Thursday, January 25, 2007

Aaron's Magazine of the Week :: Astounding Science Fiction May 1950

Astounding Science Fiction May 1950The Magazine of the Week is the May 1950 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. This issue was printed not long after Astounding switched from pulp to a digest format. Because they are more durable, old digest magazines are generally less valuable than the pulps; nevertheless, the Magazine of the Week is a very collectible issue of Astounding, because it contains the first appearance of the new "science" of Dianetics, the basis for L. Ron Hubbard's Church of Scientology. All of Hubbard's early writings are prized collectors' items now, sought both by SF collectors who view Hubbard as a curiosity and by adherents of his religion, who seem to find it charming that Hubbard used to write stories oddly similar to what he later revealed as the literal truths of the universe. (This just never ceases to boggle my mind.)

When he published this first Dianetics article in Astounding, the magazine's editor John W. Campbell, Jr. called it "one of the most important articles ever published" and predicted that L. Ron Hubbard would win the Nobel Peace Prize. Campbell, who was always eccentric, was by this time becoming increasingly fascinated with bizarre pseudoscientific concepts such as the "Dean Drive" (don't ask). This was an unfortunate turn to his career. As mentioned in the May 1, 2006 Magazine of the Week, Campbell was the driving force behind the "Golden Age" of science fiction. As editor of Astounding, he discovered and/or developed most of the top SF writers from the late 1930's through the mid-1950's. The Magazine of the Week, for example, includes such all-time greats as Jack Vance, Poul Anderson, and A.E. van Vogt. Even before he began editing Astounding, Campbell was influential on the field through his own writing. Next week's Book of the Week will be a very hard to find collection of Campbell's fiction featuring his most famous story, which was first published in 1938, then adapted into a classic film in 1951 and remade in 1982.

5 comments:

illunse said...

That glaring barbarian on the magazine cover, what's his story? I assume he has nothing to do with Dianetics...

Aaron Hughes said...

No, the guy on the cover is an alien called a "Skontaran" from Poul Anderson's story "The Helping Hand."

I suppose he could also pass for Scientology's evil Emperor Xenu, but this initial 45-page article didn't go that far into the backstory.

Anastasiya said...

Any idea what the circulation of this book is?
I've got 15 original copies and try to find out how rare they are.

Pieter

Aaron Hughes said...

I don't know their circulation figures, but Astounding was the leading SF magazine at the time, so I'm guessing it was well into five figures. Even so, the Dianetics issue fetches a good price -- I've seen it retailed anywhere from $20 to $50.

yankiwi said...

On Trade Me (New Zealand's answer to eBay) there's a fellow selling this same issue with an unbelieveable starting bid of $4000 - or buy this issue now for $5000.

Even with the modified exchange rate that's a bit steep.....