Friday, December 19, 2014

FFB: FANTASTIC STORIES: TALES OF THE WEIRD AND WONDROUS ed. Martin H. Greenberg and Patrick Price (TSR)...among some "hidden" fiction magazine best-ofs...

Fantastic, as a magazine, for most of its 28 years and some months of existence (from launch in 1952, early absorption of its predecessor Fantastic Adventures in 1954, and folding into companion title Amazing Science Fiction Stories in early 1981), was an example of at least someone involved doing the best they could with the magazine, in the face of serious obstacles. Sometimes the chiefest obstacle was the apathy of the editor, particularly true during the latter years of founding editor Howard Browne's tenure, and those of his former assistant and heir Paul Fairman...the magazine, having been founded with a large budget and some fanfare by a serious, though not quite top of the industry, publisher (Ziff-Davis), achieved initial sales beyond reasonable expectation (the third issue featured a story attributed to Mickey Spillane, at the early height of his popularity, which had been highlighted--and "spoiled" with extensive description--by a Life magazine profile of the Mike Hammer creator, on newsstands before the Fantastic issue was published...so Browne quickly ghosted a new story, "The Veiled Woman," and published it as by Spillane)(in later accounts of the incident, Browne also notes that he thought the genuine Spillane story terrible; the Browne counterfeit is a reasonably good, and probably intentionally slightly parodic, pastiche).
The first issue, a cover much referred to in
James Gunn's introduction and the source
of Asimov's story in the book...and
not
included in the selected cover images in
the book...
However, those high circulation figures were not sustained into the second year of publication, apparently, and with the folding in of FA, Fantastic's budget was cut and Browne essentially went back to the usually relatively indifferent efforts he'd been making at Fantastic Adventures, accepting and publishing good work when it was offered by writers but just as happy to run that good work alongside no-more-than-readable hackwork by regular Ziff-Davis writers, much of the latter published under "house names" such as "Lawrence Chandler" and "Ivar Jorgensen,"--the actual authors could be any number of contributors including Browne and Fairman themselves (many of the stable of contributors in those years haven't remembered clearly [or didn't choose to] who wrote what among the less memorable items, and the office records of the era have apparently not all been retained). When Browne officially resigned in 1956 (having checked out to the degree of spending much of his office time writing his crime fiction), newly official editor Fairman went even further along into systematization of Fantastic and Amazing, depending not entirely but largely on four relatively young writers to produce wordage that would be accepted and published unread (under a variety of bylines), as long as the manuscript delivery was punctual and the stories didn't cause any problems that might interfere with Fairman's own in-office writing for other markets...and even this arrangement managed to bring in some good or promising work among the acceptably mediocre, since the quartet was comprised of Milton Lesser (who would publish most of his better work as Stephen Marlowe), Harlan Ellison, Robert Silverberg and Randall Garrett. And Fairman had as his assistant a young and

inexperienced but diligent and talented former secretary, Cele Goldsmith, who would dig through the "slushpile" of submitted manuscripts and would occasionally find very interesting work indeed, including what would be the first published story by Kate Wilhelm. When Fairman left, in 1958 (moving on briefly to managing editorship of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, by then published by Ziff-Davis co-founder B. G. Davis, who'd quit ZD, as well as continuing his freelance writing), Goldsmith was elevated to editorship, and with far less cynicism if also less of  a sense of the history of fantastic fiction, she would go on at the magazines to put together issues that would mix sometimes brilliantly innovative and sometimes merely notional work, till the magazines were sold by Ziff-Davis in 1965.  Under Goldsmith (who took through marriage the name Cele Lalli during her tenure),  the fiction magazines had lost their champion at ZD with Davis's departure, and the death of William Ziff not long after meant that for most of her career there, Fantastic and Amazing were secondary projects, with art direction and packaging that was somewhat less consistently good than her editorial product deserved, and a fellow named Norman Lobsenz given the task of overseeing her work, though apparently he mostly wrote the consistently trivial editorials and responses to reader letters in the columns in the magazines. Among the writers she "discovered" through first professional publication, as editor, were Ursula K. Le Guin, Thomas M. Disch, Sonya Dorman (her prose, at least, aside from a student story in Mademoiselle), Roger Zelazny, Ben Bova, Ted White, Keith Laumer, and Piers Anthony (when still a promising young writer, well before he made jejune fantasy novel series his primary occupation). Her magazines were one of the primary markets for the mostly young writers who were shaking up fantasy and particularly sf in the Among those she worked with closely was
One of the better covers from the Goldsmith
or Lalli years...
Fritz Leiber, though the reports of her courtesy and quick and enthusiastic response, trumping even the withered budget she had for her version of the magazines, is a common narrative of her career at the magazines (and her later work on Ziff-Davis bridal magazines, which comprised most of her career), and is one of the more important points made by James Gunn in his introduction to the volume theoretically under review here. Gunn's introduction, for what it's worth, is rather short, Very oddly copy-edited and is the Only editorial matter in the book to give any sense of the context the collected stories were published in, aside from the acknowledgements page give the years of publication; there aren't even headnotes to any of the stories nor contributor notes. That is most assuredly Strike One against this anthology, despite it being only the third book (I believe) to collect a sampling specifically from Fantastic, the heftiest of the three, and the last so far (this latter fact is Strike One against the publishing industry).  There is also a rather offhandedly selected set of plates in the center of the book, on heavy slick paper displaying in color some of the front covers from some of Goldsmith's and later editor Ted White's issues, with minimal comment there...indicative of TSR's stewardship of Amazing (combined with Fantastic Stories) and their publishing efforts generally...haphazard tossing around of money, with rather half-assed follow-through (aside from all the Dungeons & Dragons product money TSR had at hand, they'd also gotten a windfall from Steven Spielberg's renting of the Amazing Stories title, and a/v rights to as many of the stories in the back issues as possible, for his misbegotten and shortlived tv anthology series). Also included in the volume, for no obvious reason and probably in part because Martin Greenberg had made an error in his famous filing system and indexed a novelet by Lester Del Rey, published in 1955 in the unrelated magazine Fantastic Universe, as a contribution to Fantastic...or perhaps Greenberg just wanted an excuse to run the story, and hoped no one would notice. Together, let's call those Strike Two against this book being taken too seriously by the casual browser of bookstands, particularly if she
A fairly typically handsome cover from Ted
White's tenure as editor (and art director)
knows anything about the magazine whose provenance was one of the primary selling points here. And I haven't even gotten to the contributions of the editors who worked with publishers Sol Cohen and Arthur Bernhard, who ran the magazines on the thinnest of shoestrings, from 1965 through the sale of Amazing to TSR in the early '80s, and all the roadblocks they threw up against good work by subsequent editors Joseph "Ross"/Wrocz, Harry Harrison, Barry Malzberg, longest-serving Ted White, and Eleanor Mavor (who for no good reason called herself "Omar Gohagen" in her first issues). Of course, the editors and Gunn don't get to these folks' efforts, either, even if they include some of the fiction White published.


Which is a pity, because the selection of fiction here is pretty good, if not reasonably representative of the best of the magazine's career. It's also notable which of the contributors to the magazine collected here have gone onto ever greater fame in the years since this book, much less their stories, was first published (pretty obvious examples: J. G. Ballard and particularly George R. R. Martin), those whose fame has been sustained (Le Guin and Philip K. Dick), those whose star has dimmed (almost inarguably unfairly, given their best work: Roger Zelazny, John Brunner and to a much lesser extent Isaac Asimov) and those who remain stubbornly underappreciated (Ron Goulart, David Bunch, and to too great an extent Robert Bloch...Judith Merril is perhaps as well-remembered today as a mover and shaker in the Toronto countercultural scene in the 1970s onward as she is for her extensive work in sf and related literatures).

Courtesy the Locus Index: 
Fantastic Stories: Tales of the Weird and Wondrous ed. Martin H. Greenberg & Patrick L. Price (TSR 0-88038-521-9, May ’87, $7.95, 253pp, tp) Anthology of 16 stories from the magazine, with an introduction by James E. Gunn plus a selection of color cover reproductions.
  • 7 · Introduction · James E. Gunn · in
  • 11 · Double Whammy · Robert Bloch · ss Fantastic Feb ’70
  • 21 · A Drink of Darkness · Robert F. Young · ss Fantastic Jul ’62
  • 33 · A Question of Re-Entry · J. G. Ballard · nv Fantastic Mar ’63
  • 59 · The Exit to San Breta · George R. R. Martin · ss Fantastic Feb ’72
  • 70 · The Shrine of Temptation · Judith Merril · ss Fantastic Apr ’62
  • 85 · Dr. Birdmouse · Reginald Bretnor · ss Fantastic Apr ’62
  • 97 · Eve Times Four · Poul Anderson · nv Fantastic Apr ’60
  • 126 · The Rule of Names [Earthsea] · Ursula K. Le Guin · ss Fantastic Apr ’64
  • ins. · Artists’ Visions of the Weird & Wondrous · Various Hands · il
  • 135 · The Still Waters [“In the Still Waters”] · Lester del Rey · nv Fantastic Universe Jun ’55
  • 144 · A Small Miracle of Fishhooks and Straight Pins · David R. Bunch · vi Fantastic Jun ’61
  • 148 · Novelty Act · Philip K. Dick · nv Fantastic Feb ’64
  • 174 · What If... · Isaac Asimov · ss Fantastic Sum ’52
  • 186 · Elixir for the Emperor · John Brunner · ss Fantastic Nov ’64
  • 202 · King Solomon’s Ring · Roger Zelazny · nv Fantastic Oct ’63
  • 220 · Junior Partner · Ron Goulart · ss Fantastic Sep ’62
  • 229 · Donor · James E. Gunn · nv Fantastic Nov ’60
Two weeks ago, I gave a quick gloss of a review of Ted White's The Best from Fantastic, and the other anthology drawn largely from Fantastic, even earlier than White's and including stories from Fantastic Adventures and one from Amazing, is Ivan Howard's Time Untamed, mentioned here briefly some time back (with its original ugly cover); the slightly less ugly second edition and UK covers are below.  This volume is an example of the "hidden" anthology drawn from a given magazine, or in this case a magazine group (as is the Weird Tales magazine anthology The Unexpected, mentioned in that same post), as are Ivan Howard's several other anthologies for the publisher Belmont/Belmont Tower, which drew from Science Fiction, Future Fiction, Dynamic Science Fiction and the other sf magazines Robert Lowndes edited for Columbia Publications, owned by Louis Silberkleit, who also owned the later, and similarly low-budget Belmont books concern (Silberkleit was also a partner of Archie Comics guy Martin Goodman in several projects over the decades) ...no mention, or essentially so, in the book's packaging that all the collected stories are from the one source, or related group of sources.  I recently suggested to the editors of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction that not only Samuel Mines's The Best from Startling Stories should be noted in the entry for Thrilling Wonder Stories, Startling's older sibling which the anthology also draws from, but that Damon Knight's anthology The Shape of Things should also be cited in both magazines' entries, as it's also an anthology drawn intentionally and exclusively from both magazines (and quite a good one)...another "hidden" example (as the Mines Startling volume almost is for TWS...). Joseph Ferman's No Limits (quite possibly co- or ghost-edited by his son, Edward Ferman) is an anthology drawn from the 1950s version of Venture Science Fiction magazine; Once and Future Tales an all-but "hidden" anthology from Venture's sibling The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (and commissioned by a short-lived publishing project, and outside the then-regular set of Doubleday's Best from F&SF volumes). I hope to add other examples to an ongoing list here...I've also briefly reviewed a vintage pirated volume taken from the legitimate UK anthology series Not at Night that drew regularly on the early Weird Tales for its contents...the pirated volume published here as one of the early products of Vanguard Press, co-founded by Rex Stout, no less.

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

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

some folk-rock (and antecedents)

Some previously posted, some not.





















Johnny Cash: "Hey, Porter"


Buddy Holly: "Learning the Game"


The Springfields: "Silver Threads and Golden Needles"


Jackie DeShannon: "Needles and Pins"


Mimi and Richard Fariña: "Reno, Nevada"


The Byrds: "Wild Mountain Thyme"


The Byrds: "Here Without You"


The Turtles: "You Showed Me"


Blackburn and Snow: "Stranger in a Strange Land"


The Seekers: "I'll Never Find Another You"


Fairport Convention: "It's Alright Ma, It's Only Witchcraft"


Fairport Convention:  "Farewell, Farewell"


The Pentangle: "Light Flight"


Joy of Cooking: "Down My Dream"


Joni Mitchell and The Band: "Coyote"

Friday, December 5, 2014

FFB: THE BEST FROM FANTASTIC edited by Ted White (Manor, 1973); THE BEST FROM FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION: A SPECIAL 25th ANNIVERSARY ANTHOLOGY edited by Edward Ferman (Doubleday, 1974)

The two most durable of the US-based fantasy-fiction magazines  of the latter half of the 20th Century, Fantastic Stories (founded 1952, folded into stablemate Amazing early in 1981) and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (since 1949), were edited by their most durable editors forty years back (Ted White would edit Fantastic from 1969-1979, after a brief period as assistant editor of F&SF in the 1960s with Edward Ferman, who edited his magazine from 1964-1991, also serving as publisher for most of that period)...and they produced these volumes, the Fantastic volume the only best-of from its magazine for two decades (eventually another, also not truly representative,  would be published in the 1990s), the F&SF item a slightly variant volume in a fairly regular series of best-ofs...one which gathered from a series of special author-tribute issues, beginning with a special Theodore Sturgeon issue in 1962. 

White's book is, if anything, too modest in not gathering any of the fiction he published in his issues, as he was one of the two best editors the magazine would have, drawing instead mostly on contributions from Cele Goldsmith Lalli's term, and the first issues of the magazine as edited by Howard Browne. Most of the featured-author special issues of F&SF were published during Ferman's editorship, and while the essays and bibliographies about their subjects are good reading, the often excellent stories published in those issues aren't the best of the fiction that magazine published by any of the so-honored writers...even the brilliant "Ship of Shadows" by Fritz Leiber, or the ambitious and groundbreaking Sturgeon story ("When You Care, When You Love" was meant to be part of an eventual novel, which Sturgeon never completed as far as I know) were not the most impressive work they placed with F&SF.  But you won't suffer in reading anything in either book, even the odd inclusion of a Keith Laumer story from Amazing in the Fantastic book...and I'm surprised on re-reading to find how much I enjoy Leiber's "I'm Looking for 'Jeff'", not the first Leiber story from Fantastic I would've reached for if I was White, but nonetheless so deftly written and so clearly the work of the same mind responsible for the likes of "Smoke Ghost" and "The Secret Songs" that White's bias, perhaps, toward stories he thought were being overlooked in the magazine's back issues might be indulged. It is rather sad that it took some more years before there was a special author issue of F&SF for any woman writer, and that White also almost overlooks all the notable women writers to contribute to and, like Le Guin, to be Discovered by Fantastic (the magazine was the first to publish Kate Wilhelm, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Sonya Dorman and others, at least the first professional market to publish their prose...along with featuring notable stories by a range of writers from Shirley Jackson to Pamela Sargent).  But, again, you can do worse. 

courtesy the Locus Index:


The Best from Fantastic ed. Ted White (Manor 95242, 1973, 95¢, 192pp, pb)
  • 9 · Foreword · Ted White · fw
  • 13 · I’m Looking for “Jeff” · Fritz Leiber · ss Fantastic Fll ’52
  • 27 · Angels in the Jets · Jerome Bixby · ss Fantastic Fll ’52
  • 40 · Paingod · Harlan Ellison · ss Fantastic Jun ’64
  • 51 · The Malatesta Collection · Roger Zelazny · ss Fantastic Apr ’63
  • 58 · Sally · Isaac Asimov · ss Fantastic May/Jun ’53
  • 79 · The Roller Coaster · Alfred Bester · ss Fantastic May/Jun ’53
  • 88 · Eve Times Four · Poul Anderson · nv Fantastic Apr ’60
  • 125 · Final Exam · Chad Oliver · ss Fantastic Nov/Dec ’52
  • 138 · April in Paris · Ursula K. Le Guin · ss Fantastic Sep ’62
  • 151 · A Trip to the City [“It Could Be Anything”] · Keith Laumer · nv Amazing Jan ’63
No effort to use the magazine logos...
The utterly functional hardcover edition covers;
note also the misidentification of this book as sf.























The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction, 25th Anniversary ed. Edward L. Ferman (Doubleday, 1974, hc)
The (even) uglier paperback editions:
Making no effort...
...and effortfully ugly...
For more of today's books, please see Patti Abbott's blog.

Friday, November 28, 2014

FFM: STREET & SMITH'S DETECTIVE STORY MAGAZINE, September 1946, edited by Daisy Bacon; ELLERY QUEEN'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE, September 1945, edited by Frederic Dannay...redux for a very black Friday

Evan Lewis has the reviews links this week...I hope all the readers here have had a good Thanksgiving, and sparing a thought for those who have not.

As I've noted elsewhere, yesterday:
In a US Thanksgiving that has been particularly hard on the crime-fiction community, including yesterday's death of Stu Shiffman, a loss this morning hits close to home here...Judy Crider, Bill Crider's wife.

http://billcrider.blogspot.com/2014/11/judy-crider-r-i-p.html
http://billcrider.blogspot.com/2014/11/thanks-to-all.html

and further condolence to family, friends and fans of Janet LaPierre and P. D. James.


***Todd Mason:--from the FictionMags discussion list, 14 May 2000:


STREET & SMITH'S DETECTIVE STORY MAGAZINE, September 1946 (Volume 172, Number 5). Legendary editor: Daisy Bacon. Monthly. 15c ($1.50/year in US/$1.75 Pan American Union/$2.25 elsewhere; no Canadian subscriptions accepted [Can edition?]). 

Ads for Calvert Whiskey, Listerine Antiseptic mouthwash, Pepsi-Cola, Ray-o-Vac batteries, Olin Bond flashlights and batteries, Gillette razor blades, Ballco Vacutex blackhead extractor. 

Digest, 130 pp. Cover photograph by Ardean Miller, III.

from one of my contributions to the FictionMags Index, or FMI:
Street & Smith’s Detective Story Magazine [v172 #5, September 1946] ed. Daisy Bacon (Street & Smith, 15¢, 130pp, digest, cover by Ardean Miller, III, photo) [TM]
ELLERY QUEEN'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE, September 1945 (Volume 6, issue number 24). Legendary editor: Frederic Dannay; Mildred Falk, Mng. Ed.; Charlotte Spivak, Ass. Ed. Bimonthly. 25c ($1.50/year US and Pan American Union/$1.75 Canada/$2 elsewhere).


Ads for the Detective Book Club and an Inner Sanctum Mystery/Simon & Schuster (LAY THAT PISTOL DOWN by Richard Powell). 

Digest, 128 pp. Cover painting by George Salter.

one of Douglas Greene's FMI contributions:  
Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine [v 6 #24, September 1945] ed. Ellery Queen (American Mercury, 25¢, 128pp, digest s/s, cover by George Salter)  managing editor Mildred Falk. [DG]

While published about a year apart, unlike the last two fiction-magazine issues I've
reviewed here [on the discussion list], a few of my beloved parallels obtain, even when
in reverse. Aside from both issues being very pleasant reading
experiences overall (and neither being much sought after on the
collectors market--purchase of the DETECTIVE STORY cost me more in
postage than in eBay bid price of $2, the EQMM was a buck in a comics
store; while both are no better than good reading copies, try getting
a merely complete PLANET STORIES for that price), one of the most
striking things about them was how forgotten the DSM writers mostly
are, and how many familiar names (perhaps some more remembered than
read) are in the EQ. The only definitely familiar name to me in the
S&S item is William Campbell Gault, and perhaps unsurprisingly his
"They'd Die for Linda" is the best story in that issue; possibly I'd
heard of Roy Lopez before, whose "You'll Be the Death of Me" is, like
most of the other DETECTIVE stories, what could be called "fake
hardboiled": wisecracking 'tecs of various sorts in stories with
the trappings of classic BLACK MASK and post-diaspora DIME DETECTIVE
fiction, without the bracing sense of hard living or worldly
cynicism of Hammett or Chandler. Odder is the issue's 33-page
"complete novel," "The Screaming Rock" by John H. Knox (whether a
close relation to Calvin M. Knox [Robert Silverberg's most famous pseudonym]

 in spirit, I'm not sure), which is nothing so much as a weird-menace/shudder pulp story with most of the torture taken out, more wisecracks and politics inserted. The McGuffin
is a series of experiments in cryogenics, not so named, that serve as 
obfuscation for murders at a remote psychiatric clinic, one not too
different from the one in FAREWELL, MY LOVELY. William Honest (good
old Honest Bill?) offers a reasonably affecting frame for his
impossible murder story, "Murder Is Where You Dig It"; Dorothy Dunn's
"A Photo Finish" (the cover story) reads like a slightly more
wholesome and ultimately upbeat version of a Jim Thompson desperate
loser story (before Thompson, at least, was publishing them); "Oswald
Has His Night" by Ronald Henderson is an interesting twist on a theme
AHMM (to say nothing of ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS the tv series) would
eventually beat to death; in this case the henpecked husband is
framed for a murder he didn't commit by a third party and has to solve the
mystery before his wife returns from a visit as well as before being
collared by the police; "Blood Red Rubies" by Roland Phillips is
imitation THE THIN MAN, but not too shabby an example. What the
magazine reads like, in its mostly noirish feel but not quite
full-fledged hopeless existentialism (or MANHUNT brutality), is AHMM
in its first decades, even down to the mediocre uncredited line-drawing illustrations.
Gault's use of multiple viewpoints/narrators is the major deviation
from basically serious plain tales wisecrackingly told, and his and
perhaps Dunn's are the stories that most deserve to survive this
issue's shelf life, but one common feature here is in fine pulp
tradition: attention-getting, even when cliched, opening lines:

Lopez: "He was a little guy, wearing a checked suit. He was
bald-headed. And he was scared green."

Honest: "You felt like front table at El Morocco when Marie came in.
Nobody expected her to sing, but it wouldn't have been surprising.
Tycoons like Roger Tillman could afford such a wife."

Dunn: "Tommy Murphy tore up his losing ticket after the eighth race
and left the grandstand. His hopes fluttered down to the cold cement
flooring with the pieces of cardboard. And he felt cold and grey
inside, drained of his laughter and his luck."

Knox: "Plain Sid Wilson felt the sickening pause as the wheels of
his coupe lost their grip on the icy slope."

Unlike [fellow Street & Smith fiction magazines] ASTOUNDING or UNKNOWN, but like WILD WESTDETECTIVE STORY here restricts Ms. Bacon's editorial comment to teaser blurbs, and offers couple of examples of rather sentimental doggerel as space-filling
tags (the better one by Edgar Daniel Kramer, the other by L[ight?]. Breeze).

No such restriction applies to Fred Dannay, of course, whose
introductory essays several times threaten to exceed the length of
the stories blurbed. Fully half the contributions to this issue of EQMM
are reprints, and only one of the originals is bylined unfamiliarly
(as far as I can recall): James Yaffe's "The Problem of the
Emperor's Mushrooms," aside from being a short, decent alternate-to-Graves
modern retelling of the intrigues in the Roman court of Claudius, is
piss-poor example of a crime story, albeit with another draft it
could've been a better one; Dannay flagellates himself in the intro
over Yaffe's previous EQMM story, because it never occurred to either
author nor editor that a toy balloon blown up by a person wouldn't
levitate in normal atmosphere, apparently a crucial plot point (the
flaw in the story at hand is more in telegraphing and awkwardness in
dialog, but, as Dannay notes, it was rushed into print to prove Yaffe
not an idiot).

More experienced hands than Yaffe's are tapping in Morse in this
issue. Agatha Christie's "The Case of the Vulture Women" (a reprint
from a 1939 THIS WEEK magazine [wasn't this a PARADE-like newspaper
insert?][yes, it was--the later me]), is a Hercule Poirot puzzle that probably could've been
solved in a few minutes cogitation by Dr. Watson or even Mike Hammer;
it was certainly pretty obvious to me, albeit AC's digs at the
English's depredations upon other languages ring true with anyone
who's ever heard what too many Britons do to Spanish words. The other puzzle
stories in this issue are less straightforward, if too often too
easily soluble: John Dickson Carr's quasi-impossible crime tale,
"Will You Walk into My Parlor?", is actually a radio script, previously
broadcast as part of the SUSPENSE series; G. K. Chesterton's "Dr.
Hyde, Detective, and The White Pillars Murder" (ENGLISH LIFE, January
1925) is not atypically as much philosophical rumination as puzzle,
and somewhat guessable in its "surprise"; Lillian de la Torre's
original Samuel Johnson/James Boswell historical mystery, "The
Wax-Work Cadaver," gets only slightly bogged in its attempts at
period color. James M. Cain's non-puzzle, "Pastorale" (AMERICAN MERCURY,
1928), is a minor murder tale with a not particularly deft use of
vaudeville "countrified" dialect (but a cheap inhouse reprint from a
name, and certainly hardboiled enough; inadvertantly Tuckerizing
opening lines: "Well, it looks like Burbie was going to get hung.
And if he does, what he can lay it on is, he always figured he was so dam
smart."). Things look up with Ben Hecht's brief parody, "The
Whistling Corpse," an original (intentionally) as turgid as the "had I but
known" (as Dannay calls them) once and future Gothics (as I tag them)
within the cf tradition, and worth a chuckle; far funnier and more
devastating is H. F. Heard's original Mr. Mycroft (as in Holmes
pastiche) tale, "Adventure of Mr. Montalba, Obsequist," which, in
addition to goosing Doyle a bit, prefigures Waugh's THE LOVED ONE in
most of the latter's best dimensions (this one's use of cutting-edge taxidermy/undertaking
practices and arguable positing of long-term self-induced suspended
animation sparks an argument--fantasy or no?--between Heard and
Dannay which is dutifully detailed in an endnote, and makes for a weak
parallel with Knox's proto-cryogenics story in DSM). Philip Wylie's
original "Perkins' 'First Case'" is an amiable mix of NYC
slice-of-life and offbeat detection, far less sententious (as I guess
it would have to be) than what SF by him I've tried (WHEN WORLDS
COLLIDE with Balmer and THE DISAPPEARANCE); anyone read his Crunch
and Des stories? Vying with the Heard for second-best in the issue is
Damon Runyon's "What, No Butler?" (from COLLIER'S in 1933 and  the 1944 collection BLUE

PLATE SPECIAL), like most of theDETECTIVE STORY offerings a basically serious story dressed up with humor, this time from the master of present-tense slang. The best story is unsurprisingly Dashiell Hammett's "Two Sharp Knives" (COLLIER'S MAGAZINE, 1942), which more
than any of the other stories in either issue (the Gault and the
Runyon come the closest, but it's not that close) gives the sense of life as it is actually lived by adults. And tells a fine, understated story.

(And one wonders if Daisy Bacon and Dannay, both on his own ticket and because he seemed to frequently work with women editors, had for obvious reasons less truck with the misogyny several here have mentioned as impediments to reprinting MANHUNT and at least some BLACK MASK stories....)

Friday, November 21, 2014

FFB: QUARK/4 edited by Samuel R. Delany and Marilyn Hacker (Popular Library 1971); THE SATURDAY EVENING POST for January 25, 1969

Forty-five years ago, more or less...The Saturday Evening Post hadn't quite collapsed, though it would soon (to be reborn as an infrequent nostalgia magazine, rather than the Last truly general-interest magazine that wasn't a collection of reprints). Over at Paperback Library, not the most prominent house in the well-established field, a young married couple who had already made serious literary reputations for themselves (and who were utterly open about being bisexual well before the Bowies were to make it futuristically chic for masses a half-decade later) were preparing the first volume of a new anthology series devoted to speculative fiction, mostly sf and fantasy but in the same wheelhouse as such avant garde publications as Evergreen Review, New Directions Quarterly and, in fantastic fiction, New Worlds, Orbit, and Dangerous Visions.  Quark would produce four quarterly volumes in a year.  This last is led off by a brief, interesting editorial, and one of the more free-form, quasi-autobiographical (writer in Greenwich Village) stories that Avram Davidson was writing in those years, such as "Selectra Six-Ten" (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, October 1970) and, toward the end of this run, "Hark! Was That the Squeal of an Angry Thoat?" (Fantastic, December 1977), discursive asides and wordplay run rampant (a minor if notable example is that a James Baldwin analog becomes Jacobo Gaintestes here)...this particular story is more pleasant than major, and has yet to be reprinted (unlike those better examples), but was more than enough to compell me to read this part of the book first, even given all the tumult in progress around me at the moment.  The Charles Platt choose your own adventures in the counterculture cartoon is amusing enough, as well...I will return to this book for the other work soon.

Quark/4 ed. Samuel R. Delany & Marilyn Hacker (Paperback Library 66-658, Aug ’71, $1.25, 240pp, pb, cover by Martin Last)
Meanwhile, that issue of the SEP referred to above features not only a cover story on Barney Rosset, he of the aforementioned Evergreen Review and Grove Press and its offshoots, then in full flower, but also Joan Didion mulling over the student strikes and Hayakawa/Reagan/Unruh response at San Francisco State and related campuses, Gary Wills on the private Richard Nixon (about to be inaugurated), Tom Wicker on the outgoing LBJ, Arthur Miller hanging with more upfront criminals, and assorted other items of continued pertinence. One does see why Lewis Lapham was striving to make his Harper's as much as possible a slightly less demotic echo of the SEP of this era.


For today's more thorough reviews, please see Patti Abbott's blog.