Remarkable what you can find at one of those large, sprawling, craft-filled market days for a buck. I certainly don’t need any more old paper clogging up the office, but when I recently stumbled across a vendor selling classic science-fiction magazines for cheap, my willpower vaporized like it had been raked over by a ray gun (note the period-correct terminology).
This example is the April, 1963, issue of Fantastic Stories of Imagination, with a cover by Frank Bruno. It caught my eye in particular because of the the Fritz Leiber story blurbed on the cover. Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser books were a major influence behind my teenage enthusiasm for sword-and-sorcery novels, but his stuff was never just pulp. Leiber went on to be named one of the earliest science-fiction Grandmasters by the SFWA.
But what really made me pull out my wallet was the early Roger Zelazny tale listed on the table of contents. Zelazny is one of my favorites SF writers of the generation that debuted in the 1960s, and Fantastic was one of the publications that nurtured his early career. His story, The Malatesta Collection, is not bad, but it’s evident that he hadn’t yet hit his stride. (This issue came out a full three years before his first novel was published.) It’s a somewhat overwrought tale about a future society uncovering a cache of books, and the contents aren’t quite what they expect. Still, when you really like an author, it’s a treat to find some forgotten story of his.
Fantastic was published as a digest-size magazine from 1952-1980. It was revived as a webzine by Wilder Publications a few years ago, but just ceased publication on January 18 of this year. Fantastic’s time may have passed, but finding any of these old issues for a dollar is money well spent.