Amazing Stories

From Academic Kids

Amazing Stories magazine, sometimes retitled Amazing Science Fiction, began in April 1926, becoming the first science fiction magazine and one of the pioneers of SF in the U.S.

Created by Hugo Gernsback, it appears to today's eyes as a classic pulp magazine, printed on cheap paper with sometimes lurid cover art (much of it by the legendary Frank R. Paul), and a much-imitated logo featuring the magazine name in ever-shrinking letters. Instead of presenting tales of detectives, westerns, aviators, girls or swamp monsters, or a combination of genres, as was the habit of pulps to that point, it was filled with stories of a style originally called "scientific romances." Gernback coined the portmanteau word "scientifiction" (abbreviated "stf") to cover the genre; over the years, becoming better known as science fiction.

Despite its appearance, Gernsback was attempting to create a premium product. Most pulp magazines were about 180 x 250 mm, with ragged (uncut) edges. Amazing was larger at 200 x 280 mm, with neatly trimmed edges, and a slightly higher cover price. He frequently reprinted those he considered the fathers of stf: H. G. Wells, Jules Verne, and Edgar Allan Poe (remembered more now as a horror writer). There were other reprints; it took a few years to build up a level of available writers for more original material.

Amazing was the first science fiction magazine, but it did not appear without context. Gernsback had been publishing magazines like Modern Electrics since 1909, with the emphasis on science and invention. Science fiction stories had been appearing in these titles and had been popular, so an all-fiction magazine was a natural experiment. But by 1929, Gernsback had been forced into bankruptcy, and lost control of Amazing (which continued publication without interruption under its new owners). So it was that in 1929 Gernsback launched the first rival to the magazine he had founded – Science Wonder Stories.

The new publishers installed T. O'Conor Sloane as editor. He continued until 1938, when the title was sold to Ziff-Davis. For some years Amazing followed a less serious bent under editor Raymond A. Palmer, achieving commercial success but critical derision for its "Shaver Mystery" stories of creatures allegedly inside the Earth which were presented not as sf but fact. At Ziff-Davis, Amazing soon gained a companion title, Fantastic Adventures, also edited by Palmer, which quickly became a somewhat more fantasy-oriented magazine and was published till 1954, when it was merged with the magazines' newer, more-sophisticated-looking companion Fantastic. The latter title would run, under a variety of title variations, till it was merged with Amazing in 1980; both magazines shared the same editor throughout Fantastic's life.

The magazine continued publication more or less continuously from 1926 until the 1990s, under various editors, publishers and formats. During that decade it was published erratically, and eventually Wizards of the Coast shuttered a version published by Pierce Watters.

In 2004 it was relaunched by Paizo Publishing. In December of that year, it was announced that following the April 2005 issue, the magazine would go on hiatus.

In its early years, there were companion titles including Amazing Stories Quarterly. The title Amazing has also been used for unconnected publications including the British science fiction magazine Amazing Science Stories (1951).

Director Steven Spielberg licensed the title for use on an American television show called Amazing Stories that ran from 1985 to 1987. Spielberg named it after the magazine, which his father had read since he was a child.

Editors

B.G. Davis held the title of Editor at all Ziff-Davis magazines but had little daily involvement at Amazing. After Browne's departure Norman Lobsenz was Editorial Director (writing editorials but not buying stories) until the magazine was sold to Cohen. Under Cohen's first years, the magazine was edited largely by Joseph Wrocz, who signed himself "Joseph Ross." Elinor Mavor used the title Editorial & Art Director for a while before dropping "Omar Gohagen" completely. Pierce Watters was "Executive Editor" and superior to Mohan during Mohan's second term.<p>

July, 1926 issue

To give a feeling of the original magazine, here are some details on Volume 1, Number 4. (Cover picture here (http://www.frankwu.com/Paul-1A.html). The cover features a giant house fly, many times the size of a man. It is attacking a naval vessel, which is firing artillery at it. The cover splashes "Stories by H. G. Wells, Jules Verne, Garrett P. Serviss". At the bottom of the cover, to make sure readers of Gernsback's other magazines are hooked, we see the legend "Experimenter Publishing Company, New York, publishers of Radio News — Science & Invention — Radio Review — Amazing Stories — Radio Internacional (sic)."

There were 96 pages, but the page numbering continued from the previous issue, to give a feeling of continuity; perhaps to encourage readers to bind and keep issues. The only non-fiction is a 1-page editorial where Gernsback expands on the magazine's motto: Extravagant Fiction Today . . . Cold Fact Tomorrow.

The contents page includes

  • G McLeod Windsor, Station X (part 1 of 3 parts)
  • H. G. Wells, The Man Who Could Work Miracles
  • Jacque Morgan, The Scientific Adventures of Mr. Fosdick: The Feline Light and Power Company Is Organised (a humorous piece about trying to generate usable static electricity from cats)
  • Garrett P. Serviss, The Moon Metal
  • Curt Siodmak, The Eggs From Lake Tanganyika
  • Hugo Gernsback, The Magnetic Storm
  • Edgar Allan Poe, The Sphinx
  • Jules Verne, A Trip To The Centre of The Earth (last part of serial)
  • Clement Fezandié, Doctor Hackensaw's Secrets: The Secret of the Invisible Girl

Each story has a full page illustration. There are a very few small adverts (magic tricks, trusses, etc.) and classified adverts (For sale: Rharostine "B" Eliminator, $15). There are less adverts than most pulp magazines, suggesting Gernsback was eliminating the more lurid ones.

External links

  • Official site (http://paizo.com/amazing)
  • Publishing details (http://www.philsp.com/data/data011.html#AMAZINGSTORIES) (publishers, editors, titles, prices; not a list of all issues).
  • Checklist of issues (http://www.locusmag.com/index/chklst/mg0034.htm) (1926-2000).
  • Frank R Paul Gallery (http://www.frankwu.com/Paul-listing.html) (all Amazing covers by Frank R Paul, especially 1926-1929).

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