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A Welcome to the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction
by John O'Neill

Click on any of the covers below for a larger image.

As you've no doubt noticed on our cover page, in this issue we introduce a new magazine to our ranks here at the SF Site -- and in this case, "new" applies only to its time with us. It is The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, one of the oldest and most respected magazines in the history of Science Fiction.

It is with great pride that we welcome F&SF to our list of hosted sites. It has a tremendous history stretching back over half a century, and has published some of the biggest names in science fiction and fantasy -- including C.S. Lewis, Shirley Jackson, Alfred Bester, Robert A. Heinlein, and many, many others. Just as importantly, under current editor Gordon van Gelder, it continues to publish cutting edge work, some of the finest in the field, and is in fact the only monthly publication in North America which offers a reliable source of quality short fantasy.

Art by Emsh

As we did when we welcomed Analog and Asimov's Science Fiction on board ['way back in May of this year, in a column entitled "Love, Money, and the Future of Science Fiction Magazines"], I'd like to take the opportunity to reflect a little on both F&SF's past -- what it has already added to the multi-layered history of the genre -- and where it's headed. If you're looking for gossip on the latest movies or Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes, you might want to bail out now and head over to one of our media columns. But, if you're at all interested in the roots of the SF and Fantasy genres in North America or short fiction with a fantastic bent, then stick with me.

F&SF arrived on the scene in the fall of 1949, with a first issue entitled The Magazine of Fantasy. It had a photograph on the cover (the one and only time it ever did), and was a publication of Fantasy House, Inc., a subsidiary of Mercury Press. It was edited by Anthony Boucher & Francis McComas, and published by Lawrence Spivak.

"Anthony Boucher" was the pen name of American author and editor William Anthony Parker White (1911-1968), author of The Compleat Werewolf and editor of the monumental two-volume A Treasury of Great Science Fiction (1959). Francis McComas (1911-1978) was a noted editor and writer whose works included the famous early anthology Adventures in Time and Space (edited with Raymond J. Healy, 1946). After August 1954, Boucher took the reins himself, carrying on in the position of editor -- and winning a Hugo Award for the magazine in 1958 -- until he was replaced by Robert P. Mills in September of 1958.

How did F&SF differ from the other major magazines of the time? Frankly, the title was a dead give-away. While magazines such as John W. Campbell's Astounding Science Fiction were struggling -- often in vain -- to escape their pulp roots with tales that emphasized hard science and rigorous extrapolation, F&SF took a different route. Then, as now, it was one of the only magazines on the market that embraced fiction of pure fancy. It straddled the genres of SF and Fantasy and acknowledged that they were two tentacles of the same beast. It could afford to be a little more experimental in the kinds of fiction it attracted, cultivating a rich diversity of genres -- including hard SF, space opera, High Fantasy, Sword and Sorcery, Horror, and many others -- with the only qualification that the writing be top-notch. For fans of fantastic fiction, it was a one-stop shop for all their refined escapist fare.

Even in 1949, this was something of a breath of fresh air, and it attracted an amazing range of talent. Throughout the 1950s, F&SF published ground-breaking work in almost every genre, including such classics as:

Art by Chesley Bonestell

  • Richard Matheson - "Born of Man & Woman" (1950)
  • Alfred Bester - "Fondly Fahrenheit" (1954)
  • Damon Knight - "The Country of the Kind" (1954)
  • Shirley Jackson - "One Ordinary Day, With Peanuts" (1955)
  • Walter M. Miller - "A Canticle for Leibowitz" (1955)
  • Robert Bloch - "That Hellbound Train" (1958; Hugo Award)
  • Daniel Keyes - "Flowers for Algernon" (1959; Hugo Award)
  • Robert A. Heinlein - "All You Zombies --" (1959)
  • Robert A. Heinlein - Starship Troopers (as "Starship Soldier") (1959; Hugo Award)

Timeline for F&SF
  • Fall 1949 - first issue, titled The Magazine
    of Fantasy
    ; edited by Anthony Boucher & Francis
    McComas; published quarterly
  • Feb 1951 - becomes bi-monthly
  • Aug 1952 - becomes monthly
  • Jan 1957 - launches sister magazine Venture
    Science Fiction
    ; published 16 issues
  • 1958 - wins first Hugo Award for Best Magazine
  • Sept 1958 - Robert P. Mills becomes editor
  • Nov 1958 - begins science article series by
    Isaac Asimov
  • April 1962 - Avram Davidson becomes editor
  • Dec 1964 - Joseph W. Ferman becomes editor
  • Jan 1966 - Edward Ferman (Joseph's son)
    becomes editor
  • Jan 1981 - switches to four-week schedule, with 13
  • July 1991 - Kristine Kathryn Rusch becomes editor
  • Feb 1991 - last Asimov science article (#399)
  • Jan 1993 - Published issue #500
  • June 1997 - Gorden van Gelder becomes editor
For a complete listing of contents by issue, drop by the
Internet Speculative Fiction Database page for
F&SF, right here at the SF Site.

During this same period, it also published terrific original work by such names as C.S. Lewis, Kurt Vonnegut, Cordwainer Smith, Charles Finney, Avram Davidson, Isaac Asimov, Walter Tevis, Theodore Sturgeon, Fritz Leiber, C.M. Kornbluth, Fredric Brown, James Blish, Ray Bradbury, and many others. The magazine's publishers even had enough spare energy to launch a sister publication, Venture Science Fiction, in January of 1957, which was geared towards more adventure-oriented SF tales. Although it lasted only 16 issues, it too made a mark on the field.

Art by David A. Hardy
Beginning in April, 1962, the renowned writer Avram Davidson became editor, followed less than two years later by publisher Joseph W. Ferman, and finally Ed Ferman in January of 1966. The younger Ferman's stewardship was to last over twenty-five years, a period that saw F&SF garner seven Hugo Awards for Best Magazine or Best Editor (including Best Editor awards for Ed Ferman three years in a row starting in 1981).

Meanwhile, the top-notch fiction continued throughout the sixties, including such well-regarded classics as:

  • Roger Zelazny - "A Rose for Ecclesiastes" (1963)
  • Poul Anderson - "No Truce With Kings" (1963; Hugo)
  • Brian Aldiss - "The Saliva Tree" (1965; Nebula Award)
  • Roger Zelazny - "The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth" (1965; Nebula)
  • Roger Zelazny - "And Call Me Conrad" (1965; Hugo as This Immortal)
  • Philip K. Dick - "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale" (1966)
  • Fritz Leiber - "Ship of Shadows" (1969; Hugo)
  • Fritz Leiber - "Ill Met in Lankhmar" (1970; Hugo)

By the early 1970s, it wasn't just writers such as Fritz Leiber and Roger Zelazny hanging out in the pages of F&SF and staking out a monopoly on genre fiction awards -- it was writers such as Poul Anderson, John Varley, and Harlan Ellison, with stories such as:

Art by David Mattingly

  • Poul Anderson - "The Queen of Air and Darkness" (1971; Hugo & Nebula)
  • Poul Anderson - "Goat Song" (1972; Hugo & Nebula)
  • Frederik Pohl & C.M. Kornbluth - "The Meeting" (1972; Hugo)
  • Harlan Ellison - "The Deathbird" (1973; Hugo)
  • Harlan Ellison - "Adrift Just Off the Islets of Langerhans..." (1974; Hugo)
  • Robert Silverberg - "Born With the Dead" (1974; Nebula)
  • James Tiptree, Jr. - "The Women Men Don't See" (1974)
  • Fritz Leiber - "Catch That Zeppelin!" (1975; Hugo and Nebula)
  • Tom Reamy - "San Diego Lightfoot Sue" (1975; Nebula)
  • Charles L. Grant - "A Crowd of Shadows" (1976; Nebula)
  • Harlan Ellison - "Jeffty is Five" (1977; Hugo & Nebula)
  • Stephen King - "The Gunslinger" (1978)
  • Edward Bryant - "Stone" (1978; Nebula)
  • John Varley - "The Persistence of Vision" (1978; Hugo and Nebula)
  • C.J. Cherryh - "Cassandra" (1978; Hugo)
  • Robert Silverberg - Lord Valentine's Castle (1979)

By the 1980s, it was obvious that you couldn't pin down F&SF with labels of any kind -- in fact, the only generalization you could make about the fiction was that it was literary, of higher professional standards than most of its competition, and it took risks. Those risks paid off throughout the next two decades, under editors Ed Ferman, Kristine Kathryn Rusch (91-97), and Gordon van Gelder (97-) with such stories as:

Art by Bob Eggleton

  • John Varley - "The Pusher" (1981; Hugo)
  • Lisa Tuttle - "The Bone Flute" (1981; Nebula)
  • Parke Godwin - "The Last Rainbow" (1981)
  • Joanna Russ - "Souls" (1982; Hugo)
  • John Kessel - "Another Orphan" (1982; Nebula)
  • Kim Stanley Robinson - "Black Air" (1983; World Fantasy Award)
  • Nancy Kress - "Out of All Them Bright Stars" (1985; Nebula)
  • Ursula K. Le Guin - "Buffalo Gals, Won't You Come Out Tonight" (1987; Hugo)
  • Mike Resnick - "Kirinyaga" (1988; Hugo)
  • Jack Cady - "The Night We Buried Road Dog" (1993; Nebula and Bram Stoker Award)
  • Walter Jon Williams - "Wall, Stone, Craft" (1993)
  • Mike Resnick - "Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge" (1994; Hugo and Nebula)
  • Maureen F. McHugh - "The Lincoln Train" (1995)
  • Stephen King - "Everything's Eventual" (1997)

Art by Michael Dashow
What kind of stories were they, and what kind of chances was F&SF taking? In 1978, editor Ed Ferman took a chance on a young fantasy writer with two hot novels under his belt who was struggling to find a home for his off-beat short stories. His series of short stories featuring a dimension-hopping gunslinger named Roland were (to put it mildly) not standard issue genre fantasy, and made little sense unless read in sequence. In fact, even read in sequence they didn't make perfect sense. The writer's name was Stephen King, and the stories Ed Ferman bought and made a home for were the genesis for his bestselling fantasy series The Dark Tower, based in part on an unfinished epic poem by Robert Browning.

Art by Michael Whelan
When King collected the stories in a mass market, million-selling edition in 1982, the quiet dedication in the front was "To Ed Ferman, who took a chance on these stories, one by one." Without Ferman, his faith in the fantasy, and the magazine he guided, it's very likely that those early stories wouldn't have sold at all -- and fans today would be deprived of one of the most unique dark fantasy series ever written.

What's true for The Dark Tower is also true for A Canticle for Leibowitz, Starship Troopers, and other classics too numerous to mention. And it's also true for the modern classics being published in the magazine today. If you're a fan of quality SF & Fantasy, then you'll find no better bargain than a subscription to F&SF. Drop by the brand new F&SF website here at the SF Site, have a look at their subscription rates, and you'll see what I mean. Sign up for a sub today -- it takes only minutes on the Web. You'll be glad you did.

Join us next issue when we begin our look at the best SF and Fantasy of 1998. You know where to find us.

Copyright © 1998 by John O'Neill

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