Children of the Pulps — Part Three

Jul 19, 2019 by

The stories and art of the pulp magazines have had a profound effect on popular culture across the globe. They have reverberated through a wide variety of media — comic books, movies, paperbacks and genre fiction, television, men’s adventure magazines, radio drama, and even video, anime, manga, and role-playing games.

Although science fiction can trace its roots to the imaginary voyages, satires, and utopias of the seventeenth century, scholars have repeatedly pointed to Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN  — originally published in 1818 — as the first science-fiction novel. Twenty-five years later — beginning with “MS. Found in a Bottle” — Edgar Allan Poe began to use logic and science to explain elements of his fantastic stories. The strength of Poe’s stories inspired authors around the world. One was Jules Verne, who introduced “precise, scientific details” into FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON, TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, and other tales.

As the 19th century progressed and more people were reading, magazines naturally developed a wider audience. For the more literary, there were titles such as BLACKWOOD’S MAGAZINE and HARPER’S NEW MONTHLY. For those with less refined tastes, there were dime novels, penny-dreadfuls, and story papers. It was in these publications that the “American Jules Verne,” Luis Senarens, developed the Frank Reade, Jr. series that featured steam-powered contraptions in exciting adventure yarns. During the late nineteenth century, the thrilling yarns of Robert Louis Stevenson and H. Rider Haggard, and later, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and H. G. Wells, helped to develop a market for the British popular fiction magazine. The United States would follow in late 1896 when Frank A. Munsey converted THE ARGOSY to an all-fiction, rough-paper magazine.

From its start as a pulp, THE ARGOSY was home to fantastic fiction, reprinting a dystopian short story in its first issue. Other works featured by the magazine included Park Winthrop’s “The Land of the Central Sun” and William Wallace Cook’s “A Round Trip to the Year 2000.”

Selling in the hundreds of thousands, THE ARGOSY was bound to generate imitators. Street & Smith — the longtime publisher of dime novels and story papers — was first to meet the call, debuting THE POPULAR MAGAZINE with its November 1903 issue. Munsey himself would be next in line, introducing THE ALL-STORY in late 1904.

More than any other pulp prior to the introduction of the science fiction and fantasy fiction magazines, THE ALL-STORY became the major repository for the “different” tale, the pseudo-scientific yarn, the scientific romance, or the “off-the-trail” story. In its February 1912 issue, the Munsey pulp would begin serializing Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “Under the Moons of Mars.” The author would follow with Tarzan of the Apes,” published in its entirety in the October 1912 number.

Burroughs’ two classics, along with the pseudo-scientific works of H. G. Wells and his American counterpart, George Allan England, would serve as templates for much of the science fiction written over the next twenty-five years, generating a type of story best known as “the scientific romance.” THE ALL-STORY editor Robert H. Davis, in particular, worked to develop this school of fiction, creating a stable of writers who could contribute such stories. Davis can very well be thought of as “The Grandfather of Science Fiction.”

Although the scientific romances published in the Munsey pulps remained popular, beginning in late 1915, a trend toward specialized magazines slowly emerged. Street & Smith’s DETECTIVE STORY MAGAZINE was the first successful specialty pulp. Over the next decade, magazines specializing in western fiction, love stories, sea yarns, and sports fiction would follow. In early 1923, a pulp devoted to the fantasy and horror genres — WEIRD TALES — would be launched.

In addition to publishing some of the best fantasy and supernatural fiction of the twentieth century, WEIRD TALES, like the Munsey magazines, featured science fiction in its pages. Edmond Hamilton — who began selling to the magazine in 1926 — was the pulp’s leading contributor of science fiction. With tales of super-science about alien invasions, space police, and evolution gone wild, the author became known as “World-Wrecker” Hamilton. Other notable science fiction contributors included Austin Hall, Otis Adelbert Kline, Frank Belknap Long, C. L. Moore, Donald Wandrei, Jack Williamson, and H. P. Lovecraft, spinning his own brand of science fiction in tales of cosmic horror.

Although science fiction was frequently found in its pages, WEIRD TALES was not the first specialized science fiction magazine. That was left for Hugo Gernsback to develop. Called “The Barnum of the Space Age” in 1963, Gernsback came to the United States in 1904. He began importing electronic parts and equipment and sold them via mail order catalog. Gernback’s catalog soon evolved into a magazine, MODERN ELECTRICS, selling for ten cents. In 1911, it began publishing fiction, serializing Gernsback’s own story, “Ralph 124C 41+,” in twelve parts.

In the spring of 1913, Gernsback began publishing a new science periodical, THE ELECTRICAL EXPERIMENTER. Before long, it was also publishing fiction alongside technical articles. Beginning with its August 1920 number, Gernback’s magazine became SCIENCE AND INVENTION.

The scientifically-trained Gernsback was committed to educating his audience about science and technology through the fiction he published. That all changed in early 1923 when — perhaps in an effort to boost circulation or to test the waters in the growing market for specialized fiction magazines — Gernsback began publishing fiction that was meant to entertain. He reprinted two short works by H. G. Wells, and later, new works by George Allan England and Ray Cummings. The August 1923 issue of SCIENCE AND INVENTION was a “Scientific Fiction Number.” It featured six “scientifiction” stories including “The Man from the Atom,” a short story by a new author, sixteen-year-old G. Peyton Wertenbaker.

SCIENCE AND INVENTION and his other technical magazines were mere stepping stones for Hugo Gernsback. In the spring of 1926, he introduced a full-fledged science fiction — or as he then termed it, “scientifiction” — magazine. It was hard to miss the first issue of AMAZING STORIES — dated April 1926 — on the newsstand. It was larger than the typical pulp magazine. Vivid, three-dimensional block letters trailed across its masthead, set against a bright yellow backdrop. Frank R. Paul’s cover art depicted a number of ice skaters, gliding in front of snow heaps crowned by two stranded sailing vessels. Looming behind this scene was a bright red, ringed planet and a small moon.

In 1987, the late Jack Williamson wrote: “I don’t think anybody today can entirely understand what it meant to me and many like me then . . . but we found sheer wonder in AMAZING STORIES, a rich new revelation of exciting things to come, a dazzling vision of new ideas and discoveries and inventions that could push our future frontiers wider, make all our lives richer.”

Within months of its introduction, AMAZING STORIES was selling over 100,000 copies of each issue. In establishing the first specialized science-fiction magazine, Gernsback had tapped a vein of wonder shared by lonely individuals scattered across the country, all of them prone to “imaginative flights of fancy.”

The names on the front covers of the early AMAZING STORIES were certainly major selling points: Edgar Rice Burroughs, A. Merritt, Edgar Allan Poe, Garrett P. Serviss, Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, and others. Gernsback also offered story contests. These helped him to acquire a stable of new writers willing and able to write scientifiction: Miles J. Breur, Clare Winger Harris, David H. Keller, S. P. Meek, H. Hyatt Verrill, Harl Vincent, and others. Through the AMAZING STORIES letter column — “Discussions” — Hugo Gernsback also reeled readers into his world of wonder.

With the August 1928 number of AMAZING STORIES, Gernsback introduced his readers to E. E. “Doc” Smith’s “The Skylark of Space.” Also appearing in the issue was Philip Francis Nowlan’s “Armageddon — 2419 AD,” the first tale to feature Buck Rogers. These two “space operas” would color science fiction for well over a decade, turning the genre away from the Munsey type of story — popular with a wide range of readers, both male and female — and toward “that crazy Buck Rogers stuff.”

Although he introduced AMAZING STORIES QUARTERLY in the winter of 1928, Hugo Gernsback was increasingly experiencing cash flow problems. Plowing money into his radio interests and paying very hefty salaries to his brother and himself, Gernsback’s Experimenter Publishing Company was forced into bankruptcy.

Although down but not out, Hugo Gernsback used assets tied to his importing and radio businesses to launch a new larger-sized pulp in May 1929. Called SCIENCE WONDER STORIES, Gernsback called the stories in his new magazine, “science fiction.” Unlike “scientifiction,” this name would stick.

With the growth of the science fiction field — both AMAZING and SCIENCE WONDER also issued quarterlies — other publishers began to notice the field. William Clayton — publisher of SNAPPY STORIES, RANCH ROMANCES, and other titles — was the first to take a bite. Not enamored with the Gernsback style of science fiction, Clayton was more interested in stories of action and adventure . . . “that crazy Buck Rogers stuff.” His new magazine would be called ASTOUNDING STORIES OF SUPER-SCIENCE. According to Alva Rogers:

ASTOUNDING was unabashedly an action adventure magazine and made no pretense of trying to present science in a sugar-coated form . . .  The amount of science found in its pages was minimal – just enough to support the action and little more. Lessons in science could be obtained in school or in text books; driving action and heroic adventure was what the reader of ASTOUNDING wanted. Interplanetary wars and space battles, hideous and menacing Bug Eyed Monsters . . . the courage, ingenuity and brains of a single puny man, or small group of men, pitted against the terrible might and overwhelming scientific knowledge of extraterrestrial aliens – with defeat the inevitable fate of the invaders: that was what set the reader’s pulse pounding. . . . Action was the hallmark of ASTOUNDING STORIES OF SUPER-SCIENCE.”

Although the early ASTOUNDING would serve as a repository for space battles and bug-eyed monsters, after it was acquired by Street & Smith in 1933, it would launch what has become known as Science Fiction’s Golden Age. Utilizing writers both old and new, editor John W. Campbell began to set the stage in 1938 and early 1939, publishing such stories as Lester Del Rey’s “Helen O’Loy,” Clifford D. Simak’s “Cosmic Engineers,” Don A. Stuart’s “Who Goes There?” and “Cloak of Aesir,” and Jack Williamson’s “The Legion of Time” and its sequel, “One Against the Legion.”

The July 1939 issue however, 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 SHADOW cover artist Graves Gladney, the reader would find the first prose fiction by radio soap opera writer A. E. van Vogt as well as the young Isaac Asimov’s first story for ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION. 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 cosmic adventure, “Gray Lensman,” along with another tale by Heinlein.

The start of the new decade brought with it the flowering of Robert Heinlein as he contributed “Reqiem,” his first novel “If This Goes On—,” “The Roads Must Roll,” and “Blowups Happen.” L. Ron Hubbard’s “Final Blackout” as well as A. E. van Vogt’s “Slan,” were also serialized by Campbell during the year. 1941 continued apace with the first of Heinlein’s works as Anson McDonald—“Sixth Column,” “Solution Unsatisfactory,” and “By His Bootstraps”—as well as “—And He Built a Crooked House,” “Logic of Empire,” “Universe,” and “Methuselah’s Children,” all published under his own name. Heinlein however, was not alone in 1941. Leigh Brackett contributed “Martian Quest;” L. Sprague de Camp offered “The Stolen Dormouse;” Theodore Sturgeon shared “Microcosmic God;” Eric Frank Russell and A. E. van Vogt respectively produced the first tales in their “Jay Score” and “Weapon Shops” series; Isaac Asimov presented “Nightfall” and the first of his robot stories; and E. E. Smith began “Second Stage Lensmen.”

ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION would continue to publish outstanding works of science fiction throughout World War II and for many years to come. More importantly, it would inspire new magazines dedicated to fantasy and science fiction — GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION, THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, and others — and older magazines — including AMAZING STORIES and THRILLING WONDER STORIES — to step up their game and publish quality science fiction. We’re still enjoying the results eighty years after that momentous issue of ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION, dated July 1939.

Over the last three days, we’ve explored just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the profound effect of the stories and art of the pulp magazines on popular culture. THE SHADOWWEIRD TALES, and the early science fiction pulps are just a few of the many rough-paper magazines that have inspired pop culture creators over the decades. PulpFest 2019 will focus on the many ways pulp fiction and pulp art have inspired and continue to inspire creators.

We’re calling this year’s theme “Children of the Pulps and Other Stories,” with presentations on Zorro, Dashiell Hammett, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, Sherlock Holmes, THE TWILIGHT ZONE, and more. It’s all part of our examination of the pervasive influence of pulp magazines on contemporary pop culture. We hope you’ll join us from August 15 – 18 at the beautiful DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry in Mars, Pennsylvania.

(Soon after starting his monthly SCIENCE WONDER STORIES, Hugo Gernsback debuted a quarterly title. Its first issue was dated Fall 1929. After three quarterly issues, the “Science” was dropped from its title. In his editorial remarks published in the May 1930 issue of SCIENCE WONDER STORIES, Gernsback noted, “It has been felt for some time that the word “Science” has tended to retard the progress of the magazine, because many people had the impression that it is a sort of scientific periodical rather than a fiction magazine.” Although he continued to publish his science fiction magazine, future issues would feature a new title: WONDER STORIES. His quarterly was likewise retitled.

Frank R. Paul painted all of the covers for Hugo Gernsback’s WONDER STORIES QUARTERLY. We believe that that the artist’s cover for the Fall 1932 quarterly aptly depicts the “sheer wonder” that Jack Williamson and other readers found in the early science fiction pulps.

Unlike the Munsey pulps, THE POPULAR MAGAZINE offered a smattering of the fantastic over the years: H. Rider Haggard’s “Ayesha: The Further History of She,” Edgar Wallace’s “The Green Rust,” Fred MacIsaac’s “The Last Atlantide,” and Sean O’Larkin’s “Morgo the Mighty” are a few examples. The latter novel garnered the cover art on three of the four issues in which it was serialized. Howard V. Brown contributed the cover painting for the first installment, which ran in the second August 1930 number. It was one of very few fantastic covers to be featured on the Street & Smith pulp magazine.

Who knows whether the “Scientific Fiction Number” was an effort to boost circulation or to test the waters in the growing market for specialized fiction magazines? Unfortunately, Hugo Gernsback did not share that information. However, we do know that Howard V. Brown painted the cover for the August 1923 issue.

Not long after the appearance of the November 1928 number of AMAZING STORIES — with its wondrous Frank R. Paul cover — Gernsback’s printer demanded payment on past due bills. The publisher filed for bankruptcy. In early 1929, the Experimenter Publishing Company went into receivership. The last issue of AMAZING STORIES to be edited by Hugo Gernsback was dated April 1929.

Prior to creating the cover art for the first issue of ASTOUNDING STORIES OF SUPER-SCIENCE, H. W. Wessolowski had done a half-dozen covers for AMAZING STORIES and its quarterly companion. Beginning with the January 1930 number, he would become the primary cover artist for the Clayton science fiction pulp.

One of the many changes — or “mutations” as he called them — that John W. Campbell instituted at ASTOUNDING after taking over as editor in late 1937, was the hiring of long-time ADVENTURE artist, Hubert Rogers. The free-lance illustrator’s first cover was the February 1939 number. Eventually, he would paint nearly sixty covers for Campbell’s ASTOUNDING, including the April 1940 number, illustrating L. Ron Hubbard’s “Final Blackout.”

To learn more about the influence of the early science fiction pulps, please visit the PulpFest Instagram page.)

Starting Today — A Daily PulpFest Post!

Jul 15, 2019 by

Since mid-April, we’ve had an announcement about PulpFest 2019 three days per week. Beginning today, we’ll have at least one post every Monday through Friday. We’ll be maintaining this pace through the end of the convention on August 18. We may even have an occasional weekend post. However, even our hardworking marketing staff needs a day off every now and then.

In future posts, we’ll discuss our PulpFest 2019 dealers, highlights from this year’s issue of THE PULPSTER, the first of Johnston McCulley’s Zorro adventures, and more. So what are you waiting for? Don’t live on the edge! Register now for PulpFest 2019 by clicking the “Register” button just below our home page banner. It’s the only way to be part of “Summer’s Pulp Con.”

While you’re at it, you can reserve a room at the beautiful DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry. Simply click the Book a Room button, found on our homepage. Alternately, you can call 1-800-222-8733 to book a room by telephone. When calling, be sure to mention PulpFest to get the special convention rate. Given the convention’s popularity, we urge everyone to book a hotel room as soon as possibleThe convention rate is available through July 31.

To keep abreast of the convention, please bookmark pulpfest.com or like our Facebook page. Over on Twitter, you’ll find tweets with our updates. You’ll also find selected posts on various newsgroups, including Pulpmags. And don’t forget about our Instagram  page! PulpFest is exploring “The Children of the Pulps” on that site.

(Frank R. Paul‘s cover for the November 1929 issue of Hugo Gernsback’s SCIENCE WONDER STORIES is just one of more than 600 images that you’ll find on the PulpFest Instagram site.

Currently, PulpFest is exploring the evolution of science fiction, part of our 2019 salute to “The Children of the Pulps.” Find out why our Instagram feed has been growing in leaps and bounds since we relaunched it last December.)

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Wonder in the Air

Jun 12, 2019 by

Imagine the delights of flying when airplanes were new. The excitement of air circuses, wing walkers, and barnstormers. Think of the brave flying aces whose tremendous feats of courage helped us win the Great War. This was the atmosphere ninety years ago when Hugo Gernsback launched AIR WONDER STORIES on June 12, 1929.

In truth, the accuracy of the stories’ science is soft, although there is real information about contemporary planes and flying in each issue. The Frank R. Paul covers show spectacular flying machines and cities, all of which seemed appropriately futuristic.

In June 1929 there were over a dozen air-oriented magazines available on the newsstands. Gernsback was riding a popular wave with AIR WONDER STORIES, a pulp that would tell “flying stories of the future, strictly along scientific-mechanical technical lines, full of adventure, exploration and achievement.”

But the magazine was short-lived, running briefly for eleven issues from July 1929 until May 1930. After this, it merged with SCIENCE WONDER STORIES to become, WONDER STORIES. During its short run Hugo Gernsback was editor-in-chief, David Lasser was listed as Literary Editor and Frank R. Paul, Art Director.

Each issue included a letters column, “News of Aviation,” an “Aviation Quiz,” and later, a column called “Aviation Forum,” which answered questions and explained general principles of powered flight.

The stories were a mix of new and old, with some reprints from Gernsback’s earlier magazines. Well-known writers such as Edmond Hamilton, Jack Williamson, Victor McClure, George Allan England, and Harl Vincent appeared in its pages.

The “News of Aviation” column speculated on the future of flight. In the first few issues we see articles about —  giant airships planned for the United States Navy, the practicality of telephone service on airplanes, and quotes from the Graf Zeppelin director about how to make plane flights profitable. We also discover that a flight from New York to Siberia will soon take a mere five days by air. Also that, the Mayflower Fire and Marine Insurance Company will soon offer insurance policies against airplane crashes in suburban areas.

The first issue covered a variety of story topics including — robot flying machines, anti-gravity, and Eugenics. The latter is the central theme of “Men with Wings” by Leslie Stone, a pseudonym for a female writer named Leslie F. Silverberg née Rubenstein (1905-1991).

The September 1929 issue includes a letter of praise for the magazine from 14-year-old Henry Kuttner, enthusing about the stories in the premiere issue, specifically — “Ark of the Covenant,” “Islands of the Air,” and “Men with Wings” which he found to be “splendid.” It is in Gernsback’s response to Kuttner’s letter where we discover that Leslie Stone, is a woman, not a man, as Kuttner had assumed.

AIR WONDER STORIES filled a niche that we can barely imagine today. Our dreams have moved on and those old stories seem almost shocking in their limited scope. But, at the time, they spurred visions for readers, and upcoming authors such as Henry Kuttner, to build upon and create their own speculative dreams of the future.

(Sara Light-Waller is one of more than thirty fiction writers who will be attending PulpFest 2019. An avid reader of pulp science fiction stories, Sara writes and illustrates her fiction in the manner of the Golden Age science fiction from the 1930’s and 40’s.  She is the author of ANCHOR: A STRANGE TALE OF TIME and LANDSCAPE OF DARKNESS.

Sara will be one of our “New Fictioneers” readers on Saturday, August 17, at PulpFest 2019.

The official release date of the July 1929 AIR WONDER STORIES — featuring cover art by Frank R. Paul — is thanks to Mike Ashley and Robert A. W. Lowndes, writing in THE GERNSBACK DAYS (2004).

The final issue of AIR WONDER STORIES was dated May 1930. There were a total of eleven issues. After AIR WONDER STORIES and SCIENCE WONDER STORIES were combined to form WONDER STORIES, the magazine had a run of seventy-eight issues. The final issue of WONDER STORIES was dated April 1936. The title was then sold to Standard Magazines. It returned to the stands as THRILLING WONDER STORIES during the summer of 1936.

For a brief look at the history of this classic pulp magazine and its various incarnations, please see our post, “The Sense of Wonder (Stories),” published on our website on May 5, 2014.)

 

A Story of WONDER

May 3, 2019 by

The first issue of SCIENCE WONDER STORIES hit the newsstands ninety years ago, on May 3, 1929. Behind the dramatic Frank R. Paul cover were included five short stories, the beginning of a serialized novel — “The Reign of the Ray” by Fletcher Pratt and Irvin Lester — a science quiz (with the answers in the issue’s stories), an essay contest, and “Science News of the Month.” SCIENCE WONDER STORIES ran for twelve issues dated June 1929 through May 1930. David Lasser was managing editor and Hugo Gernsback was publisher and editor-in-chief.  Each issue had a fantastic Frank R. Paul cover.

In the magazine’s first issue, Gernsback stated — “We live and breathe day by day in a Science saturated atmosphere. The wonders of science no longer amaze us — we accept each new discovery as a matter of course . . . SCIENCE WONDER STORIES supplies the need for scientific fiction and supplies it better than any other magazine . . . . who are readers of SCIENCE WONDER STORIES? Everybody. Bankers, ministers, students, housewives, bricklayers, postal clerks, farmers, mechanics, dentists — every class you can think of — but only those with imagination. And as a rule, only those with intelligence and curiosity . . . . It augers well for the future of science fiction in America.

Gernsback claimed that science fiction was educational and stated that, “Teachers encourage the reading of this fiction because they know that it gives the pupil a fundamental knowledge of science and aviation.

The first issue of the magazine included an essay contest on the topic of “What Science Means To Me.” Jack Williamson won First Honorable Mention for “Tremendous Contribution to Civilization” and E. E. Doc Smith snagged Second Honorable Mention with  “A Scientist-Author Speaks.” The winning entry (gaining the author fifty dollars) by B. S. Moore was entitled — “The Door to the World of Explanation.”

In “Science News of the Month” we learned that Peyote was legal in Paris, although this was controversial. The General Electric Company had produced electric eyes to turn on lights when a room darkened below a certain threshold or by arrangement with a time clock. Also, that television images of persons and objects were broadcast by Station W2XBS in New York City from 7 to 9 P. M. Eastern Standard Time on the radio channel from 2,000 to 2,100 kilocycles. Twenty complete pictures were broadcast every second. Science and wonder indeed!

In subsequent issues, Gernsback introduced us to “The Wonders of Gravitation” and “The Problems of Space Flying.” “Science News of the Month” included a machine that set type by voice, and a robot money-changer that rejected spurious coins while scolding: “Please use good coins only.”

All of this was padding for the stories, of course. Raymond Z. Gallun made his debut here. Other authors included Miles J. Breuer, Stanton A. Coblentz, David H. Keller, Laurence Manning, Fletcher Pratt, Harl Vincent, and Jack Williamson.

In 1930, Gernsback merged SCIENCE WONDER STORIES with its companion magazine, AIR WONDER STORIES, to create WONDER STORIES. Reports vary as to why this merger occurred — weak sales, Gernsback’s poor relationships with his writers, or needed space in the publishing schedule for AVIATION MECHANICS. Perhaps the SCIENCE WONDER STORIES concept was just not working. In an editorial a few months before the last issue, Gernsback commented that the word “Science” in the magazine’s title “. . . has tended to retard the progress of the magazine, because many people had the impression that it is a sort of scientific periodical rather than a fiction magazine.” Whatever the truth, the last issue of SCIENCE WONDER STORIES went on sale in April of 1930.

The magazine is fondly remembered, despite its short run. Gernsback’s idea of selling science to the masses might have been a gimmick, or he might have been serious in his belief that our imaginations are enriched by super science. Either way, the goal of stimulating the imagination through science remains a good one, no matter what Gernsback’s true motivations.

Looking for your own copy of SCIENCE WONDER STORIES? Fans of genre fiction, original artwork, and vintage pulp magazines will find treasures galore at PulpFest 2019. The convention runs from Thursday, August 15, through Sunday, August 18, and is held at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry, nineteen miles north of Pittsburgh, PA. This year’s theme is “Children of the Pulps and Other Stories.” Find out more about PulpFest’s great programming, register for the convention, and book a room at the DoubleTree from the convention’s home page. Then join us in August for a WONDERful immersion into the world of the pulps.

(Sara Light-Waller is one of more than thirty fiction writers who will be attending PulpFest 2019. An avid reader of pulp science fiction stories, Sara writes and illustrates her fiction in the manner of the Golden Age science fiction from the 1930’s and 40’s.  She is the author of ANCHOR: A STRANGE TALE OF TIME and LANDSCAPE OF DARKNESS.

Sara will be one of our “New Fictioneers” readers on Saturday, August 17, at PulpFest 2019.

The official release date of the June 1929 SCIENCE WONDER STORIES — featuring cover art by Frank R. Paul — is thanks to Mike Ashley and Robert A. W. Lowndes, writing in THE GERNSBACK DAYS (2004).

Between the twelve issues of SCIENCE WONDER STORIES and the combined WONDER STORIES, the magazine had a run of seventy-eight issues. The final issue of WONDER STORIES was dated April 1936. The title was then sold to Standard Magazines. It returned to the stands as THRILLING WONDER STORIES during the summer of 1936.

For a brief look at the history of this classic pulp magazine and its various incarnations, please see our post, “The Sense of Wonder (Stories),” published on our website on May 5, 2014.)

The First Science-Fiction Pulp — An AMAZING Story

Jun 9, 2016 by

Amazing Stories 26-04It was hard to miss the first issue of AMAZING STORIES on the newsstand. Letter-size, larger than the typical pulp magazine, with three-dimensional block letters trailing across its masthead and a bright yellow backdrop that framed an alien landscape and a bright red, ringed planet and small moon, the magazine certainly stood out on the sales rack. Frank R. Paul was the artist.

The names on the front cover of the magazine’s early issues were also major selling points: Edgar Allan Poe, Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Garrett P. Serviss, Edgar Rice Burroughs, A. Merritt, and others. It was just as Gernsback wrote in his editorial for the pulp’s first issue: “By ‘scientifiction’ I mean the Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, and Edgar Allan Poe type story — a charming romance intermingled with scientific fact and prophetic vision.” That is what the readers of AMAZING STORIES sought: “They wanted to be entertained, to escape, to experience that sense of wonder that good visionary fiction brought.” (Mike Ashley in THE TIME MACHINES).

Using stories drawn from the Munsey magazines, BLUE BOOK, THE STRAND, and other sources, Gernsback offered reprints of science-fiction classics, eventually coupling these with new stories often generated through contests. Through these competitions, Gernsback began to acquire a stable of new writers willing and able to write scientifiction: Miles J. Breur, Clare Winger Harris, David H. Keller, S. P. Meek, A. Hyatt Verrill, Harl Vincent, and others. Through his letter column, entitled “Discussions,” he reeled his readers into his world of wonder.

Within months, the new specialty magazine was selling over 100,000 copies of each issue. In establishing the first specialized science-fiction magazine, Gernsback had tapped a vein of wonder, shared by lonely individuals prone to “imaginative flights of fancy.” Next would come AMAZING STORIES ANNUAL, published in the summer of 1927 and featuring Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “The Mastermind of Mars.” AMAZING STORIES QUARTERLY followed in the winter of 1928. Then, in the August 1928 number of AMAZING STORIES, Gernsback introduced his readers to E. E. “Doc” Smith’s “The Skylark of Space” and Philip Francis Nowlan’s “Armageddon—2419 AD,” the first tale to feature Buck Rogers. These two “space operas” would color science fiction for well over a decade, turning it into “that crazy Buck Rogers stuff.”

Not one of the penny dreadfuls, dime novels, or pulp magazines published from the turn to the middle of the twentieth century, was created in isolation. There was a great, sometimes troubling, world buzzing around the butcher, the baker, the cop, the bobby-soxer, the factory worker, the Gibson girl, and the kid as they flipped a coin on the counter, left the newsstand, and walked home with a copy of magic in their hands.

Amazing Stories 2014-04It was certainly true of the magazine that transmogrified scientifiction into science fiction: AMAZING STORIES. Through war, police actions, political upheaval; through reprints and originals; though a remarkable set of editors, AMAZING persevered into the twenty-first century.

Join PulpFest 2016 at 8:45 PM on Friday, July 22, as we welcome Joseph Coluccio, president of the Pittsburgh Area Fantasy and Science Fiction Club, to our programming stage in the Union Rooms on the second floor of the Hyatt Regency Columbus for a look at AMAZING STORIES during the pulp era. It is Mr. Coluccio’s intention to consider the history — to about mid-century — of the content found in the pages of AMAZING STORIES, not in the context of the world at large, but in comparison to the rich popular culture of the time — science, radio, film art, and literature — that surrounded and influenced the magazine. Cover art, words and anecdotes are all that are left of those early, amazing years. Through a series of sometimes exciting, sometimes disastrous editorial decisions, AMAZING STORIES reflected changes right back into the flowing current of everyday taste. Relive those times through the words of Hugo Gernsback, T. O’Connor Sloane, Raymond A. Palmer and Howard Browne, brought to you by PARSEC‘s Joseph Coluccio.

Join “Summer’s AMAZING Pulp Con” as we salute the 90th anniversary of the first continuing science fiction magazine. The convention will take place from July 21 through July 24 in the Columbus, Ohio Arena district at the Hyatt Regency hotel and the city’s spacious convention center. You’ll have a FANTASTIC time.

(Hugo Gernsback edited and published AMAZING STORIES from April 1926 through April 1929. Plowing money into other interests and paying an extremely hefty salary to both himself and his brother, Hugo Gernsback filed for bankruptcy in early 1929. Afterward, T. O’Conor Sloane — who had assisted Gernsback from the start — became the magazine’s editor until the April 1938 issue. Sloane was far from being a visionary; he thought space travel was impossible.

Ziff-Davis took over the magazine with its April 1938 number featuring Ray Palmer as editor. The new editor transformed AMAZING STORIES into a juvenile magazine, establishing a stable of authors to write fiction aimed at the youth market. Toward the end of his editorial reign, Palmer started “The Shaver Mystery,” a hoax involving an evil race that causes all of mankind’s problems from their home underground. Palmer’s last issue was dated December 1949. In later years, he became involved with UFOs and similar topics while publishing FATE magazine.

Amazing Stories 53-04-05Howard Browne, a Palmer assistant, assumed the editorship in January 1950. Primarily interested in mystery fiction, Browne nevertheless turned AMAZING STORIES around, directing it toward an adult audience. It became a digest magazine — featuring cover art by Barye Phillps on its first issue — with its April/May 1953 number. Browne left the magazine following its August 1956 number. He was succeeded by Paul Fairman and the talented Cele Goldsmith. Ms. Goldsmith managed the magazine from March 1957 through June 1965, during which time it garnered a great deal of respect.

The Ultimate Publishing company, headed by Sol Cohen, began publishing the magazine with its August 1965 issue. Joseph Wrzos was its first editor, followed by Harry Harrison, Barry Malzberg, Ted White, and Elinor Mavor. The magazine was acquired by TSR Hobbies in March 1982, with Mavor continuing as editor. George Scithers became the editor with the November 1982 issue. Later editors included Patrick Price, Kim Mohan, and Jeff Berkwits. Its last issue was published in March 2005 with Paizo Publishing in charge.

In July 2012, longtime science-fiction fan Steve Davidson revived AMAZING STORIES as an online magazine. You can find it at http://amazingstoriesmag.com/. Its first issue dated April 2014 — featured front cover art by William F. Wu. According to the artist, the painting is a reworking of Frank Paul’s cover to the very first issue of the magazine, published in April 1926. To read more about Wu’s cover, please visit http://amazingstoriesmag.com/articles/cover-amazing-stories-april-2014/.)

Traveling through Time with H. G. Wells

Jun 6, 2016 by

Amazing Stories 27-08Just a few days ago, we discussed The Whisperer and The Skipper, two of the “superheroes” of the pulps. Both characters premiered in their own magazines in 1936, eighty years ago. PulpFest will be celebrating a potpourri of anniversaries in 2016, including the 120th anniversary of the first pulp magazine — THE ARGOSY — and the 90th anniversary of the debut of the first continuing science fiction magazine, AMAZING STORIES. We’ll be previewing our programming during this month.

September 21, 2016 marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of H. G. Wells. Along with Jules Verne (1828-1905), Wells is a central pillar to what we today call science fiction. However, Wells was also a multifaceted personality and talent. Educated in the sciences and a literary genius, Herbert George Wells came into prominence during the late nineteenth century. By the turn of the century, he was considered by many to be the world’s most important social thinker.

A prodigious talent, Wells wrote for the popular fiction magazines of his native England during “The Age of the Storytellers,” a period when increasingly urban and literate societies required cheap, entertaining, and easily accessible entertainment to escape the drudgery of the mills and offices. Writing for magazines such as THE STRAND and PEARSON’S MAGAZINE, H. G. Wells delivered countless scientific romances that are enjoyed to this very day. His classic novels “The War of the Worlds” and “The Invisible Man,” were both originally published in PEARSON’S in 1897. His later science fiction, including “The First Men in the Moon” (1900-1901) and “The Country of the Blind” (1904), would run inTHE STRAND.

It would be difficult to deny the importance of Wells to the development of both science fiction and AMAZING STORIES. During his three years as editor and publisher of the first science-fiction magazine, Hugo Gernsback turned to Wells’ fictional output for nearly thirty stories, reprinting such tales as “The Country of the Blind,” “The Crystal Egg,” “The Empire of the Ants,” “The First Men in the Moon,” “The Invisible Man,” “The Island of Dr. Moreau,” “The Man Who Could Work Miracles,” “A Story of the Days to Come,” “The Time Machine,” “The Valley of the Spiders,” “The War of the Worlds,” and “When the Sleeper Wakes” in his flagship title and its companions.

War of the Worlds

At 10:05 PM on Thursday, July 21 — the opening night of PulpFest 2016 — please join us in the Union Rooms on the second floor of the Hyatt Regency in downtown Columbus, Ohio for “Traveling through Time with H. G. Wells.” Professor Garyn G. Roberts will offer an illustrated presentation regarding Wells that surveys both the better and lesser-known achievements in the man’s life, emphasizing and including his works reprinted in Gernsback’s AMAZING STORIES. Garyn will also explore the author’s many contributions to the early days of pulp magazine speculative fiction.

Garyn Roberts has written extensively about the pulps, both professionally and as a fan, and has edited or co-edited some of the best collections of fiction from the pulps. He is the author/editor of the award-winning THE PRENTICE HALL ANTHOLOGY OF SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASYGaryn was presented with the Munsey Award by PulpFest in 2013 to honor his many contributions to the pulp community.

The summertime destination for fans and collectors of vintage popular fiction and related materials, PulpFest seeks to honor pulp fiction by drawing attention to the many ways it had inspired writers, artists, film directors, software developers, and other creators over the decades. The convention will take place from Thursday evening, July 21st, through Sunday afternoon, July 24th, in the Columbus, Ohio Arena district at the Hyatt Regency hotel and the city’s spacious convention center. Start making your plans to join us at the “pop culture center of the universe” for PulpFest 2016.

Wells War of the Worlds film poster

(Three visions of H. G. Wells’ “The War of the Worlds.” Frank R. Paul, the “grandfather of science-fiction art,” painted the cover for the August 1927 issue of AMAZING STORIES, illustrating the first half of the classic novel, serialized by the magazine in two parts. PulpFest 2016 has used Paul’s cover art throughout the past year to promote our convention at book stores, comic shops, and other conventions and fairs.

“War of the Worlds” was originally serialized in eight parts in PEARSON’S MAGAZINE, running from April through December in the year 1897. It was very well-illustrated by Warwick Goble.

In 1951, film producer George Pal, screenwriter Barré Lyndon, and director Byron Haskin began working to produce a movie that above all, would attempt to portray as realistically as possible the details of an alien invasion. Largely set in the United States and starring Gene Barry and Ann Robinson, Pal’s THE WAR OF THE WORLDS was released in 1953. Although the film now appears somewhat dated, it remains one of the best and most important science fiction movies of the 1950s. Unfortunately, the creator of the film art is not known.)

The AMAZING Story: The Sixties — The Goose-Flesh Factor

Mar 3, 2016 by

Slider AMAZING STORIES 1960-12

Cele Goldsmith and the Ultimate AMAZING

Amazing Stories 58-12When Paul Fairman left in 1958, Ziff-Davis could easily have suspended publication of AMAZING STORIES and FANTASTIC, or sold the magazines to the highest bidder. Since the departure of publisher Bernard Davis the year before, the company had oriented itself in favor of the slick market with POPULAR PHOTOGRAPHY and CAR AND DRIVER, and had little interest in the pulp fiction field. As long as the magazines made a profit they were left alone, but were not considered worthy of further investment.

It was in this backwater scenario that Cele Goldsmith found herself. She had joined Ziff-Davis as secretary and all-around assistant to Howard Browne in 1955, and had continued to assist Fairman during his editorship. Fairman was content for Goldsmith to do most of the first selection of unsolicited manuscripts, while he dealt with the regular contributors. By the time he left, she had gained sufficient editorial experience to take over. Perhaps Ziff-Davis had some concern about her ability to work totally alone, since the company brought in Norman Lobsenz as editorial consultant. “Norm and I had a fabulous working arrangement,” Cele told me when we corresponded in 1982. “Without him I would have been in total isolation.”

Goldsmith chose all the material, edited everything, selected the title and blurb typefaces and dummied the monthly magazines by herself. Lobsenz, who arrived for an editorial conference usually once a week, penned the editorials, read her choices, and wrote the blurbs for the stories. They did cover blurbs together, and Goldsmith assigned both interior and cover art.

Goldsmith had no scientific background but had a sound judgment of story content and development, and this was the key to her success. She accepted stories on their value as fiction rather than as science fiction. “When I read something I didn’t understand, but intuitively knew was good,” she said, “I’d get ‘goose flesh’ and never doubt we had a winner.” That “goose flesh” was transmitted to the readers. I know when I encountered the Goldsmith AMAZING and FANTASTIC in the early 1960s, I got goose flesh because of the power and originality of their content. As I look now at the 150 or more total issues of those two magazines that Cele Goldsmith edited, that thrill is still there.

The change was noticeable almost immediately. For a start, all of the old house pseudonyms vanished. The authors behind the names — Silverberg, Slesar, Ellison, and Garrett — continued to appear, but with more original, non-formula stories.

Amazing Stories 59-03Goldsmith regards the March 1959 issue of AMAZING as the first to reflect the steps she wished to take. That magazine featured a new cover artist, Albert Nuetzell. Cover art was to become a distinct feature of Goldsmith’s tenure. Under Fairman and in the later days of Howard Browne’s editorship, the covers had been left chiefly to Ed Valigursky, a competent artist but one who let B-movie action and imagery override originality and artistic value. Almost all of the Goldsmith-era covers, on the other hand, are of artistic merit. Her mainstay artists were Alex Schomburg, Ed Emshwiller, George Schelling, and Lloyd Birmingham. There are also some striking covers by Robert Adragna and Gray Morrow, and even one by Virgil Finlay.

The next distinctive feature of that issue was the beginning of a new serial by E. E. (Doc) Smith, “The Galaxy Primes.” It was a delight to see Smith back in AMAZING, the magazine through which he had opened the field to the super-science revolution with “The Skylark of Space” in 1928. His new novel, which received a mixed reaction at the time, is an ebullient blend of higher mathematics, mental powers, and planetary adventure.

The presence of Smith in this issue was symbolic. It was both a link to the groundbreaking origins of AMAZING, and an announcement that the next revolution was about to take place. By providing that feeling of continuity, Goldsmith had succeeded in breaking from the old mold into the new without dispossessing readers, which is what had happened when Howard Browne had tried to upgrade AMAZING from its old pulp image in 1953.

This approach was echoed in the magazine’s third feature. Goldsmith had commissioned a new story from Isaac Asimov, “Anniversary,” to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Asimov’s first appearance in print with “Marooned Off Vesta” in the March 1939 issue of AMAZING. The two stories were published together in the March 1959 magazine.

Readers were very positive in their reaction to the changes, and Goldsmith pledged more. Her work over the next few years can best be summarized by saying that she encouraged both the old and the new writers to try something different. She was always prompt in her response to a submission, which resulted in Piers Anthony calling her “fast and good” when he wrote about her in his BIO OF AN OGRE (Ace, 1988). The result of her efforts was a magazine that developed some of the newest talent around in the field, and brought an excitement to the genre that had been missing for much of the 1950s.

Cele Goldsmith’s first major discovery was Keith Laumer, whose “Greylorn” was published in April 1959. Laumer was stationed with the U. S. diplomatic corps in India, and his brother had brought the story into the Ziff-Davis offices, requesting to see the editor and interrupting her work. She was annoyed and almost rejected the manuscript there and then, but upon reading it she was captured by Laumer’s humor and perception. Soon afterward, she bought the first of Laumer’s Retief stories, “Diplomat at Arms,” which ran in the January 1960 FANTASTIC.

April 1959 also featured the publication of a Cordwainer Smith story, “Golden the Ship Was — Oh! Oh! Oh!” Smith’s idiosyncratic style made him a unique talent, and his appearance in AMAZING was further proof of the magazine’s break with the past, and of Goldsmith’s determination to be fresh and exciting.

The May 1959 issue included “Initiative” by Boris and Arkady Strugatski, hailed in the blurb as the first Soviet sf story translated for American readers. That wasn’t quite true, since Hugo Gernsback had reprinted V. Orlovsky’s “Revolt of the Atoms” in AMAZING thirty years earlier; but nothing of the sort had happened since, so it was appropriate that it was AMAZING that started the Soviet and U. S. link again. Shortly afterward, interest began to climb in Soviet sf writing, and the Strugatski brothers became the most notable among many talented writers from the Soviet Union.

“The Stars Are Calling, Mr. Keats” (June 1959) was a poignant story of a spaceman’s relationship with an extra-terrestrial bird, which is all that stands between him and loneliness. The author, Robert F. Young, had appeared in a variety of magazines during the 1950s, but he now became a regular in AMAZING and FANTASTIC through the first half of the 1960s with a special kind of story that put the human perspective at the forefront. Other nomadic authors who now found a home in AMAZING and FANTASTIC were Arthur Porges, Daniel F. Galouye, H. Beam Piper, and Ron Goulart.

Amazing Stories 59-11Perhaps the most enigmatic was David R. Bunch, whose bizarre stories typify the uniqueness of the Goldsmith years. “The Flesh-Man from Far Wide” (November 1959) was the first of Bunch’s Moderan stories, depicting a world where man was almost machine. Bunch used this concept to contrast the human and technological interrelationship. The Bunch stories, possibly more than anyone else’s, presaged the “new wave” that was to hit science fiction in the mid-1960s.

It is difficult during this period to keep FANTASTIC separate from AMAZING. While FANTASTIC tended to publish the more surreal, off-trail stories, it also published science fiction and sometimes acted as a repository for overflow from AMAZING and as a forum to experiment. Frequently Goldsmith’s discoveries first appeared in FANTASTIC before graduating to AMAZING. One such discovery was Jack Sharkey, who had been a novice writer in New York, struggling to sell his first story, when Goldsmith bought “The Arm of Enmord” just before Christmas 1958. She was impressed with Sharkey’s work and ran two stories in the March 1959 FANTASTIC, giving him a double debut. The stories were of contrasting types — one humorous, one dramatic — and Goldsmith asked readers which they preferred. In fact they liked both, though it was humor with which Sharkey became most associated over the next six years.

One of the experiments with FANTASTIC was to devote the November 1959 issue to the work of Fritz Leiber, presenting five new stories. Leiber was making a comeback into the sf field, after a period when his descent into alcoholism had seriously endangered his writing. This special presentation gave him the boost he needed. It also gave a new lease on life to those two other-world rascals, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. Starting with “Lean Times in Lankhmar,” the first piece presented in the special Leiber issue, their adventures became a regular feature of FANTASTIC over th next few years.

All of the above developments took place in Cele Goldsmith’s first year as editor. Her second year was almost as dramatic.

“Transient” by Ward Moore was the lead short novel in the February 1960 AMAZING. This story brought a large-scale response because of the casual sex in the story (mild by today’s standards) and because the story was more fantasy than sf. That didn’t matter. What was significant was that the issue could provoke such a reaction. This showed that AMAZING had harnessed a loyal and vociferous readership. One such vocal reader was F. M. Busby, then a leading fan, who subsequently has become an irreverent and irregular author of note. He found Moore’s story a “most striking piece of work,” adding “I’m not surprised that ‘Transient’ was a bit too rich for the blood of several readers; it is pretty far out.” In his letter published in the August 1960 issue, Busby went on to sum up the recent past history of AMAZING in a few caustic words: “After Palmer’s screwballisms, Browne’s well-meant ignorance of the field, and Fairman’s utter dedication to printing crud (even if he had to write it himself to avoid printing something readable) your regime still seems a bit unbelievable to the long-time reader.”

Cele Goldsmith was striking to the core.

More new writers began to appear. That same February 1960 issue offered “A Long Way Back,” Ben Bova’s first published story. Bova would later become editor of ANALOG and then editor of OMNI, and for a period became a regular contributor of scientific articles to AMAZING. The August 1960 issue contained the first appearance of Neal Barrett, Jr., with “Made in Archerius.” Curiously, Barrett’s stories, of which there were five in AMAZING and FANTASTIC at this time, made little impact, but in recent years he has started to acquire a cult status for his original and offbeat novels, and those early stories are worthy of reconsideration.

Goldsmith also established a regular nonfiction feature in AMAZING. One might measure this from “Stargazers,” a controversial attack on astronomers by Eric Frank Russell in the January 1959 issue, although this article had been an outgrowth of a series Russell had written for FANTASTIC on strange phenomena. The new series of nonfiction features really started with “The Unused Stars” by Isaac Asimov (July 1959), and thereafter noted sf writers contributed articles about topics in science and science fiction. Meanwhile, in FANTASTIC, Sam Moskowitz began his series of profiles of leading sf and fantasy writers, starting in the May 1960 issue with a study of H. P. Lovecraft. This series later switched to AMAZING with a profile of Hugo Gernsback in the September 1960 issue. Almost all of the articles that were later collected in Moskowitz’s SEEKERS OF TOMORROW (World, 1966) first appeared here.

Amazing Stories 60-10The transition from the old to the new concluded with the October 1960 AMAZING. This issue featured a new title logo, which was more vibrant than the 1950s bold type, and an enticing cover painting by Alex Schomburg illustrating Clifford Simak’s “The Trouble With Tycho.” Schomburg became a regular cover artist for AMAZING and FANTASTIC, often with bold and original concepts, and in 1962 he was nominated for a Hugo Award as Best Professional Artist. The contents of that October 1960 issue were not significantly different, but the image had changed, and the new-style AMAZING was now firmly entrenched.

In his editorial in the October 1960 AMAZING, Lobsenz bemoaned the lack of quality sf. Despite Cele’s efforts to find good new stories, they were not always there. Consequently the editors introduced a policy of classic reprints, commissioning Sam Moskowitz to select stories from AMAZING‘s archives. These were restricted to one an issue, and Moskowitz’s selections were always of high quality. They started with “The Lost Machine” by John Beynon Harris (John Wyndham], one of his best early stories. At a time when pre-Golden Age stories (pre-1938, when John W. Campbell took over at ASTOUNDING) were seldom reprinted, these came as a revelation to many. The April 1961 issue was given over entirely to reprint stories, plus a guest editorial by Hugo Gernsback, to mark the magazine’s thirty-fifth birthday. That issue also included Frank R. Paul’s last original painting for the magazine.

Amazing Stories 63-03It is difficult to single out all the stories of lasting merit that appeared in AMAZING during the golden Goldsmith years. A few by established authors of the day may provide a taste: “Before Eden” by Arthur C. Clarke (June 1961), “Tongues of the Moon” by Philip José Farmer (September 1961), “Third Stage” by Poul Anderson (February 1962), “The Thousand Dreams of Stellavista” by J. G. Ballard (March 1962), “The Stars, My Brothers” by Edmond Hamilton (May 1962), “Chocky” by John Wyndham (March 1963), “Drunkboat” by Cordwainer Smith (October 1963), and “The Days of Perky Pat” by Philip K. Dick (December 1963), which formed the basis of his novel THE THREE STIGMATA OF PALMER ELDRITCH (Doubleday, 1965). AMAZING also gave first publication to a previously unprinted story by Edgar Rice Burroughs, “Savage Pellucidar” (November 1963), which became a Hugo Award nominee.

But despite the quality of these stories, it was not them that gave the goose flesh to readers. That excitement and anticipation came from the new writers who were emerging, who were bringing bold new ideas to sf and challenging old concepts. It was this aspect of her work that gave Cele the biggest thrill.

Of the authors who debuted in the middle period of Goldsmith’s editorship, four stand out: Roger Zelazny, Thomas M. Disch, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Piers Anthony. There is little doubt that science fiction owes a debt to Cele Goldsmith for putting these writers on the road. All of them had already tried to sell professionally — Le Guin had submitted a story to AMAZING as far back as 1939 — but none of them had found an editor appreciative of their talents. Only Goldsmith saw through the fantastic trimmings to the creative core, and her feedback gave the authors a respectability and encouragement. Although Anthony received only $20 for his first story, “Possible to Rue” (FANTASTIC, April 1963), he summed up the feeling of all authors with their first sale when he wrote in his autobiography that “the significance extended far beyond the money. I had made it!”

Amazing Stories 63-12Zelazny sold twenty-three stories to Cele Goldsmith, of which “He Who Shapes” (January-February 1965) went on to win the first Nebula Award (presented by the newly formed Science Fiction Writers of America) for the year’s best novella. All of his stories were refreshingly different, pushing back the boundaries of sf. Among them are “The Graveyard Heart” and “The Furies,” now considered among sixties masterpieces of the outré, and his stories about Dilvish the Damned. All of these appeared in that cauldron of the bizarre, FANTASTIC.

Cele Goldsmith’s efforts were recognized by the fans voting for the annual Hugo Awards. In 1960 AMAZING was nominated for the first time in the Best Professional Magazine category (though it lost out to F&SF). It was on the ballot again in 1961, 1962, 1964, and 1965, and FANTASTIC was nominated in 1963. Unfortunately, neither magazine ever won the award, but in 1962 the committee gave a special award to Cele Goldsmith for “the continued and consistent improvement, both visually and qualitatively, in the magazines which she edits.” She was the first sf magazine editor to be specifically recognized.

Alas, all Golden Ages come to an end. Despite a further facelift in January 1964, which gave AMAZING a more strident logo, the quality of the magazine’s content started to decline. In retrospect one might argue that the lead AMAZING had taken was now being imitated by rival magazines — especially IF in the United States, under Frederik Pohl, and NEW WORLDS in England, under Michael Moorcock — and this was draining the special qualities away from AMAZING. I’m not convinced that was the case. AMAZING was still finding fresh talent, including Norman Spinrad, Walter F. Moudy, Robert H. Rohrer, and Leo P. Kelley, and there were still plenty of good stories. The sparkle only vanished in the final few issues when the fate of the magazine was known.

By 1964 Ziff-Davis had completed its plans for expansion into the slick market, and AMAZING and FANTASTIC did not figure in those plans; Z-D wanted more hi-fl than sci-fi. AMAZING‘s circulation had dropped from 52,000 in 1962 to 35,000 in 1964, and the publisher called it a day. Ziff-Davis looked around for a purchaser, and in March 1965 the titles were sold to Sol Cohen, at that time the publisher of GALAXY and IF.

Amazing Stories 65-06Cele Goldsmith Lalli (she had married in 1964) chose not to go with the magazines, and moved onto the editorial staff of MODERN BRIDE (she became its editor in 1982). Her last issue was for June 1965. There were no farewells or goodbyes. After nearly seven years as editor, and the best one AMAZING had had — indeed, one of the best magazine editors the field has seen — Cele Lalli moved on. And after twenty-seven years as AMAZING‘s publisher, Ziff-Davis parted company without a single eulogy.

In buying the magazines, Cohen established a new company called Ultimate Publishing. His partner was Arthur Bernhard; however, Bernhard had nothing to do with the production side. Cohen kept this as his specialty, though he brought in as editor Joseph Wrzos (who anglicized his name to Ross to avoid any spelling errors). Wrzos was an English teacher who had worked for a short period as an assistant at Gnome Press in the 1950s. He had met Cohen by chance when he called at the GALAXY offices in late March 1965 to pick up an advance copy of the June issue. Cohen had been impressed that anyone should come from New Jersey for that reason, and he was further impressed by Wrzos’s knowledge of the field. A few weeks later Wrzos received a phone call from Cohen offering him the editorship of Cohen’s two new magazines.

It was Cohen’s belief that the only way to make the magazines profitable was to instigate a reprint policy. With the sale, Cohen had acquired all the rights to the stories purchased by Ziff-Davis. This included second serial rights, meaning that a story could be reprinted in the magazine without further payment to the author. There was nothing untoward about this procedure in the old pulp days, when authors seldom expected a story to be reprinted and preferred the money up front. Cohen thus sought to convert both AMAZING and FANTASTIC into all-reprint magazines. Wrzos talked him out of this, arguing that to attract readers the magazines should run at least one new story per issue. This wasn’t difficult to do at the start, since Cohen had the remaining stories in the Ziff-Davis inventory. Moreover, with a free range over AMAZING‘s forty years’ worth of material, Wrzos had a huge selection of good stories to pick from.

Amazing Stories 65-10The first year of the Ultimate AMAZING was consequently not at all bad, and circulation did rise to nearly 50,000. New stories included “On the Sand Planet” by Cordwainer Smith, Murray Leinster’s novel “Killer Ship,” Philip K. Dick’s “Your Appointment Will Be Yesterday,” and Roger Zelazny’s “For a Breath I Tarry” (in FANTASTIC). The reprints were also worthy of resurrection, though here Cohen entered dangerous territory.

Perhaps it wasn’t too bad when the stories reprinted were early tales by writers long dead or forgotten. But when the selections were of more recent vintage, with the writers still active, they began to look askance at Cohen’s practices. Whether or not he was legally right, reprinting stories by authors without any payment was not an accepted practice, and certainly one that was frowned upon by the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA), then under the presidency of Damon Knight.

Cohen compounded the problem, however, not only by continuing with the reprints in AMAZING and FANTASTIC, but by starting a series of new magazines that consisted entirely of reprints and for which not a single payment was made. The first of these was GREAT SCIENCE FICTION, which went on sale in October 1965, followed by THE MOST THRILLING SCIENCE FICTION EVER TOLD (in April 1966) and by SCIENCE FICTION CLASSICS (in April 1967). This last title came under a new imprint that Cohen set up pseudonymously, and he brought in Herb Lehrman to help in the selection of reprints. (None of the editors of AMAZING and FANTASTIC during this time had anything to do with the production of the all-reprint magazines.) This move only antagonized SFWA all the more, and when Cohen refused to pay even token reprint fees to the authors, SFWA declared a boycott of the magazines and undertook legal proceedings against Cohen.

This battle went on for many months and brought a sour taste to the sf magazine world. After two years, Joseph Wrzos believed he had done all he could for the magazines, and had exhausted what he felt to be the best of the old material without transgressing into the realms of SFWA authors. Wrzos resigned in the summer of 1967 (his last issue being the November FANTASTIC).

Despite his brief tenure, Wrzos had served more than adequately as an editor in difficult circumstances, and the magazines had benefited from his love for the field. He had succeeded in buying some fine serials and novelettes including, in his second year, “Ensign Flandry” by Poul Anderson, “Born Under Mars” by John Brunner, “The Heaven Makers” by Frank Herbert, and Jack Vance’s “The Man From Zodiac.” But because most of these stories either came out as novels shortly after their magazine appearances, or were soon included in authors’ collections, they are not remembered for their magazine publication, and AMAZING is only remembered as a reprint magazine — and that almost as a mark of disdain. Yet other reprint magazines, from FAMOUS FANTASTIC MYSTERIES to MAGAZINE OF HORROR (which didn’t pay for reprint rights either) are remembered with fond nostalgia. Such is history.

If we are to put the record straight here, then we may look down upon GREAT SF and MOST THRILLING SF (and the score of other low-budget titles that Cohen released) because of the non-payment policy, and because of the quality of some of the fiction that was reprinted (most selections coming from the Palmer years). But if we are honest about AMAZING and FANTASTIC, those issues were of as reasonable quality as possible in the circumstances.

It was sobering that at the time of this unfortunate episode the magazine’s founder, Hugo Gernsback, died at the age of 83 on August 19, 1967. He must have looked with sadness upon the fate of his revolutionary brainchild.

The year after Wrzos’s departure was one of rapid change. He was succeeded by Harry Harrison. As an author, Harrison has maintained an enviable reputation for his action-packed sf (such as the DEATHWORLD series) and for his humorous satires about the Stainless Steel Rat. He had known Cohen since the early 1950s, and more recently had helped work out an interim agreement with SFWA. He had also been reviewing books for AMAZING for the last few issues. When Cohen asked if he would help edit the magazines, Harrison agreed on the condition that all reprints be phased out within a year.

Amazing Stories 68-09Harrison’s tenure was too brief to identify a discernible editorial trend. He sought to secure an international flavor for the magazine, printing a new Russian story, “An Unusual Case” by Gennadiy Gor, and introducing a featured “letter” from foreign lands — somehow, Brian Aldiss managed to contribute both a London letter and an Oslo letter. But Harrison left little mark on the fiction. Perhaps his most notable new story was Samuel Delany’s “House A-Fire” (an excerpt from his novel NOVA), but history may consider his most important story as being “A Darkness in My Soul” by Dean R. Koontz in the January 1968 FANTASTIC. In truth, though, this story — one of Koontz’s earliest and best — had been purchased by Wrzos. The most popular story Harrison published was almost certainly “Idiot’s Mate” by Robert Taylor, which was the only AMAZING story from the second half of the 1960s to be nominated for a Hugo. It considers man’s inhumanity to man in a real-life chess match played to the death on the Moon.

Harrison’s editorials suggest that he would have developed a blend between the emerging “new wave” fiction and the best of the pulp tradition, but none of this came about.

Five months after Harrison arrived he left, unable to persuade Cohen to drop the reprints. Harrison recommended Barry Malzberg, whom Cohen knew from his work at a literary agency. Malzberg started work on April 1, 1968, and resigned on October 19. In that period he compiled three issues each of AMAZING and FANTASTIC using stories purchased, for the most part, by Harrison. The January 1969 AMAZING is probably the closest to an all-Malzberg issue. It included the start of Richard C. Meredith’s powerful novel “We All Died at Breakaway Station” and a Dean Koontz story, “Temple of Sorrow.” It is interesting to note in Malzberg’s blurb for the story that he speculated on “just how good Mr. Koontz is going to be.”

In this issue Malzberg also contributed his only editorial to the magazine. Here, in his characteristically acerbic style, he claimed that most magazine sf was “ill-written, ill-characterized, ill-conceived and so excruciatingly dull as to make me question the ability of the writers to stay awake during its composition . . .” Malzberg contended that science fiction had to break with its tradition and establish itself as part of the mainstream of literature, albeit an eclectic element. Malzberg’s idea of radical writers included R. A. Lafferty, John Sladek, Thomas Disch, and David Bunch, whose stories he purchased. But Malzberg was not able to develop his plans. He fell out with Cohen over a cover that Malzberg had been authorized to commission but which Cohen refused to pay for.

In the background at this time, Robert Silverberg, who had become the new president of SFWA, had been seeking to achieve an amicable agreement between the organization and Cohen. It was not easy because of Cohen’s steadfast refusal to pay for reprints, and his insistence upon their use. Eventually, with patient coaxing, Silverberg reached a partly workable agreement. In appreciation, Malzberg credited him as Associate Editor of the magazine, though he had no real involvement with it other than writing a few guest editorials and articles. In the summer of 1968 Cohen told Silverberg that Malzberg was about to resign and asked if Silverberg had any idea for a successor. Silverberg recommended Ted White, who was promptly hired. Silverberg subsequently learned that Malzberg had not at that time intended to resign, and Cohen had used the opportunity of finding a new editor to fire Malzberg.

It was all unsavory and distasteful, and this period of AMAZING has to be among the lowest in terms of its publishing morals, even though it was not its lowest in story content.

But with the arrival of Ted White on the scene, all of that was about to change. Cohen at last met his match, and White was to usher AMAZING STORIES into a silver, if not a golden, age. We’ll look at his impact on the magazine on Monday, March 7th.

“The AMAZING Story: The Sixties — The Goose-Flesh Factor” is © 2016 by Mike Ashley and appears here with the author’s permission. Notes in italics are by PulpFest and are © 2016 by PulpFest. The original article was published by TSR, Inc. and edited by Kim Mohan for the May 1992 issue of AMAZING STORIES. Many thanks to Curt Phillips, the moderator of the Yahoo newsgroup PulpMags, for drawing our attention to and providing us with copies of Mike Ashley’s exceptional series of articles about the world’s first science-fiction magazine. Please visit www.pulpfest.com on Monday, March 7th, for the sixth segment of the series.

(Concerning our illustrations . . . . After Paul Fairman’s departure from Ziff-Davis, Cele Goldsmith was named editor of AMAZING STORIES and FANTASTIC. Her first issue of AMAZING was the December 1958 number with cover art by Edward Valigursky. An associate art director for Ziff-Davis, he also painted over eighty freelance covers for the Ziff-Davis fantasy and science-fiction magazines. We discussed him in our previous segment.

According to Mike Ashley, Cele Goldsmith considered the AMAZING STORIES for March 1959 to be the first issue on which she left her mark. The changes she desired to make included the cover art — a hallmark of Goldsmith’s years with the magazine. Covers do sell magazines. The March 1959 number featured a new cover artist, Albert A. Nuetzell, an illustrator who worked primarily in the movie industry from the 1940s through the 1960s. Nuetzell painted seven covers for Goldsmith’s AMAZING, plus two covers for FANTASTIC. Some of his most memorable cover work was featured on the early issues of Warren Publishing’s FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND, edited by Forrest J. Ackerman.

The stories of author David R. Bunch typified “the uniqueness of the Goldsmith years.” His short story, “The Flesh-Man from Far Wide,” appeared in the November 1959 AMAZING STORIES behind a cover painted by Leo R. Summers, an artist who had joined the Ziff-Davis company in 1951. He soon became the art director for AMAZING, FANTASTIC ADVENTURES, and when it debuted in 1952, FANTASTIC. Summers also painted about thirty covers for AMAZING and its companions during the fifties and sixties. He left the company in 1956 and became a freelance artist, illustrating books and producing science-fiction, advertising, and movie poster art. His illustrations appeared in many issues of ASTOUNDING/ANALOG.

During Goldsmith’s tenure at AMAZING and FANTASTIC, her mainstay artists were Ed Emshwiller, George Schelling, Lloyd Birmingham, and Alex Schomburg. A native of Puerto Rico, Schomburg had been one of the leading illustrators for Hugo Gernsback’s science and technology magazines, from as far back as 1925. It wasn’t until the 1950s however, that he became a regular cover artist for the science-fiction magazine market. He was still contributing cover art to the science-fiction magazines of the early nineties. He became a cover artist for Cele Goldsmith with the October 1960 number of AMAZING STORIES. All told, Schomburg would contribute two dozen covers to Goldsmith’s AMAZING and FANTASTIC.

Lloyd Birmingham was another of Goldsmith’s favored artists. Following the close of the Second World War, Birmingham became a freelance artist specializing in aerospace and industrial artwork. Following a client’s lead, Birmingham became associated with Ziff-Davis and began to produce cover paintings for the Goldsmith magazines. His first was the November 1961 FANTASTIC. Birmingham contributed nearly two dozen covers to Goldsmith’s AMAZING and FANTASTIC, including the March 1963 AMAZING STORIES. Lloyd Birmingham was also the creator of the long-running daily comic strip, “The Handy Family.”

Although known primarily for his work composed for the digest and paperback markets, Edmund Alexander Emshwiller — or “Emsh” —  created a few covers for pulp magazines such THRILLING WONDER STORIES. The bulk of his work for the pulp and digest market consisted of interior illustrations for AMAZING STORIES, ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION, FANTASTIC STORY MAGAZINE, FUTURE SCIENCE FICTION, SPACE STORIES, STARTLING STORIES, and the aforementioned THRILLING WONDER. Under his own name or his “Emsh” pseudonym, Emshwiller contributed ten covers to AMAZING STORIES — including the December 1963 issue — as well as ten covers to FANTASTIC.

Cele Goldsmith’s final issue of AMAZING STORIES was the June 1965 number, featuring front cover art by Gray Morrow. The artist painted the covers of all but one of Goldsmith’s final eight issues of AMAZING and FANTASTIC. Primarily remembered for his work in comic books and comic strips — including “Tarzan” and “Buck Rogers” — Morrow also contributed cover and interior art to many of the science-fiction digests of the 1960s — ANALOG, IF, FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, and GALAXY. He painted more than one-hundred covers for Ace Books’ PERRY RHODAN series and paperback covers for Avon, Lancer, and other publishers. He was nominated for the Hugo Award for best professional artist in 1966, 1967, and 1968.

Joseph Wrzos served as editor of AMAZING STORIES for fourteen issues, beginning with the August 1965 number and ending with the October 1965 issue. He went out with a bang when he landed a front cover painted by the legendary Frank Kelly Freas. While attending the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, Freas began to contribute freelance artwork to the pulp magazines. He sold his first cover paintings to WEIRD TALES. They were published in the early 1950s. Following his graduation from art school in 1951, he began selling covers to pulps such as ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, PLANET STORIES, SCIENCE FICTION QUARTERLY, and SUPER SCIENCE STORIES. His illustrations also appeared in ANALOG and ELLERY QUEEN’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE. In 1957, he sold his first cover illustration for MAD MAGAZINE and went on to paint many other covers for the publication. Freas’s artwork was also favored by the paperback book industry. His covers appeared on books published by Ace, Avon, Ballantine, DAW, Signet, and other publishers. He was the first artist to win ten Hugo Awards and was nominated for the Hugo twenty times.

Out final illustration is the AMAZING STORIES for September 1968 — Harry Harrison’s final issue as the magazine’s editor — with cover art by Frank R. Paul, reprinting the artist’s interpretation of the Andromeda galaxy, originally created for the back cover of the October 1945 FANTASTIC ADVENTURES as part of the series “Stories of the Stars.” According to Frank Wu’s gallery of Paul’s back cover artwork, there were at least fourteen episodes of this series that were featured as the back covers for various issues of AMAZING STORIES and FANTASTIC ADVENTURES. It is believed the series began in the winter of 1943 and ran until the summer of 1946.)

The AMAZING Story: The Twenties — By Radio to the Stars

Feb 18, 2016 by

Slider AMAZING STORIES 1928-08 Frank R. Paul

The AMAZING Hugo Gernsback

One of the major themes of PulpFest 2016 will be the 90th anniversary of the premiere of the first continuing science-fiction magazine, AMAZING STORIESIn November 2015, PulpFest programming and marketing director Mike Chomko contacted author, anthologist, and science-fiction and popular culture historian Mike Ashley, asking him to be a guest at PulpFest 2016. Due to a scheduling conflict, Mr. Ashley declined to attend. However, he did grant us permission to post his series of seven articles concerning the history of AMAZING STORIES — originally offered in the January through July 1992 issues of AMAZING STORIES. We’ll be posting the entire series, releasing one article every Monday and Thursday over the next few weeks.

Many thanks to Curt Phillips, the moderator of the Yahoo newsgroup PulpMags, for drawing our attention to and providing us with copies of Mike Ashley’s exceptional series of articles about the world’s first science-fiction magazine. 

“The AMAZING Story: The Twenties — By Radio to the Stars” is © 2016 by Mike Ashley and appears here with the author’s permission. Notes in italics are by PulpFest and are © 2016 by PulpFest. The original article was published by TSR, Inc. and edited by Kim Mohan for the January 1992 issue of AMAZING STORIES.

Modern Electrics 1911-04Ninety years ago there were no science-fiction magazines. In fact, there was no such thing as “science fiction”; the name had yet to be coined. There were stories called scientific romances — H. G. Wells had written scores of them. There were also weird stories, off-trail stories, “different” stories, uncanny stories, and among all of these were stories we would now call science fiction — a rose by any other name. But before 1926 the category had yet to be created, and fans who enjoyed these weird-scientific stories had no regular magazine in which to find them.

In the years after World War I the interest in this type of story grew rapidly. For the best in escapist fiction, millions of Americans read the pulp magazines, and the magazines with the most escapist fantasies were published by Frank A. Munsey, in particular THE ARGOSY and THE ALL-STORY MAGAZINE. It was in THE ALL-STORY that Edgar Rice Burroughs first appeared, in 1912, with his adventures of John Carter in “Under the Moons of Mars.” This was followed a few months later by “Tarzan of the Apes.” The Munsey magazines became the principal market for scientific romances and fantastic adventures. By the start of the twenties they had a regular stable of writers, including George Allan England, Homer Eon Flint, Murray Leinster, Ray Cummings, Austin Hall, Garret Smith, and A. (Abraham) Merritt. These were the leading writers of the scientific romance in the pulps, one of whom — Leinster — would stay at that core for the next fifty years. The type of story they wrote then was light on science, high on adventure or concept, and high on fantastic imagery. The stories appealed to that desire we all have to escape from this mundane, depressing world and discover a world of wonder. The most popular of them all were Burroughs and Merritt, and each, in his way, set the standard for the scientific adventure fantasies of the twenties.

While this line of scientific adventure was emerging in the pulps, another development was taking place — a revolutionary development. The architect of this revolution was Hugo Gernsback, and it was from his errant hybrid that the early world of science fiction, and AMAZING STORIES, would sprout.

Hugo Gernsback was born in Luxembourg in 1884, the son of a prosperous wine merchant. In his youth he developed a fascination with electrical gadgets, and by his teens he was a fertile inventor. He emigrated to the United States in 1904, after the death of his father, in the hope of making a fortune from his invention of a powerful dry-cell battery. The device proved too expensive to produce but, undaunted, Gernsback constructed a smaller battery, which he sold to the Packard Motor Car Company.

Gernsback’s main interest at this time, though, was in radio. He was surprised how difficult it was to obtain the necessary parts to construct wireless telegraphy units in New York, so in 1905 he established a company to import electrical equipment. It was this Electro-Importing Company that was to be the foundation of his publishing empire. In 1906 Gernsback marketed a portable wireless telegraph transmitter and receiver at the seemingly impossible price of $7.50. Skeptics believed he was a fraud, and a policeman was dispatched to verify Gernsback’s claim. Gernsback demonstrated his device, though the policeman remained unconvinced. “I still think yez are fakers,” he told Gernsback. “Yer ad here sez it is a wireless set, so what are all dem here wires for?”

It was this incident that spurred Gernsback on to publish a magazine. He later recalled, “It rankled me that there could be such ignorance in regard to science, and I vowed to change the situation if I could. A few years later I brought out the world’s first radio magazine, MODERN ELECTRICS, to teach the young generation science, radio, and what was ahead for them.”

It was the “what was ahead for them” aspect with which Gernsback became so closely associated. He loved to speculate about potential inventions and to encourage his readers to experiment. He targeted this encouragement chiefly at the young, who had the more fertile and flexible minds. To further encourage them he turned his speculative thoughts into a story, “Ralph 124C 41+,” which was serialized in MODERN ELECTRICS during 1911-12.

ModernElectrics 1911-12Actually, to call this piece a “story” is rather generous, because Gernsback was only using the narrative form to liven up what was otherwise a catalogue of future inventions. He explored the world of the year 2660 from the viewpoint of one of the world’s great scientists. Each month readers were treated to extravagant scientific speculations, and there was even a chase scene in one episode when Ralph’s girl, Alice, was kidnapped by Martians, and Ralph pursued them. It was in that episode that Gernsback made one of his most remarkable predictions by describing exactly how radar would work, more than twenty years before it was “discovered” by Robert Watson-Watt.

The difference between Gernsback’s adventures of Ralph and the stories appearing in the Munsey magazines was quite fundamental. The Munsey stories were high on entertainment, low on scientific accuracy. They were predominantly fantastic adventures or, at the shorter length, scientific mysteries, with the emphasis on the weird and wonderful. The writers were competent pulpsters able to unravel a strong, compelling story with a fanciful theme.

Gernsback’s story was low on entertainment, but deliberately high on scientific accuracy and speculation. He was no storyteller; he was no writer at all. It was not his intention to entertain but to educate and, he hoped, to stimulate his readers to become creative and inventive. It was this motive that led, by stages, to the birth of AMAZING STORIES. And it was this difference that initially separated Gernsback’s scientific fiction from the pulp scientific adventures.

In 1913 Gernsback sold MODERN ELECTRICS and founded a new magazine, THE ELECTRICAL EXPERIMENTER, which broadened Gernsback’s coverage beyond radio to all aspects of scientific achievement. Gernsback was now vociferously encouraging readers to become inventors and to build their own future. Along that road, Gernsback averred, lay fame and fortune, and he cited Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and Guglielmo Marconi as model examples. Writing in the April 1916 ELECTRICAL EXPERIMENTER, Gernsback said:

A world without imagination is a poor place to live in. No real electrical experimenter, worthy of the name, will ever amount to much if he has no imagination. He must be visionary to a certain extent, he must be able to look into the future and if he wants fame he must anticipate the human wants. It was precisely this quality which made Edison — a master of imagination — famous.

THE ELECTRICAL EXPERIMENTER began to publish fiction regularly by a variety of almost unknown writers — George F. Stratton, Charles M. Adams, Harlan Eveleth — names as remote and lost as the crew of the Marie Celeste. Every one of their stories was awful, but as scientific speculation they were enlightening. Because it was wartime, many of the stories speculated on devices to help win the war, such as anti-gravitation to cause havoc among the enemy, or a concentrated electron ray (not unlike a laser beam) to detonate enemy explosives.

Science & Invention 23-08In 1920 Gernsback retitled the magazine SCIENCE AND INVENTION, to emphasize that he had moved beyond the basic role of the experimenter toward the vaster world of science and technology. Gernsback was an evangelist of science determined to educate the American public and even more determined to inspire them into scientific achievement. He, probably more than any of his contemporaries, opened the eyes of the American public to the possibilities of science and the wonders to come. Through the stimulation of his magazines, he could inspire them to build their future world.

The closest anyone came to publishing a magazine of scientific stories before AMAZING STORIES was with THE THRILL BOOK and WEIRD TALES. THE THRILL BOOK came from Street & Smith in 1919, and though its original concept had been to publish scientific romances, when it appeared it concentrated on adventure stories, a few with fantastic elements. WEIRD TALES, launched in Chicago in March 1923, was always intended as a horror magazine but did carry some stories of the monster-in-the-laboratory type, and later some space adventures, mostly by Edmond Hamilton.

Gernsback was so taken with the idea of promoting science through fiction that he seriously considered issuing such a magazine in 1923. That year he made the August issue of SCIENCE AND INVENTION a “Scientific Fiction Number.” It contained five complete stories, plus an episode of Ray Cummings’s serial “Around the Universe.” The stories were, by and large, boring, although there was something special in “The Man From the Atom” by precocious fifteen-year-old G. Peyton Wertenbaker. This story, about a man who escapes from our universe into a macro-universe beyond, is still readable today.

We do not know the reader reaction to the issue since, at that time, the magazine ran no letter column. When it did run a letter column, it was evident that the stories Gernsback published were favorably received, and that may well have been the case here. In any case, a few months later Gernsback gave thought to launching a new magazine, to be called SCIENTIFICTION. He made no reference to this fact in his magazines at the time, but, as he later recalled, he sent a flyer to his subscribers attempting to gauge interest. The response was, apparently, dispiriting, so Gernsback did not pursue the venture. He seemingly had enough to handle at that point anyway, since in June 1925 he launched his own radio station, WRNY, the first such enterprise in New York City.

Had there been a greater positive response to the circular, the history of magazine science fiction might have started two years earlier, and that turn of events may have had a significant impact on its later evolution, which, as we shall later see, became fast-paced. I imagine that the main reason why the response was lukewarm was that Gernsback targeted the wrong market. Those most likely to subscribe to his technical magazines would have been professional scientists, engineers and radio enthusiasts, both experimenters and hobbyists, who may have appreciated the stories in SCIENCE AND INVENTION as novelty items but would have expressed no great interest in a specialist magazine. It was much more likely to have appealed to the newsstand browser (from which most of the general pulp readers came) — those who could not necessarily afford to subscribe to a magazine, or had no reason to. To the browser, it was much more fun looking at all of the pulps on display and relishing the thrills promised by the covers.

Amazing Stories 26-04This Gernsback was to discover when, in 1926, he acted on impulse (as he so often did) and launched the world’s first science-fiction magazine, AMAZING STORIES. Its premiere issue, dated April 1926, was released on March 10. It was in the same format as SCIENCE AND INVENTION, having a larger page size (8 by 11 inches) than the usual pulp, which thus set it apart. In addition it had a gaudy, eye-catching cover by Frank R. Paul, an Austrian-born artist and draftsman who had been illustrating the majority of the stories in SCIENCE AND INVENTION since 1918. The first issue, with a print run of 100,000, sold out. Gernsback was onto a winner.

Fortunately, Gernsback had not filled the magazine with stories that were typical of those in SCIENCE AND INVENTION. The first issue contained all reprints, with classic selections from H. G. Wells, Jules Verne, and Edgar Allan Poe, a pulp reprint by Austin Hall from ALL-STORY, and the two best stories he had previously published, Wertenbaker’s “The Man From the Atom” and “The Thing From — Outside” by George Allan England, one of the more popular adventure writers for the pulps.

The success of AMAZING, however, put Gernsback into a dilemma. The type of “scientifiction” (as he then called it) that readers most enjoyed were stories of scientific adventure that contained less technological speculation than he desired. During the preceding few years in SCIENCE AND INVENTION, Gernsback had run a series of stories by Clement Fezandié, a New York teacher and businessman, under the general title of “Doctor Hackensaw’s Secrets.” These stories were really thinly disguised lectures. In each episode, Hackensaw waffled on about his latest invention, regardless of its effects upon the world or humanity. Forty years later, Gernsback still referred to Fezandié as a “titan of science fiction,” which suggests the type of story that he most liked. But, when Gernsback asked the readership of AMAZING STORIES if they would like to see a continuation of the Hackensaw series in the new magazine, he got an emphatic NO. The demand was for stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs and A. Merritt — tales from the Munsey school of scientific romance. Although Gernsback claimed he had a number of Fezandié’s stories in stock, he only published two in AMAZING, in the third and fourth issues he put out. It rapidly became evident that his newfound readers were not so interested in scientific expostulation but cared far more for scientific extravaganza.

Striving to find a middle ground, Gernsback balanced reprints from the pulps and classics by Verne and Wells against a variety of gadget stories that he hoped would educate and inspire. But he was soon being lectured to by his readers and writers. In a letter that Gernsback published in his July 1926 editorial, Wertenbaker, his first significant discovery, warned him that “the danger that may lie before AMAZING STORIES is that of becoming too scientific and not sufficiently literary.”

Gernsback found that he had to compromise his principles. If he had to publish fantastic adventures in order to attract readers, then he would do so, provided that he could also inspire them with a selection of gadget stories. His biggest conflict in this regard came with the serialization of Merritt’s “The Moon Pool” in 1927. He found himself justifying the inclusion of the story in the magazine by arguing about the advanced science projected by Merritt. Although the story does contain some scientific speculation, it’s basically hocus-pocus that was included by Merritt when he wrote a novel-length sequel to his original fantastic short story, published in ALL-STORY in 1919. In his heart of hearts, Gernsback knew that the science in this story was of dubious authenticity, and that knowledge played heavily on his conscience.

Amazing Stories 26-07Another challenge was Frank R. Paul’s garish covers. There was no doubt that Paul’s exciting drawings attracted a wide readership, predominantly young males, but they also caused the magazine to become associated with sensationalistic trash. Yet when Gernsback experimented with a serious symbolical cover in 1928, that issue suffered a drop in sales of 22 percent.

In fact, by 1928 — a year that saw an explosion in new writing talent — Gernsback had more or less accepted that AMAZING STORIES had outgrown his original premise. The kind of gadget story that he obviously liked and had intended to serve as inspiration — such riveting classics as “An Experiment in Gyro-Hats” by Ellis Parker Butler (June 1926), “The Automatic Self-Serving Dining Table” by Henry Hugh Simmons (April 1927), and “The Tide Projectile Transportation Co.” by Will H. Gray (September 1927) — had become dead weight. Readers were clamoring for the scientific extravaganzas that had initially been represented by reprints selected by Gernsback’s adviser, C. A. Brandt — “A Columbus of Space” by Garrett P. Serviss (August through October 1926), ‘The Red Dust” by Murray Leinster (January 1927), “The Land That Time Forgot” by Edgar Rice Burroughs (February through April 1927), and, of course, “The Moon Pool” by A. Merritt (May through July 1927), the most popular story published in AMAZING‘s first few years. All of these had first appeared in the Munsey pulps.

Moreover, the writers now establishing themselves were not producing the gadget story in any quantity, but were writing the scientific extravaganza in emulation of the Munsey pulps. The first regular writer to establish himself in AMAZING STORIES was archaeologist A. Hyatt Verrill, who became noted for adventure stories set in lost valleys, typical of the Munsey locales. Then there was Edmond Hamilton, who became a regular after the January 1928 issue. He had been selling super-science sagas to WEIRD TALES for two years, and had cut his teeth on reading the Munsey pulps. Jack Williamson, who is still writing today (Williamson continued writing until his death in 2006, long after the original publication of this article), first appeared in the December 1928 issue with “The Metal Man,” a story blatantly inspired by Merritt’s writings. And we should not forget H. P. Lovecraft, the doyen of WEIRD TALES, who sold arguably his best story to AMAZING STORIES, “The Colour Out of Space” (September 1927). Lovecraft had also been a great fan of the Munsey pulps, and though this story was probably more inspired by Algernon Blackwood than by Abraham Merritt, it reflects far more the imagery of the Munsey visionaries than that of Gernsback’s electro-philiacs.

Probably the only authors not directly influenced by the Munsey pulps were the doctors David H. Keller and Miles J. Breuer. Yet even these writers, despite their scientific training, turned more to the non-technological sciences.

Keller had a greater social conscience than most other writers, and in “The Revolt of the Pedestrians” (February 1928), “A Biological Experiment” (June 1928), and other stories he projected the human element of scientific advance. He had a sharp mind and an eye for detail, which lent strength to the messages in his stories. Breuer was fascinated by the mathematics of other dimensions and produced a range of fascinating stories exploring the concepts of the fourth and fifth dimensions.

Amazing Stories Annual 1927By and large Keller and Breuer were the exceptions, not the rule. They wrote the intelligent novelty items, not the mind-blowing scientific adventures. The selling power of the latter was evident when, in celebration of the first year’s success of AMAZING, Gernsback released an AMAZING STORIES ANNUAL. As the lead novel in this bumper issue — twice as thick as the regular monthly magazine — Gernsback secured a new Martian novel from Edgar Rice Burroughs, “The Master Mind of Mars.” Even though the ANNUAL was twice the price of the monthly, it sold out within a few weeks. Its success led Gernsback to establish an AMAZING STORIES QUARTERLY companion magazine featuring all-new material.

The old order of Gernsback’s gadget stories was finally blasted out of existence with the August 1928 issue of AMAZING STORIES. This was the most important issue Gernsback was to publish, and is one of the most significant issues of AMAZING. It contained two profoundly influential stories, E. E. (Doc) Smith’s serial “The Skylark of Space” and Philip Francis Nowlan’s novella “Armageddon — 2419 A.D.”

Smith’s work was the literary equivalent of a nuclear attack. Hitherto most of Gernsback’s scientifiction had been relatively sedate, confined to Earth-bound experiments or explorations. Some stories had ventured to the Moon and neighboring planets, but only a rare few (those by Ray Cummings and J. Schlossel, plus some of the work of Edmond Hamilton in WEIRD TALES) had gone beyond the boundaries of the solar system. Smith blasted through all this. In his story, superscientist Richard Seaton discovers atomic energy, builds a spaceship, and sets off to explore the Universe, pursued by the villainous, though equally super-scientific, Blackie DuQuesne. It was a scientific extravaganza par excellence, and the readers went wild. “The Skylark of Space” became the archetypical work of space opera.

Amazing Stories 28-08Nowlan’s novella did for the future what Smith’s novel did for outer space. Anthony Rogers, an engineer, is trapped in a mine but is revived five centuries hence. The United States is now dominated by a super-scientific Mongolian race, the Han. Rogers joins forces with a guerrilla faction to overthrow the enemy. In this story, and its sequel “The Air-lords of Han” (March 1929), Nowlan creates a fascinating range of future weaponry, combining action, adventure, and scientific speculation. Anthony Rogers went on to be converted into the comic-strip hero Buck Rogers, a name synonymous with early science fiction.

This is what the readers wanted — superscience. Gone were the relatively mundane tales of everyday inventions and new uses for radio. The possibilities of science fiction were blown wide open. Readers wanted their imaginations stretched beyond the horizons of tomorrow, and Gernsback could deliver nothing less. His “scientifiction” brainchild had rapidly grown out of all proportion and was threatening to veer out of control. For the moment he was prepared to let it go, though he had no idea of the consequences.

Gernsback’s original ideal had been to create a vehicle that would transport his experimenters into tomorrow, or more appropriately inspire his experimenters to create tomorrow. Within three years of its launch, AMAZING STORIES had become the vessel by which science fiction had set a course for the stars. But the science fiction that emerged was not Gernsback’s baby. It was the Munseyesque-pulp scientific romance that ruled the day, with its fantastic excesses tempered by Gernsback’s furnace of science.

Amazing Stories 28-11Gernsbackian scientifiction, which had been born in MODERN ELECTRICS in 1911, had all but died in 1928, but it wasn’t extinct yet. While it was exerting its influence on the scientific romance to create the super-science epic, it was itself evolving and recovering, and would emerge anew in the 1930s.

Within a few months of publishing “The Skylark of Space,” Gernsback lost control of AMAZING STORIES, as a consequence of financial mismanagement in his many business dealings. (Those interested in the specifics of the incident will find it discussed in great detail in Tom Perry’s article “Experiment in Bankruptcy” in the May 1978 issue of AMAZING STORIES.) The consequences of this event were significant, and that’s where we pick up “The Amazing Story” on Monday, February 22nd.

 

(Concerning our illustrations . . . . Hugo Gernsback introduced the first radio magazine — MODERN ELECTRICS — in 1908. Hoping to encourage his readers to experiment and learn more about science, he began serializing a story, “Ralph 124C 41+,” beginning with the April 1911 issue. Although the cover artist is not credited, it resembles the work of George Westcott, an artist who had produced some of the magazine’s earlier covers. Written by Gernsback himself, “Ralph 124C 41+” ran for twelve consecutive issues including the December 1911 number, the second magazine pictured in our article, with cover art by Thomas Wrenn.

The “Scientific Fiction Number” of Gernsback’s SCIENCE AND INVENTION was dated August 1923 and featured featured six “scientifiction” stories, including G. Peyton Wertenbaker’s “The Man from the Atom,” the inspiration for Howard V. Brown’s front cover art. Much of the “science fiction” that appeared in SCIENCE AND INVENTION revolved around a scientific principle, particularly the stories of Clement Fezandié, an author much favored by the publisher.

The debut issue of the first science-fiction pulp — AMAZING STORIES — was dated April 1926 and featured front cover art by Frank R. Paul, the “grandfather of science-fiction art.” An Austrian-born artist and draftsman who had been illustrating the majority of the stories in SCIENCE AND INVENTION since 1918, Paul was a mainstay for Gernsback throughout his career as a publisher.

One rule of publishing that hasn’t changed in 90 years is that a magazine cover, first and foremost, must be eye-catching. Frank Paul’s covers for the July 1926 AMAZING STORIES and the AMAZING STORIES ANNUAL for 1927 are certainly that. And the authors in the magazines — Edgar Rice Burroughs, Austin Hall, A. Merritt, Edgar Allan Poe, Garrett P. Serviss, Curt Siodmak, A. Hyatt Verill, Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, and others — certainly didn’t hurt sales. Paul’s cover for the August 1928 issue of AMAZING STORIES — featuring the start of E. E. Smith’s “Skylark of Space” and the first Buck Rogers story — is one of the icons of science-fiction art.

The November 1928 issue of AMAZING STORIES featured a cover illustration of Jupiter as seen from Ganymede. It was done to accompany Frank J. Brueckel’s story, “The Moon Men.” The artwork was one of the last covers created by Frank R. Paul for the Gernsback version of AMAZING. Paul would return to the magazine in 1939 — after Ziff-Davis had become its publisher, painting over fifty back covers for AMAZING STORIES and its companion, FANTASTIC ADVENTURES.)

An AMAZING Story

Feb 15, 2016 by

The latest issue of AMAZING STORIES, dated April 2014, with cover art by Frank Wu

One of the major themes of PulpFest 2016 will be the 90th anniversary of the first continuing science-fiction magazine, AMAZING STORIES. In addition to the appearance of our Guest of Honor, Ted White — the longest serving editor of the magazine (and its companion title, FANTASTIC) — we’ll be offering a presentation on the magazine itself, put together by Joseph Coluccio, president of the Pittsburgh Area Fantasy and Science Fiction Club. Mr. Coluccio will discuss the pulp era of AMAZING, the years when Hugo Gernsback, T. O’Conor Sloane, Ray Palmer, William Hamling, and Howard Browne helmed the world’s first science-fiction magazine.

Another theme of our convention — the 150th anniversary of H. G. Wells‘ birth — will likewise tie into our AMAZING story. Herbert George Wells, who came into prominence during the late nineteenth century, was educated in the sciences and was a literary genius. It would be difficult to deny the importance of Wells to the development of both science fiction and AMAZING STORIES. During his three years as editor and publisher of the first science-fiction magazine, Gernsback turned to Wells’ fictional output for nearly thirty stories, reprinting such tales as “The Country of the Blind,” “The Crystal Egg,” “The Empire of the Ants,” “The First Men in the Moon,” “The Invisible Man,” “The Island of Dr. Moreau,” “The Man Who Could Work Miracles,” “A Story of the Days to Come,” “The Time Machine,” “The Valley of the Spiders,” “The War of the Worlds,” and “When the Sleeper Wakes” in his flagship title and its companions.

Our presentation, “Traveling through Time with H. G. Wells,” will feature Garyn G. Roberts, winner of the 2013 Munsey Award. Professor Roberts has written extensively about the pulps, both professionally and as a fan. His work, THE PRENTICE HALL ANTHOLOGY OF SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY, a college level textbook, is notable for the attention paid to the pulp magazines.

These are just some of the ways that PulpFest 2016 will be celebrating ninety years of the first science-fiction magazine — AMAZING STORIES — whose inaugural issue really stood out on the newsstand. It was larger than the typical pulp magazine with three-dimensional block letters trailing across its masthead and a bright yellow background that framed an alien landscape, a ringed planet and small moon. Frank R. Paul was the artist, illustrating Verne’s “Off on a Comet.”

The names on the front cover of the magazine’s early issues were also major selling points: Edgar Allan Poe, Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Garrett P. Serviss, Edgar Rice Burroughs, A. Merritt, and others. The readers of AMAZING “… wanted to be entertained, to escape, to experience that sense of wonder that good visionary fiction brought.”

Using stories drawn from the Munsey magazines, BLUE BOOK, THE STRAND, and other sources, Gernsback offered reprints of science-fiction classics, eventually coupling these with new stories generated through contests. Using various competitions, Gernsback began to acquire a stable of new writers willing and able to write scientifiction: Miles J. Breur, Clare Winger Harris, David H. Keller, S. P. Meek, H. Hyatt Verrill, Harl Vincent, and others. Through his letter column, entitled “Discussions,” he reeled his readers into his world of wonder.

Within months, the new specialty magazine was selling over 100,000 copies per issue. In establishing the first specialized science-fiction magazine, Gernsback had tapped a vein of wonder, shared by lonely individuals prone to “imaginative flights of fancy.” Next would come AMAZING STORIES ANNUAL, published in the summer of 1927 and featuring Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “The Mastermind of Mars.”AMAZING STORIES QUARTERLY followed in the winter of 1928. Then, in the August 1928 number of AMAZING STORIES, Gernsback introduced his readers to E. E. “Doc” Smith’s “The Skylark of Space” and Philip Francis Nowlan’s “Armageddon—2419 AD,” featuring Anthony “Buck” Rogers. These two “space operas” would color science fiction for well over a decade, turning it into “that crazy Buck Rogers stuff.”

Amazing Stories 26-04Despite its seeming success, the Gernsback publishing empire continuously experienced cash flow problems. Plowing money into his radio interests and paying extremely hefty salaries to both himself and his brother, Gernsback offered generally low word rates for stories. Coupled with a slow payment schedule, often months after a story had been published, few authors were interested in writing for the company. In early 1929, Gernsback’s suppliers demanded payment on past due bills, leading the publisher to file for bankruptcy. Experimenter Publishing Company went into receivership, ending Hugo Gernsback’s involvement with the first science-fiction pulp, AMAZING STORIES.

Be here on Thursday when PulpFest begins a series of articles on the history of AMAZING STORIES authored by popular culture historian Mike Ashley. The series originally ran in the January through July 1992 issues of AMAZING STORIES. We’ll be posting the entire series at www.pulpfest.com, starting on Thursday, February 18th with “The AMAZING Story: The Twenties — By Radio to the Stars.”

(Hugo Gernsback edited and published AMAZING STORIES from April 1926 through April 1929. He then lost control of the magazine. His most favored artist was Frank R. Paul — now known as the “grandfather of science-fiction art” — who painted both the first and the last covers of the Gernsback AMAZING.

In July 2012, longtime science-fiction fan Steve Davidson revived AMAZING STORIES as an online magazine. You can find it at http://amazingstoriesmag.com/. It’s also available as an ebook via Amazon.com.

The first new issue of AMAZING STORIES — pictured at the head of our article and dated April 2014 — features cover art by Frank Wu. According to the artist, the painting is a reworking of Frank Paul’s cover to the very first issue of the magazine, published in April 1926. To read more about Wu’s cover, please visit http://amazingstoriesmag.com/articles/cover-amazing-stories-april-2014/.)

Amazing Stories

Apr 30, 2014 by

Amazing Stories 26-04It was hard to miss the first issue of Amazing Stories on the newsstand. Letter-size, larger than the typical pulp magazine, with three-dimensional block letters trailing across its masthead and a bright yellow backdrop that framed an alien landscape and a bright red, ringed planet and small moon, the magazine certainly stood out on the sales rack. Frank R. Paul was the artist.

The names on the front cover of the magazine’s early issues were also major selling points: Edgar Allan Poe, Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Garrett P. Serviss, Edgar Rice Burroughs, A. Merritt, and others. It was just as Gernsback wrote in his editorial for the pulp’s first issue: “By ‘scientifiction’ I mean the Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, and Edgar Allan Poe type story—a charming romance intermingled with scientific fact and prophetic vision.” That is what the readers of Amazing Stories sought: “They wanted to be entertained, to escape, to experience that sense of wonder that good visionary fiction brought.” (The Time Machines).

Using stories drawn from the Munsey magazines, Blue Book, The Strand, and other sources, Gernsback offered reprints of science-fiction classics, eventually coupling these with new stories generated through contests. Using such competitions, Gernsback began to acquire a stable of new writers willing and able to write scientifiction: Miles J. Breur, Clare Winger Harris, David H. Keller, S. P. Meek, A. Hyatt Verrill, Harl Vincent, and others. Through his letter column, entitled “Discussions,” he reeled his readers into his world of wonder.

Amazing08-28Within months, the new specialty magazine was selling over 100,000 copies of each issue. In establishing the first specialized science-fiction magazine, Gernsback had tapped a vein of wonder, shared by lonely individuals prone to “imaginative flights of fancy.” Next would come Amazing Stories Annual, published in the summer of 1927 and featuring Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Mastermind of Mars. Amazing Stories Quarterly followed in the winter of 1928. Then, in the August 1928 number of Amazing Stories, Gernsback introduced his readers to E. E. “Doc” Smith’s “The Skylark of Space” and Philip Francis Nowlan’s “Armageddon—2419 AD,” the first tale to feature Buck Rogers. These two “space operas” would color science fiction for well over a decade, turning it into “that crazy Buck Rogers stuff.”

Despite its seeming success, the Gernsback publishing empire continuously experienced cash flow problems. Plowing money into his radio interests and paying an extremely hefty salary to both himself and his brother, Gernsback offered generally low word rates for stories. Coupled with a slow payment schedule, often months after a story had been published, very few authors were interested in writing for the company. In early 1929, Gernsback’s printer and paper supplier demanded payment on past due bills, leading the publisher to file for bankruptcy. Experimenter Publishing Company, went into receivership, ending Hugo Gernsback’s involvement with the first science-fiction pulp, Amazing Stories.

Hugo Gernsback edited and published Amazing Stories from April 1926 through April 1929. Afterward, T. O’Conor Sloane, who had assisted Gernsback from the start, became the magazine’s editor until the April 1938 issue. Sloane was far from being a visionary; he thought space travel was impossible.

Sloane and Gernsback were also the editors of Amazing Stories Quarterly. The latter helmed the magazine from Winter 1928 through Spring 1929. Sloane edited the magazine from Summer 1929 through Fall 1934, its final issue. Later quarterlies, published by Ziff-Davis, were rebound issues of Amazing Stories and not a separate magazine.

Amazing Stories 45-03Ziff-Davis took over the magazine with its April 1938 number and Ray Palmer as editor. The new editor turned Amazing Stories into a juvenile magazine, establishing a stable of authors to write fiction aimed at the youth market. Toward the end of his editorial reign, Palmer started “The Shaver Mystery,” a hoax involving an evil race that causes all of mankind’s problems from their home in underground caverns. Palmer’s last issue was dated December 1949. In later years, he became involved with UFOs and similar topics, publishing Fate magazine.

Howard Browne, a Palmer assistant, assumed the editorship in January 1950. Primarily interested in mystery fiction, Browne nevertheless turned Amazing Stories around, directing it toward an adult audience. It became a digest magazine with its April/May 1953 issue. Browne left the magazine following its August 1956 number. He was succeeded by Paul Fairman and the talented Cele Goldsmith. Ms. Goldsmith managed the magazine from March 1957 through June 1965, during which time it garnered a great deal of respect.

The Ultimate Publishing company, headed by Sol Cohen, began publishing the magazine with its August 1965 issue. Joseph Wrzos was its first editor, followed by Harry Harrison, Barry Malzberg, Ted White, and Elinor Mavor. The magazine was acquired by TSR Hobbies in March 1982, with Mavor temporarily serving as editor. George Scithers became the editor with the November 1982 issue. Later editors included Patrick Price, Kim Mohan, and Jeff Berkwits. Its last issue was published in March 2005 with Paizo Publishing in charge.

In July 2012, longtime science-fiction fan Steve Davidson revived Amazing Stories as an online magazine. You can find it at http://amazingstoriesmag.com/.

From 1985-1987, NBC television ran an anthology series called Amazing Stories. It was created by Steven Spielberg.

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