A Century Ago in a Galaxy Called California

Dec 14, 2015 by

Pardon the play on words in the title, but it was hard to resist with the seventh STAR WARS movie, THE FORCE AWAKENS, premiering in theaters across the world at the end of this week. But why write about STAR WARS on a website devoted to PulpFest, Summer’s AMAZING Pulp Con?

Two words: Leigh Brackett. Four more words: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Considered by many to be the best of the STAR WARS films, the original treatment for the fifth episode of George Lucas’ series was written by Leigh Brackett. Shortly after delivering her untitled screenplay to Twentieth Century Fox, the so-called “Queen of the Space Opera” passed away. THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK went on to become one of the highest grossing films of all time, and in 1981, received a Hugo Award for best dramatic presentation.

Born one-hundred years ago on December 7, 1915, Leigh Brackett was the wife of author Edmond Hamilton. Together, they were two of the many writers who helped to popularize the so-called “space operas” of the pulp magazines. Ed started first as the leading contributor of science fiction to WEIRD TALES during the 1920s. With stories about alien invasions, space police, and evolution gone wild, the author became known as “world-wrecker” Hamilton. In later years, he was asked by Standard Magazines’ Leo Margulies to work up something involving a “Mr. Future, Wizard of Science.” Eventually, the character evolved into Captain Future, a super-scientist headquartered on the Moon. In each issue of the pulp, Hamilton’s hero and his faithful assistants — known as the Futuremen — would save the solar system and, in later issues, the universe. When Mort Weisinger began working for DC Comics in 1941, he turned to Standard’s leading writers of science fiction — including Hamilton — to write the adventures of Superman and other comic book heroes.

Leigh Brackett came later to the pulps, selling her first story to ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION in late 1939. The bulk of her science fiction appeared in Fiction House’s PLANET STORIES and Standard’s THRILLING WONDER STORIES and STARTLING STORIES. A native of southern California, she began collaborating on screenplays during the middle forties. Supposedly, Hollywood film director Howard Hawks was so impressed by her crime novel NO GOOD FROM A CORPSE that he had his secretary call in “this guy Brackett” to help William Faulkner write the script for THE BIG SLEEP. Released in 1946 and starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, it is considered a classic of film noir. During the fifties and sixties, Brackett, Hawks, and actor John Wayne collaborated on several motion pictures, included RIO BRAVO, HATARI, EL DORADO, and RIO LOBO. Leigh Brackett died in 1978.

In 1972, Brackett and Hamilton served as the guests of honor at the first Pulpcon, the forerunner to PulpFest. Years later in 2009, the town of Kinsman, Ohio — where Brackett and Hamilton lived after they had married — began celebrating this famed couple of pulp history. The celebration evolved into KinCon, a convention exploring the worlds of Edmond Hamilton and Leigh Brackett. Although the event is currently on hiatus, KinCon continues to celebrate these two exceptional pulp fictioneers through its website on Facebook.

Like KinCon, PulpFest seeks to draw attention to the profound effect that the pulps had on American popular culture, reverberating through a wide variety of media — comic books, movies, paperbacks and genre fiction, television, men’s adventure magazines, radio drama, and even video and role-playing games. Planned as the summertime destination for fans and collectors of vintage popular fiction and related materials, PulpFest honors pulp fiction and pulp art by drawing attention to the many ways the magazines and their creators — people like Leigh Brackett and Edmond Hamilton — have inspired writers, artists, film directors, software developers, game designers, and other creators over the decades.

Join PulpFest 2016 to be part of this great celebration of American popular culture. Start making your plans right now to join the 45th convening of “Summer’s AMAZING Pulp Con” in 2016. It will take place July 21st through July 24th at the Hyatt Regency Columbus and the Greater Columbus Convention Center in the beautiful downtown of Columbus, Ohio.

(After studying art by correspondence, Allen Anderson worked as a staff artist for Fawcett Publications in Minneapolis from 1929 to 1939. He moved to New York City in 1940 and began painting covers for pulp magazines published by Ace Magazines, Fiction House, Harry Donenfeld, and Martin Goodman. He also painted comic book covers for Ziff-Davis from 1949 to 1953. From 1947 through 1953, he contributed about thirty front cover paintings to PLANET STORIES — including the Winter 1948 issue — a Fiction House pulp magazine best remembered for the many entertaining space operas that appeared in its rough paper pages. In later years, Anderson opened a small advertising agency and worked as a sign painter. )

Alex Schomburg–Still Thrilling at 110!

May 10, 2015 by

Startling 39-09Born in Puerto Rico on May 10, 1905, Alex Schomburg moved to New York City in the early twenties to find work as a commercial artist. In 1925, Schomburg met publisher Hugo Gernsback, about a year before he launched the first specialized science-fiction magazine, AMAZING STORIES.

After seeing some of Schomburg’s art, Gernsback asked the artist to contribute some interior illustrations to his electronic and science magazines. In late 1925, Schomburg illustrated his first magazine cover, the December 1925 issue of THE EXPERIMENTER. Decades later, during the Second World War, Alex Schomburg would produce about fifty covers for Gernsback’s RADIO CRAFT magazine.

During the 1930s, Schomburg began to freelance for pulp magazines, creating black-and-white interior art for POPULAR DETECTIVE, THRILLING ADVENTURES, POPULAR WESTERN, THRILLING WONDER STORIES, and other pulps. He would paint his first science-fiction cover for the September 1939 issue of Ned Pine’s STARTLING STORIES. However, it wasn’t until the 1950s that he became a regular cover artist for the science-fiction market. He was still contributing cover art to the science-fiction magazines of the early nineties.

Shortly after the appearance of his first science-fiction cover, Schomburg began to produce cover art for the comic book industry. His first covers were published by Timely Comics, the forerunner of Marvel Comics. Shortly thereafter, he began working for Ned Pines’ Standard Comics, the parent company of Better Publications and Nedor Publishing. He would produce about three hundred covers for Standard and two hundred for Timely/Marvel. His best remembered works are his covers for the Timely superheroes Captain America, the Human Torch, and Sub-Mariner.

In addition to his work for the pulp and comic book industry, Alex Schomburg also painted paperback covers for Ace and Popular Library, the hardbound Winston science-fiction juveniles, and most of the covers as well as interior art for Standard’s crossword puzzle and astrology magazines.

Startling Comics 48-01Alex Schomburg, whose career as an illustrator lasted for over seventy years, passed away on April 7, 1998, about a month shy of his 93rd birthday. He was a longtime and important contributor to Standard, the pulp and comic book publisher we’ll be saluting at PulpFest. He would have been 110 years old today and represents yet another reason to make 2015 a “Thrilling” year by attending PulpFest in downtown Columbus, Ohio. Our programming scheduled for August 13th through the 15th will feature presentations on Standard’s pulp detectives and western heroes, its pulp and comic book heroes, and Leo Margulies, the managing editor of the Standard pulp line, known as “The Little Giant of the Pulps.” We hope to see you in August. Click here to learn how to register for the convention.

(According to Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee, “Alex Schomburg . . . was the only artist I knew able to combine strong, dramatic layouts, and exciting superhero action with a simplistic, almost cartoony style of execution. One could never be sure if Alex was an illustrator who approached his work like a cartoonist, or a cartoonist who chose to render his artwork like an illustrator. Despite the quantity of work we gave him, despite the care and effort that went into every Schomburg cover, I cannot remember Alex ever being late with any illustration. He was as reliable as he was talented.” In addition to his work for Timely/Marvel, Schomburg contributed substantially to Ned Pines’ Standard Magazines and Comics, including the September 1939 issue of STARTLING STORIES and the January 1948 issue of STARTLING COMICS. To learn more about Alex Schomburg and other pulp artists, please visit David Saunder’s Field Guide to Wild American Pulp Artists by clicking here.)

Up, Up, and Away! Mort Weisinger at 100!

Apr 25, 2015 by

Thrilling Wonder 36-08Some time in 1936, Hugo Gernsback sold the last magazine of his so-called “Wonder Group” to Ned Pines’ Standard Magazines. Following its disappearance from newsstands for a few months, the rechristened THRILLING WONDER STORIES returned to the racks in the summer of 1936 with its first issue dated August.

Whereas Gernsback’s WONDER STORIES had strived to publish scientifically plausible stories, the new Standard pulp was aimed at the youth market, emphasizing action and adventure. It featured stories about mad scientists, alien invasions, and space operas. The first eight issues of the new magazine even included a comic strip chronicling the adventures of Zarnak, drawn by Jack Binder.

The editor of the new THRILLING WONDER STORIES was Mort Weisinger, a former literary agent and young science-fiction fan who had co-edited SCIENCE FICTION DIGEST/FANTASY MAGAZINE, one of the leading fanzines of its day. Employing authors such as Arthur K. Barnes, John W. Campbell, Ray Cummings, Paul Ernst, Edmond Hamilton, Otis Adelbert Kline, Henry Kuttner, Jack Williamson, and Arthur Leo Zagat to create blood-and-thunder stories similar to those found in WEIRD TALES and the Clayton ASTOUNDING STORIES, Weisinger was able to increase Standard’s market share of the science-fiction pulp market. Within a few years, he had added CAPTAIN FUTURE, STARTLING STORIES, and STRANGE STORIES to the “Thrilling” line of pulp magazines.

Mortimer Weisinger, who would have been one-hundred years old today, left Standard in 1941 to become editor of the SUPERMAN comic book and, eventually, other titles for National Periodical Publications. He soon recruited pulp authors Alfred Bester, Otto Binder , H. L. Gold, Edmond Hamilton, and Manly Wade Wellman to write for his magazines.

Although far from universally admired, Mort Weisinger was an important part of the history of Standard Magazines. This summer, PulpFest 2015 will salute Ned Pines’ “Thrilling Group” of pulp magazines and comic books. Also known as Beacon Magazines, Best Books, Better Publications, Nedor Publishing, and others, we hope that you’ll be part of our celebration from August 13 – August 16 at the Hyatt Regency in beautiful, downtown Columbus, Ohio. Click here to learn how to register for “Summer’s Great Pulp Con” and join your friends at the “pop culture center of the universe” for a salute to Ned Pines and the “Thrilling Group!”

(The August 1936, the first issue of THRILLING WONDER STORIES to be edited by Mort Weisinger, featured stories by Eando Binder, Ray Cummings, Paul Ernst, Otis Adelbert Kline, A. Merritt, Stanley G. Weinbaum, Weisinger, and Arthur Leo Zagat. There was also a comic strip by Jack Binder, credited to “Max Plaisted.” The magazine’s emphasis on action and adventure, often represented on the cover by creatures with a bizarre appearance, gave rise to the term “bug-eyed-monster,” generally abbreviated as “BEM.” The artist who painted this particular BEM is not known.)

A Century of Kuttner

Apr 7, 2015 by

Startling Stories 47-05One-hundred years ago today, author Henry Kuttner was born. A very prolific writer, Kuttner freelanced for AMAZING STORIES, ARGOSY, ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION, FAMOUS FANTASTIC MYSTERIES, GALAXY, THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, MARVEL TALES, PLANET STORIES, STARTLING STORIES, STRANGE STORIES, SUPER DETECTIVE, THRILLING ADVENTURES, THRILLING MYSTERY, THRILLING WONDER STORIES, UNKNOWN, WEIRD TALES, and many other magazines. Employing a large number of pseudonyms, Kuttner wrote supernatural fiction, mystery and detective stories, space operas, sociological science fiction, scientific romances, and more. As Charles Stoddard, he wrote the Thunder Jim Wade hero-pulp series for Standard’s THRILLING ADVENTURES. He also wrote for television and comic books, including the Golden Age Green Lantern series for DC Comics. In later years, most of his writing was done in collaboration with his wife, C. L. Moore, another talented writer in a range of genres.

Much of Kuttner’s early fiction owed a great deal to H. P. Lovecraft, whose 125th birthday will be feted at this year’s PulpFest. His enjoyment of the pulp magazine WEIRD TALES, led the emerging writer to correspond with the “Old Gentleman from Providence.” Soon Henry Kuttner was adding to Lovecraft’s evolving Mythos:

“My dizziness, my half-fainting state, saved me from seeing the thing too clearly. As it was, a scream of utter horror ripped from my throat as I saw, through a spinning whirlpool of darkness, a squamous, glowing ball covered with squirming, snake-like tentacles–translucent ivory flesh, leprous and hideous–a great faceted eye that held the cold stare of the Midgard Serpent . . . . dimly I could hear Hayward still chanting.

‘Iä! Rhyn tharanak . . . Vorvadoss of Bel-Yarnak! The Troubler of the Sands! Thou Who waiteth in the Outer Dark, Kindler of the Flame . . . n’gha shugg y’haa . . .'” (from “The Invaders,” as by Keith Hammond, STRANGE STORIES, February 1939)

Although he worked for a variety of publishers including Street & Smith, Popular Publications, Short Stories, Inc., and Culture Publications, a great portion of Henry Kuttner’s fiction saw print under the auspices of Ned Pines’ Standard Magazines or Better Publications. In addition to the Thunder Jim Wade stories for THRILLING ADVENTURES, Kuttner contributed weird-menace fiction to THRILLING MYSTERIES; supernatural tales to STRANGE STORIES; science fiction to THRILLING WONDER STORIES, CAPTAIN FUTURE, and others; and scientific romances to STARTLING STORIES. It’s also believed that he wrote a number of the Phantom Detective novels for the long-lived Thrilling hero pulp. In addition to Lovecraft and WEIRD TALES, PulpFest 2015 will be paying tribute to the Standard line of pulp magazines.

Henry Kuttner died of heart failure in 1958, at the age of forty-two.

(Artist Earle Bergey began contributing to pulp magazines during the Great Depression, at first creating good girl art for pin-up magazines. In the late thirties, he found a ready market for his work at Ned Pines’ Thrilling Group, painting covers for the publisher’s sports and science-fiction lines–including this one for the May 1947 issue of STARTLING STORIES. As the pulp market started to shrink, Bergey’s work increasingly found its way to the covers of paperback books, particularly those published by Pines’ Popular Library. He died in 1952 at the age of fifty-one.)
 

Startling Stories from First to Last

Jul 25, 2014 by

Startling Stories for 09-48Ned Pines’ Thrilling Group entered the science-fiction pulp market after purchasing Wonder Stories from Hugo Gernsback. Early in 1938, editor Mort Weisinger asked his readers for suggestions concerning a companion to the rechristened Thrilling Wonder Stories. The result of Weisinger’s poll was Startling Stories, a new pulp that debuted at the end of 1938.

Startling Stories featured a lead novel, complete in each issue, plus a number of short stories, one a reprint culled from Gernsback’s Wonder magazines. In later years, Thrilling Wonder Stories also became a reprint source for its companion magazine. Many of the novels to appear in Startling Stories were action-packed space operas, while others bordered on the science fantasies of Abraham Merritt.

When Sam Merwin became the editor of Startling in 1945, he began to mix more mature novels into the magazine. Some of the highlights of this period include Fredric Brown’s “What Mad Universe,” Arthur C. Clarke’s “Against the Fall of Night,” and Edmond Hamilton’s “The City at World’s End.” There were also short stories by Ray Bradbury, C. M. Kornbluth, Fritz Leiber, Clifford Simak, and others. In the early fifties, Startling published Philip José Farmer’s “The Lovers,” a short novel that pioneered the intelligent use of sex in science fiction.

On Friday, August 8th, beginning at 8 PM, Ed Hulse, author and publisher of the Murania Press line of books and magazines, will present a slideshow featuring all 99 of the covers from Startling‘s nearly twenty-year run. He’ll touch on the many great yarns published in the magazine over the years. It’s all part of PulpFest‘s salute to science fiction’s Golden Year of 1939 and 75 years of fantastic fiction!

Click on the illustration to learn more about the image.

Captain Future, Man of Tomorrow

Jun 9, 2014 by

Captain Future 40-WIn addition to the explosive growth of the science-fiction pulp market, 1939 was also the year of the first World Science Fiction Convention. According to a story related by science-fiction scholar Sam Moskowitz, Standard Magazines’ editor-in-chief, Leo Margulies and Mort Weisinger came up with “a new idea in fantasy magazines” at the convention. It was Captain Future, a science-fiction hero pulp that premiered at year’s end.

In actuality, Standard’s editorial staff had been batting around ideas for a science-fictional single-character magazine for months, even asking long-time pulpster Edmond Hamilton to work up something involving a “Mr. Future, Wizard of Science.”  Eventually, the character evolved into Captain Future, a super-scientist headquartered on the Moon. In each issue of the pulp, Hamilton’s hero and his faithful assistants—known as the Futuremen—would save the solar system and, in later issues, the universe. Although action-packed and entertaining, the novels were juvenile space operas.

Startling Stories 50-01Captain Future ran until the spring of 1944, surviving for seventeen issues with Edmond Hamilton writing fifteen of the lead novels. In 1945-46, three more Captain Future adventures appeared in Startling Stories. Hamilton wrote two of them and Manly Wade Wellman one. Seven shorter works followed in 1950, all of them written by Hamilton for Startling Stories. In the late sixties, Popular Library reprinted thirteen of the Captain’s adventures in paperback. Specialty publisher Haffner Press is currently collecting the entire series in hardcover.

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

Captain Future has proved very popular throughout the world with an animated television series being produced in Japan and exported to other nations. Additionally, there have been hundreds of comic books featuring the characters published in both French and German. Captain Future figurines, models, board games, drinking glasses, and other merchandise have also appeared.

Thrilling Science Fiction & Fantasy

May 21, 2014 by

Startling1939-01Ned Pines’ Thrilling Group entered the science-fiction pulp market after purchasing Wonder Stories from Hugo GernsbackEarly in 1938, editor Mort Weisinger asked his readers for suggestions concerning a companion to the rechristened Thrilling Wonder Stories. The result of Weisinger’s poll was Startling Stories, a new pulp that debuted at the end of 1938.

Startling Stories featured a lead novel, complete in each issue, plus a number of short stories, one a reprint culled from Gernsback’s Wonder magazines. In later years, Thrilling Wonder Stories also became a reprint source for its companion magazine. Many of the novels to appear in Startling Stories were action-packed space operas, while others bordered on the science fantasies of Abraham Merritt.

When Sam Merwin became the editor of Startling in 1945, he began to mix more mature novels into the magazine. Some of the highlights of this period include Fredric Brown’s “What Mad Universe,” Arthur C. Clarke’s “Against the Fall of Night,” and Edmond Hamilton’s “The City at World’s End.” There were also short stories by Ray Bradbury, C. M. Kornbluth, Fritz Leiber, Clifford Simak, and others. In the early fifties, Startling published Philip José Farmer’s “The Lovers,” a short novel that pioneered the intelligent use of sex in science fiction.

Strange Stories 39-02One month after launching Startling Stories, the Thrilling Group released Strange Stories, a fantasy magazine intended to compete with Weird Tales. Unfortunately, the magazine’s thirteen issues crowded so many stories into each number that there was little room to develop character, plot, or atmosphere. Most of the stories published in Strange Stories were “short weird or horror pieces with twists or unusual endings.” The magazine was cancelled following its February 1941 number.

In later years, Standard Magazines added Fantastic Story Quarterly, a pulp largely composed of fiction reprinted from Gernsback’s Wonder magazines to its line. It ran from 1950 to 1955, its last number dated Spring 1955. During the years 1952 and 1953, Standard published Space Stories. Aimed at readers who enjoyed space operas, it lasted for just five issues.

In early 1955, both Thrilling Wonder Stories and Fantastic Story Magazine were absorbed by Startling Stories. The last Standard science-fiction pulp was cancelled following its 99th issue, dated Fall 1955.

After Mort Weisinger left Standard Magazines to manage the Superman line for DC Comics, Oscar J. Friend became the editor of Startling Stories, bringing the inane Sergeant Saturn to the magazine. Samuel Mines served as editor from late 1951 through the fall of 1954. He was followed by Alexander Samalman and Herbert D. Kastle. Between 2008 and 2012, Ron Hanna’s Wild Cat Books revived Startling Stories for eight more issues.

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