Friday, October 23, 2020

FFM (Friday's "Forgotten" Magazines): May 1960 Horror and Fantasy Fiction Magazines: F&SF, FANTASTIC, SHOCK, FEAR!, SCIENCE FANTASY (April), FANTASTIC UNIVERSE (March), MACABRE (Summer)--Friday Fright Night

Some newsstand fantasy and horror (and sf and suspense fiction) in Spring of 1960:

Macabre, Summer 1960 
Price: $0.40
Pages: 28
                                      *Not as yet online, I believe

So...why May 1960 issues?

Well, this was one of the rare instances in which two newsstand horror-fiction magazines were launched with the same cover date...and the same lack of capitalization. Both Shock and Fear! were to last only briefly, three issues for Shock, two issues for Fear!...Winston Publications launched Keyhole Mystery Magazine at the same time, and with the same editor (though Dan Roberts didn't hide behind a Frankenstein's behemoth and an intelligent spider for the crime-fiction magazine--cutesy editorial fictions rarely help) and many of the same contributors, managed three issues before folding. Fear! was the product of Great American Publications, which had bought King-Size Publications' two fiction magazines (The Saint Mystery Magazine and Fantastic Universe--the US edition of the British New Worlds was launched with the March 1960 issue perhaps in part to make up for the folding of FU) and then added a small slew of other fiction magazines in an excess of enthusiasm, or at very least optimism...which overextension apparently contributed to Great American's crashing and burning by the end of 1960...they had folded Fantastic Universe, after an 8-year run, after beginning but never continuing the serialization of Fredric Brown's horror-adjacent sf novel The Mind Thing, and offering an uncredited translation of the first Jorge Luis Borges story to appear in an English-language fantasy magazine, in March (meaning it probably was still sitting on a few newsstands, at least, by the time the others here were issued).  The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (F&SF), Fantastic and the UK's Science Fantasy (the more fantasy and horror-receptive stablemate of New Worlds) would continue apace for some years, as would Joseph Payne Brennan's modest little magazine, the most prominent of those devoted to publishing weird fiction and poetry in 1960, Macabre.  

F&SF always included some horror in its mix, as did Fantastic, Fantastic Universe and Science Fantasy also...F&SF's first mooted title was Fantasy and Terror, though that was not seen as a particularly easy sell in the immediate postwar years, despite the continuing popularity of horror fiction and horror drama on radio and to some extent in film; the first issue, as edited by founders "Anthony Boucher" (William White) and J. Francis McComas, was titled simply The Magazine of Fantasy when released in 1949, and the current title (it's the only magazine in our array here still publishing, though the most recent revival of Fantastic folded only a few years ago) came with the second issue, as sf magazines had already established that they had a receptive self-conscious audience (while horror and fantasy readers were less likely to see themselves that way until the attempts to market to them began began consistently succeeding in the 1970s and '80s). Fantastic (founded in 1952), Fantastic Universe (in 1953) and Science Fantasy (established as a professional magazine under that title in 1950) all were ready from the start to announce their openness to sf...FU almost to a ridiculous extent, though in a sense it has perhaps the most cheerful and optimistic title of any professional fantasy/sf magazine so far (and in moments of anger, the initials work).

As noted, Shock was the stablemate of a crime-fiction magazine, most of Fear!'s freshet of stablemates were crime-fiction as well (and a couple of those were tv-series-tie-in magazines, 77 Sunset Strip and Tightrope, which mixed in non-series-related stories), and F&SF was seen as a fantasticated offshoot, in most ways, of its original stablemate Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine; the relation of The Saint Detective Magazine and Fantastic Universe was in imitation of F&SF and EQMM. Fantastic, while its first two editors were at least as much interested in crime fiction as speculative, was for its initial 1952-80 run the consistent partner of the sf magazine Amazing, much as Science Fantasy was of New Worlds.  Brennan's little magazine was launched in 1957, as an attempt to provide a focus for those hoping to see a revival of Weird Tales magazine, which had folded in 1954, with Brennan as one of its last major "discoveries" (he had published more widely as a poet than a fiction writer, though had published a number of western stories, before WT in its last years published, most famously, such short horror fiction of his as "Slime" and "The Calamander Chest").

That said, it's perhaps also a mark of the times that led their publishers to try to launch horror/suspense magazines...a few publishers, particularly Ballantine Books, were starting up horror lines, however tentatively (and some of the crime-fiction book lines were showing an increasing willingness to dip back into at least borderline horror, tagging some titles as "novels of menace" and the like); the increasing embrace of horror hosts on television film packages, local and syndicated, seemed to be embraced by the culture at large in a way that horror comics had not been, even though they both had their roots in radio horror and suspense hosts--on series which in their turn had inspired some short-lived magazines in the 1950s, the eclectic Suspense and The Mysterious Traveler, and the later and somewhat more affectionately than respectfully remembered Tales of the Unanticipated. Television dramatic anthologies touched on horror and sometimes jumped in with both feet (following in the footsteps of such radio series transplants as Suspense and Lights Out), and odd hybrids such as Alcoa Presents/One Step Beyond arose, and then the first long-term success in US fantasticated tv drama anthologies, The Twilight Zone, beginning in 1959. In the UK, such writers as Nigel Kneale were offering wildly popular drama dancing on the line between sf and horror. And British horror films, from Hammer and other studios, were doing well in the States, as were some rather more sophisticated horror and suspense films than the low-budget monster movies that had flooded in with the advent of drive-ins and lots of teens with spending money. Such borderline horror as Psycho couldn't've have hurt the sales pitches for horror/borderline horror magazines to their publishers and distributors. 

All that said--what of the stories (and nonfiction features)? One thing that's hard to miss is how each of the magazines offers reprints--Shock almost to a fault, and the minor fiddling with titles of reprints in that issue seems almost as if they're hoping you won't recall those titles--seven out of 13 stories are good to excellent reprints, but some are definitely going to be familiar to most readers of horror--and if the magazine was aimed at kids (as the editorial fiction cuteness suggests), Theodore Sturgeon's "Bianca's Hands" probably wasn't going to be one of those reprints (though this is its first US magazine appearance, after beating a Graham Greene story in a contest in the UK magazine Argosy--after having appeared in at least a Groff Conklin horror anthology and Sturgeon's second, and horr0r-heavy and brilliant, collection). Such originals as Avram Davidson's "The Tenant" are nothing to be ashamed of, either. (The cover story in the third issue of Shock is Robert Bloch's brilliant suspense piece "The Final Performance", a new story--which, of course, editor Roberts presented as "Final Performance".) The least mining the past we see is in the Macabre issue, apparently...I haven't found a copy to read, so I don't know if Brennan's own H. P. Lovecraft essay builds on his nonfiction about HPL he'd published in the '50s; though it's amusing to note that this is certainly HPL month for nonfiction pieces, between Damon Knight's brief dismissal of how Lovecraft avoided overexposing his monstrous presences definitely to a fault and Sam Moskowitz's typically clumsy historical/critical profile; Brennan's is probably more adeptly written, and it would be interesting to see if it's more generally critical than Moskowitz chose to be.  In the Science Fantasy issue, the reprint is the similar Moskowitz essay about A. Merritt, which series ran on a several-month delay from their original appearances in Fantastic. Accompanying the essay in Fantastic is a reprint, from the very early and fairly elaborate 1935 fanzine Fantasy Magazine issue in which two quintets of writers were requested to write round-robin stories with the title "The Challenge from Beyond"--one group of five asked to take a science-fictional approach, the other, Weird Tales stars all save A. Merritt who was more an even earlier big draw in the likes of the US Argosy and All-Story magazines, to collaborate on a Cthulhu horror story. So, Catherine L. Moore (my favorite of this five), Abraham Merritt, H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard and Frank Belknap Long fell to and produced the story reprinted here. (You are invited to imagine the prices copies of this issue of the 1935 magazine go for when made available.) 

Fear! dusts off a Wilkie Collins story from 1874, albeit one with a complex history; Fantastic Universe's only "true" reprint appears to be an Israeli news story (polymath editor H. S. Santesson might not've translated the Borges story, collected in Spanish as well as English in the versions of The Universal History of Infamy, as he refers in his editorial to Borges as a Mexican, rather than Argentine, editor...but perhaps it was a momentary slip). F&SF, as does Shock, reprints a John Collier story, only a relatively new 1956 item from The New Yorker, rather than a chestnut originally from Harper's in 1931 in the latter case; the F&SF issue also reprints a Joseph Hansen poem from Harper's, from the previous year. Shock reprints its Anthony Boucher story from F&SF in 1954; F&SF would eventually return the favor, reprinting Davidson's "The Tenant" a decade later, in 1971. 

And, Fantastic and F&SF in these issues offer impressive new stories by Fritz Leiber, one each in his most sustained series: a Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser story, "When the Sea King's Away" in the Fantastic issue, and a Change War story in the F&SF, "The Oldest Soldier"...

More to come. (It's been a surprisingly and suddenly busy two days.) Perhaps some pruning of the above, definitely some digging in with the horror fiction offered by each...


Cullen Gallagher said...

Hunter, Duillo, Davis, Emshwiller, some marvelous artists there!

Todd Mason said...

There are. And you'll see some more if you look inside several of the magazines...not so much F&SF or FANTASTIC UNIVERSE (another way it "took after" its model).

George said...

I remember several of these magazines way back when. Sadly, contemporary SF and Fantasy magazines lack the "pulpiness" of these early magazines. Thanks for the memories!

Todd Mason said...

With the death of pulps (save the hardy RANCH ROMANCES which would continue to run in that format into the early '70s) as a publishing format in 1960, you can see these digests (save the sudden neo-pulp format of FANTASTIC UNIVERSE in its last year, with the clumsy new logo and rather bad new covers) making the steps away from pulp tropes, even if some of them are baby steps...and courting varying degrees of sophistication that weren't unknown in the pulps, certainly, but were not the usual content of most pulp magazines, much less the stereotypical image of "pulp" those who like to throw around the term "pulp" in academic and popcult history circles would have you consider. The ridiculousness of referring to paperbacks as "pulps" rather than as paperbacks is verging on endemic these years, and the proponents of this pointless confusion are usually highly offended when this matter is brought to their attention. The academic perplex.