Wednesday, July 22, 2015

US newsstand fantasy and sf magazines at the time of the debut of GALAXY: part 2

Part 1
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5/conclusion
Cover by George Salter, genius at Mercury Press
and elsewhere (notably did the two original covers
 for Kafka's The Trial for both German and
 English publication, among much else).
Mercury Press/Fantasy House; 
Anthony Boucher and
J. Francis McComas, editors

F&SF's fourth quarterly issue arrived at about the same time as Galaxy's first (monthly) issue; as one can tell, Edizioni Mondiali/World Editions was both more flush and more brash than the publishers of American Mercury. The latter had been subsidizing their politics and culture magazine in part with the rather cultured but also more successful Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and its books in digest-sized-magazine-format lines Mercury Mystery, Bestseller Mystery and Jonathan Press Mystery. (The Mercury had been co-founded by H. L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan, veterans of the legendary magazine The Smart Set, which had been supported by a magazine they founded as a potential cash cow, Black Mask. Thus the duo, no great lovers of crime fiction, had helped spawn the two most important crime-fiction magazines so far--though others have come close).  Discussions at Mercury Press as to possibly launching a fantasy magazine that would, like EQMM, mix literate new fiction and reprints from a wide variety of sources, began in 1946, but perhaps an excess of caution led to the first issue not being published till 1949. Since magazines tagged as fantasy magazines hadn't sold, on balance, as well as magazines tagged sf (in part because the fantasy audience was less aware they were a fantasy audience, something that would continue till the Tolkien and some extent Robert Howard, et al., explosion in the 1970s), the first issue was to be the only one to be known as The Magazine of Fantasy...that first issue included Theodore Sturgeon's notable sf story, "The Hurkle is a Happy Beast"; F&SF was also budgeted cautiously, so that throughout the 1950s (and later) it never paid as well as the highest-paying markets in the fields. But the acumen, graciousness and connections of the founding editors Boucher and McComas helped overcome that, as did their openness to women writers, literary sophistication (within certain limits; Boucher, the first to translate and publish Jorge Luis Borges in English--in EQMM, often referred to fantasy fiction that might be too subtle for his magazine's general audience, rather a self-defeating sort of crotchet), and relative lack (compared to John W. Campbell, Jr. at Astounding Science Fiction and H. L. Gold at Galaxy) of editorial taboos and somewhat narrow notions of what they were interested in seeing from contributors. F&SF would go bimonthly, then monthly, over the next several years.

Bok-esque cover by Paul Callé
Hillman Periodicals: 
Damon Knight, editor
If Mercury Press was perhaps overly cautious in their launch of F&SF, Hillman was perhaps pessimistic to a fault. Damon Knight had been working as an editorial assistant  at Popular Publications for several years when he was able to convince Hillman to let him edit a new fiction magazine for them, which they launched alongside publishing Jack Vance's The Dying Earth in their paperback line (stories from that linked collection would appear in each issue of the magazine). At his fellow ex-Futurian Frederik Pohl's advice, he asked for a budget that would allow payment of 3c/word for fiction, which Pohl notes he was able to take around to both Gold and Campbell to get them to push for an increase in budget to allow for 3c/word as their magazines' base rate, as well. And that was the last measure of support given the magazine by its publisher...when sales figures came in for the rather impressive first issue, as the second issue was out on the stands, the magazine was folded, effective after the third/last issue was published. 

Cover by a young Jack Gaughan, for "Scanners"
Fantasy Publishing Co., Inc. (FCPI): "Garret Ford", editor(s)
If August Derleth and Donald Wandrei's Atkham House has been the most important small press to devote itself to fantasy, horror and to some extent sf and crime-fiction publishing in the 1940s (among some less durable contenders), there was no one more dogged in his attempts to make a go of small-press publishing than William Crawford, who produced two of the first semi-professional or little magazines in the newsstand speculative fiction tradition, Marvel Tales and Uncanny Tales, and would later publish two runs of the minor Spaceway Science Fiction magazine...but whose book publishing line FPCI and particularly his late '40s/early '50s magazine Fantasy Book (which he edited as "Ford" with wife Margaret Crawford) will probably be his most important legacy...particularly with the first issue from 1950, which featured the most impressive lineup the magazine would produce (as essentially a last-stop salvage market for most of its contributors), and publish what is easily its most important piece of fiction, the "first" story by Paul Linebarger which the espionage and psychological warfare expert would publish under his "Cordwainer Smith" pseudonym. I've just realized that "Ford"'s mildly famous anthology for FPCI, Science and Sorcery, is essentially a Best of Fantasy Book, with additionally a few new stories (probably originally purchased for Fantasy Book) and a couple of pulp reprints (one a Ray Bradbury story from Thrilling Wonder Stories in 1948). Frederik Pohl having a story in this issue (a collaboration with fellow ex-Futurian Isaac Asimov) probably was most of the reason Pohl saw the "Smith" story and became one of CS's great editorial champions.

Cover by Bill Stone, who shot both covers for
Fantasy and the first cover for F&SF (pre &SF).
Magabook, Inc.: 
Curtis Mitchell, editor
If Hillman was rather hasty in canceling Worlds Beyond, Magabook clearly didn't know what they were doing with the two issues they published of their fantasy and sf magazine, of which this is the second (the first was titled Fantasy Magazine, not to be confused with the several other magazines of that title over the years). The first issue's cover was a bit less awkward (no blabbing, no vaguely mummy-like creature); the contents, at least the reprints of Robert Arthur and Irvin Cobb stories (and Arthur, Cornell Woolrich, and possibly the Richard Sale and Max Brand stories in the first issue) are not the worst ever presented...but clearly this was not a project embarked upon with confidence nor a good sense of artistic or commercial potential.
--And, in fairness, I could be said to be "cheating" in citing the latter three issues, as they might barely have overlapped with Galaxy's first issue on newsstands, though they all three probably did on at least a few. Certainly, the first issue of Worlds Beyond is important in relation to Galaxy as noted, and the other two are simply the more interesting cases of the two issues browsers might've seen in late September into late October of 1950....

More to come...
Indices and cover images courtesy of ISFDB and Galactic Central.


Walker Martin said...

I have all the issues of WORLDS BEYOND and it's a shame that it was killed off so early. It could have given GALAXY some competition. Excellent cover for F&SF. George Salter was one of the greatest but I imagine many readers did not understand his distinctive and stylish covers for the fantasy and crime digests.

Unknown said...

I think that first issue of WORLDS BEYOND is the only one I have. I bid on the first issue of FANTASY BOOK a time or two on eBay, but it eluded me.

Todd Mason said...

And Salter did some covers for AMERICAN MERCURY, too, unsurprisingly, Walker. Knight's magazine definitely would be going head-to-head with F&SF had it continued. Some Salter covers are more inspired than others, but my favorite of his for F&SF include the second issue and his 1966 cover for the first Jack Vance Cugel story...the first sequel to THE DYING EARTH, of course.

Ihave 2 of the WORLDS BEYONDs, I think, first and last. Hillman didn't spring for first class printing, either.

Bill, why the first FANTASY BOOK?The novelty of Charles Beaumont illustrations rather than fiction? Or just having the first for its own sake?