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The Digest Enthusiast

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Brian Aldiss’ Hothouse No. 2

F&SF April 1961The second part of Brian Aldiss’ Hothouse saga appeared in Fantasy and Science Fiction (April 1961).

Contents
Evelyn E. Smith “Softly While You’re Sleeping”
Harold Calin “The Hills of Lodan”
Anne McCaffrey “The Ship Who Sang” (Brainship)
Robert Graves “Dead Man’s Bottles”
Kit Reed “Judas Bomb”
Grendel Briarton “Through Time and Space with Ferdinand Feghoot: XXXVIII”
Isaac Asimov: Science: My Built-In Doubter
Nils Peterson “Cosmic Sex and You”
Richard Banks “Daddy’s People”
Doris Pitkin Buck “On Hearing Another Report of Little Green Men from . . .” (verse)
Brian W. Aldiss “Nomansland” (Hothouse No. 2)

Cover by Ed Emshwiller

Contents from Galactic Central

An excerpt from Joe Wehrle, Jr.’s review of the Hothouse series, from The Digest Enthusiast book six:

“In ‘Nomansland’ (April 1961), the second part of the saga, we’re shown even more richness and multiplicity of the plant world. Toy is now nominal leader of the group since Lily-yo and the other elders have “Gone Up” but Gren is beginning to assert himself as a rebel, unwilling to submit to a leader. Oldest of the males, it is tabu for any of the females to touch him except during the courtship season.”

Opening Lines

International Science Fiction #1 coverSelected from a digest featured in The Digest Enthusiast book six:

“Do you remember the year the Acme Publishing Corporation published in installments Witchcraft for Beginners? I do, and very well too, because it was the year my brother disappeared.”
–“Witchcraft for Beginners” by F.C. Gozzini International Science Fiction Nov 1967

Edd Vick and Manny Frishberg

Analog Jul/Aug 2015Excerpt from the Edd Vick interview, conducted by D. Blake Werts, for The Digest Enthusiast book six:

“He [Manny Frishberg] and I are in the same writing group, Sound on Paper. We meet once a month to critique stories each of us has written in the meantime, be they novels or flash, or whatever—even nonfiction occasionally. A few years ago Manny and I started getting together once a week to write stories. In three years we wrote sixteen stories, and sold half of them. That includes two sales to Analog, the biggest magazine in the field.”

“Tenéré” by Manny Frishberg and Edd Vick, Analog May/Jun 2017, cover design by Victoria Green

“Ashfall” by Manny Frishberg and Edd Vick, Analog Jul/Aug 2015, cover by Tomislav Tikulin

B.K. Stevens’ Johnson & Bolt

AHMM June 1988
AHMM June 1988 (Johnson/Bolt #1) “True Detective” Cover by J. Rafal and Tom Olbinski

Excerpt from B.K. Stevens’ interview from The Digest Enthusiast book six:

TDE: How did the Lt. Johnson and Sgt. Bolt series develop, and why did you choose to tell the stories as letters?

BKS: Believe it or not, the premise for the Walt Johnson and Gordon Bolt series came to me in a dream. I’d been writing mysteries for two or three years, without coming up with anything publishable, when I woke up one morning with a vivid impression of a scene. Two police detectives are walking across the grounds of a large estate, talking. The first detective says, “It was a clever murder, wasn’t it?” The second replies, “Not so very clever—unless you mean
the part about the horse.” The first detective is utterly confused—it had never occurred to him that a horse might be involved. “What horse?” he demands. The second detective misinterprets his question and says, “Does it matter what horse? One from the stables, I suppose.”

That sliver of conversation defined the characters of Walt and Bolt, established the relationship between them, and set the pattern for every story in the series. Walt Johnson is a highly respected police lieutenant. Everyone, especially his adoring subordinate, Sergeant Gordon Bolt, sees him as a brilliant detective. But Walt is in fact a dim bulb, earnest and well-meaning but always in a fog. He blunders through his cases, missing every clue, blurting out clichés and irrelevant observations that reveal just how lost he is. Bolt, much smarter than Walt but far too humble, thinks Walt is a genius and seizes on everything he says, misinterpreting all his muddle-headed remarks as dazzling deductions. Bolt’s the true detective. He’s always the one who figures everything out, and Walt’s always the one who gets the credit. Walt feels guilty about it but lacks the courage to admit the truth to anyone, including Bolt. That’s the basic plot for all twelve Bolt and Walt stories.

As for the letter-writing form of the stories, I read several epistolary novels in graduate school, including Samuel Richardson’s Pamela and Clarissa—I didn’t love the novels, but I was intrigued by the form. (And I relished Henry Fielding’s epistolary parody of Richardson, Shamela.) I also read Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone, an early mystery and a variation on epistolary form, and I was struck by Jane Austen’s use of long letters in novels such as Pride and Prejudice. When I gobbled up Dorothy Sayers’ works, I liked her use of epistolary form in “The Documents in the Case,” a long short story she wrote with Robert Eustace. So when I cast about for a way to tell Walt’s story, epistolary form occurred to me as a possibility. Walt is plagued by guilt because he’s become a success by taking credit for Bolt’s accomplishments. He needs to confess, and to whom should he confess if not to his mother? In the third story in the series, “True Romance,” Walt’s widowed mother emerges from the letters when she pays Walt a long visit and wins the heart of Sergeant Bolt. That story is told in the form of a long letter from Walt to his ever-patient wife, Ellen. Of course, Walt has no idea that his mother and Bolt have fallen in love, just as he has no idea of what’s going on in the case he and Bolt are investigating; readers have all the evidence they need to realize the truest romance in “True Romance” is the blossoming one between Bolt and Mrs. Johnson, but Walt never suspects. All the other stories, as I recall, are written as letters from Walt to his mother—except that by the eleventh story, “True Test,” Walt has switched to e-mail, and breaks off suddenly when Ellen goes into labor with their second child. The final story, “True Enough,” is a letter Walt writes to his mother while she and Bolt are on their honeymoon.

B.K. Stevens bibliography

Edd Vick and The Daily Cabal

Excerpt from the Edd Vick interview, conducted by D. Blake Werts, from The Digest Enthusiast book six:

“In 2007, one of my Clarion mates, Rudi Dornemann, started a website to publish a new flash fiction story every weekday by a rotating set of authors. I think there were seven or eight of us to start; we added a few others in the following years. I wrote ninety stories for The Daily Cabal, some better than others, but it was a useful exercise in hitting deadlines because if I didn’t get a story in on time, we were in trouble. Well, practically speaking there would be somebody else’s story in the queue, but I’m happy it never came to that.

The Cabal never got enough traffic, so it died after a few years, but there were some damn good stories in it.

Edd Vick’s First Principles

Asimov’s Sep 2003
Asimov’s Sep 2003 with Edd Vick’s “First Principles” Cover by Michael Carroll

Excerpt from the Edd Vick interview, conducted by D. Blake Werts, from The Digest Enthusiast book six. This segment covers part of Edd’s path to going pro:

My first step was to dust off a couple of my old stories and submit them with an application to the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing Workshop, which I attended in 2002.

Clarion is a six-week course, with a new instructor every week. To get in, prospective students send in two stories and an application fee. The workshop’s coordinators read the stories, looking for students with potential, but also will rule out anybody whose stories are so good they probably wouldn’t get
as much out of Clarion. Accepted students pay their tuition, put their affairs in order, and escape the real world for a month and a half.

At the time, there was Clarion, and then there was Clarion West, which is in my home town of Seattle. My wife, who graduated Clarion West in 1984, said I should choose Clarion, because if I stayed in town I’d be too tempted to deal with mundane life, including helping parent our daughter, who was three at the time. So, I applied, I was accepted, and I went to the University of Michigan for six weeks.

Our instructors were Patricia Wrede, Terry Bisson, Leslie What, Geoff Ryman, the editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Tim Powers, and Karen Joy Fowler. That adds up to seven, and I said one instructor per week. Patrick was an extra added attraction for week five, and Tim and Karen shared the last two weeks. The first teacher or two cover the basics, and each succeeding one adds to the writer’s set of skills.

The day before I went to Clarion, I sent a story to Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine. I got a response accepting it from Gardner Dozois while I was there. That was for a fairly short story called “First Principles”.

Real digest

Real August 1969Excerpt from Tom Brinkmann’s article, “Sharon Tate’s Fate,” from The Digest Enthusiast book six:

Real, the digest, was published bi-monthly and edited by David Zentner (1917–2002) with Peter Wolff as associate editor and was a sold-at-the-checkout-counter type magazine aimed at a mainly female readership. Zentner was born in Shanghai and went to school in the UK; he was the publisher of fifties girlie magazines such as Bare, Keyhole, Topper, and Escapade; he was also the head of Bee-Line Books, an adult paperback imprint that published Real as well. In the seventies, Zentner published Velvet and its sister magazine Velvet Talks, as well as the adult digests Velvet Touch, Velvet’s Vibrations, and Velvet’s Sensuous Letters.

Tom Brinkmann writes about unusual, off-the-beaten-path magazines, digests, and tabloids. His Bad Mags website was active from June 2004–July 2017. His books, Bad Mags Volume 1 (2008) and Volume 2 (2009) are available from secondary outlets, including amazon.

AHMM or EQMM?

AHMM May/Jun 2018 coverIn May 2017, I asked author B.K. Stevens about the differences between Alfred Hitchcock’s and Ellery Queen’s mystery magazines. Here is her response from her interview that appears in The Digest Enthusiast book six:

“I don’t see sharp differences between the two digests—they’re both excellent mystery magazines, and I enjoy them both and have friends who write for each. Some people say AHMM is more open to stories with paranormal elements; I’ve never done a careful comparison, but that rings true. It hasn’t really been a consideration for me, though, since I didn’t write my first story with a paranormal element until recently. (It’s called “One-Day Pass,” and I’m happy to say AHMM accepted it a couple of months ago. But it’s an old-fashioned ghost story, rather than a story featuring trendier creatures such as zombies or shape-shifters—I think either magazine would be open to that sort of story.) It may also be that AHMM is more open to over-the-top humor, which I love. Again, though, I’ve never made a real comparison.”

Stevens’ “One-Day Pass” appears in the May/June 2018 edition of AHMM.

Digest Dolls

Image of box
Digest Dolls trading cards

An excerpt from review for The Digest Enthusiast book six:

In the early 1990s, Kitchen Sink Press called on award-winning novelist Max Allan Collins to research and write about classic cheesecake pin-ups for a series of three trading card sets. Each set of 36 cards is housed in its own full color, two-piece box featuring an image gleaned from the cards inside. The back of each card includes the results of Collins’ informative research.

Painted Ladies features pin-up calendar art from the 1940s and 1950s. Pocket Pin-Ups (see TDE4), presents a compact history of 1950s pocket-size magazine covers.

Digest Dolls card no. 1
Card No. 1

Collins’ introduces Digest Dolls (1993) on the back of card #1 (Tab w/Marilyn Monroe): “Throughout the 1950s and into the ’60s, digest-sized pin-up magazines provided their predominantly male readership with an endearingly tacky blend of pin-ups girls and tabloid journalism.” The women are posed in bikinis, negligees, or what have they—but never completely nude. The stories are Hollywood press releases, true crime reports, advice, and surveys—usually about sex.

Manhunt Detective Story Monthly

Manhunt No. 1 coverPeter Enfantino’s multipart review/synopses of Manhunt, kicking off with the Jan–Apr 1953 issues, begins in The Digest Enthusiast book six. Here’s an excerpt of his series:

Manhunt By the Numbers
14 years (1953–1967)
114 issues
500+ authors
1100+ stories
13,000+ pages
6,000,000+ words
countless writers influence

Some of the guilty parties: Robert Bloch, Gil Brewer, Leslie Charteris, Jonathan Craig, Harlan Ellison, David Goodis, Ed McBain (and all his aliases), John D. MacDonald, Richard Prather, Craig Rice, Mickey Spillane, Donald E. Westlake (and Richard Stark), Harry Whittington, and Charles Williams.

A collection in paperback, The Best from Manhunt, was published in 1958 by Perma Books.

There were thirteen editions of Giant Manhunt, four-issue collections of regular issues, rebound with the covers removed into Giants. Which four issues varies, the point was for the publisher to recycle returns and make some additional sales. AHMM also used this approach from 1957–1968, titled Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Sampler.

In the UK, stories from Manhunt were published by Tom Boardman as Bloodhound Detective Story Magazine for 14 issues from 1961–1962. In Australia, 13 editions of Manhunt Detective Story Magazine were published by New Century Press in a size larger than the US editions. The Australian run went from 1953–1954.