Science Fiction Studies

#42 = Volume 14, Part 2 = July 1987


Gary K. Wolfe

A Range of Reference Works

Marshall B. Tymn & Mike Ashley, eds. Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Weird Fiction Magazines. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1985. 970pp. $95.00.

Michael L. Cook. Mystery, Detective, and Espionage Magazines. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1983. 795pp. $65.00.

William Contento. Index to Science Fiction Anthologies and Collections, 1977-1983. Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1984. 503pp. $45.00.

H.W. Hall, ed. Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Review Index, 1980-1984. Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1985. 761pp. $160.00.

Tim Cottrill, Martin H. Greenberg, & Charles Waugh. Science Fiction and Fantasy Series and Sequels: A Bibliography. Volume 1: Books. NY: Garland, 1986. 389pp. $35.00.

Reference books about SF, like books of baseball statistics, are really needed by few but seem fascinating to many. Collectors and bibliographers have obvious uses for such books, and libraries seem to like them because they are full of lists (if for no other reason). For serious students of SF and fantasy, however, such books at their best fulfill two purposes: they provide access to primary and secondary materials that escape the notice of more broadly based literary indexes, and in a few cases they contribute substantially to the body of criticism itself. At their worst, such works compound the confusion of terminology that already plagues the field, overlook or hopelessly misplace important works, and generally treat the body of SF texts and criticism with a cavalier sort of insouciance that would hardly be tolerated in any other area of literary studies. This inconsistency--one hardly even knows which publishers to trust anymore--has led some to distrust anything published as an SF reference book as a source of serious critical understanding. But as several recent volumes demonstrate, scholars should neither dismiss reference books as uncritical compilations of data nor hope to rely on them entirely as sources of such data. The volumes under discussion here, for example, range from the magisterial to the simply ill-conceived--from the reference book as critical history to the reference book as Cuisinart.

The Tymn-Ashley Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Weird Fiction Magazines is an all-too-rare instance of an intelligently designed and useful reference work which is also a first-rate example of informed criticism and scholarship. With the notable exceptions of Paul Carter's 1977 study The Creation of Tomorrow and Ashley's introductory material to his own earlier History of the Science Fiction Magazine anthology series, there has been remarkably little critical attention paid to the magazines that gave the field its name and (at least in America) its identity. Tymn and Ashley, moreover, have gone far beyond providing bibliographical and source information on the magazines. Their book includes individual, documented critical essays on each of some 279 magazines, 15 anthology series, 78 journals and fanzines, and 178 non-English-language magazines. The result is not only a complete guide to almost every fiction magazine devoted to the field, but also the most substantial critical treatment to date of the editorial policies and trends in the fiction of such magazines. Furthermore, the critical essays maintain a uniform level of soundness and intelligence. All in all, the work is a monumental achievement of popular fiction scholarship which deserves to be read and not just consulted.

What is perhaps most remarkable about this is that more than half the entries are written by Mike Ashley himself; of the 279 magazines in the primary section of the book, Ashley wrote (by my count) 138 essays and collaborated on another 33. Section Two, on "Associational English-Language Anthologies," is almost entirely by Ashley; and a third section on fanzines and academic periodicals, while compiled primarily by Joseph L. Sanders, contains another dozen or so Ashley pieces. The section on non-English-language magazines--unfortunately the most fragmentary section of the book, apparently due to the difficulty in locating reliable information or source texts--is listed as a collaboration between Ashley and Hal W. Hall. On the basis of his work in this volume alone, Ashley deserves recognition as one of the foremost--and most meticulous--scholars in our field.

Not that there aren't other scholars in evidence as well. The longest essay in the book--a brilliant 43-page discussion of Astounding/Analog which makes some rather original points about the editorships of Campbell and Tremaine (making it clear, for example, that Tremaine had established ASF as the top magazine in the field well before Campbell took over), is mostly by Albert Berger, with Ashley contributing the discussion of the post-Campbell years. Other major essays include Ashley on Amazing and Fantastic, Donald Lawlor on Galaxy, Thomas Clareson on The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, E.F. Casebeer on If, Robert Ewald and Ashley on Wonder Stories, Ashley (again!) on New Worlds, and Robert Weinberg on Weird Tales.

Generally, the essays on SF magazines seem more substantial and more energetic than those on the "weird fiction" magazines, and a few entries (such as the one on Black Cat) seem to be there primarily to debunk fannish myths about such periodicals. But even the least of the entries are fascinating, and in addition to the entries on individual magazines, there is an index of "major cover artists," a year-by-year chronology of magazines which dramatically illustrates the "boom or bust" nature of SF publishing (with no fewer than 51 new magazines introduced between 1950 and 1953!), a bibliography whose brevity underscores the neglect of magazines in most previous SF scholarship, and an index.

The index is not entirely consistent--some author entries list individual stories, some list only books, and others list only page numbers even though individual stories may be discussed in the text. For example, a whole paragraph is devoted to Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore's "The Mask of Circe" in the essay on Startling Stories [p. 613], but you can't locate this through the index without plowing through a whole series of page citations. I also believe it would have been helpful to have more consistent headings for the main entries; the sections on foreign magazines and fanzines give titles, dates, and editors, but in the main section of fiction magazines too often only the title is given and one must flip to the end of the entry to find out when the magazine appeared. Finally, given the importance of editors to the field and the extent to which so many of them moved from magazine to magazine, I would like to have seen a listing of major editors as well as a listing of major cover artists.

These are relatively trifling details in an undertaking as ambitious as this, of course, and they hardly matter when one considers the remarkable thoroughness and consistency of most of the entries. Even the most devoted scholars might balk at the notion of reading a volume this size from cover to cover, but it might not be a bad idea to make at least some effort in that direction. Although it is not cast as a narrative history, the book is something of a piece, and taken as a whole it constructs a mosaic portrait of a world of popular fiction magazines that any serious student of such fiction should try to be familiar with. All reference books these days are overpriced, but this is one that might very well be worth the money.

Those interested in the Tymn-Ashley volume might also have reason to look at Michael L. Cook's earlier Mystery, Detective, and Espionage Magazines, which follows the same format and is in many ways equally as impressive, although Cook and his contributors often have a tendency towards cuteness and breathless blurbism. (One wonders, however, if this might not be brought on by the magazines themselves, which somehow seem even pulpier than the SF magazines at their most garish.) Cook's volume would seem to be of marginal interest to students of SF, but in fact it covers 47 magazines that are also covered in the Tymn-Ashley volume, providing a slightly different perspective on these titles, and covers a few titles (including fanzines devoted mostly to the fantastic, such as Age of the Unicorn and three Doc Savage fanzines) that are not in Tymn-Ashley. Furthermore, Cook's coverage of genre mystery magazines may provide important background material for those doing research on SF authors who frequently contributed to such magazines, such as Harlan Ellison, Robert Bloch, or Ray Bradbury. Cook also provides appendices covering foreign magazines, book clubs, magazines by category (dime novels, pulps, digests, etc.), key writers together with magazines they appeared in and pseudonyms they used, a chronology, and lists of true detective magazines and Sherlockiana. Academic and fanzine entries are included in the main section of entries.

If the Cook and Tymn-Ashley volumes are excellent examples of reference works which are also critical histories, the Contento Index to Science Fiction Anthologies and Collections is an equally good example of a reference book which draws its value from simply being a good list. The "Contento" has, since its initial appearance in 1978, been one of the basic reference books in the field, indexing some 12,000 stories by 2,500 authors in 1,900 books published through June of 1977. This second Contento volume, including books through December of 1983, has apparently been confused by some as a revision of the first volume rather than a supplement and continuation. In fact, it is in part both, covering books and stories missed in the original as well as anthologies and collections published since 1977. Nearly a quarter of the 1,017 books indexed appeared before 1977 and thus might have been candidates for inclusion in the first volume, and their inclusion here suggests not so much incompleteness in that earlier book as a decision to expand the range of anthologies covered--many of the pre-1977 texts added are horror anthologies, for example. I think in general this is a wise decision (many non-SF anthologies include SF stories), but it underlines the fact that someone wanting to track down a particular story had better consult both volumes. It also leads to the somewhat awkward inclusion of a number of items which have nothing whatsoever to do with SF or fantasy --poems by Robert Service or Anne Sexton, for example, or mystery and western stories from a 1977 issue of Antaeus, the entire contents of which is indexed because of a few SF pieces. This is not a major drawback to what is in almost every way an excellent book, but it should serve as a cautionary note to anyone seeking to derive statistical information by counting entries, or to anyone tempted to conclude that Service's "The Cremation of Sam McGee" is SF.

For reasons such as these, it is important to remember that the Contento volume is an index to collections and not an index to stories. Although the entries very helpfully include information as to where the story originally appeared, there are no entries for stories which have not appeared in books and many entries for non-story items which have. Nearly a fifth of the more than 11,000 items indexed, in fact, are poems, articles, introductions, forewords, afterwords, bibliographies, biographical sketches, and the like. For this reason alone, the book becomes a significant source for research in criticism as well as in primary texts; one can locate, for example, Algis Budrys' important introduction to John Varley's The Persistence of Vision, which is exactly the sort of thing that might escape standard critical bibliographies (and which did in fact escape the attention of the Schlobin-Tymn's "Year's Scholarship" for 1978).

Finally, the book is a wonderful informal reference for those of us who like to speculate on trends and formulas. One can get a quick picture of which stories and authors seem to be enjoying a bull market, and which are not. It is distressing to note that an author as inventive as David Bunch virtually disappeared from anthologies during this period, with only one book containing any of his work, while an old warhorse like Murray Leinster's "First Contact" gets anthologized another seven times. (Even Eando Binder shows up with five appearances.) At the same time, it is oddly reassuring to see that some old formulas never change: I once speculated that "The Man Who..." was probably one of the most repeated formulas in SF titles, and it delighted me to be able to count no less than 57 story titles in Contento which begin with exactly these words.

H.W. Hall's Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Review Index, 1980-1984 is his third such outing in this area (the first two volumes covered 1923-73 and 1974-79), and it indexes some 13,820 reviews published during this period. What gives this volume unusual interest, however, is a "Research Index" compiled by Geraldine R. Hutchins which lists and then attempts to index by subject some 4,700 books and articles on SF&F. The Research Index, in fact, takes up more than half the volume.

In the book review section, it is important to note that the cutoff period refers to the dates the reviews appeared, not the dates of the texts being reviewed, and that the entire index seems to be generated from the reviews rather than from the texts (in other words, Hall includes only those reviews which appeared in sources being surveyed, rather than beginning with each text and trying to locate all relevant reviews). This has the advantage of including in this volume late-appearing reviews of pre-1980 books, but it has the disadvantage of giving misleadingly truncated entries for films (it's impossible to believe that two Newsweek articles are all that appeared on E.T. during this period) and for books widely reviewed in the mainstream (Kafka's Complete Stories and Eco's The Name of the Rose show up with one review each). It also leads to some oddly irrelevant entries, included only because someone in an SF magazine decided to mention them--why else would we have an entry for Leonard Maltin's guide to movies on TV? Since films, at least, are also covered in the Research Index--usually far more completely--one questions the value of having films in the review section at all. It is, however, extremely helpful to have non-fiction books about SF&F included in the reviews, and to have reprints of older books included as well. Some magazines are also included as source texts.

There are, inevitably in a book of this scope, some errors, typos, and omissions among the reviews. Perhaps because of his late admission of authorship, Stephen King's Richard Bachman books are listed under Bachman but not under King. Michael Bishop's A Funeral for the Eyes of Fire is listed as Eyes of Fire. Clarke's 2010 is dated 1984 rather than 1982. Mircea Eliade comes out "Marcea" and Erle Stanley Gardner as "Earle." An entry for George Lucas (Art of Return of the Jedi) cross-references you to an entry on "Lawrence Kaskan," which is probably supposed to be Kasdan, but there's no such entry anyway and the actual citation is under Art of.... A review (of a Hazel Pierce book) by Brian Attebery is misattributed to me, as are two novels by Gary K. Wolf, who (for the last time, for heaven's sake!) spells his name without the "e." In general, however, the review section of the Hall volume is as valuable a resource as it has been since the project began.

The Research Index is also of unquestionable value to the researcher, but it creates a number of problems for itself. It is divided into two parts, an alphabetical listing of books and articles by author and a subject index using "a controlled vocabulary set of over 300 subject headings to provide standard access to the major search terms used in the field" (p. xiii). I think the "controlled vocabulary" isn't as controlled as it might be, but more about that shortly.

According to the Introduction, the Research Index covers primarily works from 1980 to 1984, but actually has no cutoff dates; presumably the long-term goal is to amass a complete listing and indexing of critical, historical, and biographical material about SF&F. The sheer ambition of such a goal is impressive, and one ought therefore to be patient with what in many ways is an early draft. In fact, coverage of pre-1980 texts is extremely spotty, including, for example, two of James Gunn's 1953 articles from Dynamic Science Fiction but excluding the other two for no apparent reason. Several citations appear twice, often in the same entry; this is true of pieces by William Sims Bainbridge, Janice Bogstad, Frank Cioffi, Leslie Fiedler, Donald Hassler, and myself. Algis Budrys' review column is not indexed, and his essay "Literatures of Milieux" is cited only from The Missouri Review rather than its more accessible appearance in Foundation. Thomas Clareson's Voices for the Future, Volume 3 is not listed, but individual essays from it are. Richard Erlich is erroneously listed as sole editor of Clockwork Worlds. David Hartwell's Age of Wonders is listed in the review section, but not here. There are two entries for the fanzine serialization of Sam Moskowitz's The Immortal Storm, but the book itself is omitted. There are some mysterious inclusions, such as a cryptic article about an unnamed SF writer from the Texas A&M student newspaper, and as many mysterious omissions. A 1934 unpublished master's thesis on lunar voyages is included, but Marjorie Hope Nicolson's standard work on the subject is not. Perhaps such things can be corrected as the work is revised through later editions.

The subject index section seems to reveal more basic conceptual problems as well as continuing the spottiness of citations. It would be far too much to expect annotations here, I suppose, but adequate cross-referencing seems essential if that "controlled vocabulary" is going to stay under control. Why is there an entry on "Aliens" and then separate entries (with only one citation between them) on "Alien Fauna" and "Alien Flora"? An entry on "Natural Disasters" simply repeats one citation from the entry on "Catastrophes," but doesn't cross-reference to the earlier, more complete entry. Nor does the entry on "Nuclear War." (Warren Wagar's important study, Terminal Visions, is not mentioned in any of these, although it's indexed in the review section.) Brian Attebery's The Fantasy Tradition in American Literature is indexed under "Fantasy," but if you look up the entry "History of Fantasy" you won't find it. Both this section and the "History of SF" section should be subsets of these main entries. Another entry altogether--"History and Criticism"--mysteriously includes only foreign-language titles, while yet another called "Criticism" suffers from chaotic alphabetizing of the citations, starting over at least three times and alphabetizing articles beginning with "The" under "T."

Half of the entries under "Horror Fiction" are items on horror films, but the later entry "Motion Pictures--Horror" includes only one of these. Similarly, most of the entries under "Music" are on film music, but only one entry is listed under "Motion Pictures--Music." There is no subheading for "Motion Pictures--Special Effects," but there is a lengthy main entry later on--not cross-referenced anywhere--called "Special Effects." The film coverage is in general a mess. The Search for Spock contains three items not listed under a separate (and not cross-referenced) heading for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. Return of the Jedi shows up again as Revenge of the Jedi and as Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (none of these, by the way, includes a citation of Art of Return of the Jedi, which created such problems back in the reviews section).

If you want to be sure you're getting all the entries on, say, a given SF magazine, you'd have to look under "Magazines," "Magazines--Indexes," "Indexes," "Reference," and the magazine's title. (Again, none of these are cross-referenced.) A similar confusion surrounds women, homosexuality, sex in SF, sex discrimination, sex-roles, sex stereotypes, and sexism--all of which have their own isolated entries. An entry on "Interviews" lists only one title, although dozens more interviews and interview collections are cited elsewhere. To check out "Alternate History," you also have to check "Parallel Worlds"; to check out "Politics," you also have to look up "Ideology." A master list of subject-index terms--such as Peter Nicholls provided in The Science Fiction Encyclopedia--would alleviate this somewhat, but a better method would be to agree upon some standard terms and provide cross-referencing where needed.

Nor have I begun to list the omissions and inconsistencies within the entries themselves. Joseph Olander and Martin Greenberg's collection of essays on Le Guin, cited in the review section, is not included under "Le Guin" in the Research Index. A heading on "Conventions" omits all the convention reports in Locus, although Locus is allegedly one of the magazines covered. A series of entries on "Surveys" ("Survey--1980," etc.) is wildly inconsistent; the Locus survey one year, the Fantasy Annual survey another, the Nebula anthology survey-essay yet another--even though each of these should be included for each year. As in many reference books of this kind, there is little attempt to include topics covered in book-length studies; Mark Rose's Alien Encounters, for example, includes significant discussions of Lem but is not cited under Lem, and it has an important chapter on machines in SF which is not mentioned under "Machines in SF"--a heading which, by the way, includes only four citations, one each to the Thomas Dunn/Richard Erlich Greenwood Press anthologies on this topic and, redundantly, two more on single essays from these volumes.

While all this may seem picayune given the ambition of the Hall/Hutchins volume (although my notes of such items are far from exhausted), it is enough to suggest that one cannot rely on the Research Index alone for topical coverage of criticism--I would suggest at least consulting the "Year's Scholarship" features in Extrapolation as well--and it may even suggest that subject indexing may require too much familiarity with the content of specific texts to lend itself well to library methodologies. It implies, after all, constructing a kind of motif-index of the field, and that is a much more complex critical act than indexing book reviews. I don't mean by this to denigrate the considerable effort that went into making the index or to question the considerable contributions library science has made to making work in our field more accessible. I do suggest, however, that such an effort will have to be considerably tightened up, cross-referenced, and made more rigorous if its value as a scholarly tool is to outweigh the dangers of misdirection and incompleteness.

The Cottrill-Waugh-Greenberg Science Fiction and Fantasy Series and Sequels is an example of the sort of reference book apt to be of more interest to collectors than to scholars. Most standard reference books and bibliographies in the field give at least some indication of which books are in series and which are sequels (or "prequels") to others, and thus the value of a book devoted exclusively to such listings, without annotations, is somewhat limited. From the perspective of the sociology of the genre, it is certainly interesting to learn that there are over 140 Perry Rhodan titles or 33 "Dark Shadows" novels--and indeed it is in this region of the paraliterary that the book shows its greatest strengths; the long lists of Tom Swift or "Gor" titles even form a perverse kind of found poetry. Samuel Delany has suggested that the series may be the basic form of SF narratives, and this book provides much substance for that claim. Lacking much of an introduction, however, it doesn't really address the question of what constitutes a series and seems decidedly uncomfortable with series that are thematic rather than purely narrative. James Blish's After Such Knowledge is included, somewhat apologetically, but J.G. Ballard's thematically linked series of disaster novels isn't. Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos find their way in on the pretext that they derive from a common set of narrative assumptions, but Philip Jos Farmer's "Wold Newton" series, also based on a common premise, is nowhere mentioned. Similarly, in a section on series anthologies, a publishing gimmick such as binding two short novels together is included when Dell does it ("Binary Stars") but not when Ace does (Ace Doubles).

There are inevitably some ommisions, and some series which are incomplete simply because of the cutoff date for the book (Jean Auel's, for example). Octavia Butler's "Clayark" series and Edgar Pangborn's "Davy" series are omitted, as is Gregory Benford's duet of Matt Bohles novels (although Benford's first novel, Deeper than the Darkness, is inexplicably included as part of the series featuring Nigel Walmsley). Rod Serling's series of Twilight Zone collections is missing altogether, although Anthony Boucher's Treasury of Great Science Fiction is listed as a series simply because it was published in two volumes. (Equally strangely, the second edition of Dick Allen's Science Fiction: The Future is listed as a sequel to the first!) Sequels, in fact, are even more of a problem. There are some omissions, to be sure--John Myers, for one--but there are also unanswered questions as to what actually constitutes a sequel. Farmer's pastiche on L. Frank Baum is here, but not his pastiches on Edgar Rice Burroughs or Jules Verne. Should Brian Aldiss's treatments of themes and characters from Mary Shelley and H.G. Wells, or Anthony Burgess's to Orwell be included? Perhaps they aren't really sequels, but I would think that in a book such as this it is better to err on the side of inclusion rather than omission.

Finally, there are enough errors and odd judgments to suggest that the book, whatever its value as a compilation of lists, is not entirely to be trusted as a bibliographical source. Charles Eric Maine's Alph is not a sequel to World Without Men, but a rewriting of the earlier book. Jack Williamson is twice given credit for co-authoring Frederik Pohl's "Gateway" series. Doyle's The Poison Belt gets turned into The Poisoned Belt, making it sound more like Sherlock Holmes than Professor Challenger. "Quatermain" and "Quatermass" become "Quartermain" and "Quartermass." And what must be one of the oddest bibliographical phantoms to appear in any recent reference book results from the 1959 Arkham House volume The Shuttered Room and Other Pieces. This collection of pieces by and about Lovecraft, edited by August Derleth, lists the authors as "H.P. Lovecraft and Divers Hands." Sure enough, there on page 100 of Cottrill-Waugh-Greenberg, is an entry for "Hands, Divers" as a pseudonym for Derleth. He would have been proud.


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