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Entry updated 21 August 2015. Tagged: Publication.


Major US weekly magazine which ran from 10 May 1924 to July 1950. It was founded by Robert McCormick of the Chicago Tribune who wanted a magazine along the lines of Collier's Weekly and the Saturday Evening Post. Liberty never reached the heights of those magazines, but it was still regarded as a prestigious market. The initial editor, John Neville Wheeler, built up the circulation primarily for women readers and it carried little that could be classified as sf or fantasy, though he did poach Sax Rohmer from Collier's with one of the least fantastic of his serials, Moon of Madness (5 March-7 May 1927; 1927) and the slightly more fantastic but equally dull She Who Sleeps (3 March-5 May 1928; 1928). Wheeler stepped down as editor and was succeeded by his assistant Sheppard Butler who would remain as editor throughout the 1930s even though Fulton Oursler (1893-1952) was appointed over him as Editor-in-Chief when Bernarr Macfadden became publisher from April 1931 until 1941. Butler may have had some interest in future fiction before the takeover: he serialized The Red Napoleon (6 April-3 August 1929; 1929) by Floyd Gibbons, about a Mongol dictator bent on conquering the world.

Oursler wanted to bring some big names into Liberty and widen its appeal as much to men as women. Although science fiction was not central to Liberty's future, Oursler liked to flavour the magazine with a sense of the exotic now and then, and he ran several South Seas adventures, some verging on the fantastic, by James Francis Dwyer and Beatrice Grimshaw, and he purchased the new Tarzan novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan and the Lion Man (11 November 1933-6 January 1934; 1934).

He also looked to the future. He acquired several futurist articles from H G Wells including "Fifty Years From Now" (17 October 1931) and one of his many pieces about a World State, "The War Twenty Years After (How to Bring Peace on Earth)" (29 December 1934). He commissioned Ray Cummings to write a series of vignettes under the general heading of The World of Tomorrow during 1935-1936 written as if a direct report from the future. There were two serials of interest. The World Goes Smash (19 September-20 November 1937; 1938) by Samuel Hopkins Adams portrays an attempt by organized crime to take over the US government leading to a new civil war. More potent, however, especially as war had already broken out in Europe, was Lightning in the Night (31 August-16 November 1940; 1979) by Fred Allhoff in which Britain yields to the Nazi war machine, allowing Germany to commence the conquest of the United States. The novel forecast the use of atomic bombs.

The last serial of interest in Liberty was Sax Rohmer's "Fu Manchu and the Panama Canal" (16 November-1 February 1941; 1941 as The Island of Fu Manchu). Macfadden lost control of Liberty soon after and Oursler also stepped down as editor, with Sheppard Butler resuming the role. The magazine switched to a monthly schedule in 1947 and ceased in 1950. [MA]


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