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Pearson's Magazine

Entry updated 7 August 2023. Tagged: Publication.


1. UK popular fiction and general interest magazine published by C A Pearson Ltd, edited by Sir Arthur Pearson (1866-1921) until 1899, Percy W Everett 1900-1911, Philip O'Farrell 1912-1919, John Reed Wade 1920-1939, W E Johns May-November 1939; monthly, 527 issues, January 1896 to November 1939. Standard size except for last seven issues, which were letter size.

C Arthur Pearson had previously worked for George Newnes and when he established his own publishing business he released two magazines in blatant imitation of Newnes's Tit Bits and The Strand Magazine, namely Pearson's Weekly and Pearson's Magazine. Pearson was fascinated with stories of the future and what science might bring and both his publications were full of such stories and serials. The most famous in the monthly Pearson's was undoubtedly H G Wells's The War of the Worlds (April-December 1897; 1898), illustrated by Warwick Goble. Wells was latterly Pearson's star author of scientific stories. In addition to his short stories "In the Abyss" (August 1896) and "The Valley of the Spiders" (March 1903), Pearson's also serialized The Sea Lady (July-December 1901; 1902) and The Food of the Gods (December 1903-June 1904; 1904) and, when Wells had no new tales to offer, it reprinted several early ones from the Pall Mall Gazette.

Prior to Wells, though, science fiction had already appeared in Pearson's, mostly by way of the Future War story and the warning story. George Griffith was the main purveyor of Proto SF, mostly in Pearson's Weekly and its weekly companion, Short Stories. For the monthly he contributed a story of a future naval battle, "War on the Water" (February 1896), a warning story about electricity, "A Corner in Lightning", and a conjecture on the fourth Dimension, "The Conversion of the Professor" (May 1899), as well as a series of stories exploring the Moon and planets, "Stories of Other Worlds" (January-July 1900; fixup 1901 as A Honeymoon in Space). Both C J Cutcliffe Hyne and Fred M White contributed warning stories, both with London as their target, Hyne with "London's Danger" (February 1896) and White with his series Doom of London (January-July 1903). Hyne was best known in Pearson's for his series featuring Captain Kettle, a character whom it was boasted was second only to Sherlock Holmes in popularity, but whose exploits seldom featured much sf; he also contributed The Lost Continent (July-December 1899; 1900), set in Atlantis. There were also many articles looking into the future, such as "Seeing by Wire" (October 1899) by Cleveland Moffett, forecasting Television, and sometimes into the Far Future, notably "How Will the World End?" (July 1900) by Horace C Fyfe, illustrated by Warwick Goble, which depicted several apocalyptic scenarios (see End of the World).

Science fiction continued through the early 1900s: E E Kellett described a female Robot in "The Lady Automaton" (June 1900) and a horse Automaton in "How I Won the Derby" (June 1909), whilst there are further Automata in "Mr Broadbent's Information" (March 1909) by Henry A Hering. A scientist creates a magnificent bat-winged flying machine in "The Fate of the Firefly" (October 1901) by J M Bacon, whilst E C Andrews provides another warning story in "The Danger of the Comet" (December 1909). In the June 1910 issue Brinsley Moore began a tongue-in-cheek series, Professor Peterson's Experiments where the professor rediscovers the science of Ancient Egypt in SF. John Fleming Wilson looked ahead to a world without women in "The Rejected Planet" (June 1912). Most unusual was John Raphael's weird sf novel Up Above (December 1912; exp 1913), called "The Story of the Sky Folk", which could well have been an influence upon the writings of Charles Fort. As Europe headed towards the First World War there was the inevitable return of the warning story with "The Death Dive" (October 1911) by Alan H Burgoyne, depicting the world's last naval battle.

The War somewhat limited the appeal of sf and immediately after the War there was more interest in stories of spiritualism, crime fiction and exotic South Seas adventures, but sf was never too far away, albeit sporadic in appearance. Algernon Blackwood's fascination for other Dimensions, what he called "higher space", manifested itself in "The Man Who Was Milligan" (November 1923). Another tale of a room trapped in another dimension is "The House of the Black Evil" (May 1929) by Eric Purves. Douglas Newton depicted an ancient civilization having adapted to life Under the Sea in "Sunken Cities" (December 1923; November 1923 Munsey's Magazine), whilst in "When the Airship Crashed" (May 1930) by Eugene P Lyle Jr, survivors of the titular Disaster discover a Lost Race of cave men. The last major piece of sf in Pearson's was "The Winged Terror" (February-April 1931) by G R Malloch, which T Stanhope Sprigg later reprinted complete in Fantasy #2. Sprigg also used a story by Francis H Sibson in Fantasy and Sibson had earlier sold a story of menace Under the Sea to Pearson's in "Bathysphere Number Seven" (June 1935).

Pearson's was a significant magazine in popularizing science fiction and acquainting readers with what the future might bring. Had Pearson himself had sufficient foresight he might even have had success with a magazine of such fiction in Britain, long before Hugo Gernsback in the USA. [MA/JE]

2. A US edition of the British Pearson's magazine began in March 1899 and ran through till April 1925, but from January 1903 the magazine was bought by its American printer, Joseph Little, and though it continued to run some material from the UK edition, it was substantially a different magazine, becoming one of the major "muckraking" magazines in America. It went through several dramatic changes, especially after Frank Harris became its editor from September 1916 and, from July 1918, its publisher. The later issues carried no sf, though they did publish some early articles by Stanton A Coblentz, such as "The Rind of Civilization" (June 1923), which reveal some of the socialist views which surfaced in his later sf, and poetry by Clark Ashton Smith.

The significance of the US edition is chiefly in the early years. The start of the US edition prompted contributions by American writers. Some of these stories appeared in both the US and UK editions in the same month, such as "The Monster of Lake La Metrie" (September 1899) by Wardon Allan Curtis and "The Master of the Octopus" (October 1899) by Edward Olin Weeks, where an inventor seems to have created a lamp that glows forever. Some stories, however, appeared in the US edition first, such as "The Black Hands" (August 1903; December 1903 UK) by Albert Bigelow Paine, a daring exploration of racial ostracism (see Race in SF). As the US edition diverged further from the UK one, so it published material unrelated to the parent magazine. In particular it serialized H G Wells's War in the Air (April-December 1908; 1908), starting four months after it began in Pall Mall Magazine, but concluding at the same time. The US serial has different illustrations by Eric Pape. [MA]

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