Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Fritz Leiber, J. G. Ballard, Avram Davidson, Ron Goulart, Ray Bradbury, Karen Anderson, Roger Zelazny, John Jakes, David R. Bunch, Doris Pitkin Buck, Félix Martí-Ibáñez, Sharon Webb, R. Bretnor: May 1963: FANTASTIC: STORIES OF IMAGINATION edited by Cele Goldsmith and THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION edited by Avram Davidson: Short Story Wednesday

The first issue of Fantastic to retail for 50c (up from 35c for the April issue; they all but apologize in a footnote on page 70, and note the subscription price remains $2.99 for a year's 12 issues), not, in 1963, an insignificant jump; F&SF would not go to 5oc an issue till the January 1965 number...but it had held at 40c for a while.  The second of the irregularly-appearing special author-highlighting F&SF issues, after Theodore Sturgeon's in 1962. A Fritz Leiber issue of F&SF would appear in 1969; Fantastic had an issue devoted entirely to Leiber fiction in 1959, and the notable horror/fantasy little magazine Whispers would highlight Leiber in 1979

Slightly augmented listings from ISFDB:

One obvious fact of these two issues is how many examples of two stories in the same issue by writers we have here...not surprising in the Ray Bradbury issue of F&SF that there are two by him, though others so far have restricted themselves in their special issues to one story each (except for Harlan Ellison, with three and an essay), nor are two nonfiction items in a Bradbury issue by William Nolan. Two stories by Reginald Bretnor in the F&SF not too uncommon, nor two each by Roger Zelazny and John Jakes in Fantastic (with another Jakes in the F&SF), but altogether, more double-dipping than usual.

The first Nolan item, a rundown and celebration of Bradbury's life and career, is smoothly written (also unsurprising, considering its source) and generous, though slightly annoying in the degree to which it cites various assessments of Bradbury's work without choosing to give the names of the assessors. Inasmuch as these are direct quotes, not citing the presumably handy bylines is a bit odd, and as common with the praises as with the damnations.

"Bright Phoenix", as Bradbury notes in Davidson's typically thorough headnote, was a story that failed to sell to the more high-profile magazines it was submitted to in 1949 or so (Harper's Bazaar when it still dealt, if peripherally, with matters beyond fashion in clothes, The Atlantic Monthly) but which has the germ of Fahrenheit 451 in it; set in April 2022, it involves a rather Trumpian ex-military man and militia leader invading a library to burn half the books, with the help of his toadies, hoping to rid us of their Dangerous Ideas, only to be met with gentle mockery and sweet reason by the librarian and his various fellow readers, who demonstrate the literature survives in them. Though the chief thug's query, How do you know I won't start burning people, as well? is allowed to hang in the air, one of the few subtle aspects (in comparison) in this brief example of  (slightly revised from its earlier unpublished form) sadly overripe prose, Bradbury almost parodying Bradbury, while having his heartfelt fun.

"To the Chicago Abyss" is a better example of his work, the prose a bit less precious and better controlled, not quite up to Theodore Sturgeon at his best, but definitely Bradbury nearer his slightly more Technicolored version of Sturgeon or Leigh Brackett, his primary mentors in fantastica. As Davidson takes pain to note, citing an observation of Jack Kerouac's that mass culture as well as "high" culture shape us irresistibly, this story is about recalling the quotidian details of life before societal collapse, and how their recitation by a wandering (and, in a typical Bradbury touch, illicit) storyteller/oral historian can fascinate even the very young, much less those who share some of the memories of life as it was once lived in the U.S. (Amusingly, this story is almost an inversion of Harlan Ellison's most prominent story in his later special F&SF issue, "Jeffty is Five"...where the agent of a lost past is a preternatural un-aging child rather than an 80-year-0ld vagrant impulsively reminding others of some of the small pleasures of life in decades past.)(Even more amusingly, perhaps, given one of Ellison's other stories was a lament for the lack of good recent work from a lightly-disguised analog of a burnt-out Bradbury.)

Nolan's rather good, if not quite actually complete, bibliography of Bradbury's work follows--perhaps decidedly intentionally, RB's comic-book scripting and his fanzine work goes unmentioned (even as the latter was discussed in the more formal first essay).

More to come, later today, and for once in recent months I intend to do more in the promised time frame.

For more of today's short stories, please see Patti Abbott's blog here.


TracyK said...

Both magazines look very interesting. The first one seems to have lots of essays, which sound good. Also the Ray Bradbury stories, although to be honest I have yet to have a lot of luck with short stories by that author.

Todd Mason said...

Well, F&SF regularly has had some good to great columnists, Avram Davidson's book reviews during his editorship of the magazine among the most interesting that they have run (he would return as an occasional reviewer during his successor Edward Ferman's long editorial reign). But these special issues highlighting a single author will have material on those writers...Bradbury is often a taste cultivated in youth, since so much of his appeal is kind of built around youthful exuberance, down to the gush of much of the prose, but at his best, he can be very effective for nearly any reader.

FANTASTIC would cultivate some interesting columnists particularly in later years, as well (Ted White was the editor for nearly all the 1970s, and Fritz Leiber was the primary book reviewer for the magazine in that decade, even if the column would not appear in every issue, but was welcome whenever it did; White himself and others would also contribute. L. Sprague de Camp, and Alexei Panshin (later in collaboration with Cory Panshin) also had columns, particularly in the early '7os, which had some controversy about them, as did White's editorials.

George said...

I enjoyed the F&SF issues devoted to one SF writer. I might still have the issue with Fritz Leiber on the cover. And, I did have that FANTASTIC with the Bram the Barbaran story by John Jakes. It now resides at SUNY at Buffalo's SPECIAL LIBRARIES collection.

Todd Mason said...

Still only a ways into the Brak story by's tough making one's hero almost invincible, and yet needing for him to be capable of being captured/'s one of the more handsome covers the Goldsmith Lalli FANTASTIC sported (as with many, I suspect, till now I'm rooting for the spectral leopard). The responses to Brak stories are all over the map...the consensus is that Jakes's s&s was not of the same caliber as Leiber's, Vance's, Karl Wagner's nor Janet Fox's, but, then, few others' were.

Anonymous said...

What serendipity. Just today in the latest batch of FANAC uploads there's a fanzine with a letter from Avram Davidson as F&SF editor bemoaning that Bradbury's rates have largely priced him out of sf magazines.


- matthew davis

Todd Mason said...

Thanks for the citation! Alas, expense wasn't the only problem with much of Bradbury's work by the early '60s...albeit his tendency to provide less than inspired poetry in response to solicitation would become a default some years later.