Boucher, Anthony

Tagged: Author | Editor | Critic

Best-known pseudonym of US editor and writer William Anthony Parker White (1911-1968), who began to publish work of genre interest with "Ye Goode Olde Ghost Story" for Weird Tales in January 1927 as by William A P White, though his first full story was "Snulbug" for Unknown in December 1941 as Boucher (for a note on "Snulbug" and related titles see Shakespeare); he soon became a regular contributor as Boucher to this magazine and to Astounding Science-Fiction. Most of his 1940s tales were humorous in approach (see Humour), urbane and sometimes slick, with a competent smooth forward thrust that allowed him to portray fairly complex scenarios in very short compass; many are included in The Compleat Werewolf and Other Tales of Fantasy and Science Fiction (coll 1969), although Far and Away: Eleven Fantasy and Science Fiction Stories (coll 1955) provides a better sense of his sf work. Boucher also used the pseudonym H H Holmes, publishing under this name the non-sf detection Rocket to the Morgue (1942), in which several thinly disguised sf figures – including John W Campbell Jr, Edmond Hamilton, Robert A Heinlein, L Ron Hubbard and Jack Williamson – appear in Recursive roles; he went on to write several more detective novels. A notable Time-Travel story is "Barrier" (September 1942 Astounding as "The Barrier") (see Comic Inferno). "The Quest for Saint Aquin" (in New Tales of Space and Time, anth 1951, ed Raymond J Healy) on a theme of Religion, is generally considered his best sf work, all of which is assembled as The Compleat Boucher: The Complete Short Science Fiction and Fantasy of Anthony Boucher (coll 1998) edited James A Mann. He wrote little sf after 1952.

Boucher was the first English-language translator of Jorge Luis Borges, translating "El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan" ["The Garden of Forking Paths"] (title story of coll 1942) for the August 1948 issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine (see Ellery Queen). In 1949 he became a founding editor, with J Francis McComas, of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, which from its inception showed a more sophisticated literary outlook than any previous sf magazine – an accomplishment celebrated in The Eureka Years: Boucher and McComas's The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, 1949-54 (anth 1982) edited Annette Peltz McComas (1911-1994). After McComas left, Boucher remained sole editor from 1954 until his retirement, through ill health, in 1958. A 1955 Boucher editorial introduction in the magazine introduced the term Time Opera. He won the Hugo for Best Professional Magazine for the years 1957 and 1958. He edited an annual anthology of stories from F&SF, beginning with The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction (anth 1952) with J Francis McComas and ending with The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction: Eight Series (anth 1959). He occasionally published verse in F&SF under the pseudonym Herman W Mudgett. (Mudgett was the real name and Holmes the nom de guerre of the USA's first convicted serial murderer, hanged in 1896 after torture-murdering at least 27, possibly 200, young women.)

An able and perceptive editor, Boucher did much to help raise the literary standards of sf in the 1950s. He was also a distinguished book reviewer, writing sf columns for both the New York Times (as Anthony Boucher) and the New York Herald Tribune (as H H Holmes). His reassuring competence and easy insight – he was a born belletrist – were influential in gaining for sf a certain measure of respectability. The regular detective/mystery Convention Bouchercon, held annually since 1970, is named in honour of his work in that genre. [MJE/JC/DRL]

see also: EC Comics; Gods and Demons; Linguistics; Robots; Slow Glass.

William Anthony Parker White

born Oakland, California: 21 August 1911

died Oakland, California: 29 April 1968

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works as editor

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The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction

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