Fantastic Novels

Fantastic Novels was an American science fiction and fantasy pulp magazine published by the Munsey Company of New York from 1940 to 1941, and again by Popular Publications, also of New York, from 1948 to 1951. It was a companion to Famous Fantastic Mysteries. Like that magazine, it mostly reprinted science fiction and fantasy classics from earlier decades, such as novels by A. Merritt, George Allan England, and Victor Rousseau, though it occasionally published reprints of more recent work, such as Earth's Last Citadel, by Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore.

The magazine lasted for 5 issues in its first incarnation, and for another 20 in the revived version from Popular Publications. Mary Gnaedinger edited both series; her interest in reprinting Merritt's work helped make him one of the better-known fantasy writers of the era. A Canadian edition from 1948 to 1951 reprinted 17 issues of the second series; two others were reprinted in Great Britain in 1950 and 1951.

Fantastic Novels
The words "FANTASTIC Novels" in red letters with black outlines on a horizontal lightning bolt of yellow above a row of amphibian humanoids standing behind a woman
Mary Gnaedinger continued to reprint work by A. Merritt in the second series of Fantastic Novels. (September 1948 issue pictured)
EditorMary Gnaedinger
CategoriesScience fiction
Year founded1940
Final issue1951
CompanyMunsey Company
Popular Publications
CountryUnited States
Great Britain
Based inNew York City

Publication history

Fantastic Novels cover November 1949
The cover of the November 1949 issue, by Virgil Finlay.

In the early 20th century, science fiction stories were frequently published in popular magazines,[1] with the Munsey Company, a major pulp magazine publisher, printing a great deal of science fiction.[1] In 1926 Amazing Stories became the first specialist pulp magazine publisher of science fiction.[2] Munsey continued to print sf in Argosy during the 1930s, and in 1939 took advantage of the new genre's growing popularity by launching Famous Fantastic Mysteries, a vehicle to reprint the most popular fantasy and sf stories from the Munsey magazines.[3]

The new title immediately became successful, and demand for reprints of old favorites was such that Munsey decided to launch an additional magazine, Fantastic Novels, in July 1940, edited, like Famous Fantastic Mysteries, by Mary Gnaedinger.[3] The two magazines were placed on bimonthly schedules, arranged to alternate with each other,[2] though the schedule slipped slightly with the fifth issue of Fantastic Novels, dated April 1941 but following the January 1941 issue.[4] Fantastic Novels was suspended after that issue and merged with Famous Fantastic Mysteries.[4] The stated reason was that Famous Fantastic Mysteries "is apparently the favorite title", but it seems likely that production difficulties caused by World War II played a part.[4] The June 1941 and August 1941 issues of Famous Fantastic Mysteries both carried the slogan "Combined with Fantastic Novels Magazine" on the cover.[5][6]

Fantastic Novels reappeared in 1948 through Popular Publications, which had acquired Famous Fantastic Mysteries from Munsey at the end of 1942.[7] Gnaedinger remained editor of Famous Fantastic Mysteries when Popular took over, and was editor of the second incarnation of Fantastic Novels.[4][7] The March 1948 issue, the first of the new series, was catalogued volume 1, number 6, as if there had been no break in publication.[4] This version lasted for a further 20 issues, ending without notice with the June 1951 issue. It was apparently a sudden decision; the final issue had announced plans to reprint Otis Adelbert Kline's Maza of the Moon.[8]


Fantastic Novels cover June 1951
Fantastic Novels ended without notice with the June 1951 issue.

Fantastic Novels came into existence because of the demand from readers of Famous Fantastic Mysteries for book-length reprints.[3] Gnaedinger observed that "Everyone seems to have realized that although [the] set-up of five to seven stories with two serials running, was highly satisfactory, that the long list of novels would have to be speeded up somehow".[7] When the new magazine was launched, Famous Fantastic Mysteries was partway through serialization of Austin Hall and Homer Eon Flint's The Blind Spot, with the third episode appearing in the May/June 1940 issue. Rather than complete the serialization, Gnaedinger printed the novel in its entirety in the first issue of Fantastic Novels, ensuring that readers of Famous Fantastic Mysteries would also acquire the new magazine.[3] Over the next four issues she printed Ray Cummings' People of the Golden Atom, Ralph Milne Farley's The Radio Beasts, and two novels by A. Merritt: The Snake Mother and The Dwellers in the Mirage. Gnaedinger's interest in reprinting Merritt's work helped make him one of the better-known fantasy writers of the era.[4]

In the second series, from 1948 to 1951, Gnaedinger continued to reprint work by Merritt, along with other reader favorites from the Munsey years. Works by George Allan England, Victor Rousseau, Ray Cummings, and Francis Stevens (the pen name of Gertrude Barrows Bennett) appeared,[4][9] as well as (occasionally) reprints of more recent work, such as Earth's Last Citadel, by Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore, which had been serialized in Argosy in 1943.[4][10] In the early 1950s, when first Fantastic Novels and two years later Famous Fantastic Mysteries ceased publication, it is likely that the audience for science fiction was growing too sophisticated for these early works.[4]

Each issue, except the last one, featured a lead novel with additional short fiction.[11] The cover artwork was mostly by Virgil Finlay, Lawrence Stevens, Peter Stevens, and Norman Saunders, with one early cover contributed by Frank R. Paul.[notes 1][13][14]

Bibliographic details

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1940 1/1 1/2 1/3
1941 1/4 1/5
1948 1/6 2/1 2/2 2/3 2/4
1949 2/5 2/6 3/1 3/2 3/3 3/4
1950 3/5 3/6 4/1 4/2 4/3 4/4
1951 4/5 4/6 5/1
Issues of Fantastic Novels, showing volume and issue numbers. The editor was
Mary Gnaedinger throughout.

Mary Gnaedinger edited Fantastic Novels for both the Munsey and Popular Publication series. Five issues appeared between July 1940 and April 1941, and an additional twenty from March 1948 to June 1951. The schedule was bimonthly, with only two irregularities: the issues that would have been dated March 1941 and March 1951 were each delayed by a month. The volume numbering was regular throughout, with four volumes of six numbers, and a final fifth volume of one number. The magazine was printed in pulp format throughout both series, and was priced at 20 cents for the first two issues; then 10 cents for the remainder of the first series and 25 cents for issues in the second series. Fantastic Novels was 144 pages for the first two issues, 128 pages for two issues, and 112 pages for the last issue of the first series; it was 132 pages from the start of the second series until the November 1950 issue, and then 128 pages for January 1951, and 112 pages for the last two issues.[4]

A Canadian reprint edition ran from September 1948 to June 1951; these were published by the Toronto-based New Publications.[4] They were half an inch taller than the U.S. editions and used different back-cover advertisements, but were otherwise identical to the U.S. issues of the same date.[15] Two issues were released in Britain: a single issue was released in March 1950; it was a copy of the November 1949 U.S. issue but was neither numbered nor dated. The other British issue was a copy of the May 1949 issue, cut to only 64 pages; it was released in June 1951 and was undated but numbered 1. Both these issues were published by Pemberton's and distributed by Thorpe & Porter.[4]


  1. ^ Both Lawrence Stevens' covers, and those by his son Peter, were signed "Lawrence".[12]


  1. ^ a b Ashley, Time Machines, pp. 16–23.
  2. ^ a b Malcolm Edwards & Peter Nicholls, "SF Magazines", in Clute & Nicholls, Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, pp. 1066–1068.
  3. ^ a b c d Ashley, Time Machines, pp. 150–151.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Thomas D. Clareson, "Fantastic Novels", in Tymn & Ashley, Science Fiction, Fantasy and Weird Fiction Magazines, pp. 241–244.
  5. ^ Famous Fantastic Mysteries vol. III, no 2 (June 1941), front cover.
  6. ^ Famous Fantastic Mysteries vol. III, no 3 (August 1941), front cover.
  7. ^ a b c Thomas D. Clareson, "Famous Fantastic Mysteries", in Tymn & Ashley, Science Fiction, Fantasy and Weird Fiction Magazines, pp. 211–216.
  8. ^ "In the Next Issue", Fantastic Novels vol. 5, no 1 (May 1951), p. 69.
  9. ^ Davin, Partners in Wonder, p. 99.
  10. ^ Malcolm Edwards & Brian M. Stableford, "Henry Kuttner", in Clute & Nicholls, Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, pp. 682–683.
  11. ^ Brian Stableford & Peter Nicholls, "Fantastic Novels", in Clute & Nicholls, Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, p. 405.
  12. ^ Weinberg, A Biographical Dictionary of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists, p. 260.
  13. ^ Day, Index to the Science Fiction Magazines, p. 171.
  14. ^ Ashley, Time Machines, p. 280.
  15. ^ Tuck, Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Volume 3, pp. 559–560.


  • 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.
  • Clute, John; Nicholls, Peter (1993). The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. New York: St. Martin's Press, Inc. ISBN 0-312-09618-6.
  • Davin, Erik Leif (2006). Partners in Wonder. Lanham MD: Lexington Books. ISBN 0-7391-1267-8.
  • Day, Donald B. (1952). Index to the Science Fiction Magazines. Portland OR: Perri Press.
  • Tuck, Donald H. (1982). The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Volume 3. Chicago: Advent: Publishers, Inc. 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.
  • Weinberg, Robert (1985). A Biographical Dictionary of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists. Westport CT: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-21221-X.

External links

1940 in literature

This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1940.

A. Merritt's Fantasy Magazine

A. Merritt's Fantasy Magazine was an American pulp magazine which published five issues from December 1949 to October 1950. It took its name from fantasy writer A. Merritt, who had died in 1943, and it aimed to capitalize on Merritt's popularity. It was published by Popular Publications, alternating months with Fantastic Novels, another title of theirs. It may have been edited by Mary Gnaedinger, who also edited Fantastic Novels and Famous Fantastic Mysteries. It was a companion to Famous Fantastic Mysteries, and like that magazine mostly reprinted science-fiction and fantasy classics from earlier decades.

A Luneta Mágica

A Luneta Mágica (English: The Magical Glasses) is a 1869 novel written by Brazilian Romantic writer Joaquim Manuel de Macedo. It is considered to be one of the first Brazilian fantastic novels ever, comparable to the works of E. T. A. Hoffmann.

Annie Jay

Annie Jay (born in 1957) is a French children's writer. She writes historical and fantastic novels, in which one finds lots of details concerning the ages in which her novels take place.

Argosy (magazine)

Argosy, later titled The Argosy and Argosy All-Story Weekly, was an American pulp magazine from 1882 through 1978, published by Frank Munsey. It is the first American pulp magazine. The magazine began as a children's weekly story–paper entitled The Golden Argosy.

Dorothy Bryant

Dorothy Bryant (1930–2017) was an American novelist, playwright, essayist and feminist writer.

Bryant was known for her mystical, feminist and fantastic novels and plays that traverse the space between the real world and her character's inner psyche or soul. Her book The Kin of Ata are Waiting for You was described by Alice Walker as "One of my favorite books in all the world".

Elmer Brown Mason

Elmer Brown Mason (1877–1955) was an American writer. He studied at Yale for a period, but then transferred to Princeton, from which he graduated in 1903. Mason became an entomologist for the now-defunct Bureau of Entomology (USDA) in 1910. In addition, he was a seasoned world traveler. In 1915, his fantastic stories of scientists hunting rare species in the remote corners of the world started appearing. Of note were the five stories featuring swamp-guide, Wandering Smith, in The Popular Magazine, especially "The Golden Anaconda"; and the variety of tales in All-Story Weekly, highlighted by the horror-filled lost-race novelette "Black Butterflies," set in Borneo, and its sequel, "Red Tree-Frogs."

Mason was gassed in France during World War I, suffering permanent disabilities, which sidetracked his writing career. His globe-trotting ceased and his stories exchanged the fantastic for the domestic. His fiction writing career petered out around 1926.He had a brief revival in 1949-50 in the pulp magazines, Famous Fantastic Mysteries and Fantastic Novels, which reprinted four of his stories from All-Story Weekly.

"Black Butterflies," was included in the anthology Rainbow Fantasia: 35 Spectrumatic Tales of Wonder ed. by Forrest J. Ackerman; Anne Hardin.

Famous Fantastic Mysteries

Famous Fantastic Mysteries was an American science fiction and fantasy pulp magazine published from 1939 to 1953. The editor was Mary Gnaedinger. It was launched by the Munsey Company as a way to reprint the many science fiction and fantasy stories which had appeared over the preceding decades in Munsey magazines such as Argosy. From its first issue, dated September/October 1939, Famous Fantastic Mysteries was an immediate success. Less than a year later, a companion magazine, Fantastic Novels, was launched.

Frequently reprinted authors included George Allan England, A. Merritt, and Austin Hall; the artwork was also a major reason for the success of the magazine, with artists such as Virgil Finlay and Lawrence Stevens contributing some of their best work. In late 1942, Popular Publications acquired the title from Munsey, and Famous Fantastic Mysteries stopped reprinting short stories from the earlier magazines. It continued to reprint longer works, including titles by G. K. Chesterton, H. G. Wells, and H. Rider Haggard. Original short fiction also began to appear, including Arthur C. Clarke's "Guardian Angel", which would later form the first section of his novel Childhood's End. In 1951, the publishers experimented briefly with a large digest format, but returned quickly to the original pulp layout. The magazine ceased publication in 1953, almost at the end of the pulp era.

Fantasy fiction magazine

A fantasy fiction magazine or fantasy magazine is a magazine which publishes primarily fantasy fiction. Not generally included in the category are magazines for children with stories about such characters as Santa Claus. Also not included are adult magazines about sexual fantasy. Many fantasy magazines, in addition to fiction, have other features such as art, cartoons, reviews, or letters from readers. Some fantasy magazines also publish science fiction and horror fiction, so that here is not always a clear distinction between a fantasy magazine and a science fiction magazine. For example, Fantastic magazine published almost exclusively science fiction for much of its run.

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.

Lawrence Sterne Stevens

Lawrence Sterne Stevens (December 4, 1884 – 1960) was an American pulp fantasy and science fiction illustrator.He is known for his interior story illustrations for Argosy and cover paintings for Amazing, A. Merritt's Fantasy Magazine, Famous Fantastic Mysteries, and Fantastic Novels.

Little green men

Little green men is the stereotypical portrayal of extraterrestrials as little humanoid-like creatures with green skin and sometimes with antennae on their heads. The term is also sometimes used to describe gremlins, mythical creatures known for causing problems in airplanes and mechanical devices. Today, these creatures are more commonly associated with an alleged alien species called greys, whose skin color is described as not green, but grey.

During the reports of flying saucers in the 1950s, the term "little green men" came into popular usage in reference to aliens. In one classic case, the Kelly-Hopkinsville sighting in 1955, two rural Kentucky men described a supposed encounter with metallic-silver, somewhat humanoid-looking aliens no more than 4 feet (1 m) in height. Employing journalistic licence and deviating from the witnesses' accounts, many newspaper articles used the term "little green men" in writing up the story.

Mary Gnaedinger

Mary C. Gnaedinger (September 28, 1897 – July 31, 1976) was an American editor of pulp magazines.

Born Mary Catherine Jacobson, she attended the Columbia University School of Journalism. After stints as a society reporter for the Brooklyn Eagle and work for E. P. Dutton, she became editor of the Frank Munsey Company's Famous Fantastic Mysteries in 1939, Fantastic Novels in 1940, and possibly A. Merritt's Fantasy Magazine.Gnaedinger was known for ardently interacting with readers, basing the stories she printed in the magazine on their requests and commonly praising their knowledge of Science Fiction.

Ray Cummings

Ray Cummings (born Raymond King Cummings) (August 30, 1887 – January 23, 1957) was an American author of science fiction literature and comic books.

The Carnelian Cube

The Carnelian Cube is a fantasy novel by American writers L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt. It was first published in hardcover by Gnome Press in 1948, and in paperback by Lancer Books in 1967. An E-book edition was published by Gollancz's SF Gateway imprint on September 29, 2011 as part of a general release of de Camp's works in electronic form. It has also been translated into Italian and German.

The Fourth Book of Jorkens

The Fourth Book of Jorkens is a collection of fantasy short stories, narrated by Mr. Joseph Jorkens, by writer Lord Dunsany. It was first published by Jarrolds in 1947. It was the fourth collection of Dunsany's Jorkens tales to be published. It has also been issued in combination with the third book, Jorkens Has a Large Whiskey, in the omnibus edition The Collected Jorkens, Volume Two, published by Night Shade Books in 2004.

The Worms of Kukumlima

The Worms of Kukumlima is a humorous book written by Daniel Pinkwater for all ages and first published in 1981.

Tod Robbins

Clarence Aaron Robbins (1888–1949), billed as C.A Robbins and better known as Tod Robbins, was an American author of horror and mystery fiction, particularly novels and short story collections.

Urania (magazine)

Urania is an Italian science fiction magazine published by Arnoldo Mondadori Editore since 10 October 1952. The current editor is Giuseppe Lippi.

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