150 Years of the Greatest Editor

Mar 18, 2019 by

When one considers the editors of the pulps, invariably thoughts turn to the writers they discovered or nurtured. It is the authors and their stories that measure a magazine’s editor.

For BLACK MASK editor Cap Shaw, it was W. T. Ballard, Paul Cain, Raymond Chandler, George Harmon Coxe, Norbert Davis, Horace McCoy, Frederick Nebel, Roger Torrey, Raoul Whitfield, and many others. Shaw also brought Dashiell Hammett back to the magazine, and helped to develop his skills as a novelist. After his return to BLACK MASK, Hammett wrote RED HARVEST, THE DAIN CURSE, THE MALTESE FALCON, and THE GLASS KEY.

Street & Smith’s John W. Campbell — editor of ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION — helped stage The Golden Age of Science Fiction. He encouraged Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Lester del Rey, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, Clifford D. Simak, Theodore Sturgeon, A. E. van Vogt, Jack Williamson, and others to expand their thinking and storytelling.

At WEIRD TALES, it was Farnsworth Wright at the helm. He published Robert Bloch, Hugh B. Cave, August Derleth, Edmund Hamilton, Henry Kuttner, C. L. Moore, Seabury Quinn, Henry S. Whitehead, and, most importantly, Robert E. Howard, H. P. Lovecraft, and Clark Ashton Smith. Artists Hannes Bok, Margaret Brundage, and Virgil Finlay also contributed to “The Unique Magazine” during Wright’s tenure.

What of the great hero pulps that inspired countless imitators? Walter B. Gibson’s THE SHADOW and Lester Dent’s DOC SAVAGE owed a great deal to Street & Smith editor John L. Nanovic. He was also in charge of THE AVENGER — written by pulpsmith Paul Ernst — and other titles.

Other greats included Daisy Bacon of LOVE STORYADVENTURE editor Arthur Sullivant Hoffman; Donald Kennicott, editor of BLUE BOOK; Standard Publications’ “Little Giant” Leo Margulies; and Rogers Terrill, who helped develop the weird menace genre and a great deal more for Popular Publications.

Towering over them all was Robert Hobart Davis, born in Nebraska on March 23, 1869. Trained in the newspaper industry, Davis became the managing editor of Frank A. Munsey’s NEW YORK SUNDAY NEWS in the early 1900s. He soon shifted to fiction editor for MUNSEY’S MAGAZINE. As he added more magazines to his stable, Munsey turned them all over to Davis. THE ALL-STORY MAGAZINE, THE CAVALIER, RAILROAD MAN’S MAGAZINE, THE SCRAP BOOK, and others were all edited by Bob Davis. But what of his writers?

Before others landed him, Davis signed William Sydney Porter — better known as O. Henry — to a five-year contract. It gave Munsey first look at the author’s works. According to Richard Cary, Bob Davis was also the literary godfather to “Edgar Rice Burroughs, Zane Grey, Edison Marshall, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Octavus Roy Cohen, Max Brand, Fannie Hurst, Israel Zangwill, Dorothy Canfield Fisher, Sophie Kerr, Frank L. Packard, Montague Glass, Arthur Somers Roche, Faith Baldwin, James Oliver Curwood, Rex Beach, Louis Joseph Vance, Charles Van Loan, and Ben Ames Williams.” Other writers that he developed included science fiction, fantasy, and adventure fiction greats Max Brand, Ray Cummings, George Allan England, Homer Eon Flint, J. U. Giesy, Austin Hall, A. Merritt, Garrett P. Serviss, and Charles B. Stilson. Davis also acquired the rights to Joseph Conrad’s last major work, “Victory,” for MUNSEY’S MAGAZINE.

Davis protégé Sam Hellman knew of no other editor who had “graduated more writers from pulp to prominent pay.” Pulp historian John Locke also noted that, “More than sixty authors — many of them well-known — dedicated their books to Bob Davis.”

So what was Davis’s secret? According to Richard Cary:

As to Davis’s “force,” it had two salient strands: first, his philosophy of friendship; second, his tremendous versatility. Making friends was his principal hobby; “Know lots of people” his favorite slogan. He was intrigued by the potentialities in human relationships and the values accruing therefrom. He felt that “Every important advancement you ever made was . . . due to some acquaintance,” and he wasn’t talking about opportunism. Because his own capacity to give was inexhaustible he believed that everyone had within him the spark to brighten derelict spirits or to ignite lagging talents.

Bob Davis asked his writers to emphasize character. In 1920, William C. Lengel wrote, “Life is the thing that interests Davis. Life and people. Strange as it may seem he says that ‘plot’ is of no considerable importance, that character in a story is everything. It is the characters and the interest in them that make plot and suspense, he says. Dramatize the moment. Put life into fiction.”

During the summer of 1920, ALL-STORY WEEKLY was merged with ARGOSY. Bob Davis lost his editorial chair to the longer tenured ARGOSY editor Matthew White. Leaving behind most of his editorial duties, Davis launched Service for Authors, a literary agency that was sponsored by Frank Munsey.

Following the death of Munsey in late 1925, Davis became a columnist for THE NEW YORK SUN. Appearing three times a week, the column “chronicled Davis’s adventures, opinions, perceptions and personal encounters as he traveled for the SUN.” The former Munsey editor passed away in Montreal in October 1942. He was traveling for his “Bob Davis Reveals” column.

Bob Davis “harbored no stainless illusions about himself.” He wrote about himself in 1928: “What little success I have achieved as an editor is due entirely to the fact that I have never at any time considered myself a better writer than my contributors. Nor have they.”

(Charles B. Stilson — the author of “Polaris of the Snows” — featured on the cover of ALL-STORY WEEKLY for December 18, 1915, with cover art by P. J. Monahan — was just one of many writers discovered and/or nurtured by Robert Hobart Davis.

In 1925, photographer Doris Ullman published a photograph of Davis in A PORTRAIT GALLERY OF AMERICAN EDITORS: BEING A GROUP OF XLIII LIKENESSES. Arthur Sullivant Hoffman of ADVENTURE and Charles Agnew MacLean of THE POPULAR MAGAZINE are also included in Ullman’s portfolio.

If you’d like to read more about Robert Hobart Davis, we very much recommend Richard Cary’s “Ben Ames Williams and Robert H. Davis: The Seedling in the Sun,” published in the September 1963 issue of COLBY QUARTERLY. Click the link in the previous sentence.

You’ll also find extensive information about Davis in Sam Moskowitz’s UNDER THE MOONS OF MARS: A HISTORY AND ANTHOLOGY OF “THE SCIENTIFIC ROMANCE” IN THE MUNSEY MAGAZINES, 1912 – 1920 (Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1970), John Locke’s THE OCEAN: 100TH ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION (Off-Trail Publications, 2008), and “Bob Davis of MUNSEY’S,” originally published in the January 24, 1920 issue of ADVERTISING AND SELLING. It was republished by Sai Shankar on February 1, 2014 on his PULP FLAKES blog.

Finally, if you’d like to read “I Am the Printing Press,” one of Bob Davis’ best-remembered pieces, click the link in this sentence.

Writer, anthologist, and pulp historian Gene Christie will offer a presentation on Bob Davis at PulpFest 2019. We hope you can join us at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry in August.)

 

Unknown: The Best in Fantasy Fiction

Jul 29, 2014 by

Unknown 39-03On Saturday, August 9th, at 8 PM, celebrate the 75th anniversary of the publication considered the best fantasy magazine of all time, Street & Smith’s Unknown. Join acclaimed lecturer on the history of pulp magazinesProfessor Tom Krabacher of California State University, Sacramento; commentator Walker Martin, who writes about pulp collecting on Pulpmags and Mystery*File; and Professor Garyn G. Roberts, editor of The Prentice Hall Anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy, as they revisit the magazine’s highlights.

Debuting in February 1939 and publishing a complete novel in each issue, Unknown featured many works now considered classics of the fantasy genre—Anthony Boucher’s “The Compleat Werewolf,” L. Sprague DeCamp’s “Lest Darkness Fall,” L. Ron Hubbard’s “Fear” and “Typewriter in the Sky,” Fritz Leiber’s “Conjure Wife” and the early Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories, Norvell W. Page’s Prester John stories “Flame Wind” and “Sons of the Bear-God,” Theodore Sturgeon’s “It,” Jack Williamson’s “Darker Than You Think,” and many others.

Over its 39-issue run, the magazine went through a variety of permutations including the elimination of cover art beginning with the July 1940 number. The magazine would get a new name in  late 1941. Despite the changes, Unknown Worlds would be cancelled following the issue dated October 1943.

Krabacher’s, Martin’s, and Robert’s presentation, “Unknown: The Best in Fantasy Fiction,” accompanied by selected cover art, is yet another reason to make PulpFest your “must-see” convention of 2014!

To learn more about the image used in this post, click on the illustration.

The Golden Age of Astounding Science Fiction

Jul 27, 2014 by

Astounding Science-Fiction 39-02When John W. Campbell became editor of Astounding Stories, he began working to create a science-fiction magazine for mature readers. Writers, both new and old, began to respond: Lester Del Rey with “The Faithful” and “Helen O’Loy;” Jack Williamson with “The Legion of Time;” and L. Ron Hubbard with “The Tramp.” Campbell himself joined in with “Who Goes There,” as did Clifford D. Simak, who had left science fiction, and new writers L. Sprague de Camp and Eric Frank Russell. Seasoned professionals such as Arthur J. Burks, Raymond Z. Gallun, and Manly Wade Wellman also joined in.

But Campbell had been merely tilling the soil in the first year of his editorship, preparing it for the blossoming of science fiction’s Golden Age in 1939. The stage was set when the February Astounding Science-Fiction featured the magazine’s first cover by Hubert Rogers. A free-lance illustrator long associated with Adventure, Rogers would paint nearly sixty covers for Campbell’s Astounding.

Astounding Science Fiction 39-07Although the outpouring of exceptional fiction continued in the early months of 1939, it is the July issue that is most often cited as the start of Astounding‘s golden age. Behind an effective cover by artist Graves Gladney, the reader would find the first prose fiction by A. E. van Vogt as well as Isaac Asimov’s first story for the magazine. August’s and September’s issues continued the trend with the first stories of Robert A. Heinlein and Theodore Sturgeon. October’s number began the serialization of E. E. Smith’s “Gray Lensman,” along with another tale by Heinlein.

Under the editorship of John W. Campbell, Street & Smith’s Astounding Science Fiction was the genre’s trend setter, introducing many of the field’s top authors and publishing some of its most memorable stories. On Friday, August 8th, beginning at 10:30 PM, please join 2013 Munsey Award winner, Professor Garyn G. Roberts, editor of The Prentice Hall Anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy; Professor Tom Krabacher of California State University, Sacramento, a member of the Pulp Era Amateur Press Society who has written and lectured on the history of pulp magazines and has long owned a lengthy run of Astounding, back to the late thirties; and PulpFest organizer, movie and pulp historian, author, and the editor of Blood ‘n Thunder, Ed Hulse who will dissect Astounding’s 1939 issues and the blossoming of science fiction’s Golden AgeA slide show featuring the 1939 issues of Street & Smith’s Astounding Science Fiction will accompany the trio’s presentation.

Click on the illustrations to learn more about the images.

Unknown Worlds of John Campbell

May 24, 2014 by

Unknown 39-03In the February 1939 Astounding Science-Fiction, John W. Campbell announced, “. . . the second Friday of every month, a new magazine will appear. Unknown will be to fantasy what Astounding has made itself represent to science fiction. It will offer fantasy of a quality so far different from that which has appeared in the past as to change your entire understanding of the term.”

Debuting in February 1939 and publishing a complete novel in each issue, Unknown featured many works now considered classics of the fantasy genre—Anthony Boucher’s “The Compleat Werewolf,” L. Sprague DeCamp’s “Lest Darkness Fall,” L. Ron Hubbard’s “Fear” and “Typewriter in the Sky,” Fritz Leiber’s “Conjure Wife” and the early Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories, Norvell W. Page’s Prester John stories “Flame Wind” and “Sons of the Bear-God,” ” Theodore Sturgeon’s “It,” Jack Williamson’s “Darker Than You Think,” and many others.

Over its 39-issue run, the magazine went through a variety of permutations including the elimination of cover art beginning with the July 1940 number. “We’ve made the July cover look very dignified. We’re going to ask your news dealer to display it with magazines of general class—not with the newsprints . . . . It is unique and appeals to adult minds . . . . I feel most would enjoy Unknown if given a chance to try it.” The magazine would be enlarged to letter-size and get a new name in  late 1941 as Street & Smith sought better display space. Despite the changes, the renamed Unknown Worlds would be cancelled following the issue dated October 1943. Although a letter-sized magazine reprint anthology entitled From Unknown Worlds was issued in 1948, no additional issues of the publication considered the best fantasy magazine of all time would appear.

From Unknown Worlds

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

 

Campbell’s Astounding

May 15, 2014 by

Astounding Stories 38-01Hired by Street & Smith in 1937, John W. Campbell became the editor of Astounding Stories upon the promotion of F. Orlin Tremaine. Writing under his own name and several pseudonyms, Campbell was one of the leading science-fiction writers of the 1930s. His story “Twilight,” published in the November 1934 Astounding under the Don A. Stuart pen name, is considered a science-fiction classic.

While he worked through a backlog of stories purchased by his predecessor, Campbell began making changes to the magazine, or “mutations,” as he called them. The first major “mutation” came with the March 1938 issue when the magazine became known as Astounding Science-Fiction.

Wanting to create a science-fiction magazine for mature readers, Campbell asked his authors to provide readers with “new worlds that science might offer.” Writers, both new and old, began to respond: Lester Del Rey with “The Faithful” and “Helen O’Loy;” Jack Williamson with “The Legion of Time;” and L. Ron Hubbard with “The Tramp.” Campbell himself joined in with “Who Goes There,” as did Clifford D. Simak, who had left the field, and new writers L. Sprague de Camp and Eric Frank Russell. Seasoned professionals such as Arthur J. Burks, Raymond Z. Gallun, and Manly Wade Wellman also joined in.

Astounding Science-Fiction 39-02But Campbell had merely been tilling the soil in 1938, preparing it for the blossoming of science fiction’s Golden Age in 1939. The stage was set when the February 1939 Astounding Science-Fiction featured the magazine’s first cover by Hubert Rogers. A free lance illustrator long associated with Adventure, Rogers would eventually paint nearly sixty covers for Campbell’s Astounding.

Although the outpouring of exceptional fiction continued in the new year with stories such as Simak’s “Cosmic Engineers” and Williamson’s “One Against the Legion,” it is the July 1939 issue that 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 artist Graves Gladney, the reader would find the first prose fiction by A. E. van Vogt as well as Isaac Asimov’s first story for Campbell’s magazine. 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 “Gray Lensman,” along with another tale by Heinlein.

The forties brought with them the flowering of Robert Heinlein with stories such as “The Roads Must Roll,” “Blowups Happen,” “Universe,” and “Methuselah’s Children,” all published under his own name, and “Sixth Column,” “By His Bootstraps,” and “Beyond this Horizon,” published under the his Anson McDonald pseudonym. Isaac Asimov began to be heard with works such as “Nightfall” and the first stories of his robot and “Foundation” series. A. E. van Vogt contributed “Slan” and began the “Weapon Shops” tales. And L. Ron Hubbard’s “Final Blackout,” serialized in 1940, caused a substantial stir.

As the decade wore on, World War II began to effect Astounding as Campbell’s writers were pulled away to help with the war effort. Others however, emerged to take their place. Writing as Lewis Padgett, Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore contributed such tales as “The Twonky” and “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” while Jack Williamson, writing as Will Stewart, began the “Seetee” series. Lester del Rey’s “Nerves” became one of the most popular stories published in 1942 while Fritz Leiber’s “Gather Darkness” and C. L. Moore’s “Judgment Night” were two of the best to appear in 1943. Hal Clement, Raymond F. Jones, and George O. Smith all began writing for Campbell during this period and Murray Leinster returned to Astounding. The magazine itself also went through a couple of changes during this time, becoming letter-sized at the start of 1942 and a digest at the end of 1943.

Although Astounding Science-Fiction would continue to publish outstanding works of science fiction throughout the war and for many years to come, the magazine’s and science fiction’s golden luster began to diminish as the years wore on. As the fifties began, it became increasingly apparent that Galaxy Science Fiction and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction had become the leading lights of magazine science fiction. Although John Campbell would win eight Hugo Awards for best editor between 1952 and 1965, his age was past.

Astounding Science Fiction 60-01In 1960, Astounding was renamed Astounding/Analog Science Fact & Fiction. The “Astounding” was dropped from the title with the October 1960 number when it became known as Analog Science Fact-Fiction. It has survived into the present time using some sort of variation on that title. John Campbell continued to edit Astounding/Analog until his death in July 1971. He was succeeded as editor, first by Ben Bova, and later by Stanley Schmidt and Trevor Quachri. The magazine was sold to Davis Publications in 1980 and Dell Magazines in 1992, the company that publishes it today.

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