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Amateur Magazine

Entry updated 6 January 2022. Tagged: Publication, Theme.


A term used to distinguish between those magazines which are produced professionally (see Prozine) and those that are produced for the sheer pleasure of the product without financial consideration. For the purposes of this encyclopedia, Amateur Magazines are split into Fanzines, which are produced by fans for other fans and tend to be dedicated to the discussion and review of science fiction, with varying degrees of seriousness, and those which concentrate on the publication of fiction and are usually modelled on professional magazines but for which no payment is made to contributors and no monetary gain is considered. Those magazines where low payments are made to contributors and where a degree of income is assured the publisher or editor but which are not fully professional are regarded as Semiprozines. The amateur magazine has a long history and has come back into prominence both with Online Magazine production and with international magazines, many of which are produced by fan clubs or associations.

Amateur journalism had been growing in the US since at least the 1840s and was put on a national footing with the creation of the National Amateur Press Association in Philadelphia in 1876 (after an abortive attempt in 1870). The organization produced its first magazine, The National Amateur in 1878, which is still published today. A rival United Amateur Press Association (UAPA) was formed in 1895, while the British Amateur Press Association was founded in 1890. The products of these APAs were a mixture of essays, poetry and stories, as one would expect, but none focused specifically on fantasy or Proto SF. It was into this realm that H P Lovecraft was drawn in 1914, producing his own amateur magazine, The Conservative. Around Lovecraft grew a circle of writers interested in amateur publication, amongst them W Paul Cook (1880-1948) who had been active in UAPA since 1901. He produced several amateur magazines including The Vagrant (December 1915-Spring 1927) of which the final number, totalling 312 pages, is still one of the largest single issues ever produced in amateur journalism (see also Warhoon). The Vagrant ran several stories by Lovecraft but was not in itself a fantasy or sf magazine. However Cook's next magazine, The Recluse, which saw only one issue in the autumn of 1927, contained enough stories and articles about weird fiction, including Lovecraft's essay "Supernatural Horror in Literature" and items by Frank Belknap Long Jr, H Warner Munn, Clark Ashton Smith and Donald Wandrei, to be considered as the first true sf and fantasy amateur magazine.

When science fiction Fandom emerged a flood of fanzines appeared, initially science-based, until Julius Schwartz, Allen Glasser and Mort Weisinger produced The Time Traveller starting in January 1932, the first true fanzine dedicated to the subject of science fiction. Its successor, Science Fiction Digest (see Fantasy Magazine), which ran from September 1932 to January 1937, was neatly printed by Conrad H Ruppert (1912-1997), and ran some occasional fiction, including work by professionals such as Lloyd Arthur Eshbach and P Schuyler Miller. It was most noted for running an eighteen-part Round-Robin serial, "Cosmos" (July 1933-December 1934), which included episodes by Edmond Hamilton, David H Keller, Abraham Merritt and E E Smith. Even accounting for this, Science Fiction Digest (which became Fantasy Magazine from its January 1934 issue) was essentially a magazine dedicated to reporting on the sf world, not to publishing fiction.

Jerome Siegel had produced a typewritten carbon-copy magazine, Cosmic Stories, in late 1929 or early 1930, which he circulated amongst friends in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, but of which no copies survive. According to Sam Moskowitz in "How Superman Was Born" (June 1958 Future Science Fiction), this contained "features by Clare Winger Harris, Walter Dennis, and Bernard Kenton, the last a pen name of the publisher." Siegel tried again in 1932, this time with his friend Joseph Shuster (1914-1992), who provided the artwork, with a new mimeographed magazine, Science Fiction, dated October 1932. The first issue consisted entirely of Siegel's own stories under pseudonyms, but he managed to attract submissions from Clare Winger Harris, David H Keller and Raymond A Palmer for later issues. The magazine ran for only five issues, the last, undated, appearing mid-1933, but it rates as the first true amateur sf magazine. Of historical importance is "The Reign of the Superman" (January 1933 Science Fiction) in the third issue, which was Siegel's first attempt at creating the character of Superman, though in this instance as a Villain who should not be confused with the later Superhero.

Charles D Hornig began The Fantasy Fan, printed by Ruppert, in September 1933, which also contained fiction, but was dedicated more to fantasy and weird tales. William L Crawford was also attempting to print his own magazine and produced an advance issue of Unusual Stories in March 1934 with contributions by Cyril G Wates (1884-1946) and Richard Tooker. Not happy with the results he experimented further with Marvel Tales, first issue May 1934, a mixture of weird fiction and sf. Marvel Tales managed to limp through five issues before financial restraints curtailed publication, but it may be regarded as the first true sf Semiprozine.

Fans continued to produce amateur magazines in America, but the growing number of Prozines from 1938 onwards lessened the demand. This was not so in Britain where, apart from the juvenile Scoops, there were no regular magazines until Tales of Wonder in 1937 and Fantasy in 1938, and neither of those were on a monthly schedule. British fans had established the Science Fiction Association (SFA) and other local clubs and these produced a number of magazines, several of which ran fiction. Amateur Science Stories, for example, was produced by the SFA and edited by Douglas W F Mayer. It saw three issues between October 1937 and March 1938 and published the earliest stories by Arthur C Clarke, William F Temple (writing as Temple Williams) and Eric C Williams, who between them contributed the entire fiction content. The Satellite came from the Liverpool SFA in October 1938, edited by John F Burke (see Jonathan Burke) and David McIlwain (see Charles Eric Maine). In its seventeen issues it published early stories by McIlwain as Maine and by Arthur C Clarke, and Poetry by C S Youd (see John Christopher). Burke, McIlwain and Youd were also involved in The Fantast, launched under Youd's editorship in 1939. The grandfather of all the British fan magazines was Novae Terrae, produced by Maurice K Hanson for the SFA, started in March 1936. In March 1939 it was transformed into New Worlds edited by E J Carnell, the forerunner of the later prozine. Neither manifestation ran much fiction, but it is the first example of a small number of amateur magazines that would, in time, transform into professional or semi-professional publications. Later examples include Alien, which became Alien Worlds in 1966; Space and Time and Trumpet in 1974; Extro and The Space Gamer in 1982; Skeleton Crew in 1990; and Dream, which became New Moon in 1991.

The density of SF Magazines in the USA from the 1940s onwards meant that only a few amateur magazines established a reputation for publishing work of any interest. Amongst them were The Acolyte (Fall 1942-Spring 1946), edited by Francis T Laney and focused on H P Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos; The Gorgon (March 1947-[May] 1949), edited by Stanley Mullen, which included some of the earliest work by Marion Zimmer (see Marion Zimmer Bradley); The Nekromantikon (Spring 1950-mid 1951) edited by Manly Banister, which saw five issues, slanted more to weird fiction; Destiny (Summer 1950-Fall 1954) edited by Malcolm Willits and Jim Bradley, with artwork by Hannes Bok and Chesley Bonestell; and Fantastic Worlds (Summer 1952-Fall 1954) edited first by Edward Ludwig and then Sam Sackett, which saw eight issues and published work by David H Keller and A Bertram Chandler.

By the late 1950s amateur fiction had a low reputation and it was not until the late 1960s that new magazines appeared marking the ascent towards the Semiprozine. One of the earliest was Perihelion (April 1967-Summer 1969), edited by Sam Bellotto Jr, initially for the science-fiction club at Long Island University but then as his own magazine. It was printed, with a professional style layout, with artwork by Vaughn Bodé and fiction by Dean R Koontz and David R Bunch. Bellotto did not pay contributors, and it was his failure to raise sufficient finance that closed the magazine, but it was a genuine, if over ambitious attempt to emulate the professional magazines. Those that followed, such as Weirdbook in 1968 and Whispers in 1973, did so more cautiously and were able to work towards semiprozine status from small beginnings.

With the growth in home computers and the ability to design and print magazines to high standards, amateur magazines flourished from the late 1970s on, and have increased exponentially since the emergence of Online Magazines in the 1990s. Amongst the print magazines of interest, in date order, are The Argonaut (May 1972-Summer 1995), entitled Macabre for its first three issues, edited by Michael Ambrose, noted for its quirky and at times surreal fiction; Shadows of ... (June 1979-March 1982), a blend of sf and fantasy edited by Dawn Atkins; Amazing Adventures (February 1981-July 1988), retitled Alpha Adventures from May 1982, founded by John Postovit but taken over by Scott Virtes, and which published early work by future professionals Kevin J Anderson, Gordon Van Gelder and John E Stith; Just SF (October 1981-June 1982), which saw only two issues but provided early editing experience for John Betancourt; Nova Express (March 1987-June 2002) from Michael Sumbera and Lawrence Person, noted for its astute articles and cyber-age fiction; Dreams from the Strangers' Cafe (December 1993-January 1996), another surreal magazine of sf and fantasy edited by John Gaunt; The Rhizome Factor (February 1998-April 2001) edited by Cathy Cupitt, intended to showcase Australian sf; Colonies SF Magazine (October 1999-October 2001) edited by John Dunne which tried to develop a consistent story of mankind's expansion into space; Scifantastic (August 2002-July 2006) edited by Sarah Dobbs known for its dark, eccentric sf; Jupiter (July 2003-current), edited by Ian Redman, running high quality sf, and the unrestrained Theaker's Quarterly Fiction (April 2004-current) produced by Stephen Theaker. [MA]

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