May, 1934 – Getting weirder

FM-May34-backThe editors were apparently facing serious challenges during the spring and summer of 1934.  The May issue arrived late, and contained only the first half of the Cosmos chapter slated for the month.  The problems were discussed in the June issue.

Fantasy Magazine was being produced in the depths of the Great Depression – but it’s easy to forget this fact, because the publication is almost entirely free of any mention of it.  Perhaps people came to science fiction as a place to escape the difficulties of daily life, and this may help to explain the rapid growth of the genre during these years.  A rare nod to the economic times appeared in “Spilling the Atoms with Rap” in this issue:

Writer’s Digest says “the market for science fiction is wide open for the writer who knows how to write it.  But unless you have majored in chemistry and physics, and know the trend of modern science fiction, you haven’t much chance, unless you get in touch with some professional scientist for criticism.”  What have I been saying?  Good science fiction authors are as scarce as hen’s teeth right now, because the depression chased most of them into ordinary fiction fields, and they, having lost contact with the recent rapid evolution of science fiction, have been unable and partly unwilling, to return.

FM-May34-Outpost-1FM began to deliver on it promise to expand into “weird fiction” with the first appearance of H.P. Lovecraft.  Lovecraft was becoming prominent at this time with frequent pieces in Weird FM-May34-Outpost-2Tales.  “The Outpost” had first appeared in 1930 in an amateur press pamphlet called Bacon’s Essays, edited by his friend Victor A. Bacon.  Much of the early work of Lovecraft and his contemporaries was first published through a close-knit network of amateur journals before appearing in professional venues.

From “The Editor Broadcasts,” only brief discussion of Cosmos:

Most people know that fine tradition of the theatre, “The Show must go on.”  The publishing industry has its fine tradition, for, despite all obstacles, the issue must go to press.

A. Merrit, editor of The American Weekly, the Hearst syndicate magazine, in spite of his recent bereavement, difficulties with his own magazine, and a severe attack of laryngitis, got his part of COSMOS to me in time to be printed for our last issue.  The finest tradition of our vocation was once again upheld.

I’ve been unable to determine who among Merritt’s family or friends passed away in 1934.  Another Merritt tidbit appeared in “The Ether Vibrates”:

A. Merritt tell us of the fan who constructed a model “Ship of Ishtar” after his description of the ship in his novel…

Then as now, “fan” is short for “fanatic,”

Frequent letter-writer Donald Wollheim chimed in on the continuing debate over Alpha Centauri:

“…I see some of your readers have stated that Alpha Centauri is a triple star, its third member being Proxima Centauri.  As far as I can make out by consulting many of the latest astronomic books by the greatest astronomers, Proxima Cetauri is not classed as part of Alpha’s syste but is listed by itself as the nearest star.  Its distance is 4.16 light years as compared with Alpha Centauri’s 4.30.  That doesn’t look much like a triple sun to me….”

I think you’ve let yourself in for some arguments, Mr. Wollheim.

Mr. Wollheim had it right.  From Thos. S. Gardner:

“…COSMOS great.  Carry on Solar System!
To a greater Fantasy!”

From F. Lee Baldwin:

“…You should get a better staple machine as the one you have is very inefficient, also get a new crew of typesetters and proof readers as the number of errors in this issue was terrible!  It looks like the work of some novice…”

If the present ‘crew’ of typesetters and proof readers were fired there wouldn’t be and FM.  The entire printing crew, typesetters, proof readers, and press men happen to be compressed into one man – me…  Joking aside, the task of printing FM each month is one that most printers wouldn’t take even with a salary.  I have no linotype or high speed press which would make the job merely a matter of days.  FM is set by hand, and takes the better part of each month to complete.

Read Chapter Twelve of Cosmos.
Read about the June, 1934 issue.


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