Astonishing Stories

Astonishing Stories was an American pulp science fiction magazine, published by Popular Publications between 1940 and 1943. It was founded under Popular's "Fictioneers" imprint, which paid lower rates than Popular's other magazines. The magazine's first editor was Frederik Pohl, who also edited a companion publication, Super Science Stories. After nine issues Pohl was replaced by Alden H. Norton, who subsequently rehired Pohl as an assistant. The budget for Astonishing was very low, which made it difficult to acquire good fiction, but through his membership in the Futurians, a group of young science fiction fans and aspiring writers, Pohl was able to find material to fill the early issues. The magazine was successful, and Pohl was able to increase his pay rates slightly within a year. He managed to obtain stories by writers who subsequently became very well known, such as Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein. After Pohl entered the army in early 1943, wartime paper shortages led Popular to cease publication of Astonishing. The final issue was dated April of that year.

The magazine was never regarded as one of the leading titles of the genre, but despite the low budget it published some well-received material. Science fiction critic Peter Nicholls comments that "its stories were surprisingly good considering how little was paid for them",[1] and this view has been echoed by other historians of the field.

Publication history

Although science fiction had been published before the 1920s, it did not begin to coalesce into a separately marketed genre until the appearance in 1926 of Amazing Stories, a pulp magazine published by Hugo Gernsback. By the end of the 1930s the field was booming,[2] and several new sf magazines were launched in 1939.[3] Frederik Pohl, a young science fiction reader, was looking for a job that year. He visited Robert Erisman, who was the editor of two pulps, Marvel Science Stories and Dynamic Science Stories, to ask for a job as an assistant.[4] Erisman turned him down, but suggested that Pohl contact Rogers Terrill at Popular Publications, a leading pulp publisher. Erisman had heard that Popular was starting a new line of magazines, and thought that they might be interested in adding a science fiction title.[5] On October 25, 1939, Pohl visited Terrill and persuaded him to give the idea a try, and left Terrill's office having been hired, at the age of nineteen, to edit two new magazines,[6] on a salary of ten dollars per week.[7][notes 1] One was Super Science Stories; the other was at one point intended to be titled Incredible Stories, but ultimately appeared as Astonishing Stories.[6][9]

Popular was uncertain of the sales potential for the two new titles and decided to publish them under its Fictioneers imprint, which was used for lower-paying magazines.[6][10] Astonishing's first issue was dated February 1940; it was bimonthly, alternating monthly with Super Science Stories.[4] Pohl's budget for an issue was $405: in Pohl's memoirs he recalls Harry Steeger, one of the company owners, breaking down the budget for him: "Two hundred seventy-five dollars for stories. A hundred dollars for black and white art. Thirty dollars for a cover."[11] Pohl could only offer half a cent per word for fiction, well below the rates offered by the leading magazines.[6][12][notes 2] At ten cents, the magazine was cheaper than any of the other sf magazines of the day,[1] and it sold well, despite Pohl's limited resources.[4] It was certainly assisted by Popular's wide and effective distribution network, and the publisher soon increased Pohl's budget, to pay bonuses for popular stories.[4][notes 3] Pohl later commented that he was uncertain whether the additional funds really helped to bring in higher quality submissions, although at the time he assured Steeger it would improve the magazine.[15] Some of the additional money went to long-time writer Ray Cummings, who was sufficiently well known that the young Pohl felt unable to reject his stories, even though he disliked his work. Cummings came to see Pohl in person to submit his work, and refused to sell for less than one cent a word; since the first visit came on a day when Pohl had some extra money available, Pohl was never able to bring himself to tell Cummings that he could not really afford to pay that rate. Pohl comments in his memoirs that "for months he would turn up regularly as clockwork and sell me a new story; I hated them all, and bought them all."[16]

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1940 1/1 1/2 1/3 1/4 2/1 2/2
1941 2/3 2/4 3/1 3/2
1942 3/3 3/4 4/1 4/2
1943 4/3 4/4
Issues of Astonishing Stories, showing volume/issue number. The colors
identify the editors for each issue: Frederik Pohl until September 1941,
and Alden H. Norton for the remaining issues.

Pohl stretched his budget by reducing the space he needed to fill with fiction. For example, a long letter column took up several pages but required no payment; similarly, running advertisements for Popular's other magazines did not use up the fiction budget. Some authors sent inaccurate word counts with the stories they submitted, and Popular saved money by paying them on the basis of whichever word count was less—the author's or one done by Popular's staff. The result was a saving of forty to fifty dollars per issue. More money was saved by reusing snipped elements of black and white illustrations to fill space, as multiple uses of the same artwork did not require additional payments to the artist.[17]

Towards the end of 1940 Popular doubled Pohl's salary to twenty dollars per week.[7][notes 4] In June 1941 Pohl went to see Steeger to ask for a further raise; he was planning to resign and work as a free-lance writer if he did not get more pay. Steeger, in Pohl's words, "had complaints of his own", and was not receptive; by the end of the meeting Pohl had lost his job as editor. Pohl later commented "I have never been sure whether I quit or got fired."[19][notes 5] Instead of replacing Pohl, Popular assigned editor-in-chief Alden H. Norton to add the magazines to his responsibilities. The arrangement lasted for seven months, after which Norton asked Pohl to return as his assistant.[4] Norton offered Pohl a higher salary as an associate editor than he had received as the editor, and Pohl quickly accepted.[21]

Pohl was not eligible to be drafted for military service as he was married, but by the end of 1942 his marriage was over and he decided to enlist. As voluntary enlistment was suspended he was unable to immediately join the army, but eventually was inducted on April 1, 1943.[22] Paper was difficult to obtain because of the war, and Popular decided to close the magazine down; the final issue, dated April 1943, was assembled with the assistance of Ejler Jakobsson.[23][24][notes 6]

Contents and reception

Because of the low rates of pay, the stories submitted to Astonishing in its first year had generally already been rejected elsewhere. However, Pohl was a member of the Futurians, a group of science fiction fans that included Isaac Asimov, C.M. Kornbluth, Richard Wilson and Donald Wollheim; the Futurians were eager to become professional writers and were glad to submit stories to Pohl.[4] Asimov recalls in his memoirs that on October 27, 1939, two days after Pohl was hired to edit the magazines, Pohl turned up at Asimov's apartment and asked to buy "Half-Breed", a story Pohl had been trying to sell on Asimov's behalf since June of that year. Pohl needed stories quickly for the first issue of Astonishing (though the name had not yet been selected), and as the story had been rejected by Amazing Stories and Astounding Stories, Asimov was willing to sell it for half a cent per word. A couple of weeks later Pohl also acquired "The Callistan Menace" from Asimov.[26] The other Futurians were prolific as well; in Pohl's first year as an editor he bought a total of fifteen stories from them for the two magazines.[27] Damon Knight, another of the Futurians, recalled in his memoirs that Pohl once asked the group for a story to fill out an issue, with $35 available to pay for it. Kornbluth and Wilson wrote a first draft, alternating turns at the typewriter; the result was edited by Harry Dockweiler, another Futurian, and then again by Pohl before it appeared in the April 1940 Astonishing under the title "Stepsons of Mars", with a byline of "Ivar Towers".[28] Pohl contributed material himself, using the pseudonyms "James McCreigh" and "Dirk Wylie" (the latter pseudonym was also used by Dockweiler);[4] he used his own stories when he needed to fill an issue,[4] and to supplement his salary of ten dollars a week. Particularly after his marriage to Doris Baumgardt in August 1940, Pohl realized that his salary covered their apartment rent with almost no money left over, and began to augment his income by selling to himself as well as to other magazines.[7] When Pohl lost his job as editor in late 1941, he had bought from himself (and paid for) a couple of stories that he had not actually written, and hence had to write them very quickly and turn them in.[29][notes 7]

The first issue of Astonishing Stories was dated February 1940; the lead story was "Chameleon Planet" by John Russell Fearn, and it also included Asimov's "Half-Breed" and fiction by Henry Kuttner and Manly Wade Wellman. Despite the difficulties caused by the low budget, Pohl was able to pay his authors promptly, unlike some of his competitors, and he thus began to receive stories of higher quality.[6] Sf historian Mike Ashley identifies "The Last Drop", by L. Ron Hubbard and L. Sprague de Camp as one of the better stories in Astonishing; historians Milton Wolf and Raymond H. Thompson consider the story to be unimpressive, and point instead to Alfred Bester's "The Pet Nebula" in the February 1941 issue.[4][6] Kuttner's "Soldiers of Space" and Robert Bloch's "It Happened Tomorrow", both of which appeared in the February 1943 issue, are also praised.[4] Pohl was also able to print the first three of Ross Rocklynne's well-liked "Into the Darkness" series.[6] Other well-known writers who appeared in the pages of Astonishing include Leigh Brackett, Clifford Simak, and E. E. Smith.[4][31]

Pohl told his readers in Astonishing's first issue that he would listen to their feedback and respond to their requests. In addition to paying attention to their comments on stories, he included departments in the magazine that encouraged interaction with the fans, such as a letter column, a section that listed fanzines with names and addresses, and a review column.[4] The reviews, primarily by Wollheim, but also including contributions from Richard Wilson, Forrest Ackerman, and John Michel, were of a higher standard than elsewhere in the field, and historian Paul Carter regards Astonishing and Super Science Stories as the place where "book reviewing for the first time began to merit the term 'literary criticism'", and adds that "it was in those magazines that the custom began of paying attention to science fiction on the stage and screen also."[4][32]

The artwork in Astonishing was initially quite poor, which was unsurprising given the minuscule budget Pohl had to work with. Much of the art was supplied by fans and artists early in their careers, including Doris Baumgardt (under the pseudonym Leslie Perri) and Dorothy Les Tina, who later became Pohl's first and second wives, respectively. One fan artist who stood out from the rest was Hannes Bok, who went on to become a well-respected artist with a very distinctive style. Ray Bradbury commented positively on Bok's work in a letter in the August 1940 Astonishing, and Bok subsequently illustrated a story of Bradbury's in the April 1943 issue. Aleck Portegal, Popular's art director, had initially told Pohl that the regular artists would be unwilling to work for the low rates he could offer, but in the event some of them were willing to take less pay to get the extra work. More professional art began to appear in the magazine, including work by Virgil Finlay, Alexander Leydenfrost, Leo Morey, Hans Wessolowski, and Frank R. Paul, all well known in the field. Some art appeared under the name Stephen Lawrence, which was known to be a pseudonym of Lawrence Stevens, but it was subsequently discovered that some of this work was actually by Lawrence Stevens' son Peter.[4]

Astonishing Stories is not remembered as being among the best science fiction magazines: both critic Peter Nicholls and sf writer Jack Williamson have described it as a "training ground" for writers who would go on to do their best work elsewhere.[1][4] However, Nicholls adds that "its stories were surprisingly good considering how little was paid for them",[1] and Wolf and Thompson agree, claiming that "there was much that was memorable in Astonishing, both by way of immediate appeal and of more lasting quality".[4] Pohl himself, who later became a very successful magazine editor, felt he made many mistakes. He quotes as an example his serialization of Malcolm Jameson's story "Quicksands of Youthwardness" in three parts; the story was only 27,000 words long, and readers complained (justifiably, in Pohl's view) that serializing it in a bimonthly magazine meant they had to wait for five months to read the whole story, in relatively small 9,000-word pieces. Overall, Pohl assessed his performance by saying "I wasn't really a very good editor"; adding "With what I know now I could have made those magazines sing, but as it was they just lay there".[33]

Bibliographic details

Astonishing Stories was edited by Frederik Pohl from February 1940 through September 1941 (nine issues), and then by Alden H. Norton from November 1941 through April 1943 (seven issues). It was published by Fictioneers, Inc., a subsidiary of Popular Publications. It was pulp-sized throughout its run, with 112 pages and a cover price of 10 cents. The volume numbering was regular, with four volumes of four numbers. It was bimonthly for the first eight issues; the next four were on an irregular schedule, and the last four, from October 1942, were bimonthly again.[4]

A Canadian edition appeared for three issues, dated January, March, and May 1942, published by Popular Publications' Toronto branch. It was priced at 10 cents and ran to 96 pages; it was also in pulp format, but fractionally larger than the US version. The first and third issues reprinted the November 1941 and March 1942 US issues of Astonishing, but the March 1942 Canadian issue was a reprint of the November 1941 Super Science Stories, omitting one story. The covers in all three issues were replaced by new paintings, and the interior artwork was also different. The artists responsible for the new illustrations and covers were not credited. In August 1942 a Canadian edition of Super Science Stories began which also alternated between reprinting the US editions of Astonishing and Super Science Stories; this could be regarded as a continuation of the Canadian edition of Astonishing, although the volume numbering was restarted at volume 1 number 1 when the name was changed.[34][35]

Notes

  1. ^ Pohl later realized that he got the job by an accident of timing; he applied just as the publisher needed new editors for a new line of magazines. Pohl commented that "they would have hired Mothra, or Og, Son of Fire, just about as readily right then, because they were very interested in expanding".[8]
  2. ^ By 1938, John W. Campbell at Astounding Stories was paying one cent per word, with a bonus for the readers' favorite story in the issue.[12]
  3. ^ For example, Isaac Asimov records that he was paid five-eighths of a cent per word for his story "Half-Breeds on Venus" in June 1940,[13] and Pohl paid himself three-quarters of a cent per word for "The King's Eye", which appeared in the February 1941 Astonishing under Pohl's "James McCreigh" alias.[14]
  4. ^ It is not clear from Pohl's memoirs exactly when this happened. According to his autobiographical essay "Ragged Claws" he was paid ten dollars a week for the first six months, which would imply his pay was increased in about April 1940. However, in his autobiography, The Way the Future Was, he makes it clear that the pay raise occurred after he was married in August 1940.[7][18]
  5. ^ Steeger was probably complaining about poor sales: Isaac Asimov recalls finding out on June 13, 1941, about Pohl's departure from Popular, and notes "his magazines were doing poorly, and he was being relieved of his editorial position".[20]
  6. ^ According to Pohl, there was ample paper at the mills in Canada, but because of the war there was no transportation available to bring it to the U.S.[25]
  7. ^ One of the stories was "Daughters of Eternity", which appeared in Astonishing Stories in February 1942;[29] the other was probably "Wings of the Lightning Land", which Pohl records was written in a single night and which was published in the November 1941 Astonishing.[30][31]

References

  1. ^ a b c d Peter Nicholls, "Astonishing Stories", in Clute & Nicholls, Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, p. 62.
  2. ^ Malcolm Edwards & Peter Nicholls, "SF Magazines", in Clute & Nicholls, Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, pp. 1066–1068.
  3. ^ Ashley, Time Machines, pp. 237–255.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Milton Wolf & Raymond H. Thompson, "Astonishing Stories", in Tymn & Ashley, Science Fiction, Fantasy and Weird Fiction Magazines, pp. 117–122.
  5. ^ Pohl, The Way the Future Was, p. 82.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Ashley, Time Machines, pp. 158–160.
  7. ^ a b c d Pohl, The Way the Future Was, p. 98.
  8. ^ Pohl, Early Pohl, p. 23.
  9. ^ "Astonishing Stories" in Tuck, Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Vol. 3, p. 547.
  10. ^ Pohl, Early Pohl, pp. 23–24.
  11. ^ Pohl, The Way the Future Was, pp. 87–88.
  12. ^ a b Ashley, Time Machines, p. 107.
  13. ^ Asimov, In Memory Yet Green, p. 269.
  14. ^ Pohl, Early Pohl, p. 25.
  15. ^ Pohl, The Way the Future Was, p. 89.
  16. ^ Pohl, The Way the Future Was, p. 90.
  17. ^ Pohl, The Way the Future Was, pp. 88–89.
  18. ^ Frederik Pohl, "Ragged Claws", in Aldiss & Harrison, Hell's Cartographers, p. 155.
  19. ^ Pohl, The Way the Future Was, p. 102.
  20. ^ Asimov, Early Asimov Vol. 2, p. 197.
  21. ^ Pohl, The Way the Future Was, p. 107.
  22. ^ Pohl, The Way the Future Was, pp. 109–110.
  23. ^ Ashley, Time Machines, pp. 217–218.
  24. ^ Pohl, Early Pohl, p. 131.
  25. ^ Pohl, Early Pohl, p. 129.
  26. ^ Asimov, In Memory Yet Green, pp. 255–256.
  27. ^ Raymond H. Thompson, "Super Science Stories", in Tymn & Ashley, Science Fiction, Fantasy and Weird Fiction Magazines, pp. 631–635.
  28. ^ Knight, Futurians, pp. 31–32.
  29. ^ a b Pohl, Early Pohl, p. 73.
  30. ^ Pohl, The Way the Future Was, p. 105.
  31. ^ a b See the individual issues. For convenience, an online index is available at "Magazine:Astonishing Stories". ISFDB. Al von Ruff. Retrieved 12 June 2012.
  32. ^ Carter, Creation of Tomorrow, p. 296.
  33. ^ Pohl, The Way the Future Was, pp. 92–94.
  34. ^ Grant Thiessen, "Astonishing Stories (Canadian)", in Tymn & Ashley, Science Fiction, Fantasy and Weird Fiction Magazines, pp. 122–123.
  35. ^ Raymond H. Thompson, "Super Science Stories (Canadian)", in Tymn & Ashley, Science Fiction, Fantasy and Weird Fiction Magazines, pp. 635–637.

Sources

  • Aldiss, Brian W.; Harrison, Harry (1976). Hell's Cartographers. London: Futura. ISBN 0-86007-907-4
  • Ashley, Mike (2000). The Time Machines:The Story of the Science-Fiction Pulp Magazines from the beginning to 1950. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. ISBN 0-85323-865-0.
  • Asimov, Isaac (1973). The Early Asimov, or Eleven Years of Trying: Volume 2. London: Panther. ISBN 0-586-03936-8.
  • Asimov, Isaac (1979). In Memory Yet Green. Garden City, NY: Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-13679-X.
  • Carter, Paul A. (1977). The Creation of Tomorrow: Fifty Years of Magazine Science Fiction. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-04211-6.
  • Clute, John; Nicholls, Peter (1993). The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. New York: St. Martin's Press, Inc. ISBN 0-312-09618-6.
  • Knight, Damon (1977). The Futurians. New York: John Day (book club edition).
  • Pohl, Frederik (1979). The Way the Future Was. London: Gollancz. ISBN 0-575-02672-3.
  • Pohl, Frederik (1980). The Early Pohl. London: Dobson. ISBN 0-234-72198-7.
  • Tuck, Donald H. (1982). The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Volume 3. Chicago: Advent: Publishers. ISBN 0-911682-26-0.
  • Tymn, Marshall B.; Ashley, Mike (1985). Science Fiction, Fantasy and Weird Fiction Magazines. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-21221-X.

External links

Beyond Doubt

Beyond Doubt is a science fiction story written by Robert A. Heinlein, originally printed in Astonishing Stories in April 1941 under the pen name "Lyle Monroe and Elma Wentz".

It was published again in 1984 as by Heinlein in Election Day 2084: Science Fiction Stories on the Politics of the Future (edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg), and posthumously in 2005 in the Heinlein collection Off the Main Sequence.

E. E. Smith bibliography

This is complete bibliography by American space opera author E. E. Smith.

Because he died in 1965, the works of E.E. Smith are now public domain in countries where the term of copyright lasts 50 years after the death of the author, or less; generally this does not include works first published posthumously. Works first published before 1923, are also public domain in the United States. Additionally, a number of the author's works have become public domain in the United States due to non-renewal of copyright.

Ejler Jakobsson

Ejler Jakobsson (December 6, 1911 – October 1984) was a Finnish-born science fiction editor.

Jakobsson moved to the United States in 1926 and began a career as an author in the 1930s. He worked on Astonishing Stories and Super Science Stories briefly before they shut down production due to paper shortages. When Super Science Stories was revived in 1949, Jakobson was named editor until it ended publication two years later. Jakobsson returned to editing in 1969, when he took over Galaxy and If, succeeding Frederik Pohl. He worked to make the magazines more contemporary with the help of Judy-Lynn del Rey and Lester del Rey. He left the magazines in 1974 and was succeeded by Jim Baen.

Half-Breed (short story)

"Half-Breed" is a science fiction short story by American writer Isaac Asimov. It was first published in the February 1940 issue of Astonishing Stories and reprinted in the 1972 collection The Early Asimov. It was the fifteenth story written by Asimov, and the fourth to be published. At 9000 words, it was his longest published story to date.

"Half-Breed" was written in June 1939, and submitted to (and subsequently rejected by) Amazing Stories and Astounding Science Fiction before being accepted by Frederik Pohl in October for his new magazine Astonishing Stories.

Asimov wrote a sequel to the story, titled "Half-Breeds on Venus".

Half-Breeds on Venus

"Half-Breeds on Venus" is a science fiction short story by American writer Isaac Asimov. Asimov was asked by Frederik Pohl, editor of Astonishing Stories, to write a sequel to his earlier Tweenie story "Half-Breed", and he spent April and May 1940 doing so. He submitted the sequel to Pohl on June 3, and Pohl accepted it on the 14th, running it in the December 1940 issue of Astonishing. Asimov subsequently included the story in his 1972 collection The Early Asimov.

"Half-Breeds on Venus" was the twentieth story written by Asimov, the tenth to be published, the first sequel to an earlier story, and the first to "make the cover", i.e. to be the source of the magazine's cover illustration. At ten thousand words, it was also the longest story Asimov had had published up to that time. In commentary in The Early Asimov, Asimov says that the character of Irene was named after a fellow chemistry student at Columbia University that he had developed a crush on.

Heredity (short story)

"Heredity" is a science fiction short story by the American writer Isaac Asimov. Asimov wrote the story, his twenty-third, in August 1940 under the title "Twins". It was rejected by John W. Campbell, editor of Astounding Science Fiction, on 29 August, and accepted by Frederik Pohl on 4 September. It appeared in the April 1941 issue of Astonishing Stories under the title "Heredity" and was reprinted in the 1972 collection The Early Asimov. Heredity was the second Asimov story to receive a cover illustration.

History of US science fiction and fantasy magazines to 1950

Science fiction and fantasy magazines began to be published in the United States in the 1920s. Stories with science fiction themes had been appearing for decades in pulp magazines such as Argosy, but there were no magazines that specialized in a single genre until 1915, when Street & Smith, one of the major pulp publishers, brought out Detective Story Magazine. The first magazine to focus solely on fantasy and horror was Weird Tales, which was launched in 1923, and established itself as the leading weird fiction magazine over the next two decades; writers such as H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith and Robert E. Howard became regular contributors. In 1926 Weird Tales was joined by Amazing Stories, published by Hugo Gernsback; Amazing printed only science fiction, and no fantasy. Gernsback included a letter column in Amazing Stories, and this led to the creation of organized science fiction fandom, as fans contacted each other using the addresses published with the letters. Gernsback wanted the fiction he printed to be scientifically accurate, and educational, as well as entertaining, but found it difficult to obtain stories that met his goals; he printed "The Moon Pool" by Abraham Merritt in 1927, despite it being completely unscientific. Gernsback lost control of Amazing Stories in 1929, but quickly started several new magazines. Wonder Stories, one of Gernsback's titles, was edited by David Lasser, who worked to improve the quality of the fiction he received. Another early competitor was Astounding Stories of Super-Science, which appeared in 1930, edited by Harry Bates, but Bates printed only the most basic adventure stories with minimal scientific content, and little of the material from his era is now remembered.

In 1933 Astounding was acquired by Street & Smith, and it soon became the leading magazine in the new genre, publishing early classics such as Murray Leinster's "Sidewise in Time" in 1934. A couple of competitors to Weird Tales for fantasy and weird fiction appeared, but none lasted, and the 1930s is regarded as Weird Tales' heyday. Between 1939 and 1941 there was a boom in science fiction and fantasy magazines: several publishers entered the field, including Standard Magazines, with Startling Stories and Thrilling Wonder Stories (a retitling of Wonder Stories); Popular Publications, with Astonishing Stories and Super Science Stories; and Fiction House, with Planet Stories, which focused on melodramatic tales of interplanetary adventure. Ziff-Davis launched Fantastic Adventures, a fantasy companion to Amazing. Astounding extended its pre-eminence in the field during the boom: the editor, John W. Campbell, developed a stable of young writers that included Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and A.E. van Vogt. The period starting in 1938, when Campbell took control of Astounding, is often referred to as the Golden Age of Science Fiction. Well-known stories from this era include Slan, by van Vogt, and "Nightfall", by Asimov. Campbell also launched Unknown, a fantasy companion to Astounding, in 1939; this was the first serious competitor for Weird Tales. Although wartime paper shortages forced Unknown's cancellation in 1943, it is now regarded as one of the most influential pulp magazines.

Only eight science fiction and fantasy magazines survived World War II. All were still in pulp magazine format except for Astounding, which had switched to a digest format in 1943. Astounding continued to publish popular stories, including "Vintage Season" by C. L. Moore, and "With Folded Hands ..." by Jack Williamson. The quality of the fiction in the other magazines improved over the decade: Startling Stories and Thrilling Wonder in particular published some excellent material and challenged Astounding for the leadership of the field. A few more pulps were launched in the late 1940s, but almost all were intended as vehicles to reprint old classics. One exception, Out of This World Adventures, was an experiment by Avon, combining fiction with some pages of comics. It was a failure and lasted only two issues. Magazines in digest format began to appear towards the end of the decade, including Other Worlds, edited by Raymond Palmer. In 1949, the first issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction appeared, followed in October 1950 by the first issue of Galaxy Science Fiction; both were digests, and between them soon dominated the field. Very few science fiction or fantasy pulps were launched after this date; the 1950s was the beginning of the era of digest magazines, though the leading pulps continued until the mid-1950s, and authors began selling to mainstream magazines and large book publishers.

James Blish

James Benjamin Blish (23 May 1921 – 30 July 1975) was an American science fiction and fantasy writer. He is best known for his Cities in Flight novels, and his series of Star Trek novelizations written with his wife, J. A. Lawrence. He is credited with creating the term gas giant to refer to large planetary bodies.

Blish was a member of the Futurians. His first published stories appeared in Super Science Stories and Amazing Stories.

Blish wrote literary criticism of science fiction using the pen-name William Atheling Jr. His other pen names included: Donald Laverty, John MacDougal, and Arthur Lloyd Merlyn.

Leigh Brackett

Leigh Douglass Brackett (December 7, 1915 – March 18, 1978) was an American writer, particularly of science fiction, and has been referred to as the Queen of Space Opera. She was also a screenwriter, known for her work on such films as The Big Sleep (1946), Rio Bravo (1959), The Long Goodbye (1973) and The Empire Strikes Back (1980). She was the first woman shortlisted for the Hugo Award.

Lisey's Story

Lisey's Story is a novel by American writer Stephen King that combines the elements of psychological horror and romance. It was released on October 24, 2006, and was nominated for the World Fantasy Award in 2007. An early excerpt from the novel, "Lisey and the Madman", was published in McSweeney’s Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories (2004), and was nominated for the 2004 Bram Stoker Award for Best Long Fiction. King stated that this is his favorite of the novels he has written.The genesis for Lisey's Story was an incident in June 1999 in which King was hit by a van in Lovell, Maine, and seriously injured; while he was in the hospital, his wife Tabitha decided to redesign his studio. Coming home from the hospital and seeing his books and belongings in boxes, King saw an image of what his studio would look like after his death.

Neil R. Jones

Neil Ronald Jones (May 29, 1909 – February 15, 1988) was an American author who worked for the state of New York. Not prolific, and little remembered today, Jones was ground-breaking in science fiction. His first story, "The Death's Head Meteor", was published in Air Wonder Stories in 1930, possibly recording the first use of "astronaut" in fiction. He also pioneered cyborg and robotic characters, and is credited with inspiring the modern idea of cryonics. Most of his stories fit into a "future history" like that of Robert A. Heinlein or Cordwainer Smith, well before either of them used this convention in their fiction.

Off the Main Sequence

Off the Main Sequence: The Other Science Fiction Stories of Robert A. Heinlein (ISBN 1-58288-184-7) is a collection of 27 short stories by American writer Robert A. Heinlein, including three that were never previously collected in book form.

The title is a play on the astronomy concept off the main sequence.

Popular Publications

Popular Publications was one of the largest publishers of pulp magazines during its existence, at one point publishing 42 different titles per month. Company titles included detective, adventure, romance, and Western fiction. They were also known for the several 'weird menace' titles. They also published several pulp hero or character pulps.

The company was formed in 1930 by Henry "Harry" Steeger. It was the time of the Great Depression, and Steeger had just read The Hound of the Baskervilles. Steeger realized that people wanted escapist fiction, allowing them to forget the difficulties of daily life. Steeger wrote "I realised that a great deal of money could be made with that kind of material. It was not long before I was at it, inventing one pulp magazine after another, until my firm had originated over 300 of them."

In the late 1930s Steeger was under pressure to lower his rate of pay to below one cent a word, which he felt was the minimum decent rate he could offer. He didn't want to have Popular pay less than one cent per word, so a new company, Fictioneers, was started; it was essentially a fictional company, with an address (205 East 42nd St) that corresponded to the rear entrance of Popular's offices at 210 East 43rd St. It was given a separate phone number, and the switchboard girl was instructed to put calls through to staff working on Fictioneers titles only if the calls came to the Fictioneers number. Many staff were working on magazines for both companies at the same time, which made it difficult to maintain the pretense of separation. Science fiction writer Frederik Pohl, on the other hand, was hired specifically to edit two Fictioneers titles: Astonishing Stories and Super Science Stories.In 1934, Popular acquired Adventure from the Butterick Company. Around the same time, the purchased a number of titles from Clayton Publications such as Ace-High Magazine and Complete Adventure Novelettes. In 1940, they purchased Black Mask from The Pro-Distributors, Inc. In 1942 the firm acquired the properties of the Frank A. Munsey Company In 1949, they acquired all of the pulp titles Street & Smith had recently cancelled, with the exceptions of The Shadow (due to the radio show) and their other hero pulps, and Astounding, although Popular did not publish revivals of them all.

Other imprints used included Fictioneers, Inc. (1939–58), All-Fiction Field, Inc. (1942–58), New Publications, Inc. (1936–60), Recreational Reading (1936–60), and Post Periodicals, Inc. (1936–60).

In 1972, the company was sold to Brookside Publications, a company owned by advertising magnate David Geller. At the time it was still publishing Argosy, Railroad, recently ending Adventure and True Adventure. A handful of years later, Geller sold Popular to French publisher Hachette. In 1981, they sold the rights to Joel Frieman who established Blazing Publications, which in 1988 renamed itself Argosy Communications, Inc. Under those names, it published a few comic book version of characters, as well as allowed the reprinting of several of their properties. In 2014 most of its titles–including all copyrights and associated intellectual property–were acquired by Steeger Properties, LLC, with Argosy Communications retaining only a few pulp heroes such as The Spider, G-8, and Operator #5.

Super-Neutron

"Super-Neutron" is a science fiction short story by Isaac Asimov, originally published in the September 1941 issue of Astonishing Stories, and included in the 1972 collection The Early Asimov. Asimov originally intended the story to be the first in a series, but was unable to come up with any further story ideas.

Super Science Stories

Super Science Stories was an American pulp science fiction magazine published by Popular Publications from 1940 and 1943, and again from 1949 to 1951. Popular launched it under their "Fictioneers" imprint, which they used for magazines paying writers less than one cent per word. Frederik Pohl was hired in late 1939, at 19 years old, to edit the magazine; he also edited Astonishing Stories, a companion science fiction publication. Pohl left in mid-1941, and Super Science Stories was given to Alden H. Norton to edit; a few months later Norton rehired Pohl as an assistant. Popular gave Pohl a very low budget, so most manuscripts submitted to Super Science Stories had already been rejected by the higher-paying magazines. This made it difficult to acquire good fiction, but Pohl was able to acquire stories for the early issues from the Futurians, a group of young science fiction fans and aspiring writers.

Super Science Stories was an initial success, and within a year Popular increased Pohl's budget slightly, allowing him to pay a bonus rate on occasion. Pohl wrote many stories himself, to fill the magazine and to augment his salary. He managed to obtain stories by writers who subsequently became very well known, such as Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein. After Pohl entered the army in early 1943, wartime paper shortages led Popular to cease publication of Super Science Stories. The final issue of the first run was dated May of that year. In 1949 the title was revived with Ejler Jakobsson as editor; this version, which included many reprinted stories, lasted almost three years, with the last issue dated August 1951. A Canadian reprint edition of the first run included material from both Super Science Stories and Astonishing Stories; it was unusual in that it printed some original fiction rather than just reprints. There were also Canadian and British reprint editions of the second incarnation of the magazine.

The magazine was never regarded as one of the leading titles of the genre, but has received qualified praise from science fiction critics and historians. Science fiction historian Raymond Thompson describes it as "one of the most interesting magazines to appear during the 1940s", despite the variable quality of the stories. Critics Brian Stableford and Peter Nicholls comment that the magazine "had a greater importance to the history of sf than the quality of its stories would suggest; it was an important training ground".

The Callistan Menace

"The Callistan Menace" is a science fiction short story by Isaac Asimov. It first appeared in the April 1940 issue of Astonishing Stories and was reprinted in the 1972 collection The Early Asimov. It was the second story written by Asimov, and the oldest story of his still in existence.

The Vortex Blaster

The Vortex Blaster is a collection of three science fiction short stories by American writer Edward E. Smith. It was simultaneously published in 1960 by Gnome Press in an edition of 3,000 copies and by Fantasy Press in an edition of 341 copies. The book was originally intended to be published by Fantasy Press, but was handed over to Gnome Press when Fantasy Press folded. Lloyd Eshbach, of Fantasy Press, who was responsible for the printing of both editions, printed the extra copies for his longtime customers. The stories originally appeared in the magazines Comet and Astonishing Stories.

In 1968, Pyramid Books issued a paperback edition under the title Masters of the Vortex, promoting it as "the final adventure in the famous Lensman series." While the stories are set in the same universe as the Lensman novels, they are only tangentially related. They reference events that happen in the Lensman series, but only “off stage”. No characters from the other Lensmen books show up in this book. From the events spoken of in this book it apparently falls between Second Stage Lensmen and Children of the Lens.

The Wonder Effect

The Wonder Effect is a collection of science fiction stories by American writers Frederik Pohl and Cyril M. Kornbluth, published by Ballantine Books in 1962.

The first novelette, "Critical Mass", is a science fiction piece by Pohl and Kornbluth first published in Galaxy Science Fiction magazine in February 1962, almost four years after Kornbluth's death. According to a foreword by Pohl in the later collection Critical Mass, the story was assembled from notes Kornbluth made for three story ideas, plus one of Pohl's own from 1954. After Kornbluth's death, his widow turned over his story notes and drafts to Pohl, who completed a dozen or so stories based on this material, most of which were eventually collected in this volume and in the later Critical Mass.

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