Ashley, Mike

Tagged: Author | Editor | Critic

Working name of UK editor and researcher Michael Raymond Donald Ashley (1948-    ), who has a special expertise in the history of magazine sf, fantasy and weird fiction; for this large body of significant work, he was given the Pilgrim Award for 2002. Ashley's first major work as an anthology editor was the four-volume The History of the Science Fiction Magazine: Part 1 1926-35 (anth 1974), Part 2 1936-45 (anth 1975), Part 3 1946-55 (anth 1976) and Part 4 1956-65 (anth 1978). The long introductions to the stories are packed with information, much of it unfamiliar, and there are useful bibliographical appendices; the set as a whole is more a critical study than an anthology, and Ashley eventually recast it along those lines as his ongoing The Story of the Science-fiction Magazine (see below). Most of Ashley's further anthologies are of fictional material, beginning with Souls in Metal (anth 1977), continuing with several volumes in the Mammoth series of anthologies, and including the Chronicles sequence of anthologies based on the Arthurian Matter.

Ashley's work has also resulted in a number of nonfiction books, the first being Who's Who in Horror and Fantasy Fiction (1977), and draws interestingly on original research; it covers some 400 writers; never updated, it was superseded by The Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant, to which volume Ashley contributed about 200,000 words. Two useful indexes, showing increasing evidence of his thoroughness, are Fantasy Readers' Guide: A Complete Index and Annotated Commentary to the John Spencer Fantasy Publications (1950-1966) (1979 chap) and The Complete Index to Astounding/Analog (1981), the latter with Terry Jeeves. The Illustrated Book of Science Fiction Lists (1982; vt The Illustrated Science Fiction Book of Lists) is well organized and fun for trivia buffs. But Ashley's main contribution to scholarship in the field of the fantastic lies in his more recent titles. Monthly Terrors: An Index to the Weird Fantasy Magazines Published in the United States and Great Britain (1985), compiled with Frank H Parnell, gives proper professional coverage to an area indexed previously, if at all, mainly in mimeographed fan publications. Algernon Blackwood: A Bio-Bibliography (1987) is an admirable work, around 300 pages of scrupulous bibliography with a 34-page biographical preface; it is supplemented but not replaced by his Starlight Man: The Extraordinary Life of Algernon Blackwood (2001; vt Algernon Blackwood: An Extraordinary Life 2001), the latter suffering perhaps from a slightly over-sunny view of Blackwood's personality and career. Ashley's masterwork, however, may be the 970-page Science Fiction, Fantasy and Weird Fiction Magazines (1985) with Marshall B Tymn, additional material by Joseph L Sanders, Hal W Hall and others. This book, with its factual exactitude and intensive annotations, dramatically superseded – in number of magazines discussed and in detail – the first edition of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1979) edited by Peter Nicholls as the most comprehensive account of this difficult area of publishing, and is interestingly written, much of it by Ashley himself, who is responsible for almost the entire much-expanded coverage of magazines in the current edition of this encyclopedia. The Supernatural Index: A Listing of Fantasy, Supernatural, Occult, Weird and Horror Anthologies (1995), with William G Contento, records the contents of about 2200 relevant anthologies, once again with a comprehensive and daunting exactitude, for which he won a Balrog Award. Out of this World: Science Fiction But Not As You Know It (2011) is bibliographically informative, but is more centrally an historical narrative of the growth of sf, written in co-ordination with the 2011 British Library sf exhibition bearing that name.

After several years of publisher-induced delay, Ashley began in the twenty-first century to publish what may be his magnum opus of bibliographical criticism with The History of the Science-Fiction Magazine, Volume I: The Time Machines: The Story of the Science-Fiction Pulp Magazines from the Beginning to 1950 (2000), Volume II: Transformations: The Story of the Science Fiction Magazines 1950-1970 (2005), Volume III: Gateways to Forever: The Story of the Science Fiction Magazines from 1970 to 1980 (2007) and Volume IV: Science Fiction Rebels: The Story of the Science Fiction Magazines from 1981 to 1990 (2016), with a further volume «The Rise of the Cyber Chronicles» projected. Very roughly based on parts of his much earlier anthologies with similar titles (see above), this version of the History provides a synoptic view of the essentially twentieth-century phenomenon of the growth of science fiction in magazine form, a study which is unlikely to be hugely modified over time. A further work supplements the History: The Gernsback Days: A Study in the Evolution of Modern Science Fiction from 1911 to 1936 (2004) with Robert A W Lowndes, which argues strenuously that, although Hugo Gernsback may have had little literary ability, his reduction of sf publishing to a dedicated magazine or two served in the end to force-feed the development of the genre. [PN/JC]

see also: Anthologies; Astounding Science-Fiction; Bibliographies; SF Magazines; Space-Wise.

Michael Raymond Donald Ashley

born Southall, Middlesex: 1 October 1948

died

works

  • The Enchantresses (London: Gollancz, 1998) with Vera Chapman [tale completed by Ashley after Chapman's death in 1996: hb/Harvey Parker]

nonfiction

series

History of the Science Fiction Magazine, first series

These are nominally fiction anthologies, but with heavy critical and bibliographical content.

Story of the Science Fiction Magazine, second series

individual titles (selected)

works as editor

series

Mammoth (selected)

Chronicles

individual titles

single-author collections

links

Previous versions of this entry

Website design and build: STEEL

Site ©2011 Gollancz, SFE content ©2011 SFE Ltd.