Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Fantastic [magazine]

US digest Magazine, companion to Amazing Stories (> SFE link below), 208 issues Summer 1952-October 1980, published by Ziff-Davis, New York, until June 1965, thereafter by Ultimate Publishing, New York; ed Howard Browne (1908-1999) Summer 1952-August 1956, Paul W Fairman (1916-1977) October 1956-November 1958, Cele Goldsmith (1933-2002) December 1958-June 1965 (as Cele G Lalli from July 1964), Joseph Ross (real name Joseph Wrzos; 1929-    ) September 1965-November 1967, Harry Harrison (1925-2012) (January-October 1968), Barry N Malzberg (1939-    ) (December 1968-April 1969), Ted White (1938-    ) (June 1969-January 1979), Elinor Mavor (1936-    ) April 1979-October 1980 (initially under pseudonym Omar Gohagen). F was largely bimonthly but monthly February 1957-June 1965 and quarterly after 1976. It also underwent minor title changes, including Fantastic Science Fiction (April 1955-September 1960) and Fantastic Stories during Ultimate's regime, though it was always registered as F. It should not be confused with the large format Fantastic Science Fiction (2 issues August-December 1952) ed Walter B Gibson.

F was launched to cash in on the wider interest fantastic fiction had gained by the early 1950s. Browne was more interested in fantasy than sf, and believed he could produce a magazine to rival the slicks, especially The New Yorker and The Saturday Evening Post; unsurprisingly, some of the contents may be classified as Slick Fantasy, especially contributions by Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Horace L Gold and Kris Neville (1925-1980). Browne presented new and reprint material by Truman Capote (1924-1984), Raymond Chandler (1888-1959), Shirley Jackson, B Traven (real name Otto Feige; 1882-1969), Cornell Woolrich (1903-1968) and Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966), aiming to capture a wider market, but the core was Supernatural Fiction by, e.g., Anthony Boucher, Fritz Leiber, Richard Matheson and particularly Theodore Sturgeon. There was a UK edition during this period from Strato Publications (8 undated issues December 1953-February 1955).

By 1955 the budget had been cut and F's quality plummeted. Browne remained editor but left the task largely to Paul Fairman, who was also one of the major pseudonymous contributors. Although most of the stories were hackwork, with the emphasis on sf and humorous fantasy, the fertile minds of a new generation of writers, especially Harlan Ellison, Randall Garrett, Milton Lesser (1928-2008) and Robert Silverberg, allowed for some ingenuity of concept if not of treatment. Several issues covered Dream fantasies and wish-fulfilment, resulting in a short-lived companion Dream World (3 issues February-August 1957).

F began to regain some of its former glory under Cele Goldsmith, especially with the November 1959 issue, which was dedicated to Fritz Leiber and saw the revival of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. Their popularity made F a focus for stories of Sword and Sorcery, including imitative material by John Jakes and Michael Moorcock, although the strength of F in the early 1960s lay in the diversity of its fiction. It was this freedom that encouraged the emergence of Piers Anthony, Thomas M Disch, Ursula K Le Guin, Norman Spinrad (1940-    ) and Roger Zelazny (whose Dilvish stories first appeared here).

In the period 1960-1965 F was the premier fantasy magazine; apart from the UK Science Fantasy it was almost a single voice. It published idiosyncratic stories by J G Ballard, Neal Barrett Jr (1929-2014), Rosel George Brown (1926-1967), Philip K Dick (1928-1982), Daniel F Galouye (1920-1976), Randall Garrett, Ron Goulart, Arthur Porges (1915-2006) and Jack Sharkey (1931-1992), few of which would have appeared elsewhere. Some stories were affected by the paranoia of the Cold War, and explored the realities hidden behind the façade of life, but others were just effervescent romps enjoying the chance to broaden the boundaries of fantasy and supernatural fiction.

During 1965-1970, however, under Ultimate's regime, F was a reprint magazine, which included some good stories from its early days and from Fantastic Adventures, but also much weak material. Gradually these stories were siphoned off into other all-reprint magazines, of which Science Fantasy (4 issues [Summer] 1970-Spring 1971; #1 published as Science Fantasy Yearbook), Strange Fantasy (6 issues Spring 1969-Fall 1970, though numbered #8-#13 as it continued from another reprint title, Science Fiction Classics), The Strangest Stories Ever Told (1 issue Summer 1970) and Weird Mystery (4 issues Fall 1970-Summer 1971) drew their contents from Fantastic Adventures and F. This allowed F to return to publishing new material, and under Ted White the magazine again blossomed. Although it slanted itself strongly towards S&S, especially with new Conan stories by L Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter, and Carter's own Thongor series, F's poor distribution meant it never benefited from the upsurge of interest in this general subgenre during the 1970s. F also featured much fantasy and supernatural fiction in the style of Unknown, especially in the works of Juanita Coulson, Avram Davidson, de Camp, Marvin Kaye, Keith Laumer (1925-1993) and Thomas Burnett Swann, and was also strong in off-trail stories, notably those by Grant Carrington (1938-    ), Geo Alec Effinger (1947-    ), Gordon Eklund (1945-    ) and Richard Lupoff (1935-    ). This period gave rise to another brief companion publication, Sword & Sorcery Annual (1 issue 1975). During this period F was at an artistic height, especially with its covers, by Stephen Fabian (1930-    ), Jeff Jones and Esteban Maroto.

After White's resignation F returned to reprints, and though for a few issues there was a sign of recovery, with good fantasies by Marvin Kaye, Darrell Schweitzer and Wayne Wightman (1946-    ), finances forced F's merger with Amazing Stories. The title remained on the masthead for some years, and Amazing began to publish a high quota of fantasy, but the aura and image of the old F were gone. The Best from Fantastic (anth 1973) ed Ted White and Fantastic Stories: Tales of the Weird and Wondrous (anth 1987) ed Martin H Greenberg and Patrick Lucien Price are good, but not representative. [MA]

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This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.