The Saga of "Semi-Professional" Magazines

 

       

I ran across several "Fantasy Books" at a charity book auction and purchased them, more or less because I'd never seen anything like them. The first two (above left) were magazine-size, but the others were sort of digest size, though they varied slightly in height from one to the other. I couldn't find out anything about them in any of my reference books. So I wrote and asked Kenneth R. Johnson if he had ever heard of the books. His response is so educational that I had to share it everyone.

Ken writes:

 

Ah, Fantasy Book!  When it comes to Science Fiction magazines, I do know a few things.  I was in charge of the magazine collection at the MIT Science Fiction Society for 25 years and I did considerable work on Bill Contento and Steve Miller's SF Magazine IndexFantasy Book belongs to that annoying category of publications called semi-professional magazines.  The publisher, FPCI, was a small press SF publisher owned by William Crawford and the magazine was published as an adjunct to the hardcover line.  The issues were erratically issued, rarely dated and, as you noted, hardly any two issues are the same size.  They had low print runs (ca. 2000 copies) and were distributed mostly by mail-order.  In addition, all 8 issues had variant editions printed on different grades of paper and were sold at different subscription rates.  With one exception the grade of paper was the only difference between the variant editions; the second issue, however had different covers on the 2 editions.  You have the Blue cover scanned in your magazine gallery, there is also a Black cover with a different picture.

 William Crawford had a long history of issuing semi-professional magazines, starting in 1934/5 when he published Unusual Stories and Marvel Tales, printed one page at a time on his own letterpress.  Fantasy Book was his first post-war title and was followed by a digest format professional magazine called Spaceway in the early 50's.  Spaceway was revived in 1969 and died again after 4 issues.  He then published another semi-pro mag called Witchcraft and Sorcery which had 6 widely spaced issues.  The thing that's most annoying about Crawford's magazines: he loved to run serials and every title except the last one suspended publication with one (or more!) uncompleted serials, several of which were never otherwise published.  In spite of all this inanity Crawford managed to fill his magazines with some amazing stories/authors which makes them extremely collectible.  Issues of the 30s titles have new stories by H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard and Fantasy Book contains the first SF stories by Andre Norton and Cordwainer Smith. 

 

(Ken now believes there are three variant issues of Fantasy Book.)