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The Fantastic Editorials cover

The Fantastic Editorials by Ted White

(Ansible Editions, 2023)

Reviewed by Graham Andrews

Roughly speaking, Fantastic was to Amazing what Unknown was to Astounding, what Beyond was to Galaxy, and Science Fantasy was to New Worlds. It should be said that I rather preferred the science-fantasy magazines to their more respectable companion magazines, although a certain amount of overlap did occur. Hence my predilection for F & SF… but I digress.

Abstracted from Ted White’s fortuitously quotable Foreword: “I became the editor of Fantastic and Amazing in October 1968 [publisher: Sol Cohen]. I left them in October 1978. But they were bottom feeders then, with little if any remaining reputations. I had to build them back up. I began by convincing Sol to push the reprints down to a single ‘classic’ story. Suddenly we were in business, with over 90% of our fiction brand new. Within a couple of years, the last reprint was gone.” And “build them back up” he slowly and surely did, both magazines being duly nominated for Hugo awards. Brian Aldiss’s Frankenstein Unbound (a two-part serial in Fantastic: March–May 1974) was deservedly short-listed for the Booker Prize, but undeservedly didn’t win. Ditto Will-O-the-Wisp (September 1974), by Thomas Burnett Swann—“a pleasure to read and a delight for me to publish.” The list of classic short and long fantasy fiction, by the likes of Michael Moorcock and Jack Vance, would reach from There to Back Again.

As with the Amazing companion volume, White has included some of his most inciteful (sic) book reviews. For example: “I think I could make a good case that Roger Zelazny is a god” (Isle of the Dead); “From a lesser writer I would expect no more. From the author of A Wizard of Earthsea I expected much more” (The Tombs of Atuan). But it’s high time that I discussed his editorials for Fantastic, which are of paramount importance here. “It seems to me that communication is the real point of an editorial. It is the soap box from which the editor introduces his issue, remarks upon that which strikes him as pertinent, and opens up the rest of the magazine to his readers. We are miles apart in space and months apart in time [you and I] but this issue of Fantastic, like each issue, is our common experience. Through it, we meet. This meeting is, I think, what a magazine is all about, and what distinguishes it from the average anthology of short stories in book form” (February 1970).

White maintained that his editorials for Fantastic were not (quote) designed to be neat, capsulized essays, or formal articles which might appear in another magazine altogether (unquote). Which is not to say that several op-ed pieces didn’t appear over the years. For example, the Charles Manson murders (August 1970) and the declining U.S. Postal Service (February 1973). But one constant factor predominated. “Sf fandom exists because sf readers are above average in intelligence and verbal orientation—and thus eager to share their thoughts and enthusiasms [in fanzines]. Reflecting this fact, we have launched a new feature this issue [August 1969], Fantasy Fandom, and I think its introduction will make its function clear.” Ditto the regular According to You letter column, which was generally swamped with mail. He personally read every letter that came in, both pro and con. His derogatory views on Star Trek and Star Wars went down like the proverbial fart in a spacesuit with some diehard fans. On the scholarly monograph front, Alexei and Cory Panshin contributed many of the articles that later appeared in their SF in Dimension (1976) book-length study.

Dedication: “To the memory of Sol Cohen, who paid me pennies, but gave me free rein, which was priceless.” Ansible Editions publisher David Langford also deserves a hearty round of applause, plus all the free beer he can drink, for making these cogent editorials available to a wider readership. N.B. Ted White also edited The Best from Fantastic (Manor Books, 1973).

Review from BSFA Review 22 - Download your copy here.


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