(1920-2010) US editor, bibliographer and critic who for many years remained best known as the compiler of The Checklist of Fantastic Literature: A Bibliography of Fantasy, Weird and Science Fiction Books Published in the English Language (1948; rev vt The Checklist of Science-Fiction and Supernatural Fiction 1978), which Shasta Publishers was founded to produce. The Checklist, which lists 5000 books from the period 1800-1948, soon became recognized as a cornerstone of modern sf Bibliography, more conspicuously perhaps than the first version of Donald H Tuck's similar enterprise, A Handbook of Science Fiction and Fantasy (1954), which was self-published and not well distributed, though unlike Bleiler's Checklist Tuck's was annotated. In 1948, Bleiler, like Tuck a few years later, had initially not only to list sf and other fantastic titles accurately, but also to try to determine the range of texts which could be so designated. That task has extended into the twenty-first century, and other non-annotated bibliographies – beginning with R Reginald's Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature (1979), which lists over 15,000 titles from 1700 to 1974 – hugely expanded on Bleiler's initial coverage of the field; these paper bibliographies have been superseded by the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, which contains their thousands of titles within its hugely expanded remit, and which would have been far more difficult to institute without Bleiler's (and his colleagues') long labours.
The breadth of coverage of even his early work – like that of Tuck's – should be enough to lay one conventional untruth about sf readers and sf studies: that until relatively recently their understanding of the range of the fantastic in literature was circumscribed. By around 1950, Bleiler and Tuck were routinely incorporating writers like Wyndham Lewis and Virginia Woolf into their checklists, and the editors of the first edition of this Encyclopedia (1979) were deeply and consciously indebted to their example; this Encyclopedia was not the first to disregard strict Genre SF in the selection of writers and themes to include.
Bleiler soon devoted himself to a more intensive kind of bibliographical work, the annotated checklist, and published over the next decades three works of quite extraordinary scope and intensity, which intensified and expanded upon Tuck's earlier work. The Guide to Supernatural Fiction: A Full Description of 1,775 Books from 1750 to 1960, Including Ghost Stories, Weird Fiction, Stories of Supernatural Horror, Fantasy, Gothic Novels, Occult Fiction, and Similar Literature, with Author, Title and Motif Indexes (1983) provides synopses of hundreds of texts nowhere else notated in detail, though the critical apparatus through which Bleiler views these texts can sometimes seem unduly private. This caveat does not apply to Bleiler's next publications: Science Fiction: The Early Years: A Full Description of More Than 3,000 Science-Fiction Stories from Earliest Times to the Appearance of the Genre Magazines in 1930 with Author, Title, and Motif Indexes (dated 1990 but 1991), with the assistance of his son, Richard Bleiler; and Science-Fiction: The Gernsback Years: A Complete Coverage of the Genre Magazines Amazing, Astounding, Wonder, and Others from 1926 Through 1936 (1998), also with the assistance of Richard Bleiler. All three volumes are annotated with an extraordinary thoroughness; any otherwise unsourced quotations from Bleiler to be found in this encyclopedia – to which he also contributed several entries – come from them, and point to the wider range of background indebtedness necessarily incurred by all subsequent reference works in the field. Bleiler's sequence of studies stands as a central resource for the study of sf books, along with the work of Neil Barron, George Locke, R Reginald and Donald Tuck.
Two large anthologies of original essays by various hands – Science Fiction Writers: Critical Studies of the Major Authors from the Early Nineteenth Century to the Present Day (anth 1982; much rev 1999 ed Richard Bleiler) and Supernatural Fiction Writers: Fantasy and Horror (anth 1985 2vols; much rev vt Supernatural Fiction Writers: Contemporary Fantasy and Horror 2003 2 vols ed Richard Bleiler) – also traverse, at least in their first iterations, the central regions of the fantastic in literature.
In collaboration with T E Dikty, Bleiler began to produce in the late 1940s the first sf series of best-of-the-year Anthologies, the Best Science Fiction Stories sequence beginning with The Best Science Fiction Stories, 1949 (anth 1949) and ending with The Best Science Fiction Stories, 1954 (anth 1954; cut vt The Best Science Fiction Stories, Fifth Series 1956). A second series, the Year's Best Science Fiction Novels, presented a selection of longer stories, beginning with Year's Best Science Fiction Novels, 1952 (anth 1952; cut vt Year's Best Science Fiction Novels 1953) and ending with Year's Best Science Fiction Novels, 1954 (anth 1954; cut vt Year's Best Science Fiction Novels, Second Series 1955). They have had several successors.
Bleiler joined Dover Publications in 1955, rising to Executive Vice-President in 1967, and retiring in 1977. Beginning with Ghost and Horror Stories of Ambrose Bierce (coll 1964), he edited for the firm a series of well-produced, cogently introduced and sometimes revelatory editions of a wide range of fantasy and other writers, some of whom had been forgotten; authors assembled include Algernon Blackwood, P Busson, Robert W Chambers, Arthur Conan Doyle, Lord Dunsany, Jacques Futrelle, M R James, Sheridan Le Fanu, H P Lovecraft, G Meyrink, G M W Reynolds, Mrs J H Riddell and H G Wells (for Bleiler's editions, see the individual authors). For Dover, Bleiler also edited several anthologies of interest, including Three Gothic Novels: And a Fragment of a Novel by Lord Byron (omni 1966), Five Victorian Ghost Novels (omni 1971), Three Supernatural Novels of the Victorian Period (omni 1975); also of note is A Treasury of Victorian Ghost Stories (anth 1981), for Scribner's. More unusual, and of more original importance than his other anthologies, perhaps, was his edition of The Frank Reade Library (omni 1979-1986 10vols), which reprinted the complete sequence (see Frank Reade Library; Luis Senarens). He also translated works from Danish, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Latin, Polish and Swedish; his Prophecies and Enigmas of Nostradamus (trans 1979) as by Liberte E LeVert (an anagram of Everett Bleiler) was of some genre interest. Bleiler won the Pilgrim Award in 1984.
Firegang: A Mythic Fantasy (2006), Bleiler's only published work of fiction, is a mythological Fantasy whose central venue is Yggdrasil but which ranges over the world and through Time. In 1988 he received the World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement – the first recipient who was not best known as a fiction writer. [JC]
see also: Anonymous SF Authors; Critical and Historical Works About SF; History of SF; Invention; Lost Races; New Zealand; Prediction; Sleeper Awakes.
born Massachusetts: 30 April 1920
died Interlaken, New York: 13 June 2010
works as editor (fiction)
Best Science Fiction Stories
Year's Best Science Fiction Novels
For individual author collections edited by Bleiler, see those authors.
works as editor