Friday, December 2, 2016

FFS(&E&RP): some uncollected Wilma Shore short stories (and essays and one radio play) online (and one Joseph Payne Brennan poem)

Two blogposts over the last half-decade isn't Too much to devote to the late, brilliant Wilma Shore, whose career is briefly limned here and here, so here's a third...along with, in the latter, links to the un-"protected" online archives of the magazines that ran these items (and a couple of posts offering both the script and the recording of the playlet she wrote with her husband for Orson Welles's CBS radio series).  An amusing set of magazines, too...there are a few other writers, but no too many, who might tie together the folded but extremely influential sf magazine Galaxy (which published among so much else Damon Knight's "To Serve Man", the first form of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, Frank Herbert's Dune Messiah and Ursula K. Le Guin's "The Day Before the Revolution"--Galaxy in its first decade particularly was the home of the kind of satire Kingsley Amis dubbed the "comic inferno"--eventual editor Frederik Pohl was Amis's choice as the best of 1950s sf writers), Good Housekeeping (now ever more a "service" magazine at well over a century of publishing), and the Communist-sponsored quasi-revival of the more broadly radical and also hugely influential magazine The Masses, retitled for the new decade The New Masses.  All of these stories are worth reading, the essays as well, and the playlet just a bit slight and humorously sentimental, but not extraordinarily so (and probably pitched just so to Welles or at least at his request). 

"Goodbye Amanda Jean" is a savage bit of satire, set in a version of 1970 U.S. that allows hunting humans for meat, but where killing just for sport is frowned upon, to say the least (and shooting a teenage girl pedestrian from a moving car, rather than from a stopped one or on one's own feet, is utterly illegal if possibly not prosecuted); Shore barely allows the reader time to gather much at all before Amanda Jean's father has failed to shield his daughter from a crosstown neighbor of sorts, and has, still stunned, accepted a side of the kill for dressing and refrigeration. The loss and injustice of it all still rankles him, and it might just be time to take retribution into his own hands...while staying more inarguably within the law. Bloodsport was in the air at the turn of the '70s, and Shore's story is unrelenting and as plausible as sending National Guard units onto various state university campuses and pointlessly dragging out a war in Vietnam while expanding it to neighboring countries. More startling to me is how much this story, which after appearance in Galaxy has only been reprinted in Robert Silverberg's anthology Alpha 2, and which I've read for the first time this week, prefigures the nature and the method of the satire I applied in one of my better stories, "Bonobos," published a decade back in Claude Lalumiere's webzine Lost story, as human/bonobo behavioral crosses might suggest, is as drenched in sex as this one is in violence, and is by intention funnier than Shore's story, but Shore's is the better story, and the laughter here is meant to have what Avram Davidson once referred to as a big bubble of blood in it, in describing a similarly incisive satire. A number of people to whom I've recently mentioned the Shore story remember it well, from reading it decades back. 

The newer of the two stories from The New Masses, "The Story of Dorothy Anstable", is a much more muted affair, but has an early example of the kind of overbearing stage mother, living through her family, who will recur in some of Shore's other stories; Dorothy also is fortunate enough to have her story retold by her rather slow-witted elder brother, so by the end, we're (or at least I'm) not exactly sure of all the details of how thoroughly her mother's obsession with the daughter's reliable promptness and attendance record, and the minor but Official recognition of it and the petty fame that has accrued with that, has derailed her daughter's life, but we have some sense of it. The least of these stories, but it still has a bit of a chill to it. Speaking of a bit of a chill, the story is immediately followed by an example of historical blank verse, about George Custer and Crazy Horse and their encounter, by none other than the relatively young Joseph Payne Brennan...never much of a poet, and sometimes a rather clumsy constructor of prose but not by any means always, and clearly like his Arkham House editor and publisher August Derleth at least an occasional contributor to the politically radical press. Wilma Shore and Joseph Payne Brennan, both praised by Avram Davidson, though AD liked Shore's work better.

"Some Day I Have to Buy a Hat" is a much more probable item to have sold to Good Housekeeping, the account of an obstetric nurse doing a favor for a young patient of her boss's private practice, during World War II, in the face of the disruption the war was causing. A far more humane tale than the first two, albeit by necessity just as cognizant of the ugly realities of its times, if also noting that some tragedy can be ameliorated, to some extent, by the kindness of relative strangers. (Shore's essay "What Happened to the Slicks?" notes that this kind of story, not at all shying away from what was happening in a world at war, was now something found in women's magazines that might previously have preferred more purely escapist, if also feminism-tinged, fare. ) It's notable that her story is the first piece of fiction one finds in the GH issue, blurbed by them "A story on the hard-boiled side, but there's a fair chance you'll like it." Shore later stories would get cover credits at the magazine.

"Decision" is the oldest of these stories, and much more deftly and complexly deals with racism, classism, sexism and the exigencies of Getting By under unfeeling bureaucracy and general inequity than something like the fairly recent film The Help, not too tough for a good short story written by an observer as sharp as Wilma Shore was when this was published in 1941, when the clumsy US bureaucracies were still coping as they did with the leftovers of the Great Depression, not quite yet also coping with US involvement with the war.  The last lines are almost inexorable, and still sting today. 

You can do much worse than visit with these stories and more, and the occasionally reprinted stories and memoirs, in one anthology or occasionally several, including the O. Henry Award Prize Stories, Best American Short Stories and the Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction's volumes over the decades, that await you from Ms. Shore's not so small set of contributions, along with those behind paywalls and the like from The New YorkerCosmopolitan, The NationThe Antioch Review, Women's Studies Quarterly, The Ladies Home Journal, The Saturday Evening Post and other magazines, or seeking out her two books, the short story collection Women Should Be Allowed and the apparently charming, Edward Lear-ish children's picture story Who in the Zoo? Perhaps I'll need to do more than I have so far to advocate and excavate here. 

Much more traditional books and more reviewed at links collected at Patti Abbott's blog.


George said...

I remember those Wilma Shore stories especially the one in GALAXY. NESFA should collect these stories in one of their great volumes.

Todd Mason said...

NESFA is definitely one possibility, though the relative paucity of her fantastic fiction might make them unwilling...only three F&SF stories and one in GALAXY, among those I've been able to read so far, are relevant to their usual remit.

Rick Robinson said...

Got you linked up on your comment on my blog (such comments are always very welcome, of course).

I wish someone (the great "they", perhaps), would anthologize the fiction stories from Saturday Evening Post in 5 year chunks, starting at about 1940 or so. It would have a wide range, include the illos, of course. I'd buy and read it!

Todd Mason said...

The POST actually did publish annual short story volumes in the '50s and '60s, though the volumes weren't close to being comprehensive...

Todd Mason said...

Turns out they started annual volumes with the collection of 1946 stories (the previous volume had covered several years):

The Saturday Evening Post Stories 1946 ed. Anon. (New York: Random House, 1947, vi+326pp, hc)
[indexed by Denny Lien]

The Return · Noel Langley · ss The Saturday Evening Post Nov 16 1946
Tugboat Annie Wins Her Medal [Tugboat Annie] · Norman Reilly Raine · ss The Saturday Evening Post Jun 15 1946
The Murderer · Joel Townsley Rogers · ss The Saturday Evening Post Nov 23 1946
So Long, Joe · Win Brooks · ss The Saturday Evening Post Apr 27 1946
Command · James Warner Bellah · ss The Saturday Evening Post Jun 8 1946
Glencannon and the Ailing Cockroach [Colin Glencannon] · Guy Gilpatric · ss The Saturday Evening Post Nov 16 1946
Grandpa and the Miracle Grindstone · Joe David Brown · ss The Saturday Evening Post Mar 2 1946
Natives Are Sometimes People · Roderick Lull · ss The Saturday Evening Post Jul 13 1946
Old Professors Never Die · Wilbur Schramm · ss The Saturday Evening Post Aug 3 1946
Flood Burial · Shelby Foote · ss The Saturday Evening Post Sep 7 1946
Trouble with the Union · Dennis Harrington · ss The Saturday Evening Post Sep 28 1946
We Shall Live Again · Sophie Kerr · ss The Saturday Evening Post Nov 9 1946
Departure with Swords and Ashes · George Weller · ss The Saturday Evening Post Mar 23 1946
Sweet-Talk Me, Jackson · Douglass Welch · ss The Saturday Evening Post May 18 1946
Rebound · Robert Carson · ss The Saturday Evening Post Jun 1 1946
Grown-Up Wife · Muriel Bruce Hasbrouck · ss The Saturday Evening Post Sep 14 1946
Port of Call · Bud Hutton · ss The Saturday Evening Post Jul 6 1946
Memo on Kathy O’Rourke · Jack Sher · ss The Saturday Evening Post Nov 23 1946
Behind Locked Doors · Thomas Walsh · ss The Saturday Evening Post Nov 9 1946
Fire in the Night · Frank O’Rourke · ss The Saturday Evening Post Jan 12 1946

The last anthology listed in the Misc. Anthologies Index, at least, also entered by Dennis Lien, was fairly impressive in contributors, even given it's the SEP and no one's Too surprising to be there:
Saturday Evening Post Stories 1962 ed. Anon. (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1962, 320pp, hc)
[Denny Lien]

Paris Is the Place for You · William Saroyan · ss The Saturday Evening Post Sep 30 1961
Dr. Blanke’s First Command · C. S. Forester · nv The Saturday Evening Post Jul 29 1961
The First Day of School · Shirley Ann Grau · ss The Saturday Evening Post Sep 30 1961
The Captive Outfielder · Leonard Wibberley · ss The Saturday Evening Post Mar 25 1961
The Last Rendezvous · Robert Standish · ss The Saturday Evening Post Nov 25 1961
The Phantom Setter · Robert Murphy · ss The Saturday Evening Post Jun 17 1961
Image of a Starlet · George Bradshaw · ss The Saturday Evening Post Jan 28 1961
Hit and Run [Walter Post] · John D. MacDonald · ss Good Housekeeping Aug 1952
The Frigid Sea · Edmund Gilligan · ss The Saturday Evening Post Aug 12 1961
The Spell of Inishmore · Vivian Connell · ss The Saturday Evening Post Feb 18 1961
Prelude to Doom · Thomas Savage · ss The Saturday Evening Post May 20 1961
Beauty Contest at Buckingham Palace · Mary Higgins Clark · ss The Saturday Evening Post Jul 22 1961
The Beggar on Dublin Bridge · Ray Bradbury · ss The Saturday Evening Post Jan 14 1961
The Cathedral of Mars · William Sambrot · ss The Saturday Evening Post Jun 24 1961
The Big Wheel · Fred McMorrow · ss The Saturday Evening Post Jul 29 1961
Alicia Marches on Washington · Robert W. Wells · ss The Saturday Evening Post Jan 21 1961
Reprieve · Benton Rain Patterson · ss The Saturday Evening Post Apr 1 1961
The Child Who Was Thrown Away · Stewart Toland · ss The Saturday Evening Post May 13 1961
The Exiles · Margaret Laurence · ss The Saturday Evening Post Jun 3 1961
The Haunted Dancers · Arthur Mayse · ss The Saturday Evening Post Jul 8 1961

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Todd, I enjoyed reading your reviews of Wilma Shore's short stories, and particularly liked "Goodbye Amanda Jean" for its intensity. Are her stories anything like Shirley Jackson's?

Todd Mason said...

I'd say so, Prashant. You can read these stories, and those listed at the last post, at the links on their least, I hope you can see them in India...