Donald Westlake, Mack Reynolds, Damon Knight, Edward Wellen, Allen Kim Lang's possibly best story, part of Fritz Leiber and Avram Davidson's longterm argument about the merits of H.P. Lovecraft's work...alongside Davidson and MZ Bradley reviewing some important and some underappreciated (or even Forgotten) texts of fantastic fiction...so, what was so special about this issue?
- The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, January 1964
- (View All Issues) (View Issue Grid)
- Editor: Avram Davidson;
- Cover: Ed Emshwiller (for The Tree of Time)
- 5 • Pacifist • short story by Mack Reynolds
- 21 • Starlight Rhapsody • short story by Valentina Zhuravlyova (variant of Zvezdnaya Rapsodiya 1959) [as by Zhuravleva Valentina ]
- 29 • The Follower • short story by Wenzell Brown
- 40 • Books (F&SF, January 1964) • [Books (F&SF)] • essay by Avram Davidson
- 40 • Review: Spectrum II by Robert Conquest and Kingsley Amis • review by Avram Davidson
- 41 • Review: The Hopkins Manuscript by R. C. Sherriff • review by Avram Davidson
- 41 • Review: Explorers of the Infinite: Shapers of Science Fiction by Sam Moskowitz • review by Avram Davidson
- 42 • Review: Dr. Ox's Experiment by Jules Verne • review by Avram Davidson
- 43 • Review: The Star Rover by Jack London • review by Marion Zimmer Bradley
- 43 • Review: The Dunwich Horror and Others by H. P. Lovecraft • review by Fritz Leiber
- 46 • The Tree of Time (Part 2 of 2) • serial by Damon Knight (book publication as Beyond the Barrier)
- 88 • Thaw and Serve • short story by Allen Kim Lang
- 97 • Nackles • short story by Donald E. Westlake [as by Curt Clark]
- 104 • Science: Round and Round and . . . • [Asimov's Essays: F&SF] • essay by Isaac Asimov
- 114 • The Book of Elijah • short story by Edward Wellen
- 122 • Through Time and Space with Ferdinand Feghoot: LXVIII • [Through Time and Space with Ferdinand Feghoot • 68] • short story by Reginald Bretnor [as by Grendel Briarton ]
- 123 • Appointment at Ten O'Clock • short story by Robert Lory
I've written previously about Mack Reynolds's cover story "Pacifist" being one of the stories that has helped shape my thinking about the world, posing the basic questions at the heart of utilitarianism as well as pacifism, rather neatly and with force and wit. At 13, bracing stuff. James Sallis thought so, too, when he, a bit older than I was at first reading, put together his fine first anthology, The War Book (1969), and it's one of the two Reynolds stories that newbie anthologist Martin Harry Greenberg and his collaborators used to bookend the contents of their Political Science Fiction (1974), not the last time Greenberg would reprint the story.
Donald Westlake's "Nackles" is a Christmas horror story, about an anti-Santa rather more dire than Krampus, published not long after Westlake's denunciation of the sf and fantasy publishing scene, hence the use of his little joke of a pseudonym, Curt Clark (Westlake would never be able to divorce himself from fantastic fiction, however frustrating he found the commercial realities there early on, as such late work as Humans demonstrates). Another story with a kind of sneaking influence in the culture...CBS's refusal to film an adaptation for the revived The Twilight Zone led to Harlan Ellison's resignation from that series.
Allen Kim Lang has had what critic John Boston has termed a "stealth" career in sf and fantasy, most of his publications in the 1950s and '60s (Lang is still alive, but apparently hasn't published in quite some time); Algis Budrys praised his work, and the unflashy nature of it, particularly in his one published novel, Wild and Outside. Though "Thaw and Serve" is decidedly flashy, and in tone reminiscent of the nearly contemporaneous Anthony Burgess novel A Clockwork Orange and certainly anticipatory of the rather goofier film Demolition Man in its depiction of a thug awakened from cryogenic storage in a nearly utopian future. One of the many proto-New Wavish (or, as Boston has joked, in this case rather more punkish instead) stories that Davidson, like Cele Goldsmtih/Lalli, published in their magazines in the early '60s, it would not only have fit comfortably in Harlan Ellison's anthology Dangerous Visions a few years later but might even have had some influence on Ellison's "A Boy and His Dog"...this is another story that has stuck with me from early reading, as have the Westlake and the Reynolds.
The other stories have not been as memorable to me, and I should revisit them. Though Damon Knight would not write a fully satisfying novel till his rather late CV, despite his brilliance in all shorter forms, there was always something interesting about the earlier attempts. Edward Wellen, like Davidson, Westlake and to some extent Reynolds (and a lesser extent yet Wenzell Brown) an amphibian between crime fiction and fantastic fiction, and fond of doing work that sat firmly on the boderlines between both, has been reviewed here previously (a later contribution to the magazine, in fact); Robert Lory would be particularly productive in writing sequels of sorts to Dracula and other horror work, in novel series and otherwise, in the 1970s. Valentina Zhuravlyova not only wrote sf on her own but also, to get around the anti-Jewish bigotry of some aspects of the Soviet publishing sector, lent her name to her husband's fiction for publication (at least at home)...G.S. Altschuller is better remembered now for his formulation of the metatechnological observations known as TRIZ , or TIPS.
And the wittily, even offhandedly erudite book reviews by editor Davidson are supplemented in this issue by those of Marion Zimmer Bradley, not yet quite the institution she would become, and Fritz Leiber, in part engaging in a casual but heartfelt debate with Davidson over the merits of not just the interests H. P. Lovecraft pursued in his fiction, but in the qualities of the fiction itself (Davidson remained unconvinced...both Davidson and Leiber are vastly better and more profound writers than HPL was able to be, despite Lovecraft's extraordinarily important work in exploring existential horror, and his direct mentoring of the young Robert Bloch and, much more briefly but tellingly, Fritz Leiber as well in the latter's fledgling career as a writer). And, of course, Asimov's science essay, of which he published, all told, 399 in consecutive issues of F&SF, and which column he credited as being the bedrock of his pop-science (and extensions) nonfiction-writing career (though Asimov and Davidson had a somewhat cool relation; Davidson's humanistic Orthodoxy and Asimov's utter atheism while being of Jewish ancestry was one source of occasional tension).
And, to add to the personal if not so much the intrinsic value of this rather impressive issue, it would've been the one on the newsstands at about the time I was being conceived.
That noted, please see Patti Abbott's blog for more of today's books (and possibly a few more magazine issues or other not-quite-books)...this week's entry by Jerry House is a review of The Eureka Years: Boucher and McComas's Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction 1949-1954, edited by Annette Peltz McComas, about the origins of the magazine and its first five years of publication (and collecting some impressive stories published in those issues, among much else).