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Munsey's Magazine

Entry updated 21 March 2022. Tagged: Publication.

US magazine published by Frank A Munsey and edited initially by John Kendrick Bangs for only six months and then by Richard H Titherington. It began on 2 February 1889 as Munsey's Weekly, but became a monthly as Munsey's Magazine from October 1891-October 1929, when it merged with Argosy All-Story Weekly (see The Argosy) to form two magazines, Argosy Weekly and All-Story Love Tales. It was Munsey's that revolutionized the popular magazine when, in October 1893, Munsey slashed the price from 25¢ to 10¢ and the circulation soared, from 40,000 in 1891 to 500,000 in 1895. Other magazines followed suit, notably McClure's and The Cosmopolitan and it led to a surge in popular magazines in America. At this same time Munsey had created the Pulp magazine with The Argosy, both titles revolutionary.

Although Munsey's Magazine was contemporary with The Argosy and The All-Story it published little science fiction of its own, Munsey seeing that as the territory of the pulp magazine. This may be evidenced by the fact that the December 1892 issue carried "The Alien Thread" by Charles H Palmer, a story of a regimented future, which Munsey later reprinted in The Argosy as "Citizen 504" (December 1896). Otherwise, between 1892 and 1921 only one sf story is recorded to have appeared in Munsey's, "A Flight to Freedom" (May 1912) by E J Rath (pseudonym of Chauncey and Edith Brainerd). This depicts a future where an elite live entirely in aerial cities and regard the surface of the Earth as inhospitable until one venturesome couple discover its beauty.

By 1921 Munsey's circulation had fallen dramatically and from July the magazine was converted to an all-fiction magazine and the illustrations phased out. With the demand for fiction the quota of science fiction increased, starting most suitably with "Jenkin's Gyroscope" (March 1921) by L H Robbins. The story tells of a man who delights in the novels of Jules Verne and also wants to write such works. He completes a novel which describes a new form of gyroscope and his idea is taken up by the authorities. This was pure Gernsbackian Scientifiction and would have been quite at home in Science and Invention.

Later stories of interest include "The Horror-Horn" (November 1923) by E F Benson, one of the earliest stories to suggest the existence of the Abominable Snowman (see Apes as Human); "The Last Man on Earth" (November 1923) by John D Swain, in which a plague wipes out all adult males – this was filmed as Last Man on Earth (1924) directed by John G Blystone; "Sunken Cities" (November 1923) by Douglas Newton (1884-1951) which supposes that some inhabitants of ancient cities that sank beneath the waves survived by becoming aquatic (see Under the Sea); and "Beyond the Pole" (May 1924) by Philip M Fisher Jr, where aerial explorers at the North Pole experience bizarre effects of radiation. The magazine also published the borderline sf novel of Rejuvenation, "The Man of the Miracle" (November 1922-March 1923; 1924 as The Green Ray) by Vance Thompson.

Munsey's also published stories of borderline interest by Ray Cummings, George Allan England and Sax Rohmer. [MA/JE/DRL]


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