I am not the epitome of a science fiction & fantasy (sf/f) fan. When I think of an sf/f fan, I think of someone who began reading the genre at an early age, before they were ten perhaps, and who gradually went through the juvenile sf/f literature before graduating to the mature sf/f, the sf/f of more intense (though this is not true nowadays, as juvenile sf/f books delve into complex issues, & are great reading for adults, too) science ideas and dilemmas, the sf/f of grown-ups.
I, on the other hand, began reading sf /f only recently, shortly before my 41st birthday. The first thing I read in the sf/f field, in fact, was the December 1992 issue of F&SF, and I have been hooked into those genres, and that magazine ever since. I was completely caught up and enraptured by Nancy Springer's novella "Damnbanna," Madeline E. Robins's short story "Willie," and Bruce Sterling's science essay "Artificial Life". All enclosed and wrapped in a package beautifully illustrated by cover artist Phoebe Gloeckner, whose portrayal of "Willie" first caught my attention to the magazine, and to whom I will be forever grateful.
I might go into my background, saying that early on I was always interested in science, that as I was growing up in the Sixties I was sending away for and receiving literature from NASA on their latest satellites, staying up all night the summer before my senior year in high school, to record on my flimsy 3½" reel-to-reel, tape after tape of man's first landing on the moon. I went to college and studied entomology under Dr. Edward Coher and finally received a BA degree in Biology. But other than that, I won't go into my past. To me, it was not a very happy past, and, perhaps, that is my similarity to my perception of what some sf/f fans are.
Many of them may start reading sf/f at an early age, but what started them on and hooked them onto sf/f, was their discontentment of the lives they were leading, or, perhaps where the world was leading. They found their escape in the literature that delved into future possibilities, and in time travel stories or in alternate histories that delved into past possibilities. Perhaps that is why time travel stories are my favorite kind of sf/f. I am not interested in going back to my unhappy past, but I am intrigued and would like to visit 'other' pasts, like that of Jack Finney's timeslip novels Time and Again and its sequel From Time to Time. And likewise into the future, with H. G. Wells's The Time Machine and its 'sequel', Stephen Baxter's The Time Ships.
In college, my favorite authors were Ernest Hemingway, Herman Hesse, James Michener, and John Steinbeck; not necessarily in that order nor limited to just those four. Since late 1992, however, my list of favorite writers has become almost endless, thanks to the most part to F&SF. I've enjoyed the stories by authors that have appeared in F&SF since the December 1992 issue, and also before that issue. My pleasure in reading F&SF has made me look for past issues to read, and by December 1997, just five years after reading my first issue, I was able to complete a collection of all the issues published by F&SF and its twice short-lived sister magazine, Venture Science Fiction (VSF).
I've always been great at organizing things, whether it be my collection of horseflies and deerflies (you can see it at the University of Connecticut, at Storrs), or my small collection of Thai amulets, and my collection of F&SF and VSF was no exception. I wanted to be able to find authors or particular stories easily, and so I began to compile this index. At first it was just for my convenience, and I borrowed ideas for its organization from other indexes, such as Mike Ashley's The Complete Index to Astounding/Analog. I also incorporated the words of those sf/f fans and experts, such as John Clute with his two encyclopedias, whose knowledge of science fiction and fantasy far exceeded those of a fledgling sf/f fan such as I.
In due course, the idea struck me that perhaps other sf/f fans would find this compilation useful, and that, like Ashley's index, I could find someone to publish it, in one form or another (ironically it turned out to be F&SF itself who would publish it). This could also be another way that F&SF could celebrate its 50th anniversary. And so you have before you this index, compiled through love of the genre, and in particular, of this magazine which introduced me to science fiction, and to its sister genres, fantasy and horror. I hope that it enhances your enjoyment in reading F&SF, like it has for me.