Frederik Pohl & Fictioneers, Inc.

Jun 12, 2014 by

Astonishing Stories 40-02In October 1939, acting on a tip that Popular Publications was starting a new pulp line, a young author and literary agent found himself trying to convince the company to hire him to start a pair of science-fiction pulps. Soon thereafter, the freshly hired editor was seated with publisher Harry Steeger, discussing the financial needs of the company’s brand new science-fiction magazines.

Frederik Pohl was a month shy of his twentieth birthday when he went to work for Fictioneers, Inc., the name given to Popular’s off-brand line of pulp magazines that paid its authors and artists cut-rate prices. Armed with six-hundred dollars to fill two magazines with science fiction stories, Pohl turned to the members of The Futurians, a science-fiction fan club he had helped to found. It included Isaac Asimov, Cyril Kornbluth, Robert Lowndes, Donald Wollheim, and other fans who wanted to become professional science-fiction writers.

Published in alternating months, Astonishing Stories and its companion, Super Science Stories, also included stories cast-offs from John Campbell’s Astounding Science-Fiction, including work by Cleve Cartmill, L. Sprague DeCamp, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, Ross Rocklynne, and Clifford Simak. There were also tales from the Thursday Afternoon Luncheon Club, a group of writing professionals that included Malcolm Jameson, Henry Kuttner, and Manly Wade Wellman. Of course, there was Pohl himself, supplementing his ten-dollar weekly paycheck from Popular by writing stories using the pseudonym of James MacCreigh, as well as work from new writers such as Ray Bradbury and Bob Tucker. Finally, Pohl found it hard to reject Ray Cummings, the old-timer who penned “The Girl in the Golden Atom” ad infinitum.

Super Science Stories 40-03Astonishing Stories and Super Science Stories continued for about three years. In 1943, Popular dropped a number of its pulps including its  two Fictioneer science-fiction magazines. The paper saved was used for their better-selling titles like Adventure, Argosy, Black Mask, Dime Detective, and the love and western magazines. After World War II, Super Science Stories was revived for fifteen more issues. It helped pave the way for the new approaches to science-fiction storytelling being developed in magazines such as Galaxy Science Fiction and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

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

Science Fiction and Archie Comics

May 27, 2014 by

Science Fiction 39-03Before he helped found MLJ Comics–later Archie Comics–Louis Silberkleit published pulp magazines. The mentor of Martin Goodman, Silberkleit was a follower of trends, hoping to obtain a quick profit through the magazines he published. Noting the growing science-fiction market in 1939, Silberkleit issued a pair of magazines.

First to the gate was Science Fiction, released in the second month of the year. Future Fiction came late in the year, its first issue dated November 1939. Former Gernsback editor Charles D. Hornig helmed both magazines, working on a freelance basis from his home. Produced on tight budgets, neither magazine offered much in the way of memorable fiction since most authors could find better-paying venues for their work. Both pulps became repositories for stories rejected by other publishers with real author names hidden behind pseudonyms.

Future Fiction 39-11During the summer of 1940, Silberkleit added a third science-fiction title—Science Fiction Quarterly—to the mix. Featuring a complete novel in each issue, the magazine reprinted a handful of Ray Cummings’ early novels as well as the lead stories from the first two issues of Hugo Gernsback’s Science Wonder Quarterly. Arthur J. Burks also contributed a pair of original novels.

In the spring of 1941, Robert W. Lowndes became editor of both Future Fiction and Science Fiction Quarterly. Soon thereafter, Science Fiction was merged with Future Fiction to become Future combined with Science Fiction. Under Lowndes, the quality of the Silberkleit science-fiction pulps improved markedly as the new editor coaxed fiction from his friends among the Futurians, a group of science-fiction fans based in New York City. However, despite Lowndes’ efforts, the publisher decided to cancel both science-fiction titles in 1943 as war-induced paper shortages took their toll on the industry.

Science Fiction Quarterly 58-02

During the 1950s science-fiction boom, Louis Silberkleit resurrected all three of his science-fiction magazines. The quarterly lasted into 1958 while Future Science Fiction and Science Fiction Stories lasted until the spring of 1960.

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