Galaxy Science Fiction

Galaxy Science Fiction

"Galaxy Science Fiction" was a digest-size science fiction magazine, the creation of noted editor H. L. Gold, who found a responsive readership when he put the emphasis on imaginative sociological explorations of science fiction rather than hardware and pulp prose.

Publication history

The science fiction genre was flourishing by the end of the 1930s, [Nicholls & Clute, "Genre SF"; Edwards & Nicholls, "Astounding Science-Fiction"; Stableford, "Amazing Stories"; Edwards & Nicholls, "SF Magazines", all in Nicholls & Clute, "Encyclopedia of Science Fiction".] but World War II and its attendant paper shortages led to the demise of several magazines. By the late 1940s the market began to recover again. [Edwards & Nicholls, "SF Magazines", in Nicholls & Clute, "Encyclopedia of Science Fiction", p. 1068.] From a low of eight active magazines in 1946, the field expanded to 20 in 1950.Magazine publishing dates for the period are tabulated in Ashley, "History of the Science Fiction Magazine Vol. 3", pp. 323–325.] "Galaxy"'s appearance in 1950 was part of this boom; and according to critic Mike Ashley its success was the main reason for the subsequent flood of new releases: 22 more science fiction magazines appeared by 1954.Michael Ashley, "Transformations", p. 24.]

Origins and 1950s

Horace Gold, "Galaxy"'s first editor, had worked at Standard Magazines in the early 1940s as an assistant editor, reading for Standard's three science fiction pulps: "Startling Stories", "Thrilling Wonder", and "Captain Future". With the advent of the war, Gold left publishing and went into the army, but in 1949 he was approached by Vera Cerutti, who had at one time worked for Gold. Cerutti was now working for an Italian publisher, Edizione Mondiale, who had opened an office in New York as World Editions.Michael Ashley, "Transformations", p. 25.] World Editions had made a heavy loss on "Fascination", an earlier attempt to launch a new magazine in the US, and they were now looking for recommendations for new titles. [Edwards & Nicholls, "SF Magazines", in Nicholls & Clute, "Encyclopedia of Science Fiction", p. 1068.] Ortiz, "Infinity", quoted in [ eI31] .] Gold knew about "The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction", a new digest launched in the fall of 1949 but felt that there was still room in the market for another serious science fiction magazine. He also proposed paying three cents a word, an impressively high rate, given that most of the competition was only paying one cent a word. World Editions agreed, hired Gold as the editor, and the first issue appeared in October 1950.

Gold kicked off his first issue with a line-up of heavyweight authors. In addition to short stories by Isaac Asimov, Fredric Brown, Fritz Leiber and Richard Matheson, the contents page listed novelettes by Theodore Sturgeon ("The Stars Are the Styx") and Katherine MacLean ("Contagion"), plus part one of a serial by Clifford D. Simak ("Time Quarry"). The Matheson story, "Third from the Sun," was later adapted for an episode of "Twilight Zone"'s first season. Along with an essay by Gold, "Galaxy's" premiere issue introduced a book review column by anthologist Groff Conklin (which ran until 1955) and a Willy Ley science column.

In the summer of 1951, disagreements within World Editions led to attempts to disrupt "Galaxy"'s distribution. The head of operations found out, however, and agreed to sell "Galaxy" to the printer, Robert M. Guinn. Guinn 's new company was named Galaxy Publishing Corporation, and it took over beginning with the October 1951 issue. Gold remained as editor, but lost the assistance of staff at World Editions, relying instead on help from Jerome Bixby, Algis Budrys, Theodore Sturgeon and Sturgeon's wife Evelyn Paige. Frederik Pohl, who was working as a literary agent, was also helpful in connecting writers with Gold.Michael Ashley, "Transformations", p. 32.]

By the late 1950s, the science fiction magazine boom was over, and the relatively low-circulation of the magazines did not endear them to distributors, the middle-men who transported magazines from the publishers to the news-stands and other outlets. Gold changed the title from "Galaxy Science Fiction" to "Galaxy Magazine" with the September 1958 issue, commenting that the term 'science fiction' "scares many people away from buying". Galaxy's circulation, at about 90,000, was the highest of the science fiction magazines, but Guinn decided to cut costs, and in 1959 raised the cover price and changed the magazine to a bimonthly schedule, while increasing the page count. Guinn also cut the rates paid to authors from three (and occasionally four) cents a word to one and a half cents a word. These changes saved "Galaxy" over $12,000 a year. The result was a fall in circulation to about 80,000 within two years, but this was sustainable because of the savings from the fiction budget.Michael Ashley, "Transformations", pp. 198–200.]

1960s and 1970s

Guinn also acquired "If", another science fiction magazine, in 1959, and gave it to Gold to edit as well. The first issue of "If" under Gold's editorship was July 1959. "Galaxy"'s shift to a bimonthly schedule had been intended to help reduce the workload on Gold, who was not in good health; he was able to take on "If" as well because the two magazines alternated months of publication.Michael Ashley, "Transformations", p. 197.] However, the following year Gold was seriously injured in a car accident, and proved unable to continue as editor. Frederik Pohl took over at some point in early 1961, though he was not listed on the masthead as editor until the October 1961 issue.Michael Ashley, "Transformations", p. 205.]

In 1969, Guinn sold "Galaxy" to Universal Publishing and Distribution Corporation (UPD), and Pohl decided not to stay on as editor. He resigned and went back to his writing career, and his place was taken by Ejler Jakobsson, who was at that time working in UPD's book department. Lester del Rey, who was on the masthead of Guinn's "Galaxy" as managing editor, stayed as features editor, and Judy-Lynn Benjamin took his place as managing editor.Michael Ashley, "Transformations", pp. 281–282.] Jack Gaughan was made art editor.Michael Ashley, "Gateways to Forever", p. 36.] "Galaxy"'s circulation was already dropping when UPD acquired it; after the acquisition it fell significantly further, from 75,300 for the year ended October 1968 to 51,479 just one year later. Difficulties with distribution also cut into income, and Arnold Abramson, UPD's owner, decided to cut costs and maximize profits. "Galaxy" went bimonthly in August 1970, ending a two year spell of monthly appearances (though with a couple of omitted months). The page count, which had been cut from 196 to 160 when UPD bought it, was increased again, and the price was increased from 60 cents to 75 cents. A British edition began in May 1972, published by Tandem Books, which was owned by UPD. The net effect of all these changes was to increase profitability significantly. Circulation also increased by about 6,000 issues over the next year, though it is possible that this was solely the result of the additional circulation of the new British edition.Michael Ashley, "Gateways to Forever", pp. 54–56.]

UPD began to have financial difficulties in the early seventies, and when Judy-Lynn del Rey (formerly Judy-Lynn Benjamin) left in May 1973 to work at Ballantine Books, Jakobsson's workload increased significantly. He resigned less than a year later, citing overwork and other issues, and was replaced by James Baen, who took over with the June 1974 issue after Pohl declined to take the post.Michael Ashley, "Gateways to Forever", pp. 56–59.] Baen also took over the editorship of "If", but rising paper costs forced the closure of "If" at the end of 1974, and the title was merged with "Galaxy".Michael Ashley, "Gateways to Forever", pp. 59–62.] The monthly schedule, which had begun again in September 1973, was only patchily adhered to, with at least a couple of issues missed every year except 1974. Baen was successful at increasing circulation again, taking it from 47,789 when he took over to 81,035 when he left, and the magazine was profitable for UPD, but the financial pressure on the parent company took its toll and Baen left in late 1977, with the October issue being his last.Michael Ashley, "Gateways to Forever", pp. 68–69.] He was replaced by John J. Pierce, but the situation only worsened. Pierce resigned within a year: the debts were worse than before, and his office assistant recalls that the office appeared inefficiently run, though he commented that Pierce "clearly loved what he did and knew what he was talking about". Pierce's replacement was Hank Stine, who took over in late 1978, though because of "Galaxy"'s irregular schedule the last issue of Pierce's was March–April 1979. Stine only managed to produce two more issues, June–July 1979 and September 1979, before UPD's financial problems spelled the end. Rights to the title were transferred to a new company, Galaxy Magazine, Inc., owned by Vincent McCaffrey; UPD retained a ten percent interest in order to receive income from future sales to pay off their debts. Stine had compiled two more issues, but neither ever appeared; McCaffrey, who had also launched a separate magazine, "Galileo", had cash-flow problems that prevented him from distributing the magazine as he had planned. One more issue did finally appear from McCaffrey, in July 1980, in a large format; it was edited by Floyd Kemske. A subsequent issue, to be dated October 1980, was assembled, but was never distributed.Michael Ashley, "Gateways to Forever", pp. 317–322.]

In 1994, the magazine reappeared briefly as a semi-professional publication under the editorship of E.J. Gold, son of Horace Gold. E.J. Gold produced eight issues on a regular bimonthly schedule, starting with the January–February 1994 issue, and ending with March–April 1995.cite web | url =| title = Galaxy Checklist | accessmonthday=20 February | accessyear = 2008|publisher = Stephen G. Miller and William T. Contento] See the individual issues. For convenience, an online index is available at cite web | url = | title = Magazine:Galaxy Science Fiction — ISFDB | accessmonthday=20 May | accessyear = 2008 |publisher=Texas A&M University]

Contents and reception

Gold intended "Galaxy" to publish stories of sufficient literary quality to attract readers of the slick magazines, as well as those who came to "Galaxy" already familiar with genre science fiction.Ashley, "History of SF Magazine Vol. 3", p. 57] His editorial policy was broader than that of John Campbell, the editor of the leading science fiction magazine, Astounding. Gold was interested in sociology, psychology and other "soft" sciences, and was also willing to publish humorous and satirical stories. The magazine was immediately successful, garnering a Hugo Award for best magazine in 1953, the first year the awards were issued.Malcolm Edwards & Peter Nicholls, "Galaxy Science Fiction", in Nicholls & Clute, "Encyclopedia of Science Fiction", p. 462]

Science fiction historian Mike Ashley regards "Galaxy"'s success as the main reason for the subsequent boom in science fiction magazines. With a circulation of over 100,000 in its second year, "Galaxy" was more successful even than "Astounding". "Galaxy" had a characteristic cover style in the 1950s with an inverted white "L" shape framing the cover art; this style was copied by "Authentic Science Fiction", "Science Fiction Adventures", "Startling Stories", "Space Science Fiction", and "Orbit Science Fiction".Michael Ashley, "Transformations", pp. 32–33.] The contents were also influential: as well as award-winning stories such as Fritz Leiber's "The Big Time" and Avram Davidson's "Or All the Seas with Oysters", Gold published many stories that became regarded as classics, such as C.M. Kornbluth's "The Marching Morons", Ray Bradbury's "The Fireman", later expanded as "Fahrenheit 451", and Isaac Asimov's "The Caves of Steel". The magazine was known for irony and satire during the 1950s, though Gold did publish a wide range of material; authors able to adopt the wry style favoured by Gold, such as Robert Sheckley and Damon Knight, became associated with the magazine and published there regularly.


The earliest issues attracted attention with a back cover advertisement that compared space opera with Western pulps. This ad had such an impact that well over half a century later, the term "Bat Durston" is used as a derogatory label for a certain type of writing. The ad copy read::You Won't Find It in "Galaxy"

:Jets blasting, Bat Durston came screeching down through the atmosphere of Bbllzznaj, a tiny planet seven billion light years from Sol. He cut out his super-hyper-drive for the landing... and at that point, a tall, lean spaceman stepped out of the tail assembly, proton gun-blaster in a space-tanned hand. "Get back from those controls, Bat Durston," the tall stranger lipped thinly. "You don't know it, but this is your last space trip."

:Hoofs drumming, Bat Durston came galloping down through the narrow pass at Eagle Gulch, a tiny gold colony 400 miles north of Tombstone. He spurred hard for a low overhang of rim-rock... and at that point a tall, lean wrangler stepped out from behind a high boulder, six-shooter in a sun-tanned hand. "Rear back and dismount, Bat Durston," the tall stranger lipped thinly. "You don't know it, but this is your last saddle-jaunt through these here parts."

"Galaxy" had a partnership with NBC's "X Minus One", and a number of stories from the magazine had radio adaptations.

Begun as a monthly, the magazine varied between monthly, bimonthly and eventually irregularly-issued status at different times during its 30+ year run. In 1953 a French edition, "Galaxie", was launched, and in 1957, a German edition, "Galaxis".

After Conklin stepped down as book reviewer, his column was continued by Floyd C. "Gale" (actually Gold, H. L. Gold's brother). (Claims that Conklin himself continued the column after 1955 appear to be in error.) In February, 1965, Pohl brought Algis Budrys on as book reviewer; he was succeeded later by Sturgeon, who passed the job to Spider Robinson in 1975.

With the January 1975 issue, "Galaxy" incorporated its sister magazine, "Worlds of If", founded in March 1952, with which it had shared several editors after purchase from founding publisher James Quinn in the latter 1950s. In 1980, "Galaxy" was acquired from UPD Publishing by Boston's Avenue Victor Hugo bookstore as a companion magazine to their "Galileo Science Fiction". Editor Floyd Kemske produced a single issue (July 1980) in a standard magazine format rather than a digest, but without newsstand distribution, "Galaxy" ceased publication that same year.

In the early 1990s the magazine was purchased by E. J. Gold, son of the founder, who published eight bi-monthly issues in 8"x11" format on pulp stock (January-February 1994 to March-April 1995). His plans to continue "Galaxy" online did not develop, though he maintains a scattering of "Galaxy"-related web pages.


Notable illustrators for the magazine during the 1950s included Chesley Bonestell, Paul Callé, Ed Emshwiller, Virgil Finlay, Dick Francis, Jack Gaughan, Don Sibley, David Stone and Wally Wood. Vaughn Bode briefly contributed a comic strip, "Sunpot", during the early 1970s. Jerry Pournelle served as science columnist under Baen. In the late 1970s, the critic and erotica author Richard E. Geis wrote a fannish commentary column ("The Alien Viewpoint") which had first appeared in Baen's "If".


Spanning three decades, "Galaxy" published acclaimed science fiction under a succession of editors:
*H. L. Gold: October, 1950 - October 1961
*Frederik Pohl: 1959 - May 1969
*Ejler Jakobsson: July 1969 - May 1974
*James Baen: June 1974 - October 1977
*John J. Pierce: November 1977 - March-April 1979
*Hank Stine: June-July 1979 - September-October 1979
*Floyd Kemske: 1980

Related publications

*"Fascination", a magazine devoted to romantic fumetti, the first major project in the USA from "Galaxy"'s founding publisher World Editions.
*"Beyond Fantasy Fiction", a digest-size fantasy fiction magazine edited by H. L. Gold, 1953-1955. Poor sales led to a title change for its last issues to "Beyond Fiction".
*Galaxy Novels, a digest-size line of reprints (often abridged), 1950-1958. The line was sold to Beacon Books, which kept the name but changed the format to small paperback and published another 11 issues in 1959-1961.
*Galaxy Magabooks, an early 1960s similar project.
*"Worlds of Tomorrow", starting in 1963 and incorporated into "If" four years later, is notable for some of its nonfiction content, including R. W. Ettinger's early articles on cryonics. The title was briefly relaunched under Jakobsson, 1970-71.
*"Worlds of Fantasy" (1968), edited by Lester del Rey, by then a member of the "Galaxy" staff, and briefly revived under Jakobsson (1970-71).
*"International Science Fiction" (1968), a short-lived attempt, edited by Pohl, to offer a wide range of international sf, including many first-time translations into English.

Anthologies compiled from the magazine include the "Galaxy Reader of Science Fiction" series and "Galaxy: Thirty Years of Innovative Science Fiction", edited by Frederik Pohl, Martin H. Greenberg and Joseph D. Olander (Playboy Press, 1980).



*cite book | first=Michael | last=Ashley | title=The History of the Science Fiction Magazine Vol. 3 1946–1955| publisher=Contemporary Books, Inc.| location=Chicago | year=1976 |isbn= 0-8092-7842-1
*cite book | first=Michael | last=Ashley | title=The History of the Science Fiction Magazine Part 4 1956–1965| publisher=New English Library| location=London | year=1978 | isbn= 0-450-03438-0
*cite book | first=Mike | last=Ashley | title=Transformations: The Story of the Science Fiction Magazines from 1950 to 1970| publisher=Liverpool University Press| location=Liverpool| year=2005 | isbn= 0-85323-779-4
*cite book | first=Mike | last=Ashley | title=Gateways to Forever: The Story of the Science-Fiction Magazines from 1970 to 1980| publisher=Liverpool University Press| location=Liverpool| year=2007 | isbn= 978-1-84631-003-4
*cite book|last= Nicholls|first= Peter| title= The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction| year=1979| publisher= Granada Publishing| location= St Albans| isbn= 0-586-05380-8
*cite book | first=Frederik | last=Pohl | title=The Way the Future Was| publisher=Gollancz| location=London | year=1979 |isbn= 0-575-02672-3
*cite book | first=Luis| last=Ortiz| title=Emshwiller:Infinity Times Two| publisher=Nonstop| year=2007 |isbn= 1933065087
*cite book | first=Donald H. | last=Tuck | title=The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Volume 3| publisher=Advent: Publishers, Inc. | location=Chicago | year=1982 | isbn= 0-911682-26-0
* [ CyberSpace Spinner: Alphabetical index of "Galaxy"'s authors]
* [ Internet Speculative Fiction Database: Index to "Galaxy"'s entire contents]

External links

* [ "Galaxy" covers]
* [ German language "Galaxis"]

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