Friday, February 2, 2018


The Best from Fantastic, edited by Ted White (Manor Books, 1973)
The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction: A Special 25th Anniversary Anthology, edited by Edward Ferman (Doubleday, 1974)
The Best Fantasy Stories from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, edited by Edward Ferman (Octopus Books, 1985)
Fantastic Stories: Tales of the Weird and Wondrous, edited by Patrick Price and Martin H. Greenberg (TSR, 1987)

...among others including 
The Eureka Years: Boucher & McComas's Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, 1949-1954, edited by Annette Peltz McComas (Bantam 1982) and
Time Untamed, edited by "Ivan Howard" (Belmont 1967)

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--see below), 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 were 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.
The utterly functional hardcover edition
 covers; note also the misidentification 
of this book as solely sf.

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 1952
    • 27 · Angels in the Jets · Jerome Bixby · ss Fantastic Fll 1952
    • 40 · Paingod · Harlan Ellison · ss Fantastic Jun 1964
    • 51 · The Malatesta Collection · Roger Zelazny · ss Fantastic Apr 1963
    • 58 · Sally · Isaac Asimov · ss Fantastic May/Jun 1953
    • 79 · The Roller Coaster · Alfred Bester · ss Fantastic May/Jun 1953
    • 88 · Eve Times Four · Poul Anderson · nv Fantastic Apr 1960
    • 125 · Final Exam · Chad Oliver · ss Fantastic Nov/Dec 1952
    • 138 · April in Paris · Ursula K. Le Guin · ss Fantastic Sep 1962
    • 151 · A Trip to the City · Keith Laumer · nv Amazing Jan 1963, as “It Could Be Anything”
No effort to use the 
magazines' logos...
The (even) uglier paperback editions:
Making no effort...
...and effortfully ugly...

Previously on the blog I'd reviewed another similar pair of anthologies, one drawn from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and the other from Fantastic, and it still impresses me how they demonstrated all the ways fine books can be mispublished. For example, I was at best barely aware of either book when they were released in 1985 and 1987 respectively, despite my being their ideal audience. The F&SF volume, presumably offered to mainline publishers such as Doubleday (which once had been the regular publisher of an annual, then irregular, series of best-of anthologies from the magazine), was instead published by an "instant remainder" publisher, with no ad budget and presumably no review copies sent anywhere (even given that Octopus was a more ambitious discount line than most). ISFDB in fact records no reviews for the book in the usual media of the time. And yet it's (at least) a near-brilliant and hefty selection, as the table of contents below demonstrates. Meanwhile, the somewhat more slapdash volume taken from Fantastic is (small favors) printed on heavier, less acidic paper...with one story curiously reprinted from the utterly different 1950s magazine Fantastic Universe, possibly out of some sort of filing error on the part of co-editor Martin Harry Greenberg, famous for his systematized editing process (in part  through creating a vast database of stories, originally on card files). The book also shows other signs of being assembled with less than full attention, and was similarly offered to the market by its wealthy games publisher, TSR (Dungeons and Dragons, etc.), with little sense of how to connect with the fantasy- and sf-reading public. And it, too, got no reviews in the fantastic-fiction media as far as ISFDB knows. TSR spent enough on the book to include a rather haphazard selection of covers from issues of the magazine, on heavy coated stock and in full color, when that was still rather more expensive to do than it is now, but couldn't be bothered to list the contributors' names legibly anywhere on the book's cover. And while the selection of stories from the pages of the magazine is more Very Good than as great as it should be (no Fritz Leiber story?--not that the Leiber choice in the F&SF volume is ideal, either, though a sentimental favorite of the editor), there is no lack of commercially potent as well as distinguished artists among those contributors. So, at least one of the best books drawn from F&SF's inventory, even compared with a long list of other very impressive anthologies, and only the third book (and last, so far) to cover nearly three decades of Fantastic, and the first not to be offered by an impoverished publisher, were both barely made available to their natural audience...and are mostly forgotten still. 

      cover illustration by Janet Aulisio, for Robert Bloch's "The Double Whammy"

The Best Fantasy Stories from the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction ed. Edward L. Ferman (Octopus 0-7064-2568-5, 1985 [Jan ’86], $9.98, 792pp, hc) Anthology of 40 stories from F&SF. An instant remainder book.
  • 9 · Far from Home · Walter S. Tevis · ss F&SF Dec ’58
  • 13 · My Dear Emily · Joanna Russ · nv F&SF Jul ’62
  • 33 · The Man Who Painted the Dragon Griaule [Griaule] · Lucius Shepard · nv F&SF Dec ’84
  • 59 · The Vanishing American · Charles Beaumont · ss F&SF Aug ’55
  • 69 · The Cloud-Sculptors of Coral D [Vermillion Sands] · J. G. Ballard · ss F&SF Dec ’67
  • 85 · The Invasion of the Church of the Holy Ghost · Russell Kirk · nv F&SF Dec ’83
  • 125 · The Accountant · Robert Sheckley · ss F&SF Jul ’54
  • 134 · The Fire When It Comes · Parke Godwin · nv F&SF May ’81
  • 176 · My Boy Friend’s Name Is Jello · Avram Davidson · ss F&SF Jul ’54
  • 181 · San Diego Lightfoot Sue · Tom Reamy · nv F&SF Aug ’75
  • 222 · Sooner or Later or Never Never [Crispin Mobey] · Gary Jennings · nv F&SF May ’72
  • 250 · Jeffty Is Five · Harlan Ellison · ss F&SF Jul ’77
  • 269 · The Third Level · Jack Finney · ss Colliers Oct 7 ’50; F&SF Oct ’52
  • 274 · The Silken-Swift · Theodore Sturgeon · nv F&SF Nov ’53
  • 292 · Another Orphan · John Kessel · na F&SF Sep ’82
  • 334 · The Manor of Roses [John & Stephen] · Thomas Burnett Swann · na F&SF Nov ’66
  • 389 · Please Stand By [Max Kearny] · Ron Goulart · nv F&SF Jan ’62
  • 409 · Downtown · Thomas M. Disch · ss F&SF Oct ’83
  • 419 · Man Overboard · John Collier · nv Argosy (UK) Jan ’60
  • 441 · One Ordinary Day, with Peanuts · Shirley Jackson · ss F&SF Jan ’55
  • 451 · Yes, We Have No Ritchard · Bruce Jay Friedman · ss F&SF Nov ’60
  • 459 · The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet · Stephen King · na F&SF Jun ’84
  • 504 · That Hell-Bound Train · Robert Bloch · ss F&SF Sep ’58
  • 517 · Will You Wait? · Alfred Bester · ss F&SF Mar ’59
  • 524 · Sule Skerry · Jane Yolen · ss F&SF Jul ’82
  • 533 · La Ronde · Damon Knight · ss F&SF Oct ’83
  • 546 · Narrow Valley · R. A. Lafferty · ss F&SF Sep ’66
  • 559 · Not Long Before the End [Mana] · Larry Niven · ss F&SF Apr ’69
  • 570 · $1.98 · Arthur Porges · ss F&SF May ’54
  • 574 · The Tehama · Bob Leman · nv F&SF Dec ’81
  • 594 · Ghost of a Crown [Brigadier Ffellowes] · Sterling E. Lanier · nv F&SF Dec ’76
  • 634 · Pages from a Young Girl’s Journal · Robert Aickman · nv F&SF Feb ’73
  • 666 · Narapoia [“The Origin of Narapoia”; Manly J. Departure] · Alan Nelson · ss What’s Doing Apr ’48; F&SF Apr ’51
  • 672 · Born of Man and Woman · Richard Matheson · vi F&SF Sum ’50
  • 675 · Mythago Wood [Mythago] · Robert Holdstock · nv F&SF Sep ’81
  • 711 · Harrison Bergeron · Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. · ss F&SF Oct ’61
  • 717 · Four Ghosts in Hamlet · Fritz Leiber · nv F&SF Jan ’65
  • 748 · Gorilla Suit · John Shepley · ss F&SF May ’58
  • 756 · Green Magic · Jack Vance · ss F&SF Jun ’63
  • 768 · Black Air · Kim Stanley Robinson · nv F&SF Mar ’83

Fantastic Stories: Tales of the Weird and Wondrous ed. Martin H. Greenberg & Patrick L. Price (TSR 0-88038-521-9, May ’87, $7.95, 253pp, tp) Anthology of 16 stories from the magazine, with an introduction by James E. Gunn plus a selection of color cover reproductions.

  • 7 · Introduction · James E. Gunn · in
  • 11 · Double Whammy · Robert Bloch · ss Fantastic Feb ’70
  • 21 · A Drink of Darkness · Robert F. Young · ss Fantastic Jul ’62
  • 33 · A Question of Re-Entry · J. G. Ballard · nv Fantastic Mar ’63
  • 59 · The Exit to San Breta · George R. R. Martin · ss Fantastic Feb ’72
  • 70 · The Shrine of Temptation · Judith Merril · ss Fantastic Apr ’62
  • 85 · Dr. Birdmouse · Reginald Bretnor · ss Fantastic Apr ’62
  • 97 · Eve Times Four · Poul Anderson · nv Fantastic Apr ’60
  • 126 · The Rule of Names [Earthsea] · Ursula K. Le Guin · ss Fantastic Apr ’64
  • ins. · Artists’ Visions of the Weird & Wondrous · Various Hands · il
  • 135 · The Still Waters [“In the Still Waters”] · Lester del Rey · nv Fantastic Universe Jun ’55
  • 144 · A Small Miracle of Fishhooks and Straight Pins · David R. Bunch · vi Fantastic Jun ’61
  • 148 · Novelty Act · Philip K. Dick · nv Fantastic Feb ’64
  • 174 · What If... · Isaac Asimov · ss Fantastic Sum ’52
  • 186 · Elixir for the Emperor · John Brunner · ss Fantastic Nov ’64
  • 202 · King Solomon’s Ring · Roger Zelazny · nv Fantastic Oct ’63
  • 220 · Junior Partner · Ron Goulart · ss Fantastic Sep ’62
  • 229 · Donor · James E. Gunn · nv Fantastic Nov ’60

  • Fantastic, as a magazine, for most of its 28 years and some months of existence (from launch in 1952, early absorption of its predecessor Fantastic Adventures in 1954, and folding into companion title Amazing Science Fiction Stories in early 1981), was usually an example of at least someone involved doing the best they could with the magazine, in the face of serious obstacles. Sometimes the chiefest obstacle was the apathy of the editor, particularly true during the latter years of founding editor Howard Browne's tenure, and those of his former assistant and heir Paul Fairman...the magazine, starting out with a large budget and some fanfare by a serious, though not quite top-of-the-industry, publisher (Ziff-Davis), achieved initial sales beyond reasonable expectation (the third issue featured a story attributed to Mickey Spillane, at the early height of his popularity, which had been highlighted--and "spoiled" with extensive description--by a Life magazine profile of the Mike Hammer creator, on newsstands before the Fantastic issue was Browne quickly ghosted a new story, "The Veiled Woman," and published it as by Spillane)(in later accounts of the incident, Browne also notes that he thought the genuine Spillane story terrible; the Browne counterfeit is a reasonably good, and probably intentionally slightly parodic, pastiche).
    The first issue. with a cover much referred
     to in James Gunn's introduction, and the 
    first publication site for Asimov's story
    "What If..."

    However, those high circulation figures were not sustained into the second year of publication, and with the folding in of FAFantastic's budget was cut and Browne went back to the usually relatively indifferent efforts he'd been making at Fantastic Adventures, accepting and publishing good work when it was offered by writers but just as happy to run that good work alongside no-more-than-readable hackwork by regular Ziff-Davis writers, much of the latter published under "house names" such as "Lawrence Chandler" and "Ivar Jorgensen"--the actual authors could be any number of contributors including Browne and Fairman themselves (many of the stable of contributors in those years haven't remembered clearly [or didn't choose to] who wrote what among the less memorable items, and the office records of the era have apparently not all been retained; among the best writers who didn't always do their best efforts for Ziff-Davis fiction magazines in their Chicago-based days were Robert Bloch and William McGivern). When Browne officially resigned in 1956 (having checked out to the degree of spending much of his office time writing his crime fiction, and deciding that the relocation of the editorial offices from Chicago to New York City were his cue to try his luck as a screenwriter in Hollywood), newly official editor Fairman went even further along into systematization of Fantastic and Amazing, depending not entirely but largely on five relatively young writers to produce wordage that would be accepted and published unread (under a variety of bylines), as long as the manuscript delivery was punctual and the stories didn't cause any problems that might interfere with Fairman's own in-office writing for other markets...and even this arrangement managed to bring in some good or promising work among the acceptably mediocre, since the quintet was comprised of Milton Lesser (who would publish most of his better work as Stephen Marlowe, and eventually legally change his name), Harlan Ellison, Robert Silverberg, Randall Garrett and, particularly late in Fairman's run, Henry Slesar. And Fairman had as his assistant a young and inexperienced
    but diligent and talented
    illustration by Richard Powers
    recent Vassar graduate, Cele Goldsmith, who would dig through the "slushpile" of submitted manuscripts and would occasionally find very interesting work indeed, including what would be the first published story by Kate Wilhelm. When Fairman left, in 1958 (primarily to be a full-time freelance writer, but briefly taking on managing editorship of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, by then published by Ziff-Davis co-founder B. G. Davis, who'd quit ZD in 1958, as well), Goldsmith was elevated to editorship (at 25 years of age), and with far less cynicism if also less of a sense of the history of fantastic fiction, she would go on at the magazines to put together issues that would mix brilliantly innovative, interesting if more traditional, and sometimes merely notional work, till the magazines were sold by Ziff-Davis in 1965.  Under Goldsmith (who took through marriage the name Cele Lalli during her tenure), the fiction magazines had lost their champion at ZD with Davis's departure, as William Ziff, Jr. began his successful focus of ZD on hobbyist and highly specialized magazines, which meant that for most of her career with them, Fantastic and Amazing were secondary projects, with art direction and packaging that was somewhat less consistently good than her editorial product deserved. A fellow named Norman Lobsenz was given the task of overseeing her work, though apparently he mostly wrote the consistently trivial editorials and responses in the reader letters columns in the magazines. Among the writers she "discovered" through first professional publication as editor, were Ursula K. Le Guin, Thomas M. Disch, Sonya Dorman (her prose, at least, aside from a student story in Mademoiselle--as with Disch only even moreso, Dorman's career as a poet was at least as prominent as that as a fiction-writer),  Roger Zelazny, Ben Bova, Ted White, Keith Laumer, and Piers Anthony (when still a promising young writer, well before he made jejune fantasy novel-series his primary occupation). Her magazines were one of the primary markets for the mostly young writers who were shaking up fantasy and particularly sf in the early 1960s, along with Avram Davidson's editorship of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and, increasingly, Frederik Pohl's work at Galaxy magazine and its siblings. Among those she worked with closely was Fritz Leiber, though the reports of hr courtesy and 
    One of the better covers from the Goldsmith/
    Lalli years...Jakes, who wrote many sorts of

    fiction, made his biggest splash in historical
    fiction in the mid-1970s. Illo by 
    Vernon Kramer.

    quick and enthusiastic response, trumping even the withered budget she had for her version of the magazines, is the common narrative (much noted by Le Guin and others) of her career at the magazines (and her later work on Ziff-Davis bridal magazines, which comprised most of her career), and is one of the more important points made by James Gunn in his introduction to the volume theoretically under review here. Gunn's introduction, for what it's worth, is rather short, Very oddly copy-edited and is the Only editorial matter in the book to give any sense of the context the collected stories were published in, aside from the copyright acknowledgements page bearing the years of publication; there aren't even headnotes to any of the stories nor contributor notes. That is most assuredly Strike One against this anthology, despite it being only the third book (I believe; please see below) to collect a sampling specifically from Fantastic, the heftiest of the three volumes, and the last so far (this latter fact is Strike One against the publishing industry).  There is also a rather offhandedly selected set of plates in the center of the book, on heavy slick paper displaying in color some of the front covers from some of Goldsmith's and later editor Ted White's issues, with minimal comment there, and a set of new illustrations for the stories, by such talented artists as Janet Aulisio and Stephen Fabian, which nonetheless mostly seem rather uninspired and oddly out of place in the anthology, rather than magazine, format...indicative of TSR's stewardship of Amazing (combined with Fantastic Stories) and their publishing efforts generally...haphazard tossing around of money, with rather half-assed follow-through (aside from all the Dungeons & Dragons product money TSR had at hand, they'd also gotten a windfall from Steven Spielberg's renting of the Amazing Stories title, and a/v rights to as many of the stories in the back issues as possible, for his misbegotten and shortlived tv anthology series). Also included in the volume, for no obvious reason and probably in part because Martin Greenberg had made an error in his famous filing system and indexed a short story by Lester Del Rey, published in 1955 in the unrelated magazine Fantastic Universe, as a contribution to Fantastic...or perhaps Greenberg just wanted an excuse to run the story, and hoped no one would notice. Together, let's call those Strikes Two and Three against this book being taken too seriously by the casual browser of bookstands, particularly if she knows anything about the magazine whose provenance was one of the primary selling points here. And I haven't even gotten to the contributions of the editors who worked with publishers Sol Cohen and Arthur Bernhard, who ran the magazines on the thinnest of shoestrings, from 1965 through the sale of Amazing to TSR in the early '80s, and all the roadblocks they threw up against good work by subsequent editors Joseph "Ross"/Wrocz, Harry Harrison, Barry Malzberg, longest-serving Ted White, and Elinor Mavor (who for no good reason called herself "Omar Gohagan" in her first issues). Of course, the anthology editors and Gunn don't mention these folks' efforts, either, even if they include some of the fiction White published. (I've personally had the good fortune to speak and correspond 
    A typically handsome (and comics-
    influenced) cover from Ted White's term
    as editor and art director; illustration
     by Douglas Chaffee
    with Harrison, Malzberg and White, if very briefly in the first case, about their experiences as editors for Cohen's Ultimate Publications; Harrison was breezily philosophical, looking upon his short tenure as just another part-time job that helped keep body and soul together during a brief period of living back in the US again; Malzberg I think found the experience as fascinating as it was frustrating, for what it told him about the nature of the markets he was working in as writer, editor and agent; White, who stuck with it for a decade despite eventually qualifying for welfare payments, since his stipend as editor and designer was so slight, was nonetheless devoted to the task and willing to put up with the strictures he faced, however grumpily...his next job after leaving Fantastic and Amazing was a year as editor of the then-flourishing, and very well-budgeted, adult fantasy comic book Heavy Metal.)
    The earmarks of nonchalance all over this anthology are a pity, because the selection of stories is pretty good, though not reasonably representative of the best of the magazine's career. It's also notable which of the contributors whose work is collected here have gone onto ever greater fame in the years since this 1987 book was published, much less their stories' original publication (pretty obvious examples: J. G. Ballard and particularly George R. R. Martin), those whose fame has been sustained (Le Guin and Philip K. Dick), those whose star has dimmed (almost inarguably unfairly, given their best work: Roger Zelazny, John Brunner and to a much lesser extent Isaac Asimov) and those who remain stubbornly underappreciated (Ron Goulart, David Bunch, and to too great an extent Robert Bloch...Judith Merril is perhaps as well-remembered today as a mover and shaker in the Toronto countercultural scene in the 1970s and '80s as she is for her extensive work in sf and related literatures).

    Earlier, I gave a quick gloss of a review of Ted White's The Best from Fantastic, and the other anthology drawn largely from Fantastic, even earlier than White's and including stories from Fantastic Adventures and one from Amazing, is Ivan Howard's Time Untamed, mentioned here briefly some time back (with its original ugly cover, as cheerfully reproduced by an Award Books reprint); the slightly less ugly second edition and UK covers are below.  This volume is an example of the "hidden" anthology drawn from a given magazine, or in this case a magazine group (as is the Weird Tales magazine anthology The Unexpected, mentioned in that same post), as are Ivan Howard's several other anthologies for the publisher Belmont/Belmont Tower, which drew from Science FictionFuture FictionDynamic Science Fiction and the other sf magazines Robert Lowndes edited for Columbia Publications, owned by Louis Silberkleit, who also owned the later, and similarly low-budget Belmont books concern (Silberkleit was also a partner of Archie Comics guy Martin Goodman in several projects over the decades) mention, or essentially so, in the book's packaging that all the collected stories are from the one source, or related group of sources.  Fantastic Universe, mentioned above as the source of the Del Rey story that has no reason to be in a Fantastic anthology, had one obvious anthology drawn from its pages, The Fantastic Universe Omnibus, but FU (and The Saint Mystery Magazine) editor Hans Stefan Santesson later published several
    anthologies that draw all but exclusively from FU's pages, while not advertising that fact, beginning with Rulers of Men. I recently [a few years back] suggested to the editors of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction that not only Samuel Mines's The Best from Startling Stories should be noted in the entry for Thrilling Wonder StoriesStartling's older sibling which the anthology also draws from, but that Damon Knight's anthology The Shape of Things should also be cited in both magazines' entries, as it's also an anthology drawn intentionally and exclusively from both magazines (and quite a good one)...another "hidden" example (as the Mines Startling volume almost is for TWS...). Joseph Ferman's No Limits (quite possibly co- or ghost-edited by his son, Edward Ferman) is an anthology drawn from the 1950s version of Venture Science Fiction magazine; Once and Future Talesan all-but "hidden" anthology from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction commissioned by a short-lived publishing project, and outside the then-regular set of Doubleday's Best from F&SF volumes. I hope to add other examples to an ongoing list here...I've also briefly reviewed a vintage pirated volume taken from Christine Campbell Thomson's legitimate UK anthology series Not at Night that drew regularly on the early Weird Tales for its contents...the pirated volume published here as one of the early products of The Vanguard Press, co-founded by Rex Stout, no less.  
    Time Untamed ed. Anon. (by Ivan Howard) (Belmont 50245, 1967, 75¢, 175pp, pb)
    • 5 · Sally · Isaac Asimov · ss Fantastic May/Jun 1953
    • 23 · You’ll Never Go Home Again · Clifford D. Simak · ss Fantastic Adventures Jul 1951
    • 41 · The Eye of Tandyla [Poseidonis] · L. Sprague de Camp · nv Fantastic Adventures May 1951
    • 65 · Tomorrow and Tomorrow · Ray Bradbury · ss Fantastic Adventures May 1947
    • 83 · The Hungry Eye · Robert Bloch · nv Fantastic May 1959
    • 102 · The Dark Room · Theodore Sturgeon · nv Fantastic Jul/Aug 1953
    • 139 · The Eternal Eve · John Wyndham · nv Amazing Sep 1950
    • 164 · I’m Looking for “Jeff” · Fritz Leiber · ss Fantastic Fll 1952

This remarkable book was barely published by Bantam Books, in 1982 probably still the most successful paperback house in the world, haphazardly distributed, the only printing of the only edition lacking page numbers on its table of contents, the handsome if somewhat generic astronomical art on the cover uncredited.  Nonetheless, it's a treasure trove, an historical as well as literary feast, as well as a tribute not only to the magazine whose birth and first half-decade it documents well, and to its founding editors and the Mercury Press staff who worked with them to get the magazine off the ground, and to the writers who contributed, but also a memorial, an act of devotion by the ex-wife, presumably not legally widow, of cofounder J. Francis McComas, who had died relatively young in 1978, and longtime friend of the other cofounder, William A. P. White (better known as Anthony Boucher), who'd died even younger in 1968. Boucher had had the more ridiculously busy and accomplished career, but "Mick" McComas had achieved notable things with and without Boucher, as well, most famously co-editing (with Raymond Healey) the anthology Adventures in Time and Space, a hugely influential early assembly of science fiction stories (and some related material) that had been sustained in print by Random House, including through their Modern Library and Ballantine/Del Rey imprints, for decades.
William "Anthony Boucher" White and feline.

In 1945, the old college friends, and associates of Fredric Dannay (Boucher had already sold his translation of Jorge Luis Borges's "The Garden of the Forking Paths" to Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, the first publication of Borges in English), began to inquire if Dannay might lend his EQ "name" to a fantasy and horror fiction magazine in the same mode as EQMM; Dannay begged off, but suggested that the men directly contact his publisher, Lawrence Spivak, at Mercury Press, and Dannay would certainly put in a good word for them. Spivak and his publications manager Joseph Ferman were interested, but cautious...Mercury Press was doing OK with American Mercury, the H. L. Mencken-founded magazine of politics and culture, in part because of the association with the NBC radio series Meet the Press Spivak was now producing, though not yet hosting, and better with EQMM, and the Mercury Mystery and Bestseller Mystery lines of books were getting by, published in digest-sized magazine format and given essentially magazine-style distribution (even more so than the mass-market paperbacks that Pocket Books and Bantam and their direct competitors were issuing, including those such as Fawcett and Ace who previously had been magazine publishers primarily), albeit it was a crowded post-war marketplace facing uncertain economic times.  Already publishing in digest format, Donald Wollheim's The Avon Fantasy Reader was Spivak and Ferman's model for how they figured their potential new magazine might do, and reports were mixed there, as well...certainly Weird Tales, which had inspired the Avon title, had been a marginal commercial property for its long run, as the proposed Fantasy and Horror, then Fantasy and Terror, seemed like a bit of a gamble. We read some of the correspondence between Ferman and the prospective editors from the period between 1946 and 1949, and finally the publication of the first issue of what emerges as The Magazine of Fantasy...and with a slightly expanded title, publishes a second issue (and continues to publish today). 
Jesse Francis "Mick" McComas
The book sapiently and engagingly alternates correspondence between the editors and the contributors with examples of their stories for the new magazine, so one gets to see how the new writers introduced by F&SF, such as Richard Matheson, Mildred Clingerman and Zenna Henderson, as well as young lions such as Theodore Sturgeon and his student Ray Bradbury, Alfred Bester and Isaac Asimov and the rapidly evolving Damon Knight and Poul Anderson, the even newer Chad Oliver and Evelyn Smith, and the relative veterans such as L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt, and Manly Wade Wellman, had their work shaped and sharpened, or new directions encouraged, through their interactions with the editors, whose intense discussions and list-making (some examples provided in entries also interspersed here) had served them well in the years of preparation for their new responsibilities. That and the kind of salon that took place particularly in the Boucher/White Berkeley home, where such young locals as Philip K. Dick and Ron Goulart were likely to be found. 

The book doesn't include every major contributor to the first issues (Avram Davidson's first story outside the Jewish press, the brilliant "My Boyfriend's Name is Jello", Shirley Jackson's first F&SF story, and several Margaret St. Clair and Fritz Leiber stories are overlooked--for lack of surviving correspondence with the editors?; oddly enough, given they originally planned to buy reprint rights to a Robert Bloch story for the first issue, they didn't publish any Bloch fiction nor nonfiction in the first five years of the magazine), but it gives a fair sense of them, and mostly avoids the more obvious choices of short story, if not always (the Knight, his first published story he was satisfied with, and the Sturgeon story from the first issue, don't quite compel themselves as choices, but are more than reasonable ones). A book that goes well beyond the typical best-0f volume or even the fine historical surveys that the Frederik Pohl & co. retrospectives of Galaxy and If were, particularly given its focus on the crucial early years of what has been our most reliably good magazine devoted to fantastic fiction. 

And among the questions raised by the early correspondence...supposedly Raymond Chandler had a number of fantasy manuscripts awaiting a market such as F&SF to such, eventually having been published in a little magazine, was reprinted in the first issue of Fantastic in 1952, but what might've happened to any others that might've existed outside a casual mention by Chandler or the aspiring editors?

The contents: 
For more of today's books, please see Patti Abbott's blog. Index and photos courtesy ISFDB and Open Library. Below, the first and second issues of F&SF, and the contemporary issues of EQMM and The American Mercury from The Magazine of Fantasy's launch. George Salter was the art director at Mercury Press in those years, and designed the logos for F&SF and TAM.


A redux post assembly. For more of today's posts, please see Patti Abbott's blog; 
I'll be hosting next Friday, 2/8/18.


Todd Mason said...

Apologies for all the sloppiness that has been appearing in this post this morning...Blogspot does its damnedest to make sure any attempt to cut and paste from previous posts will interfere with each other in the most illegible and difficult to fix manner possible.

Todd Mason said...

And all the time spent beating this into even the shape it's in easily might've been used to write two posts...

Paul Fraser said...

When I read the introduction to the Annette McComas anthology I was surprised to see how long the the first issue of F&SF (or F for this one time) was in preparation before it appeared. And even more surprised, given this, that it is such a dud. There is a huge difference in quality between the first and second issues (IIRC this is illustrated by the fact that three or four of the stories in McComas’s collection are from that second issue).
I was interested in your comment about Fairman’s years at Amazing. I’d thought that that factory fiction period was one I wouldn’t go near with a barge pole, so I was interested to see you say that it produced some good work. Is there a specific issue or two that demonstrates this particularly well?

Todd Mason said...

Not to my knowledge, is there a generally better Fairman issue or so, since the better work was usually what Goldsmith was able to ferret out and what the quintet of contract writers might stretch themselves to do and yet also fail to sell elsewhere...

Todd Mason said...

Despite a good reprint in "Thurnley Abbey," the first issue of F (vs. the second, of F&SF) is rather less good, isn't it. It might well be that they had to dummy up the first issue as early as 1946, in large part, and they had until 1949 to pick and choose and solicit for the second.

Rich Horton said...

Very interesting overview, and of course the continued sad story of how publishers could -- against their interests, you would think -- sabotage their own projects through inattention and stupidity is always of interest.

By the way, as Robert Silverberg told me, "Ivar Jorgensen" was not supposed to be a house name -- it was purely Paul Fairman's pseudonym. However, Bill Hamling (and maybe Howard Browne as well) forgot that, so they would slap the Jorgensen name (often misspelled Jorgenson, or even spelled one way in the TOC and the other way on top of the story) on pieces by the likes of Silverberg and Garrett.

Todd Mason said...

Thanks! And IJ was both a typo and a misattribution waiting to the chaotic stew of house names that was ZD in the '40s and '50s...

I was "Alexander Blade" in SF EYE once.