Scientific Detective Monthly

Scientific Detective Monthly (also known as Amazing Detective Tales and Amazing Detective Stories) was a pulp magazine which published fifteen issues beginning in January 1930. It was launched by Hugo Gernsback as part of his second venture into science fiction magazine publishing, and was intended to focus on detective and mystery stories with a scientific element. Many of the stories involved contemporary science without any imaginative elements—for example, a story in the first issue turned on the use of a bolometer to detect a black girl blushing—but there were also one or two science fiction stories in every issue.

The title was changed to Amazing Detective Tales with the June 1930 issue, perhaps to avoid the word "scientific", which may have given readers the impression of "a sort of scientific periodical",[1] in Gernsback's words, rather than a magazine intended to entertain. At the same time, the editor—Hector Grey—was replaced by David Lasser, who was already editing Gernsback's other science fiction magazines. The title change apparently did not make the magazine a success, and Gernsback closed it down with the October issue. He sold the title to publisher Wallace Bamber, who produced at least five more issues in 1931 under the title Amazing Detective Stories.

Scientific Detective Monthly February 1930
Cover of the second issue; artwork is by Jno Ruger.

Publication history

Amazing Detective Tales August 1930
Cover of the August 1930 issue, under the new title Amazing Detective Tales, signed by Earle K. Bergey.[2]

By the end of the 19th century, stories that were centered on scientific inventions and set in the future, in the tradition of Jules Verne, were appearing regularly in popular fiction magazines.[3] The first science fiction (sf) magazine, Amazing Stories, was launched in 1926 by Hugo Gernsback at the height of the pulp magazine era.[4][5] It was successful, and helped to form science fiction as a separately marketed genre, but in February 1929 Gernsback lost control of the publisher when it went bankrupt.[6][7] By April he had formed a new company, Gernsback Publications Incorporated, and created two subsidiaries: Techni-Craft Publishing Corporation and Stellar Publishing Corporation. In the middle of the year he launched three new magazines: a non-sf magazine titled Radio Craft, and two sf pulps titled Science Wonder Stories and Air Wonder Stories.[8] These were followed in September 1929 by the first issue of Science Wonder Quarterly, and in October Gernsback sent a letter to some of the writers he had already bought material from, letting them know that he was seeing more demand for "detective or criminal mystery stories with a good scientific background". He named Arthur B. Reeve's "Craig Kennedy" stories as an example, and also mentioned S.S. Van Dine's "Philo Vance" stories, which were very popular at the time.[9] In the January 1930 issue of both the sf magazines, Gernsback advertised the new magazine that he hoped to populate with these stories: Scientific Detective Monthly.[9][10]

Gernsback believed that science fiction was educational, claiming, for example, that "teachers encourage the reading of this fiction because they know that it gives the pupil a fundamental knowledge of science and aviation".[11] He intended Scientific Detective Monthly to be a detective magazine in which the stories had a scientific background; it would entertain, but also instruct.[10] The subgenre of scientific detective fiction was not new; it had first become popular in the U.S. between 1909 and 1919, and the appearance of Gernsback's magazine was part of a resurgence of popularity in the subgenre at the end of the 1920s.[12] The first issue was dated January 1930 (meaning it would have been on the newsstands in mid-December 1929). Gernsback was editor-in-chief, and had final say on the choice of stories, but the editorial work was done by his deputy, Hector Grey.[10]

In February 1930, an article by Gernsback appeared in Writers' Digest titled "How to Write 'Science' Stories". In it, Gernsback offered advice on how to write stories for his new magazine, claiming that scientific detective stories represented the future of the genre, and that "the ordinary gangster and detective story will be relegated into the background in a very few years".[13] Science fiction historian Gary Westfahl comments that the article also serves as a guide to writing science fiction in general, and that the article is the first "how to" article published for the new genre of science fiction.[13]

With the June issue, the title was changed to Amazing Detective Tales. Gernsback merged Science Wonder Stories and Air Wonder Stories into Wonder Stories at the same time; he was concerned that the word "Science" was putting off some potential readers, who assumed that the magazine was, in his words, "a sort of scientific periodical".[1][10] It is likely that the same reasoning motivated Scientific Detective Monthly's new title. In the following issue, Grey was replaced as editor by David Lasser, who was already editing Gernsback's other sf titles, and an attempt was made to include more stories with science fiction elements. Gernsback continued the magazine for five issues under the new title; the last issue was dated October 1930. The decision to cease publication was apparently taken suddenly, as the October issue included the announcement that the format would change in November from large to standard pulp size, and listed two stories planned for the November issue.[10][14] Gernsback sold the title to Wallace Bamber, who published at least five more issues, starting in February 1931; no issues are known for June or July 1931, or after August.[14]


Amazing Detective Stories March 1931
Cover of the March 1931 issue, now titled Amazing Detective Stories. The artist is likely Lyman Anderson.

The stories in Scientific Detective Monthly were almost always detective stories, but they were only occasionally science fiction, as in many cases the science appearing in the stories already had practical applications. In the first issue, for example, "The Mystery of the Bulawayo Diamond", by Arthur B. Reeve, mentions unusual science, but the mystery is solved by use of a bolometer to detect a blush on the face of a black girl. The murderer in "The Campus Murder Mystery", by Ralph W. Wilkins, freezes the body to conceal the manner of death; a chemical catalyst and electrical measurements of palm sweat provide the scientific elements in two other stories in the same issue. The only genuine science fiction story in the first issue is "The Perfect Counterfeit" by Captain S.P. Meek, in which a matter duplicator has been used to counterfeit paper money.[10] Van Dine's Philo Vance novel, The Bishop Murder Case, began serialization in the first issue, which probably assisted sales, since the hardcover edition of the novel, which had appeared only a few months previously, had sold well.[9] It was not science fiction, however, and throughout the magazine's run, only one or two stories per issue include elements that would qualify them as science fiction.[10] Mike Ashley, a historian of the field, suggests that Gernsback was more interested in stories about the science of detection than in imaginary science: most of Scientific Detective Monthly's contents were gadget stories, of a kind which Gernsback had been publishing in his other magazines for some time.[9] The cover for the first issue, by Jno Ruger, showed a detective using an electronic device to measure the reactions of a suspect.[10]

Later issues included stories by some writers who either were already well-known to readers of science fiction or would soon become so, including Lloyd Arthur Eshbach, David H. Keller, Ed Earl Repp, Neil R. Jones, and Edmond Hamilton, though even these stories were not always science fiction. Hamilton's "The Invisible Master", for example, describes a way to become invisible, but at the end of the story the science is revealed to be a hoax, and the story is straightforward detective fiction. Clark Ashton Smith, later to be better known for his fantasy than for science fiction, contributed "Murder in the Fourth Dimension" to the October 1930 issue; the protagonist uses the fourth dimension to dispose of his victim's corpse.[15]

As well as fiction, there were some non-fiction departments, including readers' letters (even in the first issue—Gernsback obtained letters by advertising the magazine to readers who subscribed to his other magazines), book reviews, and miscellaneous crime or science-related fillers. The first issue included a test of the readers' powers of observation: it showed a crime scene, which the readers were supposed to study, and then posed questions to see how much they could remember of the details. There was also a questionnaire about science, which asked about scientific facts mentioned in the stories, and a "Science-Crime Notes" section containing news items about science and crime.[10] Gernsback's editorial argued that science would eventually end crime, and suggested that both the police and criminals would make growing use of scientific innovations in the future. Gernsback included on the masthead the names of several experts on crime, such as Edwin Cooley, a professor of criminology at Fordham University; he also listed members of his staff on the masthead with made-up titles: C.P. Mason, a member of his editorial staff, was listed as "Scientific Criminologist", for example.[9]

After the sale, Bamber filled the magazine with ordinary detective fiction, including Edgar Wallace's The Feathered Serpent.[9]

The first few covers of the magazine did not advertise the names of the authors whose work was inside, which was probably a mistake as existing science fiction readers might have been attracted by the names of writers with whom they were familiar. Conversely, the readers who might have been interested in the more sedate topics covered by the non-fiction were probably discouraged by the lurid cover artwork. Gernsback was unable to obtain enough fiction to make Scientific Detective Monthly a true mixture of the two genres, and the result was a magazine that failed to fully appeal to fans of either genre. It was, in sf historian Robert Lowndes' words, a "fascinating experiment", but a failed one.[10]

Bibliographic details

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1930 1/1 1/2 1/3 1/4 1/5 1/6 1/7 1/8 1/9 1/10
1931 2/1 2/2 2/3 2/4 3/1
Issues of Scientific Detective Monthly, showing volume/issue number, and
color-coded to indicate the managing editor: Hector Grey (blue), David Lasser
(yellow), and unknown (orange)[10][16]

Scientific Detective Monthly was published by Techni-Craft Publishing Co. of New York for the first ten issues, and then by Fiction Publishers, Inc., also of New York. The editor-in-chief was Hugo Gernsback for the first ten issues; the managing editor was Hector Grey for the first six issues, and David Lasser for the next four. The editor for the 1931 issues is not known. The first volume contained ten numbers, the second contained four, and the last contained only one. The title changed to Amazing Detective Tales with the June 1930 issue, and again to Amazing Detective Stories in February 1931. The magazine was in large pulp format throughout; it was 96 pages long and priced at 25 cents.[10]


  1. ^ a b Ashley (2000), p. 71.
  2. ^ "Publication: Amazing Detective Tales, August 1930". Retrieved 2018-01-15.
  3. ^ Ashley (2000), pp. 6–27.
  4. ^ Ashley, Mike; Nicholls, Peter; Stableford, Brian (8 July 2014). "Amazing Stories". SF Encyclopedia. Gollancz. Retrieved 13 December 2014.
  5. ^ Clareson (1985), p. xxiii.
  6. ^ Ashley (2000), pp. 58–59.
  7. ^ Bleiler (1998), p. 548.
  8. ^ Bleiler (1998), p. 579.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Ashley (2004), pp. 158–159.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Lowndes (1985), pp. 556–562.
  11. ^ Bleiler (1998), p. 542.
  12. ^ Littlefield, Melissa M. (2011-08-01). "Historicizing CSI and its Effect(s): The Real and the Representational in American Scientific Detective Fiction and Print News Media, 1902–1935". Crime, Media, Culture. 7 (2): 138. doi:10.1177/1741659011406700. ISSN 1741-6590.
  13. ^ a b Gernsback, Hugo; Westfahl, Gary (July 1994). "How to Write "Science" Stories: The Editor of "Scientific Detective Monthly" Tells How to and How Not to Write Them". Science Fiction Studies. 21 (2): 268–272. JSTOR 4240358. (Subscription required (help)).
  14. ^ a b Ashley (2000), p. 66.
  15. ^ Lowndes (2004), pp. 298–311.
  16. ^ Ashley (2000), p. 248.


  • 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.
  • Ashley, Mike (2004). "The Gernsback Days". In Ashley, Mike; Lowndes, Robert A.W. The Gernsback Days: A Study of the Evolution of Modern Science Fiction From 1911 to 1936. Holicong, Pennsylvania: Wildside Press. pp. 16–254. ISBN 0-8095-1055-3.
  • Bleiler, Everett F. (1998). Science-Fiction: The Gernsback Years. Westport, Connecticut: Kent State University Press. ISBN 0-87338-604-3.
  • Clareson, Thomas A. (1985). "Introduction". In Tymn, Marshall B.; Ashley, Mike. Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Weird Fiction Magazines. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. pp. xv–xxviii. ISBN 0-313-21221-X.
  • Lowndes, Robert A. (1985). "Scientific Detective Monthly". In Tymn, Marshall B.; Ashley, Mike. Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Weird Fiction Magazines. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. pp. 556–562. ISBN 0-313-21221-X.
  • Lowndes, Robert A.W. (2004). "Yesterday's World of Tomorrow". In Ashley, Mike; Lowndes, Robert A.W. The Gernsback Days: A Study of the Evolution of Modern Science Fiction From 1911 to 1936. Holicong, Pennsylvania: Wildside Press. pp. 257–399. ISBN 0-8095-1055-3.
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.

George Kelley Paperback and Pulp Fiction Collection

The George Kelley Paperback and Pulp Fiction Collection is a collection of over 25,000 pulp magazine and fiction works that is housed in the Special Collections unit, in the University at Buffalo Libraries at State University of New York at Buffalo. Noted as one of the best preserved collections of pulp material in modern times, it was donated to UB Libraries in 1994 by Dr. George Kelley, a professor at Erie Community College in Buffalo, New York.The collection spans genres from adventure, crime and horror to Westerns, fantasy and science fiction, including books, pulp magazines, fanzines and other literature. According to UB Libraries, there are hundreds of paperbacks from the 1940s, thousands from the 1950s and 1960s and more from the 1970s and 1980s. Many of these are paperback originals which have never appeared in hardcover editions.

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.

Hugo Gernsback

Hugo Gernsback (; born Hugo Gernsbacher, August 16, 1884 – August 19, 1967) was a Luxembourgish-American inventor, writer, editor, and magazine publisher, best known for publications including the first science fiction magazine. His contributions to the genre as publisher–although not as a writer–were so significant that, along with the novelists H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, he is sometimes called "The Father of Science Fiction". In his honour, annual awards presented at the World Science Fiction Convention are named the "Hugos".

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.

Unknown (magazine)

Unknown (also known as Unknown Worlds) was an American pulp fantasy fiction magazine, published from 1939 to 1943 by Street & Smith, and edited by John W. Campbell. Unknown was a companion to Street & Smith's science fiction pulp, Astounding Science Fiction, which was also edited by Campbell at the time; many authors and illustrators contributed to both magazines. The leading fantasy magazine in the 1930s was Weird Tales, which focused on shock and horror. Campbell wanted to publish a fantasy magazine with more finesse and humor than Weird Tales, and put his plans into action when Eric Frank Russell sent him the manuscript of his novel Sinister Barrier, about aliens who own the human race. Unknown's first issue appeared in March 1939; in addition to Sinister Barrier, it included H. L. Gold's "Trouble With Water", a humorous fantasy about a New Yorker who meets a water gnome. Gold's story was the first of many in Unknown to combine commonplace reality with the fantastic.

Campbell required his authors to avoid simplistic horror fiction and insisted that the fantasy elements in a story be developed logically: for example, Jack Williamson's "Darker Than You Think" describes a world in which there is a scientific explanation for the existence of werewolves. Similarly, L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt's Harold Shea series, about a modern American who finds himself in the worlds of various mythologies, depicts a system of magic based on mathematical logic. Other notable stories included several well-received novels by L. Ron Hubbard and short stories such as Manly Wade Wellman's "When It Was Moonlight" and Fritz Leiber's "Two Sought Adventure", the first in his Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series.

Unknown was forced to a bimonthly schedule in 1941 by poor sales, and cancelled in 1943 when wartime paper shortages became so acute that Campbell had to choose between turning Astounding into a bimonthly or ending Unknown. The magazine is generally regarded as the finest fantasy fiction magazine ever published, despite the fact that it was not commercially successful, and in the opinion of science fiction historian Mike Ashley it was responsible for the creation of the modern fantasy publishing genre.

Weird Tales

Weird Tales is an American fantasy and horror fiction pulp magazine founded by J. C. Henneberger and J. M. Lansinger in late 1922. The first issue, dated March 1923, appeared on newsstands February 18th. The first editor, Edwin Baird, printed early work by H. P. Lovecraft, Seabury Quinn, and Clark Ashton Smith, all of whom would go on to be popular writers, but within a year the magazine was in financial trouble. Henneberger sold his interest in the publisher, Rural Publishing Corporation, to Lansinger and refinanced Weird Tales, with Farnsworth Wright as the new editor. The first issue under Wright's control was dated November 1924. The magazine was more successful under Wright, and despite occasional financial setbacks it prospered over the next fifteen years. Under Wright's control the magazine lived up to its subtitle, "The Unique Magazine", and published a wide range of unusual fiction.

Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos stories first appeared in Weird Tales, starting with "The Call of Cthulhu" in 1928. These were well-received, and a group of writers associated with Lovecraft wrote other stories set in the same milieu. Robert E. Howard was a regular contributor, and published several of his Conan the Barbarian stories in the magazine, and Seabury Quinn's series of stories about Jules de Grandin, a detective who specialized in cases involving the supernatural, was very popular with the readers. Other well-liked authors included Nictzin Dyalhis, E. Hoffmann Price, Robert Bloch, and H. Warner Munn. Wright published some science fiction, along with the fantasy and horror, partly because when Weird Tales was launched there were no magazines specializing in science fiction, but he continued this policy even after the launch of magazines such as Amazing Stories in 1926. Edmond Hamilton wrote a good deal of science fiction for Weird Tales, though after a few years he used the magazine for his more fantastic stories, and submitted his space operas elsewhere.

In 1938 the magazine was sold to William Delaney, the publisher of Short Stories, and within two years Wright, who was ill, was replaced by Dorothy McIlwraith as editor. Although some successful new authors and artists, such as Ray Bradbury and Hannes Bok, continued to appear, the magazine is considered by critics to have declined under McIlwraith from its heyday in the 1930s. Weird Tales ceased publication in 1954, but since then numerous attempts have been made to relaunch the magazine, starting in 1973. The longest-lasting version began in 1988 and ran with an occasional hiatus for over 20 years under an assortment of publishers. In the mid-1990s the title was changed to Worlds of Fantasy & Horror because of licensing issues, with the original title returning in 1998. As of 2018, the most recent published issue was dated Spring 2014.

The magazine is regarded by historians of fantasy and science fiction as a legend in the field, with Robert Weinberg, author of a history of the magazine, considering it "the most important and influential of all fantasy magazines". Weinberg's fellow historian, Mike Ashley, is more cautious, describing it as "second only to Unknown in significance and influence", adding that "somewhere in the imagination reservoir of all U.S. (and many non-U.S.) genre-fantasy and horror writers is part of the spirit of Weird Tales".

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