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Strand Magazine, The

Entry updated 7 August 2023. Tagged: Publication.


UK magazine published monthly from January 1891 to March 1950, 710 issues (May/June 1947 issue combined), published by George Newnes Ltd, London; edited until December 1930 by H Greenhough Smith and subsequently by Reeves Shaw (1931-1941), R J Minney (1941-1942), Reginald Pound (1942-1946) and Macdonald Hastings (1946-1950). The Strand was Britain's premier magazine of general interest and popular fiction. Newnes took advantage of new printing techniques to have a heavily illustrated magazine ("a picture on every page" was his slogan) selling cheaply (6d). He was also fortunate in that early in the magazine's life he ran the Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle which were so rapturously received that not only did it establish the reputation of The Strand but also the demand for character-driven short-story series. Hitherto most short stories had been singletons with occasional sequels. With the advent of the Holmes stories (Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, July 1891-June 1892), The Strand discovered the selling power of a regular series and thereafter did its best to encourage writers to produce such series, and not just in detective fiction. The Strand also ran, for example, the Jeeves and Wooster stories by P G Wodehouse.

Conan Doyle and The Strand are virtually synonymous. His earliest contribution was the anonymous "The Voice of Science" (March 1891), more technical than science fiction. Whilst none of the Holmes stories is science fiction, perhaps with the exceptions of "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot" (December 1910) and "The Adventure of the Creeping Man" (March 1923), there is no doubt that Holmes is the forerunner of the scientific detective and an experimental Scientist. When Doyle stopped writing the Holmes stories (at least for the rest of the 1890s) Greenhough Smith was desperate to get others to produce similar material. Most of this fell firmly into the detective and mystery fiction field, but of note is L T Meade and Robert Eustace's The Brotherhood of the Seven Kings (January-October 1898; 1899) which features a female criminal mastermind who uses various new scientific techniques to further her nefarious plots. Meade, developing ideas considered by Eustace, uses further advanced science in "Where the Air Quivered" (December 1898) and in some of the stories in the series The Sanctuary Club (July-December 1899; 1900) and The Sorceress of the Strand (October 1902-March 1903; 1903). Running alongside the Holmes stories and his imitators was an occasional series, The Queer Side of Things with contributions by various writers but mostly James F Sullivan (1853-1936) whose contributions were collected as Queer Side Stories (coll 1900) and which included the unusual "The Dwindling Hour" (January 1893) in which, thanks to an ancient clepsydra, it is discovered that over millennia the cosmos has accelerated. Another item of interest in The Strand's first decade was "An Express of the Future" (December 1895), a short story by Michel Verne, whom the editors mistook for his father (M. – "Monsieur" – Verne), bylining the story Jules Verne. The real Jules Verne had earlier appeared with a translation of "Dr Trifulgas" (July 1892) and there was an interview, "Jules Verne at Home" (February 1895) by Marie A Belloc, which was an illuminating depiction of both Verne at work and of his supportive wife.

The success of The Strand encouraged many imitators, notably Pearson's Magazine in 1896, which featured sf regularly, particularly warning stories. Pearson's enjoyed placing London under threat and The Strand did the same with Grant Allen's "The Thames Valley Catastrophe" (December 1897). Whilst Pearson's laid claim to some of H G Wells's early stories, he was also soon selling to The Strand, first with a couple of minor stories but then with The First Men in the Moon (November 1900-August 1901; 1901) and several important short stories: "The New Accelerator" (December 1901), "The Land Ironclads" (December 1903), in which he foresaw armoured tank warfare – the story was reprinted in the November 1916 Strand to remind everybody of Wells's prophetic vision – and "The Country of the Blind" (April 1904). Wells was never a regular contributor to The Strand but returned now and then. One unusual item was an abridged version of "The War of the Worlds" (February 1920) as a short story to accompany new illustrations by Dutch artist Johan Briede (1885-1980). Wells's last new story in The Strand was "The Queer Story of Brownlow's Newspaper" (March 1932) (see Timeslip), but he also wrote his own obituary, from an independent viewpoint in "My Auto-Obituary" (January 1943).

Edith Nesbit was one of The Strand's regular contributors, mostly with children's non-genre or fantasy stories; her The Story of the Amulet (May 1905-May 1906; 1906) includes an Ancient Egyptian amulet that allows the children to Time Travel to moments in history. But Nesbit also contributed some adult sf, such as "The Third Drug" (February 1908 as by E Bland) about a chemical that may transform a man into a Superman.

There was also plenty of interest in Monsters – a giant reptile in "The Lizard" (February 1898) by C J Cutcliffe Hyne, a giant spider in "The Spider of Guyana" ("L'Araigneé crabe" in Les Contes Fantastiques, coll 1860; vt "The Crab Spider" October 1893 Romance Magazine US; January 1899) by Erckmann-Chatrian; and something enormous with tentacles in "The Purple Terror" (September 1899) by Fred M White. There were further giant spiders in "The Pioneers of Pike's Peak" (September 1897) by Basil Tozer (1872-1949) a story of interest because the basic storyline was plagiarized by Philip E Cleator (1908-1994) and transferred to Mars in "Martian Madness" (March 1934 Wonder Stories). Conan Doyle, now Sir Arthur, would develop the Monster story to its inevitable extreme, first in "The Terror of Blue John Gap" (August 1910) where, as in Hyne's story, some giant reptile lurks deep in a cave system, but then in The Lost World (April-November 1912; 1912) the seminal story of Dinosaurs surviving on a remote South American peak. The serial introduced another of Doyle's memorable characters, Professor Challenger, who would reappear in the Disaster novel The Poison Belt (March-July 1913; 1913), "When the World Screamed" (April-May 1928; previously serialized in Liberty), "The Disintegration Machine" (January 1929) and the occult The Land of Mist (July 1925-March 1926; 1926).

Doyle was not finished with Monsters. In "The Horror of the Heights" (November 1913), beautifully illustrated by W R S Stott, an aeronaut discovers Monsters in the upper atmosphere, whilst in "The Maracot Deep" (October 1927-February 1928) and its sequel "The Lord of the Dark Face" (April-May 1929), a giant lobster Under the Sea causes explorers to plummet to the ocean depths where they find survivors from Atlantis. Perhaps Doyle's most notorious contribution to The Strand, however, was "Danger!" (July 1914), which suggested how submarines could blockade ports during a War, an idea that the Germans promptly put into practice. The fate of Britain was also depicted in "When the New Zealander Came" (September 1911) by the clearly pseudonymous Professor Blyde Muddersnook which uses Macauley's New Zealander imagery to depict a ruined London millennia hence.

Greenhough Smith was rather less interested in gadgetry, preferring to see Inventions spoofed as in so many of the cartoons of W Heath Robinson (1872-1944) such as "The Inventor as Sportsman" (May 1916), "Some Labour-Saving Devices" (December 1919) and many other "Heath Robinson" devices which amused a war-battered Britain. But occasionally Smith did run a Gernsbackian style story such as "A Servantless House" (February 1911) by E S Valentine and the rather more striking "Blood and Iron" (October 1917), a one-act play by Perley Poore Sheehan and Robert H Davis which shows how mutilated soldiers in the War can be rebuilt from mechanical parts creating, in effect, Cyborgs. It is an Invention that brings an end to the War in "The Sleep-Beam" (March 1918) by Martin Swayne with a Ray that stops the enemy from sleeping.

Another peril, albeit a short-term one, strikes humanity in "The Black Grippe" (March 1920) by Edgar Wallace wherein the world is struck temporarily blind by a virulent disease. But there was little room for stories of scientific doom in The Strand of the 1920s, which wanted excitement, mystery and amusement, and the only real sf items were the stories of Conan Doyle. One other story of interest was "The Eye of Allah" (September 1926) by Rudyard Kipling, a medieval tale where the Invention of a microscope reveals to clerics the existence of minute creatures which they identify as demons and decide to keep secret, but which encourages the work of Roger Bacon. Kipling knew that knowledge could not be stifled forever.

After Greenhough Smith's retirement in 1930, Reeves Shaw continued in the same light-hearted vein. With the arrival of World War Two, paper rationing forced The Strand to cut down from the standard size to a slim saddle-stapled Digest, a pity to behold. Apart from a few fantasies by Lord Dunsany and Gerald Kersh, The Strand was now bereft of any visionaries and just a shadow of its early years.

A collection of some of the more unusual stories from the magazine is Strange Tales from the Strand Magazine (anth 1991) edited by Jack Adrian. [MA]

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