Red Magazine, The

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UK general fiction magazine published by Amalgamated Press, London; 620 issues, June 1908 to September 1939; editor for most of those years, certainly the ones of sf interest, was John Stock. It appeared monthly until February 1910, twice monthly until 15 March 1918, and again 1 February-1 August 1919, then fortnightly until 9 August 1929. Published on cheap book paper, close enough to pulpwood to be regarded as a Pulp magazine, the initial issues were a slightly stunted but wider standard format (9.5 x 8.5 in; 240 x 215 mm) and only became the standard pulp size in June 1929. The Red was one of a group of cheap magazines produced by the Harmsworth brothers (the cover bore the logo Harmsworth's Red Magazine well into the 1930s) which were part of the story-paper and boys' magazines offices at Amalgamated Press, rather than the magazine department that published The London and The Premier, yet it, and its companions, which include The Yellow Magazine ran a considerable amount of decent material, much of it quite light, that nevertheless should not be dismissed. The Red probably ran more science fiction than any other British magazine until the emergence of the post-war New Worlds.

In its early years The Red published some quite serious sf and fantasy. One of its first serials was The Diamond Master (December 1908-February 1909; 1909) by Jacques Futrelle, about the creation of artificial diamonds, and it also serialized Robert W Chambers's humorous The Green Mouse (15 March-1 June 1910; 1910), H Rider Haggard's historical fantasy Red Eve (1 December 1910-1 March 1911; 1911), Edith Nesbit's Dormant (15 May-15 July 1911; 1912; vt Rose Royal 1912), with its exploration into the elixir of life, and M P Shiel's Future War novel "To Arms!" (1 January-15 March 1913; 1913 as The Dragon); but these soon proved the exception as the contents of The Red settled to the level of their middling common denominator.

Stock found a group of writers, most of whom wrote for Harmsworth's other story papers and comics, who could produce regular copy for The Red in a variety of themes and genres. Several of these frequently produced madcap stories of scientific adventure, Invention and Disaster, and chief amongst these was R Coutts Armour, who wrote for the magazine under the names Coutts Brisbane, Reid Whitley and probably others. Armour's work was of two types. Most were light, humorous stories, starting with "Mixed Piggles" (1 December 1910), in which people are transformed into pigs, and including "A Pretty Pass" (15 June 1917), where in the future women grow taller and stronger leaving men as weaklings; but he could also write quite serious fiction. In "De Profundis" (15 November 1914) giant ants destroy London; in "Ultimate Zero" (1 February 1916) an object obscures the Sun and the Earth freezes, whilst in "The Thing" (2 April 1920) a force is created that can solidify air and is used as a Weapon. Armour could combine his two modes to produce light-hearted stories which still held a serious theme. The best of these were interplanetaries describing the bizarre fauna of each planet. He wrote several such stories under both his best known pseudonyms which prefigured the work of Stanley G Weinbaum. They include "The Dominant Factor" (1 June 1913 as Whitley) and "Earthwise" (1 April 1918), both set on Venus; "Take it as Red" (15 February 1918), set on Mars; "All Briny" (June 1918), set on Neptune; and "Under the Moons" (15 July 1919) set on Saturn (> Outer Planets). Armour contributed at least sixty sf and fantasy stories to The Red alone, probably more if all his pseudonyms were known.

Other regular contributors were James Barr, A E Ashford and Bertram Atkey. Barr was the brother of Robert Barr and produced a series of future-warning stories along the lines of "if this goes on . . ." "His Grace of Brackenshire" (1 April 1911) concerned the perils of socialism, "When Women Won" (15 April 1911) considered female suffrage, "The Return of the Emigrants" (15 May 1911) foresaw the "brain drain", "Two Rival Kings" (1 August 1911) suggested the dangers of the co-operative movement and "Lord Hagen's Dress Shirt" (15 August 1911) showed how aviation would force mankind back into the caves. Amidst all this doom and gloom, "Peace Came!" (1 May 1911) was surprisingly upbeat. Most of A E Ashford's stories were about new Inventions which may or may not do good. "In the Public Interest" (15 July 1913) has a machine that controls noise, "The Man Who Went Back" (15 November 1913) includes a Time Viewer, "The Tele-Duplicator" (15 May 1914) involves Matter Duplication, and "The 'Directo-Reverso' Current" (15 March 1916) features Antigravity. Bertram Atkey (1880-1952) was best known for his Smiler Bunn stories about a gentleman thief, but he was immensely prolific in several genres. His contributions to The Red began with a Lost Race adventure set in Africa, "Barhall" (15 June-1 July 1915) but his most popular stories was the Timeslip series "The Backslidings of Mr Hobart Honey" (1 July-1 November 1916), featuring Hobart Honey who through special pills projects his consciousness back into the past, usually with amusing results. Atkey later wrote a second series which appeared in Blue Book magazine. Amongst Atkey's other stories was the Unnatural Nature series (October 1918-19 September 1919, though not in every issue), which looked at quirks of nature and included the Missing Link (> Evolution) in "Unlinking the Link" (1 April 1919), a Dinosaur in "The Last of the Dinosaurs" (1 May 1919) and a merman in "Fintale the Merman" (19 September 1919). Most of these stories were also later revised for Blue Book.

There are the inevitable Mad-Scientist-bent-on-taking-over-the-world stories. In "The Forest of Frightfulness" (March-June 1930) by Arnold Wilberforce a German scientist creates giant animals (> Great and Small), whilst in "The World Crisis" (December 1930) by Michael Storm a Russian scientist discovers Nuclear Energy.

Amongst the less sensational short fiction are several stories that stand the test of time. William Hope Hodgson was a regular contributor to The Red and though most of his stories were not sf, they did include one of his most famous, "The Derelict" (1 December 1912), and also "The Finding of The Graiken" (15 February 1913), both with their hitherto unknown marine lifeforms. It was in The Red that Donovan Bayley's "The Men Who Met Himself" (1 February 1918) first appeared, usually noted from its appearance in The Thrill Book (1 March 1919). The Red ran two Lost Race novels by Roy Norton from The Popular Magazine, "The Glyphs" (31 October-12 December 1919) and "The Secret City" (6 February-2 April 1920), both later issued in one book as The Caves of Treasure (fix up 1925). A Little Way Ahead (4 June 1926; exp 1929) by Alan Sullivan concerns a man who suddenly finds he can envision the near future.

The Red might, in some ways, be seen as a rather more frivolous version of Unknown merged with the Clayton Astounding: mainly generally amusing stories of exaggerated science, but the sheer volume of such material it published should not go unnoticed. [MA]

further reading

  • George Locke. "Fantasy in The Red Magazine" (November 1971 Search & Research) [volume 1 number 1: pp1-9: mag/]

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