Season’s Greetings from PulpFest

Dec 25, 2017 by

From July 26 – 29, 2018, PulpFest will celebrate the centennial of “The Armistice that Ended The Great War.” The convention will also mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Grand Master of Science Fiction Philip José Farmer.

We’ll be exploring the so-called “war pulps” of the early twentieth century and the depiction of war in popular culture. PulpFest 2018 will feature presentations on art in the war pulps and men’s adventure magazines, plus a look at war comics. We’ll also have expert presentations on air war pulps, Edgar Rice Burroughs and The Great War, and the life and fiction of Leonard Nason, an author who served in the First World War and wrote about his experiences. Robert Gould, the son of pulp illustrator John Fleming Gould — who contributed interior illustrations to G-8 AND HIS BATTLE ACES and many other pulps — will also be on hand to discuss his father’s life and artistic career.

Of course, we’ll also be celebrating the life and legacy of science fiction author and pulp fan Philip José Farmer. The members of FARMERCON 100 will be offering panels and presentations on “World Building and Writing in the Nine Continuity,” the author’s novels set in 1918, and much more (including a showing of the French documentary, MOI TARZAN).

And don’t forget about our convention’s Guest of Honor — Joe Lansdale — the author of over forty novels and numerous short stories. He’s also won the Edgar Award, ten Bram Stoker Awards, the Horror Writers Association Lifetime Achievement Award, the British Fantasy Award, the Inkpot Award for Contributions to Science Fiction and Fantasy, and many other honors.

Why not treat yourself to a gift and register for PulpFest 2018? Better yet, bring your entire family. Pittsburgh is a great city to visit, particularly when the Pirates are in town!

Wishing everyone a healthy and happy holiday season from your PulpFest organizing committee — Jack and Sally Cullers, Mike Chomko, Bill Lampkin, Barry Traylor, and Chuck Welch

(Rudolph Belarski painted the cover for the December 20, 1928 issue of Dell Publishing’s WAR STORIES. It’s a particularly moving portrait of a soldier making his way carefully across no-man’s-land. The glare of a flare, rather than that legendary star, lights his way.)

Head to Michigan for the 2017 Dum-Dum

Jun 29, 2017 by

As we’ve been reminding you for pretty much all of the last year, “Summer’s AMAZING Pulp Con” will take place from Thursday, July 27, through Sunday, July 30 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry — just north of Pennsylvania’s “Steel City.”

You can join PulpFest by clicking the Register for 2017 button on our home page. And if you’re not from the Pittsburgh area, don’t forget to book a room at the DoubleTree. They’re going fast! Plus, you only have until July 5 to get a room at the special PulpFest rate.

PulpFest 2017 will be here before you know it and then, like all good things, it will be over. But all is not lost . . . .

Michael A. Hatt of Montgomery, Michigan will be hosting the 2017 Dum-Dum, the annual gathering of Edgar Rice Burroughs enthusiasts. It will be held at the Quality Inn and Suites in Coldwater, Michigan from Thursday, August 3 through Saturday, August 5, with a farewell breakfast planned for Sunday, August 7. The convention’s guests of honor will be Martin Powell, a writer for ERB, Inc, and story board and comic book artist Bo Hampton.

Also appearing at the convention will be Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. president, Jim Sullos along with the ERB team of Cathy and Tyler Wilbanks.  Jim will update the convention attendees with the latest projects and events emerging from Tarzana. Bob Zeuschner, the author of the detailed bibliography EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS: THE BIBLIOGRAPHY, and author Mike Chapman will also be guests at the convention.

Edgar Rice Burroughs vacationed in Coldwater for almost twenty years. It was the summer home to his wife’s family, the Hulberts. In celebration of the area’s history, all members of this year’s Dum-Dum will receive a copy of a special limited edition of BEYOND THIRTY, partially written by Burroughs in Coldwater.

We hope you enjoy the 2017 Dum-Dum. It will certainly help ease your pop culture needs and get you through the next year, as you await the arrival of PulpFest 2018.

(The logo for the Coldwater Dum-Dum was drawn by Oscar Gonzales, created by Casey Daws based on an idea by Michael Hatt, and used with the permission of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. The aero submarine “Coldwater” was originally drawn by Gonzales for the online comic strip, “The Lost Continent.”)

What’s This PulpFest All About?

Mar 27, 2017 by

So what’s this PulpFest that has so many people talking? With almost 3,000 likes on Facebook and more than 700 followers on Twitter, it certainly has been generating a lot of excitement. But what’s it all about?

All-Story 12-10PulpFest is named for pulp magazines — fiction periodicals named after the cheap paper on which they were printed. Frank A. Munsey pioneered the format in 1896 with THE ARGOSY. A decade later, pulps began to pick up steam with titles like BLUE BOOK and ADVENTURE, then exploded in 1912 when THE ALL-STORY printed a little yarn by Edgar Rice Burroughs called “Tarzan of the Apes.” Soon thereafter, genre titles began to flourish, among them DETECTIVE STORY, WESTERN STORY, and LOVE STORY. In the twenties, publishing legends such as BLACK MASK, WEIRD TALES and AMAZING STORIES debuted. The following decade saw the advent of the so-called “hero pulps” with magazines such as THE SHADOW, DOC SAVAGE, and THE SPIDER attracting new readers to the rough-paper format. Weird-menace magazines premiered around the same time with DIME MYSTERY MAGAZINE, SPICY MYSTERY STORIES, and TERROR TALES scaring the wits out of readers. The late thirties saw an explosion of science fiction pulps — led by John W. Campbell’s ASTOUNDING STORIES — with other titles such as FANTASTIC ADVENTURES and PLANET STORIES thrilling readers of all ages.

By the early fifties, the pulps were gone, killed by competition from paperback books, comic books, radio, television, and movies. But the fiction and artwork that appeared in the rough-paper consumables of the early twentieth century kept them alive in the hearts and minds of countless individuals. Haunting back-issue magazine shops, flea markets, science fiction conventions, and other venues, these hearty souls gradually assembled astounding collections of genre fiction, all published in the rough and ragged magazines known as pulps. Eventually, these collectors organized a convention dedicated to the premise that the pulps had a profound effect on American popular culture that reverberated through a wide variety of mediums — comic books, movies, paperbacks and genre fiction, television, men’s adventure magazines, radio drama, and even video and role-playing games. Today, we call this convention, PulpFest.

The summertime destination for fans and collectors of vintage popular fiction and related materials, PulpFest seeks to honor the pulps by drawing attention to the many ways these throwaway articles have inspired writers, artists, film directors, software developers, and other creators over the decades.

Why not come see what it’s all about? PulpFest 2017 will be paying tribute to the hardboiled dicks, dangerous dames, and a few psychos of the pulps. We’ll be exploring DIME DETECTIVE MAGAZINE — where the hard-boiled detective story developed into an important fiction genre — and Robert Leslie Bellem’s tough-guy detective, Dan Turner; Pat Savage, The Domino Lady, and other dangerous dames of the pulps, the hardboiled ladies who helped pave the way for such modern day gumshoes as Sue Grafton‘s Kinsey Millhone, Marcia Muller‘s Sharon McCone, and Sara Paretsky‘s V. I. Warshawski; and some of the mad scientists, crazed hunchbacks, and foul cultists who decimated American cities on a monthly basis in rough-paper magazines like THE SHADOW. We’ll also be saluting the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Robert Bloch, the author of PSYCHO — later adapted to film by Alfred Hitchcock. Bloch got his start as a writing professional in the pulps.

The convention’s guest of honor will be Pittsburgh artist Gloria Stoll Karn. In a field dominated by men, it was highly unusual for a woman to be painting covers for pulp magazines. But at age seventeen, Gloria Stoll began contributing black and white interior illustrations to pulp magazines. In a few years, the young artist was painting covers. How’s that for a dangerous dame? One of the few surviving contributors to the pulp magazine industry, Ms. Stoll Karn will be joined by pulp art historian David Saunders — winner of our 2016 Lamont Award — to discuss her freelance career in the pulps and much more on Saturday evening, July 29.

We’ll have all this plus a dealers’ room featuring tens of thousands of pulp magazines, vintage paperbacks, digests, men’s adventure and true crime magazines, original art, first edition hardcovers, series books, reference books, dime novels and story papers, Big Little Books, B-Movies, serials and related paper collectibles, old-time radio shows, and Golden and Silver Age comic books, as well as newspaper adventure strips. For a look at our planned schedule, please visit our home page and click the Programming for 2017 button just below our banner.

The convention will take place from Thursday evening, July 27, through Sunday afternoon, July 30, at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry, just nineteen miles north of the exciting city of Pittsburgh. You can book your room directly through the PulpFest website. Just click the “Book a Room for 2017” link on our home page or call 1-800-222-8733. Be sure to mention PulpFest in order to receive the convention rate.

Start making your plans now to join in our exploration of “Hardboiled Dicks, Dangerous Dames, and a Few Psychos” at the “pop culture center of the universe” called PulpFest 2017.

(Published by the Frank A. Munsey Company, the October 1912 issue of THE ALL-STORY featured Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novel “Tarzan of the Apes,” published in its entirety. Clinton Pettee — who illustrated many of the Munsey magazines as well as the pulp, SHORT STORIES — painted the front cover art for the magazine. Burroughs’ Tarzan is perhaps the most famous character to emerge from the pulps.

Over thirty years after the publication of “Tarzan of the Apes,” a young Gloria Stoll Karn contributed the cover art for the November 1943 issue of Popular Publications’ DIME MYSTERY MAGAZINE. The artist would paint more than 100 covers for the pulps of the 1940s.)

Head to Chicago for the 2016 Dum-Dum

Jul 5, 2016 by

Worlds of ERBAs we’ve been reminding you for pretty much all of the last year, “Summer’s AMAZING Pulp Con” will take place from Thursday, July 21, through Sunday, July 24 in the Hyatt Regency and the Greater Columbus Convention Center in beautiful downtown Columbus, Ohio.

If you are not from the Columbus area and have yet to book your room for this year’s PulpFest, you can try calling 1-888-421-1442 to reach the Hyatt Regency. Perhaps there are rooms still available. Alternately, you can search for a room at tripadvisor  or a similar website to find a hotel. Other sites include www.columbusconventions.com/thearea.phpcourtesy of the Greater Columbus Convention Center, and the Experience Columbus lodging page at http://www.experiencecolumbus.com/stay Thanks so much to everyone who has reserved a room at our host hotel. By staying at the Hyatt Regency, you’ve helped to ensure the convention’s success.

PulpFest 2016 will be here before you know it and then . . . like all good things . . . it will be over. What to do then? All is not lost . . .

The Chicago Muckers chapter of the Burroughs Bibliophiles is planning to celebrate its tenth anniversary by hosting the 2016 Dum-Dum, the annual gathering of Edgar Rice Burroughs enthusiasts. It will be held in the Quality Inn in Morris, Illinois from Thursday through Saturday, August 4 to 6, with a farewell breakfast Sunday, August 7. The convention’s guests of honor will be Mike Resnick, Hugo-Award winning science fiction author, former ERB fandom writer, and co-editor of WORLDS OF EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS; and Robert Garcia, his co-editor and the book’s graphic designer.

Also appearing at the convention will be artist Doug Klauba and pulp expert Doug Ellis, co-chairman of the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention. Hopefully, Chicago’s Dum-Dum will help get you through the next thirteen months, until the arrival of PulpFest 2017 in August of next year.

(WORLDS OF EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS — featuring cover art by Dave Seeley — is an anthology of eleven stories by modern authors set in the fantastic worlds created by the early twentieth century master of the adventure story. Published by Baen Books in 2013, it features stories from every one of Burrough’s series, including some of his later and lesser known ones.)

The AMAZING Story: The Forties — “Gimme Bang-Bang”

Feb 25, 2016 by

Slider AMAZING STORIES 1944-05

Ray Palmer and the AMAZING Shaver Mystery

Amazing Stories 40-04To many who recall it, the AMAZING STORIES of the 1940s represented the era of the Shaver Mystery. It is probably fair to say that the Shaver phenomenon colored the judgment of many who dismiss the contents of AMAZING during this time as sensationalistic rubbish because of the so-called “crackpot” element that was attracted to the magazine. And crackpots there were, but that is not the whole story.

Raymond A. Palmer, the young new editor of AMAZING at the start of this decade, has been damned by history far more than he deserves — though it must be admitted that in later years he did more or less encourage his isolation. A succession of illnesses and accidents left Palmer a lonely child. One accident left him malformed from a curvature of the spine. In adult life he was only a little more than four feet tall. But what he lacked in height, he made up for in dynamism and showmanship.

One of the factors that led to Palmer’s later isolation was that he started his tenure as editor at the same time that John W. Campbell came on the scene at ASTOUNDING STORIES. Campbell instigated a policy of publishing serious, mature, and above all believable science fiction. He developed a coterie of new writers — including Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Theodore Sturgeon, Lester del Rey, and, believe it or not, L. Ron Hubbard — who could feed off his ideas, as he could feed off theirs. Partly because of these interchanges, the work of these authors ushered in the so-called Golden Age of science fiction.

Palmer, on the other hand, went for fun and games, treating science fiction lightheartedly and aiming at a younger, less sophisticated readership. As a consequence, science fiction polarized between Campbell’s science-forecasters at one extreme and Palmer’s laboratory playpit at the other. That’s not to say that Palmer published only puerile trivia. But because he was science fiction’s renegade, many are ready to dismiss too easily the fiction that he did publish. From today’s vantage point, though, one might argue that under Palmer, AMAZING published a 1940s’ version of “pop” or “punk” science fiction, and its pages during that decade hold some surprises.

At the outset, it must be recalled that Palmer was trying to rebuild AMAZING‘s circulation and rectify years of damage caused by T. O’Conor Sloane’s handling of the magazine. By 1938 AMAZING had stagnated, and Palmer’s first move was to enliven it with bold, gaudy, action-packed covers reflecting the fast-paced, thrill-a-minute contents. When his writers asked what type of fiction he wanted, Palmer’s simple answer was “Gimme bang-bang.” Palmer had little time for the cerebral style of sf that was emerging in ASTOUNDING. He wanted superficial, escapist enjoyment, similar to the scientific romances that the pulp magazines had published before Hugo Gernsback launched AMAZING STORIES in 1926, but less sophisticated.

Amazing Stories 41-06Palmer wanted to recapture the fun of the early pulps. He was fortunate in being able to secure three groups of stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs, set respectively in his worlds of Mars, Venus, and Pellucidar. These ran through 1941 and 1942. Although Burroughs’s fortunes had declined in recent years, his name still captured the imagination of old and young alike. The first appearance of an original Burroughs story in AMAZING, however, caused a controversy. The January 1941 issue carried the novelette “John Carter and the Giant of Mars,” but many readers, who were dedicated Burroughs fans, felt this story did not read as if the master had written it. The letters flooded in. The truth was not revealed at the time, but Irwin Porges, in his massive biography of Burroughs, THE MAN WHO CREATED TARZAN, asserts that the story had been written jointly with Burroughs’s son, John Coleman.

Palmer didn’t mind controversy — it helped sell issues. Moreover, ever the Burroughs fan, he favored fiction written in the Burroughs style, and both AMAZING and its companion FANTASTIC ADVENTURES (which Ziff-Davis began to publish with its May 1939 issue) had a strong Burroughsian flavor during the early 1940s. This is especially evident in the work of Ralph Milne Farley and Robert Moore Williams.

Farley had apparently been approached to edit AMAZING STORIES when Ziff-Davis first acquired it in 1938, and had recommended Palmer instead. In the twenties he had written his own Burroughsian-style “Radio Man” series for ARGOSY, set on Venus. The scientist-adventurer of those stories, Miles Cabot, was resurrected in Amazing in “The Radio Man Returns” (June 1939). Stories by Farley, some of them serialized over more than one issue, appeared in eight issues of the magazine during 1939 and 1940.

Williams, who became one of AMAZING‘s most prolific contributors, was a skillful adventure writer, and it is rumored that his Tarzan-like novella “Jongor of Lost Land” changed the fortunes of FANTASTIC ADVENTURES (for the better) after it appeared in that magazine’s October 1940 issue. His initial appearance in AMAZING was with “The Man Who Ruled the World” in June 1938 — the first issue that carried Palmer’s name as editor.

Palmer also used the artistic skills of J. Allen St. John to illustrate the Burroughs stories, as well as several covers, and there is little doubt that all these factors contributed to the continuing growth in AMAZING‘s circulation during the early part of the decade.

Amazing Stories 42-07Another echo from the past was “Anthony Gilmore,” the pseudonym under which Harry Bates and Desmond Hall had written their Hawk Carse stories when they were editors of ASTOUNDING. The Hawk Carse stories were space opera at its worst, but they remained sentimentally entrenched in the minds of some fans. Palmer commissioned Bates to write a short novel, “The Return of Hawk Carse” (July 1942). The fact that the story was not well received is at least some measure of the degree by which science fiction had advanced, even at AMAZING‘s juvenile level.

Palmer brought together other writers from the early days of magazine sf, and allowed them free rein with unabashed scientific adventures. Primary among them were Edmond Hamilton, Ross Rocklynne, Manly Wade Wellman, Raymond Z. Gallun, Ed Earl Repp, Stanton A. Coblentz, and Eando Binder. Although they were capable of more serious science fiction (and occasionally proved it in other magazines), they used AMAZING as their knockabout backyard. Stories followed simple plots: they were either gangster stories transposed into space, with villains chasing and being chased around the solar system; or they were war stories in space; or they were tales about bizarre inventions, often with madcap results.

Typical stories of the period by members of this group, which can be generally categorized by their titles alone, include “Treasure on Thunder Moon” by Hamilton (April 1942); “Warrior Queen of Lolarth” by Rocklynne (May 1943); “Suicide-Rocket” by Wellman (March 1942); “Terror out of the Past” by Gallun (March 1940); “The Secret of Planetoid 88” by Repp (December 1941); and “The Cosmic Deflector” by Coblentz (January 1943).

Occasionally, Palmer would acquire fiction from more serious or aspiring writers, including Isaac Asimov, John Beynon (full legal name John Beynon Harris; later known as John Wyndham), and Eric Frank Russell.

“Marooned Off Vesta” (March 1939) was Asimov’s first published story. “The Weapon Too Dreadful to Use” followed in the May 1939 magazine, but Asimov soon became a member of Campbell’s stable at ASTOUNDING and only had one more story in AMAZING during the 1940s (“Robot AL 76 Goes Astray” February 1942).

Beynon’s stories in AMAZING during the early years of Palmer’s tenure were “Judson’s Annihilator” (October 1939, a standard sf war story, and “Phoney Meteor” (March 1941), a clever tale about alien invasion.

Russell’s first appearance in the magazine, and his only one during the decade, was with “Mr. Wisel’s Secret” in February 1942, the same issue that contained the aforementioned Asimov story.

Amazing Stories 44-05Those were, and are, noteworthy writers, and there were others, but of greatest significance were the stories by Ray Bradbury. Bradbury had an unbridled talent for giving his stories an offbeat originality, something that appealed more to Palmer than to Campbell. His “I, Rocket” (May 1944) is an adventure story from the viewpoint of a sentient rocket, published more than fifteen years before Anne McCaffrey would write “The Ship Who Sang.” Ten years after the appearance of the work, Campbell was still referring to Bradbury’s rocket as his “fairy ship,” since the story was devoid of the hardware for which Campbell yearned. Bradbury was also represented in the magazine by “Undersea Guardians” (December 1944), “Final Victim” (co-credited with Henry Hasse, February 1946), and “Chrysalis” (July 1946).

Unfortunately, challenging stories were the exception rather than the rule in AMAZING STORIES at this point in time. By the early 1940s, Palmer had developed a stable of local (Chicago-based) writers who could write to order, often producing stories around cover paintings by Harold McCauley, Robert Gibson Jones, or Malcolm Smith. The mainstays were Don Wilcox, Robert Moore Williams, David Wright O’Brien, William P. McGivern, Leroy Yerxa, and David Vem, plus (later in the decade) Chester S. Geier, Berkeley Livingston, and William L. Hamling.

Of these, Wilcox was the oldest. He approached his writing more seriously than the others, and scored early with a memorable story, “The Voyage That Lasted 600 Years” (October 1940), based on his sociological studies. It was a pioneer work on the subject of the first generation starship.

O’Brien was regarded as the most talented of these writers. A nephew of Farnsworth Wright, editor of WEIRD TALES, he was 22 years old when his first story (“Truth Is a Plague!”) appeared in AMAZING in the February 1940 issue. O’Brien had a fertile mind, an abundance of youthful exuberance, and an infectious sense of humor. He shared an office with McGivern, who was only 16 years old when he made his debut in May 1940 with “John Brown’s Body,” co-written with O’Brien.

Amazing Stories 44-03The two of them were able to write just about any story to Palmer’s order. Sometimes the stories were serious, sometimes spooky, but usually they were madcap, designed for nothing but entertainment. Palmer often endowed these stories with his own zany titles, so that the pages of AMAZING STORIES and FANTASTIC ADVENTURES contained stories such as “The Quandary of Quintus Quaggle” (by McGivern, AS June 1941); “Mr. Muddle Does as He Pleases” (McGivern and O’Brien, AS August 1941); “Ferdinand Finknodle’s Perfect Day” (O’Brien, AS September 1941); “The Strange Voyage of Hector Squinch” (O’Brien, FA August 1940); “Sidney, the Screwloose Robot” (McGivern, FA June 1941), and “Rewbarb’s Remarkable Radio” (McGivern, FA December 1941). In many ways the stories of this sort read like P. G. Wodehouse meets AMAZING STORIES, and certainly the readers appreciated this lighthearted fare, which was unavailable elsewhere. Robert Bloch made the best of the situation with a whole series of stories in FANTASTIC ADVENTURES about Lefty Feep, a rather lovable layabout who manages to fall into and out of trouble.

Although forgotten today, Leroy Yerxa was among the most prolific contributors to the Ziff-Davis magazines. He was twenty-seven years old when his first story, “Death Rides at Night” appeared under his own name in the August 1942 AMAZING. In the next four years, till his untimely death in 1946, he sold more than seventy stories to Palmer for AMAZING STORIES and FANTASTIC ADVENTURES, with many of those published pseudonymously. He is rumored to have written an entire issue of FANTASTIC ADVENTURES (possibly the one for December 1943). While other writers wrote more, their output was not concentrated in such a short, intense period. Possibly Yerxa’s only rival in this regard was David Wright O’Brien, who in the five years from 1940 through 1944 sold more than a hundred stories to Palmer, not counting his collaborations with McGivern.

Palmer’s core of writers were so prolific that they could fill every issue. To avoid the frequent recurrence of names, the authors used various personal pseudonyms, some of which were later adopted by other authors. For instance, “Lee Francis” began as a pen name of Leroy Yerxa’s, but after his death in 1946 it was used by others, including Hamling. In addition, a practice began of creating a number of house names. These nom de plumes were originally used to hide the identities of the various editorial personnel working on the magazine, especially David Vern.

Vern was a precocious, hyperactive young editorial assistant who came from New York to the Chicago office to help Palmer with the work arising from the expansion of the magazine line. (In addition to AMAZING STORIES and its new companion FANTASTIC ADVENTURES, Palmer was also editing RED STAR ADVENTURES and SOUTH SEA STORIES.)

Vern was also a passable writer, and his work started to appear in both magazines under the names of “Peter Horn,” “David V. Reed,” and “Alexander Blade.” (His first contribution to AMAZING was “Where Is Roger Davis?” in the May 1939 issue under the “Reed” pseudonym.) However, when Vern returned to New York after a few years these names, particularly “Alexander Blade,” were assigned to a variety of other writers.

Back cover of Amazing Stories 41-05Other house names emerged, including “P. F. Costello,” “Gerald Vance,” “E. K. Jarvis,” and “S. M. Tenneshaw” — originally used by McGivern, O’Brien, Williams, and Hamling, respectively. O’Brien also wrote as “John York Cabot” and (perhaps in homage to his uncle) “Duncan Farnsworth.” Palmer himself produced more than a dozen pieces of writing for AMAZING during the 1940s, using a variety of pseudonyms including “A. R. Steber,” “Morris J. Steele,” “Frank Patton,” “Henry Gade,” “Wallace Quitman,” and “G. H. Irwin.” Clearly, at times it could be difficult to tell the players even with a scorecard. Despite the efforts of a number of researchers over the years, many of the true authors of house name stories remain unidentified (although work that Kenneth R. Johnson is currently doing is close to cracking open the final parts of the mystery). (It is not known if Johnson ever solved “the final parts of the mystery.” However, since Johnson’s research into the subject has, to our knowledge, never been released, it seems unlikely that he did so.)

A strong family atmosphere prevailed in the Ziff-Davis offices in Chicago during this period, with Palmer looking after his boys. Wilcox, who is still active after all these years (Wilcox remained active until his death in the year 2000) though more now as a portrait painter than as a writer, has shared many memories of those days with me. “A card game, usually gin rummy, would be occupying the attention of editors and their assistants,” he recalled. “The fellows must have done their work at night. On check days, Palmer’s office might be a gathering place for several new writers, new faces, all ready to register disappointment if the checks hadn’t come in on time.”

Palmer had a fast-working, versatile mind. Wilcox has a clear memory of him furiously pounding his typewriter at high speed. On one occasion Wilcox had become too deeply involved in his story “The Lost Race Comes Back,” written around a cover painting by J. Allen St. John, and couldn’t finish it. Palmer promptly read the story and completed it himself there and then to meet the deadline. (The story appears in the May 1941 issue.)

The outward signs of AMAZING‘s success were its regularity — published once a month for five years beginning in November 1938 — and an increased number of pages. During 1941 and 1942 the page count rose from 144 up to 240 and all the way to 272. Even after the onset of World War II and the subsequent paper rationing, the magazine kept to 208 pages for a time (later shrinking to 180), remaining constantly the best value in bulk for money. But as war rationing continued to bite into the publishing industry, AMAZING was forced to cut back on its production schedule. In late 1943 the magazine shifted to bimonthly, and then to quarterly after the following summer, not returning to monthly publication until the June 1946 issue.

Amazing Stories 42-03Palmer supported the war effort by publishing the largest quota of anti-Nazi propagandist fiction of any sf magazine. Much of it made fun of the German war effort, but some stories were serious in tone. Palmer contributed a number himself, such as “A Patriot Never Dies” (August 1943) and “War Worker 17” (September 1943), both under his “Frank Patton” alias. The latter appeared in an issue dedicated to women war workers. The September 1944 magazine was a special war issue; every story in it was identified as having been written by a member of the military, and it also contained letters from the troops.

The most significant contributor to that issue was Corporal David Wright O’Brien, with three stories — one under his real name and one each attributed to “Corporal John York Cabot” and “Corporal Duncan Farnsworth.” The AMAZING office was shocked when O’Brien, who served in the U. S. Air Force, was shot down and killed over Berlin later that year at the age of twenty-six. He had been a personable, friendly young man with an effervescent writing talent, and there is no doubt that he would have followed his close friend William McGivern into the big time if he had survived the war.

During the war years, Ziff-Davis began publishing two new mystery magazines, MAMMOTH DETECTIVE, which started in May 1942, and MAMMOTH MYSTERY, which came out in February 1945. (These magazines gave McGivern the grounding that later helped to establish him as one of the top thriller writers.) To help Palmer edit these new titles, Bernard Davis brought in 34-year-old Howard Browne, a solid, no-nonsense detective writer of the Chandler school.

Browne had no interest in science fiction, though he enjoyed the fantasies in FANTASTIC ADVENTURES. Ironically, however, his first appearance as a writer was in AMAZING. Palmer talked Browne into writing a novel set in prehistoric times, “Warrior of the Dawn,” which was serialized in late 1942 and early 1943. Adventures in prehistory, usually written in the Burroughsian style, were regular fare in both AMAZING and FANTASTIC ADVENTURES during the early years of Palmer’s tenure as editor. Among the most popular offerings were Manly Wade Wellman’s series of stories about Hok, a Stone Age warrior who was a prototype for Hercules. Hok fought his way through five adventures, including ones set in ancient Greece and Atlantis.

Amazing Stories 41-09The lost continents of Atlantis, Lemuria, and Mu all figured prominently in both magazines. For instance, “Adventure in Lemuria” by Frederic Arnold Kummer, Jr., appeared in the first issue of FANTASTIC ADVENTURES (May 1939), and was followed by several sequels. Stanton A. Coblentz’s “Enchantress of Lemuria” was the lead novel in the September 1941 issue of AMAZING. In addition, in that same issue L. Taylor Hansen began a column on scientific mysteries, which dealt with Gondwanaland, Atlantis, and other puzzles from before the dawn of science.

Thus, readers of AMAZING became accustomed to Palmer’s fascination with ancient mysteries, and when Richard S. Shaver appeared in the March 1945 issue with a piece entitled “I Remember Lemuria,” the story should have come as no surprise. Nor would it have — except that Palmer claimed the story was based on truth!

Shaver maintained that eons ago, the earth had been inhabited by two super-races, the Titans and the Atlans. As time passed, they were forced underground by increasingly harmful radiation from the sun. They established vast subterranean caverns full of advanced scientific equipment. Eventually the sun’s radiation became too harmful, and both races were forced to abandon the planet. They left their scientific equipment behind, and it was later discovered by an inferior race of humans who tampered with the machinery and came under its control. Over the millennia these humans degenerated into deranged robots, or, in Shaver-speak, “deros.” It is the harmful rays and evil thoughts generated from the machines by these deros that have caused mankind to fall from grace, and are the cause of all of humanity’s ills. With the world in the grips of a war that was entering its final months, such a message, if indeed it were true, came as a sign of hope to many readers. If all evils came from external influences, then they could be stopped, and mankind would revert to its natural good state, and all would be well!

The origin of the Shaver stories has at times seemed confusing, though Palmer reported it himself clearly on many occasions, and Howard Browne had a vivid recollection of the events. Some years ago Browne recounted his memories to me: Shaver had submitted a two-page letter to AMAZING under the heading “Warning to Future Man.” Browne was the first one to read it. He remarked to Palmer that “the screwballs were blooming early” that year, and tossed the manuscript into the wastebasket. Palmer promptly retrieved it and said to Browne, “Let me give you a lesson in creative editing.” He thereupon sat down, read the manuscript, and wrote a novelette around it — the piece of writing that was published as “I Remember Lemuria.” Palmer then discovered Shaver had several longer stories in his possession. Palmer bought them, rewrote them extensively, and published them. As time went on, under Palmer’s guidance, Shaver wrote more and more stories himself, but the initial ones were shaped and crafted by Palmer.

Amazing Stories 47-06Prior to the appearance of the Shaver stories, AMAZING was selling around 125,000 copies per issue. The March 1945 issue had a larger than normal print run — and it soon sold out. Letters from readers poured in, and with the next issue, featuring Shaver’s “Thought Records of Lemuria,” circulation approached 200,000. Palmer’s employees were impressed, and Palmer overtly promoted the Shaver Mystery for all it was worth. There was a Shaver story in almost every issue for the next two years, culminating in an all-Shaver issue for June 1947. Other writers also contributed stories in the same vein, including Chester Geier, who founded the Shaver Mystery Club, and German writer Heinrich Hauser, then living in Chicago, who added two linked novels, “Agharti” (June 1946) and “Titans’ Battle” (March 1947).

It is not clear how much Palmer was milking the gullible, as any entrepreneur might. He left mixed messages over the years. In all likelihood Palmer, the victim of many handicaps and misfortunes, wanted to believe it, and was prepared to go along with it all the time it sustained sales.

Shaver was certainly sincere. When I corresponded with him in the 1970s, he still maintained the truth of his experiences and observations. By then he was pursuing ancient records in the rocks, where he believed the true history of Atlan was written.

Science fiction fans were less enthusiastic, and they became hostile to AMAZING‘s editor. Palmer, who only ten years earlier had been one of the leading sf fans, attempted some reconciliation by instigating a fan column in the March 1948 issue, “The Club House,” prepared by Rog Phillips. But on the whole, the sf fans formed only a small part of the readership of AMAZING, and if they had to be antagonized for the sake of sales, why should Palmer worry?

Eventually such leading magazines as HARPER’S and ATLANTIC MONTHLY began to notice and criticize the crackpot elements of the Shaver Mystery, and the story goes (according to him) that Palmer was told to soft-pedal the topic thereafter. Whether that is true or not, I don’t know, since it would seem surprising for a publisher to act negatively in reaction to such publicity. (One learns never to take too seriously anything Palmer says.) The fact remains that by the end of 1946, Davis had been elevated within the company, and Ray Palmer followed him up the ladder to become overall editorial director. He was given a salary increase of around $250 a month and even more freedom with the magazines.

Palmer’s next move, though, was rather devious. During 1947, he shut down MAMMOTH DETECTIVEMAMMOTH MYSTERY, and the recently created MAMMOTH ADVENTURES. He placed William Hamling in editorial control of the two magazines — AMAZING STORIES and FANTASTIC ADVENTURES — while Howard Browne took a leave of absence during which he wrote three mystery novels.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Palmer invested his money in establishing the Clark Publishing Company and, in May 1948, launched the magazine FATE. Robert N. Webster (an alias of Palmer’s) was identified as the publisher of the new magazine.

Palmer had come to realize that much wealth lay in appealing to the fringe cults. Following the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the world had not only awoken to the terrifying consequences of science, but also to other possibilities. One such was that man’s advance into the nuclear age had been the sign to alien observers that man was becoming a danger to himself and his planet, and he had to be kept under closer observation. Hence, the sudden wave of flying saucer sightings. Palmer had been one of the first to promote “ufology” in the pages of AMAZING. Now he could use FATE as he wished to pander to all of the occult sciences. As a consequence, that type of material was siphoned from AMAZING to FATE.

Amazing Stories 47-09With that shift, the quality of fiction in AMAZING improved marginally. Theodore Sturgeon put in a surprise appearance with “Blabbermouth” (February 1947), a story probably switched from the inventory of FANTASTIC ADVENTURES. Edmond Hamilton, ever an old reliable, who during the early 1940s had scored with his Captain Future stories in the magazine of the same name, wrote “The Star Kings” (September 1947), a space opera par excellence, again in the Burroughs tradition. There were also some readable, non-Shaverian stories from Rog Phillips, Chester Geier, and Don Wilcox, but by and large the mid to late 1940s saw AMAZING at its lowest point in quality — yet its highest in circulation!

Palmer’s link with the magazine grew more tenuous as FATE became more popular. By mid-1949 his plans were well advanced for a new science-fiction magazine, OTHER WORLDS, which appeared in October (cover date November). Palmer continued to produce both FATE and OTHER WORLDS under the Webster alias until he was satisfied that both magazines were established. He then resigned from Ziff-Davis, and Howard Browne came back from his leave of absence to take over editorial control of the magazines, with Hamling staying on as his assistant. The January 1950 issue was the first one to list Browne as editor.

Browne may not have liked science fiction very much, but he knew a good story when he saw one, and was dedicated to acting responsibly in his new role. The end of 1949 saw him discarding several hundred thousand words of Shaver-inspired material, as he sought to re-establish the magazine’s credibility. His successes and failures make up the next part of “The AMAZING Story.”

“The AMAZING Story: The Forties — ‘Gimme Bang-Bang'” is © 2016 by Mike Ashley and appears here with the author’s permission. Notes in italics are by PulpFest and are © 2016 by PulpFest. The original article was published by TSR, Inc. and edited by Kim Mohan for the March 1992 issue of AMAZING STORIES.Many thanks to Curt Phillips, the moderator of the Yahoo newsgroup PulpMags, for drawing our attention to and providing us with copies of Mike Ashley’s exceptional series of articles about the world’s first science-fiction magazine. Please visit www.pulpfest.com on Monday, February 29th, for the fourth segment of the series.

(Concerning our illustrations . . . . The AMAZING STORIES for April 1940 with cover art by H. R. Hammond — the artist’s only cover for the magazine — was a typical issue for the decade. When Ray Palmer was named managing editor in 1938, he established a new policy for lively, adventurous stories aimed at a young market. He wanted superficial, escapist enjoyment, similar to the scientific romances that the pulp magazines had once published, but less sophisticated. David Wright O’Brien’s “Fish Men of Venus” was the usual fare for the Palmer era of the magazine.

During the early forties, Palmer was fortunate in being able to secure three groups of stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs, set respectively in his worlds of Mars, Venus, and Pellucidar. The six Martian stories that Burroughs sold to AMAZING STORIES — including “Black Pirates of Barsoom,” published in the June 1941 issue of AMAZING STORIES with front cover art by J. Allen St. John — formed the basis for the author’s final two books in his Mars series — LLANA OF GATHOL and JOHN CARTER OF MARS.

One of the finest artists to contribute cover art to Ray Palmer’s AMAZING STORIES was J. Allen St. John. A native of Chicago —  where AMAZING STORIES was produced — he began to work for various Midwestern publishers — including the A. C. McClurg Company of Chicago — in the early 1900s.  In 1915 he illustrated chapter headings for Edgar Rice Burroughs’ THE RETURN OF TARZAN, published by McClurg. Thus began the artist’s long association with Burroughs, the work for which he is most renowned. St. John also painted the front cover art for the July 1942 issue of AMAZING STORIES, featuring “The Return of Hawk Carse.”

The May 1944 AMAZING STORIES —  with front cover art by Malcolm Smith —  featured what John W. Campbell labeled Ray Bradbury’s “fairy ship,” in “I, Rocket,” the classic tale related from the viewpoint of a sentient space ship. A native of Tennessee, Smith studied at the American Academy of Art in Chicago. His first cover for AMAZING was the January 1942 number. Smith also contributed covers and illustrations to FANTASTIC ADVENTURES and Ziff-Davis’s MAMMOTH line of pulp magazines. During the fifties, he produced covers for IMAGINATION, MYSTIC, OTHER WORLDS, and other pulp and digest magazines.

J. Allen St. John began contributing cover art to the pulps during the Great Depression, painting covers for WEIRD TALES and its companions — ORIENTAL STORIES and THE MAGIC CARPET. During the 1940s, he contributed two dozen covers to Ray Palmer’s AMAZING STORIES and FANTASTIC ADVENTURES, including the March 1944 issue of AMAZING.

Ray Palmer was one of the leading science fiction fans when he became the managing editor of AMAZING STORIES. In order to attract other members of fandom to his magazine, Palmer added such features as “Correspondence Corner,” “Collectors’ Corner,” “Meet the Authors,” and a back cover painting. Many of the latter featured the work of Frank R. Paul, including the May 1941 issue. Frank Paul was the artist most preferred by Hugo Gernsback during the early years of AMAZING STORIES.

Joseph Wirt Tillotson, who signed his work “Robert Fuqua,” was managing editor Ray Palmer’s favored cover artist from the get-go. Beginning with the October 1938 issue of AMAZING STORIES through the January 1944 number, Fuqua contributed nearly three-dozen covers — including the March 1942 and September 1941 issues — to the magazine and its companion title, FANTASTIC ADVENTURES.

A native of Toledo, Ohio, Robert Gibson Jones began working as a commercial artist in the city of Chicago during the second decade of the twentieth century. His first known pulp magazine cover was the August 1942 issue of Ziff Davis’s FANTASTIC ADVENTURES. Over the next ten years, Jones contributed ninety front covers to FANTASTIC and its companion, AMAZING STORIES, including the June 1947 number. He also painted covers for the publisher’s MAMMOTH line of pulp magazines. His last known cover for the publisher is the December 1952 issue of FANTASTIC ADVENTURES. During the fifties, he contributed covers to OTHER WORLDS and UNIVERSE SCIENCE FICTION.

The September 1947 AMAZING STORIES — with front cover art by Malcolm Smith — featured one of the best of the space opera novels from the pulps, Edmond Hamilton’s “The Star Kings.” It has been reprinted numerous times.)

The AMAZING Story: The Twenties — By Radio to the Stars

Feb 18, 2016 by

Slider AMAZING STORIES 1928-08 Frank R. Paul

The AMAZING Hugo Gernsback

One of the major themes of PulpFest 2016 will be the 90th anniversary of the premiere of the first continuing science-fiction magazine, AMAZING STORIESIn November 2015, PulpFest programming and marketing director Mike Chomko contacted author, anthologist, and science-fiction and popular culture historian Mike Ashley, asking him to be a guest at PulpFest 2016. Due to a scheduling conflict, Mr. Ashley declined to attend. However, he did grant us permission to post his series of seven articles concerning the history of AMAZING STORIES — originally offered in the January through July 1992 issues of AMAZING STORIES. We’ll be posting the entire series, releasing one article every Monday and Thursday over the next few weeks.

Many thanks to Curt Phillips, the moderator of the Yahoo newsgroup PulpMags, for drawing our attention to and providing us with copies of Mike Ashley’s exceptional series of articles about the world’s first science-fiction magazine. 

“The AMAZING Story: The Twenties — By Radio to the Stars” is © 2016 by Mike Ashley and appears here with the author’s permission. Notes in italics are by PulpFest and are © 2016 by PulpFest. The original article was published by TSR, Inc. and edited by Kim Mohan for the January 1992 issue of AMAZING STORIES.

Modern Electrics 1911-04Ninety years ago there were no science-fiction magazines. In fact, there was no such thing as “science fiction”; the name had yet to be coined. There were stories called scientific romances — H. G. Wells had written scores of them. There were also weird stories, off-trail stories, “different” stories, uncanny stories, and among all of these were stories we would now call science fiction — a rose by any other name. But before 1926 the category had yet to be created, and fans who enjoyed these weird-scientific stories had no regular magazine in which to find them.

In the years after World War I the interest in this type of story grew rapidly. For the best in escapist fiction, millions of Americans read the pulp magazines, and the magazines with the most escapist fantasies were published by Frank A. Munsey, in particular THE ARGOSY and THE ALL-STORY MAGAZINE. It was in THE ALL-STORY that Edgar Rice Burroughs first appeared, in 1912, with his adventures of John Carter in “Under the Moons of Mars.” This was followed a few months later by “Tarzan of the Apes.” The Munsey magazines became the principal market for scientific romances and fantastic adventures. By the start of the twenties they had a regular stable of writers, including George Allan England, Homer Eon Flint, Murray Leinster, Ray Cummings, Austin Hall, Garret Smith, and A. (Abraham) Merritt. These were the leading writers of the scientific romance in the pulps, one of whom — Leinster — would stay at that core for the next fifty years. The type of story they wrote then was light on science, high on adventure or concept, and high on fantastic imagery. The stories appealed to that desire we all have to escape from this mundane, depressing world and discover a world of wonder. The most popular of them all were Burroughs and Merritt, and each, in his way, set the standard for the scientific adventure fantasies of the twenties.

While this line of scientific adventure was emerging in the pulps, another development was taking place — a revolutionary development. The architect of this revolution was Hugo Gernsback, and it was from his errant hybrid that the early world of science fiction, and AMAZING STORIES, would sprout.

Hugo Gernsback was born in Luxembourg in 1884, the son of a prosperous wine merchant. In his youth he developed a fascination with electrical gadgets, and by his teens he was a fertile inventor. He emigrated to the United States in 1904, after the death of his father, in the hope of making a fortune from his invention of a powerful dry-cell battery. The device proved too expensive to produce but, undaunted, Gernsback constructed a smaller battery, which he sold to the Packard Motor Car Company.

Gernsback’s main interest at this time, though, was in radio. He was surprised how difficult it was to obtain the necessary parts to construct wireless telegraphy units in New York, so in 1905 he established a company to import electrical equipment. It was this Electro-Importing Company that was to be the foundation of his publishing empire. In 1906 Gernsback marketed a portable wireless telegraph transmitter and receiver at the seemingly impossible price of $7.50. Skeptics believed he was a fraud, and a policeman was dispatched to verify Gernsback’s claim. Gernsback demonstrated his device, though the policeman remained unconvinced. “I still think yez are fakers,” he told Gernsback. “Yer ad here sez it is a wireless set, so what are all dem here wires for?”

It was this incident that spurred Gernsback on to publish a magazine. He later recalled, “It rankled me that there could be such ignorance in regard to science, and I vowed to change the situation if I could. A few years later I brought out the world’s first radio magazine, MODERN ELECTRICS, to teach the young generation science, radio, and what was ahead for them.”

It was the “what was ahead for them” aspect with which Gernsback became so closely associated. He loved to speculate about potential inventions and to encourage his readers to experiment. He targeted this encouragement chiefly at the young, who had the more fertile and flexible minds. To further encourage them he turned his speculative thoughts into a story, “Ralph 124C 41+,” which was serialized in MODERN ELECTRICS during 1911-12.

ModernElectrics 1911-12Actually, to call this piece a “story” is rather generous, because Gernsback was only using the narrative form to liven up what was otherwise a catalogue of future inventions. He explored the world of the year 2660 from the viewpoint of one of the world’s great scientists. Each month readers were treated to extravagant scientific speculations, and there was even a chase scene in one episode when Ralph’s girl, Alice, was kidnapped by Martians, and Ralph pursued them. It was in that episode that Gernsback made one of his most remarkable predictions by describing exactly how radar would work, more than twenty years before it was “discovered” by Robert Watson-Watt.

The difference between Gernsback’s adventures of Ralph and the stories appearing in the Munsey magazines was quite fundamental. The Munsey stories were high on entertainment, low on scientific accuracy. They were predominantly fantastic adventures or, at the shorter length, scientific mysteries, with the emphasis on the weird and wonderful. The writers were competent pulpsters able to unravel a strong, compelling story with a fanciful theme.

Gernsback’s story was low on entertainment, but deliberately high on scientific accuracy and speculation. He was no storyteller; he was no writer at all. It was not his intention to entertain but to educate and, he hoped, to stimulate his readers to become creative and inventive. It was this motive that led, by stages, to the birth of AMAZING STORIES. And it was this difference that initially separated Gernsback’s scientific fiction from the pulp scientific adventures.

In 1913 Gernsback sold MODERN ELECTRICS and founded a new magazine, THE ELECTRICAL EXPERIMENTER, which broadened Gernsback’s coverage beyond radio to all aspects of scientific achievement. Gernsback was now vociferously encouraging readers to become inventors and to build their own future. Along that road, Gernsback averred, lay fame and fortune, and he cited Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and Guglielmo Marconi as model examples. Writing in the April 1916 ELECTRICAL EXPERIMENTER, Gernsback said:

A world without imagination is a poor place to live in. No real electrical experimenter, worthy of the name, will ever amount to much if he has no imagination. He must be visionary to a certain extent, he must be able to look into the future and if he wants fame he must anticipate the human wants. It was precisely this quality which made Edison — a master of imagination — famous.

THE ELECTRICAL EXPERIMENTER began to publish fiction regularly by a variety of almost unknown writers — George F. Stratton, Charles M. Adams, Harlan Eveleth — names as remote and lost as the crew of the Marie Celeste. Every one of their stories was awful, but as scientific speculation they were enlightening. Because it was wartime, many of the stories speculated on devices to help win the war, such as anti-gravitation to cause havoc among the enemy, or a concentrated electron ray (not unlike a laser beam) to detonate enemy explosives.

Science & Invention 23-08In 1920 Gernsback retitled the magazine SCIENCE AND INVENTION, to emphasize that he had moved beyond the basic role of the experimenter toward the vaster world of science and technology. Gernsback was an evangelist of science determined to educate the American public and even more determined to inspire them into scientific achievement. He, probably more than any of his contemporaries, opened the eyes of the American public to the possibilities of science and the wonders to come. Through the stimulation of his magazines, he could inspire them to build their future world.

The closest anyone came to publishing a magazine of scientific stories before AMAZING STORIES was with THE THRILL BOOK and WEIRD TALES. THE THRILL BOOK came from Street & Smith in 1919, and though its original concept had been to publish scientific romances, when it appeared it concentrated on adventure stories, a few with fantastic elements. WEIRD TALES, launched in Chicago in March 1923, was always intended as a horror magazine but did carry some stories of the monster-in-the-laboratory type, and later some space adventures, mostly by Edmond Hamilton.

Gernsback was so taken with the idea of promoting science through fiction that he seriously considered issuing such a magazine in 1923. That year he made the August issue of SCIENCE AND INVENTION a “Scientific Fiction Number.” It contained five complete stories, plus an episode of Ray Cummings’s serial “Around the Universe.” The stories were, by and large, boring, although there was something special in “The Man From the Atom” by precocious fifteen-year-old G. Peyton Wertenbaker. This story, about a man who escapes from our universe into a macro-universe beyond, is still readable today.

We do not know the reader reaction to the issue since, at that time, the magazine ran no letter column. When it did run a letter column, it was evident that the stories Gernsback published were favorably received, and that may well have been the case here. In any case, a few months later Gernsback gave thought to launching a new magazine, to be called SCIENTIFICTION. He made no reference to this fact in his magazines at the time, but, as he later recalled, he sent a flyer to his subscribers attempting to gauge interest. The response was, apparently, dispiriting, so Gernsback did not pursue the venture. He seemingly had enough to handle at that point anyway, since in June 1925 he launched his own radio station, WRNY, the first such enterprise in New York City.

Had there been a greater positive response to the circular, the history of magazine science fiction might have started two years earlier, and that turn of events may have had a significant impact on its later evolution, which, as we shall later see, became fast-paced. I imagine that the main reason why the response was lukewarm was that Gernsback targeted the wrong market. Those most likely to subscribe to his technical magazines would have been professional scientists, engineers and radio enthusiasts, both experimenters and hobbyists, who may have appreciated the stories in SCIENCE AND INVENTION as novelty items but would have expressed no great interest in a specialist magazine. It was much more likely to have appealed to the newsstand browser (from which most of the general pulp readers came) — those who could not necessarily afford to subscribe to a magazine, or had no reason to. To the browser, it was much more fun looking at all of the pulps on display and relishing the thrills promised by the covers.

Amazing Stories 26-04This Gernsback was to discover when, in 1926, he acted on impulse (as he so often did) and launched the world’s first science-fiction magazine, AMAZING STORIES. Its premiere issue, dated April 1926, was released on March 10. It was in the same format as SCIENCE AND INVENTION, having a larger page size (8 by 11 inches) than the usual pulp, which thus set it apart. In addition it had a gaudy, eye-catching cover by Frank R. Paul, an Austrian-born artist and draftsman who had been illustrating the majority of the stories in SCIENCE AND INVENTION since 1918. The first issue, with a print run of 100,000, sold out. Gernsback was onto a winner.

Fortunately, Gernsback had not filled the magazine with stories that were typical of those in SCIENCE AND INVENTION. The first issue contained all reprints, with classic selections from H. G. Wells, Jules Verne, and Edgar Allan Poe, a pulp reprint by Austin Hall from ALL-STORY, and the two best stories he had previously published, Wertenbaker’s “The Man From the Atom” and “The Thing From — Outside” by George Allan England, one of the more popular adventure writers for the pulps.

The success of AMAZING, however, put Gernsback into a dilemma. The type of “scientifiction” (as he then called it) that readers most enjoyed were stories of scientific adventure that contained less technological speculation than he desired. During the preceding few years in SCIENCE AND INVENTION, Gernsback had run a series of stories by Clement Fezandié, a New York teacher and businessman, under the general title of “Doctor Hackensaw’s Secrets.” These stories were really thinly disguised lectures. In each episode, Hackensaw waffled on about his latest invention, regardless of its effects upon the world or humanity. Forty years later, Gernsback still referred to Fezandié as a “titan of science fiction,” which suggests the type of story that he most liked. But, when Gernsback asked the readership of AMAZING STORIES if they would like to see a continuation of the Hackensaw series in the new magazine, he got an emphatic NO. The demand was for stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs and A. Merritt — tales from the Munsey school of scientific romance. Although Gernsback claimed he had a number of Fezandié’s stories in stock, he only published two in AMAZING, in the third and fourth issues he put out. It rapidly became evident that his newfound readers were not so interested in scientific expostulation but cared far more for scientific extravaganza.

Striving to find a middle ground, Gernsback balanced reprints from the pulps and classics by Verne and Wells against a variety of gadget stories that he hoped would educate and inspire. But he was soon being lectured to by his readers and writers. In a letter that Gernsback published in his July 1926 editorial, Wertenbaker, his first significant discovery, warned him that “the danger that may lie before AMAZING STORIES is that of becoming too scientific and not sufficiently literary.”

Gernsback found that he had to compromise his principles. If he had to publish fantastic adventures in order to attract readers, then he would do so, provided that he could also inspire them with a selection of gadget stories. His biggest conflict in this regard came with the serialization of Merritt’s “The Moon Pool” in 1927. He found himself justifying the inclusion of the story in the magazine by arguing about the advanced science projected by Merritt. Although the story does contain some scientific speculation, it’s basically hocus-pocus that was included by Merritt when he wrote a novel-length sequel to his original fantastic short story, published in ALL-STORY in 1919. In his heart of hearts, Gernsback knew that the science in this story was of dubious authenticity, and that knowledge played heavily on his conscience.

Amazing Stories 26-07Another challenge was Frank R. Paul’s garish covers. There was no doubt that Paul’s exciting drawings attracted a wide readership, predominantly young males, but they also caused the magazine to become associated with sensationalistic trash. Yet when Gernsback experimented with a serious symbolical cover in 1928, that issue suffered a drop in sales of 22 percent.

In fact, by 1928 — a year that saw an explosion in new writing talent — Gernsback had more or less accepted that AMAZING STORIES had outgrown his original premise. The kind of gadget story that he obviously liked and had intended to serve as inspiration — such riveting classics as “An Experiment in Gyro-Hats” by Ellis Parker Butler (June 1926), “The Automatic Self-Serving Dining Table” by Henry Hugh Simmons (April 1927), and “The Tide Projectile Transportation Co.” by Will H. Gray (September 1927) — had become dead weight. Readers were clamoring for the scientific extravaganzas that had initially been represented by reprints selected by Gernsback’s adviser, C. A. Brandt — “A Columbus of Space” by Garrett P. Serviss (August through October 1926), ‘The Red Dust” by Murray Leinster (January 1927), “The Land That Time Forgot” by Edgar Rice Burroughs (February through April 1927), and, of course, “The Moon Pool” by A. Merritt (May through July 1927), the most popular story published in AMAZING‘s first few years. All of these had first appeared in the Munsey pulps.

Moreover, the writers now establishing themselves were not producing the gadget story in any quantity, but were writing the scientific extravaganza in emulation of the Munsey pulps. The first regular writer to establish himself in AMAZING STORIES was archaeologist A. Hyatt Verrill, who became noted for adventure stories set in lost valleys, typical of the Munsey locales. Then there was Edmond Hamilton, who became a regular after the January 1928 issue. He had been selling super-science sagas to WEIRD TALES for two years, and had cut his teeth on reading the Munsey pulps. Jack Williamson, who is still writing today (Williamson continued writing until his death in 2006, long after the original publication of this article), first appeared in the December 1928 issue with “The Metal Man,” a story blatantly inspired by Merritt’s writings. And we should not forget H. P. Lovecraft, the doyen of WEIRD TALES, who sold arguably his best story to AMAZING STORIES, “The Colour Out of Space” (September 1927). Lovecraft had also been a great fan of the Munsey pulps, and though this story was probably more inspired by Algernon Blackwood than by Abraham Merritt, it reflects far more the imagery of the Munsey visionaries than that of Gernsback’s electro-philiacs.

Probably the only authors not directly influenced by the Munsey pulps were the doctors David H. Keller and Miles J. Breuer. Yet even these writers, despite their scientific training, turned more to the non-technological sciences.

Keller had a greater social conscience than most other writers, and in “The Revolt of the Pedestrians” (February 1928), “A Biological Experiment” (June 1928), and other stories he projected the human element of scientific advance. He had a sharp mind and an eye for detail, which lent strength to the messages in his stories. Breuer was fascinated by the mathematics of other dimensions and produced a range of fascinating stories exploring the concepts of the fourth and fifth dimensions.

Amazing Stories Annual 1927By and large Keller and Breuer were the exceptions, not the rule. They wrote the intelligent novelty items, not the mind-blowing scientific adventures. The selling power of the latter was evident when, in celebration of the first year’s success of AMAZING, Gernsback released an AMAZING STORIES ANNUAL. As the lead novel in this bumper issue — twice as thick as the regular monthly magazine — Gernsback secured a new Martian novel from Edgar Rice Burroughs, “The Master Mind of Mars.” Even though the ANNUAL was twice the price of the monthly, it sold out within a few weeks. Its success led Gernsback to establish an AMAZING STORIES QUARTERLY companion magazine featuring all-new material.

The old order of Gernsback’s gadget stories was finally blasted out of existence with the August 1928 issue of AMAZING STORIES. This was the most important issue Gernsback was to publish, and is one of the most significant issues of AMAZING. It contained two profoundly influential stories, E. E. (Doc) Smith’s serial “The Skylark of Space” and Philip Francis Nowlan’s novella “Armageddon — 2419 A.D.”

Smith’s work was the literary equivalent of a nuclear attack. Hitherto most of Gernsback’s scientifiction had been relatively sedate, confined to Earth-bound experiments or explorations. Some stories had ventured to the Moon and neighboring planets, but only a rare few (those by Ray Cummings and J. Schlossel, plus some of the work of Edmond Hamilton in WEIRD TALES) had gone beyond the boundaries of the solar system. Smith blasted through all this. In his story, superscientist Richard Seaton discovers atomic energy, builds a spaceship, and sets off to explore the Universe, pursued by the villainous, though equally super-scientific, Blackie DuQuesne. It was a scientific extravaganza par excellence, and the readers went wild. “The Skylark of Space” became the archetypical work of space opera.

Amazing Stories 28-08Nowlan’s novella did for the future what Smith’s novel did for outer space. Anthony Rogers, an engineer, is trapped in a mine but is revived five centuries hence. The United States is now dominated by a super-scientific Mongolian race, the Han. Rogers joins forces with a guerrilla faction to overthrow the enemy. In this story, and its sequel “The Air-lords of Han” (March 1929), Nowlan creates a fascinating range of future weaponry, combining action, adventure, and scientific speculation. Anthony Rogers went on to be converted into the comic-strip hero Buck Rogers, a name synonymous with early science fiction.

This is what the readers wanted — superscience. Gone were the relatively mundane tales of everyday inventions and new uses for radio. The possibilities of science fiction were blown wide open. Readers wanted their imaginations stretched beyond the horizons of tomorrow, and Gernsback could deliver nothing less. His “scientifiction” brainchild had rapidly grown out of all proportion and was threatening to veer out of control. For the moment he was prepared to let it go, though he had no idea of the consequences.

Gernsback’s original ideal had been to create a vehicle that would transport his experimenters into tomorrow, or more appropriately inspire his experimenters to create tomorrow. Within three years of its launch, AMAZING STORIES had become the vessel by which science fiction had set a course for the stars. But the science fiction that emerged was not Gernsback’s baby. It was the Munseyesque-pulp scientific romance that ruled the day, with its fantastic excesses tempered by Gernsback’s furnace of science.

Amazing Stories 28-11Gernsbackian scientifiction, which had been born in MODERN ELECTRICS in 1911, had all but died in 1928, but it wasn’t extinct yet. While it was exerting its influence on the scientific romance to create the super-science epic, it was itself evolving and recovering, and would emerge anew in the 1930s.

Within a few months of publishing “The Skylark of Space,” Gernsback lost control of AMAZING STORIES, as a consequence of financial mismanagement in his many business dealings. (Those interested in the specifics of the incident will find it discussed in great detail in Tom Perry’s article “Experiment in Bankruptcy” in the May 1978 issue of AMAZING STORIES.) The consequences of this event were significant, and that’s where we pick up “The Amazing Story” on Monday, February 22nd.

 

(Concerning our illustrations . . . . Hugo Gernsback introduced the first radio magazine — MODERN ELECTRICS — in 1908. Hoping to encourage his readers to experiment and learn more about science, he began serializing a story, “Ralph 124C 41+,” beginning with the April 1911 issue. Although the cover artist is not credited, it resembles the work of George Westcott, an artist who had produced some of the magazine’s earlier covers. Written by Gernsback himself, “Ralph 124C 41+” ran for twelve consecutive issues including the December 1911 number, the second magazine pictured in our article, with cover art by Thomas Wrenn.

The “Scientific Fiction Number” of Gernsback’s SCIENCE AND INVENTION was dated August 1923 and featured featured six “scientifiction” stories, including G. Peyton Wertenbaker’s “The Man from the Atom,” the inspiration for Howard V. Brown’s front cover art. Much of the “science fiction” that appeared in SCIENCE AND INVENTION revolved around a scientific principle, particularly the stories of Clement Fezandié, an author much favored by the publisher.

The debut issue of the first science-fiction pulp — AMAZING STORIES — was dated April 1926 and featured front cover art by Frank R. Paul, the “grandfather of science-fiction art.” An Austrian-born artist and draftsman who had been illustrating the majority of the stories in SCIENCE AND INVENTION since 1918, Paul was a mainstay for Gernsback throughout his career as a publisher.

One rule of publishing that hasn’t changed in 90 years is that a magazine cover, first and foremost, must be eye-catching. Frank Paul’s covers for the July 1926 AMAZING STORIES and the AMAZING STORIES ANNUAL for 1927 are certainly that. And the authors in the magazines — Edgar Rice Burroughs, Austin Hall, A. Merritt, Edgar Allan Poe, Garrett P. Serviss, Curt Siodmak, A. Hyatt Verill, Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, and others — certainly didn’t hurt sales. Paul’s cover for the August 1928 issue of AMAZING STORIES — featuring the start of E. E. Smith’s “Skylark of Space” and the first Buck Rogers story — is one of the icons of science-fiction art.

The November 1928 issue of AMAZING STORIES featured a cover illustration of Jupiter as seen from Ganymede. It was done to accompany Frank J. Brueckel’s story, “The Moon Men.” The artwork was one of the last covers created by Frank R. Paul for the Gernsback version of AMAZING. Paul would return to the magazine in 1939 — after Ziff-Davis had become its publisher, painting over fifty back covers for AMAZING STORIES and its companion, FANTASTIC ADVENTURES.)

ARGOSY at PulpFest — An Abundance of Riches

Jan 25, 2016 by

Blackwood's Magazine 1818-10 to 1819-03Although magazines have been around since the seventeenth century — the first regular periodical was ERBAULICHE MONATHS UNTERREDUNGEN, a literary and philosophy magazine, launched in Germany in 1663 — it was only with the arrival of increased literacy and lower costs in the early nineteenth century that magazines of mass appeal began to be produced.

As Europe and North America became increasingly industrialized, magazines began to reach a much wider, sometimes national, audience. BLACKWOOD’S MAGAZINE, NOUVEAU MAGAZINE DES ENFANTSHARPER’S NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE, ATLANTIC MONTHLY, SCRIBNER’S MONTHLYand others emerged, publishing the fiction of Charles Dickens, Fitz-James O’Brien, Walter Scott, Mark Twain, Jules Verne, and others. The dime novels, penny-dreadfuls, and story papers were also introduced during these years, offering tales of derring-do to a growing juvenile audience. It was in such periodicals that the “American Jules Verne,” Luis Senarens, developed the Frank Reade, Jr. series of adventure yarns.

The last quarter of the nineteenth century has become known as “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. Stevenson’s “Treasure Island,” first serialized in 1881 – 82, helped 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 in Great Britain 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,” featuring 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, another popular British fiction 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.

War of the Worlds

The British popular 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 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.

Argosy 1896-12As 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.”

In 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 Munsey used for his daily newspaper and the rough-paper fiction magazine, or pulp, was born. Within a short while, 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.

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.

More 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/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.

All-Story 12-10Bean’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.

Although 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.

The word “argosy” is defined as a large merchant ship, especially one with a rich cargo. With the terrific programming we’re lining up for PulpFest 2016, you’re promised “an abundance of riches” We’ll be saluting a wide range of anniversaries at this summer’s pulp con: the tenth anniversary of Sanctum Books; the eightieth anniversary of THE WHISPERER and THE SKIPPER; the ninetieth anniversary of AMAZING STORIES, the first science-fiction pulp; the hundredth anniversary of the specialty pulp; the 120th anniversary of THE ARGOSY, the original pulp magazine; and the 150th anniversary of the birth of H. G. Wells!

Check out our post of January 4, 2016 — “Coming Soon to Columbus — PulpFest 2016” — for a look at our planned. We’ll be featuring a pair of presentations on THE ARGOSY. “120 Years of THE ARGOSY — The World’s First Pulp Magazine,” will be offered by Doug Ellis, one of the world’s leading collectors and authorities on the magazine and a founder of the fabulous Windy City Pulp and Paper ConventionArt and pulp historian David Saunders will be discussing “The Artists of THE ARGOSY —  120 Years of Sensational Pulp Artists.” Both presentations are planned for Saturday evening, July 23rd, immediately preceding our exciting auction.

“Summer’s AMAZING Pulp Con” will take place from July 21st through July 24th in the Columbus, Ohio Arena district at the Hyatt Regency hotel and the city’s spacious convention center. Start making your plans to join us at the “pop culture center of the universe” for PulpFest 2016.

(BLACKWOOD’S EDINBURGH MAGAZINE — which first appeared in April 1817 — was one of the first magazines to reach a national audience. It’s introduction helped pave the way for the popular fiction periodicals of the late nineteenth century. Pictured here is volume 4 of the magazine, dated October 1818 – March 1819. The image on the cover is an engraving of the 16th century Scottish historian George Buchanan. BLACKWOOD’S continued publication until 1980.

PEARSON’S MAGAZINE was one of the popular British fiction magazines that emerged during the late 1800s. Its first issue was dated January 1896. The magazine’s publisher, C. Arthur Pearson, was “fascinated with stories of the future and what science might bring. Hence, it comes as no surprise that H. G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds” was originally serialized in eight parts in PEARSON’S, running from April the December in 1897. It was illustrated by Warwick Goble. PEARSON’S ran for over 500 issues. Its last issue was date November 1939.

The December 1896 issue of THE ARGOSY, published by Frank A. Munsey, was the world’s first pulp fiction magazine. It would continue for nearly eighty years, ending as a “men’s adventure magazine.” It’s final issue was dated November 1978.

One of the most popular authors to appear in the Munsey magazines was undoubtedly Edgar Rice Burroughs. His adventure romance, “Tarzan of the Apes,” was published in its entirety in the October 1912 issue of THE ALL-STORY. The issue featured front cover art by Clinton Pettee who drew interior story illustrations for MUNSEY’S MAGAZINE and painted covers for such pulp magazines as THE ARGOSY,THE ALL-STORYTHE CAVALIER, and SHORT STORIES.)

 

Amazing Stories

Apr 30, 2014 by

Amazing Stories 26-04It was hard to miss the first issue of Amazing Stories on the newsstand. Letter-size, larger than the typical pulp magazine, with three-dimensional block letters trailing across its masthead and a bright yellow backdrop that framed an alien landscape and a bright red, ringed planet and small moon, the magazine certainly stood out on the sales rack. Frank R. Paul was the artist.

The names on the front cover of the magazine’s early issues were also major selling points: Edgar Allan Poe, Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Garrett P. Serviss, Edgar Rice Burroughs, A. Merritt, and others. It was just as Gernsback wrote in his editorial for the pulp’s first issue: “By ‘scientifiction’ I mean the Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, and Edgar Allan Poe type story—a charming romance intermingled with scientific fact and prophetic vision.” That is what the readers of Amazing Stories sought: “They wanted to be entertained, to escape, to experience that sense of wonder that good visionary fiction brought.” (The Time Machines).

Using stories drawn from the Munsey magazines, Blue Book, The Strand, and other sources, Gernsback offered reprints of science-fiction classics, eventually coupling these with new stories generated through contests. Using such competitions, Gernsback began to acquire a stable of new writers willing and able to write scientifiction: Miles J. Breur, Clare Winger Harris, David H. Keller, S. P. Meek, A. Hyatt Verrill, Harl Vincent, and others. Through his letter column, entitled “Discussions,” he reeled his readers into his world of wonder.

Amazing08-28Within months, the new specialty magazine was selling over 100,000 copies of each issue. In establishing the first specialized science-fiction magazine, Gernsback had tapped a vein of wonder, shared by lonely individuals prone to “imaginative flights of fancy.” Next would come Amazing Stories Annual, published in the summer of 1927 and featuring Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Mastermind of Mars. Amazing Stories Quarterly followed in the winter of 1928. Then, in the August 1928 number of Amazing Stories, Gernsback introduced his readers to E. E. “Doc” Smith’s “The Skylark of Space” and Philip Francis Nowlan’s “Armageddon—2419 AD,” the first tale to feature Buck Rogers. These two “space operas” would color science fiction for well over a decade, turning it into “that crazy Buck Rogers stuff.”

Despite its seeming success, the Gernsback publishing empire continuously experienced cash flow problems. Plowing money into his radio interests and paying an extremely hefty salary to both himself and his brother, Gernsback offered generally low word rates for stories. Coupled with a slow payment schedule, often months after a story had been published, very few authors were interested in writing for the company. In early 1929, Gernsback’s printer and paper supplier demanded payment on past due bills, leading the publisher to file for bankruptcy. Experimenter Publishing Company, went into receivership, ending Hugo Gernsback’s involvement with the first science-fiction pulp, Amazing Stories.

Hugo Gernsback edited and published Amazing Stories from April 1926 through April 1929. Afterward, T. O’Conor Sloane, who had assisted Gernsback from the start, became the magazine’s editor until the April 1938 issue. Sloane was far from being a visionary; he thought space travel was impossible.

Sloane and Gernsback were also the editors of Amazing Stories Quarterly. The latter helmed the magazine from Winter 1928 through Spring 1929. Sloane edited the magazine from Summer 1929 through Fall 1934, its final issue. Later quarterlies, published by Ziff-Davis, were rebound issues of Amazing Stories and not a separate magazine.

Amazing Stories 45-03Ziff-Davis took over the magazine with its April 1938 number and Ray Palmer as editor. The new editor turned Amazing Stories into a juvenile magazine, establishing a stable of authors to write fiction aimed at the youth market. Toward the end of his editorial reign, Palmer started “The Shaver Mystery,” a hoax involving an evil race that causes all of mankind’s problems from their home in underground caverns. Palmer’s last issue was dated December 1949. In later years, he became involved with UFOs and similar topics, publishing Fate magazine.

Howard Browne, a Palmer assistant, assumed the editorship in January 1950. Primarily interested in mystery fiction, Browne nevertheless turned Amazing Stories around, directing it toward an adult audience. It became a digest magazine with its April/May 1953 issue. Browne left the magazine following its August 1956 number. He was succeeded by Paul Fairman and the talented Cele Goldsmith. Ms. Goldsmith managed the magazine from March 1957 through June 1965, during which time it garnered a great deal of respect.

The Ultimate Publishing company, headed by Sol Cohen, began publishing the magazine with its August 1965 issue. Joseph Wrzos was its first editor, followed by Harry Harrison, Barry Malzberg, Ted White, and Elinor Mavor. The magazine was acquired by TSR Hobbies in March 1982, with Mavor temporarily serving as editor. George Scithers became the editor with the November 1982 issue. Later editors included Patrick Price, Kim Mohan, and Jeff Berkwits. Its last issue was published in March 2005 with Paizo Publishing in charge.

In July 2012, longtime science-fiction fan Steve Davidson revived Amazing Stories as an online magazine. You can find it at http://amazingstoriesmag.com/.

From 1985-1987, NBC television ran an anthology series called Amazing Stories. It was created by Steven Spielberg.

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

 

 

The Munsey Magazines

Apr 15, 2014 by

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.