Friday, October 15, 2010

Forgotten Books: THE EUREKA YEARS -- Annette Peltz McComas, Editor

I'm at the Bouchercon, named for Anthony Boucher, so this book is particularly appropriate for today. Even though it's not crime-related, it's related to another of Boucher's interests and greatest accomplishments.

Okay, how did I miss this one when it came out in 1982? Well, there's the cover, for one thing. Not exactly the most exciting one I've seen today. And then there's the title. The Eureka Years. What the heck? If I ever saw the book, I just ignored it without a glance at the subtitle: "Boucher and McComas's Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction 1949-1954." That would have grabbed me. But I didn't see it.


However, I did read Bud Webster's Anthopology 101, in which there's a chapter devoted to this anthology. Here's what Webster says at one point: ". . . it is unique in that along with reprinting some the best stories to appear in the magazine from 1949 to 1954, when McComas left, it also reprints correspondence between the editors and authors of the stories.

"But that's not all! Included, at no extra cost, are an introduction by Theodore Sturgeon, a preface by Annette McComas, autobiographies by Boucher and Mic McComas, a short history of the magazine by Ms. McComas, poetry by Boucher and Randall Garrett, articles by Boucher and McComas, a recommended reading list, and a handful of other, less definable pieces."

So after I read that, how long was it before I was on Abebooks ordering a copy? If your guess is "under a minute," you win. And now I have it in hand. What a great book. It wasn't expensive, and it's worth more than the cover price for the letters and connecting material in the history of how F&SF was born. If you like SF, the history of the field, short stories, writers, and all that other great stuff, you just can't go wrong with this book.

11 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

Thanks, Bill and hope you are having fun.

George said...

Wow! I've never heard of this book, either. I'm tracking down a copy now. Have fun at BOUCHERCON!

Todd Mason said...

Well, Bantam threw it onto the bookshelves and packaged it rather awkwardly (albeit that's a better cover than Doubleday gave nearly ANY of the BEST OF F&SFs...and the less said of the 1970s Ace covers for the paperbacks of those volumes, the better). The loving care with which they didn't care about the book is indicated by the (iirc) unpaginated table of contents. But it's a very good book to have, with the editorial correpsondence actually better reading than a few of the stories (it's not a best of). And I really should've dropped a line in my FFB just now about McComas co-founding F&SF, as should you, Bill...you get a slightly better sense of McComas's role with this book than with any other from the magazine, given how much more forceful a literary presence Boucher was.

But, really, guys, how'd you miss it?

Bill Crider said...

Definitely should have mentioned McComas, and it was his wife who put the book together. The letters are priceless. I'm sorry I missed this, but it's great to have it now.

BV Lawson said...

I wish more collections and anthologies would include correspondence between the editors and authors, although with e-mail and texts, I guess that's never going to happen these days. (You're more likely to find it piece-meal on blogs.) I'll have to track this one down for the hubster, who is particularly a sci-fi fiction fan.

Todd Mason said...

Clearly, I should've done this one as an FFB years ago...maybe when Jeff Segal stumbled across it about the time FFB was beginning, and had his doors blown off by it, too...ONCE AND FUTURE TALES, anyone?

Jerry House said...

My copy went walkabout a number of years ago, so recently I've been haunting the thrift stores trying to find a copy for a quarter or so. I'm afraid I'm going to have to go online and actually buy a copy at a fair price.

Bud Webster said...

I remember being steered to this title by someone on FidoNet lo, these many years ago. I had to use the 'Net to get a copy, as I'd never seen it on either the new or used shelves. It quickly became one of my favorites, and I was delighted when my then-new editor, Mark Kreighbaum at the SFWA BULLETIN, green-lighted it.

SteveHL said...

What I remember best about this (some twenty-five years after reading it) is, as others have said, the correspondence between the editors and the authors. As a non-author, I always pictured editors making vague generalizations about what is wrong with a story; I was amazed at how specific the suggestions really were. I especially recall one of the editors telling the then-unpublished Zenna Henderson some things that might improve a story she had submitted. Then you read the story, "Come On, Wagon" and realize Henderson had incorporated every suggestion - but the story somehow stayed clearly her work.

Charles Gramlich said...

I will have to get a copy of this one too. DOn't know how I missed it either.

Todd Mason said...

Bantam's malicious nonchalance was Just That Good. Algis Budrys reviewed it for F&SF, I believe, which is probably how I was first aware of it.