Space Operas in the Sky

Jun 6, 2014 by

Planet Stories 39-WAlthough Fiction House had been around since the 1920s, it waited until 1939 to enter the science-fiction field. A year before, it had joined the comic book industry with Jumbo Comics, home to Sheena, “Queen of the Jungle.” Perhaps trying to hedge its bets, Fiction House launched a science-fiction pulp, Planet Stories, and a science-fiction comic book, Planet Comics, at the same time.

Over the years, Fiction House had developed a reputation for offering action-packed stories of adventure in its pulps. Planet Stories would prove to be no exception to this rule. Over its 71 issues, the rough-paper magazine would be home to countless science-fiction adventure stories called “space operas.”

In her introduction to The Best of Planet Stories #1, acclaimed author and screenwriter Leigh Brackett writes: “Planet, unashamedly, published “space opera” . . . . a story that has an element of adventure . . . . of great courage and daring, of battle against the forces of darkness and the unknown . . . The so-called space opera is the folk-tale, the hero-tale, of our particular niche in history . . . . These stories served to stretch our little minds, to draw us out beyond our narrow skies into the vast glooms of interstellar space, where the great suns ride in splendor and the bright nebulae fling their veils of fire parsecs-long across the universe; where the Coal-sack and the Horsehead make patterns of black mystery; where the Cepheid variables blink their evil eyes and a billion nameless planets may harbor life-forms infinitely numerous and strange.”

Running from 1939 – 1955, the early issues of Planet Stories featured writers such as Eando Binder, Nelson Bond, Ray Cummings, Ed Earl Repp, and Ross Rocklynne. By the middle-forties, Leigh Brackett and Ray Bradbury reigned supreme with the former offering seventeen “science fantasies,” while the latter introduced readers to The Martian Chronicles. They were joined by less-acclaimed authors such as Alfred Coppel, Gardner F. Fox, Henry Hasse, Emmett McDowell, and Basil Wells. The late forties and early fifties found the magazine publishing work by Poul Anderson, James Blish, Philip K. Dick, Chad Oliver, Mack Reynolds, and other greats who would go on to develop science fiction’s modern era.

Planet Stories 42-WPerhaps it was Planet Stories’ emphasis on cover art with a strong dose of sex—usually imagined by Allen Anderson or Frank Kelly Freas—that helped turn “space opera” into a pejorative term. Per Leigh Brackett, “It was fashionable for a while, among certain elements of science-fiction fandom, to hate Planet Stories. They hated the magazine, apparently, because it was not Astounding Stories.” For seventy-one issues, rather than aiming for the cerebrum, it aimed for the gut. Who is to say that one target is more valid than the other?

Shopping for Collectibles at PulpFest

Mar 7, 2014 by

Planet Comics 1940-01Year after year, PulpFest is a paradise for the fan of pulp magazines, digests, vintage paperbacks, and other collectibles. The collector will also find first edition hardcovers, men’s adventure and true crime magazines, series books, dime novels, original artwork, Big Little Books, B-movies, serials and related paper collectibles, old-time-radio shows, and Golden and Silver Age comic books in our 15,800 square-foot dealers’ room.

For those who simply like to read pulp and genre fiction, you’ll find science-fiction books, mysteries, adventure fiction, and countless pulp reprints from publishers such as Adventure HouseAltus PressGirasol CollectablesMeteor House, and Sanctum Books. Fans of new pulp will have readings by their favorite authors on both Friday and Saturday, as well as offerings from Adventures in BronzeAirship 27, and other purveyors of today’s pulp fiction.

Accommodating over 100 tables, our dealers’ room will be open to all comers from 10 AM to about 5 PM on August 8th and 9th and until 2 PM on Sunday, August 1oth (although buying and selling opportunities may be limited on our final day as many of our dealers will be packing up for their return trip home).

And don’t forget about our early-bird hours on Thursday evening, August 7th, from 6 PM to 10 PM. For an additional $30 over your regular membership fee, you’ll be able to purchase early-bird privileges for an extra four hours of shopping. Better still, to reward loyal attendees who help to defray the convention’s substantial costs by staying three nights at our host hotel, PulpFest is pleased to offer free early-bird privileges. That’s a very significant savings of $30!

Remember, “If you read or collect pulps, pulp reprints, books, vintage paperbacks, or slicks . . . PulpFest is the place to be.”

 

The first issue of Fiction House’s Planet Comics, dated January 1940, sported a front cover by Lou Fine. The comic book was a spin-off of Planet Stories, one of seven science-fiction pulps introduced in the genre’s Golden Year of 1939. PulpFest 2014 will be celebrating “75 years of fantastic fiction” at this year’s convention in Columbus, Ohio.