January, 1934 – The birth of Fantasy Magazine

FM-Jan34-coverIn the first issue under the new title, the editors clarified their new direction:

From “Our New Policy” (page 26):
In the fiction which appears in FANTASY Magazine we shall first of all look for a sound, workable scientific basis, which is true within the scope of our knowledge today.  We shall allow no liberties to be taken with scientific fact, no phenomena with a foolishly inadequate explanation can take place.  But we shall accept no stories which contain merely long-winded dry-as-dust lectures on science, and forget the story element.  Love, perhaps one of the greatest motivating forces of our universe, can play a big part in many stories, but it shall never be dragged in ‘by the hair.’  Action, mystery, suspense must be in every story…  FANTASY Magazine will only print stories that are scientifically plausible, and entertaining also.

The fantasy publishing industry at the time was generally struggling to define sub-genres that would attract a steady readership.  Here the editors have drawn a clear line: no ghosts, no vampires, no fairies would be appearing in FANTASY Magazine.  In this same issue, Julius Schwartz captured comments from the editors of the leading pulps of the day on their various directions.

FM-Jan34-Science Fiction Eye bannerFrom “The Science Fiction Eye”:
In Amazing Stories, says Editor Sloane, all stories are to be instructional.  Stories may be within the range of the natural sciences.  Rather then  printing so many interplanetary stories as heretofore, there will be an equal proportion of all stories, such as those dealing with radio, chemistry, time-traveling…

Charles Hornig, managing editor of Wonder Stories, reveals what his magazine has in store: “We expect to accomplish big things in 1934.  We have already started and will continue to stress the fact that science fiction evolves the same as everything else… These stories will be required to contain convincing, logical science, besides their refreshing newness…

Astounding Stories, say the editors, will continue to offer the best work being done by modern writers of fantasy.  There are no limits to the scope of the science fiction story that will be printed… Occasional weird stories may be used provided they are as good as Burks’ “My Lady of the Tunnel.”…

From Farnsworth Wright, editor of Weird Tales, come this statement: “Since there are several other magazines that specialize in science-fiction, we try to restrict our science stories to those that are weird enough to be classed as weird scientific…

Don Moore, who controls the destinies of Argosy, has this to say: “Argosy will continue its policy of presenting the best and most credible of the imaginitive, pseudo science, futuristic and off-the-trail novelettes and serials it can obtain…

Thrilling Adventures is quoted as saying they will use “an occasional pseudo-scientific story.”  Blue Book will continue using science fiction at frequent intervals.  Unusual Stories have on hand a large amount of ‘literary’ science fiction stories by favorite authors.  The Fantasy Fan will specialize in the weird fiction of Clark Ashton Smith, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and August W. Derleth.  And finally, Fantasy Magazine proudly offers its super-science fiction novel, COSMOS, written by eighteen of science fiction’s best best writers, and masterful stories by Dr. Keller, P. Schuyler Miller, L.A. Eshbach, Arthur J. Burks, Raymond A. Palmer, Fletcher Pratt, and others.

FM-Jan34-Invisible Man reviewReader commentary on Cosmos was sparse in this issue.

From “The Editor Broadcasts”:
Lewis F. Torrance, of Winfield, Kansas writes:
“…’Scroll of Armageddon,’ COSMOS, ‘The Ether Vibrates,’ ‘Alicia,’ and ‘The Science Fiction Eye’ are your best features.  Of course your Biographies are excellent…”

Frank Soltis, of Chicago, says:
“…Your serial COSMOS is coming along fine, but there is one thing that is going to spoil it for me, and that is the names the authors persist in giving their characters.  Imagine a man carrying a name like ‘Bar-Zee,’ ‘Fo-Peta,’ or ‘Mea-Quin.’  These are only a few of the names that have appeared in the last six chapters.  I wish the authors would follow Dr. Keller’s example in naming their characters with easy ‘English-sounding’ names.”

Charles Johnson, of Annandale, Minn:
“…COSMOS is sure wow, and the adventures of ‘Alicia in Blunderland’ are just as good…”

That a reader would find the story’s hyphenated alien names more distracting than, say, the gas-bag tentacled bodies of the Neptunians or the intensely awkward title “the Wrongness of Space” is a great reminder that each person may have their own unique boundaries where the willing suspension of disbelief just cannot cross.

Read Chapter Eight of Cosmos.
Read about the February, 1934 issue.

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