUNDING with Heinlein's CITIZEN OF THE GALAXY, which Todd shows in his fine article. However, I didn't stop with 1950, I obtained all the back issues back to 1930.

Concerning the theft of your digest ASTOUNDINGS, you should be able to rebuild the set with no problem at all and have fun tracking down the issues that you need. The issues are not hard to find and still inexpensive. One of the reasons I'm a collector is the fun of the game. In the 1950's I refer to GALAXY, F&SF, and ASTOUNDING as the Big Three, in that order.

Todd Mason said...

For me, the important and frequently impressive 1950s fantasy and sf magazines also include:

FANTASTIC (during Browne's and Goldsmith's tenures)
AMAZING (likewise, if less so than FANTASTIC)
FANTASTIC ADVENTURES, at very least specific issues, such as the ones with Leiber's YOU'RE ALL ALONE, the one with Robert Bloch's THE DEAD DON'T DIE! and the one with Sturgeon's THE DREAMING JEWELS...
WEIRD TALES, even on its last legs
IF certainly had its moments
FAMOUS FANTASTIC MYSTERIES, even as it barely made it into the decade
UNIVERSE SF likewise had some very notable material...

...and the damnedest thing is how many titles this excludes, though at least some of those are highly excludable. I've yet to read a Del Rey-edited FANTASY MAGAZINE/FICTION nor his nor Harry Harrison's sf magazine group and remain amused that Robert Silverberg has recently put together an anthology out of SUPER-SCIENCE FICTION, slotted for publication soonish from Haffner:

Walker Martin said...

Seeing the list of SF titles that Todd posted in the above comment brings back alot of memories. I collected all these titles also and still have most, though I sold my sets of WEIRD TALES and PLANET STORIES when I retired a few years ago. I managed to replace the WT set with a nice bound set but only from 1926-1954. Except for Lovecraft, I never found much of interest in the 1923-1925 issues.

I still remember buying the first issue of INFINITY SF off the newstand and hoping that it would have a long life full of quality SF like GALAXY, F&SF, and ASTOUNDING, but it was not to be.

SteveHL said...

Damn it, Todd, once again your review is so good that I want to reply in more detail than anyone will want to read. Like Richard, I've never read this anthology but I do remember most of the stories. I can't recall the Neville and the Kagan but I suspect I have probably read them.

I like a lot of Garrett, including much of the stuff he probably wrote in his sleep. Even though I know that “The Hunting Lodge" is supposed to be one of his best stories, I don't care all that much for it. I greatly prefer the "Mark Phillips" collaborations with Janifer - shear light entertainment with no pretension of being anything more. I also have a stubborn fondness for a very Campbell-oriented ESP story which I suspect is almost totally forgotten, "The Foreign Hand Tie".

I realize that Clifton at his peak was, and perhaps still is, regarded as one of the major writers in the field at that time. If he had been alive when Judith Merril’s (auto...sort of)biography was published, he probably would have died from embarrassment from her unrestrained adoration. I find a lot of his work not all that interesting; I do think "Clerical Error" is pretty good though.

"Lost Memory" is a terrific, scary story. I just checked Phillips' listing on the ISFDB and I can only recall three of his stories by just looking at the titles, but I think "Lost Memory" and "Dreams Are Sacred” are so good that one would think he would be better known. (And if ISFDB is right, Phillips hasn't published a science fiction story since 1958 but he is still alive.)

Christopher Anvil usually seemed to me to be Randall Garrett on a semi-off day. I agree that "Mind Partner" is the best story of his that I can recall.

I agree totally about "Junior" - very pleasant but not much more.

I think "Delay in Transit" is an excellent story up to just before the ending. The basic concept is really interesting...sort of a computerized, almost-nanotechnological ESP.

Wyman Guin - my choice for one of the two most unjustly forgotten sf short story writers of the '50's and '60's, the other being T. L. Sherred. Guin’s short story collection, Living Way Out, has almost all of his short fiction; I strongly recommend it. I even like his one novel, The Standing Joy, but it is nothing like as good as the short fiction. And yes, "Beyond Bedlam" is better than "Malice in Wonderland" but if I recall correctly the Freas illustrations for "Malice" are as good as anything he ever did, which is very good indeed.

Todd, I realize that you've read ever word of every science fiction magazine ever published and that is remarkable in itself, but you also seem to remember every word. I am, as usual, very impressed.

Todd Mason said...

Argh. My first long response eaten by bad interfacing.

WALKER: Yes, the Baird years of WEIRD TALES are pretty disposable. Though I'm the kind of contrarian who, while finding Farnsworth Wright's time at the magazine much better, thinks that Dorothy McIlwraith's run as editor was better yet; the mature Robert Bloch, Fritz Leiber, Theodore Sturgeon, Ray Bradbury, Margaret St. Clair, Manly Wade Wellman or Lovecraft, Seabury Quinn and C. M. Eddy (apparently not all his were ghosted by Lovecraft)...meanwhile Wright liked to bounce some of his best folks' best work. (It's also somewhat odd to think that George Scithers and Darrell Schweitzer edited the magazine longer than either Wright or McIlwraith, if for far fewer issues.)

The (very) small consolation for the completist collector of the shortlived good magazine is the ability to gather a complete run rather quickly...unless, as with WORLDS BEYOND, one or more issues were ashcanned.

STEVE: Thanks! And your longer comments are as welcome as your shorter ones, certainly.

While I like some of Garrett's lighthearted stories (and "The Foreign-Hand Tie" is the kind of punning title that stays with one), I was particularly impressed by how every staple and tack were placed just so in this early story by the famously uncontrolled Garrett (for me, though, even a minor Robert Bloch or Avram Davidson story is more fun than many writers' best work, so I can sympathize).

Judith Merril was a busy woman in many spheres. Kelly Freas's illos for "Malice" were indeed impressive.

And while I've not yet read all the classic sf (much less the fantasy and other forms of fiction) I'd like to, I shudder at the notion of having read all of it. And if I can get a fraction of that memory you credit me with (your own memory seems much more impressive to me...I've just read these stories, save the Wallace yet, still), I'll be appreciative.

Alice Chang said...

Very well thought out post. I was wondering if you will be considering writing a collection of ghost stories a la Edith Wharton. I found the one story very Whartonesque in terms of atmosphere--there is the ambiguity left unanswered and being subtly creepy and unsettling that mark a lot of her ghost stories. The ambiguity is what is freakish. It was impressive how descriptive your story is, it was like watching a movie. I'll have to read your more recent shorter story.

Todd Mason said...

Thanks, Qi! (She refers to my two vignettes a week or three back.)

Anonymous said...

Very interesting. Walker, Todd, et al, I wonder if there might be a suggested starting place to find those back issues of Astounding? I have in the past looked for them, and found separate issues (on eBay, for instance) for $10 per, but picking up say all of the Forties, Fifties and Sixties would cost a lot that way! Few used magazine dealers who I've found via internet search seem to have more than a handful of these issues, either.

Walker Martin said...

Richard, I would recommend that you mention on your website that you are looking for a complete or extensive run of Astounding in the digest years for a reasonable price. You might get a bite.

Another method that you can keep checking on would be ebay and I had success with both of these when I decided to pick up the last 30 years of Astounding, Asimov SF, and F&SF. Around 1980 I stopped buying issues and then 30 years later decided to track down the issues. You will get hits for some of the complete years if you type into ABE, "Astounding 1952" etc.

Also on ebay, type in "Astounding Science Fiction" and then sort by highest price. Right now there is a seller with around 80 issues in the fifties for $169 which is $2 each.

I know you haven't been attending the pulp conventions but Windy City and Pulpfest always have stacks of digests. If there is a local SF convention near where you live, then you might get some leads.

Just keep checking and ebay every week and I bet you eventually will find a long run.

Todd Mason said...

And it kills me that I have never been able to remember the secondhand store there in Portland, perhaps still there and perhaps not (and perhaps still so inexpensive and perhaps not), that had stacks and stacks of digests for $3 each for the 1960s issues, $4 each for the 1950s, $5 each for the my ex and I walked back to the bus station back to Seattle, where she lived at the time, we walked by the Scientology center and I joked about reselling my $5 copies of UNKNOWN, in fine shape in collectors' terms, for ridiculous markup because they had Hubbard stories within. (This would be about the height of Scientologists and those who wanted to mulct them driving the price of anything with a Hubbard story in it through the roof on eBay.) Probably not Cameron's nor Longfellow's and almost certainly not Powell's but damned if I can remember its name. They did have a room of magazines, though. That's where I got my MAGAZINE OF HORRORs, STARTLING MYSTERY STORIES, and a few of my SAINT MYSTERY MAGAZINEs...

Todd Mason said...

Then again, it might've been Cameron's.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Now there's a fine lesson in sf! My only contribution has been to soak it all in. Thank you all... Meanwhile, I'm going to see if I can trace some of the fantasy and sf magazines you and the others mentioned, Todd.

Jim Harris said...

I snagged a copy on ABEbooks. There's plenty more there.

Todd Mason said...

Thanks for the update, Jim. Sadly, I fear that will include a lot of public library discards.