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Entry updated 7 December 2020. Tagged: Publication.


UK letter-size magazine of Humour and Satire, founded 1841 and first edited by Henry Mayhew (1812-1887) and Mark Lemon (1809-1870). Published weekly 1841-1992, with an unsuccessful revival 1996-2002.

For a century and a half, Punch (initially subtitled The London Charivari) was a British institution which through several of its early decades had considerable influence on UK Politics. The content – mainly humorous and/or satirical nonfiction and copious cartoon Illustration – was not primarily of sf interest, though several creators with entries in this encyclopedia contributed to the magazine. Such writers of prose or verse pieces include Brian Aldiss (see Travel Guides), Kingsley Amis, F Anstey, Ernest Bramah with six Kai Lung tales later assembled as Kai Lung: Six: Uncollected Stories from Punch (coll 1974), Anthony Armstrong, Peter Dickinson (who was a Punch associate editor 1952-1969), Stella Gibbons, Robert Graves (whose ghost story "The White Horse" appeared in the 12 January 1955 issue), A P Herbert (whom see), R C Lehmann, Horace Frank Lester, E V Lucas, Philip Oakes, E S Turner, Geoffrey Willans (whose Nigel Molesworth, later a regular sf daydreamer, made his debut here in 1939), P G Wodehouse and B A Young. George du Maurier was a hugely prolific Punch cartoonist from 1864 to 1896. Regular contributors of written material were allowed to sign their pieces with initials only, such as A.A. for Anthony Armstrong, A.A.M. for A A Milne (1882-1956) and A.P.H. for A.P. Herbert.

Occasional items of direct sf relevance often took the form of viewing the march of Technology with mild alarm. Two widely separated examples by A P Herbert are "The Din-Palace, The Smellies and the Future of the Theatre" (8 May 1929) – imagining olfactory and other accompaniments to Cinema – and "Reign of Error?" (13 February 1963), a late entry in Herbert's lengthy Misleading Cases series of spoof court reports, which addresses the legal responsibilities of a misbehaving sentient Computer.

Punch also featured some genre-related Parody. It is a mark of John Wyndham's 1950s commercial success that he was the subject of a broad pastiche titled "The Day of the Migwitch Crackens" (28 September 1960) by regular contributor Alex Atkinson, spoofing the Cosy Catastrophe mode with a tale of animated and menacing domestic furniture. Also in 1960, the magazine ran what the current editor Bernard Hollowood (1910-1981) announced as "To improve the standards of Science Fiction [...] a series of SF stories in the manner of the great novelists", whose nine contributions were "Jane in Space" (26 October 1960) by Stella Gibbons (Jane Austen), "Dickens in Space" (2 November 1960) by Norman Shrapnel (Charles Dickens), "Trollope in Space" (9 November 1960) by H F Ellis (Anthony Trollope), "Kipling in Space" (16 November 1960) by Richard Usborne (Rudyard Kipling), "Conan Doyle in Space" (23 November 1960) by E V Knox as Evoe (Arthur Conan Doyle), "Galsworthy in Space" (30 November 1960) by Peter Dickinson (John Galsworthy), "Joyce in Space" (7 December 1960) by B A Young (James Joyce), "Lawrence in Space" (14 December 1960) by Philip Oakes (D H Lawrence), and "Hemingway in Space" (21 December 1960) by Kingsley Amis (Ernest Hemingway). The overall standard was not high; only the last of these was reprinted in sf Anthologies and in the relevant 1960s volume of the magazine's then-annual showcase selection, Pick of Punch (anth 1961) edited by Bernard Hollowood.

Also of sf note is a themed issue of Punch anticipating the year of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), published 2 January 1974. This includes Brian W Aldiss's Comic-Inferno tale "Listen with Big Brother" (vt "Wired for Sound" in Best SF: 1974, anth 1975, ed Aldiss and Harry Harrison) and "Owing to Circumstances Beyond Our Control 1984 Has Been Unavoidably Detained ..." by Alan Coren (1938-2007), a notable humorist who edited Punch in various capacities from 1966 and was chief editor 1978-1987; his story Parodies Orwellian tropes and jokily argues that a UK totalitarian state would be just as inefficient as other British institutions are perceived to be.

Further genre-related items are scattered, though thinly, through the vast archive of published Punch material. [DRL]


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