Thursday, March 09, 2006

Happy Birthday, Amazing Stories!

According to a post to fictionmags by Mike Ashley, March 10, 1926, was the day the first issue of Amazing Stories went on sale at newsstands. That makes the magazine 80 years old today. I first encountered it in the 1950s. I can't begin to tell you how excited I was at the appearance of a new issue. People will tell you now that the magazine was at a low point at that time, and that the stories were pretty uniformly bad. Maybe so, but I didn't know it at the time. I read each issue straight through as soon as I bought it, and every story was magic to me. I think I'll pull out one of those old issues right now and have a look.


  1. I was an "Imagination" boy in the '50s. I subscribed to it in '55 or so, until they went out of business in 1958 (I think). The bonus they had for subscribing was a hard back book. I got a Shasta edition of The Man who Sold the Moon and, later, Revolt in 2100. Since the subscription was only $3.00 it was a pretty good deal. Went back later and bought every issue that I didn't have. I thought it was great writing although I now imagine that Astounding got the best stories.

  2. Well, Bill, if you were reading AMAZING in the mid '50s, that might be a pretty low point, but the late '50s, or around 1953 (during the brief period where it and its new companion FANTASTIC had the highest editorial budget on the newsstands), not so much. Even in the lean years, Mike tells us Cele Goldsmith was working on the magazines as early as 1956 at the latest, doing what she could to pull decent stories out of the slush to be published along with the Stephen Marlowe (still Milton Lesser then), Ellison, Silverberg, and Randall Garrett stuff Paul Fairman was buying by the yard to fill most of the magazine...Kate Wilhelm's first story in the 12/56 FANTASTIC apparently made its way in thus.
    Hey, Allan Rast, I've been making a point of reading the 1950s magazines, and the short answer to any supposition that ASTOUNDING dominated the best work in that decade is a hearty, Hell, No. Even if one sets aside F&SF and GALAXY for a moment, the '50s saw good, bad and indifferent work popping up in all the magazines, and much of the best in magazines as short-lived as INFINITY or James Blish's one-issue VANGUARD SF, and as durable as IF, PLANET STORIES (Leigh Brackett, Charles Harness), STARTLING (P. J. Farmer) and FANTASTIC...and some of the worst in ASTOUNDING along with some of the best. Perhaps not the absolute worst, but enough Really Not Good to make a case against any easy assumptions about there being an undisputed leader in the field. Some of Robert Bloch's and Daniel Galouye's work for IMAGINATION was not too shabby by any reasonable standard.

  3. Todd Mason1:05 AM

    You know, when I would see a new issue pop up on the stands in 1978, I was pretty happy, too...even if AMAZING was less favored by me than F&SF and FANTASTIC, which both published a lot of fantasy and some horror fiction along with the sf they offered...AMAZING was more consistent than the 1978 GALAXY, which was falling apart financially to an even greater extent than AMAZING, which along with FANTASTIC was a retirement job for its publisher and a part-time job for its editor, but could publish some pretty bad material along with some pretty good (this, of course, was also true of ANALOG, ISAAC ASIMOV'S SFM, EQMM, AHMM, MIKE SHAYNE MM, and SHORT STORY INTERNATIONAL, the other digests I read as often as I could find and afford them, and the occasional large-format magazines I could find, such as ASIMOV'S SF ADVENTURE and GALILEO. The lonely western digest, FAR WEST, just had "Loser" written all over it and was more expensive than all the others, aside from SSI (which at least was published on excellent paper), so I never got around to buying one and reading it back when, and it soon disappeared. My comic-collecting friend David Lapadula fished the August 1978 AMAZING and ANALOG out of a library-sale bin and handed them to own copies were in better shape, so I was happily able to offer them to my acquaintance Kevin Fowler, also present, who was a Trekker and occasional reader who hadn't realized there was such a thing as an sf magazine, and who later reported a very satisfying reading experience. My first evangelical work.

  4. Thanks, Todd and Allan. I liked everything I read in all those SF magazines, but I liked some magazines (and their stories) better than others. Probably F&SF was my favorite overall, but I liked Infinity a lot, too. But I was happy to be reading any of them. I'm mentioned before my penchant for the "lesser mags" like Imagination and Imaginative Tales.