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.)

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.