But Kate Stine had another similar job earlier, as editor of The Armchair Detective, the first elaborate quarterly crime-fiction fanzine that I came across, and the first to have much of a presence on newsstands, from the earlier years of Allen J. Hubin's stewardship. By the time I came across it, it was publishing generally interesting (if at times a bit potted) articles on all sorts of crime-fiction writers and historical trends, and considerations of film and related media, book reviews...and, frequently, at least a little new fiction in most issues in the early 1990s...a time one could also find, on better newsstands, Stephen Brown's Science Fiction Eye (originally co-edited and -published by Dan Steffan, and which became SF Eye for its last two issues), dealing with sf but also fantasy and as much related matter as possible, and Bob Morrish, John Scoleri and Peter Enfantino's The Scream Factory, a magazine about horror and related matter in all media. While TAD was meant to be encyclopedic, touching on every sort of crime-fiction they could pack in (most other CF critical magazines to follow often started out with a more limited focus, even if, for example, Jim Huang's The Drood Review, the first version of Clues, before Elizabeth Foxwell's revival, or Steve Lewis's initial newsletter form of Mystery*File began with a similarly wide remit), SF Eye tended toward explorations of the bleeding edge as much as possible, as it was in part a vastly more elaborate extension of the intentionally modest-looking one-sheet Cheap Truth, the original organ of the nascent Cyberpunks. TSF seemed to take from both column A and column B, seeking to report on the
full range of horror (in fact, one of the best-loved issues was about "the Worst in Horror" through the decades), but also expressing special love for the more flashy sorts of horror, including the better work offered by the nascent Splatterpunks and other practitioners of even more copiously bleeding edge materials. And SF Eye and Scream Factory both ran at least some fiction as they went along, as well...these weren't the first fantastic-fiction critical magazines to have a certain heft to them, by any means; Armchair had taken some of its inspiration from such earlier magazines about fantastic fiction as Amra, George Scithers's heroic fantasy critical fanzine, The Arkham Collector, the second and less elaborate magazine from August Derleth's horror and fantasy specialist book publishers Arkham House (their little magazine of some decades before, The Arkham Sampler, had been more a mostly-fiction title), as well as such fairly elaborate productions as Inside SF/Riverside Quarterly, Science Fiction Review, and the later Fantasy Newsletter; the recently late Douglas Fratz's
elaborate long-running critical magazine in sf/fantasy circles, Algol, later Starship, took on as professional an appearance as it could, with very handsome full-color covers, before being folded into editor/publisher Andrew Porter's more frequently-published competitor to Locus, Science Fiction Chronicle (among other magazines of note during the decade were NonStop and Lawrence Person's Nova Express, while the best guide to the exploding "zine culture" was Mike Gunderloy, and eventually his partners' and successors' Factsheet Five, taking its title from a reference in a John Brunner story). The Scream Factory eventually folded, giving way to the more criminous bare*bones; the short-lived newsmagazine Horror and the rather more durable critical magazine Necrofile followed (and Paula Guran's email newsletter DarkEcho), as well...but while they lasted in the '90s, the most exciting and diverse of the critical magazines were our cited trio (and that they all presented a bit of fiction didn't hurt, in my estimation)...with the few issues of Damon Knight's return to critical magazine editing, and writing criticism, being the notable counterpoint as described below:
Friday, December 28, 2012
FFB: MONAD: Essays on Science Fiction [except when they are about fantasy or are poems about a writer's life, and such], Number One (September 1990), edited by Damon Knight (Pulphouse)
|the paperback edition|
Knight had begun writing criticism along with his earliest published fiction (and cartoons and illustration), in the 1940s, the critical writing sparked by the example of Frederik Pohl's reviews, and Knight's mostly published in the better examples of the more "sercon" (serious and constructive, which could be taken at face value or imply an earnest dullness) fanzines of the day, as well as in Knight's own fanzine, Snide. In the 1950s, Knight and Lester del Rey co-edited and published two issues of Science Fiction Forum, as a more purely critical little magazine/fanzine, but apparently did no more till Knight revived the title Forum as that of the house organ of the Science Fiction Writers of America, of which he was a primary founder and its first president. While some projects like this one ran indefinitely (Inside Science Fiction became Riverside Quarterly, and lasted forty years in all), many more have been mayflies (Harry Harrison and Brian Aldiss's SF Horizons managed two similarly impressive issues in the mid-'60s). Others, such as the titles mentioned above, had intermediate-length runs, and made names for themselves at least in certain circles...anyone who suffered through my squibs on this blog knows that I'm tempted to try to trace as many of those as possible, but I will desist for a moment (noting only, for example, that SF Eye had roots in Bruce Sterling's one-sheet zine Cheap Truth as well as editor/publisher Stephen Brown's work on such earlier, more conventional critical magazines as Douglas Fratz's Thrust).
Index of the contents courtesy ISFDb:
- 1 • Editorial (Monad #1) • essay by Damon Knight
- 3 • Children, Women, Men, and Dragons • essay by Ursula K. Le Guin
- 29 • I Dream Therefore I Become • (1990) • essay by Brian W. Aldiss
- 37 • An All-Day Poem • (1972) • poem by Thomas M. Disch
- 51 • Precessing the Simulacra for Fun and Profit • essay by Bruce Sterling
- 67 • Beauty, Stupidity, Injustice, and Science Fiction • essay by Damon Knight
- 89 • Letter (Monad #1) • essay by Tom Whitmore
Ursula Le Guin's essay is driven in large part by her recent completion of a fourth volume, Tehanu, in what had been for some years the Earthsea trilogy, and how over the course of writing the component novels, each in its turn, the very fact that she was a woman writing about outsiders in the heroic tradition (a dark-complected man, a woman, children) hit home, and slowly a critique of hierarchy and authority developed as her feminism and anarchism coalesced through her resolution and exploration of these tensions. Even as she credits particularly T. H. White and Tolkien for expanding the idiom before her, it's difficult to see how most of the more ambitious epic fantasy since her contribution would've been written without the example of her work (and that of Fritz Leiber and Jack Vance, among a small number of other most influential folks--I shall have to return to Le Guin's other critical writing to see how much her predecessors such as C. L. Moore, Leigh Brackett and Sylvia Townsend Warner, to say nothing of Woolf and her Orlando, nudged and influenced her).
The Aldiss is an excerpt from his then-just-published book-length memoir, Bury My Heart at W. H. Smith's (the British bookstore); Aldiss had served as literary editor for the Oxford Mail newspaper from early on in his career, and had had some commercial and artistic success with his contemporary-mimetic fiction along with his fantaticated thoughout his career. The Disch is a poem, apparently originally in his1972 limited-edition chapbook The Right Way to Figure Plumbing; "An All-Day Poem" is, in part, how art helps the artist cope with the great ugliness, and small reverses, life hands us (Disch's mother is losing her fight with cancer as he writes). Bruce Sterling takes a somewhat bemused pass through the realms of modern literary theory, the post-Structuralist, post-Derrida and Bakhtin era (and this inspired an answer essay for the second Monad by John Barnes). And Knight rounds us out with a fine short essay that limns his early childhood first experiences with injustice (and the other Large Things mentioned in the title) and how he found them recapitulated in the crotchets of fellow editors and similar folk in his professional career as an artist.
Knight was one of the pioneering critics of note in fantastic-fiction circles, and remains controversial to this day (he would not stay his hand when he felt an affront to the art was being perpetrated, and Ed Gorman hasn't forgiven him for that yet). And yet Monad's three issues/volumes are a nice core-sampling of the most influential and serious critical writers active in its years (with some exceptions, such as Knight's great students Algis Budrys and Barry Malzberg, and Joanna Russ, who was already scaling back her critical writing in the face of health matters). Knight, like most of the more ambitious writer/editor/publishers in the field of the popular critical magazine, would tend to move online for much of what he wrote in this wise after Monad...as much as he continued with this kind of activity, as opposed to his writing instruction activities, as reflected by his Creating Short Fiction.
For more of today's literary choices, please see Patti Abbott's blog. Next week, I'll be filling in for her here.