PulpFest Historical — Sam Moskowitz, Superfan

Jun 29, 2020 by

Hugo Award-winning science fiction historian and anthologist Sam Moskowitz was born 100 years ago on June 30, 1920. Best remembered in pulp circles for his definitive history of the early Munsey pulp magazines, UNDER THE MOONS OF MARS: A HISTORY AND ANTHOLOGY OF “THE SCIENTIFIC ROMANCE” IN THE MUNSEY MAGAZINES, 1912-1920, and for his pair of biographical studies of pulp science fiction authors, EXPLORERS OF THE INFINITE: SHAPERS OF SCIENCE FICTION and SEEKERS OF TOMORROW: MASTERS OF MODERN SCIENCE FICTION, Moskowitz also authored a detailed history of early science fiction fandom, THE IMMORTAL STORM: A HISTORY OF SCIENCE FICTION FANDOM

A sometimes controversial figure, he proved to be a prolific editor with over 60 books to his name, principally anthologies and collections. Notable among his many credits, Moskowitz also served as editor of Hugo Gernsback’s final foray into the genre with SCIENCE-FICTION PLUS (1952-1954) and, two decades later, filled the same role for Leo Margulies on the revived WEIRD TALES (1973-1974).

Having established himself as an authority in his field, Moskowitz taught the very first college course on science fiction in 1953. An avid collector with more than 40,000 books and magazines in his collection, he was gifted with a near-photographic memory that he put to good use. He was inducted into the New Jersey Literary Hall of Fame in 1987. Sam Moskowitz died of a heart attack on April 15, 1997 at age 76. The First Fandom Sam Moskowitz Archive Award for excellence in science fiction collecting was established in his memory in 1998.

(In addition to his many contributions to science fiction and pulp scholarship, Sam Moskowitz was a pulp writer “back in the day.” In 1941, he published three stories in the science fiction pulps. His first tale appeared in COMET, followed by two in PLANET STORIES. His short story, “World of Mockery,” ran in the Summer 1941 PLANET STORIES,  featuring a cover painting by Virgil Finlay. Also appearing in the same issue was Leigh Brackett’s “The Dragon-Queen of Jupiter.” It was her second appearance in the Fiction House magazine and garnered her top billing on the magazine’s cover. She would sell many more to PLANET in the coming years, including one for the pulp’s final issue.

If you’d like to learn more about First Fandom, please join us in September for Sara Light-Waller’s visit with David and Daniel Ritter of First Fandom Experience. It’s the first of our “PulpFest Profiles,” a new series on today’s “Children of the Pulps.”)

Science Fiction: To What Purpose?

May 22, 2020 by

In 1911, when Hugo Gernsback introduced what he at first termed “scientific fiction,” it was his hope that these stories would stimulate his readers’ imaginations, leading to scientific progress and a better world. In the April 1916 issue of THE ELECTRICAL EXPERIMENTER, Gernsback wrote:

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 . . . he must anticipate the human wants. . . . Imagination more than anything else makes the world go round. If we succeed in speeding it up ever so little our mission has been fulfilled.

When he introduced AMAZING STORIES ten years later, Hugo Gernsback seemed to have changed his tune. In an editorial appearing in the magazine’s first issue — dated April 1926 — Gernsback wrote:

“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.”

The names displayed on the covers of the early AMAZING STORIES — Edgar Rice Burroughs, Murray Leinster, A. Merritt, Edgar Allan Poe, Garrett P. Serviss, Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, and others — likewise indicated that Gernsback’s vision had evolved. He had learned that his “readers wanted more than instructive fiction. They wanted to be entertained, to escape, to experience that sense of wonder that good visionary fiction brought.”

The question that Hugo Gernsback asked through his magazines, early science fiction fandom grappled with both vocally and in print:

What is the purpose of science fiction?

Some believed it was to teach science and inspire scientists; others believed it was to offer adventurism and escape from reality; still others believed it was to envision a better future for all.

Discussions around this question are at the core of the science fiction genre’s history.  On Thursday, August 6, PulpFest 2020 will welcome David and Daniel Ritter of First Fandom Experience for an exploration of the conversation concerning science fiction’s purpose during the early years of organized fandom.

Beginning in the late 1920s and coursing through the 1939 WorldCon and beyond, First Fandom Experience will examine Hugo Gernsback and science fiction as a teaching device; the emergence of “thought experiments” as a sub-genre; the “escapist” camp of science fiction fandom; Michelism and the infamous 1937 “Mutation or Death” speech written by Jon B. Michel and delivered by Donald A. Wollheim; activism in early science fiction fandom; the Technocracy Movement and the Los Angeles fan scene, including a young fan by the name of Ray Bradbury; and how all these things relate to the idea of creating the future.

So please join us for PulpFest 2020 from August 6 through August 9 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry in Mars, Pennsylvania for “Science Fiction: To What Purpose?”

(If you were born between 1945 and 1960 and are a science fiction fan, your first introduction to the genre likely came from reading one of the masters who began their work in the 1930s — Asimov, Bradbury, Campbell, Clarke, Smith. All of these great writers began their work as fans. What had these authors experienced that shaped their visions? What would it have been like to know them when they were first discovering speculative fiction and others who loved it? These questions inspired David Ritter to start First Fandom Experience. For the organization’s Editor-in-Chief, born in 1960, this project has been a way to better understand the origin story of his own origin as a fan.

As a millennial, Daniel Ritter — the Managing Editor of First Fandom Experience — was exposed to science fiction through the hand-me-downs of older readers and fans, like his father. Daniel’s childhood bookcase was packed with well-read copies of books that were published before he was born. The foundation of his love for science fiction was born from the pages of these books. Daniel has spent his entire life swimming in the ocean of the genre, and he is now privileged to study the very early days of science fiction.

The Science Fiction League was one of the earliest associations formed by science fiction fans. It was created by Charles D. Hornig and Hugo Gernsback in February 1934 in the pages of WONDER STORIES. The League — which eventually grew to about 1,000 members — lasted about ten years. Its emblem — designed by Frank R. Paul — was first published in the April 1934 issue of WONDER STORIES.

For a look at our entire programming schedule, please click the Programming button below the PulpFest banner on our home page.)

Visions of Mars: The Early Years

May 11, 2020 by

Mars has long fascinated people, due to its color and not being “fixed” as were most other lights in the night sky. The ancient Greeks and the Romans christened the red planet, both naming it after their god of war.

Following the invention of the telescope in 1609, early astronomers began to discern some features of Mars, notably a dark spot on the planet’s surface — probably Syrtis Major — and a white one near its south pole. In 1877, Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli called the lines he observed on Mars, “canali,” or “channels.” Unfortunately, Schiaparelli’s word was misinterpreted as “canals,” suggesting that intelligent life existed on Earth’s neighbor.

One person who helped popularize the Martian canals was French astronomer and popular science writer, Nicolas Camille Flammarion. A prolific author of more than fifty titles — including some early works of science fiction — Flammarion researched the so-called “canals” during the 1880s and 1890s. In his book, LA PLANÈTE MARS ET SES CONDITIONS D’HABITABILITÉ, Flammarion suggested, “the canals were the product of an intelligent species attempting to survive on a dying world.”

The idea of Martian canals inspired many of the writers of the late nineteenth century to imagine utopias on the red planet. Science fiction and pulp historian Mike Ashley lists Percy Greg’s ACROSS THE ZODIAC (1880), Robert Cromie’s A PLUNGE INTO SPACE (1890), Thomas Blot’s THE MAN FROM MARS (1891), James Cowan’s DAYBREAK (1896), UNVEILING A PARALLEL: A ROMANCE (1893) by “Two Women of the West,” and others in the anthology, LOST MARS (2018). Charles Cole’s VISITORS FROM MARS (1901) has Jesus Christ educated on the red planet, while Hugo Gernsback describes an advanced Martian civilization in “The Scientific Adventures of Baron Münchausen,” published in THE ELECTRICAL EXPERIMENTER from October 1915 through February 1917.

A much grimmer view of the inhabitants of Mars was postulated in the 1897 serialization of the science fiction novel, “The War of the Worlds.” Although H.G. Wells‘s Martians are still an advanced race, the author depicts them as many legged alien creatures who are wedded to giant walking machines in their war to conquer our planet. Wells’s invasion would inspire countless other popular tales including Homer Eon Flint’s “The Planeteer” (ALL-STORY WEEKLY for March 9, 1918), Austin Hall’s “The Man Who Saved the Earth” (ALL-STORY WEEKLY for December 13, 1919), and Edmond Hamilton’s “Across Space” (serialized in WEIRD TALES for September through November 1926). THE WAR OF THE WORLDS remains a popular story in contemporary media.

While H.G. Wells was scaring the bejesus out of the reading public, a more romanticized version of the red planet was also growing in popularity. In Gustavus W. Pope’s A JOURNEY TO MARS (1894), Mars is populated by three races with different skin tones, struggling for the throne of the red planet. Similarly romanticized versions of Mars can be found in British writer Edwin Lester Arnold’s LIEUT. GULLIVAR JONES: HIS VACATION (1905), Avis Hekking’s A KING OF MARS (1908), and other works.

Perhaps the impetus for the more romantic Mars was the work of American astronomer Percival Lowell. Between 1895 and 1908, Lowell wrote three books about Mars that “championed the now-abandoned theory that intelligent inhabitants of a dying Mars constructed a planet-wide system of irrigation, utilizing water from the polar ice caps, which melt annually. He thought the canals were bands of cultivated vegetation dependent on this irrigation.”

Which brings us to “Under the Moons of Mars,” a six-part serial credited to Norman Bean. The story began in the February 1912 issue of THE ALL-STORY. Retitled A PRINCESS OF MARS for its book publication, Bean’s serial is told by Captain John Carter of Virginia. A wondrous tale of four-armed Tharks and red-skinned Heliumites, of fantastic airships and many-legged thoats, of vast dead seas and long-abandoned cities, and of a lost princess and the man from another world who won her heart, the novel was actually the work of a gifted storyteller named Edgar Rice Burroughs. His tale inspired ten sequels and a host of adventures written by Otis Adelbert Kline, Leigh Brackett, Michael Moorcock, Will Murray, Mike Resnick, and a “magician of words” named Ray Bradbury.

At PulpFest 2020, we’ll be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of author Ray Bradbury. Our keynote address will be presented by Professor Garyn G. Roberts. Bradbury’s pal for more than thirty years, Garyn will discuss the life and works of the Science Fiction Grand Master and “Poet of the Pulps.”

As part of our celebration of the Ray Bradbury centennial, PulpFest 2020  will also pay tribute to the author’s lifelong affair with the planet Mars, best remembered through his work, THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES. As Ray Bradbury wrote in his introduction to Irwin Porges’s EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS: THE MAN WHO CREATED TARZAN:

“For how can one resist walking out of a summer night to stand in the middle of one’s lawn to look up at the red fire of Mars quivering in the sky and whisper, “Take me home.”

Please join PulpFest 2020 on Thursday, August 8, as we welcome Henry G. Franke, III to discuss early visions of the planet Mars at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry in Mars, Pennsylvania. It’s the first part of our series exploring “Visions of Mars,” celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of author Ray Douglas Bradbury.

(As many other creators before and after him, Frank R. Paul was very much inspired by the Martians of H.G. Wells. Pictured here is William Lampkin’s modified version of the artist’s cover art for the August 1927 issue of AMAZING STORIES. Wells’s “The War of the Worlds” was serialized in two parts by the Hugo Gernsback science fiction magazine.

P.J. Monahan, on the other hand, was inspired by Edgar Rice Burroughs’ romantic adventures on the planet Mars. Pictured here is Monahan’s cover art for the April 8, 1916 issue of ALL-STORY WEEKLY, depicting a scene from Burroughs’ fourth novel of Barsoom, “Thuvia, Maid of Mars.” The story was serialized in three parts in the Munsey magazine.

Henry G. Franke, III is the Editor of The Burroughs Bibliophiles, the non-profit literary society devoted to the life and works of Edgar Rice Burroughs. The Bibliophiles publish THE BURROUGHS BULLETIN journal and THE GRIDLEY WAVE newsletter.  Henry is only the third editor of THE BURROUGHS BULLETIN since its debut in 1947. He was the Contributing Editor and penned the introductions for IDW Publishing’s Library of American Comics archival series reprinting Russ Manning’s Tarzan daily and Sunday newspaper comic strips. The first volume won the 2014 Eisner Award for Best Archival Collection – Strips. He has written articles and other book introductions on Tarzan comic books and strips for TwoMorrows Publishing, Titan Books, and IDW’s Library of American Comics. Henry was the Official Editor of the Edgar Rice Burroughs Amateur Press Association (ERBapa) in 1994-1996, 2004, and 2019-2020. He served in the United States Army from 1977 to 2009 and is now a government civilian employee of the Army.

For a look at our entire programming schedule, please click the Programming button below the PulpFest banner on our home page.)

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.)

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.)

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.)

Our Guest of Honor — Ted White

Jun 20, 2016 by

Amazing Stories 26-04In the spring of 1926, publisher Hugo Gernsback introduced AMAZING STORIES, the first continuing science fiction magazine. Within months, the new specialty magazine was selling over 100,000 copies per issue. 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 help color science fiction for well over a decade.

Although Gernsback would lose control of his magazine in 1929, the founding of AMAZING STORIES signaled the separation of science fiction into its own category.  Before long, AMAZING was joined by other science fiction pulps, including Gernsback’s own WONDER STORIES and Clayton’s ASTOUNDING STORIES OF SUPER-SCIENCEIt was in the latter magazine — retitled ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION — that the genre would enter its golden age, under the guidance of editor John W. Campbell. Decades later, AMAZING STORIES likewise attained a golden age, thanks to the heroic efforts of editor Ted White.

In his May 1969 editorial for AMAZING, White likened the development of the New Wave in science fiction to the 1960s revolution in rock music and the emergence of heavy metal and acid rock. He pointed out that this music was able to coexist beside the more melodic rhythms of the Beach Boys and others. He also recognized that heavy rock was drawing upon its roots, in rhythm and blues, to express its new voice.

White saw no reason why science fiction should not follow the same pattern. Not only could all forms of science fiction exist side by side — the traditional alongside the modern — but the modern had itself developed from science fiction’s roots. By publishing both forms of science fiction in AMAZING, White could make it possible for the old and the new to influence each other.

Ted White strove to attract good fiction and new writers to the magazines. However, because he was paying the lowest rates in the field, he knew he wouldn’t have first shot at the best fiction around, but he might have a chance at some of the best experimental fiction, which had no ready market elsewhere, and thereby attract those writers who didn’t otherwise click with the establishment. Piers Anthony, Richard A. Lupoff, Barry N. Malzberg, David R. Bunch, R. A. Lafferty, Alexei Panshin, Christopher Priest, James Tiptree, Jr., Avram Davidson, Philip José Farmer, Gordon Eklund, Robert Silverberg, George Alec Effinger, F. M. Busby, Jack Dann,George Zebrowski, Thomas Monteleone, John Shirley, and others all found a home in Ted White’s AMAZING. They were joined by some of science fiction’s most exciting artists: Jeff Jones, Mike Kaluta, John Pederson, Jr., Joe Staton, Doug Chaffee, Vaughn Bode, Dan Adkins,  and most significantly Mike Hinge.

Fantasy & SF 2014-03-04PulpFest is very pleased to welcome as its 2016 Guest of Honor, author, editor, musician, and science-fiction and pulp fan Ted White. Winner of the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 1968 and nominated as Best Professional Editor or for Best Professional Magazine throughout most of the seventies, Mr. White will speak about his career, AMAZING STORIES, science fiction fandom, the pulps, and much, much more on Saturday evening, July 23, from 7:30 to 8:15 in the Union Rooms on the second floor of the Hyatt Regency.

We look forward to seeing you at “Summer’s AMAZING Pulp Con” from July 21 through July 24 at the beautiful Hyatt Regency and the city’s spacious convention center in the exciting Arena District of Columbus, Ohio. Please join us as editor emeritus Ted White helps PulpFest celebrate ninety years of AMAZING STORIES! Remember that the Hyatt Regency Columbus is sold out of rooms for July 21 through July 23. At www.columbusconventions.com/thearea.php, you’ll find a list of area hotels courtesy of the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Alternately, you can search for a room at tripadvisor or a similar website to find a hotel near the convention. Thanks so much to everyone who has reserved a room at our host hotel. By staying at the Hyatt Regency, you’ve helped to ensure the convention’s success.

(Our guest of honor continues to publish professionally after more than sixty years of practicing his craft. His short story, “The Uncertain Past,” appeared in the March & April 2014 number of THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION — featuring front cover art by Kent Bash — while “The Philistine” can be found in the October 2015 issue of ANALOG SCIENCE FICTION AND FACT.

AMAZING STORIES likewise continues to be published, ninety years after the appearance of its first issue. That number — dated April 1926 — featured front cover art by Frank R. Paul, the “grandfather of science fiction art.” Revived in 2012 by longtime science-fiction fan Steve Davidson as an online magazine, you can find the new AMAZING STORIES at http://amazingstoriesmag.com/. It’s also available as an ebook via Amazon.com.)

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.)