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Fantastic Universe

Entry updated 12 March 2019. Tagged: Publication.


US Digest-size magazine, last six issues adopted a trimmed Pulp format, though on better quality paper. 69 issues June/July 1953 to March 1960, published by King-Size Publications to July 1959, then by Great American Publications. Fantastic Universe began as a bimonthly, but went monthly in September 1954 and held to that schedule for most of its life except November 1958-September 1959, when it was again bimonthly. Fantastic Universe was published by Leo Margulies as a companion to The Saint Detective Magazine, and he remained in charge until August 1956 when he sold his share in the firm to his partner, H L Herbert. It was edited by Sam Merwin Jr June-November 1953; Beatrice Jones January-March 1954; Leo Margulies May 1954-August 1956 and Hans Stefan Santesson September 1956-March 1960.

Fantastic Universe's material spanned the entire fantasy spectrum; in effect it became the poor man's Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. There was no interior artwork until July 1959. Most of its material was competent but unexceptional, with the consequence that the occasional quality story stood out. These included, "Rastignac the Devil" (May 1954) by Philip José Farmer, which took place in the same world as "The Lovers" (August 1952 Startling Stories); "Who?" (April 1955; exp 1958) by Algis Budrys, which formed the basis of his novel Who?; "City of the Tiger" (November 1959; December 1958 Science Fantasy) by John Brunner which, with "Curative Telepath" (December 1959; vt of "The Whole Man", April 1959 Science Fantasy) formed the basis of his Hugo nominated novel The Whole Man (fixup 1964; vt Telepathist 1965); and "The Large Ant" (February 1960) by Howard Fast. Other stories of interest include "Wednesday's Child" (January 1956) by William Tenn, the much over-looked "So Bright the Vision" (August 1956), a paean to story-telling by Clifford D Simak, and the Robot series by Harry Harrison, starting with "The Velvet Glove" (November 1956) that made up the volume War With the Robots (coll 1962). Fantastic Universe also ran several stories by Australian writers Frank Bryning and Dal Stivens, not otherwise well known in the US. In its final neo-pulp days, Fantastic Universe took on a new lease of life, using its extra size and space to spread its wings. For the first time it included interior illustrations, ran illustrated features, including two articles by Sam Moskowitz on the early History of SF, and for the first time it began a serial, The Mind Thing (March 1960; exp 1961) by Fredric Brown. Unfortunately that was the last issue, so the serial remained incomplete. The new publisher had made new distribution arrangements, one of the factors in Fantastic Universe changing size, but this had not worked for the magazine and it was dropped.

Sixteen of the best stories from its pages were published in The Fantastic Universe Omnibus (anth 1960) edited by Hans Stefan Santesson. [MA/BS/PN]

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