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Longevity in Publications

Entry updated 19 September 2022. Tagged: Theme.

It has long been understood that sf and fantasy have been blessed by a remarkable number of writers whose lives and careers have been notably extended (see Longevity in Writers). The phenomenon is also noticeable in SF Magazines and the extended tenure of several editors. The longest surviving magazine, at least by name, is Weird Tales which continues today, ninety years after it first appeared in 1923. However, the original magazine series ceased in 1954, did not reappear until 1973, and has passed through four separate series and even a brief title change, so its cumulative active life is only sixty years. The fact that Weird Tales has been kept alive is a tribute to the achievement of the original Pulp series. Its survival is due to a blend in part of nostalgia, being a desire to continue with something that had helped define a field and publish so many significant authors and stories, and in part because the magazine is iconic, and iconography within the sf and fantasy fields is a significant factor in sustaining the genre. The same can be said of Amazing Stories which also survives in name after 87 years, though again having seen significant periods of change, a variety of editors, and periods of inaction. The very name of Amazing Stories seems out of place with modern sf and a throwback to a Golden Age (see Retro-Pulp), yet there is clearly a need to want to sustain the early titles to provide a continuity within the field and a link to its roots.

The need to be both a link to the past and an icon is what has sustained the name of New Worlds in Great Britain, despite many changes and manifestations. The title goes back to March 1939 when John Carnell took over Novae Terrae and anglicized the title. He revived that title after World War Two and the magazine then continued, with minimal gaps, from 1946 to 1979 – with further revivals since, meaning that the title is still active after 74 years, even though its cumulative active life is barely half that. Within its life, though, the magazine has been associated with only two names, those of John Carnell and Michael Moorcock; Moorcock's ability to be associated with the magazine since 1964, even to the extent that its short-lived online edition (2012-2014) was called Michael Moorcock's New Worlds, gives him an editorial/proprietorial span of fifty years, which exceeds any other editor. However, the New Worlds record for number of issues of a UK magazine was broken by Interzone when the latter's 223rd issue appeared in July/August 2009.

For true magazine longevity the record should belong to Analog, despite the title change from Astounding Stories under which it first appeared in January 1930 (see Astounding Science-Fiction). Apart from a brief gap between March and October 1933 when it was sold to a new publisher, the magazine has appeared continuously, mostly on a monthly basis, but for a period four-weekly, for over 83 years. Because of its regularity, it has amassed more individual issues than any other magazine and passed the 1000 mark in June 2015. What is more, the majority of those issues have been compiled by just two editors who also hold the record for longest editorial tenure. John W Campbell Jr was editor from December 1937 to December 1971, a span of 34 years and 408 issues. Stanley Schmidt edited it from December 1978 to March 2013, which was also 34 years and 401 issues. A regular editorial tenure provides a consistency to a magazine to the extent that one can argue that the Analog of today maintains direct continuity from the original Astounding Stories, or at least from its 1933 rebirth, which provides an eighty-year span (and still counting) unequalled anywhere else in the field.

The only other magazine to have survived continuously for over sixty years is The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, which has appeared on a regular schedule (albeit changing to bi-monthly in 2009) since Fall 1949. For most of that time, until the end of 2000, it was within the publishing purview of one family: Joseph W Ferman and his son Edward L Ferman, and the latter edited it for almost 27 years. Throughout its existence F&SF has retained the digest format and the same logotype for the title and cover, thus providing a consistency in presentation that is unrivalled.

The longest surviving non-English sf magazine is SF-Magazine in Japan which has been published by Hayakawa regularly since January 1960. Because it retained its monthly schedule and also publishes additional special issues, the total number of issues published steadily gained on the number F&SF had achieved, outstripping the older magazine in 2015 despite a switch to bimonthly publication in April of that year. It has now published the most issues of any SF Magazine, second only to Analog.

With most other printed fiction magazines having long vanished, the need for the science-fiction field to retain its magazines and sustain so many over such a long period shows how important they are to both readers and contributors in helping guide and develop new writers and new ideas. They are the life blood that helps keep the field fresh and vibrant and feeling young, despite their age. [MA]

In the more ephemeral world of Fanzines, great longevity is rare, although mention should be made of Science-Fiction Five-Yearly, whose leisurely publication schedule (initially a joke) allowed its twelve issues to span a remarkable 56 years, 1951-2006. Newszines tend to have greater staying power than other fan publications, and Locus – though now deemed a Semiprozine – has appeared regularly from 1968 to the present day. Other long-running newszines with a less professional orientation which have entries in this encyclopedia are File 770 (1978-current) and Ansible (1979-current); the former now exists only as a very frequently updated website while the latter also continues monthly print publication. [DRL]

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