Friday, August 18, 2017

FFM/B: New fantasy short fiction on the US newsstands & bookshelves, late 1976: ARIEL, Autumn 1976, edited by Thomas Durwood; CHACAL, Winter 1976, edited by Arnie Fenner and Byron Roark; FANTASTIC, November 1976, edited by Ted White; THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, October, November and December 1976, edited by Edward Ferman; FLASHING SWORDS #3, edited by Lin Carter; WHISPERS, December 1976, edited by Stuart David Schiff; THE YEAR'S BEST FANTASY STORIES, Volume 2, edited by Lin Carter; THE YEAR'S BEST HORROR STORIES, Series 4, edited by Gerald W. Page

Short fantasy fiction on the American racks, late 1976:

There were other magazines and other books publishing new fantasy fiction (including horror and often along with crime or science fiction), but in the last months of 1976, these are the eight magazines and anthology series offering the most new fiction in the field. Two were new, three were semi-professional or "little" magazines, two theoretically best of the year anthologies featuring some new fiction, one a specialized sword & sorcery anthology series, and three were magazines which had offered special Fritz Leiber issues (Fantastic in 1959, F&SF in 1969 and Whispers in 1979)...

F&SF and Fantastic were low-budget but professional magazines, both put together in the houses of their editors, Edward Ferman's F&SF from Cornwall, Connecticut and Ted White's Fantastic, with companion Amazing Science Fiction, in Falls Church, Virginia. Ferman also published his magazine, having inherited its concern, Mercury Press, from his father, Joseph Ferman; White was working for a very modest stipend from Ultimate Publications, which amounted to a retirement job for magazine veteran Sol Cohen and a diversified holding for his junior partner Arthur Bernhard, who published other low-budget magazines on his own. A few other newsstand fantasy-fiction magazines had briefly appeared on the newsstands to join Fantastic and F&SF in the 1970s, including Coven 13, purchased, retitled and edited by Gerald W. Page as Witchcraft and Sorcery in the early 1970s, a brief run of Worlds of Fantasy magazine from the Galaxy group of magazines (where Cohen had worked just before setting up Ultimate in 1965) and the first attempt to revive Weird Tales, in 1973-74 by Leo Margulies, at that point still trying to expand his line beyond the long-running Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine. But Fantastic (since 1952) and F&SF (since 1949) had been the consistently-appearing magazines in the field, helped to continue in part by both usually featuring some science fiction in their mix. Even in these days of a resurgence in fantasy (Tolkien, Richard Adams, Richard Bach) and horror (Ira Levin, William Peter Blatty, Stephen King) fiction as potent commercial forces in book form, fantasy including some horror wasn't necessarily going to sell copies of a fiction magazine by itself in sustainable quantity...though F&SF was the only fantastic-fiction magazine to steadily increase its circulation throughout the '7os, 

and Fantastic, which had with the previous issue gone from bimonthly to quarterly publications, saw issues which included authorized pastiches of Robert Howard's Conan the Barbarian stories, usually by Lin Carter or Carter with L. Sprague de Camp, do rather well in sales. And both Ferman and White's magazines were well-regarded, offering usually good to brilliant fiction on their modest budgets, perhaps in part due to the continuing lack of other markets that would pay more for such fiction, with rare exceptions in the cases of (sophisticated) general-interest and gendered "slick" magazines such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Cavalier, Playboy, Redbook or Mademoiselle. There were little magazines, such as TriQuarterly, Antaeus or Ontario Review (and, in their own way, the then-relatively new
folkloric journal Parabola), which were open to some fantasy as well as part of their regular remit, and there had been a longstanding tradition of such little magazines within the fantastic-fiction community, as well...Stuart David Schiff's Whispers was becoming one of the most prominent of these, meant in its own way to be a sort of Weird Tales revival of its own, like Witchcraft and Sorcery before it devoted to a WT-like mix of horror and mostly dark fantasy.

Weirdbook and Fantasy and Terror, two of the other notable little magazines in the field, produced no issues in late '76, but two new entries did, both in their ways hoping to demonstrate that relatively elegant, large-format packaging could be achieved on even a modest budget: Arnie Fenner's Chacal and Thomas Durwood's Ariel. Both were largely but not exclusively devoted to epic fantasy, and both would continue for several issues over the next several years, Chacal soon changing its title to Shayol and Durwood from issue two throwing in with Betty and Ian Ballantine at their Peacock Press imprint and changing the title formally to Ariel: The Book of Fantasy

When the Ballantines had sold their paperback company, Ballantine Books, completely to Random House a few years previously, Lin Carter had lost one of his regular gigs, editing their line of Adult Fantasy reissues and infrequent new books, some of the latter anthologies he would edit of short fiction. Happily for him, he picked up two new annual projects, an anthology series devoted to publishing new sword and sorcery fiction, Flashing Swords!, published by Dell Books, and editorship of a new best-of-the-year (mostly) reprint anthology for DAW Books, joining Donald A. Wollheim's sf annual and what had become, with its fourth volume, Gerald W. Page's The Year's Best Horror Stories (the players do tend to recur in various roles in the small world of fantasy-fiction publishing in this era). And because it remained a relatively small world of fantasy and horror short-fiction publishing, both the Carter Fantasy and the Page Horror annuals were allowed, as Wollheim didn't allow himself in his series, to publish original stories in the BOTY volumes, rather than depend solely on reprints from the year's books and magazines...even given the quality of much of what those newsstand and little magazines were publishing. Page, on balance, was a better editor
of his books (including his own original-fiction anthologies Nameless Places and Heroic Fantasy), but Carter's books have their charm, as well, and draw from more than their share of notable contributors and present some very good fiction, reprinted from the other publications noted here and others beyond.  With both editors including the original stories mentioned previously, these annual series were important showcases for new as well as reprinted fantasy fiction. 

Some contents and comments on them: 
This is a very good set of months for F&SF, even if the December issue isn't quite up to the previous two, even with a fine Varley and a Jennings. The all-star issue features fine work from Bloch, Ellison, Le Guin, Wellman and Cowper...the Bretnor is one of the earlier annoying Schimmelhorn stories, where the misogyny will out rather intensely (Raylyn Moore, in the December issue, can usually be counted on for some loathing of her own gender as well).  The Damon Knight story is pretty brilliant, and it's an otherwise good issue built around him, with a very fine Joanna Russ book essay. Meanwhile, the Budrys book essay in the December issue is definitely one of the highlights there. Beware Ray Bradbury poetry. 
    Fantastic [v25 #5, November 1976] ed. Ted White (Ultimate Publishing Co., Inc., $1.00, 132pp, digest, cover by Doug Beekman)  Note: title on spine is “Fantastic Stories
Fantastic was in the midst of its several-years' experiment of explicitly labeling itself a fantasy-only magazine, with a special emphasis on sword and sorcery fiction. I've liked Brian Lumley's "Tharquest" only marginally better than Carter's "Thongor" over the years...but the Leiber and de Camp columns are fine, the other fiction mostly engaging. 
One of the last issues of Whispers before its companion Doubleday anthology series began...and one of the best of the magazine issues to be published, with the Etchison and Campton stories highly memorable. I'll need to refresh my memory of the Lafferty.
    Note a certain similarity to the Chacal contents, only with more engagement with comics, notably but not exclusively Batman comics...

    Flashing Swords! #3: Warriors and Wizards ed. Lin Carter (Dell 2579, Aug ’76, $1.25, 272pp, pb) Cover: Don Maitz
It was not possible for me to pass up a book with new fiction from Leiber and Davidson in 1978...

Note that Carter, not for the first nor last time, is kind enough to include two of his own stories (including one based on a Clark Ashton Smith fragment) among the reprinted Year's Best...the two new stories in this volume have no previous publication site specified.

While Page includes none of his own fiction, I suppose one could "fault" him for digging three times into his own anthology and magazine, and for going back an extra year for the Witchcraft and Sorcery story (but a Lafferty deserves the showcase)...but that would be foolishness, seeing the diversity of the sources tapped for this BOTY, along with the two newly-published short stories and Price's essay...

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