Robert Silverberg’s Reflections: January 2016



‘Where Silverberg goes today, the rest of science fiction will follow tomorrow’

Isaac Asimov


Reflections is a regular column by multi-award-winning SFWA Grandmaster Robert Silverberg, in which he will offer his thoughts on science fiction, literature and the world at large.

This month: ‘A Famous Fantastic Mystery’

I want to tell you about a hallucinatory experience involving a science fiction/fantasy magazine that I had on a New York City subway platform, at one or two in the morning on a Saturday night in late October, back in the distant past—in the year 1950, in fact. I was fifteen years old.

The magazine was called Famous Fantastic Mysteries. It was published between 1939 and 1953, and at the beginning it was devoted to reprinting classic fantasies from the old-time pulp magazine Argosy – stories by A. Merritt, Ralph Milne Farley, Homer Eon Flint, and other once-great names. In 1943 it changed policy and concentrated instead on reprinting book-length works of fantasy or sometimes science fiction, mainly by British writers. I began reading it in 1949 and quickly collected a file of back issues. It was in Famous Fantastic Mysteries – “FFM” is what we called it – that I first read such books as G.K. Chesterton’s “The Man Who Was Thursday,” Cutcliffe Hyne’s “The Lost Continent,” H.G. Wells’ “The Island of Dr. Moreau,” John Taine’s “The Iron Star,” M.P. Shiel’s “The Purple Cloud,” and many another glorious tale.

One thing you need to know about FFM, in order to properly appreciate the story that follows, is that it was a supremely ugly magazine . . .


You can read the rest of the column here, and find Robert Silverberg’s eBooks here – including Reflections and Refractions, a collection of his non-fiction columns. Please note: each column will remain on the site for one month only.