The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction #3, Summer 1950

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Fiction:
Friday, the Nineteenth • short story by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding ♥♥♥
Huge Beast • short story by Cleve Cartmill ♥♥♥
The Hat in the Hall • short story by Jack Iams ♥♥♥
The War Against the Moon • reprint short story by André Maurois
Dumb Supper • short story by Kris Neville [as by Henderson Starke ] ♥♥♥
Ounce of Prevention • short story by Paul A. Carter [as by Philip Carter ] ♥♥
The Case of Summerfield • reprint novelette by W. H. Rhodes ♥♥♥
Divine Right • short story by Betsy Curtis ♥♥
Born of Man and Woman • short story by Richard Matheson ♥♥♥+
Professor Pownall’s Oversight • reprint short story by H. Russell Wakefield [as by H. R. Wakefield ] ♥♥♥
Haunt • short story by A. Bertram Chandler ♥

Non-fiction:
Cover • George Salter
Death’s Jest-Book (excerpt) • reprint poem by Thomas Lovell Beddoes
Recommended Reading • essay by The Editors

There is another cover by George Salter for this third issue of F&SF of the same type as the last issue: I am not sure that the addition of a disembodied grey head looking up at the crotch of one of the stick figures adds anything.

This fiction in this issue opens with Friday, the Nineteenth by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding. In this a man and woman plan to have an affair but find themselves caught in a groundhog Friday the nineteenth. This turns out to have a mundane explanation in that (spoiler) the man appears to have had an accident and is in a coma. This probably makes it a mainstream story but I thought it fairly good in any event.

After this, the stories pretty much fall into three categories: there are some spooky stories, some SF ones, and the reprints.

Starting with the spooky stories, The Hat in the Hall by Jack Iams tells of the aftermath of a party and the woman next door saying they scared her dead husband away from visiting. The uncle of the husband provides some more information…
Kris Neville, writing under a pseudonym, serves Dumb Supper. This tells of a young woman who is new to the area at a social evening organised to welcome her. The other woman tell her a folk tale of ‘dumb suppers’ and convince her to make one so she can see the face of her husband to be. This is one of the things I like about F&SF: American folk tales turned into fiction.
The last of these is Haunt by A. Bertram Chandler. This is about a writer getting involved with a medium who (spoiler) channels a ghost from the future, the ghost of a machine, in this case a spaceship. Bit of a damp squib.

Chandler’s story leads neatly onto the SF content in this issue. First up is Cleve Cartmill, who makes a second appearance in F&SF with Huge Beast. I enjoyed this story of an alien ‘Golen’ that appears in a scientist’s lab and requests he fabricate a weapon to help them stun the Huge Beasts on his planet. Knowing that humanity is at risk the scientist gives the impression he is cooperating. This plays with the conventions of SF with lines like:

The human race would win out in the end, of course, it always did. p.23

Light in tone, smart, and a twist end.

The next two stories are not so accomplished. Ounce of Prevention by Paul A. Carter is quite good for the most part, but this tale of the last man of Earth being sent back in time to save mankind rather fizzles out. Divine Right by Betsy Curtis is about how a tyrant king of another planet is brought down by a young boy who thinks his bicycle must be given as a tribute.
The final SF story is the classic by Richard Matheson, Born of Man and Woman. It tells of a couple who have a child-monster they keep in the cellar and its curiosity about what happens upstairs: other normal children playing, etc. The novelty of this at the time was, I suspect, the crude first person narration by the child—probably less obvious to modern SF readers, Flowers for Algernon, etc.—which is intensified by the description of his abusive treatment.

This day when it had light mother called me a retch. You retch she said. I saw in her eyes the anger. I wonder what it is a retch. p.108

When I first read this years ago I didn’t particularly appreciate it—due to a perceived abrupt ending perhaps—but I find now that the more I read it the better I like it.

There are three reprints in this issue. They are led off by The War Against the Moon, a reprint by André Maurois (Forum, 1927) that takes the form of a supposed excerpt from a larger work: Fragment of a Universal History, published by the University of C-mb–e, 1992. In the future five newspaper proprietors agree to hoax the public that there is a threat to humanity from the moon to stop another world war on Earth. Needless to say, when they attack what they think is an uninhabited moon… This is full of words like ‘telephotophone,’ and reads like something from the early days of Amazing—and not in a good way. What possessed the editors to reprint this I do not know.
I was gearing up to vent about the editors’ poor taste in reprints generally at the beginning of The Case of Summerfield, a novelette by W. H. Rhodes (the first part of which was published in the The Sacramento Union in 1871!) This gets off to a slow start but improves as it goes along. A man called Summerfield has developed a substance that can start a chain reaction in water and threatens to ignite the world’s oceans unless a huge sum of money is paid to him. I particularly liked the way that it segues into letters, depositions, etc. at the end.
The final reprint is Professor Pownall’s Oversight by H. Russell Wakefield (They Return at Evening, 1928). This is a good fantasy story about the rivalry between two chess players that leads to murder and beyond. It has a very readable style for a story of that period, as compared to the Maurois above.1

Other items in the magazine include the Recommended Reading column by the Editors, who cover about a dozen books. The layout is a bit weird though, with some book titles being used as section headings but others embedded in the various sections. There is a so-so poem by Thomas Lovell Beddoes, and a binder advertisement!2

An interesting issue, with several worthwhile stories.

  1. This reprint seemed to have encouraged Wakefield to start contributing to genre magazines. He had another story in F&SF in 1951 and others in Fantastic Universe and Weird Tales subsequently. Hitherto all his stories seem to have been published in hardback collections (I’m sure the stories had previous magazine publications but I couldn’t find any information on this apart from finding out that a couple of them appeared in The Harpers Monthly in 1930).
  2. I bought half-a-dozen or a dozen of these  cases years and years ago. Unfortunately, by the time I had enough spare money to order another set the company that manufactures them had changed the title design, which rather spoilt the effect. And then I decided I preferred looking at all the multicoloured spines anyway…

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