Wednesday, October 18, 2023

20th Anniversary Issues: THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION October 1969, edited by Edward Ferman, and FANTASTIC August 1972, edited by Ted White: Short Story Wednesday

Perhaps unsurprisingly for 20th Anniversary issues of fantasy/sf magazines, or for any gathering of fiction, considerations of time (and, often, loss) loom large in the stories in these two issues. Slightly odd that two magazines which have been, at times at least in their previous histories, famous as homes for women writers in fantastica should produce "all-stag" anniversary celebration issues, albeit in the case of Fantastic, Alice (at conventions, going by nickname "Racoona") Sheldon was still hiding behind the "James Tiptree, Jr." pseudonym, and cover artist Jeff Jones was eventually to transition to womanhood and take on the name Jeffrey Catherine Jones in 1998; "Ova Hamlet" as the pseudonym Richard Lupoff used for his parody stories for Fantastic, mostly, was a Very open non-secret (part of the gag was that Lupoff was serving as interlocutor for the eccentric "Hamlet"). 

That said, these are impressive issues, helping to kick off good decades artistically for both magazines, and eventually financially for F&SF, at least.

The best stories in either issue are, I'd say at this hour, Robert Bloch's time-travel (of a sort) and definitely afterlife fantasy "The Movie People", which incorporates his love for film and his experiences as both youthful film fan and eventual professional screenwriter, and Tiptree's "Forever to a Hudson Bay Blanket", very much a time-travel story and yet also deeply encoding some of her lived experience as a young debutante (and, to a much lesser extent, her later life as an OSS/CIA staffer). I haven't yet read the Conan pastiche by de Camp and Carter, nor this part of the eventual Ursus of Ultima Thule by Avram Davidson, but the introduction to the first part of the serial, giving some of the events in the previous segment published as a standalone story in the sf magazine Worlds of If, is indicative of Davidson in one of his favorite modes, writing about the origins of the mythology he's mining for the story, and the sort of thing he eventually would write at length in the essays collected as Adventures in Unhistory...which is highly recommended.

Barry Malzberg, the editor of Fantastic and stablemate Amazing before White, as well as contributor to this issue, would later collect the Tiptree story in his 2003 anthology The Best Time Travel Stories of All Time, as well as it being first collected in Sheldon/Tiptree's first, widely-hailed collection, Ten Thousand Light Years from Home. Bloch's "The Movie People" has also been widely collected, in his The Best of Robert Bloch and many other volumes, in translation as well as the original.

Please see Patti Abbott's blog for more complete considerations of their objects of discussion and review, and a fine new poem she's composed commemorating the birthday of her late husband, the political science professor and historian Philip Abbott (whose favorite short story was E. M. Forster's seminal sf story, "The Machine Stops")...

Thursday, October 5, 2023

SSW/P: New MacArthur Fellow Manuel Muñoz quotes lines from Rita Dove's poem "Fantasy and Science Fiction" (about her early reading of THE MAGAZINE OF F&SF and other things) as epigraph for his story collection THE CONSEQUENCES...

Renee Shea: The epigraph to this collection is five lines from a poem, “Fantasy and Science Fiction,” by Rita Dove, but I’m not sure how they speak to you about what you’re doing in these stories.

Manuel Muñoz: It’s a nod to how I have received stories from my parents, but, I, in turn, have not really shared any of my own. It’s well understood in my family that I’m out, but we don’t talk about it. All of the personal stories of mine about love or rejection or partnership aren’t shared or even asked about. That’s not what the Dove poem is actually about, but the lines struck me: the privacy and intimacy of encountering or experiencing story: “shutting a book . . . you can walk off the back porch / and into the sea—though it’s not the sort of story / you’d tell your mother."



Rita Dove:


At the same time, my brother, two years my senior, had become a science fiction buff, so I’d read his Analog and Fantasy and Science Fiction magazines after he was finished with them. One story particularly fascinated me: A retarded boy in a small town begins building a sculpture in his backyard, using old and discarded materials—coke bottles, scrap iron, string, and bottle caps. Everyone laughs at him, but he continues building. Then one day he disappears. And when the neighbors investigate, they discover that the sculpture has been dragged onto the back porch and that the screen door is open. Somehow the narrator of the story figures out how to switch on the sculpture: The back door frame begins to glow, and when he steps through it, he’s in an alternate universe, a town the mirror image of his own—even down to the colors, with green roses and an orange sky. And he walks through this town until he comes to the main square, where there is a statue erected to—who else?—the village idiot.

I loved this story, the idea that the dreamy, mild, scatter-brained boy of one world could be the hero of another. And in a way, I identified with that village idiot because in real life I was painfully shy and awkward; the place where I felt most alive was between the pages of a book.

Dove's poem first published in Ploughshares, Spring 1987and included in her Collected Poems 1974–2004 (Norton) and...

in Grace Notes...

(h/to Paul Di Filippo for the IA citation)