Monday, April 17, 2006

Aaron's Magazine of the Week :: Amazing Stories May 1926

Amazing Stories May 1926The Magazine of the Week is the May 1926 issue of Amazing Stories, the second issue of the first science fiction magazine ever published. (I have yet to acquire the extremely rare first issue, but that is just as well for our purposes, since this second issue has an excellent example of the artwork of famed SF illustrator Frank R. Paul on the cover, depicting a scene from the H.G. Wells story "The Crystal Egg," whereas the first issue's cover is an embarrassingly goofy picture of what appears to be a family of Sasquatch out ice skating.)

Amazing Stories was initially published and edited by Hugo Gernsback. Gernsback had previously published various non-fictional popular science magazines. When he inserted a few fictional futuristic stories (including his own Ralph 124C41+) in those magazines, the very positive reader reaction prompted him to start a magazine specializing in the stuff. As a result of that decision, Gernsback is often called the founder of modern science fiction. While there were novels and stories before 1926 that we now categorize as science fiction, until Gernsback started Amazing Stories, the term science fiction (or the variation Gernsback preferred, "scientifiction") did not exist. More importantly, there was no separate publishing category for the kind of work we now call science fiction. It is not an overstatement to say that with Amazing Stories, Hugo Gernsback created the genre of science fiction. To this day, the most prestigious award given out annually in the field of science fiction is unofficially called the "Hugo Award" in Gernsback's honor.

As shown on the cover of the Magazine of the Week, Amazing Stories initially consisted largely of reprints of work by H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, and Edgar Allan Poe (whose name is misspelled on the cover). Within a couple years, however, Gernsback shifted the magazine's emphasis to original work by new writers. Amazing Stories was an instant success, and remained consistently in print from 1926 through 1995 (and there have been a couple attempts to resurrect the title in the past decade). Despite the magazine's success, however, the parent company of Amazing Stories went through financial difficulties in the late 1920's, which resulted in Hugo Gernsback losing control of the magazine. So Gernsback turned around and created the second science fiction magazine ever published, an issue of which you will see next week.

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