Friday, September 27, 2013

Redux for Highsmith Week: FFB 1952: Marijane Meaker (as Vin Packer): SPRING FIRE (Fawcett Gold Medal); Patricia Highsmith (as Claire Morgan): THE PRICE OF SALT (Coward, McCann)

The first startling thing about these two novels, pioneering lesbian Bildungsromans, first published in the same year, under pseudonyms, by two writers who would go on to have a two-year affair seven years later, is how even more similar they are than this would suggest.

For more of this vintage review, please see here...and for fresher and rather less sloppily-written reviews, try Patti Abbott's page. 

Then there's this!

I'll be back...even if only to remind you of the New Season of Borgen...

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Delayed again: Tuesday's Overlooked Films and/or Other A/V: the links

Terribly sorry, folks, but the family crises are not quite done (they won't be entirely "done" for some time) and the work and other delays that they have forced have to take first precedence at the moment (or first through third, you know how it goes...). I might be able to play catch up later this week, because seeing and reading your entries is always a great boost for me, and whatever I do to draw some readers your way always cheers me as well.

Thanks, and further apologies for the delays.
Todd Mason

Friday, September 13, 2013

FFB: F&SF: A 30 YEAR RETROSPECTIVE, edited by Edward Ferman; BOUCHER'S CHOICEST, edited by Jeanne Bernkopf; TOO MANY BOTTLES aka THE PARTY WAS THE PAYOFF by Elizabeth Sanxay Holding

The return of two older reviews...because I'm tied up with some tough personal business, but since I was at the computer anyway...repackages are quick:

From ISFDb (and I'm cheating here, listing the slightly fuller contents of the October, 1979 issue, rather than the subsequent Doubleday hardcover, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction: A 30 Year Retrospective, that failed to reprint the columns by Budrys, Searles and Asimov, nor Heinlein's short story, nor all of the Wilson cartoons), though it adds a brief Asimov introduction to go with Ferman's:

* 8 • In This Issue (F&SF, October 1979) • essay by Edward L. Ferman
* 12 • Fondly Fahrenheit • (1954) • novelette by Alfred Bester
* 30 • Books (F&SF, October 1979) • [Books (F&SF)] • essay by Algis Budrys
* 32 •   Review: The Pleasure Tube by Robert Onopa • review by Algis Budrys
* 34 •   Review: Stardance by Jeanne Robinson and Spider Robinson • review by Algis Budrys
* 40 • And Now the News . . . • (1956) • novelette by Theodore Sturgeon
* 60 • Not With a Bang • (1950) • shortstory by Damon Knight
* 65 • Flowers for Algernon • (1959) • novelette by Daniel Keyes
* 89 • Cartoon: no caption • (1974) • interior artwork by Gahan Wilson
* 89 • Cartoon Portfolio (F&SF, October 1979) • essay by Gahan Wilson
* 90 • Cartoon: "This is Willy, and this is Willy's imaginary playmate." • (1965) • interior artwork by Gahan Wilson
* 91 • Cartoon: "You can tell she's thinking it over!" • (1967) • interior artwork by Gahan Wilson
* 92 • Cartoon: "Well, I guess that pretty well takes care of my anemia diagnosis." • (1968) • interior artwork by Gahan Wilson
* 93 • Cartoon: "Best damn special effects man in the business!" • (1970) • interior artwork by Gahan Wilson
* 94 • Cartoon: "I don't like the looks of that, at all!" • (1970) • interior artwork by Gahan Wilson
* 95 • Cartoon: "I suppose the least we can do is name the damned thing after poor Dembar." • (1971) • interior artwork by Gahan Wilson
* 96 • Cartoon: no caption • (1970) • interior artwork by Gahan Wilson
* 98 • A Canticle for Leibowitz • [Saint Leibowitz] • (1955) • novelette by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
* 116 • Through Time and Space with Ferdinand Feghoot • [Through Time and Space with Ferdinand Feghoot • 1] • (1956) • shortstory by Reginald Bretnor [as by Grendel Briarton ]
* 117 • One Ordinary Day, with Peanuts • (1955) • shortstory by Shirley Jackson
* 125 • Imaginary Numbers in a Real Garden • (1965) • poem by Gerald Jonas
* 126 • The Women Men Don't See • (1973) • novelette by James Tiptree, Jr.
* 149 • Dance Music for a Gone Planet • (1968) • poem by Sonya Dorman
* 150 • Born of Man and Woman • (1950) • shortstory by Richard Matheson
* 153 • "All You Zombies . . ." • (1959) • shortstory by Robert A. Heinlein
* 163 • Love Letter from Mars • (1965) • poem by John Ciardi
* 164 • Jeffty Is Five • (1977) • shortstory by Harlan Ellison
* 181 • Ararat • [The People] • (1952) • novelette by Zenna Henderson
* 201 • Sundance • (1969) • shortstory by Robert Silverberg
* 214 • The Gnurrs Come from the Voodvork Out • [Schimmelhorn] • (1950) • shortstory by Reginald Bretnor [as by R. Bretnor ]
* 226 • Films: Egg Foo Alien • [Films (F&SF)] • essay by Baird Searles
* 229 • Dreaming Is a Private Thing • (1955) • shortstory by Isaac Asimov
* 242 • Poor Little Warrior! • (1958) • shortstory by Brian W. Aldiss
* 248 • We Can Remember It for You Wholesale • (1966) • novelette by Philip K. Dick
* 266 • Selectra Six-Ten • (1970) • shortstory by Avram Davidson
* 273 • Just Thirty Years • [Asimov's Essays: F&SF] • essay by Isaac Asimov
* 284 • Problems of Creativeness • (1967) • shortstory by Thomas M. Disch
* 302 • Me • (1959) • poem by Hilbert Schenck
* 303 • The Quest for Saint Aquin • (1951) • novelette by Anthony Boucher

From WorldCat:

Boucher's Choicest; a collection of Anthony Boucher's favorites from Best Detective Stories of the Year, selected by Jeanne F. Bernkopf; Introduction by Allen J. Hubin (Dutton, 1969)

Table of Contents
H as in homicide, by Lawrence Treat.
Justice, inc., by Rog Phillips.
The adventure of the double-bogey man, by Robert L. Fish.
File 1: the Mayfield case, by Joe Gores.
A humanist, by Romain Gary.
A case for the U.N., by Miriam Allen deFord.
A soliloquy in tongues, by William Wiser.
I will please come to order, by William North Jayme.
His brother's keeper, by James McKimmey.
The opposite number, by Jacob Hay.
The right man for the right job, by J. C. Thompson.
The adventure of Abraham Lincoln's clue, by Ellery Queen.
The chosen one, by Rhys Davies.
The adventure of the red leech, by August Derleth.
The two kings and the two labyrinths, by Jorge Luis Borges.
Papa Tral's harvest, by Barry Perowne.
Good man, bad man, by Jerome Weidman.
The Stollmeyer sonnets, by James Powell.
The Dr. Sherrock commission, by Frank McAuliffe.
The oblong room, by Edward D. Hoch.
The peppermint-striped goodby, by Ron Goulart.
The gracious, pleasant life of Mrs. Afton, by Patricia Highsmith.
By child undone, by Jack Ritchie.
The possibility of evil, by Shirley Jackson.

Two anthologies that are both at least in part retrospective tributes to Anthony Boucher, cofounder of F&SF, and later editor of six volumes in the long-running crime-fiction annual, up till the time of his death...Allen Hubin took over at that point.

Edward Ferman, by 1979 both editor and publisher of F&SF for some years, polled his lifetime subscribers for input as to which of the stories from F&SF's past deserved most to be reprinted in the first all-reprint fiction and poetry issue of the magazine, and the subsequent book version...and while the voters couldn't settle on a single work by Fritz Leiber, Robert Bloch, Joanna Russ nor Manly Wade Wellman (thereby all but invalidating the process), they were able to provide the above list of favored work from the magazine's rich history...and Ferman only overruled them once, as far as I know, by substituting the very personal story "Selectra Six-Ten" for "The Golem," one of the most famous but perhaps somewhat less distinctive of the stories of Avram Davidson, the previous F&SF editor and with whom Ferman had worked as assistant editor. Boucher had been founding co-editor from 1949 (and earlier) to 1954, and continued to edit the magazine alone for several more years before turning it over to Robert P. Mills, aided by C.M. Kornbluth, for several more (though Kornbluth's premature death kept his tenure short).

Truly a brilliant assemblage, even with the missing-writer caveats. Richard Matheson's first story, and the first by Damon Knight to get much attention, are both eminently memorable, but slight in the company they keep here (or when compared to some of their other stories to appear later). Daniel Keyes's "Flowers for Algernon" is almost impossible not to include (even if one wanted to exclude it), and Boucher's own "The Quest for Saint Aquin" is the only story originally published elsewhere. Meanwhile, Algis Budrys reviews Robert Onopa's The Pleasure Tube , which I keep meaning to dig back out for FFB, but I definitely need to reread it...both men would have a major effect on my writing, Onopa as my first writing professor.

Meanwhile, Dutton editor Jeanne F. Bernkopf looks back through the BOTY volumes Boucher edited for her list, and recalls the stories he either did or at least seemed to enjoy most, and reprints Boucher's headnotes in their reprinting here...not only an excellent compilation and probably a pretty fair representation of what the already late Boucher would've culled for his own Best of the BESTs, but also notable for how many of these writers were still doing notable work a decade later, when I was catching their new stories in the magazines and elsewhere. Allen Hubin, who would inherit the editorial post for a handful of years, turning the series over to Edward Hoch for the longest reign the annual would see (through title-change and a new publisher), puts Boucher in context in his brief introduction, and the stories, heavily running to Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine stories with a few other sources (Hoch's own brilliant "The Oblong Room" comes from The Saint Magazine), speak very entertainingly for themselves.

At least two more tribute anthologies were produced just after Boucher's death, the crime-fictional Crimes and Misfortunes and the fantasticated Special Wonder, and even they, fine anthologies both, are not better than these selections from Boucher's
own considered acceptances (and those of his partner and heirs, in the first book/issue). If you don't have these volumes...I suspect you can see you might need them, and you will suffer no pain in reading them.

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

Simon & Schuster, 1951

A short, and relatively late, novel by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding, and one which plays to her strengths without showcasing any of them in their best light, except perhaps her casual wit and the smoothly readable pacing she brought to most of her work I've read (a fraction of her work in the crime-fiction field). A 1951 "Inner Sanctum" mystery, it mixes elements of the psychological suspense story she and Cornell Woolrich and Robert Bloch and Daphne Du Maurier and others were developing in the 1940s with some of the conventions of the drawing room mystery and even a touch of the police procedural, while mostly being from the perspective of a freelance writer, James Brophy, who has let his life get beyond his control. At least, he's been drifting along enough so that his social-butterfly wife and her sister, an increasingly shrill and dependent presence in the household, go through gyrations that lead to several murders...while he attempts to get some work done on one or another short story or serialized novel or novella (particularly one in progress called "The Party Was the Payoff"), with hopes of placing This one in a slick magazine rather than a pulp. Another woman catches his resigned eye, and she plays a significant role as well, at one point trying to fix him up with a job with an early 1950s version of Open University, an offer he dodges with a shudder and several quietly offputting suggestions to the Ms. Vanderbilt (but not of Those Vanderbilts) who runs the multi-disciplinary arts "school" for adults.

At 123 pages in the Mercury edition, with a decent but unexceptional George Salter cover painting, it's just a bit rushed, particularly around Brophy's realization of his own role in events, and the prime mover of most of the chaos is rather easy to spot, but it's in turns a funny and grim, and very quick, read. If you pick up one of the out of print editions or the current Stark House two-fer, you probably won't wish you were reading something else (though I wouldn't judge Holding's work as a whole by this one). ESH's influence on writers following her, from Patricia Highsmith to (her recent champion) Ed Gorman and beyond, was great...

The Mercury Mystery edition (a Dannay title change? Or ESH's title restored?), Mercury Press 1952, and as a Mercury Mystery, in undated digest-sized magazine format (at the end of its run, after Mercury Press sold EQMM to the new Davis Publications, Mercury would become a full-fledged fiction magazine, with each issue featuring a novel and short essays and fiction).

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

Stark House's currently in-print omnibus, somewhat misleadingly suggesting "Never before in paperback" (possibly true of the first novel of two):

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tuesday's Overlooked Films and/or Other A/V:a few early links

This week's special editorial and special pleading:
I will try to gather the usual suspects (which is to say, valued contributors and valiant fellow-travelers) to this weekly gathering of links to reviews of underappreciated or at least not terribly widely-seen work...but it might well be delayed (in final form) today, as my parents are facing a dual set of crises which, like most in this country devoted to making everyone pay for human frailty with their everything in their material lives (at least), might bankrupt them and us, meaning my brother and myself. Alzheimer's isn't a disease that Medicare will pay to address or treat with, for example...and why should it? How trifling few Americans suffer from such an exotic and rarely-seen thing...and certainly no one can gainsay the current attempt to hand the insurance companies in the US even more money than they already extort, rather than admitting that a nation that beggars its families. at least those who seek better than warehouses for aging relatives to rot in, is a nation not working correctly, and a president who, rather than actually seeking to set up a reasonable healthcare system that migh rival those of such countries as Canada or Germany, one which is basically not propped up by too many more tax dollars (or euros) per capita than our own, is damned ignorantly by most of his adversaries for seeking to install (ever more eventually) Romneycare "socialism" rather than for being the kind of corporate tool that he and his administration are in nearly every way...well, you can see I'm a bit distracted this week. Checking facilities is a fair amount of work. Paying for them will be vastly, vastly moreso.

But for some fine, largely unpaid work, labors of love, please see the following reviews:

George Kelley: Longmire

Iba Dawson: Films set in North Carolina

Patti Abbott: In a World

Randy Johnson: Shoot, Gringo, Shoot (aka Spara, gringo, spara)

Sergio Angelini: A Taste of Evil

...more to follow, as time permits. Thank you all, and all the other folks who've helped make this weekly exercise so much fun, as writers and readers/commenters.

Friday, September 6, 2013

FFB: The critical legacy of the Futurians...Frederik Pohl and his peers...

A revisit with this brief survey, now that we've lost one of the last surviving Futurians, Frederik Pohl.

Frederik Pohl is credited with getting it all going, sort of. He was the young editor of Astonishing Stories and Super-Science Stories, nineteen when he started in 1939. His magazines were published by the discount line, "Fictioneers," of the Popular Publications pulp he was getting less per week than the lowest-paid secretaries at Popular, and was expected to write for his own magazines. One way he did so was in writing book reviews...and, unusually for the pulps, he took his best shot at applying technical literary criticism to the books under discussion. Slightly younger member of the NYC-based sf-fannish group the Futurians (which included Pohl) Damon Knight took that as his model, for his reviews in fanzines and then for reviews in professional sf magazines, and so did James Blish, who chose to write his criticism under the pseudonym William Atheling, Jr. (after Ezra Pound's use of "William Atheling" for his own critical its turn a reference to an historical figure among English royalty).

Donald Wollheim, one of the few members of the Futurians (slightly) older than Pohl (and the primary rival of Pohl's in the factionalism that developed in the Futurian Society) had published before Pohl, but became an editor afterward, and for an even less-well-bankrolled publisher...and his critical writing was somewhat less prominently published, as he focused on his editorial and publishing career. For that matter, Pohl never published a volume of critical writing, while Wollheim restricted himself to the survey The Universe Makers, a chatty review of broad themes published in 1971. Pohl has contributed to various anthologies of critical writing over the years, such as those edited by R. Bretnor, and had a column, "Pohlemic," devoted to criticism of literature among many other things as they occurred to him in the magazine Algol, later Starship, in the 1970s.

But Knight and Blish published books of their critical writing early on, Knight winning the first Hugo Award for nonfiction with the 1956 first edition of his In Search of Wonder, and Blish as Atheling, Jr. following up in 1964 with the first of what would eventually be three volumes of his collected critical writings, The Issue at Hand, both these volumes published by the small house devoted to sf criticism and historical writing, Advent: Publishers.

Advent is for the most part sustained these days by the NESFA Press, the New England SF Society imprint that grew out of the MIT-based fan group responsible for a wide range of Boston-area fannish activity, including the Boskone conventions, and the books in tribute to Boskone guests. Thus a relatively early NESFA Press publication, collecting the historical and critical essays of the third magazine editor to come out of the Futurians, Robert A. W. Lowndes, who published the contents of his The Three Faces of Science Fiction as editorials in his 1960s magazine Famous Science Fiction; despite some impressive reprints and new fiction in that Very low-budget magazine, Lowndes's essays were often the highlights of a given issue.

So...amidst a slow trickle, at first, of critical and historical works about sf beginning to appear in boards, beginning with Lloyd Arthur Eshbach's anthology of essays Of Worlds Beyond and J. O. Bailey's augmented PhD thesis Pilgrims in Time and Space in 1947, about half up through the early '70s had come from the ex-Futurians noted here...and these were among the most important books of my early reading...along with autobiographical and biographical works that these folks, and such fellow ex-Futurians as Judith Merril and Dave Kyle, would write and have published (most in the 1970s), along with those who were influenced heavily by the work of these folks (including Joanna Russ, to some extent Ursula K. Le Guin, Barry Malzberg, Robert Silverberg, Brian Aldiss and particularly Algis Budrys, all of whom produced their own collections of critical writings that have been covered by others and/or myself in this series of FFB posts). As Budrys would note in the 1970s, Blish brought a better literary (and, as a student of music and Shaw's criticism, critical) education to the task, but Knight was even better at stating clearly and forcefully his technical and other sorts of assessment of a given work. All, however, are valuable, particularly when compared to such lesser work in the same vein as that offered by Sam Lundwall and Alexei Panshin, among many others who followed the pioneers...or Sam Moskowitz, who attempted to do important work contemporaneously with these folks, and sometimes did so well, but usually didn't.

For more, and probably more amusing and fully-realized, examples of today's choices of books, please see Patti Abbott's blog.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tuesday's Overlooked Films and/or Other A/V: the links

"The Tunnel Under the World"
This week's entry is dedicated to the memory of Frederik Pohl, who passed yesterday.  Truly one of the most influential and multifarious of writers and editors (among other tasks) in the sf field, and related wouldn't be likely to know off the top that he had a hand in seeing Gustav Hasford's The Short-Timers published, which in its turn was the source novel for Full Metal Jacket, as a small token of how his work was relevant to the weekly subject at hand on Tuesdays...

Below, today's set of reviews and citations of audiovisual works and related matter, with the posts at the always, thanks to all the contributors and to all you readers for your participation. As usual, there are likely to be additions to this list over the course of the day, and if I've missed your, or someone else's, post, please let me know in comments...thanks again...

Alison Nastasi (courtesy Bill Crider): 20 Silent Horror and Suspense Classics online

Viva Las Vegas
Bill Crider: Viva Las Vegas  [trailer]

Brian Arnold:  Michael Nesmith in Elephant Parts

BV Lawson: Media Murder

Dan Stumpf: Violent Saturday

Eddie Deezen (courtesy Bill Crider): Viva Las Vegas

Elizabeth Foxwell: House on Greenapple Road 

George Kelley: Blue Jasmine

Iba Dawson: The Story of Film: An Odyssey

The L Word
Ivan G. Shreve, Jr.: TCM in September

Jackie Kashian: Cameron Esposito on lesbians in television and film 

Jacqueline T. Lynch: Madison Avenue

James Reasoner: Frank Adamo

Jerry House: Out of the Unknown: "The Tunnel Under the World" (based on the Frederik Pohl short story)

Juri Nummelin: True Confessions

Kate Laity: One, Two, Three

Kelly Robinson: The Death of Grass/No Blade of Grass and the a/v adaptations of John Christopher's novel

Kliph Nesteroff: Lou Marsh

Laura: Alan Ladd; Condemned Women; Smart Girls Don't Talk

Group Marriage
Lucy Brown: Saint Joan; UK radio's David Jacobs 

Martin Edwards: The Oxford Literary Tour; Jack Reacher

Marty McKee: Group Marriage; The Zodiac Killer

Michael Shonk: The US Fall TV Season: the criminous and fantasticated series

Mystery Dave: The Young Victoria; 1776

Pearce Duncan: Four Flies on Grey Velvet

Philip Schweier: Captain Blood

Prashant Trikannad: Just Between Friends; Stepmom

Randy Johnson: The Blue Gardenia; Ringo, The Face of Revenge (aka Ringo, il volto della vendetta)

Winter Meeting
Rick: The October Man; The Falcon's Alibi; The Extra Day

Rod Lott: Eroticide; Antiviral

Sergio Angelini: Intimate Stranger

Stacia Jones: Winter Meeting

Stephen Bowie: Marion Dougherty

Stephen Gallagher: Now You See Me

Yvette Banek: The Wind and the Lion