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March/April 2015
 
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Editorial - March/April 2015
by C.C. Finlay


SO THIS ONE October we drove to Pennsylvania to see Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater.

There were four of us, all in our twenties. The trees were gaudy with color as we drove for hours, first through Appalachian Ohio and then on back roads winding through Pennsylvania mountains. Conversation spun around our hopes and goals and aspirations.

Fallingwater, once we arrived, was the perfect setting to continue a discussion about art and ambition. The story goes that Edgar Kaufmann, a businessman, wanted a family retreat on the bank below the waterfall. Wright convinced him to be bold and build over the water instead. Kaufmann and Wright argued about design and construction details throughout the process.

But the process paid off. The buildings descend in a cascade of concrete terraces and glass walls from the guesthouse on the hillside to the cantilevered balconies above the noisy stream. By the time we finished the tour, it was late afternoon and the air was brisk. We took one last walk along the creek.

It's hard to see in pictures, but at the bottom of the falls, across from the house, there's a large water-smoothed boulder jutting out from the bank. I stepped onto it for a better look up at the architecture, trying to appreciate the interplay of imagination and negotiation that created this iconographic home.

My friends wanted me to be careful. They warned me the rocks were slick. No problem! I said. Just before my shoes started the slow slide downslope.

There was no traction for going backward, nothing to grab to halt my descent, and the only thing ahead of me was the inevitable plunge into a deep pool of icy water.

People, this is how writers become editors.

 

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When you are invited to guest edit an issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction, your first reaction—after you blurt out "Yes!"—is heel-nipping, unflattering panic: "Please oh please don't let me screw this up."

After that, when you are asked to return to the magazine as the new editor, you take a deep breath and realize that there's so much more to editing F&SF than just Not Screwing Up. You remind yourself of the history of great writers and all the classic stories that have appeared in the magazine.

You know that it's no coincidence. The great stories come from a publishing vision that's been handed down from editor to editor, like the baton in a relay race, like winemaking secrets shared between vintners from generation to generation, since the very first issue. You feel a need to do it right. You talk at length with the publisher and the current editor; handily enough, they're the same person.

Then you go online, do a search on Amazon, and buy a copy of the very first issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

 

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The date reads Fall 1949.

A night-black cover presents an attractive woman menaced by an ethereal green monster with a long, whip-like tail. You can look up the image online and decide for yourself exactly what kind of creature it is: alien, goblin, ghost. It reminds me of the Creature from the Black Lagoon, but that movie wouldn't be made for another five years. The title promises The Magazine of Fantasy.

On the surface it's not quite recognizable as F&SF. But crack open the brittle yellowed pages and you know it instantly.

For one thing, despite the title, the first issue contains a wide range of stories, including Theodore Sturgeon's alien invasion classic, "The Hurkle Is a Happy Beast," which was included in The Best Science Fiction Stories 1950. Nor is it the only sf story present. The second issue of the magazine acknowledged this fact by adding the & Science Fiction.

From the very beginning the publisher, Lawrence Spivak, and editors, Anthony Boucher and J. Francis McComas (who were both also authors), emphasized the quality of the writing. The introduction, written by Spivak, calls for "distinguished and unusual stories" and "the best of imaginative fiction." In his note about submissions, he assures authors that "there is no formula," a phrase that has survived as the first sentence in the magazine's writers' guidelines to this day. You can go check. I'll wait.

F&SF rolled out the welcome mat for fantasy and horror because, Spivak said, "the usual markets were closed to such experimentations." And the publisher and editors made a commitment to finding new voices. The debut issue includes the first published story by Winona McClintic, who, like Sturgeon, was writing science fiction. It is something every editor has done since; Avram Davidson, during his tenure in the early '60s, even extended it internationally, and began offering translations of great speculative fiction from around the world.

F&SF was also unique in 1949 in that it insisted on presenting new stories in the context of the fantastic tradition. At first the magazine did this by resurrecting forgotten authors and stories in the form of reprints. Over time, it evolved to include the critical review columns, first for books and then for films. Finally there appeared the "Curiosities" page, which comes full circle to remind us of unfairly forgotten authors and books.

All of the qualities that define F&SF today were there at the beginning. All of the editors along the way have evolved these features to keep them relevant and fresh.

 

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That's the editor's job here.

Find distinguished and unusual stories. Present a diverse selection. Introduce new voices. Be part of the tradition of fantastic literature.

You'll find all of those things in the following pages. You expect them, and I don't want to let you down. I'm very grateful to Gordon for trusting me with his magazine. But I'm also grateful to you for trusting me with your magazine.

And that's enough from me. Let the stories begin!

 

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Beginning immediately, F&SF prefers electronic submissions at the following URL: https://ccfinlay.moksha.io/publication/fsf

Fiction submissions will also be accepted at:
C.C. Finlay
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction
P.O. Box 8420
Surprise, AZ 85374

Cartoon submissions should still go to P.O. Box 3447, Hoboken, NJ 07030.

C.C. Finlay

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