Aristocrats of the Pulps

Jun 3, 2014 by

Famous Fantastic Mysteries 40-03In a letter published in “The Readers’ Viewpoint” column in its June 1948 issue, Robert Boyer labeled Famous Fantastic Mysteries as “. . . the Aristocrat of the Pulps, the acme of stf perfection,” a title that can likewise be conferred upon the magazine’s later companions, Fantastic Novels and A. Merritt’s Fantasy Magazine.

Started by the Frank A. Munsey Company in the fall of 1939 and edited by Mary Gnaedinger, Famous Fantastic Mysteries was created to reprint the scientific romances originally published in The All-Story, Argosy, and The Cavalier. Welcomed by readers anxious to experience the classics found in the Munsey files, Famous Fantastic Mysteries was joined by a companion title, Fantastic Novels, in the early summer of 1940. For most of the next year, the two magazines were published in alternating months.

Fantastic Novels 48-03Unfortunately, declining profits led to a reorganization of Munsey’s pulp line and the cancellation of several titles, including Fantastic Novels after just five issues. The following year, Munsey sold a number of its pulps—including their two classic reprint magazines—to Popular Publications. Reluctant to take on a pair of fantasy titles, the new publisher opted to continue Famous Fantastic Mysteries but not its younger companion.

At this point in its history, it was Popular’s policy to run only new stories or fiction that had not previously appeared in a magazine. Given that FFM was largely a reprint magazine, it was decided to alter the pulp’s content and reprint fantastic fiction that had never been published in American magazines. Although many classics were published by the magazine during this period, few were greeted with the same acclaim as had been the case with the Munsey yarns. Perhaps this is why Popular, in early 1948, decided to revive Fantastic Novels, once again relying on the Munsey archives for its content. A third title, A. Merritt’s Fantasy Magazine, was added in late 1949.

Notwithstanding their elevated status on America’s newsstands, all three magazines disappeared from the racks during the early fifties as Popular withdrew from the pulp market: A. Merritt’s Fantasy Magazine in 1950, Fantastic Novels in 1951, and last of all, Famous Fantastic Mysteries during the spring of 1953.

A. Merritt's Fantasy 49-12

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