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Thrill Book

Entry updated 10 July 2023. Tagged: Publication.


US magazine in the larger, saddle-stapled Dime-Novel format for eight issues, then as a standard Pulp magazine for the final eight issues. Sixteen issues, two per month, 1 March to 15 October 1919, published by Street & Smith; edited by Harold Hersey for volume one (1 March-15 June 1919) and Ronald Oliphant for volume two (1 July-15 October 1919). The legendarily rare Thrill Book is often cited as the first SF Magazine, but its initial eight issues contained no sf, but rather stories intended to provide "thrills" of an occult or weird sort. Only after Oliphant became editor did Thrill Book regularly publish sf stories, including two by Murray Leinster, "A Thousand Degrees Below Zero" (15 July 1919), involving a mad inventor, and "The Silver Menace" (1-15 September 1919), involving a biological threat. Others included: an H G Wells-inspired story of Invisibility by Greye La Spina (1880-1969), "The Ultimate Ingredient" (15 October 1919); a Sax Rohmer-inspired Chinese Supervillain (see Yellow Peril) whose inventions include a device for creating black light in "Mr Shen of Shensi" (1 October 1919) by H Bedford-Jones; and the satirical "The Man from Thebes" (15 August 1919), featuring a reanimated mummy, by William Wallace Cook.

Additional sf by less notable authors treated routinely such sf/Horror motifs as devices to communicate with the dead, Drugs that distort the time-sense (see Time Distortion), men protected by invisible armour, and Lost Worlds. Thrill Book's most famous story was The Heads of Cerberus (15 August-15 October 1919; 1952) by Francis Stevens, a Science-Fantasy adventure set predominantly in a Philadelphia located in an alternate time-track (see Alternate History).

When the magazine ceased, several stories were still in the inventory. "The Great Catastrophe" by Murray Leinster was eventually rescued and included in his collection First Contacts (coll 1998). As It Is Written (1982) by De Lysle Ferrée Cass was mistakenly attributed to Clark Ashton Smith and published under his name in a limited edition. A facsimile edition of the issue for 1 September 1919 was published by Wildside Press as their Pulp Classics #10 (anth 2004 facsimile), and the same publisher released a facsimile of the very first issue, 1 March 1919 in 2011. [RB/MA]

further reading

  • Richard Bleiler. The Annotated Index to The Thrill Book (Mercer Island, Washington: Starmont House, 1991) [nonfiction: pb/Sidney Riesenberg cover from first issue]
  • Will Murray. "The Thrill Book Story" (2011 Pulp Vault #14) [pp11-27: mag/]


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