Friday, January 12, 2018

FFB/M: FANTASY: THE LITERATURE OF THE MARVELOUS, edited by Leo P. Kelley (McGraw-Hill 1973); ALFRED HITCHCOCK'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE, August 1964, edited by Richard Decker, with Victoria S. and Ned Benham, G. F. Foster and Patricia Hitchcock (HSD Publications)

As with the Leo P. Kelley high-school-targeted textbook in the same Patterns in Literary Art series I dealt with last week, the Fantasy companion is an interesting mix of chestnuts and some classics, with a fair amount of relatively obscure material (in 1973 and today) including a story by Kelley himself...but even more than the Supernatural volume, or the earlier Themes in Science Fiction anthology published the previous year, this one strikes me as assembled off the top of his head, featuring as it does two stories by Gahan Wilson (wrapped around the John Collier entry, no less), no fewer than four reprinted from Harlan Ellison's notable (and in 1973 very much in-print) anthology Dangerous Visions (1967), and two stories by August Derleth (for all that one is among the "posthumous collaborations" Derleth would spin out from fragments of manuscripts left among H. P. Lovecraft's papers at the time of the latter's death--as always, Derleth writing for and as himself is superior). And exactly two folktales are included...both out of collections of Irish folklore from the third decade of the 1800s...definitely giving the impression of Kelley pulling things off his shelf and putting this together rather hastily, or at least with less considered judgment than he demonstrates with the other two volumes. Also notable is the amount of arguable science fiction in this fantasy volume, particularly given his juxtaposition of potentially opposing camps of sf and fantasy in his preface. Kelley does manage to include stories by two of the more brilliant and multifarious women writers of our time in this one, however, if only two: Carol Emshwiller and Josephine Saxton.

Meanwhile, the Hitchcock's issue, coincidentally one dated with the month I was born, is otherwise a fairly typical issue of this magazine in the shank of its time as the independent "second" magazine in the English-language crime-fiction market (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine being the best-selling and most traditionally respected in those years, and most years before and since; the second publisher of EQMM, Davis Publications, founded around the purchase of Queen's in 1958, would buy AHMM in 1976), and as such it suggests a few thoughts about the magazines in the field and AHMM's place among them.

Contents: courtesy the Contento/Locus Index to Anthologies, with links to ISFDB as well:

    (McGraw-Hill 0-07-033502-8, 1973, $3.96, 305pp, tp) 

One can suspect the degree to which Kelley saw some of these stories in the same venues I would, aside from Dangerous Visions:  a number were collected in Judith Merril's Year's Best Science-Fantasy/Speculative Fiction anthologies of the latter '50s into the latter '60s (it's probably not altogether irrelevant that DV arose from the ashes of an anthology Ellison commissioned from Merril when he was editing the Regency Books paperback line), while others probably were, rather sapiently, plucked from other anthologies, including probably Playboy's series of books collecting their fiction. As is the John Collier classic collected here only more so, David Ely's "The Academy" is outre but not actually fantasy by most definitions, for all that it was adapted for a mildly effective Night Gallery tv series segment. Any book that includes such stories as Davidson's "Or All the Seas with Oysters" and Bloch's "The Cheaters" and Finney's "Of Missing Persons" isn't actually cheating the young readers who might've been assigned this text, and the likes of Hensley's "Lord Randy", while also barely fantasy if at all, does have a built-in appeal to young readers. That the surreal Emshwiller and the similarly edge-of-science-fiction Asimov  stories might be brought together in this context is actually pretty useful, even if this book thus doesn't become a compilation of consistently brilliant work it might've been. George Malko in, and Jack Vance or Shirley Jackson or Joan Aiken or Jorge Luise Borges or Fritz Leiber or Muriel Spark or Margaret St. Clair not in, is a somewhat eccentric choice, and one wonders what specifically drove it.

Barry Malzberg somewhere once made an offhanded joking reference to, close paraphrase, "a plot stupid enough to sell to Hitchcock's" in the HSD years, and the desire to feature twist endings as a default did lead AHMM to offer some pretty damned dense semi-idiot plots. Richard Deming's "Escape Routes" (this one, as opposed to the other one, as Douglas Greene is careful to help us distinguish) is an unfortunate example of this...a fleeing criminal accidentally hijacks another fleeing criminal's car and loot...and, knowing that the other fleeing criminal had a risky plan of escape from his own current perplex, decides to go ahead and impersonate the second criminal and steal the latter's false identity and escape plan, rather than contenting himself with stealing the considerable cash and car and making his own way to a no-extradition haven.  It's cute, and has good detail, but is indicative of a weakness for this kind of story that it's also the lead story for the issue. Jack Ritchie's "Captive Audience" is more clever, if relatively slight, in its tale of a kidnapping survivor who gets to bite back at his former captors, including supposed friends. Jonathan Craig's "Bus to Chattanooga" is rather better yet, for all that it posits a rather too stereotypical abusive situation for its backwater young woman and her adoptive, thuggish uncle...her means of getting around this, however, are reasonably well thought out and the story makes emotional sense as well, however much we might wish it didn't, even given she wins in the the end.  Arthur Porges's story is part of a series of his, and in one of his default modes--it's another update on Sherlock Holmes, and the kind of notional story Porges would also tend to write in his science-fictional work, where there is a simple but baffling problem that can be addressed by some technological approach that can make for amusing, but usually rather light at best, fair-play detection or dealing-with-the-aliens kinds of story...Porges was usually a bit better in fantasy contexts, where his cleverness with this kind of gimmick lent itself to even greater wit and charm, as with his relatively famous deal-with-a-minor-demon story "$1.98". Ed Lacy lives down to my expectations with his story, marginally better than what I've seen from him elsewhere (in marginal magazines), but also referring to whites and "natives" in the Caribbean...when he means whites and blacks, as opposed to actual native nation folk. I somewhat idly wonder if there's any familial connection between Jonathan and Douglas Craig. 

AHMM was the Other consistently good-paying short crime fiction market in the 1960s, along with Queen's; I gather The Saint Mystery Magazine as well as knowing Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine and the dying Manhunt were rather less well-funded and thus less generous; not sure about the London Mystery Selection and John Creasey's, but this was also a period where crime fiction might appear, for very good money indeed, in not only The Saturday Evening Post and Playboy still, but also Cosmopolitan or The Ladies Home Journal...even if a sale to the UK Argosy or Strand were somewhat more attainable could make decent-enough money from at least AHMM and EQMM. The talent gathered in those issues, even if not always working to its fullest extent, remains pretty impressive. 

No comments: