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Reviews Of Old Science Fiction Magazines Special: Looking at my bookshelf I see that I've read about half of the old science fiction magazines I got back in May 2008, even though I didn't review all of them. So here is a bonus middle-of-the-project review of a book my mother gave me for my birthday in 2001 but which I never read until today.

It's The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction, Eighth Series, published in 1959 (not 1957, as I said earlier). It's a best-of anthology from F&SF, edited by founding editor Anthony Boucher, and it's full of big names. And sexism.

Both the big names and the sexism are front-loaded. Here are capsule reviews of all the big stories in the anthology. There are some tiny stories and poems as well, but they're generally only as short as they need to be to convey a horrible pun, so I'm not gonna review them.

In general, the best stories are by the non-big names.

Grant, Grant, Grant: Aha! I found the Grant story mentioned in the previous entry, by searching for "General Grant" on Project Gutenberg. It's from Donald Ogden Stewart's 1921 "A Parody Outline of History", featuring vignettes from American history "as they would be narrated by America's most characteristic contemporary authors."

"How Love Came to General Grant" parodies the self-bowlderizing style of Harold Bell Wright. This HBW website says that "readers quickly recognize which characters are intended to be models for good behavior, and which are symbols of evil," as you can tell from scrupulously accurate passages like this:

"Madam," said he, turning to Mrs. van der Griff, "Am I to understand that there is liquor in those glasses?"

"Why yes, General," said the hostess smiling uneasily. "It is just a little champagne wine."

"Madam," said the general, "It may be 'just champagne wine' to you, but 'just champagne wine' has ruined many a poor fellow and to me all alcoholic beverages are an abomination. I cannot consent, madam, to remain under your roof if they are to be served. I have never taken a drop--I have tried to stamp it out of the army, and I owe it to my soldiers to decline to be a guest at a house where wine and liquor are served."

Wright and half of the other parodied authors are completely forgotten today, but the parodies are still funny, because they parody types of writing that are recognizable and/or immortal. Here's the beginning of the first chapter. Who cares who it's parodying, it's hilarious:

On a memorable evening in the year 1904 I witnessed the opening performance of Maude Adams in "Peter Pan". Nothing in the world can describe the tremendous enthusiasm of that night! I shall never forget the moment when Peter came to the front of the stage and asked the audience if we believed in fairies. I am happy to say that I was actually the first to respond. Leaping at once out of my seat, I shouted "Yes--Yes!" To my intense pleasure the whole house almost instantly followed my example, with the exception of one man. This man was sitting directly in front of me. His lack of enthusiasm was to me incredible. I pounded him on the back and shouted, "Great God, man, are you alive! Wake up! Hurrah for the fairies! Hurrah!" Finally he uttered a rather feeble "Hurrah!" Childe Roland to the dark tower came.

That was my first meeting with that admirable statesman Woodrow Wilson, and I am happy to state that from that night we became firm friends...

The non-forgotten authors include F. Scott Fitzgerald and Eugene O'Neill. I still have no idea how I came to read the Grant vignette from this book in the first place.


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