Children of the Pulps — Part Three

Jul 19, 2019 by

The stories and art of the pulp magazines have had a profound effect on popular culture across the globe. They have reverberated through a wide variety of media — comic books, movies, paperbacks and genre fiction, television, men’s adventure magazines, radio drama, and even video, anime, manga, and role-playing games.

Although science fiction can trace its roots to the imaginary voyages, satires, and utopias of the seventeenth century, scholars have repeatedly pointed to Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN  — originally published in 1818 — as the first science-fiction novel. Twenty-five years later — beginning with “MS. Found in a Bottle” — Edgar Allan Poe began to use logic and science to explain elements of his fantastic stories. The strength of Poe’s stories inspired authors around the world. One was Jules Verne, who introduced “precise, scientific details” into FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON, TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, and other tales.

As the 19th century progressed and more people were reading, magazines naturally developed a wider audience. For the more literary, there were titles such as BLACKWOOD’S MAGAZINE and HARPER’S NEW MONTHLY. For those with less refined tastes, there were dime novels, penny-dreadfuls, and story papers. It was in these publications that the “American Jules Verne,” Luis Senarens, developed the Frank Reade, Jr. series that featured steam-powered contraptions in exciting adventure yarns. During the late nineteenth century, the thrilling yarns of Robert Louis Stevenson and H. Rider Haggard, and later, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and H. G. Wells, helped to develop a market for the British popular fiction magazine. The United States would follow in late 1896 when Frank A. Munsey converted THE ARGOSY to an all-fiction, rough-paper magazine.

From its start as a pulp, THE ARGOSY was home to fantastic fiction, reprinting a dystopian short story in its first issue. Other works featured by the magazine included Park Winthrop’s “The Land of the Central Sun” and William Wallace Cook’s “A Round Trip to the Year 2000.”

Selling in the hundreds of thousands, THE ARGOSY was bound to generate 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. Munsey himself would be next in line, introducing THE ALL-STORY in late 1904.

More than any other pulp prior to the introduction of the science fiction and fantasy fiction magazines, THE ALL-STORY became the major repository for the “different” tale, the pseudo-scientific yarn, the scientific romance, or the “off-the-trail” story. In its February 1912 issue, the Munsey pulp would begin serializing Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “Under the Moons of Mars.” The author would follow with Tarzan of the Apes,” published in its entirety in the October 1912 number.

Burroughs’ two classics, along with the pseudo-scientific works of H. G. Wells and his American counterpart, George Allan England, would serve as templates for much of the science fiction written over the next twenty-five years, generating a type of story best known as “the scientific romance.” THE ALL-STORY editor Robert H. Davis, in particular, worked to develop this school of fiction, creating a stable of writers who could contribute such stories. Davis can very well be thought of as “The Grandfather of Science Fiction.”

Although the scientific romances published in the Munsey pulps remained popular, beginning in late 1915, a trend toward specialized magazines slowly emerged. Street & Smith’s DETECTIVE STORY MAGAZINE was the first successful specialty pulp. Over the next decade, magazines specializing in western fiction, love stories, sea yarns, and sports fiction would follow. In early 1923, a pulp devoted to the fantasy and horror genres — WEIRD TALES — would be launched.

In addition to publishing some of the best fantasy and supernatural fiction of the twentieth century, WEIRD TALES, like the Munsey magazines, featured science fiction in its pages. Edmond Hamilton — who began selling to the magazine in 1926 — was the pulp’s leading contributor of science fiction. With tales of super-science about alien invasions, space police, and evolution gone wild, the author became known as “World-Wrecker” Hamilton. Other notable science fiction contributors included Austin Hall, Otis Adelbert Kline, Frank Belknap Long, C. L. Moore, Donald Wandrei, Jack Williamson, and H. P. Lovecraft, spinning his own brand of science fiction in tales of cosmic horror.

Although science fiction was frequently found in its pages, WEIRD TALES was not the first specialized science fiction magazine. That was left for Hugo Gernsback to develop. Called “The Barnum of the Space Age” in 1963, Gernsback came to the United States in 1904. He began importing electronic parts and equipment and sold them via mail order catalog. Gernback’s catalog soon evolved into a magazine, MODERN ELECTRICS, selling for ten cents. In 1911, it began publishing fiction, serializing Gernsback’s own story, “Ralph 124C 41+,” in twelve parts.

In the spring of 1913, Gernsback began publishing a new science periodical, THE ELECTRICAL EXPERIMENTER. Before long, it was also publishing fiction alongside technical articles. Beginning with its August 1920 number, Gernback’s magazine became SCIENCE AND INVENTION.

The scientifically-trained Gernsback was committed to educating his audience about science and technology through the fiction he published. That all changed in early 1923 when — perhaps in an effort to boost circulation or to test the waters in the growing market for specialized fiction magazines — Gernsback began publishing fiction that was meant to entertain. He reprinted two short works by H. G. Wells, and later, new works by George Allan England and Ray Cummings. The August 1923 issue of SCIENCE AND INVENTION was a “Scientific Fiction Number.” It featured six “scientifiction” stories including “The Man from the Atom,” a short story by a new author, sixteen-year-old G. Peyton Wertenbaker.

SCIENCE AND INVENTION and his other technical magazines were mere stepping stones for Hugo Gernsback. In the spring of 1926, he introduced a full-fledged science fiction — or as he then termed it, “scientifiction” — magazine. It was hard to miss the first issue of AMAZING STORIES — dated April 1926 — on the newsstand. It was larger than the typical pulp magazine. Vivid, three-dimensional block letters trailed across its masthead, set against a bright yellow backdrop. Frank R. Paul’s cover art depicted a number of ice skaters, gliding in front of snow heaps crowned by two stranded sailing vessels. Looming behind this scene was a bright red, ringed planet and a small moon.

In 1987, the late Jack Williamson wrote: “I don’t think anybody today can entirely understand what it meant to me and many like me then . . . but we found sheer wonder in AMAZING STORIES, a rich new revelation of exciting things to come, a dazzling vision of new ideas and discoveries and inventions that could push our future frontiers wider, make all our lives richer.”

Within months of its introduction, AMAZING STORIES 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 scattered across the country, all of them prone to “imaginative flights of fancy.”

The names on the front covers of the early AMAZING STORIES were certainly major selling points: Edgar Rice Burroughs, A. Merritt, Edgar Allan Poe, Garrett P. Serviss, Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, and others. Gernsback also offered story contests. These helped him 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, H. Hyatt Verrill, Harl Vincent, and others. Through the AMAZING STORIES letter column — “Discussions” — Hugo Gernsback also reeled readers into his world of wonder.

With the August 1928 number of AMAZING STORIES, Gernsback introduced his readers to E. E. “Doc” Smith’s “The Skylark of Space.” Also appearing in the issue was 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 the genre away from the Munsey type of story — popular with a wide range of readers, both male and female — and toward “that crazy Buck Rogers stuff.”

Although he introduced AMAZING STORIES QUARTERLY in the winter of 1928, Hugo Gernsback was increasingly experiencing cash flow problems. Plowing money into his radio interests and paying very hefty salaries to his brother and himself, Gernsback’s Experimenter Publishing Company was forced into bankruptcy.

Although down but not out, Hugo Gernsback used assets tied to his importing and radio businesses to launch a new larger-sized pulp in May 1929. Called SCIENCE WONDER STORIES, Gernsback called the stories in his new magazine, “science fiction.” Unlike “scientifiction,” this name would stick.

With the growth of the science fiction field — both AMAZING and SCIENCE WONDER also issued quarterlies — other publishers began to notice the field. William Clayton — publisher of SNAPPY STORIES, RANCH ROMANCES, and other titles — was the first to take a bite. Not enamored with the Gernsback style of science fiction, Clayton was more interested in stories of action and adventure . . . “that crazy Buck Rogers stuff.” His new magazine would be called ASTOUNDING STORIES OF SUPER-SCIENCE. According to Alva Rogers:

ASTOUNDING was unabashedly an action adventure magazine and made no pretense of trying to present science in a sugar-coated form . . .  The amount of science found in its pages was minimal – just enough to support the action and little more. Lessons in science could be obtained in school or in text books; driving action and heroic adventure was what the reader of ASTOUNDING wanted. Interplanetary wars and space battles, hideous and menacing Bug Eyed Monsters . . . the courage, ingenuity and brains of a single puny man, or small group of men, pitted against the terrible might and overwhelming scientific knowledge of extraterrestrial aliens – with defeat the inevitable fate of the invaders: that was what set the reader’s pulse pounding. . . . Action was the hallmark of ASTOUNDING STORIES OF SUPER-SCIENCE.”

Although the early ASTOUNDING would serve as a repository for space battles and bug-eyed monsters, after it was acquired by Street & Smith in 1933, it would launch what has become known as Science Fiction’s Golden Age. Utilizing writers both old and new, editor John W. Campbell began to set the stage in 1938 and early 1939, publishing such stories as Lester Del Rey’s “Helen O’Loy,” Clifford D. Simak’s “Cosmic Engineers,” Don A. Stuart’s “Who Goes There?” and “Cloak of Aesir,” and Jack Williamson’s “The Legion of Time” and its sequel, “One Against the Legion.”

The July 1939 issue however, is cited most often as the start of the Golden Age of ASTOUNDING and, in turn, of science fiction. Behind a very effective cover by SHADOW cover artist Graves Gladney, the reader would find the first prose fiction by radio soap opera writer A. E. van Vogt as well as the young Isaac Asimov’s first story for ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION. August’s and September’s issues continued the trend with the first stories of Robert A. Heinlein and Theodore Sturgeon appearing in the magazine. October’s number began the serialization of E. E. Smith’s cosmic adventure, “Gray Lensman,” along with another tale by Heinlein.

The start of the new decade brought with it the flowering of Robert Heinlein as he contributed “Reqiem,” his first novel “If This Goes On—,” “The Roads Must Roll,” and “Blowups Happen.” L. Ron Hubbard’s “Final Blackout” as well as A. E. van Vogt’s “Slan,” were also serialized by Campbell during the year. 1941 continued apace with the first of Heinlein’s works as Anson McDonald—“Sixth Column,” “Solution Unsatisfactory,” and “By His Bootstraps”—as well as “—And He Built a Crooked House,” “Logic of Empire,” “Universe,” and “Methuselah’s Children,” all published under his own name. Heinlein however, was not alone in 1941. Leigh Brackett contributed “Martian Quest;” L. Sprague de Camp offered “The Stolen Dormouse;” Theodore Sturgeon shared “Microcosmic God;” Eric Frank Russell and A. E. van Vogt respectively produced the first tales in their “Jay Score” and “Weapon Shops” series; Isaac Asimov presented “Nightfall” and the first of his robot stories; and E. E. Smith began “Second Stage Lensmen.”

ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION would continue to publish outstanding works of science fiction throughout World War II and for many years to come. More importantly, it would inspire new magazines dedicated to fantasy and science fiction — GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION, THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, and others — and older magazines — including AMAZING STORIES and THRILLING WONDER STORIES — to step up their game and publish quality science fiction. We’re still enjoying the results eighty years after that momentous issue of ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION, dated July 1939.

Over the last three days, we’ve explored just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the profound effect of the stories and art of the pulp magazines on popular culture. THE SHADOWWEIRD TALES, and the early science fiction pulps are just a few of the many rough-paper magazines that have inspired pop culture creators over the decades. PulpFest 2019 will focus on the many ways pulp fiction and pulp art have inspired and continue to inspire creators.

We’re calling this year’s theme “Children of the Pulps and Other Stories,” with presentations on Zorro, Dashiell Hammett, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, Sherlock Holmes, THE TWILIGHT ZONE, and more. It’s all part of our examination of the pervasive influence of pulp magazines on contemporary pop culture. We hope you’ll join us from August 15 – 18 at the beautiful DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry in Mars, Pennsylvania.

(Soon after starting his monthly SCIENCE WONDER STORIES, Hugo Gernsback debuted a quarterly title. Its first issue was dated Fall 1929. After three quarterly issues, the “Science” was dropped from its title. In his editorial remarks published in the May 1930 issue of SCIENCE WONDER STORIES, Gernsback noted, “It has been felt for some time that the word “Science” has tended to retard the progress of the magazine, because many people had the impression that it is a sort of scientific periodical rather than a fiction magazine.” Although he continued to publish his science fiction magazine, future issues would feature a new title: WONDER STORIES. His quarterly was likewise retitled.

Frank R. Paul painted all of the covers for Hugo Gernsback’s WONDER STORIES QUARTERLY. We believe that that the artist’s cover for the Fall 1932 quarterly aptly depicts the “sheer wonder” that Jack Williamson and other readers found in the early science fiction pulps.

Unlike the Munsey pulps, THE POPULAR MAGAZINE offered a smattering of the fantastic over the years: H. Rider Haggard’s “Ayesha: The Further History of She,” Edgar Wallace’s “The Green Rust,” Fred MacIsaac’s “The Last Atlantide,” and Sean O’Larkin’s “Morgo the Mighty” are a few examples. The latter novel garnered the cover art on three of the four issues in which it was serialized. Howard V. Brown contributed the cover painting for the first installment, which ran in the second August 1930 number. It was one of very few fantastic covers to be featured on the Street & Smith pulp magazine.

Who knows whether the “Scientific Fiction Number” was an effort to boost circulation or to test the waters in the growing market for specialized fiction magazines? Unfortunately, Hugo Gernsback did not share that information. However, we do know that Howard V. Brown painted the cover for the August 1923 issue.

Not long after the appearance of the November 1928 number of AMAZING STORIES — with its wondrous Frank R. Paul cover — Gernsback’s printer demanded payment on past due bills. The publisher filed for bankruptcy. In early 1929, the Experimenter Publishing Company went into receivership. The last issue of AMAZING STORIES to be edited by Hugo Gernsback was dated April 1929.

Prior to creating the cover art for the first issue of ASTOUNDING STORIES OF SUPER-SCIENCE, H. W. Wessolowski had done a half-dozen covers for AMAZING STORIES and its quarterly companion. Beginning with the January 1930 number, he would become the primary cover artist for the Clayton science fiction pulp.

One of the many changes — or “mutations” as he called them — that John W. Campbell instituted at ASTOUNDING after taking over as editor in late 1937, was the hiring of long-time ADVENTURE artist, Hubert Rogers. The free-lance illustrator’s first cover was the February 1939 number. Eventually, he would paint nearly sixty covers for Campbell’s ASTOUNDING, including the April 1940 number, illustrating L. Ron Hubbard’s “Final Blackout.”

To learn more about the influence of the early science fiction pulps, please visit the PulpFest Instagram page.)

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.)

 

Another Clue to Our Guest of Honor

Jan 8, 2016 by

Argosy 1896-12Last night, we drew your attention to the fact that we are planning to announce our convention’s 2016 guest of honor on Monday, January 11th. The news will be released here and on our social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. We also mentioned that we’re planning to offer a wide array of programming at PulpFest 2016, including a salute to the 120th anniversary of the first pulp magazine, THE ARGOSY.

Pulp magazines were named for the cheap paper on which they were printed. Frank A. Munsey pioneered the format in late 1896 with THE ARGOSYcreating the first American periodical specifically designed for the common man. A decade later, pulps began to pick up steam with titles like BLUE BOOK (1906) and ADVENTURE (1910), then exploded in 1912 when THE ALL-STORY printed a yarn written by Edgar Rice Burroughs and called “Tarzan of the Apes.” Soon after, genre titles began to flourish, among them DETECTIVE STORY, WESTERN STORY and LOVE STORY.

In the 1920s, pulps continued to flourish with publishing legends such as BLACK MASK (1920), WEIRD TALES (1923) and AMAZING STORIES (1926) taking hold. The thirties was the era of the “hero” or single-character pulp magazine, inspired by the phenomenal success of Street & Smith’s THE SHADOW MAGAZINE. The late thirties saw the blossoming of the science-fiction pulps as the genre’s “Golden Age” arrived in the pages of ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION.

Following World War II, the demand for pulp magazines waned as a more convenient form of cheap entertainment took hold – paperbacks. These were often just as “pulpy,” since they were generally written by many of the same authors and featured covers by pulp artists. In the fifties, television became the favored form of escapism and the surviving pulps ceased publication. Fiction magazines continued to be published, but in new formats. The science-fiction and mystery digests and “men’s adventure magazines” are considered descendants of the pulps. It was as one of the latter that the final issue of ARGOSY from its original run appeared.

Although ARGOSY was the first pulp magazine, it “shifted to a slick magazine with mixed content” in the fall of 1943. Still later, it was converted to the men’s adventure magazine format. Here’s our second clue to the identity of our PulpFest 2016 guest of honor: during our 2016 guest of honor’s career, he or she worked for both the rough-paper and slick magazines. Drop by our site over the next few days for more hints. You can leave your guess to our special guest’s identity on our Facebook page. If you haven’t done so already, be sure to “like” us. We’ll provide a free membership to PulpFest 2016 to the first person who guesses the identity of this year’s honored guest. And remember to visit www.pulpfest.com on Monday, January 11th when we’ll reveal the identity of the PulpFest 2016 Guest of Honor.

(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.)

A Magazine for the Common Man

Apr 11, 2014 by

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

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

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

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

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

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