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Premier Magazine

Entry updated 12 August 2018. Tagged: Publication.


UK fiction magazine published by Amalgamated Press, London, and edited by David Whitelaw (1876-1971). It ran for 256 issues from May 1914 to March 1931, monthly except from #63 (Summer 1919) to #159 (6 February 1923) when it was fortnightly. There were three series of which the middle series, March 1923 to September 1926 saw The Premier as a Slick magazine, but all other issues were Pulp, all in standard format. The magazine is extremely rare and only one complete run is known. Its emphasis was on mystery and adventure fiction and in that area was Britain's leading magazine, its title being highly appropriate. The magazine's two major writers, certainly the ones that gave it its reputation, were Sax Rohmer and Rafael Sabatini (1875-1950): Sabatini with his swashbuckling historical adventures and Rohmer with his supernatural thrillers. The first issue began with Rohmer's series Brood of the Witch-Queen (May-December 1914; coll of linked stories 1918). Most of The Premier's fantastic adventure stories fall into the exotic category, with plenty of South Seas stories by James Francis Dwyer, Beatrice Grimshaw and H de Vere Stacpoole, and there were further Rohmeresque fiendish adventures by Achmed Abdullah.

Aside from a few borderline stories, the first major sf story was the serial The Moon Maker (February-June 1917; 1958) by Arthur Train, which had just been serialized in the US in Cosmopolitan, and which follows attempts to stop the destruction of the Earth by an Asteroid. The Premier's chief contributors of science fiction and weird tales were Guy Thorne (see Cyril Ranger Gull) and Leslie Beresford. Thorne's began with "The Lake of London" (October 1917) where a vast lake is discovered under London with prehistoric creatures. This was followed by the near-future novel The Air Pirate (mid-June-1 August 1919; 1919 as by C Ranger Gull); "The Mystery of the Mountain" (22 October 1920) which has troglodytes surviving in Wales; the serial "Mr. Morse from Brazil" (29 July-9 September 1921; 1921 as The City in the Clouds by C Ranger Gull) better known under its book title; and "The Terror of the Sea" (1 November 1921) with its sea Monster. Thorne also contributed a Rohmeresque serial featuring a female equivalent of Fu Manchu, "The Lady from China" (July-December 1918). Beresford's early contributions were also in the Rohmer tradition, but he changed direction with "The Moon Men" (24 September 1920) in which Earth is invaded by giant insect-like Aliens. "The Secret of the Unseen Star" (17 June 1921) imitated Train with a space journey to an errant planetoid. "The Case of Professor Cartwright" (15 July 1921) reveals how to reduce a human in size to the minuscule (see Great and Small; Miniaturization); "The Truth About Torrington" (23 September 1921) introduces Antigravity; whilst "The Winged Terror" (7 October 1921) takes a leaf out of Guy Thorne's book and has ancient Dinosaur eggs hatch.

There were a number of strange sea stories, a few of which verge on the science-fictional. "The Purple Seaweed" (November 1914) by Max Rittenberg (1880-1965) concerns a seaweed in the Sargasso Sea which absorbs gold. William Hope Hodgson, who was the master of the weird sea story, had several in The Premier, including "The Voice in the Dawn" (5 November 1920; vt "The Call in the Dawn" in Deep Waters coll 1967), also set in the Sargasso. "The Index of Error" (1 July 1921) by John Fleming Wilson (1877-1922) has navigational problems arise when Earth's magnetic poles shift.

The new series of The Premier, where it tried to become a Slick, began with Robert W Chambers's science fantasy "The Girl from Paris" (March-October 1923; 1923 as The Talkers) is which a scientific means is established to exchange human souls (see Identity Exchange), but generally the slick version ran little that qualified as science fiction, preferring a mixture of mystery, the supernatural and the exotic. When the magazine returned to Pulp format in October 1926 it continued much as before, with a marginal increase in sf. These included a series The Strange Cases of Cosmo Thor (July-December 1927) by Moray Dalton (real name Katherine Mary Dalton Renoir, 1882-1963) about a detective with remarkable empathy (see ESP) and insight. "Should We Want to Know?" (August 1928) by R D Acland concerns prevision and how to avoid your fate (see Precognition). "The Man-Wolves" (July-August 1930) by Murray Leinster, previously run in the US in Mystery Stories (February-March 1929), features a Drug that makes people act like animals.

Although The Premier did little to develop science fiction, it did provide a market receptive to unusual ideas and thus helped periodical sf in Britain. [MA]

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