Monday, July 20, 2015

US newsstand science fiction and fantasy magazines at the time of the debut of GALAXY: part 1

Cover by David Stone
Galaxy: debut issue, October 1950
World Editions; 
H. L. Gold, editor

***Galaxy magazine starts off with an issue drawing some of the most impressive writers already established in Astounding Science Fiction...with the exception of new writer Richard Matheson, whose second adult professional sale this was (after "Born of Man and Woman" in F&SF, and a bit of juvenilia in The Brooklyn Eagle some years earlier)...and Fredric Brown, who was less a John W. Campbell "discovery" than the others, even more likely than they to publish his best work in a variety of magazines.

Galaxy's first decade in PDF format.

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5/conclusion

Robert Silverberg on Galaxy's first years:
It is impossible to overestimate the impact that Galaxy had on us in its first twelve or fifteen issues. There had never been such a succession of brilliant stories in an s-f magazine, not even in the Campbell Astounding of 1941, which had plenty of future classics but also a high percentage of pulp filler.
That first year of Galaxy left us all gasping, and I still look at those early issues with reverence and awe. It was as if Campbell’s whole stable had been holding in its best work, which Gold now was able to set free. Alas, by 1954 much of the magic was gone, and from 1955 on Galaxy was a good magazine indeed but no longer, well, astounding.

[TM: Though, as Algis Budrys has noted, Galaxy was in his estimation "the best sf magazine in the world" in the early 1950s and also the late 1960s, as Frederik Pohl (with assistance from Judy-Lynn Benjamin, who would soon marry fellow staffer Lester Del Rey) was getting it (and its stablemate If, and short-lived companions International Science Fiction and Lester Del Rey's Worlds of Fantasy) to hit on all cylinders again.]


Popular Publications;  Mary Gnaedinger and Ejler Jakobsson, editors (and typos waiting to happen)

Mary Gnaedinger had been quietly mining back issues of Argosy and its stablemates since 1939 for her eventually, briefly three-magazine stable, and occasionally supplementing this reprints with fine original stories, such as Robert Bloch's "The Man Who Collected Poe." But by the end of her magazines' run, she was able to spread her net farther, and draw in some impressive fiction from far beyond the back issues of the early pulps, including, in this issue, a novella by the author of Man's Fate, Andre Maurois. (The last issue of FFM was to feature reprints of Kafka's "Metamorphosis" and Ayn Rand's goofy Anthem...)
Cover by Rafael De Soto

  • Contents: 
  • 6 • The Readers' Viewpoint (Famous Fantastic Mysteries, October 1950) • [The Readers' Viewpoint] • essay by Mary Gnaedinger
  • 12 • The Woman Who Couldn't Die (Complete Novel) • serial by Arthur Stringer
  • 34 •  The Woman Who Couldn't Die (Complete Novel) [2] • interior artwork by Virgil Finlay
  • 43 •  The Woman Who Couldn't Die (Complete Novel) [3] • interior artwork by Virgil Finlay
  • 53 •  The Woman Who Couldn't Die (Complete Novel) [4] • interior artwork by Virgil Finlay
  • 65 •  The Woman Who Couldn't Die (Complete Novel) [5] • interior artwork by Virgil Finlay
  • 84 • In Planders' Wood • poem by M. Ludington Cain
  • 84 •  In Planders' Wood • interior artwork by Lawrence
  • 86 • The Weigher of Souls • (1931) • novella by André Maurois (trans. of Le peseur d'âmes)
  • 86 •  The Weigher of Souls • interior artwork by Lawrence
  • 116 • Nor Moon by Night • shortstory by Peter Grainger [as by Peter Cartur ]
  • 117 •  Nor Moon by Night • interior artwork by Fawcette

  • Cover by Norman Saunders
    Cover by Norman Saunders

    Super Science Stories had been founded in 1940 as one of the first two magazines (along with Astonishing Stories) edited by then 19yo Frederik Pohl, and the first two professional magazines to be edited by a member of the Futurian Society of New York, a highly productive and influential group of sf and fantasy writers, editors, artists and agents already showing great promise in their larval stages (Astonishing published Donald Wollheim's "Mimic," for example, reprinted in the FN above and later adapted for film). As I've noted recently on the blog, they were trying to take the literary advances of the Tremaine and then Campbell Astounding further along, to the best of their abilities and within the budget restraints that their magazines allowed. But Pohl's magazines had been folded in 1943, in part due to WW2 paper shortages (which also led to the closure of Campbell's beloved fantasy magazine Unknown/Unknown Worlds)Popular Publications, seeing the postwar market as more friendly, relaunched SSS with staffer Ejler Jakobsson at the editor's desk, and it offered a fair amount of decent fiction by notable writers for its three years+ before folding again in 1951. Pohl was later amused that when he gave up his editorial position at the Galaxy magazine group in 1969, Jakobsson would be his successor at those magazines, as well.

    The October 1950 Roll Call of US sf and fantasy fiction magazine titles:


    ...more to come...

    Indices courtesy of


    mybillcrider said...

    A great project. Sure, Galaxy was as breath of fresh air, but look at all the choices. And some of those stories were highly entertaining, even if not in the Galaxy mode. I miss the old days.

    Todd Mason said...

    Exactly my point--GALAXY was the most influential of the sf magazines on its arrival, and was impressing a lot of readers, but the field as a whole was flowering, and even the most minor magazines had something to recommend them with an arguable exception or two (FANTASY FICTION, not to be confused with FANTASY BOOK or Lester del Rey's later short-lived FANTASY MAGAZINE/FICTION was probably the least of them). GALAXY might've been the sharpest, but there was reason, for example, that STARTLING STORIES briefly led the field in sales, and PLANET STORIES as edited by Jerome Bixby was reaching new heights in adventure sf and science-fantasy, tilling its field as fruitfully as ASTOUNDING and GALAXY were tilling theirs...and Damon Knight's WORLDS BEYOND was better than promising, as were F&SF and several others.

    There definitely was room for many modes...even if GALAXY's upgraded approach to packaging was welcome (but they weren't the only magazine casting off the less charming aspects of the default pulp look...

    Prashant C. Trikannad said...

    Todd, i have read a stories from GALAXY and a couple of other sf and fantasy magazines you listed, at least those in public domain. I'm spoilt for choice since I don't read sf/fantasy on a regular basis. My choice of stories is random. But I enjoy reading them all the same.

    Todd Mason said...

    Well, Prashant, I've added a few links to these issues on line...the GALAXY, the PLANET STORIES and the OUT OF THIS WORLD ADVENTURES, as well as the last FAMOUS FANTASTIC MYSTERIES. You can do worse...though OUT OF THIS WORLD is not up to the others in consistency, and ANTHEM is pretty pathetic. Seeing it in that context, however, is fun.

    Walker Martin said...

    I didn't start reading and buying the SF magazines until 1956, but I quickly got into collecting the back issues and have just about all the 1950 titles that you list. My favorite is GALAXY but I love F&SF, ASTOUNDING, STARTLING, THRILLING WONDER, FAMOUS FANTASTIC MYSTERIES, also. What a great period even though the end of the pulp era was fast approaching. For instance STARTLING in 1952 went monthly and sales must of been good but by 1955 the magazine was dead.

    Todd Mason said...

    Better/Standard was closing down its surviving pulp magazines in favor of their paperback imprint, Popular Library...and it's notable that THRILLING WONDER STORIES and FANTASTIC STORY MAGAZINE (too many Fantastics, even given the accuracy of the term in one sense and the commercial savvy in another) were incorporated into STARTLING for the final issues...and Popular Library would publish a few pulp-sized WONDER STORY ANNUALs and then several issues of TREASURY OF GREAT SCIENCE FICTION STORIES (and a Western companion to that one) as late as the mid-'60s, filled with reprints, to test the waters somewhat nostalgically.

    I've mentioned before the students who noted how ASTOUNDING was published regularly throughout the 1950s (and continues as ANALOG today) and how PLANET also folded in 1955 as indicative of how "hard sf" was Clearly more popular than "space opera"...but reconsidered when I noted to them that ASF was published in the '50s by the flourishing Street & Smith, and PLANET actually was just about the last magazine still issued at time of folding by the winding-down Love Romances Publishing. You'd think the success of STAR WARS might've helped them consider casting about for somewhat less intrinsic reasons by itself.

    George Kelley said...

    I loved these SF digest magazines back in the Fifties and Sixties. Our world is a poorer place now that most of them have vanished.

    Unknown said...

    Bravo! You've done it again. With your postings, I enter a time-machine that transports me back to a time in my life when all things were possible. Oh, how I miss those days (and those great magazines)! Even though much is available to us now via Internet, I very much miss the sensory and aesthetic experience of the magazines and newsstands. Yes, those really were the good old days!

    Todd Mason said...

    Well, take heart...they are perhaps on their last decade, but there still are some paper and ink magazines awaiting you at the surviving newsstands (including a few of the eclectic littles which will dip into fantastic fiction, such as TIN HOUSE)...yes, the ability to look at the page and not hold the laptop or even e-reader is still pretty sexy.

    Todd Mason said...

    And, thanks, RT...a small thing, but I'm glad it helps! George, most of the magazines I'll be dealing with in this short series will be pulps, though a lot of digests as well (remarkable how many were already publishing by didn't hurt that Popular was expanding, as it picked up a few Street and Smith titles as the latter got out of the fiction magazine business...except for ASTOUNDING, which I think most sf fans tend to assume they kept because It Was AWESOME but which I strongly suspect they kept because they wanted to shift John W. Campbell over to technology magazines that they never really got too far off the ground.