SF Magazines

Tagged: Publication | Theme

Sf stories were a popular and prominent feature of such general-fiction Pulp magazines as The Argosy and The All-Story during the first quarter of the twentieth century. They were not, however, known as sf: 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 no one had coined an accepted term 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 – though Weird Tales did publish more than an expected quota of scientific adventure stories, notably the work of Edmond Hamilton. There was also the German magazine Der Orchideengarten (1919-1921), which did run a special scientific fiction issue, but which generally ran fantasy, horror and surreal fiction.

As specialized pulps became common it was inevitable that there would be one devoted in some fashion to sf; it fell to Hugo Gernsback actually to publish the first such magazine (if we discount the "Twentieth Century Number" [June 1890] of the Overland Monthly and the special 1919 "future" issue of Pears' Annual). Gernsback's Science and Invention consistently published much sf among its otherwise nonfiction articles, and in August 1923 had a special issue with a section devoted to "scientific fiction"; in 1924 he solicited subscriptions for a magazine to be called Scientifiction. This did not materialize, but two years later (April 1926) the first issue of Amazing Stories appeared. Gernsback's coinage, Scientifiction, reflected his particular interest in sf as a vehicle for prediction and for the teaching of science. In a magazine which featured both Jules Verne and Edgar Rice Burroughs, it was a label that fitted the former's stories far more readily than the latter's.

Amazing was somewhat different in appearance from the usual pulp magazines, which measured approximately 7in x 10in (20cm x 30cm) and were printed on poor-quality paper with rough, untrimmed edges. Amazing adopted the larger flat letter-size, often erroneously termed Bedsheet (approx 8½ x 11½ in; 24 x 32.5 cm) and its pages were trimmed. The reason for this was because it was the format of all of Gernsback's technical magazines, including The Experimenter, which Amazing replaced in the schedules. By chance it would also have caused the magazine to be displayed on newsstands with the more prestigious "slick" magazines. The attempt at dignity was belied by the garishness of some of Frank R Paul's cover art, while the magazine's editorial matter had a haughty, Victorian air. However, Amazing proved initially successful; according to Gernsback in the September 1928 issue, 150,000 copies were printed monthly, although "Very frequently we do not sell more than 125,000 copies". The same issue gives a clue to Amazing's readership; of 22 letters printed, 11 are avowedly from high-school pupils. It was through the letters column of Amazing and later magazines that sf Fandom began.

When Gernsback lost control of Amazing in 1929 through bankruptcy it remained in the hands of his assistant, the venerable T O'Conor Sloane, and changed little, while the new magazines which Gernsback then started – Air Wonder Stories and Science Wonder Stories (see Wonder Stories) – adopted the same format and were very much the mixture as before. In fact, including Amazing Stories Quarterly and Science Wonder Quarterly (later Wonder Stories Quarterly), Gernsback started not just the first English-language sf magazine but the first five. It is not surprising that the limited Gernsbackian view of sf gained a strong hold. The emphasis on "science" in the category label (either "scientifiction" or "science fiction"), often quite inappropriately, is a legacy of this.

The first challenge to Gernsback's view of sf magazine publishing came in 1930 with the appearance of Astounding Stories of Super-Science (see Astounding Science-Fiction). Astounding belonged to the large Clayton magazine chain, and was unequivocally a Pulp magazine. Its editor, Harry Bates, was unimpressed by Gernsback's achievements ("Packed with puerilities! Written by unimaginables!" was his later assessment of Amazing), and Astounding's priorities were adventure first and science a long way second. Aficionados of Amazing were, in turn, unimpressed by Astounding's vulgarity, and certainly the Clayton Astounding produced vanishingly few stories of enduring quality. However, the same is true of its competitors.

Air Wonder and Science Wonder soon amalgamated into Wonder Stories; with minor exceptions (in 1931 Miracle Science and Fantasy Stories published 2 issues; in 1934 the semiprofessional Marvel Tales began its short life), Amazing, Astounding and Wonder Stories constituted the US sf-magazine field until 1938. Interestingly, not one of them finished the decade under the same ownership it had had at the beginning. Astounding was initially the only sf magazine belonging to a pulp chain; when it was sold to another group, Street & Smith, in 1933, it was because of the collapse of the whole Clayton chain. The magazine itself had been quite successful, if undistinguished in content; under its new management and new editor F Orlin Tremaine it went from strength to strength, its popular success matched by a notable increase in quality. It had the advantage of paying considerably better than its sf competitors (one cent a word on acceptance, rather than half a cent a word on publication or later – "payment on lawsuit" as the saying had it). Even so, Astounding's payment rates were only half what they had been in its Clayton days, and represented the lowest standard pulp rates; it was a question of the other sf magazines' paying very badly rather than Astounding's paying particularly well. This had obvious repercussions on the quality of the writers prepared to contribute. Authors who could sell their work to the more prestigious Argosy or Blue Book, which occasionally paid higher rates depending upon the author's reputation (Edgar Rice Burroughs for example could command six cents a word, Zane Grey even more) were not going to favour the sf magazines with anything other than their rejects, although the general fiction pulps were an increasingly limited market. More importantly, the prolific professional pulp writers, turning out hundreds of thousands of words each year in any and every category, never made the sf magazines their chief focus of attention. The adverse result of this was that the sf magazines published a great deal of material by writers ignorant even of the minimal standards of professionalism of the pulp hack (hence Bates's dismay with Amazing), but in the longer term the advantage was that the field was able to develop itself from within. Fans of the magazines believed, with justification, that they could do as well as the published writers. They tried; a proportion of them succeeded. Jack Williamson, an early example of such a writer, describes in The Early Williamson (1975) how he received little useful encouragement from Gernsback and Sloane; though David Lasser did institute, with Gernsback's blessing, a "new policy" at Wonder Stories designed to introduce more original ideas and move away from the already hackneyed wild-west-in-space stories that were proliferating. During 1932-1934 Wonder Stories published some of the most innovative science fiction yet seen in the magazines, but when Gernsback fired Lasser and replaced him with Charles Hornig, partly to save costs, the magazine's quality soon faded.

Meanwhile Astounding under Tremaine developed its own dynamic editorial policy which reaped dividends, so that by the end of 1934 Astounding was by far the premier sf magazine. While Astounding prospered, its competitors floundered, losing their better writers and failing to replace them. By the end of 1933 both Amazing and Wonder Stories had adopted the standard pulp format. By the end of 1935 both had gone over to bimonthly publication (the same year that Astounding was contemplating twice-monthly publication). In 1936 Wonder Stories was sold, reappearing after a short gap as Thrilling Wonder Stories with a change of emphasis epitomized by the BEMS (Bug-Eyed Monsters) on the cover of its first issue; Amazing followed suit in 1938.

The failure of the sf magazines to establish themselves as a healthy pulp category in the 1930s is surprising in that, during that decade of the Great Depression, the pulps provided cheap entertainment and were thus generally popular. As a comparison, the far more specialized, peripherally associated field of "weird menace" pulps (as described in The Shudder Pulps [1975] by Robert Kenneth Jones) – i.e., magazines devoted entirely to stories in which apparently strange happenings turned out to have mundane, if exaggerated explanations – was thriving, with such titles as Dime Mystery Magazine, Horror Stories, Terror Tales and Thrilling Mystery. Likewise the hero pulps, epitomized by Doc Savage, were highly successful until superseded by the Comics. The only sf magazine to establish itself on a regular monthly basis was also the only sf magazine with which Gernsback had never been associated, which suggests that by the mid-thirties Gernsback's conception of sf, and of sf-magazine publishing, no longer captured the audience it sought. The emphasis of the early sf magazines on Machines, as represented by Paul's cover art, may have alienated as many readers as it attracted.

The first boom in sf-magazine publishing came towards the end of the 1930s. In 1938 Marvel Science Stories became the first fully professional new title since Miracle in 1931; it gained some notoriety by trying briefly to introduce to sf a little mild lasciviousness of the kind common in the "weird menace" pulps. In 1939 it was followed by a rush of new titles. Amazing and Thrilling Wonder Stories had both proved successful enough under new management and with a more lively approach to give birth to companion magazines, Fantastic Adventures and Startling Stories respectively. John W Campbell Jr, who had become editor of Astounding late in 1937, began in 1939 a fantasy companion, Unknown, as well as printing during that year the first stories by Robert A Heinlein, Theodore Sturgeon and A E van Vogt, which heralded the start of Astounding's greatest period of dominance. Other new magazines of 1939 were Dynamic Science Stories, Future Fiction, Planet Stories, Science Fiction Stories, Strange Stories and the reprint magazine Famous Fantastic Mysteries. In 1940 Astonishing Stories, Captain Future, Comet, Science Fiction Quarterly, Super Science Stories and the reprint Fantastic Novels came along; in 1941 Cosmic Stories and Stirring Science Stories made their appearance. However, this was not quite the flood it might seem. The economics of magazine publishing meant that when a bimonthly magazine was successful it was often better to start a companion title in the alternate months than to switch to monthly publication. In this way the magazines gained twice as much display space and twice as long a period on sale, while the publisher could hope for an increased share of the total market through product diversification. So Startling Stories was paired with Thrilling Wonder Stories (although the latter went monthly in 1940-1941), Marvel Science Stories with Dynamic Science Stories, Astonishing Stories with Super Science Stories, Cosmic Stories with Stirring Science Stories and Future Fiction with Science Fiction Stories. Nevertheless, much more sf was needed each month, most of it paid for at minimal rates (if at all), and many young sf fans were able to gain invaluable early experience as writers or editors. Isaac Asimov, James Blish, Damon Knight, C M Kornbluth, Robert A W Lowndes, Frederik Pohl and Donald A Wollheim – all Futurians – launched their careers in this period.

Inevitably, the boom oversaturated the market: some of the new titles published only two or three issues. US involvement in World War Two, with consequent paper shortages, took its toll of other titles. By the middle of 1944 all but four of the new titles had disappeared; nevertheless, these had all established themselves, and for the duration of the 1940s there were seven regular sf magazines: Amazing, Astounding, Fantastic Adventures, Planet Stories, Startling Stories, Thrilling Wonder Stories and Famous Fantastic Mysteries, the latter still a reprint magazine. Astounding was in a different class from the others in terms of both quality and appearance. In 1943 it changed to a wide-Digest size (approx 7½ x 5½ in; 190 x 140 mm), anticipating the general trend of the 1950s. Discovering a serious adult readership for sf – and discovering and developing the writers to provide appropriate stories – it changed its appearance until it looked as different as possible from the sf pulps, often seeming deliberately to cultivate a drab look. In the early 1940s Startling Stories and Thrilling Wonder Stories aimed themselves overtly at a juvenile audience – perhaps recognizing their readership for what it was (although later, under the editorship of Sam Merwin Jr, the standard soared, until by 1948 Startling Stories represented the closest challenge to Astounding). Their cover art, largely the work of Earle K Bergey, typified the drift away from the appeal of futuristic technology – scantily clad girls threatened by monstrous aliens promised more undemanding entertainment, and evidently provided the necessary sales appeal to sustain the enlarged market. Planet Stories was more garish still, the epitome of Space Opera. The Ziff-Davis magazines Amazing and Fantastic Adventures appeared crude, but prospered under the editorship of Raymond A Palmer. Amazing, especially, grew huge (a peak of 274pp in 1942). Palmer showed a shrewd ability to tap the market for occultism and Pseudoscience, using in particular the allegedly factual stories of Richard S Shaver to attain for Amazing (he claimed) the highest circulation ever reached by an sf magazine.

New magazines began to appear again in 1947-1948, although at first they were either reprint-inspired (Avon Fantasy Reader, The Arkham Sampler [which also published original stories], and the revived Fantastic Novels) or of only Semiprozine (i.e., semiprofessional) status (Fantasy Book). They were followed in 1949 by A Merritt's Fantasy Magazine, the revived Super Science Stories and Other Worlds. However, the significant development of the period was the appearance in 1949 of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, followed in 1950 by Galaxy Science Fiction. Both magazines originated in digest format, and from their inception were aimed at the adult audience which Astounding had shown existed. Campbell's Astounding was by this time showing evidence of stagnation, and both The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, with its emphasis on literary standards, and Galaxy, which concentrated on the Soft Sciences and Satire, appeared more sophisticated; they quickly established themselves alongside Astounding, so that these three became the leading magazines – a situation which, generally speaking, continued until the late 1970s.

New and revived magazines continued to appear, or reappear, in profusion, and to disappear almost as regularly. They included: Future Combined with Science Fiction Stories, Imagination, Marvel, Out of This World Adventures, Two Complete Science-Adventure Books and Worlds Beyond in 1950; If and Science Fiction Quarterly in 1951; Dynamic Science Fiction, Fantastic, Science Fiction Adventures, Space Science Fiction and Space Stories in 1952; Beyond Fantasy Fiction, Fantastic Universe, Fantasy Magazine, Science Fiction Stories, Science-Fiction Plus and Universe Science Fiction in 1953; Imaginative Tales in 1954; Infinity Science Fiction in 1955; Satellite Science Fiction, Science Fiction Adventures (the second magazine of this title) and Super-Science Fiction in 1956; and Dream World, Saturn and Venture Science Fiction in 1957. From this plethora of new titles, the group of magazines edited by Robert A W LowndesFuture, Original and Science Fiction Quarterly – managed well for a number of years on tiny budgets; Fantastic Universe, Imagination and Imaginative Tales continued for several years; and Infinity, Satellite and Venture were notable among the shorter-lived magazines. Many other titles came and went after only one or two issues, and only Fantastic and If survived the end of the decade. Fantastic was a digest-size companion to Amazing and Fantastic Adventures. Amazing switched to digest size in 1953, at which point Fantastic Adventures ceased, although Fantastic can be considered as in effect a continuation. If would have been another 1950s casualty had not the title been sold in 1958 to Galaxy Publishing Corporation, which wanted a companion for Galaxy.

The new magazines that succeeded were digests; of the six 1940s pulps only Amazing (and, in a sense, Fantastic Adventures) survived the change in the publishing industry. The pulp-magazine business in general died in the early 1950s, a victim of increasing distribution problems and of the growing television industry, which provided a more immediate cheap home entertainment. Weird Tales (which had pursued its own course through the 1930s-1940s, publishing occasional sf) failed in 1954. Famous Fantastic Mysteries ceased in 1953; Thrilling Wonder, Startling Stories and Planet Stories survived until 1955, when they were among the last of all pulp magazines to die. The last sf pulp was Science Fiction Quarterly.

In the UK, sf magazines had gained less of a foothold before World War Two. The first was Scoops (1934), a short-lived Boys' Paper. This was followed in 1937 by Tales of Wonder, the most notable early UK magazine, which survived until 1942. The first Fantasy appeared briefly in 1938-1939. However, the post-World War Two revival started earlier in the UK than in the USA, with the appearance of two magazines in 1946. Walter Gillings, editor of the prewar Tales of Wonder, now edited the second, equally short-lived Fantasy; New Worlds, under John Carnell, began in the same year. Both ceased publication in 1947, but New Worlds was revived in 1949. In 1950 a companion magazine to New Worlds, Science Fantasy, began under Gillings's editorship. Carnell took over from #3 and continued the magazines successfully through the decade, publishing the early work of such authors as Brian W Aldiss, J G Ballard and John Brunner. In 1958 Science Fiction Adventures joined these two magazines; initially a reprint of the US title, it continued after its transatlantic parent had died, publishing original stories under Carnell's editorship. Other UK magazines of the 1950s were Authentic Science Fiction and Nebula Science Fiction; there were also a number of minor titles, such as Vargo Statten Science Fiction Magazine.

Six US magazines continued into the 1960s: Amazing, Astounding (now retitled Analog), Fantastic, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Galaxy and If. Amazing and Fantastic began the decade strongly under the editorship of Cele Goldsmith, who raised Amazing to a relative prominence which it had not enjoyed since the mid-1930s (although it was still of only secondary interest). In 1965 Ziff-Davis sold Amazing and Fantastic, and they became reprint magazines, spawning numerous companion titles. Later they began to include original fiction once more, undergoing a resurgence with Ted White's accession to the editorship in 1969. Analog, under new management, took on a more modern, glossy appearance – experimenting for a while with a handsome large format – and continued to lead the field in sales. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, established as the "quality" sf magazine, maintained its reputation through two changes of editor. Galaxy and If had a new editor, Frederik Pohl, under whom they remained successful; in the mid-1960s If concentrated strongly on adventure sf with a popular success that showed itself in three consecutive Hugos (otherwise shared between Analog and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction). Later Galaxy and If came under the editorship of Ejler Jakobsson, who made an unconvincing, gimmicky attempt to "modernize" them. Chief among the few attempts to launch new magazines during the decade, although a great number of reprint titles appeared, were the short-lived Gamma and another companion to Galaxy and If, Worlds of Tomorrow. The most significant event for the future of sf magazines was the publication in 1966 of the first volume of Damon Knight's Orbit series of Original Anthologies. It was not the first such series – Pohl had edited Star Science Fiction Stories in the 1950s – but it came at a more significant time, when the magazines were suffering increasing problems in distribution and in many cases falling circulations, while the paperback book industry continued to grow strongly. Anthology series like Orbit – essentially magazines in book format, less frequent, and without some of the readers' departments – could obtain better distribution, would remain on sale for longer periods, could be more selective in their choice of material, and could offer better payment than the majority of sf magazines. In due course Orbit was followed by other anthology series – Infinity, New Dimensions, Nova, QUARK/ and Universe – as well as many one-off original anthologies, most notably Dangerous Visions. It was widely felt that the traditional sf magazine had become an anachronism and in due course would be replaced by the paperback anthology, just as the digest magazines had supplanted the pulps. (In the event the magazines were not supplanted, but both the magazine market and the original-anthology market shrank radically in the 1980s.)

In the UK it all happened rather differently. New Worlds and Science Fantasy were taken over by a new publisher, Roberts & Vinter, in 1964, and Carnell left. Both magazines now adopted the pocketbook format, although continuing to be marketed as magazines rather than books. Science Fantasy went through various changes of editor – and in 1966 of title, to Impulse and then SF Impulse – before folding in 1967. NW's new editor, Michael Moorcock, gradually transformed its outlook, making it more experimental and less bound to the conventions of Genre SF; it became known as the standard-bearer of the New Wave. In 1967 Moorcock, with Arts Council assistance, took over as publisher of the magazine, changing it to a larger A4 format which allowed for more graphic adventurousness. New Worlds encountered moments of controversy and subsequent distribution problems; it was banned by W H Smith & Sons, by far the largest retail newsagent chain in the UK. New Worlds eventually ceased magazine publication in 1971, though various attempts to revive it in both book and magazine format have taken place sporadically since. Carnell, meanwhile, had begun New Writings in SF, a quarterly original anthology series which predated Orbit by two years. In 1969 the short-lived magazine Vision of Tomorrow appeared.

Between the mid-1970s and 1980 there were several major changes among the established US sf magazines. At the beginning of 1975 If was absorbed into Galaxy (which had acquired a new editor, Jim Baen, in 1974). From the beginning of 1977, Galaxy began to miss issues; it managed to stagger on until Summer 1980, with one issue under a new publisher. Amazing and Fantastic suffered slowly dwindling circulations; even produced with minimal staff and budget, they were only just viable. The last separate issue of Fantastic came in October 1980; thereafter only Amazing survived ... by the skin of its teeth. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and Analog remained stable, Analog with by far the greater circulation and, from 1972, a new editor, Ben Bova, who did much to revive it from the stagnation of the later years of Campbell's reign.

In the UK New Worlds reappeared as an irregular paperback series (1971-1976), changing editors and publishers along the way. In 1974-1976 Science Fiction Monthly was published, a poster-size magazine relying heavily on the appeal of pages of full-colour art. A projected successor, SF Digest, was aborted even as the first issue was being distributed.

Despite the predictions that original anthologies would replace magazines, in the USA the 1970s proved a more fertile period for new titles than the previous decade, while several of the anthology series failed. Vertex, a glossy letter-size magazine, was begun in 1973 and enjoyed success until forced by paper shortages to change to a newsprint format, dying soon after, in 1975. 1976 saw the launch of the short-lived Odyssey and the subscription-based semiprozine Galileo (1976-1980). It was at around this time that the Semiprozine started making real progress; production costs could be kept low with a small (maybe one-person) operation, so compensating in part for distribution difficulties and consequent low sales. Few lasted long, although besides Galileo two – Unearth (8 issues 1977-1979) and Shayol (7 issues 1977-1985) – had an influence greater than their small-scale production might suggest. 1977 saw three further titles: in the UK Vortex came and went; in the USA Cosmos Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazine and Asimov's Science Fiction were launched, both on apparently firm foundations. In the event the former lasted only four issues, but the latter steadily improved, to overtake all but Analog in terms of circulation, and to rival and then perhaps to supersede the big three (Analog, Amazing and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction) in terms of quality. While Asimov's was the major success story of the 1970s among the pure-sf magazines, a spectacular development took place in 1978 with the launch of a new science magazine in slick format, Omni, by the publisher best known previously for the sex magazine Penthouse. Omni's circulation, at well over 800,000 in some years, was about eight times higher than that of any sf magazine, so it was a matter of considerable significance when Omni decided at the outset to include some sf stories as part of its mix. This it did with great success: although it published only 20-40 stories annually, these were often of high quality. 1978 also saw the launch of Ad Astra in the UK; it lasted until 1981. Also in 1978, Jim Baen at Ace Books decided to get the best of both worlds by combining the sf magazine with the original-anthology series, launching Destinies, subtitled "The Paperback Magazine of Science Fiction and Speculative Fact", in book format.

By the 1980s it seemed that the magazines were ultimately doomed: they could no longer compete with paperback publishers, video rentals and so on for the consumer's dollar. Through the decade the survivors faced steadily dropping circulations (with occasional fluctuations), and the founding of a new magazine could be seen as an act of insane courage. Nonetheless, new titles did appear. In the UK Extro lasted only three issues, but Interzone, likewise launched in 1982, proved quite another story. Founded by a collective (several members of which worked professionally in sf publishing as critics or editors), it began with the slightly morose air of yet another New Worlds clone, with plenty of stories about ravaged societies. But bit by bit it picked up until, under the editorship and ownership of David Pringle, it rivalled the best US magazines in terms of quality, although the circulation remained small. In the USA Charles Ryan (who had edited Galileo) returned in 1986 with Aboriginal Science Fiction, which continued for far longer than many anticipated.

During the 1980s the proliferation of desk-top published magazines produced by small groups of enthusiasts and aimed not at the mass market but at a continuing specialist readership proved significant. These magazines, partly a result of technological developments having brought home publishing within the financial reach of people who could once not have considered it, provide extremely valuable proving grounds for young writers who then may move elsewhere. Among the more distinguished such titles that began in the 1980s devoted to publishing fiction have been Back Brain Recluse (UK), Dream (UK), Eidolon (Australia), On Spec (Canada), Journal Wired (US), New Pathways (US), Nova Express (US) and Strange Plasma (US). Many more thus published are critical journals, such as Science Fiction Eye (US). Other Small Presses with considerably better financial backing have occasionally moved into the periodical field, notably Pulphouse Publishing with first Pulphouse: The Hardback Magazine (1988-1991) and then its successor, Pulphouse: A Weekly Magazine, which in late 1992 was continuing on a monthly basis. This, too, is aimed at a specialist market. In 1993 Pulphouse launched Tomorrow Speculative Fiction, edited by Algis Budrys. Weird Tales was also revived as a magazine in 1988 by George Scithers's Small Press Terminus Publishing.

Desk-top publishing soon merged with online publishing as, starting slowly in the 1980s and early 1990s, various individuals, especially those interested in role-playing games and the growth of computer games, experimented with their own magazines that they could email to each other. The first of these was FSFnet in 1984, but the first true sf Online Magazine was Quanta which ran from 1989 to 1995. It soon had a companion in InterText, which began in 1991 and continued right through to 2004. The real first age of the online magazine came, though, when it was decided to stop the print edition of Omni and turn it into an internet magazine which became dubbed Omni Online, though it was never its formal title. Although Omni Online only lasted from 1995 until 1998 its very presence encouraged other magazines to convert online, including Galaxy, which E J Gold had revived briefly as a Print Magazine in 1994, and Algis Budrys's Tomorrow. A further experiment by the Omni team with Event Horizon also soon folded, but many felt that the internet held the future for magazines. Datlow would eventually prove this with her five years at Sci Fiction (2000-2005) which established the credibility of online publishing once and for all.

The potential rivalry of the online format did not bite deep during the 1990s and print magazines continued to appear. Especially brave was Warren {LAPINE} who established {DNA PUBLICATIONS} in 1993 with Harsh Mistress, which changed its name to Absolute Magnitude. Lapine soon began to issue further new magazines and take on the magazines of others so that he soon had an empire of semi-professional titles that included Aboriginal, Dreams of Decadence, Pirate Writings and Weird Tales, which had itself seen several revivals since the original pulp magazine folded in 1954. Likewise in Britain other brave souls sought to enter the field where Interzone was steadily prospering, and there were brief flashes as magazines came and went: The Gate (1989-1990), New Moon (1991-1992), R. E. M. (1991-1992), Nexus (1991-1993), Beyond (1995), Odyssey (1997-1998) and later 3SF (2002-2003). All valiant attempts but none with sufficient financial backing to last long enough to build a subscriber base and tackle the magazine distribution stranglehold in Britain. A few did survive through sheer tenacity: the Irish Albedo One (began 1993), The Third Alternative (1994-2005, reborn as Black Static) by being sufficiently different and the enigmatic The Edge (began 1990) by remaining on the edge.

What looked to be a major success was Science Fiction Age, launched in 1992 as the first really regular science fiction Slick magazine, and it was still profitable when the publisher pulled the plug in 2000. Its companion, the equally vibrant Realms of Fantasy remained with the publisher a few years longer; it has since moved through two other publishers and its future remains to be seen.

This entry has focused on English-language sf magazines, because for most of the first sixty years of the sf magazines, the American magazines dominated the field, and the majority of magazines appearing in other languages drew upon the American magazines for their material. The earliest such magazine was Narraciones Terroríficas in Argentina, which began in 1939 and drew chiefly from the magazines published by Popular Publications. In France Conquetes only just saw two issues before the War began in 1939, though in Sweden they were able to support a weekly Jules Verne Magasinet from 1940-1947, though towards the end it broadened its scope beyond sf – it was also revived in 1969 and has continued through to today. Even after the War publication was patchy and intermittent but a few countries succeeded in producing magazines which established a following sufficient to develop a science fiction fandom or market within their countries. This included Los Cuentos Fantásticos (1948-1953) in Mexico, Más Allá (1953-1957) in Argentina, Häpna! (1954-1966) in Sweden and Colectia Povestiri S-F (1955-1974) in Romania – the magazine was revived in 1990 as Anticipatia and continued until 2006; but most importantly Fiction (1953-1990) in France, with a new series started in 2005, {NUEVA DIMENSION} (1968-1983) and subsequently Gigamesh (1985-2007) in Spain and SF Magazine (1960-current) in Japan. There have been many non-English language magazines, and since the 1990s they have become even more prevalent so that there are now far more sf magazines published outside the USA, the UK, Canada and Australia than within and many of them now publish a considerable amount of original material. These magazines are covered under the individual countries. Leading titles are in Argentina Cuásar (1984-current), in Brazil Somnium (1985-current), in French-speaking Canada, Imagine (1979-1997) and Solaris (1981-current), in China Kehuan Shijie ["SF World"] (1979-current), in Croatia Futura (1992-current) and Sirius (1976-1989) in the former Yugoslavia, in the Czech Republic Ikarie (1990-2010), in Denmark Proxima (1974-current), in Finland Aikakone (1981-current) and Portti (1982-current), in France Galaxies (1996-current), in Germany Nova (2002-current), in Hungary Galaktika (1981-current), in Israel Ha'meimad Ha'Asiri (1996-2009) and Chalomot Be'Aspamia (2002-2008), in Italy Nova (1985-2009) and Robot (revived 2003-current), in the Netherlands Holland-SF (1966-current, the club magazine of Nederlands Contactcentrum voor Science Fiction), in Poland Nowa Fantastyka (1982-current), in Russia Esli (1991-current), in Serbia Emitor (1981-current), in Slovakia Fantázia (1997-current), in Sweden Nova (revived 2004-current), in the Ukraine Threshold (1992-current). That list barely touches the surface. Many more magazines have appeared in these and other countries resulting in a vibrant sf fraternity in many nations around the world. Some, such as China's Kehuan Shijie ["SF World"] have circulations that the US and UK magazines can only dream of.

At the start of the new millennium, the only English-language printed sf magazines with circulations over 20,000 were Analog, Asimov's and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction plus Realms of Fantasy if you allow for a fantasy magazine, and only one of these, Analog, topped 40,000. Ten years on, in 2010, only two of them exceed 20,000, Analog and Asimov's, and Asimov's is because of increased digital ebook sales. The debate continues as to whether the print magazines will survive another decade, but the debate also rages as to how well online magazines will survive. Since the proliferation of broadband allowing for easier access, and also because of the sophistication of design programmes allowing for better websites, online magazines have increased exponentially but very few of them are paying concerns in the professional sense. Some may pay professional rates but do not necessarily support an editorial staff. Major online magazines have included Ideomancer (1999-current), Sci Fiction (2000-2005), Strange Horizons (2000-current), The Infinite Matrix (2001-2006), Abyss & Apex (2003-current), Helix SF (2006-2008), Jim Baen's Universe (2006-2010), Clarkesworld (2006-current), Lightspeed (2010-current) and many more which are listed under Online Magazines.

Despite the low circulation of the Print Magazines, and the growing readership but uncertain status of the online magazines, they all remain absolutely vital to sf's continued health, because it is primarily through them that short sf – which is in a remarkably healthy state – remains alive at all, and it is usually via short sf that most new writers learn their craft and mature.

For a full list of sf magazines covered in this encyclopedia see under Print Magazines for those that were primarily published in print form, and Online Magazine for those which have been primarily digital. In addition see under Pulp for non-genre pulp magazines covered in this work, and under Slick for non-genre slick magazines. Further information on the publishing of sf in periodical format can be found under Amateur Magazines, Boys' Papers, Comics, Dime-Novel SF, Fanzines, Juvenile Series, Semiprozines and Magazines; the latter entry covers the definitions, status and format of the wide range of periodicals. [MA/MJE/PN]

further reading

Ashley's four-volume History of the Science Fiction Magazine series – the first three of which are cited above – will conclude with «The Cyber Chronicles», covering the period 1981 to 2010.

Previous versions of this entry

Website design and build: STEEL

Site ©2011 Gollancz, SFE content ©2011 SFE Ltd.