For decades, Playboy was known as the home of some of the best short fiction published anywhere — including a lot of groundbreaking work by Ursula K. Le Guin, Ray Bradbury and Doris Lessing. This was largely due to the strong editorial hand of Alice K. Turner, who died yesterday of pneumonia.
Turner joined Playboy in 1976 and officially became fiction editor in 1980, serving until 2000. During that time, she made Robert Silverberg a regular contributor to the magazine and introduced Terry Bisson, among others, to its readers. She was also responsible for suggesting Bisson as a co-author to complete Walter Miller's unfinished sequel to A Canticle for Leibowitz, Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman. She edited the Playboy Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy, which is chock full of terrific stories, including Le Guin's "Nine Lives," Damon Knight's "Masks," Arthur C. Clarke's "Transit of Earth," Joe Haldeman's "More Than The Sum of His Parts" and Howard Waldrop's "Heirs of the Perisphere."
With Turner's departure in 2000, Playboy was widely regarded as having stopped being a home for science fiction.
In a 1984 interview with the Missouri Review, Turner described the kind of story she liked to publish in Playboy:
Playboy stories have beginnings, middles, and ends. They have a kind of general appeal. They are not experimental. They are not terribly modern or forward reaching but they have real quality, or so I hope. When you consider how very formularized the women's magazines tend to be,Playboy looks like the last resort of the solid well crafted "story" story that isn't written to order. And many of the other magazines have gone a bit off track.
Turner also published an arresting survey of how different artists and writers have depicted damnation in The History of Hell, and a chapbook about the fiction of John Crowley called Snake's Hands.