Readin’ and Writin’. Progress Report for May 19/20th, 2020 by Jeff Baker

Wrote some more on the Friday Flash story on Tuesday, should have finished it. On Wednesday, I got two pieces of mail; “Science Fiction the Early Years” by Everett F. Bleiler. This hefty volume (about 1,000 words!) is a guide to science fiction stories “from the earliest times” to about 1930 with several thousand entries. It was a little pricey; $60 +, but any book by Bleiler is worth it! (There is a second volume covering stories from 1930 onward.) Given my recent fascination with 19th-early 20th Century Sci-fi, this was a worthwhile purchase, one I will be using for a long time. I mainly bought it for information on the stories by W. L. Alden about Professor Van Wagener, who specializes in “silly inventions” (as Bleiler calls them) and were collected in the now-very pricy volume “Van Wagener’s Ways,” which, amazingly, has not been released in a digital edition, nor available at Project Guttenberg. There is one story (about making cats fly to chase invasive species of birds) that is read on a podcast and one other was reprinted seventy years ago, but that is all. Several other of Alden’s stories and books are available, including works about canoeing; which he helped bring (as a competitive sport) to America.

As for that other story…

I spent about ten bucks (counting shipping and handling) and got a copy of the second issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (the first to add “and Science Fiction” to the title) and it was well worth it! The Winter-Spring 1950 issue mainly has reprints including “The Volcanic Valve” by Alden, where Van Wagener tries to control volcanic eruptions for fun and profit with awful results! Other reprints include Robert Arthur’s fun “Postpaid to Paradise,” and Miriam Allen De Ford’s “The Last Generation?” The issue hit the jackpot with several classics in their first appearance: “Not With a Bang” by Damon Knight,” “The Gnurrs Come From the Voodvork Out” by R. Bretnor, “World of Arlesia” by Margaret St. Clair, and two of the first Gavagan’s Bar stories by DeCamp and Pratt. (There is an effort to collect the stories of Margaret St. Clair, but Miriam DeFord’s Sci-fi, fantasy and mystery stories deserve a modern collection.)

MFSF #2 certainly deserves a reprinting too (sometimes classic magazines get that!) Fun stories, informative introductions by editors Boucher and McComas and the nifty cover, all of which offer promise of good things to come. Promise which was fulfilled as MFSF is still in operation. That seventy year-old issue still feels fresh and exciting, even though some of the stories are of an earlier time.

That’s all for now.

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