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Famous Fantastic Mysteries

Entry updated 8 October 2018. Tagged: Publication.


US Pulp magazine which published 81 issues, September/October 1939 to June 1953. It was monthly after the first issue, but bimonthly from May/June 1940. Its popularity was such that it returned to a monthly schedule in June 1942, after it had combined with its short-lived companion Fantastic Novels, but during the World War Two years publication was quarterly and sometimes irregular. It returned to a bimonthly schedule in December 1945. It was originally part of the Frank A Munsey chain but was sold to Popular Publications, which published it from March 1943. Mary Gnaedinger was editor throughout.

Although it published a few original stories, Famous Fantastic Mysteries was basically a reprint magazine – perhaps the most distinguished; it was originally founded to reprint Science Fantasy from the Munsey pulps, notably The All-Story, The Argosy and The Cavalier. After the sale to Popular it switched to the reprinting of novels and stories not previously published in magazines. The first few monthly issues used much short material, with novels serialized, but, after going bimonthly in August 1940, Famous Fantastic Mysteries presented a complete novel in every issue. The early issues featured novels by such Munsey regulars as Ray Cummings, George Allan England, A Merritt and Francis Stevens. Novels reprinted from original hardback editions included several by H Rider Haggard, William Hope Hodgson, John Taine, E Charles Vivian, H G Wells and S Fowler Wright. Through offering access to such material Famous Fantastic Mysteries allowed many pulp-sf fans to broaden their acquaintance with non-pulp material – extending even to such authors as G K Chesterton and Franz Kafka. Unfortunately many novels were heavily abridged. The quality of illustration was exceptionally high and added to the appeal and collectibility of the magazine. Virgil Finlay did much of his best work for the magazine, including 27 covers; 40 covers were signed "Lawrence" at least 26 of which were by Lawrence Sterne Stevens and the rest by his son Peter Stevens (1920-2001).

An anthology drawn from the magazine is Famous Fantastic Mysteries: 30 Great Tales of Fantasy & Horror (anth 1991) edited by Stefan R Dziemianowicz, Robert Weinberg and Martin H Greenberg.

A Canadian reprint edition ran from February 1948 to August 1952; this was the second Canadian reprinting of Famous Fantastic Mysteries, as earlier the Canadian Super Science Stories switched to reprinting from Famous Fantastic Mysteries from August 1944 to December 1945.

Famous Fantastic Mysteries was relaunched by Altus Press in with a Fall 2016 issue edited by Matthew Moring, followed by another for Spring 2017, the latter offering a previously unpublished story by Lester Dent. [BS/MA]


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