Friday, October 19, 2018

FFM: MYSTERY SCENE, November 1986, edited by Ed Gorman and Bob Randisi; SCIENCE FICTION EYE, March 1988, edited by Steve Brown and Dan Steffan; NEW ORLEANS STORIES, Winter 1993, edited by O’Neil De Noux

Three magazines from a wealth passed along by Phil Stephensen-Payne, who was trying to streamline his library/storage set. I already had a copy of the fiction issue of Science Fiction Eye in storage somewhere in the boxes, but haven't laid eyes on it recently, a large-format (in the size that Life, Look, Ebony and The Saturday Evening Post would favor in their heydays) issue unlike the others of that fondly-remembered magazine; Mystery Scene is still very much with us, but this issue (#6, I believe, but it doesn't make that explicit anywhere that I can find; nor can I find a copyright note nor true colophon) is from the early years, as founders Ed Gorman and Bob Randisi were still shaking down what they hoped to make of this crime-fiction answer to Locus...and with this issue boldly laying claim to territory closer to that of Locus, "including Horror Scene" and adding a new, meant-to-be-regular section on comics/graphic literature, with Denny O'Neil as columnist.  Also included, a short story by Ed Hoch.  And New Orleans Stories, which would produce three slim issues in its run starting in 1993, begins with some bold claims from editor and apparent publisher O'Neil De Noux about not being a home for trivial stories set in the Big Easy, but stories by and about those who live and know the city. De Noux would get two issues out, and a third would be released by another staff...the not altogether different approach of Philadelphia Stories, some years later but with a giveaway approach and better production and apparently firmer financing, would prove hardier. 

The Mystery Scene issue is packed, almost scrapbook style, with short articles, reviews, interviews and more; not hard to read and not altogether unstylish, but one gets the sense that where there's white space, it wasn't so much an esthetic decision as there simply wasn't something else to cram into that spot. A good, short interview with Robert Bloch is part of the crossover attempt to reach the then-still-booming (or only starting to recede) horror market, though of course Bloch is and was best-known for his crime-fiction work, and had been a president of the Mystery Writers of America. This was apparently the first issue of MS to receive at least regional professional newsstand distribution (and the prospect of appearing in at least some of the once-flourishing B. Dalton chain of bookstores, as Randisi mentions in his editorial--B. Dalton eventually absorbed by Barnes & Noble), and the number of professional book display ads in the issue is impressive. The Simon Ark story by Edward Hoch, part of a series mostly from early in his career (about an investigator of psychic and particularly Satanic activity), feels a bit like a trunk story, and a bit like a jape on the publishing industry, hence likely the fact of its appearance in this context. (And the evidence of things still shaking down at MS is clear in the typos that riddle the story, more than in most of the nonfiction I've read, and that the table of contents of the issue doesn't mention either Hoch nor the story's title...perhaps a last-minute addition, though mentioned on the cover.)

The SF Eye issue was ambitious even by the consistently ambitious attempts of that magazine to break ground and look good doing so. (It wasn't alone in this in this era, but it was one of the first of the small-press magazines in its field to take advantage of desk-top publishing advances, as opposed to the older fannish engagement with earlier forms of DIY publishing.) The large format, notes John Clute in the SF Encyclopedia, was not favored by the relatively few newsstands that were already carrying the magazine by its third issue, but it was a novelty, at least, in sf circles...I think only the last Arts Council-funded issues of the British magazine New Worlds and the also-British poster-heavy/fiction-light Science Fiction Monthly had published in those dimensions within the field (perhaps no one in the US, with the weak exception of the tabloid newsprint final issues of Vertex), and the latter two had seen their last issues in 1975 and '76. Along with some of the already-regular columns, an assortment of short fiction, by veterans such as Richard Lupoff (whose wife and occasional publishing partner Patricia Lupoff has apparently just died, after debilitating illness) and up and comers such as Kathe Koja, very much reflecting the esthetic of the "edginess" and sophistication the magazine sought...and co-editor Dan Steffan, a cartoonist and illustrator, was able to put his stamp on the issue to greater extent than he would any other (he had to step away from the magazine shortly thereafter). 

Emerging a half-decade after these other pivotal issues for their respective titles, the first New Orlean Stories appeared, I believe, in the wake of Pulphouse Publishing's efflorescence as a source of interestingly-focused projects, many "mixing genres" and published in a sudden flood in many different formats, from magazines in the form of fat hardcovers (reasonably inexpensively printed through high-grade photocopying) on over through paperback chapbooks to thin, newsprint magazines such as this one...which apparently wasn't actually published by Pulphouse, but much in its spirit...founder O'Neil De Noux had worked with the Pulphouse folks in several ways. Featuring in its first issue a reprinted, recent story by George Alec Effinger (a pleasant if slight fantasy about a CIA-recruitment program of a very specialized nature) and a new story by less well-known authors, even a relatively small $1.50 price tag (in his editorial, De Noux notes he apparently expected to be able to price it at a dollar) probably didn't encourage newsstand purchase of such a slim product. But a good basic notion...

For more of today's books (and perhaps other magazines), please see Patti Abbott's blog.

1 comment:

George said...

I've only read that issue you list as MYSTERY SCENE November 1986. I've heard about SCIENCE FICTION EYE but never found a copy. NEW ORLEANS STORIES is new to me. As usual, a thought-provoking post!