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  • Print publication year: 2003
  • Online publication date: May 2006

2 - The magazine era: 1926–1960

from Part 1 - The history

The period of sf history from 1926 to 1960 can justly be called the magazine era. Even though many well-known works appeared in other venues during this period - books, comics, movies, and even radio plays - sf magazines such as Astounding Science Fiction were chiefly responsible for creating a sense of sf as a distinctive genre.

Science fiction is not only a mode of story-telling but also a niche for writers, a marketing category for publishers, a collection of visual images and styles and a community of like-minded individuals. All of these aspects of the genre took on their most familiar guises within the magazines that dominated the field for half a century. The magazines exerted considerable influence on sf's form and subject matter; the nature of magazine publishing and distribution, and, in particular, boom-and-bust cycles within the industry, have likewise played a part in shaping what is written and read. In addition, the location of most of the magazines' publishers in the USA has strengthened the association between sf and American culture, both in the United States and abroad.

Origins of the science fiction magazine

The first English-language magazine entirely devoted to sf was Hugo Gernsback’s Amazing Stories , founded in 1926. Nineteenth-century literary magazines, such as Blackwoods and The Strand in the UK and Putnams and Atlantic Monthly in the USA, had occasionally published works of fantasy and what might be called proto-science fiction alongside more realistic fare. Early in the twentieth century, a number of inexpensive periodicals, called pulp magazines because of the poor-quality woodpulp paper on which they were printed, included sf stories by writers such as Jack London and Edgar Rice Burroughs as one of several categories of exotic adventure. Burroughs’s first novel, A Princess of Mars , was first published in one of these pulps, All-Story Magazine , in 1912.

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The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction
  • Online ISBN: 9780511998805
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