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")...


  1. Two superlative issues, Todd. My favorites in the F&SF ar the Bloch, Dick, Niven, and Aldiss, but all were enjoyable. I will admit that Asimov's short stories can be a little weak, but this one wasn't bad. The biggest drawback is the cover -- I have never been able to get into Walotsky's F&SF covers and often wondered why Ferman commissioned them.

    Ted White's FANTASTIC wa one of my favorite magazines of that era, possibly because of his fannish approach to editing. Davidson and Tiptree made this issue sing and Ova Hamlet was a force that could not be denied. Others may nit-pick at Conan pastiches, but I always enoyed the de Camp-Carter outings.

    I always inhaled the book reviews by both Wilson and Leiber.

    Perhaps I'm showing my senility, but the magazines just seemed better back then.

  2. No, Jerry, I'd say the centrality of the magazines still had in the '70s, with most of the best writers sadly still with few other alternatives for their shorter work, and fewer all the time, as the original anthology market ebbed and flowing, and the slick magazines that ran fiction cutting back when not simply folding, meant more of the most innovative and assured work was appearing in them than might today. Crime fiction magazines, the relative few other fiction magazines aside from little magazines (and a few semipro magazines that corresponded to littles in the fantastica community and some which overlapped with it). I'm not Lin Carter's biggest fan, and Ron Walotsky was the most consistently-bad cover artist for F&SF in Ed Ferman's years...this was perhaps his least-bad cover.

  3. Todd, Lin Carter was a fanboy who never met an author he did not try to imitate. Still, some of his work was not shockingly bad, although certainly not shockingly good.

  4. I can agree with that...his adventure pulp pastiche fiction was mildly amusing. His sword and sorcery writing tended toward the dreadful, and he could drag de Camp down wih him.

  5. I am reading that issue of Fantastic right now. I've already (in essence) read the Davidson serial, as I read URSUS OF ULTIMA THULE just a couple of weeks ago.

    I agree about the Tiptree -- one of my "unsung favorites" among her stories.

  6. I have to be in the mood to read Lin Carter. I forgive his clunky writing style because Lin Carter brought back many fantasy classics with his selections for the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series.

  7. I will have a fuller look at the August 1972 Fantastic, as well as the October 1971 issue with the conclusion to Davidson's serial, at Black Gate, scheduled probably for sometime in December. On my reread "Forever to a Hudson Bay Blanket" didn't hit me as hard as it did back when I was 15 or so, perhaps because the central relationship looks creepier to me now than it did as a callow teen. (Though I think Tiptree was fully aware of the creepiness.) Still, a surprisingly under-appreciated Tiptree work -- never collected by her or her estate after the appearance in Ten Thousand Light-Years from Home.

    The De Camp/Carter Conan Collaboration is calamitous. I'd say Carter successfully dragged de Camp down.

  8. As I'm just coming out of a non-delightful case of C19 (not a recommended experience), I'll probably be expanding this post as well...look forward to seeing yours. Yes, I think it's pretty clear Sheldon/"Tiptree" was fully intent on conveying the full creepiness of what goes on in the a way, perhaps, that John Varley was hoping to think of as More OK (or not!) in "The Persistence of Vision", which similarly knocked me for a loop when I was 13 and both it and I were new.

    Belatedly, George--some Carter is easier to take than other Carter...

  9. Carter's fannish burble did tend to drown any virtues de Camp could bring to their late collaborations.


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