|Cover illustration by Ed Emshwiller|
From Kemp's 1960 introduction:
For well over two years I had heard far too many people decrying the death of magazine science fiction, and like Bob Leman [later a notable writer of horror fiction], mourning the lack of critical soul-searching from within the field.
How shall I go about it? I determined first that I would restrict this critical colossus to the magazine field only and decided on five specific points of enquiry, which were:
1) Do you feel that magazine science fiction is dead?
2) Do you feel that any single person, action, incident, etc., is responsible for the present situation? If not, what is responsible?
3) What can we do to correct it?
4) Should we look to the original paperback as a point of salvation?
5) What additional remarks, pertinent to the study, would you like to contribute?
The responses to these questions, discretely and collectively depending on the answerer, were the heart of the eventual issue.
Why was there such a sense of a murdered science fiction in the air, that as many agreed with the premise behind the questions, even if only partially...and that so many editors in the magazine field responded? Well...relatively briefly: In the late 1940s, in the relatively flush years in the US after WW2 and increasingly flush years in science
|Along with the brilliant Knight and MacLean,|
features PJ Farmer's "Mother" and Evan Hunter.
|the second issue, 1950|
And all these magazines were paying, some very well for the time indeed. And even the low-paying "salvage markets" both needed copy and were there to offer extra income to sf writers who would have to simply toss multiply-rejected stories into a drawer or fireplace previously. It had been noted by several writers who worked in that period that one could, for the first time, make a career from writing sf (without being the author of a bestselling novel or several, such as Aldous Huxley, Philip Wylie or C. S. Lewis).
Meanwhile, as noted above, a number of publishers were starting or vastly expanding their sf book lines as the 1950s began; Ballantine Books particularly was willing to pay well for original work, and for serials and collections of shorter work from the magazines, and others (including Lion Books and Fawcett) would to one degree or another follow suit.
And while most of the sf films being made in the 1950s were pretty dire, a few weren't, and a few of those were even loosely or closely based on fiction from the magazines, including The Day the Earth Stood Still and The Thing (from Another World). Television was even more unlikely to feature too much of adult interest, at least in the US, but there were odd exceptions (Richard Matheson had at least one story adapted for Studio 57 by the end of the decade, and, early on, several sf writers made some decent money scripting the kids' show Captain Video). More sophisticated was some of the dramatic anthology work on network radio in the early '50s, most notably Dimension X and its continuation X Minus 1, which mostly adapted sf stories from the magazines rather well and with professionalism.
And some writers and other creative people would look to sf, as Alfred Bester and others have noted, as a means for making coded statements about current events in the most repressed years of Sen. Joseph McCarthy's ranting and the clumsy inquests of the House Un-American Activities Committee. All this, and at least some critical attention being paid to sf from "outside" as well as "inside" the writers/fandom community all contributed to a sense of great optimism and some considerable artistic achievement by the mid 1950s...but also a contraction of the market, for various reasons, by the end of the 1950s, and the reasons are certainly discussed directly and indirectly in the Kemp compendium. Amusingly, some of the prime movers of the renaissance, to the degree that there has been (at least several partial ones over the decades) are among the contributors, or are multiply cited...Cele Goldsmith/Lalli at Ziff-Davis's Fantastic and Amazing, Avram Davidson, soon to become editor of F&SF, and Frederik Pohl at the Galaxy magazine group among the prime movers in the US, and Ted Carnell helping overcome the slump through his work in his UK magazines Science Fantasy and New Worlds (and, briefly, one of the Science Fiction Adventures mentioned above).
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