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Science Fiction Stories

Entry updated 21 April 2021. Tagged: Publication.


US Pulp and subsequent Digest magazine which ran in two separate series and under several variant titles. Published by Blue Ribbon Magazines Inc (March-December 1939), Double Action Magazines Inc (March 1940-January 1941) and thereafter by Columbia Publications, New York; first series edited by Charles D Hornig (March 1939-September 1941) and the second series, 1953 to May 1960, was edited by Robert A W Lowndes.

It began as Science Fiction, twelve issues March 1939 to September 1941. This was the second venture into magazine editing by former Wonder Stories editor Charles Hornig, but Science Fiction was never better than very mediocre; although its covers were all by Frank R Paul, they were poor examples of his work. Most of the stories were already rejects from other magazines and appeared under a variety of pen names, so despite their being the work of Eando Binder, Edmond Hamilton, John Russell Fearn and Henry Kuttner, they had little to offer. The readers' departments were conducted on a determinedly chummy basis by Hornig, who spent a good deal of space airing his enthusiasm for Esperanto. In later issues, after Hornig had moved to California in the hope of registering as a conscientious objector, his firm pacifism showed in some anguished editorials. However this long-distance editing was unsatisfactory and the publisher, Louis Silberkleit, decided to merge Science Fiction with its companion Future Fiction to form Future Combined with Science Fiction. Robert A W Lowndes, who had taken over the editorship of Future Fiction, undertook some final editorial work on that last issue. Later, the April and July 1943 issues of Future were retitled Science Fiction Stories, which revived the Science Fiction cover design, but this was technically a continuation of Future Fiction (based on the volume numbering).

In 1953 the magazine was resurrected as a one-shot Digest, simply entitled Science Fiction Stories, under the editorship of Robert Lowndes. A second issue followed in 1954, and the magazine commenced regular publication in January 1955. The September 1955 issue added the slogan, "The Original", to the title on the cover, to emphasize the link back to the original Pulp, and the magazine subsequently became known by that name, although its formal title was always only Science Fiction Stories. Like its companion magazines, Future Science Fiction and Science Fiction Quarterly, Science Fiction Stories existed on a small editorial budget but maintained a respectable, if unexceptional, level of quality, a little better perhaps than Future. Serialized novels included The Tower of Zanid (May-August 1958; 1958) by L Sprague de Camp and Caduceus Wild (January-May 1959; 1978) by Ward Moore and Robert Bradford. Robert Silverberg was the magazine's most prolific contributor both under his own name and as Calvin M Knox. Clifford D Simak provided two interesting novelettes, "Full Cycle" (November 1955), where people revert to an agricultural society, and "Galactic Chest" (September 1956), where it is discovered that brownies and the little folk are in fact Aliens. R A Lafferty made his debut here with "Day of the Glacier" (January 1960). Lowndes also wrote some thoughtful and insightful editorials.

After its demise in May 1960 the title was bought by the sf fan James V Taurasi (see Fantasy Times), who used it on three Semiprozine issues – little more than Fanzines, in fact – in letter-size format in December 1961, Winter 1962 and Winter 1963.

Two abridged issues of the original Science Fiction, for October and December 1939, were reprinted in the UK by Atlas Publishing, London. There was also a Canadian edition which ran for six issues from October 1941 to June 1942, published by Superior Magazines in Toronto and edited by William Brown-Forbes. Despite calling itself Science Fiction, and proclaiming its contents were by Canadian writers, it selected material from Science Fiction, Future Fiction and Science Fiction Quarterly. There was an abridged UK edition of the second series, 12 undated issues from 1957 to 1960. [MA/MJE/PN]


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