PulpFest 2010

History Archive

April 19, 2014

The Unique Magazine

Filed under: History — posted by Mike Chomko @ 7:00 pm

Weird Tales March 1923Weird Tales was the first periodical specifically devoted to the fantasy genre. Premiering in early 1923, its publishers envisioned “The Unique Magazine” as a place for a writer to be given “free rein to express his innermost feelings in a manner befitting great literature.” In reality, the early issues of the pulp were filled with ghost stories, the choice of the magazine’s editor, Edwin Baird. Far more interested in Rural’s Real Detective and Mystery Stories, Baird had little interest in fantasy.

Weird Tales came into its own in late 1924 when Farnsworth Wright was named the magazine’s editor. In the years ahead, the pulp would become known for its fantasy and supernatural fiction, publishing the work of Robert E. Howard, H. P. Lovecraft, and Clark Ashton Smith. Later issues would feature substantial efforts by Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury, Carl Jacobi, Henry Kuttner, C. L. Moore, Seabury Quinn, Manly Wade Wellman, and others. Weird Tales would likewise become noted for its artists. Hannes Bok, Margaret Brundage, Lee Brown Coye, and Virgil Finlay all contributed greatly to the fantasy art field through their work for “The Unique Magazine.”

In addition to publishing some of the best fantasy and supernatural fiction of the twentieth century, Weird Tales, like the Munsey magazines, featured science fiction in its pages, offering tales of interplanetary expeditions, brain transference, death rays, lost races, parallel worlds, and more. Edmond Hamilton was its leading contributor of science fiction. With stories about alien invasions, space police, and evolution gone wild, the author became known as “world-wrecker” Hamilton. Other notable science fiction in Weird Tales included work by Austin Hall, Otis Adelbert Kline, Frank Belknap Long, C. L. Moore, Donald Wandrei, and Jack Williamson. In his later years, H. P. Lovecraft spun his own style of science fiction in his tales of cosmic horror.

Although science fiction was frequently found in its pages—particularly during its early years—Weird Tales was not the first science-fiction pulp. That was left for Hugo Gernsback, an immigrant from Luxembourg, to develop.

Weird Tales 42-03The original run of Weird Tales began with its March 1923 number and ran through its September 1954 issue, for a total of 279 issues. Edwin Baird, Farnsworth Wright, and Dorothy McIlwraith (beginning in May 1940) were its editors. It was revived in 1973-74 for four issues, edited by Sam Moskowitz. A paperback series lasting four more issues, edited by Lin Carter, appeared from 1981-1983. The magazine was revived in 1988 by George H. Scithers, Darrell Schweitzer and John Gregory Betancourt and has, more or less, been published on a continuous basis since that time. At this writing, the 361st issue had been released. It is currently published by John Harlacher with Marvin Kaye serving as editor. For more details, visit the magazine’s website at http://weirdtalesmagazine.com/.

To learn more about the images used in this post, click on the illustrations. Click here for references consulted for this article.

April 15, 2014

The Munsey Magazines

Filed under: History — posted by Mike Chomko @ 7:00 pm

All Story 1905-01Shortly after The Argosy had been converted to the first all-fiction magazine in 1896, and not long thereafter the first pulp magazine, its circulation had doubled to about 80,000 copies per issue. By 1907, the year the periodical celebrated its 25th anniversary, its circulation had reached a half million copies, earning its publisher about $300,000 per year.

From its beginning, The Argosy made a home for fantastic fiction, reprinting “Citizen 504,” a dystopian short story written by Charles H. Palmer, in the December 1896 issue. Other reprints, from a variety of sources would follow. As the century turned, original fiction of a fantastic nature began to appear in The Argosy, including works by Jared L. Fuller, Park Winthrop, and longtime dime novelist William Wallace Cook. Edgar Franklin Stearns also began to contribute his humorous fantasies concerning off-beat contraptions to the magazine.

As its readership grew, The Argosy was bound to attract some imitators. Street & Smith, the longtime publisher of dime novels and story papers, was first to meet the call, debuting The Popular Magazine with its November 1903 issue. As the circulation of the new magazine grew, it became apparent to Frank Munsey that there was room on the newsstand for more than one pulp. At the end of 1904, the publisher debuted The All-Story Magazine.

allstory_tarzanMore than any other periodical prior to the introduction of the specialized science-fiction and fantasy pulps, The All-Story became the major repository for the “different” tale or the pseudo-scientific yarn. It was soon joined by other Munsey magazines–The Scrap Book and The Railroad Man’s Magazine (both 1906), The Ocean/The Live Wire (1907), and The Cavalier (1908). All of these, The Cavalier in particular, published fantastic fiction. However, it was all but a prelude to the serial novel that would begin in the February 1912 issue of The All-Story– “Under the Moons of Mars”–credited to Norman Bean.

Bean’s novel—the first published fiction of Edgar Rice Burroughs—would introduce John Carter of Mars to readers. It would soon be followed by the author’s “Tarzan of the Apes,” published in its entirety in the October 1912 issue of The All-Story. These two novels, along with the pseudo-scientific works of H. G. Wells and his American disciple, George Allan England, would serve as templates for much of the science fiction written over the next twenty-five years, generating a type of fiction best known as “the scientific romance.” The Munsey chain in particular worked to develop this school of fiction, creating a stable of writers–Ray Cummings, J. U. Geisy, Victor Rousseau, Francis Stevens, Charles B. Stilson, and the best of all, Abraham Merritt–able to contribute such stories.

Adventure 1910-11Although the fiction of Burroughs and Wells and those “inspired” by their work would remain popular for some time to come, its share of the pulp market would diminish as new magazines began to arrive on the scene. Beginning with Adventure Magazine, introduced by the Ridgway Company in 1910, these specialized pulps lessened the attraction of the general fiction magazines for those who enjoyed a certain type of story–mystery, romance, western, or straight adventure. In not too many years, the fantasy and science-fiction fan would likewise be served.

To learn more about the images used in this post, click on the illustrations. Click here for references consulted for this article.

April 11, 2014

A Magazine for the Common Man

Filed under: History — posted by Mike Chomko @ 7:00 pm

Pearson's 1899 Sept.We have seen that the popular British fiction magazines were modeled after the illustrated periodicals of America. However, unlike their British counterparts, the leading American magazines of the late nineteenth century–Harper’s, Century Magazine, and Scribner’s–were beyond the financial and the intellectual reach of the average U. S. citizen.

It was left to Frank A. Munsey–a man about whom it has been suggested, “contributed to the journalism of his day the talent of a meat packer, the morals of a money changer and the manner of an undertaker”–to deliver the first American periodical specifically intended for the common man. In his own words, Munsey decided to create “a magazine of the people and for the people, with pictures and art and good cheer and human interest throughout.”

Frank Munsey was born in Maine where he became interested in publishing. With minimal funds, he traveled to New York City and founded The Golden Argosy, a children’s weekly, in late 1882. Working largely on credit, he struggled for years, building his circulation through advertising and sheer determination. Deciding that the future lay in the adult market, he founded Munsey’s Weekly in 1889, soon converting it to Munsey’s Magazine. In 1893, convinced that a magazine could only be successful if the price was right, he slashed the price of Munsey’s to a dime and marketed it directly to newsdealers, essentially cutting out the middle man.

As the circulation of Munsey’s climbed to hundreds of thousands of copies, the publisher converted The Argosy to an adult magazine, similarly priced and modeled after it’s brethren. Envisioning a new kind of magazine, Frank Munsey wrote, “We want stories . . . . not dialect sketches, not washed out studies of effete human nature, not weak tales of sickly sentimentality, no ‘pretty’ writing . . . . We do want fiction in which there is a story, a force, a tale that means something–in short a story. Good writing is as common as clam shells, while good stories are as rare as statesmanship.”

Argosy 1896-12In October 1896, The Argosy became the first all-fiction magazine. Two months later in a cost-cutting move, it began to be printed on the wood-pulp paper he used for his daily newspaper and the rough-paper fiction magazine, or pulp, was born.

To learn more about the images used in this post, click on the illustrations. Click here for references consulted for this article.

April 7, 2014

Prelude to the Pulps

Filed under: History — posted by Mike Chomko @ 4:50 pm

Amazing_Stories 27-08As we learned in our April 4th post, “Origins of Science Fiction,” magazines began to reach a much wider audience as Europe and America became more industrialized. Increasingly urban and literate societies required cheap, entertaining, and easily accessible entertainment to escape the drudgery of the mills and offices. Since magazines could be produced cheaply and in a timely fashion, the last quarter of the nineteenth century became “The Age of the Storytellers.” Beginning around 1880, when Robert Louis Stevenson started to publish his first works of fiction, the world would witness the birth of the popular fiction magazine as well as the pulp magazine.

Strand 1891-07Stevenson’s “Treasure Island,” first serialized in 1881-82, helped to provide the spark for other authors to try their hand at similar fiction. Works such as H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines (1885), “She” (1886), and “Allan Quatermain” (1887), as well as Arthur Conan Doyle’s “A Study in Scarlet” (1887) demonstrated the need for an inexpensive, popular fiction magazine to be published on a regular basis. Shortly after Christmas in 1890, the first of these—The Strand Magazine—was launched by George Newnes. Filled with illustrations, the periodical really took off during the summer of 1891 with the start of Conan Doyle’s “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,” introducing one of the most successful continuing character series of all time.

With the success of The Strand Magazine came a host of imitators, among them Pearson’s Magazine. It debuted in late 1895 and soon became one of the leading publishers of magazine science fiction, featuring the future war stories of George Griffith and the scientific romances of Herbert George Wells. “The War of the Worlds” and “The Invisible Man,” both originally published in Pearson’s in 1897, are still enjoyed today, over a century after their initial appearances. Educated in the sciences as well as a literary genius, Wells’ mastery of both science and fiction was readily apparent. His later science fiction, including “The First Men in the Moon” (1900-1901) and “The Country of the Blind “1904), would run in The Strand.

In our next installment, we’ll turn our attention across the pond where an American entrepreneur named Frank A. Munsey was busy turning a struggling magazine into the first American all-fiction magazine.

War of the Worlds

To learn more about the images used in this post, click on the illustrations. Click here for references consulted for this article.


April 4, 2014

The Origins of Science Fiction

Filed under: History — posted by Mike Chomko @ 7:00 pm

Startling1939-01Way back in 1939, a sudden blossoming of  magazine science fiction and fantasy occurred. Following the introduction of Startling Stories at the end of 1938, no less than eight pulps featuring fantastic fiction debuted in the next year–Dynamic Science Stories, Strange Stories, Science Fiction, Unknown, Fantastic Adventures, Future Fiction, Famous Fantastic Mysteries, and Planet Stories. Additionally, three other science-fiction pulps were in preparation during 1939–Astonishing Stories, Captain Future, and Super Science Stories–and the first World Science Fiction Convention was held in New York City, home to the World’s Fair and its “World of Tomorrow” theme.

Over at Astounding Stories, editor John Wood Campbell was publishing the first science-fiction stories of Robert A. Heinlein, Theodore Sturgeon, and A. E. Van Vogt, as well as Isaac Asimov’s first story for the magazine and Hubert Rogers’ first cover. With his growing stable of writers and artists, Campbell was ushering in what would become known as the Golden Age of Science Fiction. But from whence did the genre come?

Although science fiction can trace its roots to such imaginary voyages, satires, and utopias as Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis (1626), Johannes Kepler’s Somnium (1634), Francis Godwin’s The Man in the Moone (1638), Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726), and other works, most modern scholars point to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, originally published in 1818, as the first science-fiction novel. In the years that followed the publication of this important work of both Gothic horror and science fiction, an increasing amount of fiction, once the province of books, found its way into magazines.

It was in periodicals that Edgar Allan Poe, best remembered for his horror and mystery tales, introduced logic and science to explain elements of the fantastic. Beginning with “Ms. Found in a Bottle” (1833), a story involving a sinking ship caught in a whirlpool leading toward the earth’s interior, Poe introduced science fiction to the short story. In the remaining sixteen years of his life, the author would periodically return to the genre in tales featuring trips to the Moon, new species, the death of the human race, the transmutation of lead into gold, and more.

From the Earth to the MoonWhen Poe died in 1849, the strength of his stories kept them fresh and alive, inspiring authors the world over. One of these was Jules Verne who introduced “precise, scientific details” into his own writing, culminating in his first great triumph, Five Weeks in a Balloon (1863). Encouraged by the novel’s great success, the story’s original publisher, Pierre Hetzel, contracted the author to produce two novels each year for the next twenty years to run in a new periodical. Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), From the Earth to the Moon (1865), Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1869-70), Around the World in Eighty Days (1873), and Off on a Comet (1877) are just some of the masterpieces of science fiction penned by this master of the genre.

As the century progressed and Europe and North America became increasingly industrialized, magazines began to reach a much wider, sometimes national, audience. Blackwood’s Magazine, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, Atlantic Monthly, Scribner’s Monthly, and others emerged, publishing the fiction of Walter Scott, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Fitz-James O’Brien, and others. The dime novels, penny-dreadfuls, and story papers also emerged during these years, offering tales of derring-do to a growing juvenile audience. It was here that the “American Jules Verne,” Luis Senarens, developed the Frank Reade, Jr. series that featured steam-powered contraptions in exciting adventure yarns.

Franke Reade, Jr.Still to come are H. Rider Haggard, Arthur Conan Doyle and The Strand Magazine, H. G. Wells and Pearson’s, Munsey’s and The Argosy and George Allan England. We’ll discuss these and more as we continue our examination of the offspring of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein–the fantastic magazines of Europe and the United States–in anticipation of PulpFest 2014 on August 7 – 10.

To learn more about the images used in this post, click on the illustrations. Click here for references consulted for this article.

August 24, 2013

Hey! Where Are the Posts?

Filed under: History — posted by Mike Chomko @ 11:41 pm

PulpFest 2013 FrontIf you’ve been visiting the PulpFest home page often, you know we try to regularly update our website. So where have all the old posts about our 2013 convention gone? You’ll find them at our new PulpFest 2013 Blogroll page. Click on the link for a play-by-play look at the creation of what many have termed “the best PulpFest of them all,” told through the posts that originally appeared on the convention’s home page during 2012 and 2013.

The image above, based on Walter M. Baumhofer’s front cover painting for the first issue of Doc Savage Magazine, is the original mock-up of PulpFest art designer Chris Kalb’s advertising promo for the 2013 convention.

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