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F&SF, September 1956

Over the past year or so, we’ve been doing a #TBT (Throw Back Thursday) feature on the F&SF blog, where they can easily be found under the “F&SF History” tag. We also share them on the F&SF Twitter account and Facebook page.

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Fantasy & Science Fiction, September 1956 art by Kelly Freas#TBT to the September 1956 F&SF and this Kelly Freas cover for “Operation Afreet” by Poul Anderson.

This issue enjoys minor fame for a typo on the spine identifying it as the September 1955 issue, confusing collectors who don’t shelve carefully. The issue’s cover and lead story, “Operation Afreet,” is the first of the stories that were later fixed up into Anderson’s OPERATION CHAOS novel. There are new stories by Richard Wilson, R. Bretnor, Lyle G. Boyd, and Idris Seabright plus reprints by Ward Moore and R. V. Cassill.

The issue also includes DAXBR/BAXBR, the notable Martian crossword puzzle story by sf writer and crossword puzzle creator Evelyn E. Smith. If you’re wondering how a crossword puzzle story works, there’s a sample below.

Plus there’s an essay on fandom by Robert Bloch, film reviews by Charles Beaumont, and book reviews and a critical essay on Verne by Anthony Boucher.

F&SF was a finalist for the Hugo for Best Professional Magazine in 1957 (for its 1956 issues) but lost to Astounding and John W. Campbell, Jr.

DAXBR/BAXBR page 1 by Evelyn E. Smith

DAXBR/BAXBR page 2-3 by Evelyn E. Smith

F&SF, August 1954

Over the past year or so, we’ve been doing a #TBT (Throw Back Thursday) feature on the F&SF blog, where they can easily be found under the “F&SF History” tag. We also share them on the F&SF Twitter account and Facebook page.

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Fantasy & Science Fiction, August 1954, Exploring a Green Star System by Mel Hunter#TBT to the August 1954 F&SF. The wraparound cover by Mel Hunter is titled “Exploring a Green Star System.”

Fantasy & Science Fiction, August 1954, interior illustration, Nick SolovioffThis issue leads with “Fondly Fahrenheit,” one of Alfred Bester’s most famous and frequently reprinted stories. The plot involves a millionaire playboy and his android servant who have developed into a single shared insane psychopathic personality. In 1959, it was turned into a tv movie, “Murder and the Android,” starring Rip Torn as the android, with Suzanne Pleshette and Telly Savalas. A 1999 Locus poll rated it the 4th best sf novelette of all time, and it’s still frequently used to teach story structure and technique. The editors must have known this was a special story: they commissioned Nick Solovioff to do two rare interior illustrations for it.

Fantasy & Science Fiction, August 1954, interior illustration, Nick SolovioffThe other big story in the issue is “Gilead” by Zenna Henderson, part of her series of stories about The People, alien refugees on Earth. While ostensibly science fiction, the special psionic powers and country setting of The People give the stories a fantasy flavor. Although “Gilead” is the second story in the series following “Ararat” (F&SF, Oct 1952), it stands by itself and is considered one of the best. In her review of Ingathering, the complete People stories, Jo Walton recommend “Gilead” as a place to start. (In fact, Walton’s review of Ingathering for Tor.com is highly recommended as a useful primer on Henderson’s series.) Parts of “Gilead” were included in “The People,” a 1972 ABC Movie of the Week adaptation of Henderson’s stories starring William Shatner. Once again, the editors knew that “Gilead” was a special story and had Nick Solovioff create two rare F&SF interior illustrations for it.

The rest of the stories in the issue may not reach the same level as the first two, but they’re still pretty good. “The Devil and Simon Flagg” by Arthur Porges is a humorous deal-with-the-devil story involving magic, math, and Fermat’s Last Theorem. “The Invisible Wall” by Richard Brookbank is a contemporary fairy tale about a child-turned-adult who’s isolated himself too much. “Command Performance” by Kay Rogers is an if-this-goes-on piece of social commentary mixed with complex and thoughtful sf speculation. “Two-Bit Oracle” by Doris Pitkin Buck is a story about prophecy, Gods, and worship with an unexpected but fitting ending. “The Quadriopticon” by future Twilight Zone writer Charles Beaumont is an sf satire of Hollywood that feels like a Twilight Zone episode.

The issue closes with “The Little Black Train,” one of the Silver John the Balladeer stories by Manly Wade Wellman. John the Balladeer was a popular, groundbreaking series of contemporary Appalachian fantasy stories that ran in F&SF in the 1950s-60s. The stories were collected in Who Fears The Devil? (Arkham House, 1963) and turned into a terrible low-budget movie in 1972. “How terrible?” you ask. You decide — here is the main special effects scene from “The Legend of Hillbilly John”:

The issue also contains “Frustrated Frankenstein: Alfonso Herrera and His Colpoids,” a Fortean science column by Miriam Allen deFord. The “Required Reading” column by editors Boucher and McComas recommends books by Judith Merrill, Roald Dahl, and others. And “Report on the Sexual Behavior of the Extra-Sensory Perceptor” is a poem by a pseudonymous Boucher (writing as Herman W. Mudgett) that slams the science of Kinsey and Rhine:

Untrained men are awfully easy to convince.
      Our ideas could never move them
      If we took the time to prove them.

This issue marks the end of an era. It was the last one co-edited by Boucher and McComas, who had been together since issue #1. All told, the pair produced 39 issues together, creating the high standards and feel of F&SF. Boucher would carry on alone through 1958.

F&SF, July 1993

Over the past year or so, we’ve been doing a #TBT (Throw Back Thursday) feature on the F&SF blog, where they can easily be found under the “F&SF History” tag. We also share them on the F&SF Twitter account and Facebook page.

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Fantasy & Science Fiction, July 1993 art by Stephen Gervais#TBT to the July 1993 issue of F&SF. The cover by Stephen Gervais illustrates “Justice” by Elizabeth Hand. Gervais is probably most famous for his illustrations of Stephen King’s work and won the World Fantasy Award for Best Artist in 1984.

The issue leads with “Paperjack,” a Newford novelet by Charles de Lint – it’s a poignant urban fantasy about love and loss. First published as a Cheap Street chapbook edition of 137 copies, it was reprinted by F&SF and Tor and nominated for a 1993 World Fantasy Award for Best Novella.

The middle part of the issue contains a variety of stories, with a slight leaning toward science fiction.

“The Woman in the Painting” by Lisa Goldstein is an epistolary tale set in the 19th century with a painter and his shape-shifting model. It deals with themes of women changing themselves to meet other’s needs, and was reprinted in Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror 1994.

“The Folks” by Michael Cassutt is science fiction about an awkward family reunion in a near future US dominated by aging populations. Twenty-three years later, Cassutt’s story reads less like science fiction and more like a piece of humorous literary realism.

“As Wise as Serpents,” Stephen Dedman’s first appearance in F&SF, is an amusing story about alien invaders, parasites, and cats.

“Catch the Wotan!” by Michael Armstrong is a hard sf survival story about a man who gets spaced by the crew of his interstellar ship. It’s a good example of the genre, in conversation with “Marooned Off Vesta,” which holds up well and feels like an overlooked story even if it’s not necessarily a classic.

“Eidelman’s Machine” by Dale Bailey is his first published story and one of the stories he wrote when he attended Clarion in 1992. Many of his strengths as a writer, particularly his prose and his attention to character, are evident in this story. “Night Vision” by Robert Frazier, who is better known as a poet, began as a 20-page poem which he turned into this short story.

The issue closes with “Justice” by Elizabeth Hand, a novelet that mixes the crime and spec fic genres, and foreshadow’s Hand’s later shift to writing suspense. It was reprinted in Best New Horror 5 and also appears in Hand’s collection Last Summer at Mars Hill and Other Stories.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s editorial talks about readers’ letters and reactions to stories and the need for immediacy in conversation. Instead of letter columns, she recommends “computer bulletin boards” as the future of short fiction discussions. It seems like she was onto something there!

The books column by John Kessel, who reviewed for F&SF from 1993-1995, provides a still potent analysis of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars. Gregory Benford’s “A Scientist’s Notebook” takes another look at time machines, which, along with a handful of cartoons, rounds out the issue.

F&SF, July 1979

Over the past year, we’ve been doing a #TBT (Throw Back Thursday) feature on the F&SF Twitter account and Facebook page. For the new year, we thought it might be good to add them here where they can be easily found under the “F&SF History” tag.

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Fantasy & Science Fiction, July 1979 art by Barclay Shaw‪#‎TBT‬ to the July 1979 F&SF. The Barclay Shaw cover illustrates “Jumping the Line” by Grania Davis.

The issue opens with “Red as Blood” by Tanith Lee. It was nominated for the 1980 BFA and Nebula Awards. Lee was already an established novelist but this Snow White variation was her first story published in F&SF.

That’s followed by “Jumping the Line” by novelist Grania Davis, also her first story in F&SF. It’s a vivid allegorical tale about waiting for rewards.

Next up is “The Mountain Fastness” by Phyllis Eisenstein, a tale of Alaric the Minstrel and the first new one to follow Born To Exile. (There’s a brand new Alaric story in the July/Aug F&SFcheck it out.)

The rest of the issue has a mix of sf and fantasy, serious work and humor. “The View from Endless Scarp,” a space colonization story, by Marta Randall is also her first appearance in F&SF. “Taming of the Shrew” by Herbie Brennan is a murder mystery with an sf solution. “The Trip of Bradley Oesterhaus” by psychologist Felix C. Gotschalk is written in his typically idiosyncratic voice and style. “A Modern Magician” by Olaf Stapledon is a posthumous first publication of an unpublished story discovered in his papers. It’s the story of a man who develops supernatural powers but lacks the maturity to use them wisely. It has echoes with the discovery of atomic power.

The issue’s fiction closes with “Prose Bowl,” a story about the New-Sport of competitive writing, by Bill Prozini and Barry N. Malzberg.

George Zebrowski reviews Soviet sf in translation (Lem, Strugatsky), and Brad Searles covers sf on tv (“Battlestar Gallatica,” “Mork and Mindy”). There’s also a Gahan Wilson cartoon and Isaac Asimov’s science column (discussing which stars are visible from which parts of Earth).

This issue ends with a letters column full of readers angry about Joanna Russ’s critique of Lord of the Rings, and Russ’s gracious reply. “I’m glad to see people who feel strongly about what they read and who write to a magazine when they disagree vehemently,” Russ wrote. Her longer reply, “In Defense of Criticism,” was published in the November 1979 issue and reprinted in Best of F&SF 23rd Series (1980).

F&SF, July 1965

Over the past year, we’ve been doing a #TBT (Throw Back Thursday) feature on the F&SF Twitter account and Facebook page. For the new year, we thought it might be good to add them here where they can be easily found under the “F&SF History” tag.

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Fantasy & Science Fiction, July 1965, cover by Jack Vaughn‪#TBT‪ to the July 1965 issue of F&SF and this Jack Vaughn illustration for Avram Davidson’s “Rogue Dragon.”‬

‪Based on the cover, you’d think “Rogue Dragon” was a fantasy story but it’s far future SF where Earth is set aside as a nature preserve. Davidson’s novella was nominated for the 1966 Nebula Award. The expanded novel version was also nominated for the Nebula… the same year! (Did that ever happen any other time?) “Rogue Dragon” takes up nearly half the issue (58 of 128 pages) and is a fun adventure story filled galactic empires, dragons, and nomad poets.

The next story in the issue is “The Expendables” by Miriam Allen DeFord. Despite the same title, it’s not the basis for Sylvester Stallone’s movie. DeFord’s story is, instead, about a risky first mission to Mars, where old astronauts (their average age is 75) have been chosen because they’re expendable. Although the story was translated into German as “Die Expedition der Alten” in 1966, it hasn’t ever been reprinted as far as I can tell.

“The Eight Billion” by Richard Wilson is about the King of New York in an hyperbolically overpopulated world where 8 billion people live underground. (World population was around 3 billion when the story was written. We’re very close to 8 billion people now but still no King of New York! #cheated)‬ “The Eight Billion” was much reprinted and nominated for the Nebula for short story but lost to ‘”Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman.’‬

It’s followed by “Becalmed in Hell,” a Known Space story by Larry Niven, which was also nominated for the short story Nebula that year. Niven’s first F&SF story was about a man and a brainship stranded on a flight to Venus; it was a sequel to “The Coldest Place” (IF, Dec 1964). “Becalmed in Hell” was included in Wollheim’s and Carr’s World’s Best Science Fiction 1966 and has been reprinted dozens of times.

The last story in the issue is “A Murkle for Jesse,” an Irish-flavored fantasy set in Vermont, written by historical novelist Gary Jennings.‬


The issue rounds out with science columns by Theodore Thomas (computers for medical diagnosis) and Isaac Asimov (Fermat’s Last Theorem),‬ Judith Merrill’s book reviews (Vonnegutt, Ballard, Vance, and others), a cartoon by Gahan Wilson, and a sonnet (“The Pterodactyl”) by Philip Jose Farmer.‬


Farmer’s poem ends the issue with this: “…press‬
Form’s flesh around thought’s rib, and so derive‬
From the act of beauty, beauty of the act.”‬

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