Friday, January 5, 2018

FFB: THE SUPERNATURAL IN FICTION edited by Leo P. Kelley (McGraw-Hill 1973); THE ILLUSTRATED BOOK OF SCIENCE FICTION LISTS by Mike Ashley (Virgin Books 1982; Cornerstone Library/Simon & Schuster 1983)

Two good examples of painless education in fantastic fiction publishing, even if neither was given quite the support they could have used. Leo P. Kelley, as far as I know, was never a teaching academic, but nonetheless was tapped by McGraw-Hill to edit three volumes in their 1970s textbook series Patterns in Literary Art; they issued this one along with Fantasy: The Literature of the Marvelous (also 1973) and Themes in Science Fiction (1972), all three interesting selections of classics, chestnuts and amusing choices of a more unlikely sort, but not unreasonably so. Kelley was primarily a speculative fiction writer, while also an advertising copywriter for most of his daily bread, from 1955 into the early 1970s, and in later years turned most of his fiction-writing attention to western novels. Mike Ashley has been a notable anthology editor, in historical fiction, crime fiction and other matter as well as sf and fantasy, but might be even better known as an historian of sf and fantasy, crime fiction and also of fiction magazine publishing generally; he has also been active in local politics in his native England. Ashley's book of lists, by no means focused exclusively on sf but very much also on fantasy and horror, was first published in Britain a  year before its (I suspect) rather less-well-copyedited and -produced US edition (I've never seen the UK original), and after his first major work on the history of sf magazines had been published in both countries. Ashley's colleagues Malcolm Edwards and Maxim Jakubowski would offer The Complete Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy Lists (reprinted in the US as The SF Book of Lists) in 1983, theirs published in both countries in the same year, thus putting the two books head to head in their US editions. Both the Edwards/Jakubowski book and the further Kelley texts might be discussed in future FFB essays as I dig them back out of storage boxes; the McGraw-Hill series included at least one other volume of considerable fantastic-fiction interest, Heaven and Hell edited by Joan D. Berbrich. Both books are much of their time, as commercial properties...the Kelley an example of the new freedom and diversity in literature-textbook publishing aimed at high school and younger college students in the 1970s particularly, the Ashley and its companion volume part of the wave of books, including several  direct sequels to the immensely popular The Book of Lists (1977) assembled by Irving Wallace and his daughter Amy Wallace and son (who reverted to the pre-Ellis Island version of the family name) David Wallechinsky; Amy Wallace would be among the many to produce more specific Books of Lists, including compiling (with Dick Manitoba) The Official Punk Rock Book of Lists (2007) and (with Scott Bradley and Del Howison) The Book of Lists: Horror (2008). 

As noted above, a rather good mix of inarguable classics, those recognized by most readers and those recognized by those knowledgeable in horror and related fields, along with some interesting but more obscure items, including the rather opportune inclusion of one of Kelley's own stories. (Well, for writing  the discussion questions he appends to each of the entries in the book, certainly there's no better authority on "The Dark Door"...) Even the Lanier "Brigadier Fellowes" story is one of the less dull examples of that series. The notion of the "haunted house of Man's mind" would sound a bit less ponderously sexist, if not much less ponderous, in 1973, but even then the utter lack of women contributors to this volume might've been a matter for some discussion. 

Far more inclusive, even given the thus slightly misleading title, the Ashley compendium is good-natured, careening cheerfully from the factual to the arguably factual to the utterly opinionated (including sever writers' choices of their own best, and in Isaac Asimov's case also his worst, work and those other writers most influential on them and/or the larger literary world). For all that it is illustrated, the reproduction is sometimes poor, exclusively in black and white in the text of the book (color printing in 1983 still not as comparatively inexpensive  as it is today), giving some of the author photographs an almost cartoonish look and the cover reproductions muddy, and the headers to most lists, while rather well set-off from the rest of the text, are also at times poorly copy-edited or typo'd: Richard Lupoff's "Alternative Hugos" list is carefully revised incorrectly into "Alternative Heroes" in both the header on its page and in the rather detailed, but page-number-free, table of contents. Nonetheless, these examples of bad publishing practice don't detract too much from the enjoyment of the arguments one can have with the choices made (Baird Searles's selection of the best fantasy films seems much more sound to me than his selection of the best sf films, for example), the parameters accepted (in selecting the most valuable collectors' items among published books, for example) and the like, while also enjoying the assessments of those not so often heard from even in these days of the clickbait list and databases of opinion, such as Mary Elizabeth Counselman's choices of notable Weird Tales stories, or even Robert Bloch's selection of the best Lovecraft fiction. Not a few of the factual matters discussed have since been superseded, of course (tallies of awards won, largest sales figures, most issues of magazines published) , but that is inevitable, in a book such as this published when there was no quickly-accessibe web, and magazines and fanzines, and newsletters and newspapes when they would cover such matters, were the only sources for this kind of information...thus the vogue for this kind of book.

One kind of list where a blog has a Definite advantage...even given these would not be my choices, even from the artists in question (well...maybe the Brown Startling cover...), and I wish di Fate had given a bit of description of why he chose these particular works: 

Vincent di Fate's 10 favorite fiction magazine covers:

Astounding Stories, December 1934: Howard V. Brown:

 Astounding Science Fiction, October 1939, Hubert Rogers:

Startling Stories, November 1939, Howard V. Brown:

Astounding Science Fiction,  May 1951, Hubert Rogers:

Space Science Fiction, September 1952, Earle K. Bergey:

Astounding Science Fiction, October 1953, Kelly Freas:

Analog, September 1962, Yura "George" Solonevich:

Analog, May 1966, John Schoenherr:

Analog, December 1967, John Schoenherr:

Analog, July 1975, John Schoenherr:

Both books worth seeking out, and inexpensive, from the usual sources. 

ISFDB lists the three Kelley anthologies in the Patterns in Literary Art series (and the Contento/Locus Index lists only the fantasy and the sf volumes), but the Berbrich anthology Heaven and Hell is detailed among the indices I've seen only in WorldCat and derivative services:

General introduction.

Heaven and hell and all that: 
Cynewulf. The last judgment. 
Parkes, F. E. K. African heaven. 
Lester, J. Stagolee. 
Maier, H. What price heaven? 
Goldin, S. The last ghost. 
Laurance, A. Chances are. 
Priestley, J. B. The gray ones. 
Levertov, D. The dead.

The paths of good and bad intention: 
France, A. Our lady's juggler. 
Winslow, J. M. Benjamen burning. 
Straley, D. B. The Devil grows jubilant. 
Tolstoy, L. How the Devil redeemed the crust of bread. 
Beerbohm, M. The happy hypocrite. 
Davidson, J. A ballad of hell.

Bargains with the Devil: 
Anonymous. Ballad of Faustus. 
Benet, S. V. The Devil and Daniel Webster. 
Arthur, R. Satan and Sam Shay. 
Masefield, J. The Devil and the old man. 
Collier, J. Thus I refute Beelzy. 
Elliot, B. The Devil was sick. 

Reward and retribution: 
Bierhorst, J. The white stone canoe. 
Johnson, J. W. Go down, Death! 
Dante. The Inferno. 
Irving, W. The Devil and Tom Walker. 
Hesiod. Right and wrong. 
Frost, R. A masque of reason. 

And here's the cover of the UK original of the Ashley volume:

For more of today's books, please see Patti Abbott's blog.


George said...

I actually own THE SUPERNATURAL IN FICTION. And I read it many years ago. I also read plenty of Leo P. Kelley's books (no relation) so I could write an article on him for 20th CENTURY SCIENCE FICTION WRITERS years ago. I somehow missed THE ILLUSTRATED BOOK OF SCIENCE FICTION LISTS but I'm going online right now to find a copy!

Todd Mason said...

I have to wonder if the Virgin first edition isn't slightly preferable.