Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, January 16, 2015


The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Volume 1, Number 2 (Winter-Spring 1950) edited by Anthony Boucher and J. F. McComas

For over 65 years, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction has been providing top-notch, stimulating reading.  With a new editor, Charles Coleman Finley, coming on board, I though I'd take a look back at the magazine in its early stages.

The magazine began with a slightly different title -- The Magazine of Fantasy -- in Fall 1947.  Editors Boucher and McComas wanted to put a fantasy magazine that would do for the genre what Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine was doing for the mystery genre, providing a literate platform for the best of the old and new short fiction.  Taking EQMM as a model, the editors convinced publisher Lawrence Spivak to put out an exploratory issue.  It wasn't long before that issue was enough of a success to make F&SF a regular periodical.

The second issue of the magazine expanded its title to its full (and still current) one.  One look at the George Salter cover and you knew this was not your run of the mill science fiction magazine.  Helming a magazine with two editors of equal rank can be daunting, but Boucher and McComas (both of whom were eminently qualified) handled it well.  During their joint tenure as editors, the two agreed to agree on every story published, while each provided kindly and spot-on advice to contributors on how to improve their stories.  (For an interesting look behind the scenes, I recommend The Eureka Years edited by Annette McComas [1982] which includes numerous letter to authors from Boucher and McComas as it traces the early years of the magazine.)

Here's the lineup for the Winter-Spring 1950 issue:

  • "The Gnurrs Come from the Voodvork Out" by R. Bretnor (the first Papa Schimmelhorn story)
  • "The Return of the Gods" by Robert M. Coates (reprinted from The New Yorker, December 11, 1948)
  • "Every Work Into Judgement" by Kris Neville
  • "Time, Real and Imaginary" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (a short poem first published in 1803)
  • "A Rope for Lucifer" by Walt Sheldon
  • "The Last Generation" by Miriam Allen deFord
  • "Postpaid to Paradise" by Robert Arthur (a Murchison Morks story reprinted from Argosy, June 15, 1940)
  • "The Exiles" by Ray Bradbury (reprinted from Mclean's, September 15, 1949 where it appeared as "The Mad Wizards of Mars")
  • "My Astral Body" by Anthony Hope (reprinted from Sport Royal [Holt, 1895])
  • "Gavagan's Bar" by L. Sprague de Camp & Fletcher Pratt (an umbrella title covering the first two short stories in the series, "Elephas Frumenti" and "The Gift of God")
  • "The World of Arlesia" by Margaret St. Clair
  • "The Volcanic Valve" by W. L. Alden (a Van Wagener story reprinted from Alden's Told by the Colonel [J. S. Tait & Sons, 1893])
  • "Not With a Bang" by Damon Knight
Two absolute classics, the start of two popular series, a reprint from another popular series, two stories by significant female authors in the field, an early story from Kris Neville, a story from an author noted for his westerns, a story from a contemporary mainstream author, a bit of whimsy from the author of The Prisoner of Zenda, more whimsy from a well-known 19th century journalist, and a poem from one of the great poets...all packed into 132 digest-sized pages and all for 35 cents.

Also included is the "Recommended Reading" column by the editors.  For its initial appearance, the column listed some of the best books published or reprinted in 1949.  In fiction:  What Mad Universe? by Fredric Brown, Fires Burn Blue by Sir Andrew Caldecott, The Best Science fiction Stories 1949 edited by E. F. Bleiler & T. E. Dikty, Honey for the Ghost by Louis Golding, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg, The Ghostly Tales of Henry James edited by Leon Edel, Without Sorcery by Theodore Sturgeon, and The World Below by S. Fowler Wright.  In non-fiction:  The Conquest of Space by Chesley Bonestell & Willy Ley, An Experiment in Time by J. W. Dunne, The History of Magic by Eliphas Levi and translated by Arthur Edward Waite, Gallery of Ghosts by James Reynolds, and Life on Other Worlds by H. Spencer-Jones.  1949 was a good  year for SF fans.

Things have changed over 65 years and this issue may seem a little stodgy to current readers.  For me, however, the entire issue sparkled with grace, wit, and intelligence.

Check it out for yourself.  This issue (as well as some other early issues) is available on-line at Internet Archive.


  1. Those de Camp and Pratt stories were later collected into the volume titled Gavagan's Bar, published in hardcover by Twayne Publishers in 1953. I have the expanded edition retaining the original illustrations was published by Owlswick Press in 1978. There is currently an e-book version.

  2. Oops, the correct title is TALES FROM GAVAGAN'S BAR.

  3. sigh. my laboriously one-hand-typed comment eaten by stupid blogspot...later...