Friday, December 5, 2014

FFB: THE BEST FROM FANTASTIC edited by Ted White (Manor, 1973); THE BEST FROM FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION: A SPECIAL 25th ANNIVERSARY ANTHOLOGY edited by Edward Ferman (Doubleday, 1974)

The two most durable of the US-based fantasy-fiction magazines of the latter half of the 20th Century, Fantastic Stories (founded 1952, folded into stablemate Amazing early in 1981) and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (since 1949), were edited by their most durable editors forty years back (Ted White would edit Fantastic from 1969-1979, after a brief period as assistant editor of F&SF in the 1960s with Edward Ferman, who edited his magazine from 1964-1991, also serving as publisher for most of that period)...and they produced these volumes, the Fantastic volume the only above-board best-of from its magazine for two decades (eventually another, also not truly representative, would be published in the 1990s), the F&SF item a slightly variant volume in a fairly regular series of which gathered from a series of special author-tribute issues, beginning with a special Theodore Sturgeon issue in 1962. 

White's book is, if anything, too modest in not gathering any of the fiction he published in his issues, as he was one of the two best editors the magazine would have, drawing instead mostly on contributions from Cele Goldsmith Lalli's term, and the first issues of the magazine as edited by Howard Browne. Most of the featured-author special issues of F&SF were published during Ferman's editorship, and while the essays and bibliographies about their subjects are good reading, the often excellent stories published in those issues aren't the best of the fiction that magazine published by any of the so-honored writers...even the brilliant "Ship of Shadows" by Fritz Leiber, or the ambitious and groundbreaking Sturgeon story ("When You Care, When You Love" was meant to be part of an eventual novel, which Sturgeon never completed as far as I know) were not the most impressive work they placed with F&SF.  But you won't suffer in reading anything in either book, even the odd inclusion of a Keith Laumer story from Amazing in the Fantastic book...and I'm surprised on re-reading to find how much I enjoy Leiber's "I'm Looking for 'Jeff'", not the first Leiber story from Fantastic I would've reached for if I was White, but nonetheless so deftly written and so clearly the work of the same mind responsible for the likes of "Smoke Ghost" and "The Secret Songs" that White's bias, perhaps, toward stories he thought were being overlooked in the magazine's back issues might be indulged. It is rather sad that it took some more years before there was a special author issue of F&SF for any woman writer, and that White also almost overlooks all the notable women writers to contribute to and, like Le Guin, to be Discovered by Fantastic (the magazine was the first to publish Kate Wilhelm, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Sonya Dorman and others, at least the first professional market to publish their prose...along with featuring notable stories by a range of writers from Shirley Jackson to Pamela Sargent).  But, again, you can do worse. 

courtesy the Locus Index:

The Best from Fantastic ed. Ted White (Manor 95242, 1973, 95¢, 192pp, pb)
  • 9 · Foreword · Ted White · fw
  • 13 · I’m Looking for “Jeff” · Fritz Leiber · ss Fantastic Fll ’52
  • 27 · Angels in the Jets · Jerome Bixby · ss Fantastic Fll ’52
  • 40 · Paingod · Harlan Ellison · ss Fantastic Jun ’64
  • 51 · The Malatesta Collection · Roger Zelazny · ss Fantastic Apr ’63
  • 58 · Sally · Isaac Asimov · ss Fantastic May/Jun ’53
  • 79 · The Roller Coaster · Alfred Bester · ss Fantastic May/Jun ’53
  • 88 · Eve Times Four · Poul Anderson · nv Fantastic Apr ’60
  • 125 · Final Exam · Chad Oliver · ss Fantastic Nov/Dec ’52
  • 138 · April in Paris · Ursula K. Le Guin · ss Fantastic Sep ’62
  • 151 · A Trip to the City [“It Could Be Anything”] · Keith Laumer · nv Amazing Jan ’63
No effort to use the magazine logos...
The utterly functional hardcover edition covers;
note also the misidentification of this book as sf.

The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction, 25th Anniversary ed. Edward L. Ferman (Doubleday, 1974, hc)
The (even) uglier paperback editions:
Making no effort...
...and effortfully ugly...
For more of today's books, please see Patti Abbott's blog.


Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Todd, it feels nice to know that I'm (finally) reading some of these sf writers like Bixby and Laumer and, of course, Bradbury and Asimov. I hope to get to Fritz Leiber and Poul Anderson soon.

Todd Mason said...

And definitely Sturgeon and Le Guin, Prashant...and Kate Wilhelm...

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

So much great stuff there Todd - smilimg and sighing at memories of greatness past.

George said...

Surprisingly, I didn't buy THE BEST FROM FANTASTIC. Maybe it was the fact that I had all those issues. Or, it might have been that MANOR BOOKS had spotty distribution in this area and I never saw the book.

Todd Mason said...

Manor Books's distribution was pretty spotty, indeed. In NE Connecticut, we had mobbed-up distributors who could be depended upon for Charlton Comics and Manor Books in drugstores.

Todd Mason said...

And, thanks, folks...