Bradbury, BLACK MASK, and Brundage

Nov 25, 2019 by

Programming at PulpFest 2020

 

PulpFest is the summertime destination for fans of popular culture both old and new. It seeks to honor the pulps by drawing attention to the many ways these throwaway magazines have inspired writers, artists, film directors, game designers, and other creators over the years.

From August 6 – 9 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry in Mars, PA, PulpFest will focus on a pair of creators and a magazine.

PulpFest 2020 will salute the centennial of author Ray Bradbury’s birth; the 100th anniversary of BLACK MASK — the pulp where the hardboiled detective story took root; and the 120th anniversary of the birth of WEIRD TALES artist Margaret Brundage. “Bradbury, BLACK MASK, and Brundage” have inspired and continue to inspire creators the world over.

And if three “B’s” aren’t enough for you, how about Burroughs, Brackett, Baum, a couple of “B” movies, plus our special guest: the “B”eautiful Eva Lynd.

Eva was a top model for artists Norm Eastman and Al Rossi, and a frequent collaborator with Doc Savage model Steve Holland.

So what’s your taste? Uncanny tales of wizards and warriors? Mysteries that leave you breathless? Dark demonic plots? Awe-inspiring intergalactic wars? They all have their roots in the pulps.

At PulpFest, you’ll discover new tales by the writers of Batman and Green Lantern. The novels that inspired STAR WARS. Horror tales that’ll freeze your spine and thrillers awash in enough blood to make Quentin Tarantino blanch.

Join us at PulpFest 2020 to find your next favorite read!

 

PulpFest 2020 Schedule

Thursday, August 6

Dealers’ Room
1:00 PM – 7:30 PM — Dealers’ Room Set-Up
3:00 PM – 7:30 PM — Member Registration and Early-Bird Shopping

Evening Programming
8:00 – 8:30 PM — Visions of Mars: The Early Years (Henry Franke)
8:35 – 9:20 PM — Science Fiction Fandom: The Early Years (David and Daniel Ritter)
9:25 – 10:10 PM — BLACK MASK: The Early Years (Walker Martin and Ed Hulse) (1920 – 1940)
10:15 – 10:55 PM — Bradbury in Hollywood (Martin Grams)
11:00 – 11:40 PM — Visions of Mars: The Pulp Years (Sara Light-Waller)
11:45 – 1:15 AM — Ray Bradbury’s IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE

Friday, August 7

Dealers’ Room
9:00 AM – 10:00 AM — Early Registration and Dealers’ Room Set-Up
10:00 AM – 4:45 PM — Dealers’ Room Open to All

Afternoon Programming
1:00 – 2:30 PM — 2020 Art Show (sponsored by The Burroughs Bibliophiles)

1:00 – 1:30 PM — Author reading (to be announced)
1:35 – 2:05 PM — Author reading (to be announced)
2:10 – 2:40 PM — Author reading (to be announced)
2:45 – 3:15 PM — Author reading (to be announced)
3:20 – 3:50 PM — Author reading (to be announced)

4:00 – 4: 50 PM — Bradbury in Oz: How Baum’s Classics Influenced the Pulp Era (Sara Light-Waller)

3:45 – 4:45 PM — Auction Preview

Evening Programming
6:55 – 7:00 PM — Welcome to PulpFest (Convention Chairman Jack Cullers)
7:00 – 7:45 PM — BLACK MASK: The Popular Years (John Wooley and John Gunnison) (1940 – 1951 and beyond)
7:50 – 8:35 PM — Visions of Bradbury: The Author at 100 (Garyn Roberts)
8:40 – 9:25 PM — The Weird Tales of Margaret Brundage (Doug Ellis)
9:30 – 10:10 PM — Visions of Mars: The Modern Years (Heidi Ruby Miller)
10:15 – 11:00 PM — FarmerCon XV Presentation: Topic Forthcoming (panelists to be announced, with Paul Spiteri moderating)
11:05 – 11:40 PM — Visions of Mars: Bradbury in the Comics (Don Simpson)
11:45 – 1:15 AM — Ray Bradbury’s THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS

Saturday, August 8

Dealers’ Room
10:00 AM – 4:45 PM — Dealers’ Room Open to All

Afternoon Programming
1:00 – 2:30 PM — 2020 Art Show (sponsored by The Burroughs Bibliophiles)

12:50 – 1:20 PM — Author reading (to be announced)
1:25 – 1:55 PM — Author reading (to be announced)
2:00 – 2:30 PM — Author reading (to be announced)

2:35 – 3:20 PM — News from Tarzana: Thrilling Updates from Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. (panelists to be announced, with Christopher Paul Carey moderating)
3:25 – 4:10 PM — The Edgar Rice Burroughs Universe Expands: New Tales of Tarzan, John Carter, Carson of Venus, and More! (panelists to be announced, with Christopher Paul Carey moderating)
4:15 – 5:00 PM — World-Building in Genre Fiction (authors Win Scott Eckert, Sara Light-Waller, Heidi Ruby Miller, and Joab Stieglitz, with Christopher Paul Carey moderating)

3:45 – 4:45 PM — Auction Preview

Evening Programming
7:00 – 7:30 PM — PulpFest Annual Business Meeting (meet the convention organizers)
7:30 – 7:40 PM — Munsey Award Presentation (presented by George Vanderburgh)
7:45 – 8:45 PM — An Evening with Eva Lynd (interview by Bob Deis and Wyatt Doyle)
9:00 – 11:30 PM — Saturday Night Auction

Sunday, August 9

Dealers’ Room
9:00 AM – 2:00 PM — Dealers’ Room Open to All (dealers may be packing up; buying opportunities may be limited)

Please note that the schedule above is subject to change.

(Every year, PulpFest celebrates mystery, adventure, science fiction, and other forms of genre fiction. The rough paper magazines played a major role in the development of fiction categories. Pulp publisher Street & Smith pioneered the specialized fiction magazine when it introduced DETECTIVE STORY MAGAZINE in late 1915. Although DETECTIVE STORY emphasized the more traditional or “clued” detective story, it helped to pave the way for BLACK MASK and its gritty style of crime fiction.

Debuting in 1920, BLACK MASK would introduce the world to the hardboiled detectives of Carol John Daly, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and many other fine writers. The BLACK MASK style of storytelling continues to influence fiction writers to this very day.

Perhaps one of the most iconic of the BLACK MASK detectives was Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade. The character was the protagonist of “The Maltese Falcon,” a novel serialized in five parts, beginning with the September 1929 number of BLACK MASK. The issue featured cover art by H. C. Murphy.)

 

Happy Halloween from PulpFest

Oct 28, 2019 by

At PulpFest 2020, we’ll be celebrating “Bradbury, BLACK MASK, and Brundage.” Perhaps we’ll throw in a touch of Burroughs and Brackett for good measure. So why not add a couple more “B’s” to the mix? Enoch Bolles’s cover art for the November 1935 issue of BREEZY STORIES was simply too hard to resist.

With the centennial of Ray Bradbury’s birth in August 2020, there’s no better way to celebrate it than at PulpFest. Garyn G. Roberts — Bradbury’s pal for more than thirty years — will talk about the Science Fiction Grand Master. Our 2013 Munsey Award winner promises to share many unique items he collected during his friendship with Bradbury.

We’ll also have presentations on Bradbury in comic books, television, and film. Filling out our salute will be several presentations concerning Mars in fiction, plus a look at early science fiction fandom.

Of course, we can’t forget that 2020 also marks the centennial of the magazine where the hardboiled detective story took root — BLACK MASK. It’s also the 120th anniversary of pulp artist Margaret Brundage, best known for her 60+ WEIRD TALES covers.

Finally, our PulpFest 2020 guest of honor will be the beautiful Eva Lynd, a favorite model for artists Norm Eastman and Al Rossi. You can read more about Eva in our post “The Countess of PulpFest.”

You’ll have plenty of “B’s” in your trick-or-treat bag if you plan to attend PulpFest 2020. It will take place from August 6 – 9, at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry.

We’ll keep you informed about our plans through our homepage and social media sites. So be sure to bookmark PulpFest.com. We’ll be offering a new post every Monday morning around 9 AM, eastern time. Alternately, you can read what we’ve written via our facebook site, catch our tweets by following us on Twitter, or check out our daily posts to our Instagram page.

Wherever you look for PulpFest on the web, we’ll be sure to keep you up to date about our plans.

(Enoch Bolles studied at the National Academy of Design and the Art Student’s League. His first magazine assignments appeared in 1914 on the covers of JUDGE and PUCK.

According to David Saunders’s Field Guide To Wild American Pulp Artists, Bolles “went on to establish a significant reputation for his distinctive cover paintings for the spicy magazines . . . Bolles was also a versatile illustrator who created advertising for Sun-Maid Raisins, Vicks VapoRub, and Zippo lighters.

Incidentally, BREEZY STORIES liked Bolles’s cover so much that they used it a second time. You’ll also find it on their December 1945 number.)

Happy Labor Day from PulpFest

Sep 2, 2019 by

On this day when we honor working people, PulpFest is pleased to announce that the organizing committee is taking the day off.

Planning is well underway for PulpFest 2020. We’ll be returning to the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry in Mars, Pennsylvania. The convention will run from August 6 – 9, 2020.

It will be the 49th convening of the summertime pulp con.

We’ll be focusing on Bradbury, BLACK MASK, and Brundage. We may even throw in a touch of Brackett and Burroughs for good measure.

FarmerCon XV — saluting the life and legacy of Philip José Farmer — will also join us.

As always, expect a terrific dealers’ room and superb programming.

To keep informed about PulpFest 2020,  please bookmark pulpfest.com or like our Facebook page. Over on Twitter, catch our tweets. You’ll also find selected posts on various newsgroups, including Pulpmags. And don’t forget about our Instagram page! You’ll enjoy our take on the pulps and their offspring.

Having read this post, please take the rest of the day off. You deserve it!

(A New York City building manager and apartment rental agent, Albert Roanoke Tilburne began selling freelance illustrations to Popular Publications in 1935. He became a regular contributor to SHORT STORIES and WEIRD TALES during the late thirties. In 1947, he painted the cover for H. P. Lovecraft’s THE LURKING FEAR AND OTHER STORIES, published by Avon Books in 1947. After retiring from commercial illustration, he developed a reputation as a Western artist.

Tilburne contributed a total of ten covers — including the September 1944 number — to “The Unique Magazine.” Ray Bradbury’s Johnny Choir story — “Bang! You’re Dead!” — was featured in the issue.)

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Children of the Pulps — Part Two

Jul 18, 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.

WEIRD TALES was the first periodical to specialize in the fantasy and horror genres. Premiering in early 1923, its publishers envisioned “The Unique Magazine” as a place for a writer to be given “free rein to express his innermost feelings in a manner befitting great literature.” In reality, the early issues of the pulp were filled with ghost stories, the decision of the magazine’s editor, Edwin Baird. Far more interested in his company’s REAL DETECTIVE AND MYSTERY STORIES, Baird had little interest in fantastic fiction.

Although never a big moneymaker, WEIRD TALES came into its own in late 1924 when Farnsworth Wright was named the magazine’s editor. In the years ahead, the pulp would become admired for its fantasy and supernatural fiction, publishing the work of Robert E. Howard, H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and later, Ray Bradbury. The magazine would also feature substantial efforts by Robert Bloch, August Derleth, Carl Jacobi, Henry Kuttner, Frank Belknap Long, C. L. Moore, Seabury Quinn, Manly Wade Wellman, Henry S. Whitehead, and others. It would likewise become noted for its artists. Hannes Bok, Margaret Brundage, Lee Brown Coye, and Virgil Finlay all contributed a great deal to the fantasy art field through their work for “The Unique Magazine.”

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, offering tales of interplanetary expeditions, brain transference, death rays, lost races, parallel worlds, and more. Edmond Hamilton was its leading contributor of science fiction. With stories about alien invasions, space police, and evolution gone wild, the author became known as “world-wrecker” Hamilton. Other notable science fiction in the magazine included work by Austin Hall, Otis Adelbert Kline, C. L. Moore, Donald Wandrei, and Jack Williamson. H. P. Lovecraft also weaved his own style of science fiction into his tales of cosmic horror.

During the late summer of 1926, H. P. Lovecraft wrote “The Call of Cthulhu.” Initially rejected by WEIRD TALES editor Farnsworth Wright, it was first published in “The Unique Magazine” in its February 1928 issue. Although three minor, related stories predated it in what has come to be known as “The Cthulhu Mythos,” “The Call of Cthulhu” is one of the author’s seminal works. As writer and Lovecraft correspondent Fritz Leiber observed, “Here for the first time, Lovecraft moves horror from the realm of Earth to the stars.”

In the years remaining to Lovecraft following the publication of “The Call of Cthulhu,” he expanded on its themes in such tales as “The Whisperer in Darkness,” “At the Mountains of Madness,” and “The Shadow Out of Time,” depicting a universe of mind-numbing horror that was a reflection of his own materialistic atheism. Lovecraft also invited other writers to pen their own tales using the “synthetic folklore” he had created. “I think it is rather good fun to have this artificial mythology given an air of verisimilitude by wide citation.”  Robert Bloch, August Derleth, Robert E. Howard, Henry Kuttner, Frank Belknap Long, and Clark Ashton Smith were some of the WEIRD TALES writers who authored their own “Mythos” fiction.

In later years — particularly following the death of “the old gentleman” — August Derleth worked to expand Lovecraft’s so-called “mythos,” albeit shaping it in a way that some scholars claim corrupted the original vision. Although he may have twisted H. P. Lovecraft’s ideas, Derleth also helped to popularize the author’s work. His Arkham House Publishers significantly expanded Lovecraft’s reputation, bringing the “Mythos” under the microscope of both academic and amateur scholars. Lovecraft’s stories became more widely read and popular, leading to adaptations in a variety of media including motion pictures, television, comic books, role-playing and video games, and even action figures and other toys. His stories are known the world over and though he lived much of his life in poverty, Lovecraft’s words and ideas have been transformed into a multi-million-dollar industry.

Although an important contributor to Lovecraft’s “Mythos,” Robert E. Howard’s greatest contribution to fantastic fiction was through his tales of Solomon Kane, Kull, and most importantly, Conan.

Howard became a regular contributor to “The Unique Magazine” in 1928, the same year that his first Solomon Kane story — “Red Shadows” — appeared. Kull of Atlantis would follow in 1929. Three years later, the first tale of Conan — “The Phoenix on the Sword” — would appear in the December 1932 WEIRD TALES.

“Conan seemed suddenly to grow up in my mind without much labor on my part and immediately a stream of stories flowed off my pen — or rather, off my typewriter — almost without effort on my part. I did not seem to be creating, but rather relating events that had occurred. Episode crowded on episode so fast that I could scarcely keep up with them. For weeks I did nothing but write of the adventures of Conan. The character took complete possession of my mind and crowded out everything else in the way of story-writing.”

In the stories about Solomon Kane, Kull, and Conan, Robert E. Howard created a genre. As Fritz Leiber wrote in the July 1961 issue of AMRA:

“I feel more certain than ever that this field should be called the sword-and-sorcery story. This accurately describes the points of culture-level and supernatural element and also immediately distinguishes it from the cloak-and-sword (historical adventure) story — and (quite incidentally) from the cloak-and-dagger (international espionage) story too!”

More than ninety years after the first publication of “Red Shadows,” Robert E. Howard’s sword-and-sorcery stories continue to resonate through popular culture. They have inspired motion pictures, comic books, television and animated series, action figures, role-playing and video games, and even heavy metal music and a live-action show at Universal Studios Hollywood. Most importantly, his fiction has inspired other writers to spin their own sword-and-sorcery stories. Lin Carter, Glen Cook, John Jakes, Henry Kuttner, Fritz Leiber, Michael Moorcock, C. L. Moore, Charles Saunders, Karl Edward Wagner, and others have all contributed to the genre that Howard popularized.

Not long after Robert E. Howard’s death in 1936, his friend and correspondent H. P. Lovecraft wrote: “It is hard to describe precisely what made Mr. Howard’s stories stand out so sharply; but the real secret is that he himself is in every one of them.”

Along with Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu” and Howard’s “Red Shadows,” Clark Ashton Smith’s first story for “The Unique Magazine” also appeared in 1928. Smith was the third member of the WEIRD TALES triumvirate. However, he has not achieved the acclaim of Howard and Lovecraft.

Largely self-taught, Clark Ashton Smith spent the majority of his life in Auburn, California, dwelling in a small cabin erected by his parents. He began to write in his youth and gained some notoriety as a poet. His blank verse poem, “The Hashish Eater,” brought Smith to the attention of H. P. Lovecraft. The pair began exchanging letters. Later, Smith also began corresponding with Robert E. Howard.

The advent of The Great Depression and the declining health of both his parents led Smith to fiction writing. Beginning in 1930 and running through 1936, he published nearly ninety stories, mainly in WEIRD TALES, WONDER STORIES, and STRANGE TALES OF MYSTERY AND TERROR.

Although his work has rarely appeared outside the printed page — a few stories were adapted for television, movies, the graphic format, and role-playing games — the fiction of Clark Ashton Smith inspired other writers.

In a letter to Donald Sidney-Fryer, Harlan Ellison wrote:

“It is often impossible to say where a man’s inspirations come from, but in the lineal descent of my own writings, I have no hesitation in saying had it not been for Clark Ashton Smith and the wonders he revealed to me, at that precise moment of my youth in which I was most malleable, most desperate for direction, I might well have gone in any one of the thousand other directions taken by my contemporaries, and wound up infinitely poorer in spirit, intellect, prestige and satisfaction than I am today. As I owe a great debt to science fiction as a whole, to fandom as a particular, and to the other writers who encouraged me in my work . . . I owe the greatest of debts to Clark Ashton Smith, for he truly opened up the universe for me.”

Other writers who owe a debt to Smith include Fritz Leiber, George R. R. Martin, Michael Moorcock, Jack Vance, Gene Wolfe, and most notably, Ray Bradbury:

“Looking back on the years when I was eleven and twelve, I remember two stories. The first was “The City of the Singing Flame,” the second was “Master of the Asteroid.” Both were by Clark Ashton Smith. These stories more than any others I can remember had everything to do with my decision, while in the seventh grade, to become a writer. In the hardbound book field there were a few writers, of course, who set me going, but in the short-story form CAS stood alone on my horizon. He filled my mind with incredible worlds, impossibly beautiful cities, and still more fantastic creatures on those worlds and in those cities. . . . Take one step across the threshold of his stories, and you plunge into color, sound, taste, smell, and texture — into language.”

“The Unique Magazine” has been inspiring all sorts of creators for ninety-six years. However, WEIRD TALES is just one 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,” an 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.

(The first issue of WEIRD TALES — dated March 1923 — featured cover art by R. R. Epperly. It is best remembered for publishing Anthony M. Rud’s “Ooze,” a story concerning a giant amoeba. Also featured in the issue were tales by pulpsters Otis Adelbert Kline, Joel Townsley Rogers, R. T. M. Scott, and Harold Ward. The issue was put together by Edwin Baird, the editor of the magazine until the November 1924 issue, when Wright took the helm.

Writer Alan Moore’s and artist Jacen Burrows’s PROVIDENCE  is a twelve-issue comic book series published by Avatar Press. According to the League of Comic Geeks, PROVIDENCE “deconstructs all of Lovecraft’s concepts, reinventing the entirety of his work inside a painstakingly researched framework of American history.” The series ran from 2015 through 2017.

Although Robert E. Howard’s work — particularly his Conan stories — had been collected in small press editions over the years, the Lancer and Ace paperback editions of 1966 – 1977 delivered the character to the masses. Lancer’s CONAN THE ADVENTURER — released in 1966 — was the first of the volumes. Undoubtedly, it was Frank Frazetta’s stunning cover artwork that initially sold the character to readers. However, it was Howard’s expressive writing that kept them clamoring for more.

C. C. Senf‘s cover for the January 1932 issue of WEIRD TALES is one of three illustrating a Clark Ashton Smith story. The others include the April 1938 issue, illustrating “The Garden of Adompha,” and the September 1947 number, illustrating “Quest of the Gazolba,” an abridged version of “The Voyage of King Euvoran.” The latter stories are beyond Smith’s period of active fiction-writing. By 1936, he had turned away from writing prose, concentrating instead on poetry, art, and sculpture.

To learn more about the influence of WEIRD TALES, please visit the PulpFest Instagram page.)

The Key of Imagination: Pulp Television

Jun 3, 2019 by

 

There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.

 

Sixty Years of THE TWILIGHT ZONE

 

Rod Serling’s THE TWILIGHT ZONE ran on CBS from 1959 to 1964. It remains in syndication to this very day. A new version of the series — narrated by filmmaker Jordan Peele — premiered on CBS All Access on April 1, 2019. Sixty years after its original debut, Rod Serling’s remarkable creation is still very much embedded in the public consciousness.

The creator of THE TWILIGHT ZONE was born on December 25, 1924 in Syracuse, New York. His brother, the late novelist and aviation writer Robert Serling, said: “We were fairly close as kids and we played together a hell of a lot, despite the seven-year difference. The two of us used to read AMAZING STORIES, ASTOUNDING STORIES, WEIRD TALES — all of the pulps. If we saw a movie together, we’d come home and act it out, just for the two of us.”

After serving in World War II as an army paratrooper, Rod Serling entered Antioch College in Ohio. He majored in language and literature and became involved in the college’s radio programming. While still in college, he began to sell his radio and television scripts. Long an admirer of Norman Corwin — a writer and producer who used entertainment to explore social issues — Serling complained that he was “. . . bitter about everything and at loose ends.” He began writing “. . . to get it off my chest.”

Rod Serling’s big break came in 1955 when KRAFT TELEVISION THEATER produced his drama, “Patterns.” It won the writer the first of his six Emmy awards. Serling’s “Requiem for a Heavyweight,” written for PLAYHOUSE 90, won him another Emmy in 1956. “The Comedian,” starring Mickey Rooney, won Serling a third Emmy  in 1958.

At the top of the entertainment world, but still dissatisfied, Rod Serling began to search for a new way to get things off his chest. He had previously written science fiction and fantasy while working for THE STORM, a television series that aired live in the Cincinnati area. He had also attempted to sell a few science fiction scripts to the ABC series, TALES OF TOMORROW. However, having written no published science fiction or fantasy and — according to author Ray Bradbury — knowing little about the field, Serling turned these genres for his first television series. In a 1963 interview published in the first issue of GAMMA, Rod Serling explained:

“Because I loved this area of imaginative storytelling — and because there had never been a TV series like it. The strength of TWILIGHT ZONE is that through parables, through placing a social problem or controversial theme against a fantasy background you can make a point which, if more blatantly stated in a realistic frame, wouldn’t be acceptable. Because of this from time to time, we’ve been able to make some pertinent social comments on conformity, on prejudice, on political ideologies, without sponsor interference. It offered a whole new outlet, a new approach.”

Although he wrote or adapted nearly sixty percent of the series’ 156 total episodes, Rod Serling also employed writers Ray Bradbury, Earl Hamner, Jr., Jerry Sohl, and his “three writing gremlins,” Charles Beaumont, George Clayton Johnson, and Richard Matheson, for the series. Most were actively writing science fiction or fantasy for the magazines of the day.

Join PulpFest 2019 on Friday, August 16, as we welcome Nicholas Parisi for “The Key of Imagination: THE TWILIGHT ZONE and the Pulps.” He will be discussing the creation and history of Rod Serling’s fantastic program and its relationship to the science fiction and fantasy pulps and digests. A former staff writer and editor for GOOD TIMES magazine, Nicholas is the author of ROD SERLING: HIS LIFE, WORK, AND IMAGINATION.

PulpFest 2019 will begin on Thursday, August 15, and run through Sunday, August 18.  Join PulpFest at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry, just north of Pennsylvania’s “Steel City” of Pittsburgh in Mars, PA.

To become a member of PulpFest 2019, click the Register button below our homepage banner. To book a room at the DoubleTree by Hilton — our host hotel — click the Book a Room button, also found on our homepage.

You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension — a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into the Twilight Zone.

(Rod Serling was interviewed for the first issue of GAMMA, a short-lived science fiction magazine that debuted in 1963. In addition to the Serling interview, five authors who wrote for THE TWILIGHT ZONE also had stories in the issue — Charles Beaumont, Ray Bradbury, George Clayton Johnson, Richard Matheson, and John Tomerlin. The cover painting for GAMMA #1 was by Morris Scott Dollens, an artist who got his start in the science fiction fanzines of the late 1930s.)

THE TWILIGHT ZONE’S Magic Man — Charles Beaumont

May 13, 2019 by

A prolific writer of both fiction and nonfiction, Charles Beaumont was born on January 2, 1929. According to award-winning writer and editor Roger Anker, “In a career which spanned a brief thirteen years,” Beaumont wrote and sold “ten books, seventy-four short stories, thirteen screenplays (nine of which were produced), two dozen articles and profiles, forty comic stories, fourteen columns, and over seventy teleplays.”

Beaumont grew up with the pulps. He wrote for PLAYBOY in 1962:

“Were they any good? No. They were great. DOC SAVAGE, THE SHADOW, THE SPIDER, G-8 AND HIS BATTLE ACES, THE PHANTOM, ADVENTURE, ARGOSY, BLUE BOOK, BLACK MASK, THRILLING WONDER STORIES, MARVEL TALES — and all the hundred-and-one other titles that bedizened the newsstands of America in the halcyon days — provided ecstasy and euphoria of a type unknown to this gloomy generation. They made to crawl deliciously young scalps. They inspired, excited, captivated, hypnotized — and, unexpectedly, instructed — the reckless young . . .”

During the summer of 1946, Beaumont met author Ray Bradbury in Los Angeles. Through a mutual interest in comic strips, the two became friends. Bradbury also became Beaumont’s writing mentor, reading and critiquing the budding author’s work. “When I read the first one, I said: ‘Yes. Very definitely. You are a writer,’ recalls Bradbury. ‘It showed immediately. . . . Chuck’s talent was obvious from that very first story.’”

Charles Beaumont’s professional writing career began with the novella, “The Devil, You Say?” published in the January 1951 issue of AMAZING STORIES. He was soon appearing in the pulps of his day — primarily digest magazines — IF, IMAGINATION, INFINITY SCIENCE FICTION, THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, MANHUNT, ORBIT SCIENCE FICTION and others. In September 1954, Beaumont’s “Black Country” appeared in PLAYBOY. Before long, his stories were appearing in prestigious magazines such as COLLIER’S, ESQUIRE, and THE SATURDAY EVENING POST.

Beaumont also began to write for television, authoring episodes for programs including ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS, THE D. A.’S MANFOUR STAR PLAYHOUSE, HAVE GUN, WILL TRAVEL, NAKED CITY, ONE STEP BEYOND, ROUTE 66, THRILLER, WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE, and, most importantly, THE TWILIGHT ZONEBeaumont wrote twenty-two episodes for Rod Serling’s classic series including “The Howling Man,” “Living Doll,” and “Number 12 Looks Just Like You.” He also authored a number of screenplays including THE HAUNTED PALACE, THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, and THE CIRCUS OF DR. LAO.

At the height of his writing career, Beaumont began to suffer from a mysterious ailment. “By 1964, he could no longer write. Meetings with producers turned disastrous. His speech became slower, more deliberate. His concentration worsened. . . . after a battery of tests at UCLA, Beaumont was diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s Disease; he faced premature senility, aging, and an early death.” He died on February 21, 1967 at the age of thirty-eight.

Join PulpFest 2019 on Friday, August 16, for an authorized screening of Jason and Sunni Brock’s documentary, CHARLES BEAUMONT: THE SHORT LIFE OF TWILIGHT ZONE’S MAGIC MAN. “The story of a man whose life was in many ways more incredible than any of his stories,” the film features Forrest J Ackerman, Christopher Beaumont, Ray Bradbury, Roger Corman, Harlan Ellison, George Clayton Johnson, S. T. Joshi, Richard Matheson, William F. Nolan, William Shatner, John Shirley, John Tomerlin, and others.

PulpFest 2019 will begin on Thursday, August 15, and run through Sunday, August 18.  Join PulpFest at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry, just north of Pennsylvania’s “Steel City” of Pittsburgh. To join PulpFest 2019, click the Register button below our homepage banner. To book a room at the DoubleTree by Hilton — our host hotel — click the Book a Room button, also found on our homepage.

(Although Charles Beaumont is highly regarded for the teleplays that he wrote for Rod Serling’s THE TWILIGHT ZONE, he started as a pulp writer. Following his initial appearance in AMAZING STORIES, his second published story — “The Beautiful People” — appeared in the September 1952 issue of IF: WORLDS OF SCIENCE FICTION. The author was prominently listed on the magazine’s cover, which featured a painting by Ralph Joiner. In 1963, the story was adapted by John Tomerlin for THE TWILIGHT ZONE. It was first broadcast on January 24, 1964 as “Number 12 Looks Just Like You.”

If you can’t wait for our special viewing of CHARLES BEAUMONT: THE SHORT LIFE OF TWILIGHT ZONE’S MAGIC MAN, you can pick up a copy via Amazon or by clicking here.)

 

Charles Beaumont — A Child of the Pulps

Jan 2, 2019 by

What were the pulps?

Cheaply printed, luridly illustrated, sensationally written magazines of fiction aimed at the lower- and lower-middle-classes.

Were they any good? No. They were great.

DOC SAVAGE, THE SHADOW, THE SPIDER, G-8 AND HIS BATTLE ACES, THE PHANTOM, ADVENTURE, ARGOSY, BLUE BOOK, BLACK MASK, THRILLING WONDER STORIES, MARVEL TALES — and all the hundred-and-one other titles that bedizened the newsstands of America in the halcyon days — provided ecstasy and euphoria of a type unknown to this gloomy generation. They made to crawl deliciously young scalps. They inspired, excited, captivated, hypnotized — and, unexpectedly, instructed — the reckless young . . .

We gave ourselves over wholly to the habit and pursuit of the most potent literary drug known to boy, and all of us suffer withdrawal symptoms to this day.

Charles Beaumont wrote these words for the September 1962 issue of PLAYBOY. He later expanded “The Bloody Pulps” into a chapter for his last book — REMEMBER? REMEMBER? — published by MacMillan in 1963.

A prolific writer of both fiction and nonfiction, Beaumont was born Charles Leroy Nutt on this very day in 1929. According to award-winning writer and editor Roger Anker, “In a career which spanned a brief thirteen years,” Beaumont wrote and sold “ten books, seventy-four short stories, thirteen screenplays (nine of which were produced), two dozen articles and profiles, forty comic stories, fourteen columns, and over seventy teleplays.”

As a teenager, Charles Beaumont published his own fanzine, UTOPIA, and began writing letters to the science fiction pulps. He also began to draw. Collaborating with Ronald Clyne, Beaumont broke into print with a cartoon, published in the October 1943 number of FANTASTIC ADVENTURES. Although he “worked hard, managed to crack most of the pulp magazines with illustrations, graduated to book jackets and slick magazine cartoons,” Beaumont decided he was not an artist. Instead, he turned to writing.

During the summer of 1946, Beaumont met author Ray Bradbury in Los Angeles. Through a mutual interest in comic strips, the two became friends. Bradbury also became Beaumont’s writing mentor, reading and critiquing the budding author’s work. “When I read the first one, I said: ‘Yes. Very definitely. You are a writer,’ recalls Bradbury. ‘It showed immediately. . . . Chuck’s talent was obvious from that very first story.'”

Charles Beaumont’s professional writing career began with the novella, “The Devil, You Say?” published in the January 1951 issue of AMAZING STORIES. Before long, he was appearing in the pulps of his day — primarily digest magazines — IF, IMAGINATION, INFINITY SCIENCE FICTION, THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, MANHUNT, ORBIT SCIENCE FICTION and others. In September 1954, Beaumont’s “Black Country” appeared in PLAYBOY. Before long, his stories were appearing in prestigious magazines such as COLLIER’S, ESQUIRE, and THE SATURDAY EVENING POST.

Beaumont also began to write for television, authoring episodes for programs including ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS, THE D. A.’S MAN, FOUR STAR PLAYHOUSE, HAVE GUN, WILL TRAVEL, NAKED CITY, ONE STEP BEYOND, ROUTE 66, THRILLER, WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE, and, most importantly, THE TWILIGHT ZONEBeaumont wrote twenty-two episodes for Rod Serling’s classic series. He also penned a number of screenplays including THE HAUNTED PALACE, THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, and THE CIRCUS OF DR. LAO.

At the height of his writing career, Beaumont began to suffer from a mysterious ailment. “By 1964, he could no longer write. Meetings with producers turned disastrous. His speech became slower, more deliberate. His concentration worsened. . . . after a battery of tests at UCLA, Beaumont was diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s Disease; he faced premature senility, aging, and an early death.” Charles Beaumont died on February 21, 1967 at the age of thirty-eight.

Today, we honor the ninetieth anniversary of the birth of Charles Beaumont. From August 15 – 18, PulpFest 2019 will celebrate this fine author and other “Children of the Pulps.” You can click here to download the convention’s 2019 member registration form. You can also book a room directly through the PulpFest website. Just below the PulpFest banner at the top of the convention’s home page,  you’ll find a link that reads “Book a Room.” Click the link and you’ll be redirected to a secure site where you can place your reservation.

We hope to see you this August at the beautiful DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry in Mars, PA.

(Charles Beaumont was about ten years old when the first issue of PLANET STORIES — dated Winter 1939 and featuring front cover art by Frank R. Paul — appeared on American newsstands. He was the perfect age to become “A Child of the Pulps.” Again, we quote from Beaumont’s “The Bloody Pulps,” first published in the September 1962 PLAYBOY:

“If you were a prepubescent American male in the Twenties, the Thirties or the Forties, chances are you performed the ritual. If you were a little too tall, a little too short, a little too fat, skinny, pimply, an only child, painfully shy, awkward, scared of girls, terrified of bullies, poor at your schoolwork (not because you weren’t bright but because you wouldn’t apply yourself), uncomfortable in large crowds, given to brooding, and totally and overwhelmingly convinced of your personal inadequacy in any situation, then you certainly performed it.

Which is to say, you worshiped at the shrine of the pulps.”

Although Beaumont would break into the pulps proper with a story in the January 1951 issue of AMAZING STORIES, most of his early fiction would appear in the science fiction digests. One of these — ORBIT SCIENCE FICTION — featured three Beaumont tales, including “Hair of the Dog” in its July-August 1954 number. Leading pulp artist, Rudolph Belarski, would contribute the front cover art for the issue.)

The AMAZING Story: The Forties — “Gimme Bang-Bang”

Feb 25, 2016 by

Slider AMAZING STORIES 1944-05

Ray Palmer and the AMAZING Shaver Mystery

Amazing Stories 40-04To many who recall it, the AMAZING STORIES of the 1940s represented the era of the Shaver Mystery. It is probably fair to say that the Shaver phenomenon colored the judgment of many who dismiss the contents of AMAZING during this time as sensationalistic rubbish because of the so-called “crackpot” element that was attracted to the magazine. And crackpots there were, but that is not the whole story.

Raymond A. Palmer, the young new editor of AMAZING at the start of this decade, has been damned by history far more than he deserves — though it must be admitted that in later years he did more or less encourage his isolation. A succession of illnesses and accidents left Palmer a lonely child. One accident left him malformed from a curvature of the spine. In adult life he was only a little more than four feet tall. But what he lacked in height, he made up for in dynamism and showmanship.

One of the factors that led to Palmer’s later isolation was that he started his tenure as editor at the same time that John W. Campbell came on the scene at ASTOUNDING STORIES. Campbell instigated a policy of publishing serious, mature, and above all believable science fiction. He developed a coterie of new writers — including Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Theodore Sturgeon, Lester del Rey, and, believe it or not, L. Ron Hubbard — who could feed off his ideas, as he could feed off theirs. Partly because of these interchanges, the work of these authors ushered in the so-called Golden Age of science fiction.

Palmer, on the other hand, went for fun and games, treating science fiction lightheartedly and aiming at a younger, less sophisticated readership. As a consequence, science fiction polarized between Campbell’s science-forecasters at one extreme and Palmer’s laboratory playpit at the other. That’s not to say that Palmer published only puerile trivia. But because he was science fiction’s renegade, many are ready to dismiss too easily the fiction that he did publish. From today’s vantage point, though, one might argue that under Palmer, AMAZING published a 1940s’ version of “pop” or “punk” science fiction, and its pages during that decade hold some surprises.

At the outset, it must be recalled that Palmer was trying to rebuild AMAZING‘s circulation and rectify years of damage caused by T. O’Conor Sloane’s handling of the magazine. By 1938 AMAZING had stagnated, and Palmer’s first move was to enliven it with bold, gaudy, action-packed covers reflecting the fast-paced, thrill-a-minute contents. When his writers asked what type of fiction he wanted, Palmer’s simple answer was “Gimme bang-bang.” Palmer had little time for the cerebral style of sf that was emerging in ASTOUNDING. He wanted superficial, escapist enjoyment, similar to the scientific romances that the pulp magazines had published before Hugo Gernsback launched AMAZING STORIES in 1926, but less sophisticated.

Amazing Stories 41-06Palmer wanted to recapture the fun of the early pulps. He was fortunate in being able to secure three groups of stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs, set respectively in his worlds of Mars, Venus, and Pellucidar. These ran through 1941 and 1942. Although Burroughs’s fortunes had declined in recent years, his name still captured the imagination of old and young alike. The first appearance of an original Burroughs story in AMAZING, however, caused a controversy. The January 1941 issue carried the novelette “John Carter and the Giant of Mars,” but many readers, who were dedicated Burroughs fans, felt this story did not read as if the master had written it. The letters flooded in. The truth was not revealed at the time, but Irwin Porges, in his massive biography of Burroughs, THE MAN WHO CREATED TARZAN, asserts that the story had been written jointly with Burroughs’s son, John Coleman.

Palmer didn’t mind controversy — it helped sell issues. Moreover, ever the Burroughs fan, he favored fiction written in the Burroughs style, and both AMAZING and its companion FANTASTIC ADVENTURES (which Ziff-Davis began to publish with its May 1939 issue) had a strong Burroughsian flavor during the early 1940s. This is especially evident in the work of Ralph Milne Farley and Robert Moore Williams.

Farley had apparently been approached to edit AMAZING STORIES when Ziff-Davis first acquired it in 1938, and had recommended Palmer instead. In the twenties he had written his own Burroughsian-style “Radio Man” series for ARGOSY, set on Venus. The scientist-adventurer of those stories, Miles Cabot, was resurrected in Amazing in “The Radio Man Returns” (June 1939). Stories by Farley, some of them serialized over more than one issue, appeared in eight issues of the magazine during 1939 and 1940.

Williams, who became one of AMAZING‘s most prolific contributors, was a skillful adventure writer, and it is rumored that his Tarzan-like novella “Jongor of Lost Land” changed the fortunes of FANTASTIC ADVENTURES (for the better) after it appeared in that magazine’s October 1940 issue. His initial appearance in AMAZING was with “The Man Who Ruled the World” in June 1938 — the first issue that carried Palmer’s name as editor.

Palmer also used the artistic skills of J. Allen St. John to illustrate the Burroughs stories, as well as several covers, and there is little doubt that all these factors contributed to the continuing growth in AMAZING‘s circulation during the early part of the decade.

Amazing Stories 42-07Another echo from the past was “Anthony Gilmore,” the pseudonym under which Harry Bates and Desmond Hall had written their Hawk Carse stories when they were editors of ASTOUNDING. The Hawk Carse stories were space opera at its worst, but they remained sentimentally entrenched in the minds of some fans. Palmer commissioned Bates to write a short novel, “The Return of Hawk Carse” (July 1942). The fact that the story was not well received is at least some measure of the degree by which science fiction had advanced, even at AMAZING‘s juvenile level.

Palmer brought together other writers from the early days of magazine sf, and allowed them free rein with unabashed scientific adventures. Primary among them were Edmond Hamilton, Ross Rocklynne, Manly Wade Wellman, Raymond Z. Gallun, Ed Earl Repp, Stanton A. Coblentz, and Eando Binder. Although they were capable of more serious science fiction (and occasionally proved it in other magazines), they used AMAZING as their knockabout backyard. Stories followed simple plots: they were either gangster stories transposed into space, with villains chasing and being chased around the solar system; or they were war stories in space; or they were tales about bizarre inventions, often with madcap results.

Typical stories of the period by members of this group, which can be generally categorized by their titles alone, include “Treasure on Thunder Moon” by Hamilton (April 1942); “Warrior Queen of Lolarth” by Rocklynne (May 1943); “Suicide-Rocket” by Wellman (March 1942); “Terror out of the Past” by Gallun (March 1940); “The Secret of Planetoid 88” by Repp (December 1941); and “The Cosmic Deflector” by Coblentz (January 1943).

Occasionally, Palmer would acquire fiction from more serious or aspiring writers, including Isaac Asimov, John Beynon (full legal name John Beynon Harris; later known as John Wyndham), and Eric Frank Russell.

“Marooned Off Vesta” (March 1939) was Asimov’s first published story. “The Weapon Too Dreadful to Use” followed in the May 1939 magazine, but Asimov soon became a member of Campbell’s stable at ASTOUNDING and only had one more story in AMAZING during the 1940s (“Robot AL 76 Goes Astray” February 1942).

Beynon’s stories in AMAZING during the early years of Palmer’s tenure were “Judson’s Annihilator” (October 1939, a standard sf war story, and “Phoney Meteor” (March 1941), a clever tale about alien invasion.

Russell’s first appearance in the magazine, and his only one during the decade, was with “Mr. Wisel’s Secret” in February 1942, the same issue that contained the aforementioned Asimov story.

Amazing Stories 44-05Those were, and are, noteworthy writers, and there were others, but of greatest significance were the stories by Ray Bradbury. Bradbury had an unbridled talent for giving his stories an offbeat originality, something that appealed more to Palmer than to Campbell. His “I, Rocket” (May 1944) is an adventure story from the viewpoint of a sentient rocket, published more than fifteen years before Anne McCaffrey would write “The Ship Who Sang.” Ten years after the appearance of the work, Campbell was still referring to Bradbury’s rocket as his “fairy ship,” since the story was devoid of the hardware for which Campbell yearned. Bradbury was also represented in the magazine by “Undersea Guardians” (December 1944), “Final Victim” (co-credited with Henry Hasse, February 1946), and “Chrysalis” (July 1946).

Unfortunately, challenging stories were the exception rather than the rule in AMAZING STORIES at this point in time. By the early 1940s, Palmer had developed a stable of local (Chicago-based) writers who could write to order, often producing stories around cover paintings by Harold McCauley, Robert Gibson Jones, or Malcolm Smith. The mainstays were Don Wilcox, Robert Moore Williams, David Wright O’Brien, William P. McGivern, Leroy Yerxa, and David Vem, plus (later in the decade) Chester S. Geier, Berkeley Livingston, and William L. Hamling.

Of these, Wilcox was the oldest. He approached his writing more seriously than the others, and scored early with a memorable story, “The Voyage That Lasted 600 Years” (October 1940), based on his sociological studies. It was a pioneer work on the subject of the first generation starship.

O’Brien was regarded as the most talented of these writers. A nephew of Farnsworth Wright, editor of WEIRD TALES, he was 22 years old when his first story (“Truth Is a Plague!”) appeared in AMAZING in the February 1940 issue. O’Brien had a fertile mind, an abundance of youthful exuberance, and an infectious sense of humor. He shared an office with McGivern, who was only 16 years old when he made his debut in May 1940 with “John Brown’s Body,” co-written with O’Brien.

Amazing Stories 44-03The two of them were able to write just about any story to Palmer’s order. Sometimes the stories were serious, sometimes spooky, but usually they were madcap, designed for nothing but entertainment. Palmer often endowed these stories with his own zany titles, so that the pages of AMAZING STORIES and FANTASTIC ADVENTURES contained stories such as “The Quandary of Quintus Quaggle” (by McGivern, AS June 1941); “Mr. Muddle Does as He Pleases” (McGivern and O’Brien, AS August 1941); “Ferdinand Finknodle’s Perfect Day” (O’Brien, AS September 1941); “The Strange Voyage of Hector Squinch” (O’Brien, FA August 1940); “Sidney, the Screwloose Robot” (McGivern, FA June 1941), and “Rewbarb’s Remarkable Radio” (McGivern, FA December 1941). In many ways the stories of this sort read like P. G. Wodehouse meets AMAZING STORIES, and certainly the readers appreciated this lighthearted fare, which was unavailable elsewhere. Robert Bloch made the best of the situation with a whole series of stories in FANTASTIC ADVENTURES about Lefty Feep, a rather lovable layabout who manages to fall into and out of trouble.

Although forgotten today, Leroy Yerxa was among the most prolific contributors to the Ziff-Davis magazines. He was twenty-seven years old when his first story, “Death Rides at Night” appeared under his own name in the August 1942 AMAZING. In the next four years, till his untimely death in 1946, he sold more than seventy stories to Palmer for AMAZING STORIES and FANTASTIC ADVENTURES, with many of those published pseudonymously. He is rumored to have written an entire issue of FANTASTIC ADVENTURES (possibly the one for December 1943). While other writers wrote more, their output was not concentrated in such a short, intense period. Possibly Yerxa’s only rival in this regard was David Wright O’Brien, who in the five years from 1940 through 1944 sold more than a hundred stories to Palmer, not counting his collaborations with McGivern.

Palmer’s core of writers were so prolific that they could fill every issue. To avoid the frequent recurrence of names, the authors used various personal pseudonyms, some of which were later adopted by other authors. For instance, “Lee Francis” began as a pen name of Leroy Yerxa’s, but after his death in 1946 it was used by others, including Hamling. In addition, a practice began of creating a number of house names. These nom de plumes were originally used to hide the identities of the various editorial personnel working on the magazine, especially David Vern.

Vern was a precocious, hyperactive young editorial assistant who came from New York to the Chicago office to help Palmer with the work arising from the expansion of the magazine line. (In addition to AMAZING STORIES and its new companion FANTASTIC ADVENTURES, Palmer was also editing RED STAR ADVENTURES and SOUTH SEA STORIES.)

Vern was also a passable writer, and his work started to appear in both magazines under the names of “Peter Horn,” “David V. Reed,” and “Alexander Blade.” (His first contribution to AMAZING was “Where Is Roger Davis?” in the May 1939 issue under the “Reed” pseudonym.) However, when Vern returned to New York after a few years these names, particularly “Alexander Blade,” were assigned to a variety of other writers.

Back cover of Amazing Stories 41-05Other house names emerged, including “P. F. Costello,” “Gerald Vance,” “E. K. Jarvis,” and “S. M. Tenneshaw” — originally used by McGivern, O’Brien, Williams, and Hamling, respectively. O’Brien also wrote as “John York Cabot” and (perhaps in homage to his uncle) “Duncan Farnsworth.” Palmer himself produced more than a dozen pieces of writing for AMAZING during the 1940s, using a variety of pseudonyms including “A. R. Steber,” “Morris J. Steele,” “Frank Patton,” “Henry Gade,” “Wallace Quitman,” and “G. H. Irwin.” Clearly, at times it could be difficult to tell the players even with a scorecard. Despite the efforts of a number of researchers over the years, many of the true authors of house name stories remain unidentified (although work that Kenneth R. Johnson is currently doing is close to cracking open the final parts of the mystery). (It is not known if Johnson ever solved “the final parts of the mystery.” However, since Johnson’s research into the subject has, to our knowledge, never been released, it seems unlikely that he did so.)

A strong family atmosphere prevailed in the Ziff-Davis offices in Chicago during this period, with Palmer looking after his boys. Wilcox, who is still active after all these years (Wilcox remained active until his death in the year 2000) though more now as a portrait painter than as a writer, has shared many memories of those days with me. “A card game, usually gin rummy, would be occupying the attention of editors and their assistants,” he recalled. “The fellows must have done their work at night. On check days, Palmer’s office might be a gathering place for several new writers, new faces, all ready to register disappointment if the checks hadn’t come in on time.”

Palmer had a fast-working, versatile mind. Wilcox has a clear memory of him furiously pounding his typewriter at high speed. On one occasion Wilcox had become too deeply involved in his story “The Lost Race Comes Back,” written around a cover painting by J. Allen St. John, and couldn’t finish it. Palmer promptly read the story and completed it himself there and then to meet the deadline. (The story appears in the May 1941 issue.)

The outward signs of AMAZING‘s success were its regularity — published once a month for five years beginning in November 1938 — and an increased number of pages. During 1941 and 1942 the page count rose from 144 up to 240 and all the way to 272. Even after the onset of World War II and the subsequent paper rationing, the magazine kept to 208 pages for a time (later shrinking to 180), remaining constantly the best value in bulk for money. But as war rationing continued to bite into the publishing industry, AMAZING was forced to cut back on its production schedule. In late 1943 the magazine shifted to bimonthly, and then to quarterly after the following summer, not returning to monthly publication until the June 1946 issue.

Amazing Stories 42-03Palmer supported the war effort by publishing the largest quota of anti-Nazi propagandist fiction of any sf magazine. Much of it made fun of the German war effort, but some stories were serious in tone. Palmer contributed a number himself, such as “A Patriot Never Dies” (August 1943) and “War Worker 17” (September 1943), both under his “Frank Patton” alias. The latter appeared in an issue dedicated to women war workers. The September 1944 magazine was a special war issue; every story in it was identified as having been written by a member of the military, and it also contained letters from the troops.

The most significant contributor to that issue was Corporal David Wright O’Brien, with three stories — one under his real name and one each attributed to “Corporal John York Cabot” and “Corporal Duncan Farnsworth.” The AMAZING office was shocked when O’Brien, who served in the U. S. Air Force, was shot down and killed over Berlin later that year at the age of twenty-six. He had been a personable, friendly young man with an effervescent writing talent, and there is no doubt that he would have followed his close friend William McGivern into the big time if he had survived the war.

During the war years, Ziff-Davis began publishing two new mystery magazines, MAMMOTH DETECTIVE, which started in May 1942, and MAMMOTH MYSTERY, which came out in February 1945. (These magazines gave McGivern the grounding that later helped to establish him as one of the top thriller writers.) To help Palmer edit these new titles, Bernard Davis brought in 34-year-old Howard Browne, a solid, no-nonsense detective writer of the Chandler school.

Browne had no interest in science fiction, though he enjoyed the fantasies in FANTASTIC ADVENTURES. Ironically, however, his first appearance as a writer was in AMAZING. Palmer talked Browne into writing a novel set in prehistoric times, “Warrior of the Dawn,” which was serialized in late 1942 and early 1943. Adventures in prehistory, usually written in the Burroughsian style, were regular fare in both AMAZING and FANTASTIC ADVENTURES during the early years of Palmer’s tenure as editor. Among the most popular offerings were Manly Wade Wellman’s series of stories about Hok, a Stone Age warrior who was a prototype for Hercules. Hok fought his way through five adventures, including ones set in ancient Greece and Atlantis.

Amazing Stories 41-09The lost continents of Atlantis, Lemuria, and Mu all figured prominently in both magazines. For instance, “Adventure in Lemuria” by Frederic Arnold Kummer, Jr., appeared in the first issue of FANTASTIC ADVENTURES (May 1939), and was followed by several sequels. Stanton A. Coblentz’s “Enchantress of Lemuria” was the lead novel in the September 1941 issue of AMAZING. In addition, in that same issue L. Taylor Hansen began a column on scientific mysteries, which dealt with Gondwanaland, Atlantis, and other puzzles from before the dawn of science.

Thus, readers of AMAZING became accustomed to Palmer’s fascination with ancient mysteries, and when Richard S. Shaver appeared in the March 1945 issue with a piece entitled “I Remember Lemuria,” the story should have come as no surprise. Nor would it have — except that Palmer claimed the story was based on truth!

Shaver maintained that eons ago, the earth had been inhabited by two super-races, the Titans and the Atlans. As time passed, they were forced underground by increasingly harmful radiation from the sun. They established vast subterranean caverns full of advanced scientific equipment. Eventually the sun’s radiation became too harmful, and both races were forced to abandon the planet. They left their scientific equipment behind, and it was later discovered by an inferior race of humans who tampered with the machinery and came under its control. Over the millennia these humans degenerated into deranged robots, or, in Shaver-speak, “deros.” It is the harmful rays and evil thoughts generated from the machines by these deros that have caused mankind to fall from grace, and are the cause of all of humanity’s ills. With the world in the grips of a war that was entering its final months, such a message, if indeed it were true, came as a sign of hope to many readers. If all evils came from external influences, then they could be stopped, and mankind would revert to its natural good state, and all would be well!

The origin of the Shaver stories has at times seemed confusing, though Palmer reported it himself clearly on many occasions, and Howard Browne had a vivid recollection of the events. Some years ago Browne recounted his memories to me: Shaver had submitted a two-page letter to AMAZING under the heading “Warning to Future Man.” Browne was the first one to read it. He remarked to Palmer that “the screwballs were blooming early” that year, and tossed the manuscript into the wastebasket. Palmer promptly retrieved it and said to Browne, “Let me give you a lesson in creative editing.” He thereupon sat down, read the manuscript, and wrote a novelette around it — the piece of writing that was published as “I Remember Lemuria.” Palmer then discovered Shaver had several longer stories in his possession. Palmer bought them, rewrote them extensively, and published them. As time went on, under Palmer’s guidance, Shaver wrote more and more stories himself, but the initial ones were shaped and crafted by Palmer.

Amazing Stories 47-06Prior to the appearance of the Shaver stories, AMAZING was selling around 125,000 copies per issue. The March 1945 issue had a larger than normal print run — and it soon sold out. Letters from readers poured in, and with the next issue, featuring Shaver’s “Thought Records of Lemuria,” circulation approached 200,000. Palmer’s employees were impressed, and Palmer overtly promoted the Shaver Mystery for all it was worth. There was a Shaver story in almost every issue for the next two years, culminating in an all-Shaver issue for June 1947. Other writers also contributed stories in the same vein, including Chester Geier, who founded the Shaver Mystery Club, and German writer Heinrich Hauser, then living in Chicago, who added two linked novels, “Agharti” (June 1946) and “Titans’ Battle” (March 1947).

It is not clear how much Palmer was milking the gullible, as any entrepreneur might. He left mixed messages over the years. In all likelihood Palmer, the victim of many handicaps and misfortunes, wanted to believe it, and was prepared to go along with it all the time it sustained sales.

Shaver was certainly sincere. When I corresponded with him in the 1970s, he still maintained the truth of his experiences and observations. By then he was pursuing ancient records in the rocks, where he believed the true history of Atlan was written.

Science fiction fans were less enthusiastic, and they became hostile to AMAZING‘s editor. Palmer, who only ten years earlier had been one of the leading sf fans, attempted some reconciliation by instigating a fan column in the March 1948 issue, “The Club House,” prepared by Rog Phillips. But on the whole, the sf fans formed only a small part of the readership of AMAZING, and if they had to be antagonized for the sake of sales, why should Palmer worry?

Eventually such leading magazines as HARPER’S and ATLANTIC MONTHLY began to notice and criticize the crackpot elements of the Shaver Mystery, and the story goes (according to him) that Palmer was told to soft-pedal the topic thereafter. Whether that is true or not, I don’t know, since it would seem surprising for a publisher to act negatively in reaction to such publicity. (One learns never to take too seriously anything Palmer says.) The fact remains that by the end of 1946, Davis had been elevated within the company, and Ray Palmer followed him up the ladder to become overall editorial director. He was given a salary increase of around $250 a month and even more freedom with the magazines.

Palmer’s next move, though, was rather devious. During 1947, he shut down MAMMOTH DETECTIVEMAMMOTH MYSTERY, and the recently created MAMMOTH ADVENTURES. He placed William Hamling in editorial control of the two magazines — AMAZING STORIES and FANTASTIC ADVENTURES — while Howard Browne took a leave of absence during which he wrote three mystery novels.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Palmer invested his money in establishing the Clark Publishing Company and, in May 1948, launched the magazine FATE. Robert N. Webster (an alias of Palmer’s) was identified as the publisher of the new magazine.

Palmer had come to realize that much wealth lay in appealing to the fringe cults. Following the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the world had not only awoken to the terrifying consequences of science, but also to other possibilities. One such was that man’s advance into the nuclear age had been the sign to alien observers that man was becoming a danger to himself and his planet, and he had to be kept under closer observation. Hence, the sudden wave of flying saucer sightings. Palmer had been one of the first to promote “ufology” in the pages of AMAZING. Now he could use FATE as he wished to pander to all of the occult sciences. As a consequence, that type of material was siphoned from AMAZING to FATE.

Amazing Stories 47-09With that shift, the quality of fiction in AMAZING improved marginally. Theodore Sturgeon put in a surprise appearance with “Blabbermouth” (February 1947), a story probably switched from the inventory of FANTASTIC ADVENTURES. Edmond Hamilton, ever an old reliable, who during the early 1940s had scored with his Captain Future stories in the magazine of the same name, wrote “The Star Kings” (September 1947), a space opera par excellence, again in the Burroughs tradition. There were also some readable, non-Shaverian stories from Rog Phillips, Chester Geier, and Don Wilcox, but by and large the mid to late 1940s saw AMAZING at its lowest point in quality — yet its highest in circulation!

Palmer’s link with the magazine grew more tenuous as FATE became more popular. By mid-1949 his plans were well advanced for a new science-fiction magazine, OTHER WORLDS, which appeared in October (cover date November). Palmer continued to produce both FATE and OTHER WORLDS under the Webster alias until he was satisfied that both magazines were established. He then resigned from Ziff-Davis, and Howard Browne came back from his leave of absence to take over editorial control of the magazines, with Hamling staying on as his assistant. The January 1950 issue was the first one to list Browne as editor.

Browne may not have liked science fiction very much, but he knew a good story when he saw one, and was dedicated to acting responsibly in his new role. The end of 1949 saw him discarding several hundred thousand words of Shaver-inspired material, as he sought to re-establish the magazine’s credibility. His successes and failures make up the next part of “The AMAZING Story.”

“The AMAZING Story: The Forties — ‘Gimme Bang-Bang'” 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 March 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, February 29th, for the fourth segment of the series.

(Concerning our illustrations . . . . The AMAZING STORIES for April 1940 with cover art by H. R. Hammond — the artist’s only cover for the magazine — was a typical issue for the decade. When Ray Palmer was named managing editor in 1938, he established a new policy for lively, adventurous stories aimed at a young market. He wanted superficial, escapist enjoyment, similar to the scientific romances that the pulp magazines had once published, but less sophisticated. David Wright O’Brien’s “Fish Men of Venus” was the usual fare for the Palmer era of the magazine.

During the early forties, Palmer was fortunate in being able to secure three groups of stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs, set respectively in his worlds of Mars, Venus, and Pellucidar. The six Martian stories that Burroughs sold to AMAZING STORIES — including “Black Pirates of Barsoom,” published in the June 1941 issue of AMAZING STORIES with front cover art by J. Allen St. John — formed the basis for the author’s final two books in his Mars series — LLANA OF GATHOL and JOHN CARTER OF MARS.

One of the finest artists to contribute cover art to Ray Palmer’s AMAZING STORIES was J. Allen St. John. A native of Chicago —  where AMAZING STORIES was produced — he began to work for various Midwestern publishers — including the A. C. McClurg Company of Chicago — in the early 1900s.  In 1915 he illustrated chapter headings for Edgar Rice Burroughs’ THE RETURN OF TARZAN, published by McClurg. Thus began the artist’s long association with Burroughs, the work for which he is most renowned. St. John also painted the front cover art for the July 1942 issue of AMAZING STORIES, featuring “The Return of Hawk Carse.”

The May 1944 AMAZING STORIES —  with front cover art by Malcolm Smith —  featured what John W. Campbell labeled Ray Bradbury’s “fairy ship,” in “I, Rocket,” the classic tale related from the viewpoint of a sentient space ship. A native of Tennessee, Smith studied at the American Academy of Art in Chicago. His first cover for AMAZING was the January 1942 number. Smith also contributed covers and illustrations to FANTASTIC ADVENTURES and Ziff-Davis’s MAMMOTH line of pulp magazines. During the fifties, he produced covers for IMAGINATION, MYSTIC, OTHER WORLDS, and other pulp and digest magazines.

J. Allen St. John began contributing cover art to the pulps during the Great Depression, painting covers for WEIRD TALES and its companions — ORIENTAL STORIES and THE MAGIC CARPET. During the 1940s, he contributed two dozen covers to Ray Palmer’s AMAZING STORIES and FANTASTIC ADVENTURES, including the March 1944 issue of AMAZING.

Ray Palmer was one of the leading science fiction fans when he became the managing editor of AMAZING STORIES. In order to attract other members of fandom to his magazine, Palmer added such features as “Correspondence Corner,” “Collectors’ Corner,” “Meet the Authors,” and a back cover painting. Many of the latter featured the work of Frank R. Paul, including the May 1941 issue. Frank Paul was the artist most preferred by Hugo Gernsback during the early years of AMAZING STORIES.

Joseph Wirt Tillotson, who signed his work “Robert Fuqua,” was managing editor Ray Palmer’s favored cover artist from the get-go. Beginning with the October 1938 issue of AMAZING STORIES through the January 1944 number, Fuqua contributed nearly three-dozen covers — including the March 1942 and September 1941 issues — to the magazine and its companion title, FANTASTIC ADVENTURES.

A native of Toledo, Ohio, Robert Gibson Jones began working as a commercial artist in the city of Chicago during the second decade of the twentieth century. His first known pulp magazine cover was the August 1942 issue of Ziff Davis’s FANTASTIC ADVENTURES. Over the next ten years, Jones contributed ninety front covers to FANTASTIC and its companion, AMAZING STORIES, including the June 1947 number. He also painted covers for the publisher’s MAMMOTH line of pulp magazines. His last known cover for the publisher is the December 1952 issue of FANTASTIC ADVENTURES. During the fifties, he contributed covers to OTHER WORLDS and UNIVERSE SCIENCE FICTION.

The September 1947 AMAZING STORIES — with front cover art by Malcolm Smith — featured one of the best of the space opera novels from the pulps, Edmond Hamilton’s “The Star Kings.” It has been reprinted numerous times.)

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?

The Unique Magazine

Apr 19, 2014 by

Weird Tales March 1923Weird Tales was the first periodical specifically devoted to the fantasy genre. Premiering in early 1923, its publishers envisioned “The Unique Magazine” as a place for a writer to be given “free rein to express his innermost feelings in a manner befitting great literature.” In reality, the early issues of the pulp were filled with ghost stories, the choice of the magazine’s editor, Edwin Baird. Far more interested in Rural’s Real Detective and Mystery Stories, Baird had little interest in fantasy.

Weird Tales came into its own in late 1924 when Farnsworth Wright was named the magazine’s editor. In the years ahead, the pulp would become known for its fantasy and supernatural fiction, publishing the work of Robert E. Howard, H. P. Lovecraft, and Clark Ashton Smith. Later issues would feature substantial efforts by Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury, Carl Jacobi, Henry Kuttner, C. L. Moore, Seabury Quinn, Manly Wade Wellman, and others. Weird Tales would likewise become noted for its artists. Hannes Bok, Margaret Brundage, Lee Brown Coye, and Virgil Finlay all contributed greatly to the fantasy art field through their work for “The Unique Magazine.”

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, offering tales of interplanetary expeditions, brain transference, death rays, lost races, parallel worlds, and more. Edmond Hamilton was its leading contributor of science fiction. With stories about alien invasions, space police, and evolution gone wild, the author became known as “world-wrecker” Hamilton. Other notable science fiction in Weird Tales included work by Austin Hall, Otis Adelbert Kline, Frank Belknap Long, C. L. Moore, Donald Wandrei, and Jack Williamson. In his later years, H. P. Lovecraft spun his own style of science fiction in his tales of cosmic horror.

Although science fiction was frequently found in its pages—particularly during its early years—Weird Tales was not the first science-fiction pulp. That was left for Hugo Gernsback, an immigrant from Luxembourg, to develop.

Weird Tales 42-03The original run of Weird Tales began with its March 1923 number and ran through its September 1954 issue, for a total of 279 issues. Edwin Baird, Farnsworth Wright, and Dorothy McIlwraith (beginning in May 1940) were its editors. It was revived in 1973-74 for four issues, edited by Sam Moskowitz. A paperback series lasting four more issues, edited by Lin Carter, appeared from 1981-1983. The magazine was revived in 1988 by George H. Scithers, Darrell Schweitzer and John Gregory Betancourt and has, more or less, been published on a continuous basis since that time. At this writing, the 361st issue had been released. It is currently published by John Harlacher with Marvin Kaye serving as editor. For more details, visit the magazine’s website at http://weirdtalesmagazine.com/.

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