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Palmer, Raymond A

Entry updated 11 September 2023. Tagged: Author, Editor, Fan.

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(1910-1977) US author and editor. His childhood was plagued by serious accidents including one that crushed his spine: in adulthood, as a consequence, he stood less than five feet tall and was hunchbacked, though he never allowed physical stress to affect his career. He was an active sf fan from the late 1920s, together with Walter Dennis creating the Science Correspondence Club (or SCC) in early 1929 with the express purpose of uniting the growing number of small local science/sf fan clubs into a national organization, and as such was the true birth of organized sf fandom. Though it was Walt Dennis who actually edited it, he was credited with publishing the SCC's official magazine, The Comet (from May 1930), which was the first sf Fanzine. Palmer was also involved with the next main fanzine, The Time Traveller (from January 1932), though this had been started by Allen Glasser with Julie Schwartz and Mort Weisinger. One of the earliest sf awards arose from this: at the end of 1932 Glasser ran a poll in The Time Traveller for the best sf of 1932, which was won by Edmond Hamilton's "A Conquest of Two Worlds" (February 1932 Wonder Stories). The next year Palmer decided to formalize this with a prize and he instituted the Jules Verne Prize. It was given only once, in 1934 for the best story of 1933: "The Island of Unreason" (May 1933 Wonder Stories) by (again) Hamilton.

Palmer was the author of a fair number of stories, beginning with "The Time Ray of Jandra" in Wonder Stories for June 1930, and including some memorable tales like "Three from the Test-Tube" (November 1935 Wonder Stories), one of the first stories to deal with in vitro fertilization. After he became an editor for Ziff-Davis (see below), some later tales were published under the pseudonyms Henry Gade, Frank Paton, J W Pelkie, A R Steber and Morris J Steele (a House Name). His novels include The Vengeance of Martin Brand (August-September 1942 Amazing as by G H Irwin; 2005 ebook) and its sequel The Justice of Martin Brand (July 1950 Other Worlds; 2013 dos). Further novel-length texts that did not reach book form during the author's lifetime include the Toka series of tales which owe their origin to Tarzan, beginning with King of the Dinosaurs (October 1945 Fantastic Adventures; 2009), all as by J W Pelkie, and "I Flew in a Flying Saucer" (October-December 1951 Other Worlds as by Palmer and Captain A V G). After the death of Stanley G Weinbaum in 1935, Palmer edited and published a memorial collection of his stories, Dawn of Flame and Other Stories (coll 1936), one of the first publications in book form of Genre SF in America; the only other book (or rather pamphlet) published in his lifetime was Strange Offspring (anth circa 1945 chap) with Otis Adelbert Kline.

It was as an editor that Palmer would make his name, if one puts his championing of flying saucers to one side (but see below). When Amazing Stories was bought by the Chicago-based Ziff-Davis in 1938 it was decided to replace T O'Conor Sloane as editor. Palmer, a resident of nearby Milwaukee, was recommended for the job and was appointed. Amazing was in a moribund state by this time; Palmer made it livelier, albeit with a more overtly juvenile slant, and it revived. He published work by Edgar Rice Burroughs and, in March 1939, Isaac Asimov's first story, "Marooned off Vesta"; in the same year he began a companion magazine, Fantastic Adventures. The vigour of his early editing work, though evident at the time and in retrospect, was submerged from 1943 on by the notoriety he achieved with his promotion as fact of the stories of Richard S Shaver. Palmer claimed that the popularity of the "Shaver Mystery" gave Amazing the highest circulation – 180,000 copies – ever achieved by an SF Magazine. His interest in Pseudoscience and the occult widened; in 1948, while still employed at Ziff-Davis, he started his own occult magazine, Fate, which has proved enduringly successful. Another primarily occult Palmer publication was Mystic Magazine, launched in 1953 and coedited by Bea Mahaffey for its first four issues (November 1953 to May 1954), after which the fiction content was sharply reduced from the initial 50% and later vanished altogether – with the exception of Palmer's own "Shaver Mystery" coverage, presented as nonfiction. Mystic changed its name to Search with #17, October 1956.

In 1949 he established his own sf magazine, Other Worlds (using the editorial pseudonym Robert N Webster on the first issue), and shortly afterwards he left Ziff-Davis. In 1950 he began a companion magazine, Imagination, in this case lending his name as a cover for William L Hamling, who edited the journal while still officially working for Ziff-Davis. After another severe accident, Palmer sold Imagination to Hamling, while Bea Mahaffey edited Other Worlds. On his recovery in 1953, Palmer took over the magazine Universe Science Fiction and started a companion, Science Stories; meanwhile Other Worlds was suspended. Science Stories was short-lived, and in 1955 Palmer changed the title of Universe to Other Worlds, continuing the Universe numeration. The magazine began to feature more and more UFO material, and in 1957 was retitled Flying Saucers from Other Worlds, Palmer deciding to concentrate all his energies on UFOs and the occult. He later explained that the bewildering title changes of his magazines resulted in part from financial difficulties and the need to throw up smokescreens. A last Palmer publication, including UFO and Shaver material, was The Hidden World. [MJE/MA/JC]

Raymond Arthur Palmer

born Milwaukee, Wisconsin: 1 August 1910

died Portage, Wisconsin: 15 August 1977


collections and stories

works as editor

about the author/editor


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