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Fantasy Commentator

Entry updated 18 June 2021. Tagged: Fan, Publication.


US Amateur Magazine one of the earliest fan-based magazines that could be regarded as an Academic Journal based on its scholarly articles. Edited from New York by A Langley Searles in two series: first series: Fall (September) 1943 to #26, Spring/Summer 1952. Issues #27 (Spring 1953) and #28 (Fall 1953) were prepared at the time but not printed and remained uncirculated until 1986; second series: #29, Winter 1978/1979 to #59/60, Spring 2011. There were six double issues starting with #45/46, for the Winter 1993/1994 issue, called the "50th Anniversary Double Issue", meaning there were 54 physical issues.

The original run of 26 issues – quarterly before 1950 and then irregular – featured well-written, scholarly articles about contemporary fantasy writers and an impressive series of bibliographies. Fantasy Commentator was notable at this time for publishing the series of articles about Fandom by Sam Moskowitz that later became The Immortal Storm (Fall 1945-Fall 1953; 1951 mimeograph; rev 1954) and for the original material it carried by or about A Merritt, Henry Kuttner, David H Keller, H P Lovecraft and William Hope Hodgson. Fantasy Commentator was suspended in 1953 but revived in 1978 with #29. Its second incarnation was annual to 1990, roughly semiannual thereafter until #57/58, Summer 2004. Regular contributors to this version included Moskowitz, Mike Ashley, E F Bleiler and Eric Leif Davin. Articles and issues of particular interest include "'Plus Ultra' An Unknown Science Fiction Utopia" (Winter 1979/1980-Winter 1984), a five-part study by Searles of an unpublished Utopia by Edward Lucas White; Moskowitz's 16-part (incomplete) series "Voyagers Through Eternity" (Winter 1981-Fall 1996), a History of SF from the beginnings to H G Wells; Moskowitz's seven-part series, "Bernarr Macfadden and his Obsession with Science-Fiction" (Fall 1986-Spring 1992), Moskowitz's detailed study of the sf of T S Stribling (Winter 1989/1990) and Moskowitz's unfinished continuation of "The Immortal Storm" (began Winter 1993/1994), picking up from 1939 where the original series finished; "The Age of Wonder" (Fall 1987) by Eric Leif Davin about David Lasser and Wonder Stories; Deborah Elkin's study of Hugo Gernsback's pre-Amazing years "Hugo Gernsback's Ideas of Science and Fiction, 1915-1926" (Winter 1989/1990); the Stanley G Weinbaum Memorial issue (Fall 1991); Steve Sneyd's re-assessment of Lilith Lorraine, "Empress of the Stars" (Spring 1992); the Isaac Asimov tribute issue (Fall 1992); the Moskowitz Memorial issue (Fall 1997) and the Fritz Leiber issue (Summer 2004).

To the end Fantasy Commentator remained strong in scholarship about early sf and fantasy. The final issue, which consisted entirely of Moskowitz's study of John W Campbell Jr, based on his correspondence with Robert D Swisher, entitled "Inside John W. Campbell" (Spring 2011), was assembled by Searles's widow, Alice Becker Searles with the help of Eric Leif Davin. [MA/RH/DRL]


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