Science Fiction Studies

#33 = Volume 11, Part 2 = July 1984

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. $29.95.

----------, comp. The Science Fiction Magazines. A Bibliographical Checklist of Titles and Issues. The 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. $6.00 (paper).

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. [71]-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 publishing trade.)

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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