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Boys' Life

Entry updated 11 August 2018. Tagged: Publication.


US monthly Magazine for boys in Boy Scouting, and the leading US equivalent of the UK's Boys' Papers. Claiming 1.1 million circulation in 2009, Boys' Life aims to provide wholesome reading for boys aged 9 to 15. Founded in 1911 by George S Barton, the magazine was purchased in 1912 by the Boy Scouts of America, who remain its publisher. Beginning at 6.5 by 9.25 in (165 x 235 mm), in 1912 the Boys' Life format became nearly digest-sized. It grew in 1921 to a Slick-sized 10.5 x 14 in (267 x 356 mm), shrinking to letter-sized in 1970.

Alongside stories of sports, wilderness, and historical adventure, only a small fraction of Boys' Life's fiction has been sf, but the accumulation of a century is significant. In its first decades, sf was scarce indeed. But Irving Crump was an editor for 25 years, 1915-1923 and 1935-?1952, and Boys' Life was the home of Og, Crump's long-running (1921-1959) Neanderthal protagonist (see Prehistoric SF), before he appeared in books, Radio shows, Comics, and Toys. Sf serials included "Power Island" (December 1931-February 1932) and "Great Circle" (January-February 1933), both by Peter van Dresser; "Dark Planet" (March-June 1935) by John Murray Reynolds; "The Crimson Ray" (June-September 1936) by Henry B Comstock; and Crump's non-Og adventure "Quake Hunters" (August-October 1938).

After World War Two, sf was somewhat more prominent in the pages of Boys' Life. Robert A Heinlein's serials deal with lunar Scouts in "Nothing Ever Happens on the Moon" (April-May 1949), Scouts in the jungles of Venus in "Tenderfoot in Space" (May-July 1958), and a Scout on Ganymede in Farmer in the Sky (August-November 1950 as "Satellite Scout"; exp 1950) in addition to The Rolling Stones (September-December 1952 as "Tramp Space Ship"; 1952). From James Blish came The Star Dwellers (June-August 1961; exp 1961). A March 1964 cover and interior art by Robert McCall illustrated Arthur C Clarke's solar-sailing short "Sunjammer" (March 1964; vt "The Wind from the Sun" in The Wind from the Sun coll 1972). Poul Anderson, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury – with a reprint of "The Man" (February 1949 Thrilling Wonder) – Ben Bova, A M Lightner, David Gerrold, and William R Forstchen also contributed sf. Donald and Keith Monroe portrayed time-hopping Scouts (see Time Travel) in their Time Machine series (1959-1989) and Generation-Starship Scouts in their Starship Magellan series (1964-1970). Also notable were Bertrand R Brinley's juvenile tinkerers of the Mad Scientists' Club (1961-1966), collected with new stories as The Mad Scientists' Club (coll 1965) and its three sequels.

In Boys' Life's regular Comics section, sf adaptations included Heinlein's Between Planets (April 1978-September 1979), Blish's The Star Dwellers (April 1987-July 1988), the three novels of John Christopher's Tripods series (May 1981-August 1986), and two Norby Robot novels by Janet Asimov and Isaac Asimov: Norby, the Mixed-Up Robot (January 1990-July 1991) and Norby's Other Secret (January 1993-December 1995). An indifferent but long-running original sf strip, Space Conquerors! (1952-1972), was written by Al Stenzel.

Books of sf interest promoted by the magazine (their contents having previously appeared in its pages) include The Boys' Life Book of Outer Space Stories (anth 1964) edited by "the editors of Boys' Life" and two titles by the Monroes writing as Donald Keith: Mutiny in the Time Machine (fixup 1963) and Time Machine to the Rescue (fixup 1967). [WSH]

further reading

  • "The editors of Boys' Life", editors. The Boys' Life Book of Outer Space Stories (New York: Random House, 1964) [anth: hb/Harry Kane]


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