Robert M. Philmus
New Possibilities for Research on Science Fiction
Hal W. Hall, comp. Science
Fiction and Fantasy Research Index Volume 3. Bryan, TX:
SFBRI, 1983. iv + 74pp. $7.50 (paper).
----------, ed. Science/Fiction
Collections: Fantasy, Supernatural & Weird Tales. [Special
Collections, 2, nos. 1-2 (Fall/Winter 1982).] NY: Haworth Press, 1983. 181pp.
----------, comp. The
Science Fiction Magazines. A Bibliographical Checklist of Titles and Issues.
Science Fiction Magazines. A Bibliographical Checklist of Titles and Issues.
iii + 89pp. Bryan, TX: SFBRI, 1983. $7.50 (paper).
New England Science Fiction Association. The N.E.S.F.A. Index to the Science Fiction Magazines and Original
Anthologies 1982 . [Cambridge, MA]: NESFA Press, 1983. vi + 63pp.
Professional criticism of SF is, perhaps inevitably, extending itself to the contents
of SF magazines; and no doubt Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazines, which will
offer general surveys of individual titles, will give impetus to such a tendency as soon
as Greenwood Press publishes that collection of essays by various hands.
Meanwhile, there is no shortage of bibliographies on the subject. Hal Hall, in his
listing in The Science Fiction Magazines (SFM, pp. -72), has 19 entries; and
while at least five of these treat only a single title each, another three are series
which, had Hall anatomized them, would have about doubled the total number.
Among those bibliographies, precedence must logically go to SFM, which includes 189
English-language titles (by my count--Hall neither numbers them nor gives their total).
This figure, however, is somewhat misleading; for as Hall says in his introduction, he has
not "narrowly" confined himself to "the 'science fiction' magazines,"
but has instead adopted "the broader perspective" that takes in "a variety
of magazines, all of which are in some way related to science fiction and
fantasy" (my emphasis). (Thus between the entries for Beyond Infinity and
British Space Fiction, for example, the reader will come upon those for Bizarre
Mystery and Boris Karloff Story Digest.) Nevertheless, that "broader
perspective" leaves out, at least for the time being, not only "comic books, the
'monster' magazines, " and "the many 'special issues' of magazines which were
completely devoted to fantastic fiction," but also "Argosy, All-Story, . . .
[and] Modern Electrics," "early titles which carried significant
quantities of fantastic fiction" (and sometimes, Hall might have added, SF: p. i).
Hall's subtitle, on the other hand, is completely accurate. The bulk of the main
section of SFM consists of often long columns of data about volume number (where
applicable), issue number, and the month and year indicated on the cover of a given
magazine. SFM can thus serve, quite literally, as a "checklist" for collectors
of SF magazines. But that is not the sole rationale for Hall's mode of bibliographical
proceeding. The format he adopts also allows him to indicate precisely both the
misnumbering that editors or publishers are occasionally guilty of and (perhaps more
importantly) when changes in title occur.
Even more useful for those doing or intending to do research are the other kinds of
information Hall supplies. Arraying titles alphabetically according to the last-used name
of a magazine (but providing cross-references to all variants), he then specifies the
number of volumes and/or issues, the inclusive dates and the place of publication, the
publisher, and the editor (or editors, with dates of tenure). He also tells the user of
SFM which bibliographies index the magazine's contents (without, however, saying whether
they do so in whole or merely in part). In addition, he assigns code letters to each title
(but does not explain their purpose--they are not discernibly operative in SFM itself).
Apart from these features (and the list of bibliographies I have already called
attention to), SFM contains an "Editor Index" (pp. 63-67) which enables the
reader to determine who edited what magazine when. It has, as well, an appendix devoted to
"Non-English-Language Magazines, " listed alphabetically by country of origin
(but not, in the bibliographical sense of the word, "analyzed," though Hall
otherwise supplies the same information about them that he does for English-language
publications). To be sure, that appendix differs from the main portion of SFM in having
more or less obvious deficiencies. (Chile's absence is pretty much understandable, given
what Remi-Maure says above about Espacio Tiempo; Canada's one entry, on
the other hand, will no doubt make Jean-Marc Gouanvic and others responsible for the two
or three SF magazines that emanate from Quebec unhappy, not to mention the publishers of
possibly another half-dozen such magazines elsewhere in this country); but it is not
likely that such omissions will dissuade many prospective buyers of SFM.
What may be a disincentive is the notice accompanying review copies (but not printed in
SFM itself) to the effect that subsequent editions will also encompass
"'semi-professional' magazines" (Locus, SF Chronicle, etc.) and certain
critical journals (such as this one). It can be expected, however, that expanded coverage
will mean greater printing costs and hence a higher retail price than the present modest
booklet commands. As it is, the volume is something of a bargain, though Hall could make
it still more indispensable as a bibliographical resource if, in addition to engaging in
what he admits is the sometimes parlous business of establishing editors and dates of
editorship, he also made public the considerable knowledge that he and his collaborators
must have about the relationships between and among magazines, especially those with
similar or identical titles (e.g., is there any connection between the Fantasy Book
published in Los Angeles from 1947-51 and the one that has been coming out of Pasadena
since 1981? Does Fantastic Adventures Quarterly Reissue [1941-51] print original
material or merely reprint some of the contents of Fantastic Adventures [1939-53]?).
A question of the latter sort can be answered by consulting the "Listing by
Issue" sections of the N.E.S.F.A. bibliographies. Besides offering a printout of the
contents page of each number of a given magazine, these indicate whether a particular item
is a reprint. The compilers also give certain kinds of classificatory information: they
parcel out non-fiction into essays, interviews, editorials, etc., while categorizing
fiction as "short story," "short-short story," "novella,"
"novelette," or "novel" (though so far as I can see, the distinctions
here, which presumably are quantitatively based, they do not spell out).
The specific query concerning Fantastic Adventures could not, however, be
satisfied through a perusal of any or all of the ten N.E.S.F.A. Indexes published to date,
for these go back no further than 1966 (or 1951, if one adds Erwin S. Strauss's Index
to the Science Fiction Magazines to their number).1
Nor has SFM an advantage over them merely in regard to its terminus a quo (1923,
when the first number of Weird Tales came out). An Index to the Science
Fiction Magazines and Original Anthologies (ISFM) supplies, in its preliminary
"Checklist," the same kind of data that SFM tabulates (and, along with most of
the other information also in SFM, the number of pages in each issue, the cover artist,
etc.); but even someone who had the time and patience to collate all 11 ISFMs would be
only partially duplicating Hall's results.
Yet the chronological and cognate limitations which make the ISFMs inconvenient for one
purpose (which SFM addresses) facilitate another: a statistical study of developments in
SF publishing. Comparison of the 1977-78 with the 1982 ISFM, for instance, not only
confirms the decline of the SF magazine that James Gunn talks about in his essay on
"The Gatekeepers" (SFS No. 29), but also suggests that a similar trend is
affecting "original anthologies." The 1977-78 ISFM has in its "Magazine
Checklist" 13 titles (including one not indexed: Sky Worlds --Skyworlds in
SFM, where it is also a bibliographical "problem child"); the 1982 ISFM appears
to have 11 (which, however, reduce to 9, since the higher figure comprises a special issue
of Soviet Literature and requires the separation of Amazing. . . from Amazing.
. . Combined with Fantastic, even though the numbering system after the merger
follows Amazing's original sequence); moreover, the comparison of ISFMs reveals
that between 1978 and 1982, eight SF magazines went under. As for anthologies, the 1977-78
ISFM "analyzes" 67 of them; the 1982 volume, 26. (Of course, any inferences
drawn from such statistics should be looked upon as provisional, given the vagaries of the
The ISFMs will also--and no doubt, primarily--serve purposes having little directly to
do with a sociological investigation of reading habits or publishing practices. Though
restricted by and large to US magazines, the bibliographies, so far as I have been able to
determine, include all titles recorded in SFM as being ongoing for the year(s) covered;
and these the ISFM not only "analyzes" the contents of but indexes (in
subsequent sections) by author and title. Both of those indexes give the kind of
classificatory information contained in the "Listing by Issue" segment as well
as all necessary bibliographical data. What the "Listing by Author" does not
have, however, is a cross-referencing system--which poses a serious problem because the
ISFM records items (throughout) according to the name used in the magazine (though known
pseudonyms are identified in the ISFM front matter).
Even so, the main thing the N.E.S.F.A. leaves to be desired (apart from ISFMs for the
years 1926-50) would be a compilation of the author (if not the title) indexes now
dispersed through 10 or 11 separate publications. (Having seen only three of those
bibliographies, I cannot say for certain that all of them--and Strauss's--use identical
formats.) Nor, methinks, would that be a difficult undertaking for an organization located
in Cambridge and drawing many of its members (or so I suppose) from the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology.
Hall's Science Fiction and Fantasy Research Index (SFFRI) covers, among other
things, some of the better fanzines (Starship, Thrust, Vector, etc.), which the
N.E.S.F.A. indexes (oriented as they are towards SF, not commentary thereon) do not deal
with. In that respect, the SFFRI also differs from its chief competitor, Roger C. Schlobin
and Marshall B. Tymn's The Year's Scholarship in Science Fiction and Fantasy (YSSFF;
title varies), which (at least so far) has concentrated pretty much exclusively on
academic and quasi-academic criticism. This, however, is not the only edge that Hall
has--or, doubtless, intends to have--over YSSFF. The latter has always been, at best, two
years "late" (here Tymn and Schlobin have followed the example of the Modern
Language Association's "annual" bibliography in more than the general format
they have adopted, though that is in part because they depend on that publication). Thus,
for instance, the YSSFF for 1979 (the last to come to my attention) appeared in the pages
of the Spring 1981 Extrapolation.2 (At
that time, by the way, the arrangement between the two publications ended. Henceforth,
YSSFF will be put out separately, by the Greenwood Press, and will no longer come as a
benefit of SFRA membership.) The SFFRI dealing mainly with material that appeared in 1982,
on the other hand, became available in mid-1983.
The matter of timing is SFFRl's greatest advantage over YSSFF, but it is perhaps also
the principal source of SFFRl's defects. Hall, unlike Schlobin/Tymn, neither classifies
nor annotates the materials he records; instead, he trusts that a user of the SFFRI will
be able to locate specific items in the unitary (numbered) list of them by consulting the
"Subject Index," which he calls "[t]he heart of [SFFRI]" (p. ii). But
Hall apparently compiled that index without "inspecting" the actual articles or
whatnot; so that any information not clear from their titles alone is not likely to have
made its way into his index. Thus, while the SFFRI includes, for example, all the essays
that came out in SFS in 1982 (but not substantive notes, such as David Ketterer's on The
Time Machine in No. 28), there is no "Subject Index" entry for Thomas More
(even though Eugene Hill, for one, deals with the Utopia at some length in his
piece on Louis Marin [SFS No. 27]), and the entries for John W. Campbell, Mary Shelley,
and H.G. Wells do not refer the reader to John Reider's "Embracing the Alien"
(in SFS No. 26), indexed solely under the rubric "Alien."
Designed to be "a combination of Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature and
Essay and General Literature Index" (p. [i]), the SFFRI is obviously meant
to complement YSSFF at least as much as to compete with it. (At the moment, however, it is
doing neither, since there are as yet no YSSFFs corresponding to the three SFFRls, the
first of which--principally covering 1981--came out under the title Science Fiction
Research Index). But to the extent that YSSFF and SFFRI do not overlap, the
usefulness of the latter is limited in ways that go beyond the inadequacies of its system
of indexing. Among the 21 titles in the prefatory list of "Books Analyzed," for
example, the reader will find not only various collections of essays and (Borgo Press)
interviews, but also three volumes of Fandom Directory (each with its own entry),
along with Texas Fandom 1981. To be sure, the SFFRI does not confine itself to
these 21 titles plus material from the 22 "Magazines Regularly Indexed." But the
actual boundaries of its coverage seem impossible to determine, both temporally and in a
respect having nothing to do with the volume's vague chronological limits (which Hall
acknowledges: p. [i]). This "indeterminacy" stems from the inclusion among
"Magazines Regularly Indexed" of "Current Contents Arts and Humanities"
(sic), which does not publish criticism about SF or anything else, but instead
(as its title implies) indicates the contents of most North American and some other
journals. Yet the reader who hastily concludes that the SFFRI takes cognizance of
everything in Current Contents pertinent to SF will be quite wrong. Without
having so much as attempted to make a systematic check, I note that the SFFRI leaves out
of consideration the SF criticism in the special (January 1982) issue of Soviet
Literature (cf. the 1982 ISFM), despite the fact that that publication comes within
the purview of Current Contents. In short, SFFRI stands in need of much improvement if it
is ever to measure up to the results of Hall's other bibliographical endeavors (especially
his ongoing SFBRI, an index of book reviews).
Hall has performed a further service for students of SF by assembling Science/Fiction
Collections (SFC). Approximately half the book consists of articles on some of the
noteworthy public holdings of SF in North America: at the Library of Congress (pp.9-24),
California at Riverside (the J. Lloyd Eaton Collection, pp. 25-38), Hall's own Texas
A&M University (surveyed by Donald H. Dyal, pp. 39-48; A&M "now houses from
90% to 95% of the English[-]language titles" recorded in SFM: SFM, p. i), Eastern New
Mexico University (pp.49-58), Syracuse (pp.59-62), Toronto's Spaced Out Library (pp.
63-68), and M.I.T. (pp. 69-78). All but one of the authors of these pieces currently work
at the libraries whose SF (etc.) collections they describe (and in most cases are in
charge of); and the one exception, Fred Lerner (on Syracuse), has training as a librarian
and elsewhere in the volume gives his professional views on "The Cataloging and
Classification of Science Fiction Collections" (pp. 151-70).
General as they are, the seven essays surveying certain public holdings offer a wealth
of detail in comparison with the item that supplements them: Hall's "A Brief
Directory of Science Fiction Research Collections." The latter provides the addresses
of 54 locations in the US (by state) and Canada (not by province), but does not
consistently stipulate the nature and number of the holdings (usually Hall identifies them
only in quantitative terms). Forrest Ackerman's would-be account of his private collection
(pp. 111-18) is almost as unsatisfactory, especially by contrast with what immediately
precedes it: Sam Moskowitz's expansive and informative account of his (pp. 79-110).
The three other entries that SFC comprises are all welcome additions. "A Checklist
of Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Dealers" (pp.171-76) and "Bibliographic
Control in Fantastic Literature..." (pp. 131-50) more or less live up to their titles
(if, that is, one can understand "library-ese"). The first gives the name, the
proprietor(s), and the address for each of the 29 North American or UK bookstores it lists
as dealing primarily in SF and fantasy; it also gives some general indication beyond that
of their specialty (e.g., "Out of print cloth"; "New German cloth and
paper," etc.). In the other, the indefatigable Marshall Tymn briefly describes the
bibliographical resources available in the field of SF and fantasy. (It should be noted,
however, that some of his remarks are already dated, and in ways that he did not
anticipate when he defined his overview as applying to the years 1941-81. He asserts, for
example--what was true until some time in 1982--that "the NESFA has not produced an
annual volume since 1976": p. 136.) Misleadingly headed is Robert Weinberg's
enlightening history of small publishing houses specializing in SF: "Science Fiction
Specialty Publishers." "SF Small Press Publishers," the rubric for the
appendix of sorts wherein Weinberg gives the names and addresses of 14 of them, could have
been the basis for an accurate title for his remarks (which, among other things, have
nothing to do with SF reprint publishers).
Those partial to fantasy may decide that the overall title of SFC is also misleading
(the Swann Collection at Florida Atlantic University, for example, is not so much as
mentioned in SFC's pages). But for anyone who wants to find out about public and
(accessible) private holdings of SF and other matters germane to research into them, SFC
is must reading. It will not tell users everything they may want to know, but it is
certainly the place to start. Like SFM and the ISFMs, it opens new possibilities for SF
research, the conduct of which will require having one of more of those volumes at hand
(or, at worst, in a nearby library).
1. In response to an inquiry of mine, Deborah A. King of the
N.E.S.F.A. Sales Committee reports that the 1983 ISFM "will be going to press any day
now" and that all other ISFMs are still available, though "indexes for the years
1971-75, " Ms. King writes, "are photocopied reprints of somewhat lower quality
than the original editions." The prices for the 1970-81 indexes areas follows: for
the 1966-70 ISFM, $10; for the 1971-72, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, and 1981 volumes, $5 each;
and for the ISFMs covering 1977-78 and 1979-80, $7 each. There are also a few copies left
of Strauss's index for the years 1951-65: "All have some wine damage of varying
degrees to the cover. The contents are intact. The price is $12.00." Remittances for
any or all of these ISFMs, directed to P.O. Box G/M.I.T. Station/Cambridge, MA 02139,
should include one dollar more per order for postage (an amount which I have added to the
"list price" of the 1982 ISFM).
2. Marshall Tymn, when I called him to confirm what I say above
about the YSSFF, informed me: (1) that the project is now exclusively his (and, of course,
Greenwood Press's); (2) that the bibliography for 1980 has just come out; and (3) that the
"YSSFFs" for 1981 and 1982, which now mention horror fiction in their title, are
in the process of being printed and should appear soon. As of this moment, however, I have
not seen any YSSFF subsequent to 1979's (though in saying that I do not mean to imply that
they do not yet exist).
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