Saturday, May 28, 2011

Pulp Fiction Female Pioneers: Cele Goldsmith Lalli

A few weeks ago I posted something about what I thought at the time was the only female writer for BLACK MASK, Katherine Brocklebank. My source was quickly corrected by Walker Martin and others. But that post, and the recent post on i09 called "Badass Women of the Pulp Era," rekindled my interest in the history of female pulp authors and editors. It's way overdue and I'd like to pay tribute to those of my gender who walked the narrow - and I'm sure lonely - path of being a woman in the pulp fiction industry in the early 20th Century.

Recently Barry Traylor sent me this Wikipedia entry on Cele Goldsmith, who he considers to be the best editor that AMAZING STORIES and FANTASTIC ever had.

Cele championed many great writers, including Ursula Le Guin, who's story "The Dowry of Angyar" appeared in this issue of AMAZING STORIES.

I confess that my knowledge of Cele Goldsmith - and of science fiction - ranges from zero to nothing, so out of fear of writing something that is inaccurate, I'm going to just quote this directly from Wikipedia and hope that rest of you can fill in the blanks about Cele.


Cele Goldsmith Lalli (1933 – January 14, 2002) was an American editor. She was the editor of Amazing Stories from 1959 to 1965, Fantastic from 1958 to 1965, and later the Editor-in-Chief of Modern Bride magazine.

Goldsmith began working on science fiction and fantasy magazines under Paul W. Fairman. When Fairman left Ziff-Davis in 1958, Goldsmith took over as editor of Amazing Stories and Fantastic. Goldsmith was open to new authors and experimentation in writing. Among her discoveries were Thomas M. Disch, Ursula K. Le Guin, Keith Laumer, Sonya Dorman (as a fiction writer), and Roger Zelazny. She was also instrumental in bringing Fritz Leiber out of an early writer's-block-induced retirement (a 1959 issue was devoted entirely to his fiction), and was among the first US editors to publish British author J. G. Ballard.

Goldsmith married in 1964 and took Lalli as her last name. By this time, she'd received a special award from the World Science Fiction Convention for her work on the magazines. Le Guin and subsequent Fantastic and Amazing editors Barry N. Malzberg and Ted White have taken care to note the significance of her achievement.

In 1965, Ziff-Davis sold the two fiction magazines to publisher Sol Cohen, who founded Ultimate Publications to publish them. Lalli continued at Ziff-Davis, where she worked at Modern Bride magazine for 30 years.

Not long after her retirement, she was killed in a car accident in Newtown, Connecticut on January 14, 2002.


An obituary that appeared in Conneticut says:

Cele (Goldsmith) Lalli, 68, of Newtown died Jan. 14 from injuries sustained in an automobile accident.

Mrs. Lalli grew up in Scranton, Pa., and graduated from Vassar College in 1955. She and her husband, Michael, lived in New York City and Stamford and finally moved to Newtown in the mid-1990s.

Mrs. Lalli wrote three books concerning wedding etiquette and was once referred to as America’s foremost wedding expert. She worked for Modern Bride magazine for 33 years and retired as vice president and editor-in-chief in 1998.

She often appeared on television shows and would share her expertise by leading workshops locally.


I looked for a photo of Cele online but was unsuccessful.

Thanks, Barry, for leading me to Cele Goldsmith.

Other posts here on women in the pulp fiction industry:

Katherine Brocklebank
Daisy Bacon, editor of LOVE STORY, Part One.
Daisy Bacon, Part Two.


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11 comments:

Barry Traylor said...

I once had all the Cele Golsmith edited issues (along with 2,000 plus other digests) both SF and Mystery titles. But when I got remarried some things just had to go and the digests mainly went. I think Walker will agree with me that you miss what you no longer have quite a lot. I had all the Amazings and Fantastics from 1953 to 1965 and I really do feel the quality of the years she edited were the best.

Deka Black said...

What a career! And editing Amazing Stories, no less!

Walker Martin said...

Yes, Barry is right, it usually is a bad move for a magazine collector to start selling his collection. You always regret doing it and miss the magazines.

Eleven years ago, I took early retirement and thought I'd sell some sets. What a mistake! I used to have 114 issues of MANHUNT, a complete set in beautiful condition. Now I'm picking up ragtag copies to reread and build up another set.

The same thing with my DIME DETECTIVE set. I sold the complete set and the very next day regretted my action. I'm still buying single issues to build up another set.

My advice to any collector, and Barry's wife of course is the exception, dump the spouse and concentrate on the collection. You can always find another spouse, but you won't be able to replace the books or magazines. I'll choose bibliomania over matrimony.

Todd Mason said...

And, it should be noted, that FANTASTIC and AMAZING weren't pulps any longer when Cele Goldsmith began editing them, or even when she was, as assistant editor, pulling the decent stories out of the slush pile (such as Kate Wilhelm's first story) to put in the magazines to supplement what Paul Fairman was buying without reading from reliable pros.

AMAZING had gone to (initially expensively semi-slick) digest sized issues with the foundation of FANTASTIC in 1952, and both remained in that format till FANTASTIC's absorption by AMAZING during Eleanor Mavor's editorship, and AMAZING till game company TSR reformatted the magazine as a large-sized slick in the 1980s. So, no more pulps than Dell's ZANE GREY WESTERN was.

Goldsmith wasn't the dominant editor of her time, but was one of the most eclectic, publishing relatively experimental work by the likes of Ballard, Thomas Disch, David Bunch, Ursula Le Guin (though Le Guin began rather conservatively), Harlan Ellison, and others alongside some old-fashioned material by E. E. Smith (the Zane Grey of sf) and others, as well as artists as important as Leiber (somewhere between the Elmer Kelton and the Walter Van Tilburg Clark of sf and fantasy)...Barry Malzberg and particularly Ted White's versions of the magazines were about as good, and as adventuresome, but didn't have the Ziff-Davis distribution might behind them and were never monthly.

Along with Wilhelm and essentially Le Guin and Roger Zelazny (who had published juvenilia elsewhere), among Goldsmith/Lalli's "discoveries" were Disch, Ben Bova, Keith Laumer, and I believe Sonya Dorman as a prose writer (like Disch, she was simultaneously a widely-published poet).

Among the other female editors in sf and fantasy pulps and digests in the 1950s, you should look into:

Dorothy McIllwraith, who did brilliant work as editor of WEIRD TALES for the second half of its original run (Leiber, Robert Bloch, Manly Wade Wellman, Margaret St. Clair, Ms. C. L. Moore, and Moore's husband Henry Kuttner, along with Leigh Brackett's husband Edmond Hamilton, all published some brilliant work there, and they by no means alone); McIllwraith was compelled by the publisher to sign herself as simply D. McIllwraith while simultaneously editing SHORT STORIES magazine...

Mary Gnaedinger, long-term editor of FAMOUS FANTASTIC MYSTERIES and FANTASTIC NOVELS, which reprinted from the early ARGOSYs and ALL-STORYs, and eventually would reprint novels published in hardcover, going as far as to reprint Ayn Rand's ANTHEM in one late issue...(most of the reprints were better than that, I hasten to add, and the magazines published some important original fiction as well)...

Bea Mahaffey, who worked with Ray Palmer, who had been editor of AMAZING and FANTASTIC ADVENTURES (FANTASTIC's predecessor) before striking off on his own...his most durable title has turned out to be the paranormal magazine FATE, but he was still interested in publishing fiction magazines in the 1950s, and Mahaffey was editor of the best of them, UNIVERSE...notable for publishing Theodore Sturgeon's pro-gay-acceptance story "The World Well Lost" in its first issue, in 1953...

And among those in editorial support roles, Larry Shaw worked for several publishers in latter '50s on magazines, and his eventual life partner, Shirley Hoffman, often helped out, under the name she used in her fannish writing and eventually in her fantasy, sf, and Spur-Award-winning western writing as well, Lee Hoffman.

There're more, of course...Judith Merril didn't edit magazines, but anthologies like nearly no one else in her time, for example...but, well, yup, there still quite a few out there for you to look into.

But Cele Goldsmith/Lalli was never a pulpster...

Todd Mason said...

Sorry, that was Elinor Mavor, and the absorption/folding of FANTASTIC happened in 1980. Mavor and Goldsmith/Lalli were the only female full editors of AMAZING and FANTASTIC, but Lila Shaffer was doing more than her share of the work editing FA and AMAZING during Howard Browne's official tenure (much later editor Kim Mohan is a male Kim).

Todd Mason said...

And it's a bad day for spelling, for me...that was Dorothy McIlwraith, of course, keep the ill wraiths in the pages of her magazines...

Todd Mason said...

keeping...this one I blame on the cat, who jumps up while I'm typing to get affection...

Laurie Powers said...

Wow, thanks for all the great info Todd. And I know what it's like with a cat that knows no boundaries.

Walker Martin said...

Todd, you forgot one of the big women editors: Fanny Ellsworth who edited BLACK MASK during 1936-1940. She also was editor of RANCH ROMANCES.

Though H.L. Gold was the main force behind GALAXY in the 1950's, his wife, Evelyn Paige, acted as his assistant editor for awhile.

Nice post and I'm sure there were more women editors.

Todd Mason said...

Oh, I didn't forget Fanny Ellsworth...I was just keeping my focus on fantasy and sf editors, as colleagues of Goldsmith/Lalli...if we include All the women pulp and other fiction magazine editors, we will be here a while (do I remember correctly that Doris Baumgardt/"Leslie Perri" edited a romance magazine for the no-budget Albing line, for which Donald Wollheim was doing the sf/fantasy titles?).

And Evelyn Gold, nee Paige, was certainly picking up the slack beyond doing those tasks that required leaving the apartment, as her husband afflictions grew worse.

Almost a pulp in format, STORY magazine was co-founded and -edited by Martha Foley, who was never averse to looking at WEIRD TALES and some of the other pulps for her BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES annual, even if in the 1950s, only two stories came from the most consistently literate of the post-pulp fantastic-fiction digests, THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION's "The Man Who Lost the Sea" by Theodore Sturgeon and "Dead Center" by Judith Merril.

Richard Simms said...

I remember a photograph of Cele Goldsmith Lalli appeared on the web at the time of her death in 2002. I'm sure it was posted with an obituary for her somewhere. But now I can't find it!

You may be interested in the book PARTNERS IN WONDER by Dan Davin, an exhaustive study of female writers of science fiction who were active in the early 20th century.

Goldsmith Lalli came on the scene around the time the pulps died out, and, as noted in other posts here, as editor of the magazines FANTASTIC and AMAZING she was never a "pulpster." However, these digest-sized titles, among others, arguably carried on the tradition of pulp magazines. I have noticed that today, digest-sized periodicals from the 1950s and 1960s, such as MANHUNT, GALAXY and FANTASTIC UNIVERSE, are frequently misidentified as pulp magazines.

Anyway, Cele Goldsmith Lalli was indeed a brilliant editor. We owe her a debt for publishing many short stories by the likes of Arthur Porges, David R. Bunch, and Robert F. Young.