A science fiction magazine is a publication that offers primarily science fiction, either in a hard-copy periodical format or on the Internet. Science fiction magazines traditionally featured speculative fiction in short story, novelette, novella or (usually serialized) novel form, a format that continues into the present day. Many also contain editorials, book reviews or articles, and some also include stories in the fantasy and horror genres.
Malcolm Edwards and Peter Nicholls write that early magazines were not known as science fiction: "if there were any need to differentiate them, the terms scientific romance or 'different stories' might be used, but until the appearance of a magazine specifically devoted to sf there was no need of a label to describe the category. The first specialized English-language pulps with a leaning towards the fantastic were Thrill Book (1919) and Weird Tales (1923), but the editorial policy of both was aimed much more towards weird-occult fiction than towards sf."
Major American science fiction magazines include Amazing Stories , Astounding Science Fiction , Galaxy Science Fiction , The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine . The most influential British science fiction magazine was New Worlds ; newer British SF magazines include Interzone and Polluto. Many science fiction magazines have been published in languages other than English, but none has gained worldwide recognition or influence in the world of anglophone science fiction.
There is a growing trend toward important work being published first on the Internet, both for reasons of economics and access. A web-only publication can cost as little as one-tenth of the cost of publishing a print magazine, and as a result, some believe[ who? ] the e-zines are more innovative and take greater risks with material. Moreover, the magazine is internationally accessible, and distribution is not an issue—though obscurity may be. Magazines like Strange Horizons , Ideomancer , InterGalactic Medicine Show , Jim Baen's Universe , and the Australian magazine Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine are examples of successful Internet magazines. (Andromeda provides copies electronically or on paper.)
Web-based magazines tend to favor shorter stories and articles that are easily read on a screen, and many of them pay little or nothing to the authors, thus limiting their universe of contributors. However, multiple web-based magazines are listed as "paying markets" by the SFWA, which means that they pay the "professional" rate of 8c/word or more.These magazines include popular titles such as Strange Horizons , InterGalactic Medicine Show, and Clarkesworld Magazine. The SFWA publishes a list of qualifying magazine and short fiction venues that contains all current web-based qualifying markets.
The World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) awarded a Hugo Award each year to the best science fiction magazine, until that award was changed to one for Best Editor in the early 1970s; the Best Semi-Professional Magazine award can go to either a news-oriented magazine or a small press fiction magazine.
Magazines were the only way to publish science fiction until about 1950, when large mainstream publishers began issuing science fiction books.Today, there are relatively few paper-based science fiction magazines, and most printed science fiction appears first in book form. Science fiction magazines began in the United States, but there were several major British magazines and science fiction magazines that have been published around the world, for example in France and Argentina.
The first science fiction magazine,Amazing Stories , was published in a format known as bedsheet, roughly the size of Life but with a square spine. Later, most magazines changed to the pulp magazine format, roughly the size of comic books or National Geographic but again with a square spine. Now, most magazines are published in digest format, roughly the size of Reader's Digest , although a few are in the standard roughly 8.5" x 11" size, and often have stapled spines, rather than glued square spines. Science fiction magazines in this format often feature non-fiction media coverage in addition to the fiction. Knowledge of these formats is an asset when locating magazines in libraries and collections where magazines are usually shelved according to size.
The premiere issue of Amazing Stories (April 1926), edited and published by Hugo Gernsback, displayed a cover by Frank R. Paul illustrating Off on a Comet by Jules Verne.After many minor changes in title and major changes in format, policy and publisher, Amazing Stories ended January 2005 after 607 issues.
Except for the last issue of Stirring Science Stories, the last true bedsheet size sf (and fantasy) magazine was Fantastic Adventures , in 1939, but it quickly changed to the pulp size, and it was later absorbed by its digest-sized stablemate Fantastic in 1953. Before that consolidation, it ran 128 issues.
Much fiction published in these bedsheet magazines, except for classic reprints by writers such as H. G. Wells, Jules Verne and Edgar Allan Poe, is only of antiquarian interest. Some of it was written by teenage science fiction fans, who were paid little or nothing for their efforts. Jack Williamson for example, was 19 when he sold his first story to Amazing Stories. His writing improved greatly over time, and until his death in 2006, he was still a publishing writer at age 98.
Some of the stories in the early issues were by scientists or doctors who knew little or nothing about writing fiction, but who tried their best, for example, Dr. David H. Keller. Probably the two best original sf stories ever published in a bedsheet science fiction magazine were "A Martian Odyssey" by Stanley G. Weinbaum and "The Gostak and the Doshes" by Dr. Miles Breuer, who influenced Jack Williamson. "The Gostak and the Doshes" is one of the few stories from that era still widely read today. Other stories of interest from the bedsheet magazines include the first Buck Rogers story, Armageddon 2419 A.D, by Philip Francis Nowlan, and The Skylark of Space by coauthors E. E. Smith and Mrs. Lee Hawkins Garby, both in Amazing Stories in 1928.
There have been a few unsuccessful attempts to revive the bedsheet size using better quality paper, notably Science-Fiction Plus edited by Hugo Gernsback (1952–53, eight issues). Astounding on two occasions briefly attempted to revive the bedsheet size, with 16 bedsheet issues in 1942–1943 and 25 bedsheet issues (as Analog , including the first publication of Frank Herbert's Dune ) in 1963–1965. The fantasy magazine Unknown , also edited by John W. Campbell, changed its name to Unknown Worlds and published ten bedsheet-size issues before returning to pulp size for its final four issues. Amazing Stories published 36 bedsheet size issues in 1991–1999, and its last three issues were bedsheet size, 2004–2005.
Astounding Stories began in January 1930.After several changes in name and format ( Astounding Science Fiction , Analog Science Fact & Fiction , Analog ) it is still published today (though it ceased to be pulp format in 1943). Its most important editor, John W. Campbell, Jr., is credited with turning science fiction away from adventure stories on alien planets and toward well-written, scientifically literate stories with better characterization than in previous pulp science fiction. Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy and Robert A. Heinlein's Future History in the 1940s, Hal Clement's Mission of Gravity in the 1950s, and Frank Herbert's Dune in the 1960s, and many other science fiction classics all first appeared under Campbell's editorship.
By 1955, the pulp era was over, and some pulp magazines changed to digest size. Printed adventure stories with colorful heroes were relegated to the comic books. This same period saw the end of radio adventure drama (in the United States). Later attempts to revive both pulp fiction and radio adventure have met with very limited success, but both enjoy a nostalgic following who collect the old magazines and radio programs. Many characters, most notably The Shadow, were popular both in pulp magazines and on radio.
Most pulp science fiction consisted of adventure stories transplanted, without much thought, to alien planets. Pulp science fiction is known for clichés such as stereotypical female characters, unrealistic gadgetry, and fantastic monsters of various kinds.However, many classic stories were first published in pulp magazines. For example, in the year 1939, all of the following renowned authors sold their first professional science fiction story to magazines specializing in pulp science fiction: Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Alfred Bester, Fritz Leiber, A. E. van Vogt and Theodore Sturgeon. These were among the most important science fiction writers of the pulp era, and all are still read today.
After the pulp era, digest size magazines dominated the newsstand. The first sf magazine to change to digest size was Astounding, in 1943.Other major digests, which published more literary science fiction, were The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction , Galaxy Science Fiction and If . Under the editorship of Cele Goldsmith, Amazing and Fantastic changed in notable part from pulp style adventure stories to literary science fiction and fantasy. Goldsmith published the first professionally published stories by Roger Zelazny (not counting student fiction in Literary Cavalcade ), Keith Laumer, Thomas M. Disch, Sonya Dorman and Ursula K. Le Guin.
There was also no shortage of digests that continued the pulp tradition of hastily written adventure stories set on other planets. Other Worlds and Imaginative Tales had no literary pretensions. The major pulp writers, such as Heinlein, Asimov and Clarke, continued to write for the digests, and a new generation of writers, such as Algis Budrys and Walter M. Miller, Jr., sold their most famous stories to the digests. A Canticle for Leibowitz, written by Walter M. Miller, Jr., was first published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.
Most digest magazines began in the 1950s, in the years between the film Destination Moon , the first major science fiction film in a decade, and the launching of Sputnik, which sparked a new interest in space travel as a real possibility. Most survived only a few issues. By 1960, in the United States, there were only six sf digests on newsstands, in 1970 there were seven, in 1980 there were five, in 1990 only four and in 2000 only three.
The first British science fiction magazine was Tales of Wonder ,pulp size, 1937–1942, 16 issues, (unless Scoops is taken into account, a tabloid boys' paper that published 20 weekly issues in 1934). It was followed by two magazines, both named Fantasy, one pulp size publishing three issues in 1938–1939, the other digest size, publishing three issues in 1946–1947. The British science fiction magazine, New Worlds , published three pulp size issues in 1946–1947, before changing to digest size. With these exceptions, the pulp phenomenon, like the comic book, was largely a US format. By 2007, the only surviving major British science fiction magazine is Interzone , published in "magazine" format, although small press titles such as PostScripts and Polluto are available.
During recent decades, the circulation of all digest science fiction magazines has steadily decreased. New formats were attempted, most notably the slick-paper stapled magazine format, the paperback format and the webzine. There are also various semi-professional magazines that persist on sales of a few thousand copies but often publish important fiction.
As the circulation of the traditional US science fiction magazines has declined, new magazines have sprung up online from international small-press publishers. An editor on the staff of Science Fiction World , China's longest-running science fiction magazine, claimed in 2009 that, with "a circulation of 300,000 copies per issue", it was "the World's most-read SF periodical",although subsequent news suggests that circulation dropped precipitously after the firing of its chief editor in 2010 and the departure of other editors. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America lists science fiction periodicals that pay enough to be considered professional markets.
For a complete list, including defunct magazines, see List of science fiction magazines.
John Wood Campbell Jr. was an American science fiction writer and editor. He was editor of Astounding Science Fiction from late 1937 until his death and was part of the Golden Age of Science Fiction. Campbell wrote super-science space opera under his own name and stories under his primary pseudonym, Don A. Stuart. Campbell also used the pen names Karl Van Kampen and Arthur McCann. His novella Who Goes There? was adapted as the films The Thing from Another World (1951), The Thing (1982), and The Thing (2011).
Lester del Rey was an American science fiction author and editor. He was the author of many books in the juvenile Winston Science Fiction series, and the editor at Del Rey Books, the fantasy and science fiction imprint of Ballantine Books, along with his fourth wife Judy-Lynn del Rey.
Amazing Stories is an American science fiction magazine launched in April 1926 by Hugo Gernsback's Experimenter Publishing. It was the first magazine devoted solely to science fiction. Science fiction stories had made regular appearances in other magazines, including some published by Gernsback, but Amazing helped define and launch a new genre of pulp fiction.
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction is a U.S. fantasy and science fiction magazine first published in 1949 by Mystery House, a subsidiary of Lawrence Spivak's Mercury Press. Editors Anthony Boucher and J. Francis McComas had approached Spivak in the mid-1940s about creating a fantasy companion to Spivak's existing mystery title, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. The first issue was titled The Magazine of Fantasy, but the decision was quickly made to include science fiction as well as fantasy, and the title was changed correspondingly with the second issue. F&SF was quite different in presentation from the existing science fiction magazines of the day, most of which were in pulp format: it had no interior illustrations, no letter column, and text in a single column format, which in the opinion of science fiction historian Mike Ashley "set F&SF apart, giving it the air and authority of a superior magazine".
Unknown 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.
Fantastic was an American digest-size fantasy and science fiction magazine, published from 1952 to 1980. It was founded by the publishing company Ziff Davis as a fantasy companion to Amazing Stories. Early sales were good, and the company quickly decided to switch Amazing from pulp format to digest, and to cease publication of their other science fiction pulp, Fantastic Adventures. Within a few years sales fell, and Howard Browne, the editor, was forced to switch the focus to science fiction rather than fantasy. Browne lost interest in the magazine as a result and the magazine generally ran poor-quality fiction in the mid-1950s, under Browne and his successor, Paul W. Fairman.
Startling Stories was an American pulp science fiction magazine, published from 1939 to 1955 by publisher Ned Pines' Standard Magazines. It was initially edited by Mort Weisinger, who was also the editor of Thrilling Wonder Stories, Standard's other science fiction title. Startling ran a lead novel in every issue; the first was The Black Flame by Stanley G. Weinbaum. When Standard Magazines acquired Thrilling Wonder in 1936, it also gained the rights to stories published in that magazine's predecessor, Wonder Stories, and selections from this early material were reprinted in Startling as "Hall of Fame" stories. Under Weisinger the magazine focused on younger readers and, when Weisinger was replaced by Oscar J. Friend in 1941, the magazine became even more juvenile in focus, with clichéd cover art and letters answered by a "Sergeant Saturn". Friend was replaced by Sam Merwin Jr. in 1945, and Merwin was able to improve the quality of the fiction substantially, publishing Arthur C. Clarke's Against the Fall of Night, and several other well-received stories.
Wonder Stories was an early American science fiction magazine which was published under several titles from 1929 to 1955. It was founded by Hugo Gernsback in 1929 after he had lost control of his first science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories, when his media company Experimenter Publishing went bankrupt. Within a few months of the bankruptcy, Gernsback launched three new magazines: Air Wonder Stories, Science Wonder Stories, and Science Wonder Quarterly.
The bedsheet format was the size of many magazines published in the United States in the first quarter of the 20th century. Magazines in bedsheet format were roughly the size of Life but with square spines. While the bedsheet size varied slightly from magazine to magazine, a standard bedsheet size is usually 9¾" x 12".
Fantastic Adventures was an American pulp fantasy and science fiction magazine, published from 1939 to 1953 by Ziff-Davis. It was initially edited by Raymond A. Palmer, who was also the editor of Amazing Stories, Ziff-Davis's other science fiction title. The first nine issues were in bedsheet format, but in June 1940 the magazine switched to a standard pulp size. It was almost cancelled at the end of 1940, but the October 1940 issue enjoyed unexpectedly good sales, helped by a strong cover by J. Allen St. John for Robert Moore Williams' Jongor of Lost Land. By May 1941 the magazine was on a regular monthly schedule. Historians of science fiction consider that Palmer was unable to maintain a consistently high standard of fiction, but Fantastic Adventures soon developed a reputation for light-hearted and whimsical stories. Much of the material was written by a small group of writers under both their own names and house names. The cover art, like those of many other pulps of the era, focused on beautiful women in melodramatic action scenes. One regular cover artist was H.W. McCauley, whose glamorous "MacGirl" covers were popular with the readers, though the emphasis on depictions of attractive and often partly clothed women did draw some objections.
Analog Science Fiction and Fact is an American science fiction magazine published under various titles since 1930. Originally titled Astounding Stories of Super-Science, the first issue was dated January 1930, published by William Clayton, and edited by Harry Bates. Clayton went bankrupt in 1933 and the magazine was sold to Street & Smith. The new editor was F. Orlin Tremaine, who soon made Astounding the leading magazine in the nascent pulp science fiction field, publishing well-regarded stories such as Jack Williamson's Legion of Space and John W. Campbell's "Twilight". At the end of 1937, Campbell took over editorial duties under Tremaine's supervision, and the following year Tremaine was let go, giving Campbell more independence. Over the next few years Campbell published many stories that became classics in the field, including Isaac Asimov's Foundation series, A. E. van Vogt's Slan, and several novels and stories by Robert A. Heinlein. The period beginning with Campbell's editorship is often referred to as the Golden Age of Science Fiction.
Fantastic Story Quarterlywas a pulp science fiction magazine, published from 1950 to 1955 by Best Books, a subsidiary imprint of Standard Magazines, based in Kokomo, Indiana. The name was changed with the Summer 1951 issue to Fantastic Story Magazine. It was launched to reprint stories from the early years of the science fiction pulp magazines, and was initially intended to carry no new fiction, though in the end every issue contained at least one new story. It was sufficiently successful for Standard to launch Wonder Story Annual as a vehicle for more science fiction reprints, but the success did not last. In 1955 it was merged with Standard's Startling Stories. Original fiction in Fantastic Story included Gordon R. Dickson's first sale, "Trespass", and stories by Walter M. Miller and Richard Matheson.
Avon published three related magazines in the late 1940s and early 1950s, titled Avon Fantasy Reader, Avon Science Fiction Reader, and Avon Science Fiction and Fantasy Reader. These were digest size magazines which reprinted science fiction and fantasy literature by now well-known authors. They were edited by Donald A. Wollheim and published by Avon.
Satellite Science Fiction was an American science-fiction magazine published from October 1956 to April 1959 by Leo Margulies' Renown Publications. Initially, Satellite was digest sized and ran a full-length novel in each issue with a handful of short stories accompanying it. The policy was intended to help it compete against paperbacks, which were taking a growing share of the market. Sam Merwin edited the first two issues; Margulies took over when Merwin left and then hired Frank Belknap Long for the February 1959 issue. That issue saw the format change to letter size, in the hope that the magazine would be more prominent on newsstands. The experiment was a failure and Margulies closed the magazine when the sales figures came in.
Cosmic Stories and Stirring Science Stories were two American pulp science fiction magazines that published a total of seven issues in 1941 and 1942. Both Cosmic and Stirring were edited by Donald A. Wollheim and launched by the same publisher, appearing in alternate months. Wollheim had no budget at all for fiction, so he solicited stories from his friends among the Futurians, a group of young science fiction fans including James Blish and C. M. Kornbluth. Isaac Asimov contributed a story, but later insisted on payment after hearing that F. Orlin Tremaine, the editor of the competing science fiction magazine Comet, was irate at the idea of a magazine that might "siphon readership from magazines that paid", and thought that authors who contributed should be blacklisted. Kornbluth was the most prolific contributor, under several pseudonyms; one of his stories, "Thirteen O'Clock", published under the pseudonym "Cecil Corwin", was very successful, and helped to make his reputation in the field. The magazines ceased publication in late 1941, but Wollheim was able to find a publisher for one further issue of Stirring Science Stories in March 1942 before war restrictions forced it to close again.
Comet was a pulp magazine which published five issues from December 1940 to July 1941. It was edited by F. Orlin Tremaine, who had edited Astounding Stories, one of the leaders of the science fiction magazine field, for several years in the mid-1930s. Tremaine paid one cent per word, which was higher than some of the competing magazines, but the publisher, H-K Publications based in Springfield, MA, was unable to sustain the magazine while it gained circulation, and it was cancelled after less than a year when Tremaine resigned. Comet published fiction by several well-known and popular writers, including E.E. Smith and Robert Moore Williams. The young Isaac Asimov, visiting Tremaine in Comet's offices, was alarmed when Tremaine asserted that anyone who gave stories to competing magazines for no pay should be blacklisted; Asimov promptly insisted that Donald Wollheim, to whom he had given a free story, should make him a token payment so he could say he had been paid.
Marvel Science Stories was an American pulp magazine that ran for a total of fifteen issues in two separate runs, both edited by Robert O. Erisman. The publisher for the first run was Postal Publications, and the second run was published by Western Publishing; both companies were owned by Abraham and Martin Goodman. The first issue was dated August 1938, and carried stories with more sexual content than was usual for the genre, including several stories by Henry Kuttner, under his own name and also under pseudonyms. Reaction was generally negative, with one reader referring to Kuttner's story "The Time Trap" as "trash". This was the first of several titles featuring the word "Marvel", and Marvel Comics came from the same stable in the following year.
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.
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.
Fantasy Book was a semi-professional American science fiction magazine that published eight issues between 1947 and 1951. The editor was William Crawford, and the publisher was Crawford's Fantasy Publishing Company, Inc. Crawford had problems distributing the magazine, and his budget limited the quality of the paper he could afford and the artwork he was able to buy, but he attracted submissions from some well-known writers, including Isaac Asimov, Frederik Pohl, A. E. van Vogt, Robert Bloch, and L. Ron Hubbard. The best-known story to appear in the magazine was Cordwainer Smith's first sale, "Scanners Live in Vain", which was later included in the first Science Fiction Hall of Fame anthology, and is now regarded as one of Smith's finest works. Jack Gaughan, later an award-winning science fiction artist, made his first professional sale to Fantasy Book, for the cover illustrating Smith's story.
Several sources give updates on the state of science fiction magazines. Gardner Dozois presents a summary of the state of magazines in the introduction to the annual The Year's Best Science Fiction volume. Locus lists the circulation and discusses the status of pro and semi-pro SF magazines in their February year-in-review issue, and runs periodic summaries of non-US science fiction.
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Science fiction magazines