The SF/F magazine field is shrinking, and that’s Not A Good Thing, IMO (in my opinion). Until 1985, when I moved from Washington State to Canada, the magazine racks in the supermarket carried Analog, Asimov’s, Amazing, F&SF and probably one or two more digest-sized ‘zines, plus Omni in the large format; we were on a cusp, where some old-timers, like Fantastic (Amazing’s sister magazine) had died a short while earlier, and some now long-running pro and semi-prozines had not yet begun publishing. Physical books were still big sellers, as there weren’t ebooks or ebook readers available yet. The markets for short stories in our genre(s) were mostly magazine markets and some original anthologies. The markets for SF/F artwork—artists like Frank Kelly Freas (Figure 1)—were also mostly magazines and paperbacks (with occasional hardcovers) for colour work; interior illos for magazines for b/w work. The writing was on the wall: the heyday of the SF/F magazine was past. Where in the 1950s there were dozens of small pro magazine markets, we were down to fewer than ten. Since I seldom get out to a bookstore, and our local markets don’t seem to carry SF/F magazines, I feel really cut off.
In 1952, James L. Quinn, owner of Quinn Publishing, started a new magazine, edited (at first) by Paul W. Fairman. Fairman had written a number of detective stories, but published his first genre story, “No Teeth for the Tiger,” in the February, 1950 issue of Amazing! Two years later (and a novel and over a dozen short stories in various publications later as well), he turns up as the editor for IF, subtitled “Worlds of Science Fiction”—or possibly (if you look at the cover illustration, it could be “Worlds of IF Science Fiction,” although later issues, starting in November of that first year, said plainly “IF Worlds of Science Fiction” on the cover.) The first cover illustration was by Martin Key, an artist I’m not familiar with, and as far as I know, that was his first and last cover for IF, illustrating Howard Browne’s “novel” (actually, a novella) “Twelve Times Zero.” Obviously, in the 1950s, an artist wouldn’t be able to put a nude on the cover (it’s barely acceptable today, which is ridiculous, IMO), so the woman described is wearing a “Bettie Page-style” leopard print, but other changes between the story and illo are not really understandable; possibly the globular ship in the story was changed to a more conventional spaceship (the familiar “phallic” type), and the pistol went from being a .45 caliber (the familiar Colt automatic developed for jungle warfare in 1911 or so) to some variant of the Luger, apparently. There was no art director listed, so possibly the cover illo was arrived at from conversations between Fairman and Key.
The contents of the issue were as follows:
“Twelve Times Zero” by Howard Browne
“The Hell Ship” by Ray Palmer
“Bitter Victory” by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
“Black Eyes and the Daily Grind” by Milton Lesser
“Of Stegner’s Folly” by Richard S. Shaver
“Never Underestimate” by Theodore Sturgeon
“The Old Martians” by Rog Phillips
“The Stowaway” by Alvin Heiner
Editorial by Paul W. Fairman; Personalities in Science Fiction (about Wilson “Bob” Tucker)
Guest Editorial by Capt. K. F. Slater (editor of the British zine Operation Phantast)
Citation (about Tales of Tomorrow on ABC-TV)
Science Briefs by Charles Recour (the article about Architecture of the year 2000 is kind of fun) and
“The Postman Cometh,” asking for letters from readers.
A contest for the best letter, which awarded three original manuscripts, produced two “names” which are now pretty familiar to fans of my generation: Terry Carr and Tom Reamy (both of whom, alas, have now departed this vale of tears).
The fiction in IF—not just this issue, but most of them—ranges from excellent to blah. Although Fairman starts off with the now-infamous Ray Palmer and his friend Richard S. Shaver (The “Shaver Mystery” guy), the magazine eventually, through its run, featured fiction by most of the “big names” of SF (Palmer and Shaver were audience draws at that time), and art by many of the SF art Big Names.
The lead “Novel”—by Howard Brown, who was at that time the editor of Amazing, has a somewhat tricky ending; however, Fairman, the editor, basically weakened it by his editorial saying that IF wasn’t going to always have happy endings. Spoilers, anyone? It’s an SF story involving an old-style cop, the kind with a cigar in the corner of his mouth and a ready .45 automatic. The Palmer and Shaver stories are not in any way that I can think of related to the so-called “Shaver Mystery”; they’re mediocre SF with things that we now know are scientifically impossible. But if you ignore the science, they’re conventionally exciting SF of the ‘50s; in fact, none of the fiction I’ve read in this magazine (though I haven’t finished reading the whole run yet) is great fiction by today’s standards; but there are many stories that wouldn’t be out of place in an SF magazine of today. The Miller story in this issue is not of the quality of his most famous work (A Canticle for Liebowitz), but is readable; and the Sturgeon has been anthologized numerous times; the rest of the stories are so-so. In the light of history, “The Stowaway” is kind of funny. Fairman remained editor for the next three issues; Quinn himself took over editorial duties with the November 1952 issue, and hired Henry Becker as Art Director, though Becker didn’t last very long. With that issue, Quinn began crediting interior art as well as covers. (Fairman, incidentally, later became editor of Amazing!)
At least to begin with, the covers and interior art are somewhat hit-and-miss; when Kenneth Fagg (whom I know of through his covers for the Winston series of Juvenile SF—see my column #41, Mar. 28, 2014) became the cover artist—especially after Ed Valigursky came on board as “Art Director”—during his tenure his title ranged from “Art Director” to “Staff Artist”—the covers improved markedly. Fagg’s work ranged from the simple, cartoony (as in Popular Science illustrations) cover to detailed SF work. Fagg’s first IF cover was the March 1953 illustration for “Landing on Deimus” (sic); he did all the covers until April 1954, and a number thereafter. Valigursky did his own first cover on the May, 1954 issue; later we find artists like Kelly Freas (Figure 3), whose first IF cover was the June 1955 issue. (Laura Brodian Freas, Kelly’s widow, confirmed for me that Kelly would get somewhere around $200-300 per cover in the early 1950s, rising to $2000 per by the late 1990s. Of course, in 1954, $300 went a heck of a lot farther!) Freas, along with such artists as Virgil Finlay, did many interiors in the 1950s as well; I fully expect, as I get farther into the series—IF ceased publication in 1974—to find more of those artists doing both covers and interior art.
For those who are interested, there is a complete run of IF available at https://archive.org/details/ifmagazine. I’m assuming, since this is the internet’s magazine archive, that the copyright issues have been worked out before posting. If you’re looking to read some of the “good old stuff,” this is a terrific freebie (there are also incomplete runs of other SF magazines at that URL, I understand).
DEPT. OF RANDOM THINGS: There’s another NaNoWriMo “Sci-Fi and Fantasy” Storybundle available; for the usual small payment of $3 minimum, I think, you can get three or four recent NaNoWriMo books; if you pay enough, like $10, you get four bonus books. It’s a good deal! https://storybundle.com/nano. Joe-Bob says “Check it out!”
DEPT. OF RANDOM THINGS (2): Hey newer writer dudes, dudettes and all between—confused about the various things you can buy that will “help you become a published writer”? Well, if you’re not familiar with Chuck Wendig, maybe you need to read this particular column: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2016/03/02/how-much-should-writers-pay-to-be-published/
PERSONAL PLUG DEPARTMENT: As you know, I like to plug my wife’s accomplishments—you know, the Beautiful and Talented Lynne Taylor Fahnestalk—and this week, she’s featured in the local print magazine Where Vancouver! The specific page is not linkable, since it’s a print magazine, but you can look at the Where Vancouver Facebook page and maybe see it there.
I’d like to see your comments on this column, good or bad. Sometimes after a couple of weeks without a comment, the silence is deafening, so please let me know what you think of it (the column, the subject, my writing, whatever). You can also comment on my Facebook page, or in the several Facebook groups where I publish a link to this column. Your comments are all welcome—and don’t feel you have to agree with me to post one. My opinion is, as always, my own, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Amazing Stories or its owners, editors, publishers or other bloggers. See you next week!
Editor’s Note: I’ve taken the liberty of appending a screen grab of the Citation regarding the TV show Tales of Tomorrow below. A handful of individual episodes of the show are also available for viewing on the Internet Archive. But of greater importance, I think, is the sensibility expressed regarding the translation of literature to the small screen.