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Galaxy Science Fiction

Entry updated 15 September 2023. Tagged: Publication.


US Digest-size magazine, founded by H L Gold, October 1950 to a single undated letter-size issue (July) 1980, a run of 254 issues; revived January/February 1994 to March/April 1995, for a further eight letter-size issues, with volume numbering starting back at the beginning, giving a total run as a Print Magazine of 262 issues. Thereafter converted to an Online Magazine as Galaxy E-Zine. Published by World Editions (October 1950-September 1951), Galaxy Publishing Corp (October 1951-May 1969), Universal Publishing and Distributing Corp (July 1969-September/October 1979), Avenue Victor Hugo (1980); revived by the Institute for the Development of the Harmonious Being, Inc, Nevada City, California (1994-1995). The editors are listed below. It ran monthly from the beginning to December 1958, broken only by the omission of the December 1955 issue for rescheduling. It was bimonthly February 1959 to April 1968; monthly from June 1968 to April 1971, except that June 1969 and January 1970 were omitted, and August/September 1970 and October/November 1970 were single issues. It was bimonthly again from May/June 1971 to July/August 1973, returning to a shaky monthly schedule September 1973 to June 1978, with no issues for May, November or December 1975, or April, June, August 1976; December 1977/January 1978 was a single issue. After June 1978, the final issues were September 1978, November/December 1978, March/April 1979, June/July 1979, September/October 1979 and one 1980 issue released in summer.

The first publisher of Galaxy was an Italian company which, having incurred heavy losses trying to launch another magazine in the USA, approached H L Gold for alternative suggestions. He proposed an sf magazine, and Galaxy came into existence. From the outset, Galaxy's payment rates equalled the best in the field – a minimum of three cents a word – and it adopted the digest format already taken by its most successful contemporaries, Astounding Science-Fiction and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. These two with Galaxy were the most important sf magazines of the 1950s through to the mid-1970s.

The new magazine was an immediate success. Astounding was at this time following John W Campbell Jr's new-found obsession with Dianetics and was otherwise more oriented towards Technology. Gold's editorial policy was comparatively free-ranging: he was interested in Psychology, Sociology and Satire and other Humour, and the magazine reflected this. Like Campbell, he worked closely with his writers (mostly by telephone, as he was confined to his apartment by acute agoraphobia) and is said to have had a hand in the conception of many of the famous stories he published, notably Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man (January-March 1952; 1953). In its first year Galaxy included such stories as: Clifford D Simak's "Time Quarry" (October-December 1950), in book form Time and Again (1951; vt First He Died 1953); Fritz Leiber's "Coming Attraction" (November 1950); Damon Knight's "To Serve Man" (November 1950); Isaac Asimov's "Tyrann" (January-March 1951), in book form The Stars Like Dust (1951); Ray Bradbury's "The Fireman" (February 1951), revised in book form as Fahrenheit 451 (exp 1953); C M Kornbluth's "The Marching Morons" (April 1951); Edgar Pangborn's "Angel's Egg" (June 1951); Wyman Guin's "Beyond Bedlam" (August 1951); and Robert A Heinlein's The Puppet Masters (September-November 1951; 1951).

The magazine maintained a comparable quality through its early years, and in 1953 shared the first Hugo for Best Magazine with Astounding, while Bester's The Demolished Man, in its Galaxy version, won the first Hugo for Best Novel. Although the magazine's fiction encompassed a considerable variety of styles and preoccupations, the approach most identified with Gold's magazine is the irony and social satire of such authors as Knight, Leiber, Pohl and Robert Sheckley. With the March 1952 issue, Willy Ley began his science column, For Your Information, which he continued until his death in 1969. Groff Conklin was book reviewer from the beginning to October 1955.

A weakness of the early Galaxy was that the cover art was mainly crude and undistinguished. The June 1951 issue, however, featured the first cover by Emsh (Ed Emshwiller), whose humorous approach was well suited to the magazine's contents and became identified with it. Further stories which appeared in Gold's Galaxy included: Pohl and Kornbluth's "Gravy Planet" (June-August 1952), in book form The Space Merchants (1953); Theodore Sturgeon's "Baby is Three" (October 1952), part of More Than Human (fixup 1953) and "A Saucer of Loneliness" (February 1953); Asimov's The Caves of Steel (October-December 1953; 1954); Pohl and Kornbluth's Gladiator-at-Law (June-August 1954; 1955; rev 1986); Bester's The Stars My Destination (October 1956-January 1957; as Tiger! Tiger! 1956; rev 1957; rev 1996); Pohl and Kornbluth's Wolfbane (October-November 1957; 1959); Leiber's Hugo-winning The Big Time (March-April 1958; 1961); Avram Davidson's Hugo-winning "Or All the Seas with Oysters" (May 1958); and many stories by Robert Sheckley, including "A Ticket to Tranai" (October 1955), "The Deaths of Ben Baxter" (July 1957) and the serial "Time-Killer" (October 1958-February 1959), in book form Immortality Delivered (1958; exp vt Immortality, Inc. 1959). A prize contest sponsored by Galaxy drew no worthwhile entries, so Frederik Pohl and Lester del Rey were prevailed upon to collaborate on a "prize-winning" novel, which appeared as Preferred Risk (June-September 1955; 1955) by Edson McCann.

Galaxy was also able to promote itself through the medium of Radio. The series Tales of Tomorrow (1 January-9 April 1953) was sponsored by Galaxy and broadcast adaptations of fifteen stories from the magazine including "The Stars are the Styx" (October 1950) by Theodore Sturgeon broadcast 29 January 1953 and "The Old Die Rich" (March 1953) by H L Gold broadcast 26 March 1953. From February 1956 Galaxy also took over the sponsorship of X Minus One (1955-1958), the most important sf radio series of the 1950s and which ran till January 1958, with adaptations of stories from Galaxy by Isaac Asimov, Fredric Brown, Philip K Dick, James E Gunn, Fritz Leiber, Frederik Pohl, Robert Sheckley and many more.

Galaxy had a short-lived fantasy companion, Beyond Fantasy Fiction, in 1953-1955, and in 1959 its publisher acquired If, which Gold also edited. In September 1958 the title as displayed on the cover changed to Galaxy Magazine, changing again to simply Galaxy from December 1962 before reverting to Galaxy Science Fiction in February 1966. Beginning with the February 1959 issue it changed to bimonthly publication, with considerably more pages per issue, boasting 196 pages on the cover (actually 192) making it the thickest magazine on the stalls, though the larger type font did not mean a proportionate increase in wordage.

In 1961 Gold was forced to retire following a car accident. He was succeeded as editor of Galaxy and If by Frederik Pohl who had already been looking after the magazine for most of that year. Pohl widened the magazine's policy to include more fantasy-oriented material. Jack Vance and Cordwainer Smith became regular contributors, Vance with such stories as The Dragon Masters (August 1962; 1963 dos), which won a Hugo, The Star King (December 1963-February 1964; 1964) and The Last Castle (April 1966; 1967 chap dos), which also won a Hugo, and Smith with "The Boy who Bought Old Earth" (April 1964; exp vt The Planet Buyer 1964), "The Dead Lady of Clown Town" (August 1964) and many others. Larry Niven was one of Pohl's discoveries, and Frank Herbert and Robert Silverberg became further regular contributors. Other notable stories from his editorship include: Clifford D Simak's "Here Gather the Stars" (June-August 1963), in book form as Way Station (1963); Gordon R Dickson's "Soldier, Ask Not" (October 1964), which won a Hugo; Harlan Ellison's "'Repent, Harlequin,' Said the Ticktockman" (December 1965) and "The Beast that Shouted Love at the Heart of the World" (June 1968), both of which won Hugos and the former also a Nebula; Poul Anderson's "To Outlive Eternity" (June-August 1967), in book form Tau Zero (1970); and Silverberg's "Hawksbill Station" (August 1967) and "Nightwings" (September 1968), which won a Hugo. As Gold was notorious for unnecessary editorial tampering with the stories he published, so was Pohl famed for indiscriminately altering their titles. Algis Budrys began a notable book-review column in 1965.

Pohl's Galaxy was consistently an interesting magazine, but it was less successful, with sf fans at least, than his If, which under Pohl won three consecutive Hugos. Pohl also commenced three companion magazines: Worlds of Fantasy and International Science Fiction came and went swiftly; Worlds of Tomorrow was more durable.

In June 1968 Galaxy resumed monthly publication. From October 1968 it reverted to calling itself Galaxy Magazine. The following year it changed ownership and editorship again. Ejler Jakobsson gave Galaxy the subtitle "The Best in Pertinent Science Fiction", and the appearance was revamped in a seeming attempt to give the magazine more contemporary appeal; for a time it included a comic strip, Sunpot, by Vaughn Bodé. It included more experimental fiction, notably Harlan Ellison's "The Region Between" (March 1970) and Philip José Farmer's "Seventy Years of Decpop" (July 1972). One notable occurrence during Jakobsson's editorship was the featuring of two consecutive serials by Robert Silverberg: Downward to the Earth (November 1969-March 1970; 1970) and Tower of Glass (April-June 1970; 1970) and Jakobsson would also publish arguably Silverberg's most heartfelt novel Dying Inside (July/August-September/October 1972; 1972). Theodore Sturgeon took over as book reviewer (January 1972-July 1975), his column proving less lively than might have been expected, although the magazine also ran several of Sturgeon's later stories, including "Slow Sculpture" (February 1970), which won both the Hugo and Nebula awards and "Case and the Dreamer" (January 1973). Perhaps the most widely known serials published in Galaxy at this time were The Gods Themselves (March/April and May/June 1972; 1972) by Isaac Asimov, though the middle episode was published in If, and Rendezvous with Rama (September-October 1973; 1973) by Arthur C Clarke, both novels appreciated by an older generation of fans pleased to see the two masters returning to novel writing. Nevertheless, despite these high spots, the magazine failed to develop under Jakobsson's editorship, becoming increasingly complacent and lacking the thrust of the Gold and Pohl years. The world's financial climate did not help matters and the magazine reverted to a bimonthly schedule with the May/June 1971 issue, though a patchy monthly schedule began again September 1973. In June 1974 Jakobsson was succeeded by James Baen.

In January 1975, Galaxy absorbed If. After a period in the doldrums, 1976 saw a revival in the magazine's fortunes. Contributors included Niven, John Varley and Roger Zelazny. Pohl's Gateway (November 1976-March 1977; 1977) was a notable serial which won both Hugo and Nebula. The magazine featured book reviews by Spider Robinson (from August 1975) and a science column by Jerry Pournelle. However, despite the strength of the fiction, distribution faltered as the publisher's finances became stretched, and the monthly schedule was adhered to only patchily in 1975, 1976 and 1977.

Baen left in 1977 to become sf editor of Ace Books, and was succeeded by John J Pierce, who sadly presided over Galaxy's slow collapse – payment rate dropping, good authors hard to find except for the ever-loyal Pohl – to be followed briefly by Hank Stine (2 issues). The sad decline is witnessed by the fact that Pohl's serialized novel Jem (November-December 1978-1980; 1979) took two years to serialize, under three editors, finishing long after the book had been published. Then Galaxy was sold to the publishers of Galileo; edited by Floyd Kemske, it lasted for only one more issue (in large format), sinking as part of the same financial problems that killed Galileo.

The title was retrieved by E J Gold, son of the original editor, who since 1971 had been in the business of providing various New Age and Self-Help workshops through his company the Institute for the Development of the Harmonious Human Being in Nevada City, California and publishing related books via Gateway Publishing and its imprint, Sirius Science Fiction. Gold had started a magazine, Evolutionary Rag in 1993 that ran some new short sf by Robert Sheckley and Brad Linaweaver and he also issued a catalogue under the Galaxy name. Then, in January 1994 he combined the two and relaunched Galaxy as a magazine. Although the logo was the same design as the original Galaxy there was nothing else in common. It was published in letter-size format on newsprint, the first issue having a rather dark and sinister black-and-white cover photograph of a table-top model of a town around which Sheckley had written a new novella, "The City of the Dead" (January/February-May/June 1994). Several stories were reprints, a few from earlier issues of Galaxy but surprisingly one, by Robert Silverberg from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. There was the start of a vampire serial by Jacqueline Lichtenberg, "Vampire's Fast" (January/February-March/April 1994), which was in fact a prequel to a Witch World story she had written some years before (see Andre Norton); a tribute to the actor Vincent Price (1911-1993) plus a lot of very short inconsequential stories. Apart from the presence of the names Sheckley, Gold and Pohl, there was nothing that related to the original Galaxy. In what also seemed absurd, Gold had illustrated some stories with reproductions of sketches and drawings by old masters, but these are attributed to "Al Durer", "Frank Goya" and "R. van Rijn" on the contents page.

The remaining issues continued in much the same vein with the better contents being the reprints and only the occasional new story of any substance, the best of which, such as those by Barry Malzberg, Mike Resnick and Lawrence Schimel, did not take themselves too seriously. The magazine acquired colour covers and there were colour interiors but this was for the Galaxy catalogue which dominated the start of the magazine and rather set the trivial tone for the rest of the issue. After the eighth issue (March/April 1995) there was a slim Newsletter, numbered as part of the series so technically the last print issue (May/June 1995) which announced that Galaxy was going electronic, primarily due to increased mailing costs. Although the original Galaxy had died in 1980 (or earlier), the revived Galaxy still had a complicated future as Galaxy E-Zine and Galaxy Online.

There have been numerous anthologies of stories from Galaxy, for details of which see the entries for its first four editors. Amongst those, of particular interest is Galaxy: Thirty Years of Innovative Science Fiction (anth 1980) by Pohl with Martin H Greenberg and Joseph D Olander which includes commentary by most of the contributors about their stories. Galaxy Magazine: The Dark and the Light Years (1986) by David L Rosheim is good on hard facts about the magazine but limited on interpretation and context.

A UK edition, from Strato Publications, began in January 1953 (reprinting the October 1952 US edition). It was labelled volume 3 #1. #2 reprinted the preceding US issue (September 1952). The UK edition continued to follow the original, erratically at first, and from #7 began to shorten the US edition. It continued to be numbered continuously (dropping the "vol 3" after #12) until #94 (October 1962). From #72 (February 1959) it was an exact reprint of the US edition with a different title page. From December 1961 only the cover was different, and from December 1962 the US edition was imported. A second UK edition, published by Gold Star Publications, ran for five issues in 1967, reprinting six months after the US original (January/February 1967 UK was June 1966 US), printing US editions complete apart from the changed date. Then, again, the US edition was distributed. In 1972 a third UK edition began, from Universal-Tandem Publishing Co, who overprinted the US edition with price and issue number: the May/June 1972 issue was #1, and a total of 25 numbered issues were published, ending with #25, January 1975. However, the numbering was not continuous; it ran #1-#10, #11, #11, #12, #12, #12, #14, #17-#25. Thereafter the US edition was distributed.

Galaxy also saw a number of translated editions and is amongst the most translated of all sf magazines. Of special note is that Editrice Due Mondi (World Editions), the original publisher of Galaxy in the US, began their own Italian (see Italy) edition as Galaxy which ran from June 1958 to May 1964. It initially selected material from various earlier issues of the US Galaxy but after a change of publisher in April 1959 to Casa Editrice La Tribuna in Piacenza it included some Italian fiction. In France, Galaxy had two separate series, both as Galaxie. The first began in November 1953, reproducing the original magazine covers and selecting from the start of the magazine. This series ran for 65 issues until April 1959. The second series began in May 1964, again reproducing the original US covers and format, but reprinting material not only from Galaxy but also If and Worlds of Tomorrow. This series, edited by Alain Dorémieux, ran for 158 issues until August 1977 by which time it was including some original French material and artwork. Other countries with their own editions include Argentina with Más Allá (June 1953-June 1957) and again with Geminis (June 1965), Norway with Tempo-Magasinet (November 1953-March 1954), Germany with Galaxis (March 1958-May 1959), Finland with Aikamme (August-December 1958), Sweden with Galaxy (September 1958-June 1960), and the Netherlands (see Benelux) with Galaxis (October 1966-February 1967). [MA/MJE/PN]


  • H L Gold, October 1950-October 1961
  • Frederik Pohl, December 1961-May 1969
  • Ejler Jakobsson, July 1969-May 1974
  • James Baen, June 1974-October 1977
  • John J Pierce November 1977-March/April 1979
  • Hank Stine (see Jean Marie Stine), June/July-September/October 1979
  • Floyd Kemske, July 1980
  • E J Gold, January/February 1994-March/April 1995

Awards for fiction

  • January-March 1952: Alfred Bester, The Demolished Man (1953) – novel Hugo
  • March-April 1958: Fritz Leiber, The Big Time (1961 dos) – novel Hugo
  • May 1958: Avram Davidson, "Or All the Seas with Oysters" – short story Hugo
  • August 1962: Jack Vance, The Dragon Masters (1963 dos) – short fiction Hugo
  • June-August 1963: Clifford D Simak, "Here Gather the Stars" – novel Hugo as Way Station (1963)
  • October 1964: Gordon R Dickson, "Soldier, Ask Not" – short story Hugo
  • December 1965: Harlan Ellison, "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman" – short story Hugo and Nebula
  • April 1966: Jack Vance, "The Last Castle" – novelette Hugo and novella Nebula
  • June 1968: Harlan Ellison, "The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World" – short story Hugo
  • September 1968: Robert Silverberg, "Nightwings" – novella Hugo
  • December 1968: Poul Anderson, "The Sharing of Flesh" – novelette Hugo
  • February 1970: Theodore Sturgeon, "Slow Sculpture" – short story Hugo and novelette Nebula
  • March 1970: Harlan Ellison, "The Region Between" – short fiction Locus Award
  • March-May/June 1971: Robert Silverberg, A Time of Changes (1971) – novel Nebula
  • March/April-May/June 1972: Isaac Asimov, The Gods Themselves (1972) – novel Hugo, Nebula and Locus
  • September-October 1973: Arthur C Clarke, Rendezvous with Rama (1973) – novel Hugo, Nebula and Locus
  • August 1974: Ursula K Le Guin, "The Day Before the Revolution" – short story Nebula and Locus
  • November 1976-March 1977: Frederik Pohl, Gateway (1977) – novel Hugo and Nebula

see also: Golden Age of SF.

further reading


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