- Amazing Stories
"Amazing Stories" was an American
science fiction magazinelaunched in April 1926 by Hugo Gernsback's Experimenter Publishing. It was the first magazine devoted solely to science fiction. Before "Amazing", science fiction stories had made regular appearance in other magazines, including some published by Gernsback, but "Amazing" helped define and launch a new genre of pulp fiction. Gernsback lost control of the magazine in 1929 and quickly began to publish competitive magazines. "Amazing" was soon acquired by Bernarr Macfadden's Teck Publications, but became unprofitable during the 1930s. Ziff-Davispurchased the magazine in 1938 and hired Raymond A. Palmeras editor; Palmer made the magazine successful though it was not regarded as a quality magazine within the sf community.
Palmer was replaced by
Howard Brownein 1949, who briefly entertained plans of taking "Amazing" upmarket at a time when it was clear the pulps were dying out. These plans came to nothing, though "Amazing" did switch to a digest format in 1953. A brief period under the editorship of Paul W. Fairmanwas followed by Cele Goldsmithtaking the helm at the end of 1958. Despite her lack of experience she was able to bring new life to the magazine, and her years in control are regarded as one of "Amazing"'s most creative eras. She was unable to arrest the declining circulation, though, and the magazine was sold to Sol Cohen's Universal Publishing Company in 1965. Cohen pursued a policy of printing primarily reprints, which brought him into conflict with the newly-formed Science Fiction Writers of America; the conflict cost Cohen two successive editors ( Harry Harrisonand Barry N. Malzberg) in a short period at the end of the 1960s. Ted Whitetook over as editor after Malzberg and in nearly a decade with the magazine was able to eliminate the reprints and make the magazine a respected name again. He left at the end of the 1970s. The 1980s saw "Amazing" pass into the hands of TSR, a gaming company, which was subsequently acquired by Wizards of the Coast. Over the next twenty years these companies intermittently attempted to create a successful modern incarnation of the magazine. A last attempt was made by Paizo Publishingat the end of 2004, but publication was suspended after the March 2005 issue and never resumed.
Gernsback's creation of a specialist magazine for science fiction had an enormous impact on the field, spawning an entire genre publishing industry. However, "Amazing" was rarely an influential magazine within science fiction in any creative sense. Some critics have commenting that by "ghettoizing" the genre, Gernsback in fact did harm to its literary growth, but this viewpoint has been countered by the argument that science fiction needed an independent market in which to develop if it were to reach its potential.
By the end of the 19th century, scientific fiction stories were appearing with some regularity in popular fiction magazines. The market for short stories naturally lent itself to tales of invention in the tradition of
Jules Verne.Ashley, "Time Machines", p. 7.] Magazines such as "Munsey's Magazine" and "The Argosy", launched in 1889 and 1896 respectively, carried a few science fiction stories each year. Some of the upmarket "slick" magazines, such as McClure's, also carried scientific stories, but by the early years of the 20th century, science fiction was appearing more often in the pulp magazines than in the slicks.Ashley, "Time Machines", pp. 21–25.] Peter Nicholls, "Pulp Magazines", in Nicholls & Clute, "Encyclopedia of SF", p. 979.]
In 1908, Hugo Gernsback published the first issue of "
Modern Electrics", a magazine aimed at the scientific hobbyist. It was an immediate success, and Gernsback began to include articles on imaginative uses of science, such as "Wireless on Saturn" (December 1908).Ashley, "Time Machines", pp. 28–29.] In April 1911, Gernsback began the serialization of his science fiction novel, " Ralph 124C 41+", but in 1913 he sold his interest in the magazine to his partner and launched a new magazine, " Electrical Experimenter", which soon began to publish scientific fiction. In 1920 Gernsback retitled the magazine "Science and Invention", and through the early 1920s he published much scientific fiction in its pages, along with non-fiction scientific articles.Ashley, "Time Machines", pp. 29–35.]
Gernsback had started another magazine called "Practical Electrics" in 1921. In 1924, he changed its name to "The Experimenter",Ashley, "Time Machines", pp. 48–49.] and sent a letter to 25,000 people to gauge interest in the possibility of a magazine devoted to scientific fiction; in his words, " [t] he response was such that the idea was given up for two years."Ashley, "Time Machines", p. 47.] However, in 1926 he decided to go ahead, and ceased publication of "The Experimenter" to make room in his publishing schedule for a new magazine. The editor of "The Experimenter",
T. O'Conor Sloane, became the editor of "Amazing Stories". The first issue appeared on 10 March 1926, with a cover date of April 1926.clear
The early years
The editorial work was largely done by Sloane, but Gernsback retained final say over the fiction content. Two consultants, Conrad A. Brandt and Wilbur C. Whitehead, were hired to help identify fiction to reprint. Gernsback also hired artist
Frank R. Paul, who had worked with Gernsback as early as 1914 and had done many illustrations for the fiction in "The Electrical Experimenter". The magazine was issued in the large bedsheetformat, 8.5×11.75in (216×298mm), the same size as the technical magazines. "Amazing" was an immediate success and soon reached a very respectable circulation of 100,000. Gernsback saw there was an enthusiastic readership for "scientifiction" (the term "science fiction" had not yet been coined), and in 1927 he issued " Amazing Stories Annual". The annual sold out, and in January 1928, Gernsback launched a quarterly magazine, " Amazing Stories Quarterly", as a regular companion to "Amazing". It continued on a fairly regular schedule for 22 issues.Ashley, "Time Machines", pp. 51–54.] Ashley, "Time Machines", p. 238.]
Gernsback was slow to pay his authors and other creditors; he was solvent overall but the extent of his investments limited his liquidity. On 20 February 1929 his printer and paper supplier opened bankruptcy proceedings against him.cite news | title =Business Records, Bankruptcy Proceedings | work =New York Times | pages = 53 | date = March 12 1929 "Experimenter Publishing Co., Inc., 230 Fifth Avenue. - Liabilities approximately $500,000, assets not stated. Principal creditors listed are Art Color Printing Co., Dunellen, N.J., $152,908; Bulkley Dunton Co., $154,406 ..."] It has been suggested that
Bernarr Macfadden, another magazine publisher, maneuvered to force the bankruptcy because Gernsback would not sell his titles to Macfadden, but this is unproven.del Rey, "World of Science Fiction", p. 47.] Brian Stableford, "Amazing Stories", in Nicholls & Clute, "Encyclopedia of SF", pp. 25–26.] Experimenter Publishingwas declared bankrupt in days, but because the assets left the magazine solvent, "Amazing" survived with its existing staff. Hugo and his brother, Sidney, were forced out as directors. Arthur H. Lynch took over as editor-in-chief, though Sloane continued to have effective control of the magazine's contents. The receivers, Irving Trust, soon sold the magazine to B.A. Mackinnon,Ashley, "Time Machines", pp. 63–64.] cite news | title = To Pay 95% Of Debts In $600,000 Failure | work = New York Times | page = 22 | date = 1929-04-04] and in August 1931, "Amazing" was acquired by Teck Publications, a subsidiary of Bernarr Macfadden's Macfadden Publishing.Ashley, "Time Machines", p. 76.] Citation | title = New Incorporations | newspaper = New York Times | pages =39 | date = July 15 1931 "Teck Publishing Corp. J Schultz. 522 5th Av. $10,000" Joseph Schultz was the attorney for Macfadden Publications, Inc.] Macfadden's deep pockets helped insulate "Amazing" from the financial strain caused by the Great Depression.Ashley, "Time Machines", p. 77.] The schedule of "Amazing Stories Quarterly" began to slip, but "Amazing" did not miss an issue in the early 1930s. It became unprofitable to run over the next few years, however. Circulation dropped to little more than 25,000 in 1934, and in October 1935, it went to a bimonthly schedule.Ashley, "Time Machines", pp. 112–116.] Ashley, "Time Machines", p. 85.]
By 1938, with circulation down to only 15,000, Teck Publications was having financial problems. In January 1938
Ziff-Davistook over the magazine; [cite news | title =Advertising News and Notes | work =New York Times | pages = 28 | date = January 18 1938 "Ziff-Davis Publishing Company, New York and Chicago, has purchased Radio News Magazine and Amazing Stories."] the April issue was assembled by Sloane but published by Ziff-Davis. Bernard Davis, who ran Ziff-Davis's editorial department, attempted to hire Roger Sherman Hoaras editor; Hoar turned down the job but suggested Raymond A. Palmer, an active local science fiction fan. Palmer was duly hired that February, taking over editorial duties with the June 1938 issue. Ziff-Davis launched " Fantastic Adventures", a fantasy companion to "Amazing", in May 1939, also under Palmer's editorship.Ashley, "Time Machines", pp. 143–144.] Palmer quickly managed to improve "Amazing's" circulation, and in November 1938, the magazine went monthly again, though this did not last throughout Palmer's tenure: between 1944 and 1946 the magazine was bimonthly and then quarterly for a while before returning to a longer-lasting monthly schedule.Ashley, "Time Machines", p. 119.]
In September 1943 Richard Shaver, an "Amazing" reader, began to correspond with Palmer, who soon asked him to write stories for the magazine. Shaver responded with a story called "I Remember Lemuria", published in the March 1945 issue, which was presented by Palmer as a mixture of truth and fiction. The story, about prehistoric civilizations, dramatically boosted "Amazing"'s circulation, and Palmer ran a new Shaver story in every issue, culminating in a special issue in June 1947 devoted entirely to the Shaver Mystery, as it was called.Palmer claimed the highest circulation of any science fiction magazine, but del Rey comments that though this may have been true, "Palmer's tendency to magnify everything about the magazine cannot be discounted." See del Rey, "World of Science Fiction", pp. 117–118.] Ashley, "Time Machines", pp. 178–180.] "Amazing" soon drew ridicule for these stories. A derisive article by
William S. Baring-Gouldin the September 1946 issue of " Harper's" prompted William Ziff to tell Palmer to limit the amount of Shaver-related material in the magazine; Palmer complied, but his interest (and possibly belief) in this sort of material was now significant, and he soon began to plan to leave Ziff-Davis. In 1947 he formed Clark Publications, launching "Fate" the following year, and in 1949 he resigned from Ziff-Davis to edit that and other magazines.Ashley, "Time Machines", pp. 183–185.]
Howard Browne, who had been on a leave of absence from Ziff-Davis in order to write fiction, took over as editor and began by throwing away 300,000 words of inventory that Palmer had acquired before he left. Browne had ambitions of moving "Amazing" upmarket, and his argument was strengthened by
Street & Smith, one of the longest established and most respected publishers, who shut down all of their pulp magazines in the summer of 1949. The pulps were dying, largely as a result of the success of paperbacks, and Street & Smith decided to concentrate on their slick magazines. Some pulps struggled on for a few more years, but Browne was able to persuade Ziff and Davis that the future was in the slicks, and they raised his fiction budget from one cent to a ceiling of five cents a word. Browne managed to get promises of new stories from many well-known authors, including Isaac Asimovand Theodore Sturgeon. He produced a dummy issue in April 1950, and planned to launch the new incarnation of "Amazing" in April 1951, the 25th anniversary of the first issue. However, the economic impact of the Korean War, which broke out in June 1950, led to budget cuts. The plans were cancelled, and Ziff-Davis never revived the idea.Ashley, "Time Machines", pp. 220–225.]
Browne's interest in "Amazing" declined when the project to turn it into a slick magazine was derailed. Although he stayed involved with "
Fantastic Adventures", "Amazing"'s stable-mate at Ziff-Davis, he left the editing work on "Amazing" to William Hamlingand Lila Shaffer. In December 1950, when Ziff-Davis moved their offices from Chicago to New York, Hamling stayed behind in Chicago, and Browne revived his involvement with the magazine.Ashley, "Transformations", p. 7.]
In 1952, Browne persuaded Ziff-Davis to try a high-quality digest fantasy magazine. "Fantastic", which appeared in the summer of that year, focused on
fantasyrather than science fiction and was so successful that it persuaded Ziff-Davis to switch "Amazing" from pulp format to digest in early 1953 (while also switching to a bimonthly schedule). Circulation fell, however, and the subsequent budget cuts limited the story quality in both "Amazing" and "Fantastic". "Fantastic" began to print science fiction as well as fantasy. Circulation increased as a result, but Browne, who was not a science fiction aficionado, once again lost interest in the magazines.Ashley, "Transformations", p. 48-51.] Paul W. Fairmanreplaced Browne as editor in September 1956 issue.Ashley, "Transformations", p. 173–174.] Ashley, "Transformations", p. 353.] Early in Fairman's tenure, Bernard Davis decided to try issuing a companion series of novels, titled "Amazing Stories Science Fiction Novels". Readers' letters in "Amazing" had indicated a desire for novels, which "Amazing" did not have room to run. The novel series did not last; only one, Henry Slesar's "20 Million Miles to Earth", appeared. However, in response to readers' interest in longer fiction, Ziff-Davis expanded "Amazing" by 16 pages, starting with the March 1958 issue, and the magazine began to run complete novels.
Fairman left to edit "
Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine" at the end of 1958, and his place was taken by Cele Goldsmith. Goldsmith had been hired in 1955 as a secretary and became assistant editor to help cope with the additional work created when Ziff-Davis launched two short-lived magazines in 1956, "Dream World" and "Pen Pals". Ziff-Davis were not confident of Goldsmith's abilities as an editor, so when Fairman left, a consultant, Norman Lobsenz, was hired to work with her. She performed well, however, and Lobsenz's involvement soon became minimal.Ashley, "Transformations", p. 222–226.]
Goldsmith is well regarded by science fiction historians, but circulation lagged during her tenure. By 1964 "Fantastic"'s circulation was down to 27,000, with "Amazing" doing little better. The following March both magazines were sold to Ultimate Publishing Company, run by
Sol Cohenand Arthur Bernhard.cite news | last =Carlson | first =Walter | title =Advertising: Death and Taxes and Insurance | work =New York Times | pages =62 | date =June 23 1965" [P] urchase by the Ultimate Publishing Company, Inc., of two science-fiction magazines from Ziff-Davis Publishing Company. ["Amazing Stories" and "Fantastic."] … according to Sol Cohen, president of Ultimate." ] Ashley, "Transformations", p. 263.] Goldsmith was given the choice of going with the magazines or staying with Ziff-Davis; she stayed, and Cohen hired Joseph Wrzosto edit the magazines, starting with the August and September 1965 issues of "Amazing" and "Fantastic", respectively. Wrzos used the name "Joseph Ross" on the mastheads to avoid mis-spellings. Both magazines immediately moved to a bi-monthly schedule.Ashley, "Transformations", p. 321.] Ashley, "Transformations", p. 325.]
Cohen had acquired reprint rights to the magazines' back issues, although Wrzos did get Cohen to agree to print one new story every issue. Cohen was also producing reprint magazines such as "
Great Science Fiction" and " Science Fiction Classics", but no payment was made to authors for any of these reprints. This brought Cohen into conflict with the Science Fiction Writers of America(SFWA), a professional writers' organization formed in 1965. Soon SFWA called for a boycott of Ultimate's magazines until Cohen agreed to make payments. Cohen agreed to pay a flat fee for all stories, and then in August 1967 this was changed to a graduated rate, depending on the length of the story.Ashley, "Transformations", pp. 263–267.] Harry Harrisonhad acted as an intermediary in Cohen's negotiations with SFWA, and when Wrzos left in 1967, Cohen asked Harrison to take over. "SF Impulse", which Harrison had been editing, had folded in February 1967, so Harrison was available. He secured Cohen's agreement that the policy of printing almost nothing but reprinted stories would be phased out by the end of the year, and took over as editor with the September 1967 issue.
By February 1968 Harrison decided to leave, as Cohen was showing no signs of abandoning the reprints. He resigned, and suggested
Barry Malzbergto Cohen as a possible successor. Cohen knew Malzberg from his work at the Scott Meredith Literary Agency, and thought that he might be more amenable than Harrison to continuing the reprint policy. Malzberg took over in April 1968, but in the event he immediately came into conflict with Cohen over the reprints, and then threatened to resign in October 1968 over a disagreement about artwork Malzberg had commissioned for a cover. Cohen contacted Robert Silverberg, then the president of SFWA, and told him (falsely) that Malzberg had actually resigned. Silverberg recommended Ted Whiteas a replacement. Cohen secured White's agreement and then fired Malzberg; White assumed control with the May 1969 issue.
When White took over as editor, "Amazing"'s circulation was about 38,500, only about 4% of which were subscribers (as opposed to newsstand sales). This was a very low ebb for subscriptions; "Analog", by comparison, sold about 35% of its circulation through subscriptions. Cohen's wife filled the subscriptions at home, and Cohen had never tried to increase the subscriber base as this would have increased the burden on his wife.Ashley, "Gateways", p. 72.] White worked hard to increase the circulation despite this, though with limited success. One of his first changes was to reduce the typeface to increase the amount of fiction in the magazine. To pay for this he increased the price of both "Fantastic" and "Amazing" to 60 cents, but this had a strong negative effect on circulation, which fell about 10% from 1969 to 1970.Ashley, "Gateways", p. 74.] Ashley, "Gateways", p. 480.]
In 1972, White changed the title to "Amazing Science Fiction", distancing the magazine slightly from some of the pulp connotations of "Amazing Stories". White worked at a low wage, with much unpaid assistance from friends for reading manuscripts, but despite his efforts the circulation continued to fall. From near 40,000 when White joined the magazine, the circulation fell to about 23,000 in October 1975. White was unwilling to continue with the very limited financial backing that Cohen provided, and he resigned in 1975. Cohen was able to convince White to remain for an additional year, although in the event White stayed until late 1978.Ashley, "Gateways", pp. 84–85.]
"Amazing" raised its price from 75 cents to $1.00 with the November 1975 issue. The schedule switched to quarterly beginning with the March 1976 issue; as a result, the fiftieth anniversary issue had a cover date of June 1976. In 1977, with "Amazing"'s circulation (at nearly 26,000) as good as it had been for several years, Cohen announced that "Amazing" and "Fantastic" had lost $15,000. Cohen looked for a new publisher to buy the magazines, but in September of the following year sold his half-share in the company to his partner, Arthur Bernhard.Ashley, "Gateways", pp. 85–86.] White had occasionally suggested to Cohen that "Amazing" would benefit from a redesign and investment; he made the same suggestions to Bernhard in early October. According to White, Bernhard not only said no, but told him he would not receive a salary until the next issue was turned in. White resigned, and returned all manuscripts in his possession to their authors, even those which had been copy-edited and were ready for publication. White claimed that he had been instructed to do this by Bernhard, though Bernhard denied that this was so.Ashley, "Gateways", pp. 347–348.]
1980s to 2000s
Elinor Mavortook over as editor in early 1979. She had worked for Bernhard as an illustrator, and had done production work for several magazines. She had also been an editor at "Bill of Fare", a restaurant trade magazine. Mavor had read a good deal of science fiction but knew nothing about the world of science fiction magazines when she took over. She was not confident that a woman would be accepted as the editor of a science fiction magazine, so she initially used the pseudonym "Omar Gohagen" for both "Amazing" and "Fantastic", dropping it late in 1980. Circulation continued to fall, and Bernhard refused to consider Mavor's request to undertake a subscription drive, which might have helped. Instead, in late 1980, Bernhard decided to merge the two magazines. "Fantastic"'s last independent issue was October 1980; thereafter the combined magazine returned to a bimonthly schedule. At the same time the title was changed to "Amazing Science Fiction Stories". Bernhard cut Mavor's salary after the merger, as she was editing only one magazine. Despite this, she stayed with "Amazing", but was unable to prevent circulation from dropping again, down to only 11,000 newsstand sales in 1982.Ashley, "Gateways", pp. 348–355.]
Shortly after the merger, Bernhard decided to retire, and approached
Edward Ferman, the editor of "Fantasy and Science Fiction", and Joel Davis, at Ziff-Davis, among others, about a possible sale of "Amazing". Jonathan Post, of Emerald City Publishing, believed he had concluded a deal with Bernhard, and began to advertise for submissions, but in the event the negotiations failed. Bernhard also approached George H. Scithers, who declined, but was able to put Bernhard in touch with Gary Gygaxof TSR. On 27 May 1982 the sale was finalized. Scithers was taken on by TSR as editor beginning with the November 1982 issue.Ashley, "Gateways", pp. 348–355.] He was replaced by Patrick Lucien Pricein September 1986, and then by Kim Mohanin May 1991. TSR ceased publication of "Amazing" with the Winter 1995 issue,See the individual issues. For convenience, an online index is available at cite web | url = http://www.isfdb.org/wiki/index.php/Magazine:Amazing_Stories | title = Magazine:Amazing Stories — ISFDB | accessmonthday=14 June | accessyear = 2008 |publisher=Texas A&M University] but shortly after they were acquired by Wizards of the Coastin 1997, [cite news | title =Gary Gygax, Game Pioneer, Dies at 69 | work =New York Times | date = 5 March 2008|author = Seth Schliesel] the magazine was relaunched, again with Mohan as editor. This version only lasted for ten issues, though it did include a special celebratory 600th issue in early 2000. The science fiction trade journal "Locus" commented in an early review that distribution of the magazine seemed to be weak.cite web | url = http://www.locusmag.com/1998/Mgs/Profiles9809.html | title = Locus Online: Profiles of September 1998 Magazines | accessmonthday=20 September | accessyear = 2008 |publisher=Locus Publications] It proved unable to survive: the last issue of this version was dated Summer 2000. The title was then acquired by Paizo Publishing, who launched a new monthly version in September 2004. The February 2005 issue was the last one printed;cite web | url = http://www.locusmag.com/index/chklst/mg0038.htm| title = Amazing Stories Checklist | accessmonthday=12 September| accessyear = 2008|publisher = Stephen G. Miller and William T. Contento] a March 2005 issue was released in PDF format, and in March 2006 Paizo announced that it would no longer publish "Amazing".cite web
url = http://paizo.com/amazing
title = "Amazing Stories" And "Undefeated" Magazines Cancelled
publisher = Paizo Publishing
accessdate = 2006-04-02]
Contents and reception
Gernsback's editorial in the first issue asserted that "Not only do these amazing tales make tremendously interesting reading—they are also always instructive".Quoted in Ashley, "Time Machines", p. 50.] He had always believed that "scientifiction", as he called these stories, had educational power, but he now understood that the fiction had to entertain as well as instruct.Ashley, "Time Machines", p. 50.] His continued belief in the instructional value of science fiction was not in keeping with the general attitude of the public towards pulp magazines, which was that they were trash.Carter, "Creation of Tomorrow", p. 3.]
The first issue of "Amazing" contained only reprints, beginning with a serialization of "Off on a Comet", by
Jules Verne. In keeping with Gernsback's new approach, this was one of Verne's least scientifically plausible novels. Also included were H. G. Wells's "The New Accelerator", and Edgar Allan Poe's " The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar"; Gernsback put the names of all three authors on the cover. He also reprinted three more recent stories. Two came from his own magazine, "Science and Invention"; these were "The Man from the Atom" by G. Peyton Wertenbacker and "The Thing from—'Outside'" by George Allan England. The third was Austin Hall's "The Man Who Saved the Earth", which had appeared in " All-Story Weekly".Ashley, "Time Machines", p. 50–51.]
In the June 1926 issue Gernsback announced a competition to write a short story around a cover drawn by illustrator Frank R. Paul, with a first prize of $250. The competition drew over 360 entries, seven of which were eventually printed in "Amazing". The winner was Cyril G. Wates, who sold three more stories to Gernsback in the late 1920s. Two other entrants went on to become successful writers: one was
Clare Winger Harris, whose story, "The Fate of the Poseidonia", took third place in the competition, and was published in the June 1927 issue as by "Mrs. F.C. Harris". The other notable entrant was A. Hyatt Verrill, with "The Voice from the Inner World", which appeared in July 1927.
A letter column, titled "Discussions", soon appeared, and became a regular feature with the January 1927 issue. Many science fiction readers were isolated in small communities, knowing nobody else who liked the same fiction. Gernsback's habit of publishing the full address of all his correspondents meant that the letter column allowed fans to correspond with each other directly.
Science fiction fandomtraces its beginnings to the letter column in "Amazing" and its competitors, and one historian of the field, author Lester del Rey, has commented that the introduction of this letter column "may have been one of the most important events in the history of science fiction."del Rey, "World of Science Fiction", p. 45.]
For the first year, "Amazing" contained primarily reprinted material. It was proving difficult to attract good quality new material, and Gernsback's slowness at paying his authors did not help. Writers such as H.P. Lovecraft, H.G. Wells, and
Murray Leinsterall avoided "Amazing" because Gernsback took so long to pay for the stories he printed. The slow payments were probably known to many of the other active pulp writers, which would have further limited the volume of submissions. New writers did appear, but the quality of their stories was often weak.Ashley, "Time Machines", p. 54–56.]
Gernsback discovered that the audience he had attracted was less interested in scientific invention stories than in fantastical adventures.
A. Merritt's " The Moon Pool", which began serialization in May 1927, was an early success; there was little or no scientific basis to the story, but it was very popular with "Amazing"'s readers. The covers, all of which were painted by Paul, were garish and juvenile, leading some readers to complain. Raymond Palmer, later to become an editor of the magazine, wrote that a friend of his was forced to stop buying "Amazing" "by reason of his parents' dislike of the cover illustrations"."Discussions", "Amazing Stories", October 1928, p. 662; quoted in Ashley, "Time Machines", p. 56.] Gernsback experimented with a more sober cover for the September 1928 issue, but it sold poorly, and so the lurid covers continued. The combination of poor quality fiction with garish artwork has led some critics to comment that Gernsback created a "ghetto" for science fiction,Ashley, "Time Machines", p. 58.] though it has also been argued that the creation of a specialized market allowed science fiction to develop and mature as a genre.del Rey, "World of Science Fiction", p. 80.]
Among the regular writers for "Amazing" by the end of the 1920s were several who were influential and popular at the time, such as
David H. Kellerand Stanton Coblentz, and some who would continue to be successful for much longer, most notably Edward E. Smithand Jack Williamson. Smith's The Skylark of Space, which had been written between 1915 and 1920, was a seminal space operawhich found no ready market when "Argosy" stopped printing science fiction.Ashley, "Time Machines", p. 60.] When Smith saw a copy of the April 1927 issue of "Amazing", he submitted it to Sloane, and it appeared in the August–October 1928 issues. [Sanders, "Smith", pp. 1 & 9; Moskowitz, "Seekers", p. 15.] It was such a success that Sloane requested a sequel before the second installment had been published. [Moskowitz, "Seekers", p. 15.] It was also in the August 1928 issue that "Armageddon – 2419 AD", by Philip Francis Nowlan, appeared; this was the first appearance of Buck Rogersin print.Ashley, "Time Machines", p. 61-62.]
loane, Palmer, Browne and Fairman
Sloane took over full control of the content of "Amazing" when Gernsback left in 1929.Ashley, "Time Machines", p. 64.] He was infamous for his slow response to manuscripts, and when "
Astounding Stories" was launched in January 1930, with better rates and faster editorial response, some of Sloane's writers quickly defected.Ashley, "Time Machines", p. 69.] Little of quality appeared in "Amazing" during Sloane's tenure,del Rey, "World of Science Fiction", p. 62.] though Howard Fast's first story appeared in the October 1932 issue, and "The Lost Machine", an early story by John Wyndham, appeared in April 1932, under Wyndham's real name of John Beynon Harris.Ashley, "Time Machines", p. 113.]
Raymond Palmer, who took over in 1938, was less interested in the educational possibilities of science fiction than Sloane had been. He wanted the magazine to provide escapist entertainment, and had no interest in scientific accuracy. His instructions to one pulp writer,
Don Wilcox, to "Gimme Bang-Bang", sum up his approach. Palmer disposed of almost all Sloane's accumulated inventory, instead acquiring stories from local Chicago writers he knew through his connections with science fiction fandom.del Rey, "World of Science Fiction", pp. 114–115.] Ashley, "Time Machines", p. 112.] Ashley, "Time Machines", p. 116–117.] He also added features such as a "Correspondence Corner" and a "Collectors' Corner" to appeal to fans, and introduced a "Meet the Authors" feature, though on at least one occasion the featured author was a pseudonym, and the biographical details were invented. An illustrated back cover was tried, and soon became standard.Ashley, "Time Machines", p. 118–119.]
In the 1940s, several writers established themselves as a stable of reliable contributors to "Amazing". These included
David Wright O'Brienand William P. McGivern, both of whom wrote an immense amount for Ziff-Davis, much of it under house names such as Alexander Blade. John Russell Fearnbecame a prolific contributor, using the pseudonyms "Thornton Ayre" and "Polton Cross".del Rey, "World of Science Fiction", p. 116.] Palmer also encouraged long-time science fiction writers to return, publishing pulp authors such as Ed Earl Reppand Eando Binder. This policy did not always meet with approval from "Amazing"'s readers, who, despite a clear preference for action and adventure stories, could not stomach the work of some of the early pulp writers such as Harry Bates.Ashley, "Time Machines", pp. 176–177.]
The first "Shaver Mystery" story, "I Remember Lemuria", by
Richard S. Shaver, appeared in the March 1945 issue. Shaver claimed that all the world's accidents and disasters were caused by an ancient race of "detrimental robots" living in underground cities. This explanation for the world's ills, coming towards the end of World War II, struck a chord with "Amazing"'s readership. Palmer received over 2,500 letters, instead of the usual 40 or 50, and proceeded to print a Shaver story in every issue. The June 1947 issue was given over entirely to the Shaver Mystery.Ashley, "Time Machines", pp. 179–180.] From March 1948 the Shaver Mystery was dropped as a regular feature of the magazine, at Ziff's insistence. Palmer left the following year, and Browne, his successor, "was determined to make sure that the lunatics were no longer in charge of the asylum", in the words of science fiction historian Mike Ashley.Ashley, "Time Machines", pp. 184–185.]
Browne had acquired some good-quality material in the process of planning the launch of a new slick version of "Amazing", and when the plan was abandoned this material appeared in the continuing pulp version. This included "Operation RSVP" by
H. Beam Piper, and Satisfaction Guaranteed, by Isaac Asimov. Despite the cancellation of the planned change to a slick format, news had reached the writing community of "Amazing"'s new approach, and Browne began to receive much better material than Palmer had been able to publish. The existing stable of "Amazing" writers, such as Rog Phillipsand Chester S. Geier, were replaced by writers such as Fritz Leiber, Fredric Brown, and Clifford Simak. Browne also discovered several writers who went on to success in the field, publishing first stories by Walter M. Miller, Mack Reynolds, John Jakes, Milton Lesserand Charles Beaumont, all within the space of nine months in late 1950 and early 1951.Ashley, "Time Machines", p. 225.] Browne was disappointed by the cancellation of the planned slick version, however, and to some extent reverted to Palmer's policy of publishing sensational fiction. In 1952, for example, he serialized the anonymous "Master of the Universe", which purported to be a history of the future from 1975 to 2575.
With the change to digest size in 1953, Browne once again attempted to use higher-quality fiction. The first digest issue, dated April–May 1953, included stories by
Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, Richard Matheson, Theodore Sturgeon, and Murray Leinster. Further well-regarded stories appeared over the course of 1953, including Arthur C. Clarke's " Encounter in the Dawn", and Henry Kuttner's "Or Else".Ashley, "Transformations", p. 50.] Subsequent budget cuts meant that Browne was unable to sustain this level.Ashley, "Transformations", pp. 50–51.] As in the 1940s, "Amazing" gained a stable of writers who appeared frequently there, though this time the quality of the writers was rather higher—it included Harlan Ellison, Robert Silverberg, and Randall Garrett—and the regular writers were not appearing only in Ziff-Davis magazines. This remained the situation after Browne's departure in 1956 and through Paul Fairman's tenure.
Cele Goldsmith's tenure as editor began with the opportunity to showcase two very well-established writers:
E.E. Smithand Isaac Asimov. Smith's "The Galaxy Primes" began serialization in March 1959. Asimov's first published story, " Marooned Off Vesta", had appeared in the March 1939 issue of "Amazing", and Goldsmith reprinted it in March 1959 along with a sequel and Asimov's comments on the story. She soon began to publish some of the better new writers. Cordwainer Smith's "Golden the Ship Was—Oh! Oh! Oh!" appeared in April; and by the middle of the following year she had managed to attract stories from Robert Sheckley, Alan E. Nourse, Fritz Leiber, Gordon R. Dickson, Robert Bloch, and James Blish. The changes she wrought were enough to bring Robert Heinlein back as a subscriber; Heinlein read a copy of the June 1961 issue which, he said, "caused me to think I had been missing something".Ashley, "Transformations", pp. 222–223. The quote is from an unpublished letter from Heinlein to Goldsmith, quoted by Ashley.]
In September 1960 "Amazing" began to carry
Sam Moskowitz's series of author profiles, which had begun in "Fantastic", the sister magazine. The following month the cover and logo were redesigned. In April 1961, the thirty-fifth anniversary of the first issue, Goldsmith ran several reprints, including stories by Ray Bradburyand Edgar Rice Burroughs. Goldsmith had little previous experience with science fiction, and bought what she liked, rather than trying to conform to a notion of what science fiction should be. The result was the debut of more significant writers in her magazines than anywhere else at that time. She published the first stories of Ursula K. Le Guin, Roger Zelazny, Piers Anthonyand Thomas M. Disch, among many others. Award-winning stories published during Goldsmith's editorship include Zelazny's " He Who Shapes", a story about the use of dream therapy to cure phobias, which won a Nebula Awardin 1965. Goldsmith often wrote long, helpful letters to her authors: Zelazny commented in a letter to her that "Most of anything I have learned was stimulated by those first sales, and then I learned, and possibly even learned more, from some of the later rejections". Disch and Le Guin have also acknowledged the influence Goldsmith had on their early careers.Ashley, "Transformations", pp. 224–225. The quote from Zelazny is from a personal letter from Zelazny to Cele Lalli (Goldsmith), dated 20 Mar 1965, quoted in Ashley p. 225.]
The cover art for "Amazing" had been largely supplied by
Ed Valigurskyduring the late fifties, but during the early sixties a much wider variety of artists appeared, including Alex Schomburg, Leo Summersand Ed Emshwiller. Frank Paul contributed a wraparound cover for the April 1961 thirty-fifth anniversary issue; this was his last cover art for a science fiction magazine.
Goldsmith's open-minded approach meant that "Amazing" and "Fantastic" published some writers who did not fit into the other magazines.
Philip K. Dick, whose magazine sales had dropped, began to appear in "Amazing", and Goldsmith also regularly published David R. Bunch's stories of Moderan, a world whose inhabitants were part human and part metal. Bunch, whose stories were "bewildering, exotic word pictures" according to Mike Ashley, had been unable to sell regularly elsewhere.
The reprint era and Ted White
When Sol Cohen bought both "Amazing" and "Fantastic" in early 1965, he decided to maximize profit by filling the magazines almost entirely with reprints. Cohen had acquired second serial rights from Ziff-Davis to all stories that had been printed in both magazines, and also in the companion magazines such as "Fantastic Adventures". Joseph Wrzos, the new editor, persuaded Cohen that at least one new story should appear in each issue; there was sufficient inventory left over from Goldsmith's tenure for this to be done without acquiring new material. Readers initially approved of the policy, since it made available some well-loved stories from earlier decades that had not been reprinted elsewhere.Ashley, "Transformations", pp. 263–264.] Both of Wrzos's successors as editor, Harry Harrison and Barry Malzberg, were unable to persuade Cohen to use more new fiction.Ashley, "Transformations", pp. 266–267.]
When Ted White took over, it was on condition that the reprints be phased out. This took some time: for a while both "Amazing" and "Fantastic" continued to include one reprint every issue. With the May 1972 issue, however, the transformation was complete, and all stories were new. In addition to eliminating the reprints, White introduced several new features such as a letter column, a fan column, and book reviews, as well as a series of science articles by
Gregory Benford. He also redesigned the look of the magazine, making it, in sf historian Mike Ashley's words, "far more modern and sophisticated".Ashley, "Gateways", pp. 70–74.]
White was willing to print a variety of fiction, with traditional stories side-by-side with more experimental material, influenced by the British New Wave or by 1960s psychedelia. In 1971 he serialized
Ursula K. Le Guin's "The Lathe of Heaven", about a man whose dreams can modify reality. One writer who was influenced by this was James Tiptree, Jr., who later wrote that "after first plowing into the first pulpy pages of the 1971 "Amazing" in which "Lathe" came out, my toe-nails began to curl under and my spine hair stood up."Ashley, "Gateways", pp. 74–76. The quote is from "Universe SF Review", September/October 1975, quoted by Ashley on p. 76.] White's willingness to experiment led to "Amazing" running more stories with sexual content than other magazines. One such story, White's own "Growing Up Fast in the City", was criticized as pornographic by some of "Amazing"'s readers. Other stories, such as Rich Brown's "Two of a Kind", about the violent rape of a black woman and the subsequent death of her rapists, also led to controversy. White also printed more conventional fiction, however, much of it of high quality. The magazine was nominated for the Hugo award for best editor three times during his tenure (1970, 1971 and 1972), finishing third each time.Ashley, "Gateways", pp. 82–83.]
White's ability to attract new writers suffered because of the ongoing SFWA boycott, which had been in place for five years when he began his editorship. The low rates—one cent per word, as compared to three or five cents per word at the leading competitive magazines—also discouraged contributors. To compensate, White cultivated new writers whose experimental work was not selling elsewhere.
Piers Anthonywas one such writer; Anthony was not an established name at the end of the 1960s, and White was able to obtain his early novel "Hasan", which he serialized from the December 1969 issue.Ashley, "Gateways", p. 77.] White made a deal in 1971 with Gordon Eklund, who was hesitating to become a full-time writer because of the financial risks. White agreed to buy anything Eklund wrote, on condition that Eklund himself believed it was a good story. The result was that much of Eklund's fiction appeared in "Amazing" and "Fantastic" over the next few years.Ashley, "Gateways", pp. 78–79.]
"Amazing"'s reputation had been for formula science fiction almost since it began, but White was able to bring the magazine to a higher standard than any other editor except Cele Goldsmith,Gunn, "New Encyclopedia", p. 16.] and gave "Amazing" a respectable position in the field.Gunn, "New Encyclopedia", p. 503.] His successors were not able to maintain the level of quality that he achieved.
After Ted White
When Elinor Mavor took over, in early 1979, she had no experience with science fiction magazines. She was also unaware of the history of bad feeling within the SF community about the poor payments for reprinted stories, and was given an extremely limited budget to work with. She had few stories on hand to work with initially, and as a result her first issues contain several reprints. Mavor experimented in her first year with some new ideas, such as starting a story on the back cover in order to hook readers into buying the magazine to finish the story. She also began a serial story in graphic format which used reader input to continue its plot; it was not a success and "thankfully", according to Mike Ashley, the experiment was terminated after only three episodes.
Over time Mavor was to some extent able to reverse the negative perceptions of "Amazing" among established writers, but she was initially forced to work primarily with newer writers. Early discoveries of hers include
Michael P. Kube-McDowell, John E. Stithand Richard Paul Russo. In a notice published in her first issue, she asked readers for help in assembling news, reviews and fan information, and soon added columns covering these areas. In 1981 Robert Silverbergbegan a series of opinion columns. The artwork was of high quality, including work by Stephen Fabian, and later by David Mattingly.
After the merger with "Fantastic" Mavor continued to draw well known writers to the magazine, including
Orson Scott Card, George R. R. Martin, and Roger Zelazny. Brad Linaweaver's "Moon of Ice", which appeared in March 1982, was nominated for a Nebula award; Martin's "Unsound Variations", which had appeared the issue before, was nominated for both a Nebula and a Hugo award.
James Gunn's assessment of "Amazing" in the 1980s is that Mavor, Scithers and Price, who between them edited "Amazing" for a decade, were unable to sustain the standards established by Ted White in the 1970s. Brian Stableford, by contrast, comments that both Scithers and Price made efforts to publish good material, and that the packaging, from 1991 onwards, was perhaps the best presented of any of the science fiction magazines.
With the Wizards of the Coast relaunch in 1998 the contents, under editor Kim Mohan, became more media-focused. The initial plan was to have two or three stories per issue based on films, TV, and games.cite web | url = http://www.locusmag.com/1998/News/News01.html | title = Locus Online: SF News Jan 1998 | accessmonthday=20 September | accessyear = 2008 |publisher=Locus Publications] The 600th issue, in early 2000, included a
Harlan Ellisonstory, as well as a story from the 100th issue, the 200th issue, up to the 500th issue. Pamela Sargentalso contributed a story.cite web | url = http://www.locusmag.com/1998/News/News01.html | title = Locus Online: Magazines: December 1999 | accessmonthday=20 September | accessyear = 2008 |publisher=Locus Publications] The Paizo publishing relaunch, in 2004, was even more focused on media content than the Wizards of the Coast version had been, with much more movie and comics-related material than science fiction. Several well-known authors appeared in the first issue, including Harlan Ellison, Bruce Sterling, and Gene Wolfe. Paizo also ran a blog for the magazine.cite web | url = http://www.locusmag.com/2004/Monitor/Magazines08a.html | title = Locus Online: New Magazines, August 2004, Page 1 | accessmonthday=22 September | accessyear = 2008 |publisher=Locus Publications] The fiction received positive reviews, [cite web | url = http://www.locusmag.com/2004/Monitor/Magazines11b.html | title = Locus Online: New Magazines, November 2004, Page 2 | accessmonthday=22 September | accessyear = 2008 |publisher=Locus Publications] but Paizo soon put the magazine on temporary hold, and cancelled it permanently the following year.
Bibliographers do not always agree who should be listed as editor of any given issue of "Amazing". For example, Gernsback was in control for the first three years, but Sloane performed all the editorial duties related to fiction, and he is sometimes described as the editor. Similarly, later editors were sometimes under the supervision of editorial directors. The table below generally follows the mastheads in the magazines, with short notes added; more details are given in the publishing history section, above.
Hugo Gernsback(April 1926 – April 1929). Sloane performed almost all the editorial duties related to fiction.
* Arthur Lynch (May 1929 – October 1929). As under Gernsback, Sloane was essentially the editor during Lynch's tenure."Time Machines", p. 64.]
T. O'Conor Sloane(November 1929 – May 1939)
Raymond A. Palmer(June 1938 – December 1949)
Howard Browne(January 1950 – August 1956). Fairman actually took over editorial duties with the May or June 1956 issue.Fairman began writing the editorials with the May 1956 issue, and in the July 1956 editorial he explains that Browne is on a two month contract in Hollywood, writing scripts for "Cheyenne". In the August editorial he announces that the change is permanent, and in the September 1956 issue Fairman is listed as editor on the masthead for the first time. See cite journal | year = 1956 | month = May | title = The Observatory |author = Paul W. Fairman | journal = Amazing Stories | volume = 30 | issue = 5 | pages = 3, cite journal | year = 1956 | month = July | title = The Observatory |author = Paul W. Fairman | journal = Amazing Stories | volume = 30 | issue = 7 | pages = 6, cite journal | year = 1956 | month = August | title = The Observatory |author = Paul W. Fairman | journal = Amazing Stories | volume = 30 | issue = 8 | pages = 6, cite journal | year = 1956 | month = September | title = Masthead |author = Paul W. Fairman | journal = Amazing Stories | volume = 30 | issue = 9]
Paul W. Fairman(September 1956 – November 1958)
Cele Goldsmith Lalli(December 1958 – June 1965). Norman Lobsenz was introduced as editor, but in fact Cele Goldsmith did all the editorial work. When she married she used her married name of Cele Lalli.Lobsenz was introduced in the November 1958 editorial, as if he were to be editor. His title was editorial director. According to Mike Ashley, who corresponded with Cele Lalli, he was brought in as a consultant, wrote the editorials and story blurbs, met intermittently with Goldsmith, and read the stories she selected, but "she was soon left alone to edit the magazines as she saw fit". See cite journal | year = 1958 | month = November | title = Introducing the New Editor |author = Paul W. Fairman | journal = Amazing Stories | volume = 32 | issue = 11 | pages = 5, and Ashley, "Transformations", p. 222.]
* Joseph Ross (August 1965 – October 1967). A pseudonym for Joseph Wrzos.
Harry Harrison(December 1967 – September 1968)
Barry N. Malzberg(November 1968 – January 1969)
* Ted White (March 1969 – February 1979)
Elinor Mavor(May 1979 – September 1982). From May 1979 – August 1981 Mavor used the pseudonym Omar Gohagen; subsequently she used her real name.
George H. Scithers(November 1982 – July 1986)
Patrick Lucien Price(September 1986 – March 1991)
Kim Mohan(May 1991 – Winter 1995 and Summer 1998 – Summer 2000)
* David Gross (September 2004 – December 2004)
Jeff Berkwits(January 2005 – March 2005)
Other bibliographic details
"Amazing" began as a bedsheet format magazine; this lasted until October 1933, which saw a switch to pulp size. With the April–May 1953 issue "Amazing" became a digest.Tuck, "Amazing Stories", p. 535.] Seven issues in the early 1980s, from November 1980 to November 1981, were a half-inch taller than the regular digest size, but thereafter the magazine reverted to the standard digest format. In May 1991 the magazine returned to a large format, but this only lasted until the Winter 1994 issue, and the next three issues were digest-sized once again. When the magazine reappeared in 1998 it was in bedsheet format and it remained that size until the very end. The last issue, March 2005, was only distributed as a PDF download, never as a physical magazine. The volume numbering contained some irregularities: the numbering given in the table above appears to be in error for the period from 1979 to 1983, but in fact it is given correctly in the table. Note also that vol. 27 no. 8 was a single issue, not two, as it seems to be from the table; it was dated Dec 1953/Jan 1954.
The title of the magazine changed several times:
Two different series of reprints of "Amazing" appeared in the United Kingdom. First came a single undated issue from Ziff-Davis, in November 1946. In June 1950, Thorpe & Porter began a second series that lasted until 1954, and totalled 32 issues. The Ziff-Davis issue and the first 24 issues from Thorpe & Porter were pulp-sized; the last eight were digests. The Thorpe & Porter issues were undated, but the pulp issues were numbered from 1 to 24, and were initially bimonthly. The March 1951 issue was followed by April and November, however, and in 1952 issues appeared in February, March, April, June, July, September and November. 1953 saw nine pulp issues, omitting only March and May; and with December came the change to digest-size and a perfectly regular bimonthly schedule which lasted until February 1955. These last eight issues were numbered volume 1, numbers 1 to 8. There was also a Canadian edition which lasted for 24 issues from September 1933 to August 1935, from Teck Publications; these were identical to the US editions except that the front covers were overprinted with "Printed in Canada on Canadian Paper". A Japanese edition ran for seven issues in mid-1950, selecting stories from "Fantastic Adventures" as well as from "Amazing".
Several anthologies of stories from "Amazing" have been published, including:John Clute, "Martin H. Greenberg", in Nicholls & Clute, "Encyclopedia of SF", pp. 522–523.]
Steven Spielberglicensed the title for use on an American television show called "Amazing Stories" that ran from 1985 to 1987.cite news | title = Spielberg to Produce Adventure Series for NBC | work = New York Times | author = Leslie Bennetts | date = 1984-07-31] Between 1998 and 2000, "Amazing Stories" published a series of short stories based upon the " Star Trek" franchise. In 2002, these stories were reissued by Pocket Booksin the collection "Star Trek: The Amazing Stories".cite web | url = http://www.simonsays.com/content/book.cfm?tab=24&pid=481136 | title = Simon & Schuster: The Amazing Stories (eBook) | publisher = Simon & Schuster | accessdate = 2008-09-13]
*cite book | first=Mike | last=Ashley | title=The Time Machines:The Story of the Science-Fiction Pulp Magazines from the beginning to 1950| publisher=Liverpool University Press| location=Liverpool| year=2000 | isbn= 0-85323-865-0
*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 | first=Paul A. | last=Carter | title=The Creation of Tomorrow: Fifty Years of Magazine Science Fiction| publisher=Columbia University Press| location=New York| year=1977 | isbn= 0-231-04211-6
*cite book|last=Clute|first= John|coauthors= Nicholls, Peter| title= The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction| year=1993| publisher= St. Martin's Press, Inc.| location= New York| isbn= 0-312-09618-6
*cite book | first=Lester | last=del Rey | title=The World of Science Fiction: 1926–1976: The History of a Subculture| publisher=Ballantine Books| location=New York| year=1979 | isbn= 0-345-25452-X
*cite book | first=James | last=Gunn | title=The New Encyclopedia of Science Fiction| publisher=Viking | location=New York| year=1988 | isbn= 0-670-81041-X
*cite web | url = http://www.locusmag.com/index/chklst/mg0038.htm| title = Amazing Stories Checklist | accessmonthday=1 September | accessyear = 2008|publisher = Stephen G. Miller and William T. Contento
* [http://paizo.com/amazing/blog Paizo Publishing Amazing Stories blog]
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