Entry updated 18 February 2021. Tagged: Publication.
US Digest-size magazine, companion to Amazing Stories; published by Ziff-Davis (Summer 1952-June 1965), Ultimate Publishing Co. (September 1965-October 1980); edited by Howard Browne (Summer 1952-August 1956), Paul W Fairman (October 1956-November 1958), Cele Goldsmith (December 1958-June 1965; as Cele G Lalli from July 1964), Joseph Ross (September 1965-November 1967), Harry Harrison (January-October 1968), Barry N Malzberg (December 1968-April 1969), Ted White (June 1969-January 1979), Elinor Mavor (April 1979-October 1980; initially under the pseudonym Omar Gohagen). From November 1980 Fantastic was merged with Amazing. After the title was bought by Sol Cohen's Ultimate Publishing Co. in 1965 it mainly published reprints until mid-1968; the reprint policy was finally phased out completely under White soon after he took over from Malzberg. For much of its early life Fantastic was bimonthly, but at its height – in the Goldsmith period – it went monthly, beginning with February 1957. The Ultimate Publishing version began in September 1965 as a bimonthly, but the magazine went onto a quarterly schedule in 1976. The title underwent numerous minor changes, appearing as Fantastic Science Fiction (April 1955-February 1958), Fantastic Science Fiction Stories (September 1959-September 1960), Fantastic Stories of Imagination (October 1960-June 1965) and Fantastic Stories at various periods.
Browne originally intended Fantastic to attract a wider audience than Amazing, and published tales under bylines famous outside the sf field, including Raymond Chandler, Truman Capote, Mickey Spillane and Evelyn Waugh (although Browne later admitted that the Spillane byline was not authentic). After 1953, when it absorbed the much older Fantastic Adventures, Fantastic deteriorated to become a downmarket sf magazine indistinguishable from Amazing, running material by the fiction factory Harlan Ellison, Randall Garrett, Milton Lesser and Robert Silverberg under a variety of pseudonyms. But from 1958, under the more adventurous editorship of Goldsmith, it improved dramatically, becoming arguably the best fantasy magazine existing. Fritz Leiber revived his Fafhrd and Gray Mouser for an issue containing only his stories (November 1959), and the series remained an irregular feature. Other Sword and Sorcery series appeared notably the Brak stories by John W Jakes and the Dilvish stories by Roger Zelazny. Authors whose first published stories appeared in Fantastic under Goldsmith include Piers Anthony, Thomas M Disch, Ursula K Le Guin and Roger Zelazny. David R Bunch was a regular (and controversial) contributor. Following a bad period in the mid-1960s after the magazine was sold, Fantastic improved again under White, featuring a notable series of articles by Alexei and Cory Panshin, Science Fiction in Dimension (1970-1973), publishing much early work by Gordon Eklund and some excellent covers by Stephen Fabian. New Conan stories by L Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter helped to boost circulation a little, but the magazine's situation remained financially precarious despite the fact that "adult fantasy" had been spectacularly revived as a paperback genre. Its deterioration after White quit was rapid and deservedly terminal. Its title was resurrected in 2000 by Edward J McFadden as a continuation of Pirate Writings. Lapine revived the magazine again in August 2014 online, following the anthology Fantastic Stories of the Imagination (anth 2012). The online version was monthly for ten issues and then bimonthly until January 2017, though one special print issue followed in June 2017, People of Color Take Over Fantastic Stories of the Imagination (#239), guest-edited by Nisi Shawl.
Although the words "science fiction" appeared on the cover at different times for four or five years, Fantastic was always mainly known for fantasy, being particularly strong in Sword and Sorcery.
An undated bimonthly UK reprint ran for eight issues, published by Strato Publications December 1953-February 1955. An anthology of stories from Fantastic is The Best from Fantastic (anth 1973) edited by Ted White. [BS/MA]
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