Friday, November 1, 2013

FFB redux: Richard Lupoff, ed. WHAT IF? (Vols. 1-3); Avram Davidson, MASTERS OF THE MAZE; Robert Bloch, COLD CHILLS; Alfred Bester, STARLIGHT; Fritz Leiber, SHIP OF SHADOWS; Peter Haining, ed, THE FANTASTIC PULPS; Jessica Amanda Salmonson, ed. WHAT DID MISS DARRINGTON SEE?; Joanna Russ: HOW TO SUPPRESS WOMEN'S WRITING (UTP 1985), TO WRITE LIKE A WOMAN (IUP 1995), THE COUNTRY YOU HAVE NEVER SEEN (LUP 2007); Vivian Gornick, THE MEN IN MY LIFE; Algis Budrys, BENCHMARKS CONTINUED

The Hugo Awards, of course, are (mostly) literary awards voted on by (shrinking fractions of the) membership of the WorldCons, the World SF Conventions held annually, most often but not always in the US. The first Science Fiction Achievement Awards, which early on were informally then formally renamed in honor of Hugo Gernsback, the founding editor and publisher of the first all-sf magazine Amazing Stories, beginning in 1926 (at least, the first such periodical that wasn't a "dime novel" series or mixed-intent "boy's paper" or the like), were awarded at the 1953 WorldCon, PhilCon II; the next were given in 1955 and in every year since, and soon were being awarded to no-bones-about-it fantasy stories such as Robert Bloch's "That Hell-Bound Train" (published 1958, awarded in 1959, the victor on one of the most crowded ballots in Hugo history, also featuring stories more fantasy than sf by Fritz Leiber and Manly Wade Wellman) (courtesy the Hugo Awards pages) :

Best Short Story
  • “That Hell-Bound Train” by Robert Bloch [F&SF Sep 1958]
  • “They’ve Been Working On …” by Anton Lee Baker [Astounding Aug 1958]
  • “The Men Who Murdered Mohammed” by Alfred Bester [F&SF Oct 1958]
  • “Triggerman” by J. F. Bone [Astounding Dec 1958]
  • “The Edge of the Sea” by Algis Budrys [Venture Mar 1958]
  • “The Advent on Channel Twelve” by C. M. Kornbluth [Star Science Fiction Stories #4 (Ballantine), 1958]
  • “Theory of Rocketry” by C. M. Kornbluth [F&SF Jul 1958]
  • “Rump-Titty-Titty-Tum-TAH-Tee” by Fritz Leiber [F&SF May 1958]
  • “Space to Swing a Cat” by Stanley Mullen [Astounding Jun 1958]
  • “Nine Yards of Other Cloth” by Manly Wade Wellman [F&SF Nov 1958]
So, given all the worthy shorter stories that languished (or even unworthy ones, as I suspect the entry above by the remarkably untalented Stanley Mullen to be), even by 1980, in relative obscurity, despite almost winning the most prominent award in fantastic fiction over the previous decades, Richard Lupoff's gathering stories that, he argued, should have won in their years was an utterly natural idea for an anthology, or even a short series, as Pocket Books put out the second volume a year after the first.  (Guest essayist Barry Malzberg, in his review for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, could only note as well how natural an idea for an anthology this was and to self-remonstrate for not making an effort to pitch the idea to a publisher before Lupoff did.) And, of course, an attempt to "right" historic "wrongs" and help preserve the literary legacy of fantastic fiction has since become an annual tradition at the conventions as well, the "Retro Hugos"...not yet a gleam in the Con Committees' eyes or agendae in 1980.

courtesy the Contento Index to Science Fiction Anthologies and Collections:

What If? Volume 1 ed. Richard A. Lupoff (Pocket, Sep ’80, pb); subtitle: Stories That Should Have Won the Hugo

What If? Volume 2 ed. Richard A. Lupoff (Pocket, Feb ’81, pb)
There's not too much to quibble with in these slim volumes, aside from casting your own eyes back over the shortlists at the Hugo pages linked to above, and deciding which other nominees, as far as one is familiar with them, were robbed even more blatantly instead, if any were...there's not a story above that I don't agree is impressive or interesting at very least, though the Shirley Jackson story is only fantasy by fiat, being one of her most cheerful stories and utterly within the realm of "realistic" or contemporary-mimetic fiction...but, for some reason, Jackson's other, better-paying markets (women's magazines [which almost all still published fiction, including ambitious fiction, regularly], The Saturday Evening Post, The New Yorker) bounced it and Anthony Boucher and J. Francis McComas (the latter on his way out the door as co-editor) were more than happy to take it at F&SF, where it was neither the first nor certainly the last inclusion to be neither fantasy nor sf.  Kate Wilhelm, still productive, along with editor Lupoff (also still publishing interesting work) and the never terribly prolific Pauline Ashwell are the only contributors still with us, and all the contributors are perhaps less potent commercial "properties" now than they were in 1980 except for Philip Dick and Jackson and probably Wilhelm, whose crime-fiction career probably reached its peak in popularity so far over the last decade or so...this true even given how Wilhelm's late husband Damon Knight's "To Serve Man" has passed into almost folkloric status (and is rarely credited properly), and his brilliant "Four-in-One" collected in Volume 1 was the demonstration subject in his reasonably popular Creating Short Fiction instructional volume. That Theodore Sturgeon's fine story managed to employ a helical metaphor before The Double Helix does as little to preserve his legacy as does for his Cyril Kornbluth's fine "The Marching Morons" being dumbed down without credit for the film Idiocracy, itself a commercial failure fading from the public memory; work as fine as "Two Dooms" will probably live on, with a coterie audience. 

Ah, well, FFB readers, you should seek out the work of everyone listed above, except Mullen (who was on this ballot, I'm sure, because he was a personally popular fan as well as improbably successful at selling terrible stories to fiction magazines) and perhaps (or perhaps not) Anton Lee Baker, whose work I don't know at all. And these books are excellent starting points, if you need such, and if you've missed these stories, you can do much worse and only a little better.

Update from Richard Lupoff:

Actually my contract with Timescape called for four volumes of What If? and the series was going so well that my editor (David Hartwell) asked me to extend the project to five volumes. However, the bean counters disagreed and the project was cancelled while Volume 3 was literally in press. My recollection is this: I received two letters from Pocket Books in the same day's mail. One was from the promotion department and contained an advance copy of the PW review, along with a congratulatory note on the glowing notice. The other was from David Hartwell, saying approximately:

    "I can sell more copies of a run-of-the-mill first novel by a totally unknown author than a collection of short stories by Theodore Sturgeon. Consequently, the What If series is dead."

    But I think that was just an advance temblor. Shortly after that the entire Timescape project was killed.

    Recently a set of galleys of Volume 3 turned up, as did a cover proof, and the book is now available at Surinam Turtle Press, an imprint of Ramble House.  I'll attach a copy of the cover as it would have looked in 1982, Not sure what it will look like in 2013. 

*New cover to be posted later today. Or, some weeks later, with this contents table attached:
These are the stories and authors featured in this volume. Read it and salivate.

1966 — Light of Other Days - Bob Shaw
1967 — The Star-Pit - Samuel R. Delany
1968 — The Barbarian - Joanna Russ
1969 — Sundance - Robert Silverberg
1970 — The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories - Gene Wolfe
1971 — Vaster Than Empires and More Slow - Ursula K. Le Guin
1972 — Painwise - James Tiptree, Jr.
1973 — My Brother Leopold - Edgar Pangborn


    Also attached, a preliminary draft cover to WRITER. a two-volume compendium of my nonfiction writings ("essays, memoirs, reviews") also coming from STP/Ramble House.

    Both What If and WRITER are tentatively scheduled for publication this September.

I'm also hoping to publish Carol Carr: The Collected Writings. Preliminary cover attached. Tentative publication schedule for Writer is September and for Carol Carr's book is October. Grania Davis's collection is in print now (officially) but I'm still waiting to receive my own first copy.

For once, I choose a "forgotten" book that is not only not forgotten, though less well-remembered than it should be, but not even out of print...albeit the current edition, the Wildside Press offering pictured to the left above, is a Print-On-Demand offer, whose pages were shot from the very peccable earlier edition (see right, above). Both volumes have been cursed with rather bad cover illustrtations, and less than stellar design.

Doesn't matter. If you haven't read Avram Davidson's Masters of the Maze, you need to. Not quite to the same degres as you need to read his "The Lord of Central Park" or "My Boyfriend's Name is Jello" or the previous entry in Forgotten Books by Davidson from me, The Enquiries of Dcctor Eszterhazy, which also lives on, larded up a bit with newer (and slightly lesser) stories in a small press edition as The Adventures of Doctor Esterhazy (and again with proofreading that is not all it should be). But this is the best novel I've read by a man who usually just didn't have the sustained energy to turn out his whole novels with the overwhelming brilliance he could bring to his short fiction (and his other short work), though his two collaborative novels aren't too shabby, and then there's this brilliant short novel.

One would think that a book about a Men's Sweat magazine writer would have a receptive audience in today's market, with so many folks today, some not even inronically, so fascinated by these ridiculous heirs to the pulps, 1950s lower-grade competitors to the men's magazines such as Esquire and Playboy, which featured True Stories of Manly Adventures that were rather blatantly made up, or at very least were distorted in the manner of supermarket tabloids, running stories that Harry Harrison, who used to write them, once noted were all titled some variation of "Love-Starved Arabs Raped Me Often." This and "I Beat Off Twelve Sharks" would be cheek by jowl with cheesecake photo-features that didn't dare to be as suggestive as Esquire's pinup drawings, much less Playboy and the competing skin magazines' bare-breasted photos. Some of the monster-movie magazines, some published by the same people, showed more skin than the True Men's Adventure magazines, which numbered among them such once-proud pulp fiction magazines as Adventure and Argosy...while a few of the last stragglers among the Men's Sweat magazines ended their runs as skin magazines themselves, following Hustler's lead in the mid/late 1970s.

As mentioned, the contents of the True Men's Adventure magazines were at least as fictional as the contents of the True Confessions magazines, except when written by Avram Davidson, who would, to the amazement of his colleagues, actually do on-site research, field interviews, and otherwise produce articles of genuine scholarship for magazines that usually didn't care if any sort of truth was involved. Davidson did, though, rather as if having a tawdry market to sell his historical articles to was a way to defray the independent scholarship he wanted to do anyway.

So, the protagonist of Masters of the Maze, as noted, is a writer for these magazines of the more common kind, a hack who's grinding it out for a penny a word to make some part of a living...and he comes upon a Masonic-style secret society that has, for centuries, been guarding a sort of labyrinth between our Earth and a planet inhabited by intelligent, malevolent creatures known as the Chulpex. The Chulpex have their own secret intrigues, and a renegade among them manages to make its way here, and that's where the fun begins one point, a weary Nate Gordon the hack mutters to himself, "Communist Chulpex Ate My Wife," and that's only one of the fine thrown-away lines of demonstrative of the erudition and seemingly casual wit of Davidson, who nails down the historical details of his fraternal order's history, the science-fictional aspects of the threat posed by the interlopers, the adventure plot upon which all here rests, and a running observation of society comparable to anything in Vonnegut or certainly Brautigan. Davidson would publish more ambitious novels, such as the sequence that begins with The Phoenix and the Mirror, but none more sustained, sharp, and funny--even if the collaborations come close, Joyleg with Ward Moore (Davidson's first novel) and Marco Polo and the Sleeping Beauty with ex-wife Grania Davis (Davidson's last published during his lifetime).

Worth suffering the ugly covers for.

Cold Chills, Starlight, and the contents rather than an actual copy of Ship of Shadows all found me at pretty much the same 1978...and as the most recent collections (at least of recent work) by each of the past masters in question, they meant a lot to me, both as appreciations of their authors' work and as encouragement to continue engaging with the fields they were so integral to.

The Bloch, for example, despite the awful Leisure Books package (the original Doubleday hardcover was little better than functional, but at least was more presentable), gathers some of his most important short fiction (such as the gentle fantasy "The Movie People" and the vicious suspense story "The Animal Fair" and the straight-up, if heavily metaphorical, science fiction I gather Bloch was most proud of among his efforts in that mode, "The Learning Maze"--though certainly "How Like a God" is comparable work) along with solid entertainments (such as the joke-story with some heft to it, "The Gods Are Not Mocked"...Bloch on bumper-sticker culture might well be extended to retweets, or the horror story "Double Whammy" which might remind you of the film Drag Me to Hell done better and more succinctly as well as decades earlier). Bloch himself seems a bit uncomfortable with the final story, "The Model," an unusually sexually graphic, for Bloch, sfnal horror story..."The Girl from Mars" made more explicit (and I wonder if the unmentioned echo of that earlier story might've bothered him at least as much as being so uncharacteristically on the, um, nose).

Alfred Bester's Starlight was a Science Fiction Book Club omnibus which quite sensibly combined two slender Berkley/Putnam collections, and under a less tired title than either of the original volumes. More a career retrospective (and the only one published during Bester's lifetime) than today's other books, this collection included examples of Bester as nonfiction writer (including a version of his highly engaging autobiographical essay) as well as such brilliant, affecting short fiction as "5,271,009" and "They Don't Make Life Like They Used To" (as well as his most famous short story, "Fondly Fahrenheit" with his first two sf novels, I rank this a notch below his best short fiction, but mine is definitely a minority opinion there). From his earliest fiction, we get the also brilliant-in-concept "Adam and No Eve" and the similarly promising and breakneck-paced, if a bit goofier, "Hell is Forever"; from his late work, such a fine example as "The Four-Hour Fugue" (two notches ahead of even his best late novels).

The Leiber is perhaps an unfair comparison,'s one brilliant story after another, with no simply good or interesting examples mixed in, but this is hardly Leiber's fault, nor any disservice to the reader (as the hardcover's subtitle notes, "The Award-Winning Stories of Fritz Leiber"--in this case, the Hugo and Nebula awards for sf and fantasy). Reaching back as far as his novella The Big Time, really a play in prose form as such critics as Algis Budrys were quick to note (with a punning title harkening to vaudeville as much as time travel and destiny), and otherwise gathering much of the best of his shorter work over the previous decade (or certainly his most widely-hailed shorter work...most with strong autobiographical aspects, and none moreso than the Fafhrd and Gray Mouser story which is in part a memorial to his recently-late wife, Jonquil, though the title-story also deals with the alcoholic spiral her death occasioned for him), the book simply is as good an introduction to Leiber as one could ask for...something also true of the Bester, for the most part, and not quite true of the Bloch, but one could do worse. So...a core sampling of the late career for Bloch, a measure of the range of short work by Bester, and the popular as well as artistic cream of Leiber (reduction of Leiber?) in that period. One could do a lot worse than any of these.

The Contento indices:
Cold Chills Robert Bloch (Doubleday, 1977, hc); Also in pb (Leisure).
· Introduction · in
· The Gods Are Not Mocked · ss Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine Aug ’68
· How Like a God · ss Galaxy Apr ’69
· The Movie People · ss The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (or F&SF) Oct ’69
· Double Whammy · ss Fantastic Feb ’70
· In the Cards · ss Worlds of Fantasy Win ’70
· The Animal Fair · ss Playboy May ’71
· The Oracle · ss Penthouse May ’71
· The Play’s the Thing · ss Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine May ’71
· Ego Trip · ss Penthouse Mar ’72
· Forever and Amen · ss And Walk Now Gently Through the Fire, ed. Roger Elwood, Chilton, 1972
· See How They Run · ss EQMM Apr ’73
· Space-Born · nv Children of Infinity, ed. Roger Elwood, Watts, 1973
· The Learning Maze · ss The Learning Maze, ed. Roger Elwood, Messner, 1974
· The Model · ss Gallery Nov ’75

Starlight Alfred Bester (Nelson Doubleday, 1976, hc)
· The Light Fantastic · ed. Alfred Bester · co Berkley/Putnam, 1976
· 5,271,009 · nv F&SF Mar ’54
· Ms. Found in a Champagne Bottle · ss Status, 1968
· Fondly Fahrenheit · nv F&SF Aug ’54
· Comment on “Fondly Fahrenheit” · ar
· The Four-Hour Fugue · ss Analog Jun ’74
· The Men Who Murdered Mohammed · ss F&SF Oct ’58
· Disappearing Act · ss Star Science Fiction Stories #2, ed. Frederik Pohl, Ballantine, 1953
· Hell Is Forever · na Unknown Aug ’42
· Star Light, Star Bright · ed. Alfred Bester · co Berkley/Putnam, 1976
· Adam and No Eve · ss Astounding Sep ’41
· Time Is the Traitor · nv F&SF Sep ’53
· Oddy and Id [“The Devil’s Invention”] · ss Astounding Aug ’50
· Hobson’s Choice · ss F&SF Aug ’52
· Star Light, Star Bright · ss F&SF Jul ’53
· They Don’t Make Life Like They Used To · nv F&SF Oct ’63
· Of Time and Third Avenue · ss F&SF Oct ’51
· Isaac Asimov · iv Publishers Weekly Apr 17 ’72 [Isaac Asimov]
· The Pi Man · ss Star Light, Star Bright, Berkley/Putnam, 1976; revised from F&SF Oct ’59.
· Something Up There Likes Me · nv Astounding, ed. Harry Harrison, Random House, 1973
· My Affair with Science Fiction · ar Nova 4, ed. Harry Harrison, Walker, 1975

Ship of Shadows Fritz Leiber (Gollancz, 1979, hc)
· Ship of Shadows · na F&SF Jul ’69
· Catch That Zeppelin! · nv F&SF Mar ’75
· Gonna Roll the Bones · nv Dangerous Visions, ed. Harlan Ellison, Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1967
· Ill Met in Lankhmar [Fafhrd & Gray Mouser] · na F&SF Apr ’70
· Belsen Express · ss The Second Book of Fritz Leiber, DAW Books, 1975
· The Big Time [Change War] · n. Galaxy Mar ’58 (+1); New York: Ace Books, 1961

Courtesy ISFDb:

The Fantastic Pulps

Editor: Peter Haining (Gollancz, 1975; St. Martin's Press, 1976; Vintage, 1976--the paperback I have, pictured here)

11 • Introduction (The Fantastic Pulps) • (1975) • essay by Peter Haining
19 • Manacled • (1900) • shortstory by Stephen Crane
25 • A Thousand Deaths • (1899) • shortstory by Jack London
37 • Author's Adventure • (1897) • shortstory by Upton Sinclair
42 • The Resurrection of Jimber-Jaw • (1937) • novelette by Edgar Rice Burroughs
62 • John Ovington Returns • (1918) • shortstory by Max Brand
79 • The People of the Pit • (1918) • shortstory by A. Merritt
97 • The Man with the Glass Heart • (1911) • shortstory by George Allan England (aka He of the Glass Heart)
110 • The Wolf Woman • [Trumpets from Oblivion] • (1939) • shortstory by H. Bedford-Jones
129 • A Cry from Beyond • (1931) • novelette by Victor Rousseau
149 • Madman's Murder Melody • (1940) • shortstory by Ray Cummings
163 • The Land That Time Forgot • (1975) • interior artwork by Frank Paul
164 • The Moon Pool • (1975) • interior artwork by Graves Gladney
165 • The Indestructible Man • (1975) • interior artwork by John Newton Howett
166 • Full Moon • (1975) • interior artwork by Virgil Finlay
167 • The Rat Racket • (1931) • interior artwork by Leo Morey
168 • Piracy Preferred • (1975) • interior artwork by H. W. Wesso
169 • Vampire Kith and Kin • (1975) • interior artwork by Vincent Napoli
170 • The Devotee of Evil • (1941) • interior artwork by Hannes Bok
171 • Herbert West: Reanimator • (1975) • interior artwork by Damon Knight
172 • The Black Ferris • (1975) • interior artwork by Lee Brown Coye
175 • The Ghost Patrol • (1917) • shortstory by Sinclair Lewis
189 • The Sardonic Star of Tom Doody • (1923) • shortstory by Dashiell Hammett [as by Peter Collinson]
196 • The Second Challenge • (1929) • shortstory by MacKinlay Kantor
209 • Baron Münchhausen's Scientific Adventures • (1916) • shortstory by Hugo Gernsback
221 • A Twentieth Century Homunculus • (1930) • shortstory by David H. Keller, M.D. [as by David H. Keller]
244 • The Man Who Saw the Future • (1930) • shortstory by Edmond Hamilton
260 • Suicide Chapel • [Jules de Grandin] • (1938) • novelette by Seabury Quinn
292 • The Diary of Alonzo Typer • (1938) • novelette by H. P. Lovecraft and William Lumley
315 • The Tree of Life • [Northwest Smith] • (1936) • novelette by C. L. Moore
343 • Iron Mask • (1944) • novelette by Robert Bloch
386 • The Sea Shell • (1944) • shortstory by Ray Bradbury
397 • The Bloody Pulps • (1962) • essay by Charles Beaumont
415 • Poor Amazing Gets It! • (1932) • letter (to Amazing Stories) by Forrest J. Ackerman
417 • The Saint's Here Again • (1939) • letter (to Thrilling Wonder Stories) by Leslie Charteris
419 • Bibliography (The Fantastic Pulps) • (1976) • essay by uncredited (Peter Haining)

again, from ISFDb:
What Did Miss Darrington See?: An Anthology of Feminist Supernatural Fiction
edited by Jessica Amanda Salmonson (Feminist Press, 1989)

ix • Preface (What Did Miss Darrington See?) • (1989) • essay by Jessica Amanda Salmonson
xv • Introduction (What Did Miss Darrington See?) • (1989) • essay by Rosemary Jackson
xxxvii • Proem: The Immortal • (1908) • poem by Ellen Glasgow
1 • The Long Chamber • (1914) • shortstory by Olivia Howard Dunbar
15 • A Ghost Story • (1858) • shortstory by Ada Trevanion
25 • Luella Miller • (1902) • shortstory by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
38 • What Did Miss Darrington See? • (1870) • shortstory by Emma B. Cobb
58 • La Femme Noir • (1850) • shortstory by Anna Maria Hall
68 • A Friend in Need • (1981) • shortstory by Lisa Tuttle
79 • Attachment • (1974) • shortstory by Phyllis Eisenstein
90 • Dreaming the Sky Down • (1987) • shortstory by Barbara Burford
101 • The Sixth Canvasser • (1916) • shortstory by Inez Haynes Irwin
114 • An Unborn Visitant • (1932) • shortstory by Vita Sackville-West
124 • Tamar • (1932) • shortstory by Lady Eleanor Smith
135 • There and Here • (1897) • shortstory by Alice Brown
148 • The Substitute • (1914) • shortstory by Georgia Wood Pangborn
158 • The Teacher • (1976) • shortstory by Luisa Valenzuela
164 • The Ghost • (1978) • shortstory by Anne Sexton
170 • Three Dreams in a Desert • (1890) • shortstory by Olive Schreiner
177 • The Fall • (1967) • shortstory by Armonia Somers
188 • Pandora Pandaemonia • (1989) • shortfiction by Jules Faye
192 • The Doll • (1896) • shortstory by Vernon Lee
201 • The Debutante • (1939) • shortfiction by Leonora Carrington
205 • The Readjustment • (1908) • shortstory by Mary Austin (1868)
212 • Clay-Shuttered Doors • (1926) • shortstory by Helen R. Hull
229 • Since I Died • (1873) • shortstory by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps
236 • The Little Dirty Girl • (1982) • shortstory by Joanna Russ
255 • Envoi: For Emily D. • (1989) • poem by uncredited (J. A. Salmonson)
256 • Recommended Reading (What Did Miss Darrington See?) • (1989) • essay by uncredited (J. A. Salmonson)

Two important survey anthologies in my reading, encountered about a decade apart; I would've caught up with the Haining, with its then mildly steep (to me on an allowance) price of $3 (or was it up to $5?) in its "quality paperback" digest-sized form, in 1978, and I picked up the Salmonson at time of publication. Both books good fun to read, the Salmonson averaging better in quality (Haining's anthologies through the decades were often more fun even when not greater than the sum of their parts, and the selection is certainly reasonably representative), but both useful surveys that introduced me to writers I was unlikely to stumble across quickly otherwise (such as Kantor or Quinn, in the Haining, though I had read about Quinn in Les Daniels's history of horror in literature and other arts, Living in Fear).

Perhaps as important as the fiction, in both cases, were the best essays in either book; Rosemary Jackson's introduction to the Salmonson was, by design or happy circumstance, a persuasive counter-argument to Stephen King's rather daft and widely, thoughtlessly assented-to notion, put forth in Danse Macabre, that horror fiction is inherently a politically reactionary form; she deftly demonstrates horror's history and natural utility as radical and progressive critique, not least in pointing out the horrors in society which need to be overcome. In the Haining, he reprints Charles Beaumont's fine essay "The Bloody Pulps" (from an early '60s Playboy), which while not accurate in every detail is a fine, nostalgic gloss on the joys of the pulps of CB's youth...amusing to hear his voice from 1962 sneer just a bit about the slight thing a 1962 Argosy or Amazing: Fact and Science Fiction were compared to what one got in, say, 1946...Argosy by the early '60s had already become a sort of down-market, if slick, Esquire, rather than the leading general-interest/eclectic fiction pulp it had been in the 1940s (and its British edition already a sedate and even more literarily impressive digest), but this contrast between the slim, adventurous digest-sized Amazing, edited by Cele Goldsmith and featuring some of the best fiction in the field, versus the Ray Palmer Amazing Stories of the '40s with some good and a lot of indifferent to bad adventure sf, and a tendency by the end of the '40s to wallow in fringe crackpottery (even as John W. Campbell over at Astounding was becoming increasingly willing to do, as well, in his more intellectualized way), is not a terribly strong argument. Except in nostalgic terms, perhaps. (And Amazing's then-recent mockery of Playboy, in a joke story by Isaac Asimov, perhaps had not gone unnoticed in the Mansion.)

The fiction in both volumes ranges from impressive to readable, with, as noted, the advantage going to the Salmonson, even given the historical importance of nearly everyone in both books (though, obviously, some of the Salmonson picks have become even more obscure over the decades than some of the once-famous and still indirectly influential fictioneers in the Haining); the works by still-major folks in the Haining, ranging from London and Lewis through C. L. Moore and Hammett to Bloch and Bradbury, are represented by stories more rare than representative of what they were capable of, which is less true even of the modern writers in the Salmonson, even as she avoids some obvious choices (and includes such nice surprises as Anne Sexton's prose vignette). A nice bonus in the Haining is a portfolio of pulp illustration, including Damon Knight's work, from before he turned his primary attention to writing, for the Weird Tales publication of the Lovecraft "Herbert West, Reanimator" stories.

The Haining was never too fortunate in cover imagery, but the hardcover has a slightly better cover, a pulp illustration reprint rather than a pastiche (and Haining's later anthology, with actual covers from his collection excerpted on the cover, not surprisingly looks better yet:)

Joanna Russ was kind of a fortuitous presence in my early reading of adult fantastic ficiton...her hilarious "Useful Phrases for the Tourist" was in Robert Silverberg's anthology Infinite Jests ("Are you edible? I am not edible."--an early exposure, for me, to what I call a story of apparatus), which I read when I was about about the same time, I saw my first issue of F&SF on a newsstand, at the drugstore where I bought my comics and the occasional book or National Lampoon, the January 1976 issue with Russ's "My Boat" leading it and Stuart Dybek's "Horror Movie" looked intriguing, but it cost a Whole Buck, and I could get four comics for that, if I even had a whole buck on me at the time. Meanwhile, the first F&SF I owned was the November 1971, featuring Russ as the book reviewer, leading off her column with Shulamith Firestone's speculative feminist nonfiction, The Dialectic of Sex.

Her three important nonfiction books primarily about literature, as opposed to the mixed collection of essays Magic Mommas..., which I've briefly reviewed previously, and her last completely new published work so far, history of the feminist revival What Are We Fighting For?, are all witty, challenging, and often brilliant...and often harder to find than her only sustainedly in-print novel, the brilliant The Female Man. How to Suppress Women's Writing is a a book-length study; To Write Like a Woman a collection of longer essays, and The Country You Have Never Seen mostly a collection of her book reviews, public letters, and shorter essays. The first two are excerpted on Google Books at the hypertext both is and is not remarkable how much of her work has been Google Booked, given her importance and her relative lack of support by her publishers...though, notably, all three of today's books are in print, from their respective university presses. I'm not sure if Russ is on record as wary/annoyed by Google's book project as Ursula Le Guin has been...but Russ is at least semi-retired as a public figure, having a degenerative back problem that had her writing most of her later works standing up. (As someone who is wondering what the hell is suddenly up with his worsening eyes, I have nothing but sympathy.)

Suppress was Russ's first extended work of nonfiction, and is an excellent approach to the subject at hand, well documented and willing to note where the exceptions to the overarching problem exist, however partially. I like To Write even better, particularly "Someone's Trying to Kill Me and I Think It's My Husband," a brilliant quick study of the state of the supermarket gothic in their first flourish (they are not quite back in the nonetheless related form of the paranormal romance). The Firestone-led column is one of the many review-essays and related writing collected in Country, which collectively allow for Russ's playfulness and wit to express themselves perhaps most blatantly...another F&SF essay memorably runs through a series of metaphors for the books under discussion, each except the last considered as a variety of toy rabbit.

Russ began her academic/creative career in drama, as I recall, rather like her near-exact contemporary Barry Malzberg...they were both writing stage drama while working within academe, at least as grad students; Kate Laity has done something similar, while going on to profess while freelancing, while Malzberg left campus to become a full-time freelancer and off-and-on literary agent and editor; Russ, I believe, split the difference, continuing to teach in drama off and on while conducting her literary career...the latter in prose rather than in drama. Hence also one of her several points of community with Fritz Leiber, who was first professionally an actor before he was a writer and who consistently wrote prose with a dramatic sense to it, often in dramatic or near-dramatic form. (Then there are all the busy screenwriters who are among "our" prose writers, such as Leigh Brackett, Robert Bloch, Henry Slesar, William Goldman, George R. R. Martin, Alan Brennert, Harlan Ellison, Bruce Jay Friedman, Jules Feiffer [the last two also stage playwrights] and others...while Jack Sharkey might've been one of the few to eventually make a career mostly based on stage drama, writing dozens of one-act plays for Samuel French and their clients in mostly community and amateur theater.

That's only one point between Leiber and Russ, who also both wrote among the most challenging work in fantastic-fiction (i.e. Leiber's Conjure Wife and "Coming Attraction" and "The Night He Cried" [with the arguably limited target, looming larger at the time, of Mickey Spillane's fiction and its influence) to Russ's The Female Man and her affectionate parodies of Lovecraft and vicious ones of Heinlein and his imitators), their mutual love for bringing an extra dimension or several to adventure fantasy (Leiber and Russ even wrote one story each which feature the other's avatars Fafhrd and Alyx within their own fiction cycles), and, of course, both serving as reviewers and columnists for the most visible fantasy amgazines on newsstands in the 1970s, among other markets.

Country might be the last new book we see from Russ, and that is a pity, except only in that it's a fine collection of work from throughout that career, and worth the stiff price of the paperback edition (or even the very stiff price of the stiffer format). It occurs to me that Liverpool delayed its publication...Russ might've wanted it out in 2005, making neat ten year itnervals betwen her purely liteary nonfiction books. (But maybe not.)

And it occurs to me that I don't remember if I had the wit to suggest to Patti Abbott, when she asked me about utopian and dystopian fiction, that The Female Man goes beyond its seeds in "When It Changed" to posit a throughline of incomplete dystopia and utopia at every stage of its narrative, not even least the parts set in the here and now of its composition-space/time...along with Damon Knight's "The Country of the Kind," one of the more challenging and meliorated of utopias for its larger implications (even as Leiber's "Coming Attraction" and Kate Wilhelm's "The Winter Beach" and its expansion Welcome, Chaos among other work are meliorated dystopia).

I first became aware of Vivian Gornick through her collection of essays, including quite a number of book-review items, Essays in Feminism, and her book-length survey, Women in Science. (It didn't hurt my feelings any that many of my favorite writers within the 1960s-onward resurgence of feminism were particularly interested in literature, from Joanna Russ to Gornick to Joyce Carol Oates to bell hooks.) In this small, charming book she highlights what she learned from some of her favorite male writers, not only in how to put prose together but also in how to handle the pressures and slights, the alienation and disappointments life is likely to dump on writers...even when they are men from the dominant ethnic and even social groups of their time and place...they are each given their own short essay: V. S. Naipaul, James Baldwin, George Gissing, Randall Jarrell, H. G. Wells, Loren Eiseley, Allen Ginsberg, Hayden Carruth, Saul Bellow, and Philip Roth. (Of these, I'd barely heard of Gissing, and haven't as yet read any Carruth that I remember, but was glad to be introduced thus.) It's a charming, thoughtful book, a hardcover from Boston Review Books/MIT Press the size of a reasonably slim mass-market paperback, and while it isn't the Gornick to start with (that would probably be Essays in Feminism or Fierce Attachments), I'm glad we have it.

I'd cited the publication of this one previously, but decided it's time for a capsule review...Algis Budrys, more than anyone else reviewing books in the fantasy/sf media with the occasional exception of his fellow critic in the pages of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in the 1970s, Joanna Russ, was passionately engaged in not only limning the qualities of individual works in question but also helping to place the significance of the art at hand within world literature, and not afraid to draw our attention to works supposedly outside our canons (it didn't hurt that he was also reviewing a wide range of books for The Chicago Sun-Times and contributing critical-historical essays to the likes of TriQuarterly in those years). And he did so with a dry wit and elegance that few others could match.  The latter '70s were a relatively hopeful and prosperous time within the fantasy/sf community (even as the wider US economy, at to some extent that of the West generally, was stagnant at best) and the efflorescence of various interesting new developments in publishing didn't escape Budrys's sometimes skeptical, sometimes enthusiastic attention...he even had not completely implausible (if slim) hopes of being on a major television chat show to plug his first new novel in more than a decade.  With Tolkien setting new sales records for hardcover fiction and this new guy Stephen King beginning to reliably appear at the top of bestseller lists (and not they alone), and science-fantasy films repeatedly dominating pop culture, and fantasy and sf generally seeming to gain ever more attention from wider audiences at various levels, it was an interesting time to be looking critically at the fields. As this volume demonstrates.

And now it has a sequel...
David Redd's much better review of the Budrys than any I have yet written.

Please see B.V. Lawson's blog for more of today's reviews. Patti Abbott will host again next week, with a special look at Ross Macdonald.


Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

I actually have some of these such as the Leiber and Bloch books (albeit sometimes with UK covers) - some wonderful stull to mull over Todd, thanks - and my goodness, too long since I read anythign by Russ - thanks for that too.

Kelly Robinson said...

I don't read that much sci-fi as compared to crime, but some of the best stuff I read was on Timescape.

Masters of the Maze is new to me, and yes, the pulp connection makes it quite intriguing. Thanks for the review and for bringing it to my attention.

Todd Mason said...

I'm never ashamed to send someone back to Joanna Russ or onto Avram Davidson for the first time...

Rick Robinson said...

Those What If? collections at least gave Lupoff a chance to get a couple of stories published. Honestly, I was never very impressed with his editing chops.

Todd Mason said...

I dunno, Richard...had Dick stopped with the Edgar Rice Burroughs volumes, which don't appeal much to me (as a non-fan of ERB), I might agree more, but I think he did a fine job with these and most of his other editing work I've seen. You realize he's been publishing fiction (or others have been publishing it when he's written it!) since the mid '60s, before anything but (his and his wife's pioneering comix fanzine, among other things) XERO and the Burroughs books were out...perhaps ALL IN COLOR FOR A DIME, too?