Tops in Science Fiction

Tops in Science Fiction was a pulp science fiction magazine launched in 1953. The publisher, Love Romances Publishing, created it as a vehicle to reprint stories from Planet Stories. It was unsuccessful and only lasted for two issues. Although it contained no original stories, it did print some original artwork, including some of Kelly Freas's early work. A British reprint edition appeared in the mid-1950s.

Tops in Science Fiction Fall 1953
The second issue; cover artwork by Kelly Freas

Publication history

The early 1950s saw dramatic changes in the history of U.S. science fiction publishing. At the start of 1949, all but one of the major magazines in the field were in pulp format; by the end of 1955, almost all had either ceased publication or switched to digest format.[1] Despite the rapid decline of the pulp market, several new science fiction magazines were launched in pulp format during these years; Tops in Science Fiction was one of the last of these.[2] The publisher, Love Romances Inc., also published Planet Stories, and Malcolm Reiss, Planet's editorial director, decided to try to take advantage of the backfile of stories and artwork from Planet's 14 years of publication.[3] He may have been inspired by the example of Fantastic Story Magazine, which was published by Standard Magazines as a vehicle to reprint their extensive backfile of science fiction. If so, he was evidently not aware that by 1953 Fantastic Story was not doing well financially.[3][4]

The first issue was dated Spring 1953, and was edited by Jack O'Sullivan. The cover, by Alexander Leydenfrost, was reprinted from a 1942 issue of Planet Stories. The fiction included "Black Friar of the Flame" by Isaac Asimov, and "The Million Year Picnic", by Ray Bradbury—the first of his "Martian Chronicles" stories. Interior art included some of Kelly Freas' earliest work.[5] The issue was only modestly successful, and on the advice of his distributor, who told Reiss that they were having trouble getting the magazine distributed, Reiss decided to switch to the digest format for the second issue: digests were starting to become more popular than the pulps, which would be almost completely gone from the market within only a couple more years.[3][2] The second issue was dated Fall 1953; the cover, by Freas, illustrated "Lorelei of the Red Mist", by Bradbury and Leigh Brackett. Freas also did the interior illustrations for the story, and later commented that he was delighted by the results but felt he was "never quite able to repeat it. A hex, of course."[5] Interior artists for the second issue also included Emsh; the fiction included stories by Fredric Brown and Horace Gold.[5] However, this issue received only limited distribution, and Reiss decided against continuing with the magazine.[3]

Bibliographic details

Tops in Science Fiction's two issues were dated Spring and Fall 1953; the first in pulp format, and the second a digest. There was a single volume of two numbers. The publisher was Love Romances Publishing, based in Stamford, Connecticut. The magazine was priced at 25 cents for the pulp issue, and 35 cents for the digest issue. Both issues were 128 pages long. The first issue was edited by Jack O'Sullivan; the second by Malcolm Reiss.[5]

A British reprint edition appeared, with three 128-page digest editions published by Top Fiction Ltd. These were released in Autumn 1954, Winter 1955 and Summer 1956, though none of them were dated. The first two reprinted stories from the first U.S. issue; the third reprinted material from the second U.S. issue. They were each priced at 1/6.[5]

Footnotes

  1. ^ Ashley (1976), p. 106.
  2. ^ a b Ashley (2000), pp. 220–224.
  3. ^ a b c d Ashley (2005), p. 45.
  4. ^ Ashley (1985), p. 249–250.
  5. ^ a b c d e Casebeer (1985), pp. 675–677.

References

  • Ashley, Michael (1976). The History of the Science Fiction Magazine Vol. 3 1946–1955. Chicago: Contemporary Books, Inc. ISBN 0-8092-7842-1.
  • Ashley, Mike (1985). "Fantastic Story Quarterly". In Tymn, Marshall B.; Ashley, Mike. Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Weird Fiction Magazines. Westport CT: Greenwood Press. pp. 249–250. ISBN 0-313-21221-X.
  • 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 (2005). Transformations:The Story of the Science-Fiction Magazines from 1950 to 1970. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. ISBN 0-85323-779-4.
  • Casebeer, E.F. (1985). "Tops in Science Fiction". In Tymn, Marshall B.; Ashley, Mike. Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Weird Fiction Magazines. Westport CT: Greenwood Press. pp. 675–677. ISBN 0-313-21221-X.

External links

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.

Black Friar of the Flame

"Black Friar of the Flame" is a science fiction short story by Isaac Asimov. It was first published in the Spring 1942 issue of Planet Stories and reprinted in the collection The Early Asimov (1972). "Black Friar of the Flame" was the thirteenth story written by Asimov, and was among his least favorite, though this was due more to the multiple rewrites and rejections the story suffered than to its admittedly modest intrinsic merits.

Fiction House

Fiction House was an American publisher of pulp magazines and comic books that existed from the 1920s to the 1950s. It was founded by John B. "Jack" Kelly and John W. Glenister. By the late 1930s, the publisher was Thurman T. Scott. Its comics division was best known for its pinup-style good girl art, as epitomized by the company's most popular character, Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.

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.

List of defunct American magazines

This is a list of American magazines that are no longer published.

Planet Stories

Planet Stories was an American pulp science fiction magazine, published by Fiction House between 1939 and 1955. It featured interplanetary adventures, both in space and on some other planets, and was initially focused on a young readership. Malcolm Reiss was editor or editor-in-chief for all of its 71 issues. Planet Stories was launched at the same time as Planet Comics, the success of which probably helped to fund the early issues of Planet Stories. Planet Stories did not pay well enough to regularly attract the leading science fiction writers of the day, but occasionally obtained work from well-known authors, including Isaac Asimov and Clifford D. Simak. In 1952 Planet Stories published Philip K. Dick's first sale, and printed four more of his stories over the next three years.

The two writers most identified with Planet Stories are Leigh Brackett and Ray Bradbury, both of whom set many of their stories on a romanticized version of Mars that owed much to the depiction of Barsoom in the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Bradbury's work for Planet included an early story in his Martian Chronicles sequence. Brackett's best-known work for the magazine was a series of adventures featuring Eric John Stark, which began in the summer of 1949. Brackett and Bradbury collaborated on one story, "Lorelei of the Red Mist", which appeared in 1946; it was generally well-received, although one letter to the magazine complained that the story's treatment of sex, though mild by modern standards, was too explicit. The artwork also emphasized attractive women, with a scantily clad damsel in distress or alien princess on almost every cover.

Two Complete Science-Adventure Books

Two Complete Science-Adventure Books was an American pulp science fiction magazine, published by Fiction House, which lasted for eleven issues between 1950 and 1954 as a companion to Planet Stories. Each issue carried two novels or long novellas. It was initially intended to carry only reprints, but soon began to publish original stories. Contributors included Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Poul Anderson, John Brunner, and James Blish. The magazine folded in 1954, almost at the end of the pulp era.

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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