Science Fiction Studies

#72 = Volume 24, Part 2 = July 1997


R.D. Mullen

Recent Books from Borgo Press

The publication of BP 250: An Annotated Bibliograpy of the First 250 Publications of the Borgo Press, together with the release for review of a number of other Borgo books, offers an opportunity to assess to 30-year contribution to sf studies made by Mike Burgess, better known in sf circles as Robert Reginald. Each Borgo book is published as a volume in a series. In the present essay we will look at representative volumes in each of four series.

Burgess's first work on sf was done in 1968-69 as a senior independent-study project at Gonzaga University. Supplementing his research in science-fiction and fantasy bibliography with information obtained by correspondence with a number of authors, he produced Stella Nova: The Contemporary Science Fiction Authors, a 348-page typescript containing bibliographical lists for 483 authors, 308 supplemented by an autobiographical note from the author concerned. First issued anonymously by a Los Angeles firm in 1970 in an edition of 108 copies duplicated from offset masters, it was in 1974 included as Contemporary Science Fiction Authors, "Compiled and Edited by R. Reginald," in the Arno Press 62-volume series Science Fiction, which Burgess edited (as R. Reginald) in collaboration with Douglas Menville.1 In 1979 the Arno edition was rendered obsolete by Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature, 1700-1974, with Contemporary Science Fiction Authors II (Gale Research Co.), edited (still) by R. Reginald, which was followed in 1992 by Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature 1975-1991, edited by Robert Reginald.

Burgess joined the Library staff at CSC San Bernardino in 1970, and has been a full-time librarian ever since. If he also works a 40-hour week as head of Borgo Press, I suppose we could also call him a full-time publisher, but thre he has his wife, Mary A. Burgess, as partner and, it seems, two or three employees.

Borgo Press began in 1976 with the Milford Series: Popular Writers of Today, paperback monographs of about 64 pages. Except for one 59-page volume in an abandoned popular-music series, one 47-page novel by "Lucas Webb" (Burgess himself), and eight longer novels by various authors, the Milford monographs made up the entire Borgo list through 1979: 36 books, all intended for trade distribution. In 1980, trade distribution, having evidently proved unprofitable, was abandoned for concentration on sales to libraries, which Burgess, as a librarian active in professional associations, was evidently well prepared to handle. Borgo Press now represents some 35 other publishers for library sales.

Just what procedures libraries follow in acquiring books I do not know, but I understand that the clerical cost of processing single titles is often greater than the price of the book itself. Many if not most scholarly books are published in continuing series (e.g., the Greenwood Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy), and some libraries place standing orders for all forthcoming volumes in this series or that, so that a publishing firm that can persuade a sufficient number of libraries (apparently about 2002) to subscribe to its series has it made.

All the books reviewed or noted below may be ordered at list price plus $2.50 S&H (or plus $4.00 UPS) from Borgo Press, Order Dept., P.O. Box 2845, San Bernardino, CA 92406-2845. Telephone 909-884-5813; fax 909-888-4942. MasterCard and Visa accepted.

1. Borgo Literary Guides. In listing this series in BP 250, four numbers were apparently reserved for books not yet published. The volumes already published include two already reviewed or noted in SFS: British Science Fiction Paperbacks and Magazines, 1949-1956 (22:296, #66, July 1995), and The Transylvanian Library (20:483-84 #61, Nov 1993).

Daryl Mallett and Robert Reginald. Reginald's Science Fiction and Fantasy Awards. #1. 3rd ed., revised and expanded. 1993. 248 pages. $33 cloth, $23 paper. It all started in 1951, at the British Science Fiction Convention, with the International Fantasy Awards (1951-1957). American Fans, at the World Science Fiction Convention, got into the act with the Hugos in 1952. The SFWA started awarding Nebulas in 1966. Between 1951 and the present some 139 organizations devoted to science fiction and/or fantasy and/or horror have made awards for work in the three genres. In addition, 89 other organizations have made awards for works identifiable as science fiction, fantasy or horror. This book is an indispensible work for anyone trying to stay abreast of developments in any or all of the three genres.

Robert Reginald and Mary A. Burgess. BP 250: An Annotated Bibliography of the First 250 Publications of the Borgo Press, 1975-1996. #10. 192p. $31 cloth, $21 paper. This book includes annotated entries for 389 books arranged in lists lettered A through H, together with author and title indexes keyed to entry numbers and a series "index" not keyed to anything. In the eponymous chronological list, closed with A255 as of the end of June 1996, BP 250 appears as A251. Lists B-H (alphabetical) include 134 titles acquired from other publishers, most notably 102 acquired from Starmont House following the death of Ted Dickey,3 so that a more accurate title would have been BP 251: An Annotated Bibliography of of the First 255 Publications of the Borgo Press and 134 Other Books Now Included in the Borgo Line. Totals depend on what you decide to count; in BP 250 revised editions are counted as additions to rather than replacements in the list, so that, e.g., The Work of George Zebrowski appears in List A three times but only once in the Bibliographies of Modern Authors list. If we count only the last edition of each book, the total for List A would be 233 rather and 255. Never mind; a magic number was needed to celebrate the firm's success, and 250 is such a number.

2. The Milford Series: Popular Writers of Today. The 32nd and 62nd volumes in this series, Brian Stableford's Outside the Human Aquarium: Masters of Science Fiction and S.T. Joshi's A Subtler Magic: The Writings and Philosophy of H.P. Lovecraft, are reviewed elsewhere in this issue. The first volume in the Milford Series, George Slusser's Robert A. Heinlein: Stranger in His Own Land, a 64-page booklet devoted to a single author (chronology, essay, bibliography), set the pattern followed in the next 21 volumes, of which six were also written by Slusser. Volume 23, Science Fiction Voices #1, with five interviews in its 64 pages, set a different pattern, one followed in nine volumes. A third pattern (essays on several authors by a single critic) so far appears only in volumes by Brian Stableford. Longer volumes began to appear in 1980; something between 100 and 200 pages seems now to be standard. Slusser's Heinlein: Stranger was extensively revised for a second edition, presumably because bad reviews made him reconsider what he had written. Other titles in the series have had "revised and expanded" second editions, usually for updating rather than for revision of what was previously written. The volumes in the Starmont Reader's Guide series, which began in 1979, are similar in content and format and so, it seems, will be incorporated in the Milford series when a "revised and expanded" second edition seems called for.

Neal Wilgus. Seven by Seven: Interviews with American Science Fiction Writers of the West and Southwest. #44. 1996. 136p. $29 cloth, $19 paper. This book is made up of seven interviews previously published in fan magazines 1976-1980, each accompanied by a chronology of the interviewee. Robert Anton Williams uses Neal Wilgus as straight man in their discussion of The Illuminatus! Trilogy (1975); Robert Shea, co-author of the trilogy, and the other authors interviewed (Suzy McKee Charnas, Stephen R. Donaldson, Fred Saberhagen, Jack Williamson, and the late Roger Zelazny) are less ironic in discussing their work, if ironic at all.

Mary S. Weinkauf. Sermons in Science Fiction: The Novels of S. Fowler Wright. #51. 1994. 128p. $27 cloth, $17 paper. The World Below (1925) is perhaps the most important, certainly the most ambitious, sf novel written between the early romances of H.G. Wells and the future histories of Olaf Stapledon; Deluge (1927) created something of a sensation, became a bestseller in both Britain and the US, and was made into in movie in 1932; Prelude in Prague (1936; US title, The War of 1938) was a sensational international success. From the standpoint of sf history, S. Fowler Wright is a name to be reckoned; from a readerly standpoint, Deluge and Dawn are among the best world-catastrophe novels, grimly realistic in their depiction of human nature under stress. Mary S. Weinkauf has in this book made a valiant effort to revive interest in this now all but forgotten novelist.

Curtis C. Smith. Welcome to the Revolution: The Literary Legacy of Mack Reynolds. #64. 1995. 136p. $29 cloth, $19 paper. Dallas McCord Reynolds, who died in 1983, was born in 1917 to parents active in trade unionism and radical politics, and was himself for many years an activist in the Socialist Labor Party. Between 1950 and his death he published, as Mack Reynolds, a large number of stories and paperback novels on socioeconpmic themes, the stories chiefly in Astounding/Analog and Galaxy, as well as much popular fiction of other types in various venues under various pseudonyms. In 1974 he contributed a brief piece to SFS in our series on Marxism in science fiction. In the last few years a number of the manuscripts not finished or not published at the time of his death have been completed by Dean Ing and published as by Mack Reynolds and Dean Ing. Smith's book is an interesting account of Reynolds' life and work.

Lee Prosser. Running from the Hunter: The Life and Works of Charles Beaumont. #68. 1996. 136p. $29 cloth, $19 paper. The name Charles Beaumont is known to me primarily from having frequently seen it listed in Twilight Zone credits as the name of the writer. He died of cancer in 1967 at 38. In his brief writing career he published about sixty short stories (many in the sf magazines), and two novels (Run from the Hunter, 1957, and The Intruder, 1959). He also wrote other TV scripts and the screenplays for several movies, the most notable being perhaps The Seven Faces of Dr Lao. This book contains plot summaries of all the novels and short stories, as well as a brief sketch of his life and memorial notes from a number of prominent friends.

3. I.O. Evans Studies in the Philosophy and Criticism of Literature. The 14th and 15th volumes in this series, Stableford's Opening Minds and Westfahl's Islands in the Sky, are reviewed elsewhere in this issue.

George Zebrowski. Beneath the Red Star: Studies on International Science Fiction #9. 1996. 120p. $27 cloth, $17 paper. George Zebrowski is an authority on Polish and Russian science fiction. The first four of the review-essays in this book reprint (with revisions) periodical surveys published in Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1974, 1977, 1979, 1981, and 1982. The four other essays are reviews from other venues published 1987, 1988, and 1991. Some 56 books are covered in the nine essays, including most if not all of those by Stanislaw Lem and the Strugatskys published in English as well as others by European and Japanese authors. There is a also a checklist of 111 translations into English of major foreign sf works. The introduction laments the end of the publishing programs that gave us many of these translations.

R.A. Lafferty. It's Down the Slippery Cellar Steps: Essays and Speeches on Fantastic Literature. #17. 2nd edn, revised & expanded. 1995. 104p. $27 cloth, $17 paper. When this book went to press, R.A. Lafferty had "apparently been permanently incapacitated" by the effects of a stroke suffered in 1994, so it is offered as his final work. While there are certainly a number of readers who will want to have anything Lafferty wrote, it must be said that the pieces gathered are brief and quite casual, of little interest to anyone other than a Lafferty enthusiast.

Darrel Schweitzer, ed. Discovering Classic Fantasy Fiction: Essays on the Antecedents of Fantastic Literature. #23. 1996. 176p. $31 cloth, $21 paper. Here we have essays on Dunsany, Cabell, Wall, Collier, Merritt, Eddison, Blackwood, Lindsay, Baum, Kuttner, and Munn--most of the best-known fantasy writers of the first half of this century. The purpose of the volume is to introduce them to present-day readers too young to have known them when they flourished.

L. Sprague de Camp. Rubber Dinosaurs and Wooden Elephants: Essays on Literature, Film, and History. #26. 1996. 144p. $29 cloth, $19 paper. L. Sprague de Camp, who first came to prominence in the late '30s as a contributer to Astounding and Unknown, has written not only science fiction and fantasy but also a number of scientific and historical popularizations. His work seems to be directed mainly to young people (in reviewing his 1975 biography of Lovecraft for SFS, I called it "a cautionary tale for teen-agers"). He has been one of those most responsible for rescuing the work of Robert E. Howard from the pages of decaying issues of Weird Tales and thus for creating generations of readers and film goers addicted to slam-bang sword-and-sorcery. The essays in the present volume, which include two on Lovecraft and two on Howard, are generally amusing, and young people will find them informative. The last essay is a history of the heroic-barbarian and noble-savage concepts, with references to Nietzsche, "the great German windbag" (115), and Rousseau, "the weepy Swiss philosopher" (116).

Robert Reginald. Xenograffiti: Essays on Fantastic Literature. #33, 1996. 224p. $33 cloth, $23 paper. Though I first looked askance at this volume as perhaps representing vanity self-publication, I have to grant, having now read it from cover to cover (except for pages 101-127) that Mike Burgess, in his Robert Reginald persona at least, is an excellent essayist and that these reviews and obituaries certainly deserve preservation in book form. Pages 101-127 are occupied by a bibliographical essay reprinted from SFS, "A Requiem for Starmont House" and a bit out of place in this volume.

Algis Budrys. Outposts: Literatures of Milieux. #28. 1996. 144p. $29 cloth, $19 paper. Algis Budrys, even though he has published about 200 short stories and several novels, including one of the classics of genre sf, Rogue Moon (1960), is still probably best known in the sf world as a reviewer, editor, and publisher. There are five essays in this book: the first (in the order they are listed here, which is not the order in which they appear in the book) may be said to be worthwhile, the second both worthwhile and highly amusing, the third too elementary to be of much interest to most readers of SFS, the fourth of considerable importance if it were not rendered redundant by the fifth. "Foundation and Asimov," which discusses Asimov's influence on the development of genre sf, is interesting but hardly thought provoking. In "Non-Literary Influences on Science Fiction" (a catalogue of the horrors that can take place as a manuscript moves through an editor's hands to and through the hands of all those involved in its printing) the point rather laboriously made is one made in bibliography courses: if a critic is going to assign significance to a word or phrase in the work he is studying, he or she had better be certain of its authority, for it may have got into the work though mishaps in the printing process or unwise editing. The title is grossly inappropriate for the essay, "non-literary influences" being much too broad and "science fiction," even though the examples come from sf magazines, much too narrow. "Paradise Charted," the longest of the essays, was written for Tri-Quarterly as an "attempt to teach" its readers, who were presumed to know nothing at all about science fiction, "the entire history of science fiction from its beginnings to 1980" (5). "Beyond Rayguns and Godzilla," originally a speech at "a neighborhood do in Evanston," presents a persuasive argument on the nature of sf notable for its neatness but rendered redundant by "Literatures of Milieux," "my deepest exercise in the rationalization of science fiction and fantasy" (6), which develops the same argument at greater length and still more persuasively and which concludes with an elegant scheme that can perhaps be accurately paraphrased as follows:

1. Mundane fiction is set in past or present milieux consonsonant with consensus reality.

2. Speculative fiction is set in milieux of the future or in which other realities obtain.

a. Science fiction is set in milieux in which destiny is presumed to rest in the hands of the individual.

b. Fantasy is set in hierarchical milieux, in which there is always some source of power above the individual. (84-85)

4. Bibliographies of Modern Authors (each with subtitle An Annotated Bibliography and Literary Guide). A note appears in SFS #53 (18:151-53, March 1991) detailing the contents of a typical volume in this series of exhaustive bibliographies (for which, it seems, no stone has been left unturned in seeking every scrap published by or about each of the authors), together with a list of the volumes published or planned at that time and some comment on the work and careers of George Zebrowski, Pamela Sargent, and Jack Dann (the subjects of ## 4, 13, and 16).

Jeffrey M. Elliot & Robert Reginald. The Work of George Zebrowski. #4. 3rd ed., revised and expanded. 1996. 144p. $29 cloth, $19 paper. This new edition brings the record through 1996.

Jeffrey M. Elliot. The Work of Pamela Sargent. #13. 2nd ed., revised and expanded. 1996. 144p. $29 cloth, $19 paper. This volume not only updates the record through 1996 but is enlivened by the addition of two brilliant essays, the rueful "Nicotine Fits" and iconoclastic "Writing, Science Fiction, and Family Values."

Martine Wood. The Work of Gary Bradner. #23. 1995. 112p. $27 cloth, $17 paper. Gary Bradner is depicted as "the Hemingway of Horror."

Michael R. Collings. The Work of Stephen King. #25. 1996. 480p. $51 cloth, $41 paper. This massive work, the longest in this series, carries the primary lists through 1994 and the secondary lists through 1991.


1. The Arno series as a whole is reviewed in SFS #6 (2:179-95), with Contemporary Science Fiction Authors reviewed separately by Brian Aldiss (2:173-74). Menville and Reginald had in 1970-71 edited Forgotten Fantasy, a pulp magazine reprinting turn-of-the century sf and aimed at the readers of sf magazines; Forgotten Fantasy lasted for only five issues, but the search for appropriate stories to reprint was apparently the basis for assembling the 19th- and early 20th-century novels included in the Arno series. The series also includes Ancestral Voices: An Anthology of Early Science Fiction: ten short stories selected by Menville and Reginald.

2. See "Borgo Press," MLA Directory of Scholarly Presses in Language and Literature, 2nd ed., ed. James L. Harner (NY: Modern Language Association, 1996), 31.

3. See Robert Reginald, "A Requiem for Starmont House (1976-1993)," SFS 20:414-21, #61, Nov 1993.

moonbut.gif (4466 bytes) Back to Home