'In 1970, browsing SF bookshop in London I stumbled across a fanzine which contained a bibliography of John Wyndham by one Mike Ashley which revealed the existence of a couple of Wyndham stories I had never heard of before. As a result, I started tracking down and buying as many "author bibliographies" I could find which led me in the early 1980s to Gordon Benson's "Galactic Central" series ( http://www.philsp.com/pubindex.html#gcp). Having bought everything that Gordon had published, it seemed only natural that I should start contributing to the series myself (starting, of course, with John Wyndham). I gradually computerised the whole setup (I was a computer programmer in "real life") and, as Gordon's health began to deterioriate, gradually took on responsibility for the whole enterprise.
At the same time (mid-1980s to mid-1990s) I had started doing a column listing new books published in the UK for the American news magazine Locus, and this brought me into direct contact with Bill Contento. As part of writing the bibliographies, I had also been collecting every magazine or anthology/collection index I could find and was amazed one day, when browsing a charity bookshop, to find a copy of a magazine called Argosy (the UK one) that contained a John Wyndham story I'd never heard of. This led me to realise that, while I had indexes to hundreds of magazines, there were many more out there that might contain undiscovered treasures by my favourite authors.
By now (2000), the Internet was beginning to be a "thing" so I decided to create a small (!) website that focussed on author bibliographies ( http://www.philsp.com/authors.html) and also had a simple list of which magazines had been indexed (and where).
By coincidence ("steam engine time") Doug Ellis and John Locke had just produced their first checklist of pulps and Dave Pringle and Mike Ashley had produced a checklist of significant "fiction magazines". With permission from all parties I merged these two lists and added all the SF magazines indexed in the various SF magazine indexes and produced the first pass of the magazine list part of the website ( http://www.philsp.com/magazines.html). Having expected to list a few hundred magazines at most, this had already grown to 4000 magazines (and has since grown to just under 11,000).
Riffing on Mike Cook's idea for a series of themed indexes, I persuaded George that, rather than just reprint the existing index (which was somewhat out of date and full of gaps) it would make more sense to tighten the focus to Crime, Mystery and Gangster Fiction, bring it up to date, and follow it with other volumes on Adventure Fiction, Western Fiction and so on - the structure that still exists today as the Fictionmags Index Family ( http://www.philsp.com/indexes.html).
Bill had also launched a separate initiative. In the early years of the Fictionmags discussion group, a lot of the members (not least me) had taken the opportunity to discuss "fiction magazines" they had come across, illustrating the discussion by indexing some of the issues of said magazine. Rather than see such useful information "lost", Bill decided to collect it all into an online index which he called the Fictionmags index. In the first decade this had snowballed into several thousand magazines issues (including some complete runs such as the UK Argosy) but was still rather "ad hoc".
While all this had been going on, Mike Ashley had been negotiating with the British Library to produce a series of indexes to the "British Popular Fiction Magazines" ( http://www.philsp.com/bfi1.html). A number of these magazines had already been indexed in the other indexes, or as separate exercises (such as the UK Argosy) but there were several significant magazines (such as The Strand Magazine) that I was dying to see indexed. Ultimately Mike agreed to publish via the Fictionmags Index. This also allowed people other than Mike to work on the project and there is a group of five of us actively filling in the gaps. Following Bill’s death last year I have written a new suite of programs to generate the indexes (as it proved impossible to run Bill's programs outside of his computer). While still incomplete, this has allowed me to extend the programs to handle books as well as magazines and I am slowly extending the indexes to include some of the key indexes to anthologies and collections (most notably produced by Bill).'
My thanks go to Phil and also to his colleagues on these projects. Their tireless work is of real assistance to me, and I'm sure of great value to many other crime fans.