Monday, April 24, 2006

Aaron's Magazine of the Week :: Science Wonder Quarterly Fall 1929

Science Wonder QuarterlyThe Magazine of the Week is the first issue, Fall 1929, of Science Wonder Quarterly. After Hugo Gernsback was ousted from control of Amazing Stories in 1929, he promptly created the Wonder line of science fiction magazines. This group of magazines included Air Wonder Stories and Science Wonder Stories, soon combined and retitled Wonder Stories, as well as Science Wonder Quarterly, soon retitled Wonder Stories Quarterly. The quarterly titles disappeared within four years, but Wonder Stories, later called Thrilling Wonder Stories, remained in print through 1955.

Of the earliest issues of the Wonder magazines, this first issue of Science Wonder Quarterly is my favorite, because of the cover art by Frank R. Paul, illustrating the story "The Shot into Infinity" by German author Otto Willi Gail. The cover shows a rocket ship passing by the moon, with astronauts in spacesuits floating nearby and connected to the ship by flexible tethers. Incredibly, this is an accurate depiction of a modern space walk, two generations before such a thing ever occurred. (Well, accurate except that you can't do a space walk while your ship is madly firing its rockets, but we have to cut these guys a little slack.) Note how the top astronaut's suit is bulging out. The fellow is not chubby; writing and drawing in the day of propeller airplanes, Gail and Paul correctly anticipated how spacesuits would need to be pressurized to operate in the vacuum of space. Now look at the stubby little wings on the sides of the spaceship. Gail's story describes the ship using rockets to lift off, but then coasting back to earth like an airplane. Believe it or not, you are looking at an image of the space shuttle, drawn over fifty years before NASA built the thing.

The Magazine of the Week also contains "The Artificial Man," a story anticipating artificial organs by Clare Winger Harris, one of the earliest women to write science fiction (sometimes inaccurately called the first woman SF writer); and "The Hidden World," an early story by Edmond Hamilton, who went on to a very successful and prolific career in the science fiction pulps.

The Wonder magazines were the second entry in the science fiction genre created by Hugo Gernsback. Next week you will see the third magazine to enter the field, and the first one not created by Hugo Gernsback.

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