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Macfadden, Bernarr

Entry updated 12 August 2018. Tagged: Author, Publisher.

(1868-1955) US publisher, author and film producer, born Bernard Adolphus McFadden; much concerned throughout his life with physical culture, and an espouser of nudism and eccentric health routines in various magazines from early in his career. His acknowledged fiction, beginning with The Athlete's Conquest (1892), is neither sf nor fantasy; but he may have published some pseudonymous genre works in his own magazines. From 1904 his journals featured sf stories and novels. The first was "My Bride from the Other World", a Hollow-Earth tale by the Rev E C Atkins in Physical Culture, a journal he had founded in March 1899 and edited until 1912; it was followed by the book-length serial "Weird and Wonderful Story of Another World" (October-December 1905) as by Tyman Currio (probably John Russell Coryell [1848-1924] with Macfadden's assistance), and many other stories followed in Macfadden's other journals, which included Brain Power (ed F Orlin Tremaine 1921-1924), Dance World, Metropolitan Fiction Lovers' Magazine, Midnight and Red-Blooded Adventures. The most important early sf novel thus published was Milo Hastings's remarkable "Children of 'Kultur'", which appeared in True Story in June-November 1919 and which, revised as City of Endless Night (1920), was one of the central – and most politically prescient – US Dystopias. An earlier Hastings tale, "In the Clutch of the War-God: The Tale of the Orient's Invasion of the Occident, as Chronicled in the Humaniculture Society's 'History of the Twentieth Century'" (July-September 1911 Physical Culture), espouses through a Yellow Peril prism a focus on Eugenics that suited Macfadden's own obsessional interest in the subject. Cosmotarianism, an abortive Religion founded by Macfadden, was based on eugenics, as was the Utopian "Physical Culture City" he attempted to found in rural New Jersey. His interest in health through sex aroused much controversy in America through his claim that sexual pleasure was inherently beneficial.

Ghost Stories, which Macfadden ran 1926-1930 (it then soon folded under new management), concentrated on the supernatural, as did True Strange Stories, whose founding editor was Walter B Gibson; but Liberty, a later (and very substantial) Macfadden magazine, published Fred Allhoff's Lightning in the Night (31 August-16 November 1940 Liberty; 1979), which assumes the World War Two triumph of Germany in Europe (see Hitler Wins), though as the novel closes a nuclear stand-off maintains an uneasy peace between Germany and the USA. After World War One, Macfadden's Macfadden Pictures released movies for several years, including Zongar (1918), which features Amazons.

Macfadden is most important in the History of SF for his role – long obscure – in forcing the bankruptcy of Hugo Gernsback in 1929 and taking over Amazing Stories, events which occasioned a competitive proliferation of sf magazines; according to Sam Moskowitz – in his seven-part "Bernarr Macfadden and his Obsession with Science Fiction" (Fall 1986-Spring 1992 Fantasy Commentator) – Macfadden was, therefore, inadvertently instrumental in setting off the chain of events which a decade later would culminate in the Golden Age of SF. [JC]

Bernard Adolphus McFadden

born Mill Spring, Missouri: 16 August 1868

died Jersey City, New Jersey: 12 October 1955

about the author


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