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Planet Stories

Entry updated 26 June 2023. Tagged: Publication.


US Pulp magazine, 71 issues, Winter 1939 to Summer 1955, published by Love Romances Publishing (a subsidiary of Fiction House), edited by Malcolm Reiss (Winter 1939-Summer 1942), Wilbur S Peacock (Fall 1942-Fall 1945), Chester Whitehorn (Winter 1945-Summer 1946), Paul L Payne (Fall 1946-Spring 1950), Jerome Bixby (Summer 1950-July 1951), Malcolm Reiss (September 1951-January 1952), Jack O'Sullivan (March 1952-Summer 1955). (Reiss was always in control, however, acting as Managing Editor when he was not named as editor.) The schedule was quarterly Winter 1939-Fall 1950, bimonthly November 1950-Summer 1954, quarterly Fall 1954-Summer 1955.

Subtitled in its early years "Strange Adventures on Other Worlds – The Universe of Future Centuries", Planet Stories was the epitome of Pulp sf. Its covers were garish in the extreme, and its story titles promised extravagantly melodramatic interplanetary adventures (which the stories themselves frequently provided). A typical selection of featured stories (from 1947-1948) includes "Beneath the Red World's Crust", "Black Priestess of Varda", "The Outcasts of Solar III", "Werwile of the Crystal Crypt", "Valkyrie from the Void" and "The Beast-Jewel of Mars", The authors of these epics include such Planet Stories regulars as Erik Fennel, Gardner F Fox and Emmett McDowell; Fennel and McDowell, like Wilbur S Peacock (1915-1979), were frequent contributors whose sf magazine appearances were largely confined to Planet Stories. The magazine's artwork was generally crude and lurid, though with significant exceptions; Allen Anderson's work was polished despite the luridity, and A Leydenfrost was the most individual of its regular artists.

Other authors who appeared often in later issues included Poul Anderson and Alfred Coppel. The most popular contributor, and the one whose work characterizes Planet Stories's appeal at its best, was Leigh Brackett, with her many colourful Planetary Romances of love and adventure on Mars, Venus and beyond. She had first appeared in the Winter 1940 issue and soon became the backbone of the magazine, though it was not until the post-war years that her most memorable stories appeared. These included a collaboration with Ray Bradbury, "Lorelei of the Red Mist" (Summer 1946), and the three stories featuring her hero Eric John Stark, starting with "Queen of the Martian Catacombs" (Summer 1949). Planet Stories's other short stories were more varied and less easily classifiable. Several of Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles episodes appeared here, including "The Million Year Picnic" (Summer 1946) and "Mars is Heaven!" (Fall 1948). Fredric Brown had been an earlier contributor to Planet Stories with a charming tale that was long remembered, "Star Mouse" (Spring 1942). Brown later provided a sequel, "Mitky Rides Again" (November 1950).

Later, Planet Stories published Theodore Sturgeon's "The Incubi of Parallel X" (September 1951) and Philip K Dick's first sf story, "Beyond Lies the Wub" (July 1952). Dick contributed several more stories, of which the most interesting in respect of how his fiction would develop was "James P. Crow" (May 1954) set in a Robot-dominated world in which the protagonist struggles to retain his Identity.

Planet Stories was one of the last surviving pulps and despite its early juvenile slant it had come to be one of the most popular sf magazines and one that was fondly remembered. A UK edition, published by Pemberton, consisted of twelve numbered, undated, truncated and initially irregular issues March 1950 to September 1954. A Canadian edition published twelve issues, identical to the US issues, Fall 1948-March 1951.

The reprint magazine Tops in Science Fiction (two issues 1953) came from the same publisher and drew its material wholly from earlier issues of Planet Stories. The Best of Planet Stories I (anth 1975) edited by Leigh Brackett, the start of a series that never had a second volume, assembles seven typical Planet Stories stories. There is no connection between this pulp and the Planet Stories imprint launched by Paizo Publishing in August 2007 as a new line of classic science fantasy novel and short-story collection reprints. [MJE/MA]

see also: Planet Comics.


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