Friday, March 30, 2018

Friday's "Forgotten" Books: the links to the reviews and more; 30 March 2018

This week's books, unfairly (or sometimes fairly) neglected, or simply those the reviewers below think you might find of some interest (or, infrequently, you should be warned away from);certainly, this week as most weeks we have a few not at all forgotten titles. Patti Abbott or I will host again next week. 

Mark Baker: Murder on Washington Square by Victoria Thompson

Yvette Banek: Hide My Eyes by Margery Allingham

Les Blatt: All Things Impossible: The Impossible Files of Dr. Sam Hawthorne by Edward D. Hoch

John Boston: Amazing: Fact and Science Fiction Stories, April 1963, edited by Cele Goldsmith

Friday, March 23, 2018

FFB: MEMORIES AND VISIONS: WOMEN'S FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION edited by Susanna J. Sturgis (Crossing Press 1989)

From (insit), Summer 1990: "'Other'nesses"

Fantastic fiction has an obvious appeal to those who dislike the current state of affairs; those who are oppressed can play with notions of other ways of living, while those who are savagely oppressed can have a wider range of metaphor to express their outrage and joy (when expressing same nakedly wouldn't be wise). Hence, this volume: an anthology of original fantasy, sf and surrealist fiction by women [I didn't know at the time, and I think it's not mentioned on the copyrights page, that one story apparently had a previous or perhaps nearly simultaneous publication; see index below]. 

Memories and Visions features few familiar bylines [in 1990]; only R. M. Meluch has had a novel published by a major commercial house, and only Lorraine Schein and Kiel Stuart have sold much to the magazines devoted to various sorts of fantastic fiction. This is a collection devoted mostly to newer writers, or writers just beginning to play with fantastic motifs. In her funny and informative introduction, Susanna Sturgis notes the difficulties she had, during her tenure as book-buyer for DC's feminist bookstore Lammas, in generating customer interest in speculative fiction: "Some were already converted, some were willing to try, but many more were not even tempted by the well-drawn women characters and feminist themes, even lesbian love stories, of [Elizabeth] Lynn, [Marion Zimmer] Bradley, [Ursula K.] Le Guin, [Suzy McKee] Charnas and [Joanna] Russ, among others, [in mass-market paperbacks] at cover prices roughly a third of the trade paperback alternatives. 'I don't read science fiction,' was the explanation. 'It's too unbelievable. I can't deal with spaceships and elves.' [Ah, the elves of sf...or was that the cattle-rustlers of sports novels?] They bought lesbian romances instead.

"I could recommend plenty of titles with neither spaceships nor elves, and as to 'unbelievable'...Well, did you hear the one about the beautiful, brilliant woman with no apparent income who runs off to a secluded resort with an equally beautiful but shy, recently divorced woman, has perfect sex on the first try, and lives happily ever after?"

The stories range from very straightforward sf through allegorical surfiction to humorous fantasy. Caro Clarke's "The Rational Ship" is a solidly traditional space opera with high-tech overtones in form, though definitely not so in incident: a spaceship captain pilots her ship over long distances with the help of a "writer", another woman, who devises a scenario for the entire crew to grapple with telepathically as they go about their tasks--particularly the captain herself, who engages sexually with the writer, as a matter of course, necessity and grudging pleasure during the subjectively brief trip. Charlotte Watson Sherman's "Killing Color" is a horror story about racial murder and related diversions in the Old South; "The Harmonic Conception" by Nona M. Caspers is probably the funniest story in the book, about a lesbian living in an all-woman household who finds herself the victim of immaculate conception. Schein's "The Chaos Diaries" is meta-cyberpunk. Not everything here is as adept as everything else, and some of the best work is toward the middle of the volume, not the typical anthologist's trick, but the fourteen-story (including a set of novel excerpts, and a free-verse poem as last contribution) collection swings.

To read this book online, see the Internet Archive "library" here. It's also easily available secondhand; only the Laurell Hamilton story seems to have been reprinted so far (she's certainly seen the most commercial success among the contributors)...I don't see evidence of the novel the Shirley Hartwell excerpts are taken from being published, either. 

The Locus Index to the volume (the ISFDB index linked on the title):

Memories and Visions: Women’s Fantasy & Science Fiction ed. Susanna J. Sturgis (The Crossing Press 0-89594-391-3, Sep ’89, $9.95, 201pp, tp) Anthology of 15 feminist sf and fantasy stories, with an introduction by the editor. Also announced in hardcover (-392-1) but not seen.
Sturgis would go on to edit two more anthologies, mixing new and reprinted fiction, for Crossing Press, which would fold not too long after publishing both The Women Who Walk Through Fire: Women’s Fantasy & Science Fiction Vol. 2 (1990) and Tales of Magic Realism By Women: Dreams in a Minor Key (1991), both also recommended. Sturgis has continued to work as an editor and to publish fiction and nonfiction of her own, but has not assembled any further anthologies. 

For more of today's books, please see Patti Abbott's blog. (And buy her new book!)

Friday, March 16, 2018

FFM: THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, March 1978, edited by Edward Ferman; FANTASTIC, July 1978, edited by Ted White

It's Small Crisis Time around the household at the moment, so I end up posting an augmented version of a Facebook post that treads on familiar ground.  But it is a pretty important anniversary for me, and a round-number one as's also too relevant, alas, to consider how few of these contributors are still with us...among the writers in both issues, from the F&SF we still have John Varley and Gahan Wilson (and editor Ed Ferman), from the Fantastic solely Barry Malzberg (and editor Ted White, along with letter-writers Marvin Kaye and Darrell Schweitzer). Grania Davis's was the first, I think, in the sustained string of deaths of friendly acquaintances or better over the last several months, which has continued with Kit Reed, Sue Grafton (a fleeting acquaintance), Bill Crider (a friend), Cynthia Heimel, Al Tonik and Kate Wilhelm, the last very shortly after Ursula K. Le Guin, whom I never actually met even virtually, but I admired her work as I did all those I've corresponded and talked with cited above (and in the week after this was posted, Karen Anderson, coincidentally a contributor to the 1971 F&SF pictured below, has joined their ranks). And Bill's adventure with his final illness was almost ridiculously simultaneous with our cat Niki's treating with the cancer that killed her, both coping with their disease with resolve and grace for about two years. The same could be said of Reed; some of the others died with less warning, to themselves as well as the rest of us. I'm certainly not a kid any longer, as I was a young teen four decades ago, as I was discovering the wonders detailed below.

About 40 years ago, give or take a few weeks, I bought my first new copies of issues of two fiction magazines (I had one 1971 back-issue of each, the Fantastic first shown to me by my friend Steven Durost, which my junior high school's librarian had had kicking around for years and didn't feel she needed to add to the collection, so she gave them to me, along with 1971 issues of Galaxy and If). Fantastic would be absorbed by its sf companion Amazing Science Fiction within two years, but I sure did enjoy reading the back issues I could find; its title would be revived at least twice so far, most recently as a webzine. F&SF continues to publish to the present day, and I remain a collector of the new issues as well as slowly, lazily gathering the complete file of the back issues of both magazines.
I was, and remain, very eclectic in my taste in fiction...but if there was one field of fiction I loved ahead of all others in my youth, it was horror fiction, and both these new issues were unusually heavily laden with horror and borderline horror...Robert Young, the only writer the two issues had in common, managed to provide the worst stories in each issue, but even his stories were readable, and I soon would encounter much worse from him, and others, as I branched out into buying more different new fiction magazines of every stripe I could find and afford at 13yo...

The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, March 1978
Editor: Edward L. Ferman; cover by Chesley Bonestell
6 • The Persistence of Vision • novella by John Varley
51 • Hundred Years Gone • [Southern Appalachia] • short story by Manly Wade Wellman
63 • Books (F&SF, March 1978) • [Books (F&SF)] • essay by Algis Budrys
 65 • Review: Gateway by Frederik Pohl • review by Algis Budrys
 66 • Review: The Futurians by Damon Knight • review by Algis Budrys
72 • The Family Man • short story by Theodore L. Thomas [as by Ted Thomas]
78 • The Seventh Fool • short story by Glen Cook
83 • Cartoon: "I suppose you don't think this is hard work! • artwork by Gahan Wilson
84 • Hear Me Now, My Sweet Abbey Rose • short story by Charles L. Grant
97 • Films and Television: The Road to Albany • [Films (F&SF)] • essay by Baird Searles [about the film Damnation Alley]
100 • Down the Ladder • short story by Robert F. Young
111 • The Horror Out of Time • short story by Randall Garrett
123 • Science: Anyone for Tens? • [Asimov's Science Essays: F&SF] • essay by Isaac Asimov
135 • Papa Schimmelhorn's Yang • [Schimmelhorn] • novelette by Reginald Bretnor

In the F&SF, John Varley's novella, which swept the awards the next year, was  too glib in its treatment intergenerational sexuality among other matters, but at 13 I found its portrayal of a community of Thalidomide survivors and their offspring a fascinating exploration, even if the ending which took the story utterly into the realm of fantasy was never convincing to me (Varley with agility dealing with the post-'60s counterculture and demonstrating how his work was a refinement of what he took from Robert Heinlein and, perhaps less obviously, Alfred Bester). Manly Wade Wellman's fine story was not a Silver John story, but one of a number that dealt with the same sort of milieu and themes, and was the first story I read in the issue (unless we count Gahan Wilson's amusing cartoon caption). Ted Thomas's story, the only inarguable sf in the issue, dealt with a married astronaut trying to cope with his domestic life as well as the comet-observing mission at hand; it seemed an honest as well as interesting window into adult concerns (Thomas, of course, had collaborated with Kate Wilhelm on two novels early in their careers, the first the brilliant The Clone). The Glen Cook story is an excellent pastiche of Jack Vance, in his Dying Earth/Cugel the Clever sequence mode; I'm not sure I've read a better high fantasy story by the able Cook since. The Charles Grant story, as with some of his Oxrun Station stories, strives perhaps excessively to be allusive, but remains an evocative "quiet" horror story in the mode he would champion as editor as well as writer over the next decade or so. The Robert Young story is, typically for him, a bit foolish, but if you like the kind of leaden twist ending most of the weaker episodes of The Twilight Zone provided, this tale of a sort of transformational damnation might seem worth more than a grunt. The cover story by Randall Garrett was one of number of humorous pastiches he was publishing at this point, many of them collected later in his Take Off duo of books, and a rather clever, affectionate approach to Lovecraftian sfnal horror. Reginald Bretnor's Papa Schimmelhorn story was fairly typical of that sequence, if less offensive than some of the other late stories about the improbably brilliant, improbably-consistently lecherous hero of sorts (most of the later stories were not so much offensive for Bretnor's fantasies of Papa's endless aging attractiveness and readiness for sexual adventure as for the blatant degree of "humorous" misogyny that ran through them, far less an element of the early stories from among the first issues of F&SF and sporadically appearing over the years).

And the columnists: the Baird Searles review of the misbegotten film adaptation of Roger Zelazny's novel Damnation Alley (apparently turning it into something akin to an inept episode of a bad 1970s television science fiction series, or the 1980s direct-to-video films to come) struck me as hilarious; Algis Budrys's at first slightly dauntingly discursive take on the Futurians, as exemplified by Frederik Pohl as one of the most protean and accomplished of the writer/editors (among other roles) to come out of that aspiring-literary-professionals group of WW2-era New York City-based fans,  and his new and key novel, and Damon Knight (another, and also Kate Wilhelm's husband) with the collective memoir of the group...but it was fascinating reading. (Former Futurian) Isaac Asimov's essay, one of his on mathematics, was less engaging to me than his on the history of science, or chemistry (his professional discipline as a professor before he became a full-time writer) or astronomy (one of our mutual passions). 

Fantastic, July 1978 (it was a quarterly in 1978)
Editor: Ted White; cover by Stephen Fabian
4 • Editorial (Fantastic, July 1978) • [Editorial (Fantastic)] • essay by Ted White
6 • The Journal of Nathaniel Worth • novelette by Robert F. Young
7 • The Journal of Nathaniel Worth • interior artwork by Stephen Fabian [as by Steve Fabian]
20 • The Last Rainbow • novelette by Parke Godwin
21 • The Last Rainbow • interior artwork by Joe Staton
44 • The Chill of Distant Laughter • short story by Sherwood Springer
45 • The Chill of Distant Laughter • interior artwork by John Rodak
54 • The Treasure of Odirex • [Erasmus Darwin] • novella by Charles Sheffield
55 • The Treasure of Odirex • interior artwork by Lydia Moon
93 • Prowl • short story by Barry N. Malzberg
96 • David's Friend, the Hole • short story by Grania Davis
97 • David's Friend, the Hole • interior artwork by Tony Gleeson
105 • What Weighs 8000 Pounds and Wears Red Sneakers? • short story by Jack C. Haldeman, II
108 • Send Us a Planet • short story by David R. Bunch
116 • Fantasy Books • [Fantasy Books (Fantastic)] • essay by Fritz Leiber and Margaret Beach

 116 • Review: Cold Chills by Robert Bloch • review by Fritz Leiber
 117 • Review: The Shattered Chain by Marion Zimmer Bradley • review by Fritz Leiber
 117 • Review: The Dream Detective by Sax Rohmer • review by Fritz Leiber
 119 • Review: The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks • review by Margaret Beach
123 • ... According to You  • [According to You (Fantastic)] • letter column conducted by Ted White

In the Fantastic, we are offered first Robert Young's similarly foolish, but somewhat more engaging and protracted historical fantasy, which has a "slingshot" "twist" ending one might guess from the cover illustration; I suspect editor White thought this one not only afforded Stephen Fabian an opportunity for some cheesecake but also to draw in Tolkien fans (one of my 8th grade classmates, a cute "burn-out" girl, seeing this on my desk, asked if the magazine was anything like The Lord of the Rings). Parke Godwin's charming medieval fantasy which follows was an immediate improvement. Sherwood Springer's intentionally old-fashioned horror story, lightly touching on the Lovecraftian, was also charming, and Charles Sheffield's historical fantasy, the first of his Erasmus Darwin stories, was yet another vast improvement on the Young story. Barry Malzberg's vignette is a look into family dynamics, and how lycanthropy doesn't necessarily change those even if it allows for rather quick resolution (Barry hasn't reread this one since sending it off  to Ted White, after a proposed Roger Elwood horror anthology it was commissioned for apparently fell apart; it's compact, and weighty for its brevity). The Grania Davis story is an engaging bit of slightly surreal borderline horror; it probably didn't inspire Kathe Koja's The Cipher, but it lives in the same universe (it might or might not be relevant that Koja and Barry collaborated on several stories some years back). Jack C. Haldeman's vignette is funny, better than its title might suggest (Joe Haldeman is the late Jack's brother). David Bunch's typically surreal sf story is also funny, in his usual bemusedly intense satiric mode.

The features: Fritz Leiber is also engagingly discursive, as he looks back at his decade of reviewing for Fantastic, initially for Harry Harrison's issues and the similarly brief editorship of Barry Malzberg, and then for nearly a decade of White's issues, though not every issue...not intentionally (as far as I know), this would be his last column for the magazine, as Ultimate Publications junior publishing partner Arthur Bernhard bought out the senior partner Sol Cohen and fired White after two more issues (White rebounded well, taking on the well-paid editorship of Heavy Metal for a year).  Leiber, dealing very briefly with and endorsing Robert Bloch's then-new collection, a bit longer with a key Darkover novel  by M. Z. Bradley (while noting how much of the best fantasy of the '70s was written by such women as Le Guin and Russ) and longer yet with a Sax Rohmer reprint from Dover Books; he hands over the last segment of the column to Icelandic-folklore scholar Margaret Beach's assessment of  the first reheated Tolkien dumpling from Terry Brooks; unsurprisingly, the latter two reviews are  rather less complementary than Budrys was about his duo. Ted White's editorial was written with the eventually incorrect understanding that his magazines were about to return to bimonthly publication, and features a brief history of recent fantasy and sf magazine publishing, along with a long response to a letter from an aspiring writer wondering how manuscripts are considered for publication...all fascinating stuff to me at the time. The letters column is largely given to discussion of White's less than favorable review of Star Wars in a previous issue, an assessment I could agree with, and some consideration of previous issues' fiction contents, particularly from contributor Marvin Kaye. 

The Budrys and Leiber columns, these and the others I've read over the years since  were certainly influential, if not as much as even the indulgent reader of my work might hope, on how I attempt to writer my critiques and similar accounts. This was also almost my introduction to Budrys (after reading his "The Master of the Hounds" in the Robert Arthur-edited Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Stories That Scared Even Me), as well as my first reading of most of the other writers...and although these were only the second issues of each magazine I'd read (after the 1971 issues pictured below), I'd certainly read stories from both magazines in various anthologies over the years previous, and had seen F&SF around on at least one newsstand some years before...

Some of the books drawn from thees two magazines (among the many previous posts devoted to these nearly lifelong enthusiasms)

"Ova Hamlet" was Richard Lupoff's parody-story pseudonym. 

In the then-current spring/summer issues of Fantastic's companion Amazing Science Fiction, Ursula Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven was being serialized...I would've suggested the Le Guin a better fit in Fantastic, the Anderson novel in Amazing...

Also in this issue below, a fine, disturbing horror story by Gary Jennings, a few years before he became a bestselling novelist, with Aztec, et al. And a books column by Joanna Russ, reviewing among other things a two-novella collection by Kate Wilhelm. Things do get nested. Note also a rather more typical Bonestell cover painting.

For more of today's books, please see Patti Abbott's blog (and her new collection, I Bring Sorrow and Other Stories of Transgression).

Bonestell's cover painting:

the webpages for F&SF and the most recent Fantastic revival:

Friday, March 9, 2018


This is the fortieth anniversary year of my youthful falling in love with new fiction magazines (and magazines such as The Atlantic Monthly and OMNI, which featured fiction prominently), and none of them did I love more intensely than Whispers magazine (founded 1973), whose first best-of anthology (with a few new stories mixed in) this was. I managed to find it in a library in 1978, the year after it was published, and the year after I first learned of Whispers magazine's existence, thanks to Gerald W. Page's The Year's Best Horror Stories, Series V (DAW Books, 1977) and the next volume, and particularly Gahan Wilson's First World Fantasy Awards (Doubleday 1977). The anthology series which followed this first volume continued to be a mixture of reprints from the magazine and, increasingly,  new stories, and the Doubleday volumes (eventually six of them) began to appear more frequently than new issues of the magazine itself, which had to be financed entirely by editor and publisher Stuart Schiff, whose dentistry practice allowed him to fund his ever more elaborate and handsome little magazine. (The anthology series had handsomer jackets than most Doubleday releases of the era, even if the magazine usually was more striking, given Schiff didn't have to negotiate with the Doubleday art department with what he published on his own.)

Whispers magazine had been Schiff's attempt, initially modestly, at bringing something similar to Weird Tales back into print (and as he was doing so, the four-issue run of Leo Margulies's revival of WT, edited by Sam Moskowitz, came and and quickly went), as a showcase for horror and borderline suspense fiction, and dark and heroic fantasy fiction. And from its early issues, it was featuring fiction as good as or better than that appearing in better-paying magazines and other markets. 
1979 paperback reprint
This wasn't quite a who's who of horror writing in the 1970s, as an all-stag group (with the possible exception of the now-vanished Robin Smyth) and missing a few of the other male major players, but it's an impressive array, and at least pretty good stories from them all (with the exception, by my lights, of a typically minor Brian Lumley Cthulhu story). Karl Wagner's "Sticks" is perhaps his best-remembered horror fiction, David Drake's "The Barrow Troll" one of his best-loved historical fantasies with an horrific edge to it, and while none of the other stories loom as large in their authors' careers (the Ramsey Campbell is perhaps closest), this was a thoroughly enjoyable introduction to what Schiff brought together in his anthologies to come, and (minus the book reviews and relevant small press and large-publisher news) the magazine. Future volumes would feature even fewer reprints from sources largely unavailable to US readers, but a few more...including David Campton's brilliant "At the Bottom of the Garden" in Whispers II. And after the first volume, the series was published, misleadingly, under the Doubleday Science Fiction imprint...mostly notable for an even more meager promotion budget.

1987 reprint
The horror boom was already beginning to burgeon by 1977, as Stephen King joined Ira Levin, Thomas Tryon, William Peter Blatty and others as repeatedly bestselling writers, H. P. Lovecraft had gained a mass audience, and publishers were already willing to take a gamble on anthologies ...Doubleday would engage Charles Grant's Shadows series of original anthologies beginning in 1978; Kirby McCauley's Frights had appeared in 1976, and his Dark Forces would come in 1980. Paperback versions of all these were rolling out as well...and not a few little magazines in horror would follow Schiff's example, and join such other veteran small-press magazines as Weirdbook and Nyctalops. 

For more of today's reviews, please see Patti Abbott's blog...and her new collection, I Bring Sorrow and Other Tales of Transgression.