Lester del Rey–Still Astounding after 100 Years!

Jun 2, 2015 by

Astounding Science-Fiction 38-04Although he claimed that his full name was Ramón Felipe Alvarez-del Rey, or sometimes Ramón Felipe San Juan Mario Silvio Enrico Smith Heathcourt-Brace Sierra y Alvarez-del Rey y de los Verdes, Lester del Rey was actually born Leonard Knapp. Today marks the 100th anniversary of his birth.

Lester del Rey began writing professionally in the late 1930s. His first published work was “The Faithful,” published by Street & Smith in the April 1938 issue of ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION, one of the earliest numbers of the pulp to be edited by John W. Campbell. It was followed by del Rey’s classic robot story, “Helen O’Loy,” published in the December issue. In 1970, it was among the stories selected by the Science Fiction Writers of America as one of the best science fiction short stories published before the creation of the Nebula Awards.  As such, it was published in THE SCIENCE FICTION HALL OF FAME, VOLUME ONE, 1929-1964.

Throughout the late thirties and 1940s, del Rey wrote almost exclusively for Street & Smith, largely for ASTOUNDING. A smattering of his fiction also appeared in UNKNOWN, also edited by Campbell. Perhaps his best known work from this period is “Nerves,” a short novel about an accident in a nuclear power plant. During the 1950s, del Rey expanded his markets, turning out stories for AMAZING, FANTASTIC ADVENTURES, FUTURE, GALAXY, IF, MARVEL SCIENCE STORIES, and even detective magazines such as FAMOUS DETECTIVE STORIES and HOLLYWOOD DETECTIVE. He also worked as the editor of FANTASY MAGAZINE, ROCKET STORIES, SPACE SCIENCE FICTION, and SCIENCE FICTION ADVENTURES.

In 1977, Lester joined the staff of Ballantine Books when it began issuing science fiction and fantasy under the imprint Del Rey Books, named for his wife, Judy-Lynn del Rey. He continued with Ballantine until his retirement at the end of 1991. He died in 1993. The publisher still operates under the Del Rey name.

(Lester del Rey’s first published work appeared in the April 1938 issue of ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION, behind a cover painted by Howard V. Brown. A long-time science-fiction artist who painted almost all of the magazine’s covers from late 1933 through early 1938, Brown also created covers for Hugo Gernsback’s SCIENCE AND INVENTION and Standard’s STARTLING STORIES and THRILLING WONDER STORIES. PulpFest 2015 will be saluting Standard Publications during its festivities from August 13th through the 16th. Click here to learn how to register for the convention.)

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.

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.