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.

Sunday, May 1, 2022

reading tonight: WAITING FOR PRIME TIME: THE WOMEN OF TELEVISION NEWS by Marlene Sanders and Marcia Rock (U. Illinois Press 1988)

Reading Marlene Sanders's memoirs this evening, Waiting for Prime Time: The Women of Television News (U. Illinois Press 1988), in collaboration with journalism professor Marcia Rock...she was a relatively pioneering newswoman in radio and tv largely for Westinghouse and CBS (among others) well before those two companies were cobbled together by corporate ownership they both dwarfed in the '50s-'90s. Circuitous route to that, as I was put onto it by a Paul Di Filippo capsule review in the new F&SF of occasional tv newsperson Marya Mannes's novel They (1968), somewhat comic-inferno satirical sf about intergenerational tumult. By '68, Mannes not only could see it in the streets but was feeling it, no doubt, a bit personally. They sounds promising or self-indulgent, or a bit of both. Sanders had produced a short-run interview series conducted by Mannes in 1959 for Metromedia station WNEW-TV in NYC (the former Dumont Network anchor station). 

Christopher Iacono's review of They.

...I'll be damned...I knew this sounded familiar. I had a copy of the rather drab-package paperback from Curtis Books, three decades+ back...and it was water-damaged by an apartment roof/ceiling leak before I got around to reading it.  

Andrew Pineo's review of They.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY: Bestselling Swedish Author to Pen Next Three DRAGON TATTOO Books:

"The three new novels are set to be released in English as THE GIRL WHO IS GOING THROUGH PERIMENOPAUSE, THE GIRL WITH THE DOWAGER'S HUMP and THE GIRL WITH THE UTTERLY UNSURPRISING BONE LOSS AT HER AGE. The possibility of a new pendant series, beginning with THE GIRL'S GREAT-GREAT GRANDDAUGHTER MIGHT EVENTUALLY GET TO BE A WOMAN SOMEDAY is being carefully mooted.

"Knopf has also purchased rights to reprint several older books with Larsson-traduction titles, such as Marabel Morgan's THE TOTAL GIRL and Joanna Russ's THE GIRLISH MAN, though no date has been set for this new line of sadness."


Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: BLUEBOOK, August 1952, edited by Maxwell Hamilton (McCall Corp., publishers): a novella by Robert Bloch, short stories by John D. MacDonald, Nelson Bond, Tom Roan, Elsie Lee

Bluebook would become a shadow of itself by the time its '60s revival as Blue Book for Men staggered into the '80s, but in 1952, it was still riding reasonably high as the sibling magazine of Redbook, though it had just lost its most legendary editor,  the late Donald Kennicott, and new editor Maxwell Hamilton was making some changes, including more nonfiction in the mix and moving away from some of the devotion to historical fiction and, to a lesser extent, sf and fantasy. This  issue includes such old hands at the magazine and in other pulps and digests of the era as Nelson Bond, Robert Bloch, John D. MacDonald, Tom Roan and a relative newcomer as the only female contributor to this issue, Elsie Lee. Another notable byline is that of Ib Melchior, who would gain his greatest infamy in his scripting and other contributions to some of the worst skiffy films at midcentury, certainly least the Danish production Reptilicus, which was notable in several ways, including having its giant monster portrayed  by a poorly-designed and -controlled marionette, and causing havoc by spewing acidic mucus, which the monster belches up by having the yellow/green goop drawn on the negative of the film with what looks like ink.

The Bloch novella, "Once a Sucker", is a slightly shorter form of Spiderweb, first published in an Ace Double two years later, in 1954, and reprinted in 2006 with another 1950s Bloch short novel, Shooting Star, in a double-volume by Hard Case Crime. An out of work radio announcer/actor in L. A.  is sucked into assisting with an elaborate series of cons by a Very Careful megalomaniac and his collaborators, who begin by setting up fake spiritualism rackets and sexual blackmail stings, while the ringleader is beginning to take his potential leadership in a satanic cult very seriously indeed. The reverberations from, among others, the Jack Parsons, et al., involvement in the Aleister Crowley Thelema cult, and Scientology, and anticipation of the likes of "est", are rather deftly employed here, along with laying out some of the various tricks of the "psychic" trade and means of encouraging potential cult members to Get and Stay In Line. Bloch lays the jokey patter on a bit heavily at first, and then gets down to business. It's not quite noirish nor hardboiled, but it's in the neighborhood. 

The John D. Macdonald vignette "Delivery Boy War" involves the trade-offs military life requires of married couples, in this case the relatively dangerous duty faced by US pilots and crew even in transporting fighter planes from the U.S. to South Korea, during our Police Action of the '50s. Morale and how it can be (barely) maintained is the subject, and it's treated sensibly in the narrative, as was JDM's wont.

Elsie Lee's vignette "Ever Since Eve" is a bit of folktale/joke satire of the vicious pomposity of foolish judges, albeit set perhaps unfortunately in historical Arabia. It makes its point. 

I shall be reading at least the Roan and Bond stories soon.

FFB reviews of Spiderweb by Robert Bloch:
Ed Gorman (and hosted by Patti Abbott)

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

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: BEST DETECTIVE STORIES OF THE YEAR: 17TH ANNUAL COLLECTION (1962) edited by "Brett Halliday" (Davis Dresser)

Dell did a much better job paperbacking, or at least merchandising, this book in 1965 than Dutton did with the hardcover first edition in 1962...
first edition (Dutton '62) pagination: 

7 · Foreword by "Brett Halliday" (Davis Dresser)
11 · Service Call · Bruno Fischer · ss Ed McBain’s Mystery Book [#3, 1961] 
28 · Game · Herbert D. Kastle · ss Ed McBain’s Mystery Book [#3, 1961] 
41 · For All the Rude People · Jack Ritchie · ss Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine [v6 #6, June 1961]
60 · A Home Away from Home · Robert Bloch · ss Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine [v6 #6, June 1961]
71 · Drum Beat [Chester Drum] · Stephen Marlowe · ss Ed McBain’s Mystery Book [#2, 1960]
76 · Midnight Blue [Lew Archer] · Ross Macdonald · nv Ed McBain’s Mystery Book [#1, 1960]
115 · I’m Tough · Davis Dresser · vi Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine [v8 #6, May 1961]
119 · For the Love of $10,000,000 · Douglas Farr · ss Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine [v6 #5, May 1961]
140 · How Much to Kill? · Michael Zuroy · ss Manhunt [v9 #1, February 1961]
158 · Retribution · Michael Zuroy · ss Manhunt [v9 #2, April 1961]
164 · How to Kill Your Aunty · Theodore Sturgeon · ss Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine [v8 #4, March 1961]
191 · Hard Sell [John J. Malone] · Craig Rice (ghost written by Lawrence Block) · ss Ed McBain’s Mystery Book [#1, 1960]
202 · Second Honeymoon · Richard Deming · ss Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine [v8 #4, March 1961]
210 · The Night Before Christmas · Paul M. Fitzsimmons · ss Ed McBain’s Mystery Book [#2, 1960]
230 · Put Together a Man · Steve O’Connell · ss Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine [v6 #5, May 1961]
239 · I’m Better Than You! · Henry Slesar · ss Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine [v6 #6, June 1961]
251 · A Death in the Family · Miriam Allen deFord · ss The Dude [November 1961]
267 · Tale from Tangier · Mack Reynolds · ss Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine [v8 #4, March 1961]

What seems immediately notable about the contents of this volume is how few magazine issues they are taken from (and how the contributors are women, albeit one was ghosted by a man for a woman who used a male pseudonym). Nonetheless, it is a reasonably good representation of the era, with a selection of some notable stories from some of the more notable authors working short forms at the time; the one n0n-crime-fiction-magazine story, the deFord, was adapted a decade later for the Night Gallery television anthology series. 

The June 1961 AHMM boasts both "A Home Away from Home" by Robert Bloch, a fine suspense story (and one of the by-products of his writing several stories leading directly to the novel Psycho, perhaps) and one which was adapted for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and was the source of the framing story for the anthology film Asylum, with a script by Bloch adapting four of his stories (including this one) and "For All the Rude People", possibly the most widely reprinted and best-remembered single short story by Jack Ritchie.

Dresser continues not to reprint from Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, due to some ongoing tension between him and Frederic Dannay ("How dare you also be a pseudonymous writer of cf series stories with a magazine named for your most famous character!"), but below a gallery of covers from the issues these stories are drawn from:

Notable that the deFord story, among so many writers and stories, was first read by me in this among other Robert Arthur and Harold Q, Masur "Hitchcock" anthologies (and those produced by others, but the RH volumes edited by Arthur and Masur were the cream)...notable that the UK edition, from Rinehart, of this one substituted a US novel for the UK novel in the original...see below...wonder why the Disch, the St. Clair, the "Ellis Peters" and "Adobe James" stories were dropped...

Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Stories That Scared Even Me ed. Alfred Hitchcock (ghost edited by Robert Arthur with assistance from Thomas M. Disch) (Random House LCC# 67-22678, 1967, $6.95, 463pp, hc)
    Derivative anthologies: Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Stories That Scared Even Me (Rinehart 1967), Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Scream Along with MeAlfred Hitchcock Presents: Slay Ride, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Stories That Scared Even Me, Part One (Dell, various dates). 

    • xiii · Ahem! If I May Have a Moment- · Alfred Hitchcock (presumably ghosted by Robert Arthur)  · in
    • 3 · Fishhead · Irvin S. Cobb · ss The Cavalier Jan 11 1913
    • 13 · Camera Obscura · Basil Copper · nv The Sixth Pan Book of Horror Stories, ed. Herbert van Thal, London: Pan 1965
    • 33 · A Death in the Family · Miriam Allen deFord · ss Dude Nov 1961
    • 46 · Men Without Bones · Gerald Kersh · ss Esquire Aug 1954
    • 55 · Not with a Bang · Damon Knight · ss F&SF Win/Spr 1950
    • 61 · Party Games · John Burke · ss The Sixth Pan Book of Horror Stories, ed. Herbert van Thal, London: Pan 1965
    • 73 · X Marks the Pedwalk · Fritz Leiber · ss Worlds of Tomorrow Apr 1963
    • 79 · Curious Adventure of Mr. Bond · Nugent Barker · nv The Cornhill Magazine Jul 1939
    • 102 · Two Spinsters [Nicholas Goade] · E. Phillips Oppenheim · ss The Grand Magazine Jun 1926, as “The Spinsters”
    • 114 · The Knife · Robert Arthur · ss The Mysterious Traveler Magazine Nov 1951
    • 122 · The Cage · Ray Russell · ss 1959
    • 129 · It · Theodore Sturgeon · nv Unknown Aug 1940
    • 154 · Casablanca · Thomas M. Disch · nv *original publication here (the only story so published in the Robert Arthur "Hitchcock" volumes)
    • 174 · The Road to Mictlantecutli · Adobe James · ss Adam Bedside Reader #20 1965
    • 189 · Guide to Doom · Ellis Peters · ss This Week Nov 10 1963
    • 195 · The Estuary · Margaret St. Clair · ss Weird Tales May 1950, as “The Last Three Ships”
    • 200 · Tough Town · William Sambrot · ss 1957, as “Stranger in Town”
    • 207 · The Troll · T. H. White · ss Gone to Ground 1935
    • 219 · Evening at the Black House · Robert Somerlott · ss Cosmopolitan Oct 1964
    • 230 · One of the Dead · William Wood · nv The Saturday Evening Post Oct 31 1964
    • 258 · The Real Thing · Robert Specht · ss Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine Apr 1966
    • 263 · Journey to Death · Donald E. Westlake · ss Mystery Digest Jun 1959
    • 272 · The Master of the Hounds · Algis Budrys · nv The Saturday Evening Post Aug 27 1966
    • 301 · The Candidate · Henry Slesar · ss Rogue Aug 1961
    • 309 · Out of the Deeps [The Things from the Deep, Everybody’s 1952; The Kraken Wakes, M. Joseph 1953] · John Wyndham · n. Ballantine 1953
    Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Stories That Scared Even Me ed. Alfred Hitchcock (ghost edited by Robert Arthur) (Rinehart, 1967, 20/-, 384pp, hc)
    revised from Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Stories That Scared Even Me (Random House 1967)
    • Ahem! If I May Have a Moment- · Alfred Hitchcock · in
    • Fishhead · Irvin S. Cobb · ss The Cavalier Jan 11 1913
    • Camera Obscura · Basil Copper · nv The Sixth Pan Book of Horror Stories, ed. Herbert van Thal, London: Pan 1965
    • A Death in the Family · Miriam Allen deFord · ss Dude Nov 1961
    • Men Without Bones · Gerald Kersh · ss Esquire Aug 1954
    • Not with a Bang · Damon Knight · ss F&SF Win/Spr 1950
    • Party Games · John Burke · ss The Sixth Pan Book of Horror Stories, ed. Herbert van Thal, London: Pan 1965
    • X Marks the Pedwalk · Fritz Leiber · ss Worlds of Tomorrow Apr 1963
    • Curious Adventure of Mr. Bond · Nugent Barker · nv The Cornhill Magazine Jul 1939
    • Two Spinsters [Nicholas Goade] · E. Phillips Oppenheim · ss The Grand Magazine Jun 1926, as “The Spinsters”
    • The Knife · Robert Arthur · ss The Mysterious Traveler Magazine Nov 1951
    • The Cage · Ray Russell · ss 1959
    • It · Theodore Sturgeon · nv Unknown Aug 1940
    • Tough Town · William Sambrot · ss 1957, as “Stranger in Town”
    • The Troll · T. H. White · ss Gone to Ground 1935
    • Evening at the Black House · Robert Somerlott · ss Cosmopolitan Oct 1964
    • One of the Dead · William Wood · nv The Saturday Evening Post Oct 31 1964
    • The Master of the Hounds · Algis Budrys · nv The Saturday Evening Post Aug 27 1966
    • The Candidate · Henry Slesar · ss Rogue Aug 1961
    • The Body Snatchers · Jack Finney · n. Collier’s Dec 10 1954 (+2); Dell 1955

For more of today's SSW entries, please see Patti Abbott's blog.

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: Shirley Jackson, Robert Bloch, Alfred Bester, Theodore Sturgeon, Jerome Bixby, Manly Wade Welllman, Ray Bradbury, Gahan Wilson et al: THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION March 1954 edited by "Anthony Boucher" and J. Francis McComas and FANTASTIC April 1954, edited by Howard Browne

Two issues off the shelf, and I thought I'd mention (in first pass, anyway) the stories I particularly remembered, from collecting and reading these two some years back or from reading beforehand the stories collected elsewhere, contemporary issues (as Fantastic was a bimonthly that year) and both published just over a decade before I was born. 

Neither has the best cover that either magazine would sport in their early years, though the F&SF cover did inspire Alfred Bester to write the impressive cover story, my default choice for his best short fiction.

Shirley Jackson's first short story for F&SF, "Bulletin", is a fine jape in the form of a story of apparatus, several fragments or documents returned from a time-traveler's investigation of the U.S. in 2123, including a scrap from the New York Herald-Tribune (well, it Could be possible again, eventually), a US history exam questions sheet from a frosh course in an unnamed college, a letter home from summer camp from a young boy, and a Your Weight and Fortune card...something a bit Retro even in 1954, I think. Jackson has the most fun with the history exam questions, running some jokes by us that could be a bit recondite even for relatively well-informed readers today, seven decades later ("Identify Twelve of the Following:", with the appended list including "Sinclair (Joe) Louis", and "Sergeant  Cuff"--the pseudonym once used, adorably, by Saturday Review magazine crime-fiction reviewer John Winterich, after the character in Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone).

"5,271,009" digs a bit deeper, and is just as funny, as Alfred Bester introduces us to a humanoid alien who chooses to aid a human artist whose work he has admired, the latter currently locked up in a psychiatric hospital after some acting out. The mysterious Mr. Solon Aquila, who speaks in a jazzy patois that drops in phrases from various languages and types of English-language slang, forces Jeffrey Halsyon to undergo a series of psychodramas that rather savagely mock a number of childish and adolescent fantasies not altogether uncommon to fantasy readers/fans and rather more conventional people, alike. Bester once had it collected in an early volume as "The Starcomber" (a reference to Aquila, as akin to a beachcomber), but was convinced to revert to the magazine title for subsequent reprints.

"All Summer in a Day" is one of Ray Bradbury's most widely-reprinted stories, set on his fantasy of the planet Venus as an environment of endless rain, albeit at a livable temperature for its largely unprotected human colonists, including a young girl who is locked by her classmates away so that she misses the one afternoon of relatively clear skies and opportunity to romp about in recess one year. A bit heavy-handed, I thought even as I read it for the first time in a 7th-grade reading textbook, but makes its points; Bradbury apparently approved a 2002 sequel story by one Jason Marchi, originally published in Verbicide magazine, and eventually in a chapbook with the Bradbury story and introduction by Bradbury's old friend William F. Nolan.

"Dumb Supper", as Manly Wade Wellman originally called and would again title this John the Balladeer story, in the collection Who Fears the Devil? and subsequently, is a fine entry in this cycle, but I'll have to reread it to recall which events occur in this entry in the series vs. the others. They reward rereading, as prime examples of folk horror and fantasy decades before that term achieved its current fashionable status.

Robert Bloch's "Mr. Steinway", with a handsome, boldly inked illustration by Bill Ashman in this issue of Fantastic, is a fine example of a kind of haunted object story that Bloch executes here (and on most other occasions) with panache, one of the earlier examples of his work in this mode to appear other than in Weird Tales, the magazine which folded for the first long stretch in 1954, and which had helped launch or further the careers of so many of the best fantasy and horror writers of the early 20th century in English.

Jerome Bixby's "The Young One", involving a New Kid in town who definitely seems to have Something Odd going on (as do his parents), is an utterly charming story that I first encountered in one of Robert Arthur's YA "Hitchcock"-branded anthologies published by Random House in the 1960s. Happily, this kid is far less threatening than the protagonist in Bixby's most famous story, "It's a Good Life--"

Gahan Wilson has two of his first professional cartoons in this issue, having sold his very first to Fantastic for publication in the January, 1954 issue, and one can see the seeds of his career in the early examples here, and in the other Fantastic and stablemate Amazing Stories issues of the period...his drawing style not yet as distinctive, but the kind of subject matter he was drawn to already clear. His tenure at the Ziff-Davis magazines not nearly as long as it would be at F&SF during Edward Ferman's editorship; a pity for the ZD magazines and their readers.

Much as with the Wellman story, I know I've read (and enjoyed) the Sturgeon, which I read at least in Sturgeon in Orbit under his preferred title of  "Extrapolation", but will have to reread, at least skim, it to help segregate it from other good Sturgeon stories of the era.

Fantastic, April 1954 --can be read here

The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, March 1954  
More to come. (Really!)

for more of today's short fiction (and more),