The field of literary scholarship lost a giant when editor and anthologist E. F. Bleiler died June 13, 2010. He was 90 years old. Bleiler was born and raised in Boston.  He graduated from Harvard in 1942, having majored in anthropology, and then received a Master's degree from the University of Chicago, on a topic closer to his real interests, the history of popular culture. Somehow, Bleiler managed to read almost everything that had appeared in print from about 1800 to World War II, in the fields of science fiction and fantasy, something of a testament to the excellence of  libraries in Boston, at Harvard and at the University of Chicago.  Thus, in 1948 he published The Checklist of Fantastic Literature, the first serious attempt at a bibliography of the field of imaginative fiction. Between 1949 and 1955, he and T. E. Dikty issued an annual anthology of “the best science fiction stories,” and it's these anthologies, which the teenage me could get from the Science Fiction Book Club for $1, that first brought Bleiler to my attention.  There were also, by the same editors, three collected years of “the best science fiction novels,”  also ending in 1955. See Blieler's facebook page for a short list of his published books.

As a physics major, a few years later, I was ordering inexpensive trade paperbacks from Dover Publications of New York... a company which then reprinted old, public-domain books on physics, astronomy, and mathematics, books often invaluable to graduate students in those fields. Unknown to me, Bleiler had gone to work for Howard Cirker, the owner of Dover, in 1955. His job was to turn up works of literature that it was worth Cirker's time and effort to bring back into print. Bleiler in his years with Cirker also wrote original books on a wide variety of topics, and assembled anthologies, for Dover to issue. Bleiler, it turned out, had not only read everything in print in english in the realm of fantastic literature, but also in the realms of crime and detective fiction. Under his guidance, Dover reissued many forgotten or difficult-to-obtain classics of pseudoscience, supernatural horror, weird menace, fantasy, crime detection and science fiction.  As a personal note, as a collector of early 20th Century mystery and detective fiction, I was delighted when Dover in the 1970s reprinted a couple of the great Dr. Thorndyke novels of R. Austin Freeman, but crushed when they did not issue any of the rest.  I note in an interview with Bleiler that he rated Freeman as one of his favorite authors.

After a number of disputes with Cirker, Bleiler wound up in 1977 as an editor at Charles Scribner's Sons, where he worked until his retirement in 1986. He issued three massive volumes of bibliography in his later years, The Guide to Supernatural Fiction (1983), Science Fiction: The Early Years, (1990), and Science Fiction: The Gernsback Years (1998).

Much information about him can be found in a long interview conducted in 2005 and posted on line here. A writeup on his one-time editorial partner, T. E. Dikty, can be found here.

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