Friday, July 18, 2014

FFM: P.S. #1, April 1966: contributions from Avram Davidson, Alfred Bester, Nat Hentoff, Gahan Wilson, Jean Shepherd, Ron Goulart, Charles Beaumont, Russell Baker, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, et al.; Edward Ferman, editor; Gahan Wilson, associate editor; Ron Salzberg, assistant editor

This is a magazine I've been looking for copies of (in a casual way) for about 35 years, maybe a little more. I've written about it a little previously in the blog (and received some interesting and helpful comments there), and here's the (slightly corrected) index from the FictionMags Index previously reprinted at that occasion: 

P.S. [v1 #1, April 1966] ed. Edward L. Ferman (Mercury Press, 60¢, 64pp, 8" x 11") Gahan Wilson, associate editor; Ron Salzberg, assistant editor
    Details supplied by Cuyler Brooks (and augmented by me).

  • 3 · Don Sturdy and the 30,000 Series Books · Avram Davidson · ar
  • 12 · Would You Want Your Product to Marry a Negro · Alfred Bester · ar
  • 16 · The Gentle Art of Brick Throwing · Ron Goulart · ar
  • 24 · Freaks · Gahan Wilson · ar
  • 32 · Child Things · Russell Baker · ar (The New York Times 1965)
  • 34 · The Lost Lovely Landscapes of Luna · Isaac Asimov · ar
  • 39 · Lugosi: The Compleat Bogeyman · Charles Beaumont · ar (F&SF 1956)
  • 42 · When Elephants Last in the Dooryard Bloomed · Ray Bradbury · pm
  • 44 · Joe Louis in Atlantic City · Jerry Tallmer · ar
  • 49 · The Thirties Quiz · Robert Thomsen · qz
  • 50 · Sweet and Lowdown: The Lost Jazz Years · Nat Hentoff · ar
  • 58 · Captain Ahab Is Dead; Long Live Bob Dylan, Or, Are the Beatles Really the Andrews Sisters, In Drag? · Jean Shepherd · ar
  • 62 · Now You See Them · Ron Salzberg · ar
As often the case with an example of this much delay in gratification, the contents of the issue don't quite live up to my expectations (I can see why Davidson's good, but not superb, essay hasn't been reprinted, for example), but nonetheless I'm not sorry I paid a reasonably high price (though not as exorbitant as prices often are on this title, when it can be found) to finally have it at hand. The Davidson essay deals with the series adventure books aimed at children from the first several decades of the 20th century, produced by the Stratemeyer Syndicate (whose products have included Nancy Drew, Tom Swift and Hardy Boys novels)...several of the examples Davidson considers from a thrift-store scrounge were among such series as the Don Sturdy and Bomba the Jungle Boy books (durable creature in comics as well) that he'd read in his own childhood, and some attributed to the same "Roy Rockwood" house name that Rich Horton was treating with in his FFB last week. 

Bester's essay is telling about the delights of commercial (in at least two senses) practical censorship in the period when American apartheid, at least in certain areas, was still just beginning to come undone, and the pressures newly applied by the likes of the Congress of Racial Equality from their direction to further make things Interesting for those in the advertising and commercial radio/television industries in what we can now think of as the Mad Men era. (Bester also notes that the best actor who'd auditioned to play Charlie Chan in the radio series Bester was writing in the late '40s was spiked because the actor was black, and who'd dare have a black man play a Chinese-American detective...far safer to settle on eventual star Ed Begley, Sr.). And while there is a bit of mockery of what was already being tagged Political Correctness in certain quarters in both the Davidson and particularly the Bester essays, the Shepherd is an unsurprisingly unsubtle bleat about the then-new androgyny as seen by the radio and print satirist, with particular contumely expended toward Tom Wolfe and to a lesser extent Andy Warhol; mocking the claims to the brawling life by Bob Dylan seems a bit more grounded. 

Gahan Wilson's thoughtful essay about the history of the freak show (with special attention to the activities of P. T. Barnum and his associates), Isaac Asimov's survey of the end of Romantic Mars with new Mariner probe imagery and data, and particularly Charles Beaumont's memoir of his meeting with Bela Lugosi very near the end of the actor's life (and by the time of this reprint, presumably from Beaumont's film column in F&SF, Beaumont was already far gone in his fatal premature Alzheimer's), Ron Goulart's run through the history of George Harriman and Krazy Kat, and Nat Hentoff on the jazz legends of his youth are all fine, and some at least among the pioneering writing of the time about these matters. The magazine as a whole, in its first of only three issues, is more about nostalgic reflection than I expected, with the Shepherd blast (and to some extent the Bester) being the prime example(s) of the kind of pop-sociological consideration I expected to comprise more of the content, but it really is a pity on several counts that this magazine didn't flourish. It was a good start. 

For more actual books this week, please see Patti Abbott's blog. I'll be (rather more promptly) hosting the links over the next two Fridays at this one.


Jerry House said...

P.S. did not last long on the market, alas, but over the years I read and reread and enjoyed all the issues. It marked the second(but not the last) time I mourned the demise of a magazine. (The first time was with Harvey Kurtzman's HELP!)

Todd Mason said...

As I noted in the older post, I was finally starting to see an affinity between HELP! and P.S. (quite aside from the overlap in contributors), which actually reading an issue finally does nothing to dispel. I fear my collecting mania might just be even more insanely overindulged had I been not learning how to walk at about the time these two titles were extant (and all the others I'd be accruing with the same compulsion as the current and selected older magazines...all the slick magazines that still ran rather good fiction back then, for example, which is budgetarily rather handily (for my personal finances) less true today. (I manfully manage today to buy BUST and BITCH and the occasional MS. magazine, so suspect I might've been capable of buying the REDBOOKs and LADIES HOME JOURNALs of their last literary years with not too much embarrassment.)

Jerry House said...

I once sucked it up and bought an issue of REDBOOK for a Stanley Ellin story, Todd.

Todd Mason said...

Well, I recently bought what might be the last issue of FAERIES magazine, off the foundering newsstand at B&N, in part to index it for the FMI...buying BUST is one thing, but buying a magazine that mixes recipes with photography that kinda sorta leans waifish but apparently is aimed at women of twee tastes of all ages...well, it's less embarrassing than buying MAXIM, I suppose. (Their Mermaids special issue featured a slew of "name" writers whom they barely bothered to mention on the cover.)

Todd Mason said...

"Mermaids features original fiction and poetry from authors like Alice Hoffman, Aimee Bender, Keith Donohue, Francesca Lia Block, Tera Lynn Childs, Matthea Harvey, Jane Yolen, and more."

George said...

Never saw a copy of P.S. until your blog post. The stories look great!

Todd Mason said...

All nonfiction, though, George (with some retold folklore sneaking in)...

Ed Gorman said...

I remember being hooked on this magazine. Hung around newstands waiting for another one to appear. Real fine stuff. Thanks for running this.