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Vintage Treasures: Famous Fantastic Mysteries, edited by Stefan R. Dziemianowicz, Robert Weinberg, and Martin H. Greenberg

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Famous Fantastic Mysteries Weinberg-smallI spent yesterday and Friday at the Windy City Pulp and Paperback show in Lombard, Illinois, about 30 minutes from my house. And as soon as I finish this article, I’m going to scoot over there again.

I found a great many treasures at this show this year. More than usual, even. And I’m looking forward to reporting on them here. One of the more interesting was a copy of Famous Fantastic Mysteries, a 1991 pulp reprint anthology from Gramercy edited by Stefan R. Dziemianowicz, Robert Weinberg, and Martin H. Greenberg, in terrific shape, which I bought for just $5.

Famous Fantastic Mysteries was a much-beloved fantasy pulp which ran from 1939 to 1953. The publisher was Frank A. Munsey, a name well known to pulp fans. The first bi-monthly issue was cover-dated September-October 1939, and contained A. Merritt’s “The Moon Pool,” Ray Cummings’ “The Girl in the Golden Atom,” and stories by Manly Wade Wellman, Donald Wandrei, and many others. The magazine was a success, and it quickly switched from bi-monthly to monthly.

While the magazine relied chiefly on reprints, especially in the early days, it commissioned original art from many of the top artists of the day, especially Virgil Finlay and Lawrence Sterne Sevens, and today is treasured as much for the fabulous covers and interior art as the fiction.

In its 81 issues, Famous Fantastic Mysteries offered reprints of SF and fantasy pulp stories by Max Brand, E. F. Benson, Robert W. Chambers, William Hope Hodgson, Lord Dunsany, Bram Stoker, H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jack London, and countless others, as well as brand new fiction from Henry Kuttner, C. L. Moore, Murray Leinster, Theodore Sturgeon, William Tenn, Margaret St. Clair, Arthur C. Clarke, Donald A. Wollheim, Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury, and many more. See the complete issue checklist at Galactic Central.

[Click for bigger images.]

The founding editor was Mary Gnaedinger. With the enthusiastic response from her readers for novels, Gnaedinger launched a spinoff magazine dedicated just to reprinting classic fantasy at longer length, Fantastic Novels. It published 25 bimonthly issues between July 1940 and June 1951.

Famous Fantastic Mysteries, issue 1

Famous Fantastic Mysteries, issue 1

Dziemianowicz, Weinberg, and Greenberg’s Famous Fantastic Mysteries is a 450-page tribute volume with a classic Virgil Finlay cover. It contains 28 short stories and novelettes, and two novellas: “The Face in the Abyss” by A. Merritt (from 1923) and “Fungus Isle” by Philip M. Fisher (1923). Here’s the complete table of contents.

Introduction by Stefan Dziemianowicz
“Behind the Curtain” by Francis Stevens (1918)
“Pegasus” by Henry Kuttner (1940)
“The Face in the Abyss” by A. Merritt (1923)
“Fungus Isle” by Philip M. Fisher (1923)
“John Ovington Returns” by Max Brand (1918)
“Fishhead” by Irvin S. Cobb (1913)
“The Outcast” by E. F. Benson (1922)
“The Yellow Sign” by Robert W. Chambers (1895)
“The Derelict” by William Hope Hodgson (1912)
“The Novel of the White Powder” by Arthur Machen (1895)
“The Highwayman” by Lord Dunsany (1908)
“Daemon” by C. L. Moore (1946)
“The Burial of the Rats” by Bram Stoker (1914)
“The Day of the Deepies” by Murray Leinster (1947)
“The Horror of the Heights” by Arthur Conan Doyle (1913)
“The Lonesome Place” by August Derleth (1941)
“The Shadow and the Flash” by Jack London (1903)
“That Low” by Theodore Sturgeon (1948)
“The Human Angle” by William Tenn (1948)
“The Toys of Fate” by Tod Robbins (1921)
“The Counter Charm” by Margaret St. Clair (1949)
“Guardian Angel” by Arthur C. Clarke (1950)
“Mimic” by Donald A. Wollheim (1942)
“The Music of Erich Zann” by H. P. Lovecraft (1922)
“The Dancing Partner” by Jerome K. Jerome (1893)
“Lukundoo” by Edward Lucas White (1907)
“The Man Who Collected Poe” by Robert Bloch  (1951)
“Thus I Refute Beelzy” by John Collier (1940)
“Homecoming” by Ray Bradbury (1946)
“Worms of the Earth” by Robert E. Howard (1932)

And for my fellow pulp fans, here’s a sampling of that art I was telling you about, taken from Famous Fantastic Mysteries and Fantastic Novels.

Lawrence Stevens Fantastic Novels

Lawrence Stevens’s cover to Fantastic Novels, July 1948

Believe it or not, I bought a copy of the July 1948 issue of Fantastic Novels, with the cover above, at Windy City Pulp and Paper three years ago. I wrote about it here.

Here’s some more of Lawrence’s interior art. He had a thing for sleeping beauties, apparently.

Lawrence Stevens - Ray Bradbury Homecoming-small

Lawrence Stevens illustrating Ray Bradbury’s “Homecoming”

Lawrence Stevens Famous Fantastic Mysteries-small

More Lawrence Stevens from Famous Fantastic Mysteries

There’s some great online portfolio’s of Lawrence’s pulp art, like this one.

Finally, here’s some cover scans (click for bigger versions). Enjoy!

Famous Fantastic Mysteries lot 3-small

 

Famous Fantastic Mysteries lot-small

 

Famous Fantastic Mysteries lot 5-small

 

Famous Fantastic Mysteries lot 4-small

 

Famous Fantastic Mysteries lot 7-small

 

Famous Fantastic Mysteries lot 8-small

 

Famous Fantastic Mysteries lot 1

 

Famous Fantastic Mysteries lot 10

 

Famous Fantastic Mysteries lot 9

 

Famous Fantastic Mysteries lot 2

 

7 Comments »

  1. I must be naive but I’m always a little taken aback at how racy some of these 1920s (or earlier) magazine covers and inside artwork were. When they’re not just being purely titillating (which I get for marketing purposes), they are actually very effective and powerful.

    Comment by James McGlothlin - April 23, 2017 4:20 pm

  2. James,

    That’s absolutely true. That’s what centuries of sexual repression will get you… highly sexualized, erotic artwork on the covers of what’s essentially kid’s literature.

    There’s lot of folks who’ve examined this in detail, of course, but the basic premise seems to be that slick magazines and hardcovers were considered highbrow, and thus held to much stricter standards, whereas low circulation pulps and paperbacks were considered lowbrow, and thus artists had considerably more license. And yes, there were certainly readers people who found the gratuitous erotic imagery in poor taste even at the time, but there was absolutely no refuting that sex sold magazines.

    Comment by John ONeill - April 23, 2017 6:30 pm

  3. A. Merritt didn’t write “kids literature.” He defined the fantasy genre in his day much as Dunsany and Tolkien did after him.

    Comment by jeffro - April 23, 2017 7:55 pm

  4. If I’d seen that first it definitely would have been in my bag. It’s been on my list for a while. Once again highlighting Bob Weinberg’s endless drive to make sure that this great stuff came back into print.

    Comment by richwarren - April 24, 2017 7:14 am

  5. And ‘Famous Fantastic Mysteries’ returned last year from Altus Press. The Spring issue should be out about now.

    https://www.altuspress.com/shop/famous-fantastic-mysteries-fall-2016/

    Comment by Bob Byrne - April 24, 2017 9:37 am

  6. ONeill: “That’s what centuries of sexual repression will get you… highly sexualized, erotic artwork on the covers of what’s essentially kid’s literature.”

    That might explain the sexual nature of this artwork, but the horror aspects of it is pretty graphic as well in some of these as well. What explains that do you think?

    Comment by James McGlothlin - April 24, 2017 12:25 pm

  7. […] Gate has a great post up about Famous Fantastic Mysteries, an anthology drawn from the magazine that kept the classics […]

    Pingback by The Pulps Were Not Kids Literature – castaliahouse.com - April 27, 2017 6:30 am


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