An ASTOUNDING 90 Years

Dec 2, 2019 by

The Beginning of a Legacy

Happy birthday to ASTOUNDING/ANALOG magazine! It has been in continual production since late 1929. Its editors are some of the most influential in the field, and have shaped science fiction destiny for nine decades. The title may have changed, but the magazine’s original purpose — to tell stories that are scientifically accurate and vividly told — remains true to this day.

ASTOUNDING STORIES OF SUPER-SCIENCE launched as a Clayton magazine with Harry Bates as editor. Its first issue was dated January 1930. Clayton paid much better rates than AMAZING and WONDER STORIES — two cents a word upon acceptance as opposed to half a cent a word — and drew better-known writers such as Ray Cummings, Murray Leinster, Jack Williamson, and Victor Rousseau. Although the editors’ original intent was to include stories which “forecasted scientific achievements of To-morrow,” in practice the Clayton ASTOUNDING was primarily an action/adventure pulp magazine.

While the magazine was successful, poor business decisions made during the Great Depression stretched Clayton’s resources. In 1933 they went bankrupt and ASTOUNDING became part of the Street & Street line. The magazine’s new publisher was no stranger to successful pulps magazines as THE SHADOW and DOC SAVAGE were also their properties, both with big circulation numbers. The first Street & Street issue of ASTOUNDING STORIES — dated October 1933 — hit the stands with F. Orlin Tremaine as editor.

In the December 1933 number, Tremaine began a discussion forum called “Brass Tacks.” It has run continuously since then. In that first column, Tremaine wrote a statement of editorial policy. He called for “thought variant” stories to open “the way for real discussion . . . connected with social science, the present condition of the world, and the future.” The magazine published some fascinating thought variant stories — Jack Williamson’s “The Legion of Space,”  Murray Leinster’s “Sidewise in Time,” “The Bright Illusion,” by C. L. Moore, and “Twilight,” by John W. Campbell.

Space opera remained popular and ASTOUNDING serialized both “The Skylark of Valeron,” by E. E. “Doc.” Smith, and “The Mightiest Machine,” by John W. Campbell. By the middle of 1934, the magazine’s circulation was up to an estimated 50,000. By the end of that year, ASTOUNDING was the clear leader in the field.

John W. Campbell, Jr.

It’s fair to say that John W. Campbell, Jr. is the most influential editor in science fiction history. He succeeded Tremaine and gained full editorial control of ASTOUNDING as of the March 1938 issue. Campbell continued as editor until 1971. During those thirty-four years, he developed not only a superior stable of writers, but also changed the face of science fiction for all time. The “Golden Age of Science Fiction” began when Campbell became editor of ASTOUNDING.

Immediately, John Campbell made changes to target a more mature reading audience. He added additional non-fiction articles and demanded that his writers understand both science and people, a hard requirement for some of the established pulp writers of the 1930s.

He spearheaded a modification to the magazine’s title, changing it from ASTOUNDING STORIES to ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION. Over time, the magazine played an interesting visual trick on readers, slowly decreasing the importance of the word “Astounding” (which Campbell felt was too sensational) and bringing the words “Science Fiction” to greater prominence. This transition is completed when the hyphen in “Science-Fiction” disappears on the November 1943 number, making it ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION. This is how the title remained until 1960.

Campbell also changed the direction of the cover art, seeking a less juvenile approach. Howard V. Brown, Charles Schneeman, and Hubert Rogers were his new favorites and their art graces many “Astounding” covers. This change in visual art style immediately differentiated ASTOUNDING from its rivals.

Within two years, Campbell had an extraordinary group of writers working for him — L. Ron Hubbard, Clifford Simak, Jack Williamson, L. Sprague de Camp, Henry Kuttner, C. L. Moore, Lester del Rey, Theodore Sturgeon, Isaac Asimov, A. E. van Vogt, and Robert A. Heinlein.

He held a firm editorial line, emphasizing scientific accuracy over literary style. Some of his top writers — Asimov, Heinlein, and de Camp — were trained scientists and engineers. During and after the war, several of these appeared less frequently. The writers who remained notably — van Vogt, Simak, Kuttner, Moore, and Fritz Leiber — were less technologically-oriented, leading to more psychological stories such as van Vogt’s “World of Null-A” and Kuttner and Moore’s “Galloway Gallagher” stories. More literary stories — such as Kuttner/Moore’s “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” and Fritz Leiber’s “Gather, Darkness!” — also began to appear. Both of these stories were published in 1943.

Campbell finally achieved his goal of ridding the magazine’s title of the word “Astounding”  in 1960. From then on it was ANALOG SCIENCE FACT — FICTION or some variation thereof. Campbell chose the word, “Analog” partly because he thought of each story as an “analog simulation” of a possible future. He also saw an analogy between the imagined scenes in a science fiction story and real science being done in the laboratories of the world.

AStounding Transitions to Analog

The full list of works published during Campbell’s tenure reads like a “Who’s Who of Science Fiction.” He was a man of strong opinions and although he did much for the field of science fiction, his regressive social views have lately come under fire. This has caused ANALOG SCIENCE FICTION AND FACT to drop the name of John W. Campbell from its annual prize for best new writer.

ANALOG after Campbell

Ben Bova succeeded Campbell as editor of ANALOG in 1972. Also a technophile with a scientific background, Bova immediately declared his intention to keep publishing stories with scientific foundations. Under his direction the character of the magazine changed, allowing fiction that included sexual content and profanity. Ben Bova won five consecutive Hugo Awards for his editing of ANALOG.

Bova was succeeded by Stanley Schmidt in 1978. Schmidt, an assistant professor of physics at the time of the transfer, continued the established editorial policies and a long-standing tradition of writing provocative editorials. Schmidt remained at the helm of ANALOG until 2012 when the current editor, Trevor Quachri, took over.

Says Quachri: “Real science and technology have always been important in ANALOG, not only as the foundation of its fiction, but as the subject of articles about real research with big implications for the future. . . . It’s true that we care very much about making our speculations plausible, because we think there’s something extra special about stories that are not only fantastic, but might actually happen.”

ANALOG comes out bi-monthly and issues are available in print and digital formats. With its January 2020 number, the magazine will begin a year-long celebration to honor its 90th anniversary. The ANALOG website can be found at: https://www.analogsf.com/.

When ASTOUNDING launched in the last month of 1929, Herbert Hoover was President. It was the beginning of the Great Depression, and Mickey Mouse had just made his first appearance. The dwarf planet, Pluto, wouldn’t be discovered until February 1930 and The Chrysler Building wouldn’t open until May. In India, Mohandas Gandhi was holding non-violent protest marches.

It’s hard to imagine that long-ago world when science fiction was in its infancy. It’s just as hard to image a world without ASTOUNDING/ANALOG. Science fiction would be nothing like we know it today. And that is an alternate reality I would not want to see.

Astounding 1930 and Analog 2019

(Dated January 1930, the first issue of ASTOUNDING STORIES OF SUPER-SCIENCE — published by Clayton Publishing — appeared on America’s newsstands in December 1929, ninety years ago. The pulp featured front cover art by Hans Wessolowski, a German-born artist who entered the United State illegally in 1912. After establishing himself as a commercial artist in New York City, he began to sell interior art and cover paintings to various pulp magazines in 1928. His work was generally signed “Wesso.”

Hired by Street & Smith in 1937, John W. Campbell became the editor of ASTOUNDING STORIES after F. Orlin Tremaine was promoted to editorial director at Street & Smith. Campbell’s first issue of ASTOUNDING with full editorial control was dated March 1938, when the title of the magazine became ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION. The cover art is by Hans Wessolowski.

ASTOUNDING morphed into ANALOG over a series of issues in 1960. The change began with the February 1960 number, featuring an uncredited photographic cover. Behind the “Astounding” in the title bar are the letters “nalog,” outlined in red. Gradually, the “nalog” was brought more to the forefront, as in the May 1960 issue, with cover art by H. R. Van Dongen. A commercial artist, Van Dongen sold his first pulp cover painting to Popular Publications in 1950.

With the October 1960 number — with a cover sometimes credited to Campbell — the change was complete. “Astounding” completely disappeared from the title. Thereafter, the magazine was called ANALOG SCIENCE FACT — FICTION, or some variation thereof. The “Fact” and “Fiction” were flip-flopped in 1965. It became ANALOG SCIENCE FICTION AND FACT with the January 1993 issue, its current title. You can find the November/December 2019 number — with cover art by Tuomas Korpi — at book stores. The magazine’s 90th birthday issue — dated January/February 2020 — will go on sale on December 18, 2019.)

Stories of Super Science

May 9, 2014 by

Astounding 30-01Except for scattered stories in the general-fiction pulps, Hugo Gernsback monopolized the early science-fiction market. This came to an end in late 1929 when Clayton Magazines, publisher of All Star Detective Stories, Clues, Cowboy Stories, Five-Novels Monthly, Flyers, Ranch Romances, and other pulps, jumped into the fray with Astounding Stories of Super-Science.

The brainchild of Harry Bates, editor of Clayton’s Wide World Adventures, the new magazine was meant to entertain rather than educate. “Astounding. As a name it lacked dignity, but no matter: it was gutsy and would compel attention, and it generally resembled Amazing and could be counted on to attract the eye of that magazine’s readers while pleasantly promising others that the stories would stun them.”

Alva Rogers writes in A Requiem for Astounding: “Astounding was unabashedly an action adventure magazine and made no pretense of trying to present science in a sugar-coated form as did, to some extent, the other two magazines. 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 sngle 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. That was the type of story he could identify with, become the hero of. Action was the hallmark of Astounding Stories of Super-Science.”

The Clayton Astounding would run for 34 issues, its end brought on by William Clayton’s decision to buy out his business partner. Although the continuing economic depression certainly contributed to the publisher’s demise, his inability to raise enough funds to pay off his associate proved to be the Clayton Magazines ultimate downfall. Astounding Stories was cancelled following its March 1933 number, the result of a poor business decision.

Strange Tales 32-01Beginning in 1931, Clayton also put out seven issues of Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror. Also edited by Harry Bates, Strange Tales was a direct competitor to Weird Tales. By paying its authors two cents a word, a rate that Weird Tales could not match, Bates was able to attract some of the leading contributors from “The Unique Magazine.” Although many fine stories appeared in Strange Tales, Jack Williamson’s  short novel, “Wolves of Darkness,” and Hugh B. Cave’s “Murgunstrumm,” are perhaps the most notable works to run in the short-lived magazine.

Like Astounding, Clayton’s Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror was canceled in 1933. Between 2003 and 2007, it was revived for three additional issues by Wildside Press.

Miracle Science and Fantasy Stories, published by former Clayton editor Harold Hersey, also appeared in 1931. Lasting just two issues, this science-fiction pulp published nothing of lasting significance.

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