Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Four-Score Wednesday: Air Wonder Stories, February 1930

Air Wonder Stories, Volume 1, Number 8, February 1930. Published January 10, 1930.

On the Cover This Month
is shown the illustration for the prize story contest. Mr. Gernsback was unable to offer any information as to what the strange objects were or where they came from. He thought that the scene took place on another planet, but he would not express certainty about that. We think you will agree, however, that the scene, whatever it is, is an example of Paul's best work.

Click on the thumbnail on the left to get a 150dpi image of this cover by the inimitable Frank R. Paul.

My copy of this issue is stamped on an inner page:

163 W. 21st ST., NEW YORK

"Stf." stands for "scientifiction," Hugo Gernsback's name for the genre before he (unknowingly re-)coined the phrase "science fiction."  Perhaps "Ter." is short for "terrestrial." I checked Google and a few books I have about science fiction fandom, and I can't find anything else about Weissman or the Stf. Supply Station. But I thought it was interesting.

Anyway, here's some more about that contest:


Since the establishment of AIR WONDER STORIES, we have been in receipt of many letters asking whether it is a policy of this magazine to accept stories from new authors. Many of the writers seem to have acquired a notion that only certain authors may contribute to this magazine.

This impression is, of course, entirely erroneous; for the editors are always happy to publish the stories of new and promising writers.

In order to stimulate authorship, and turn the undeveloped talent among the general readers of this magazine to writing, AIR WONDER STORIES has decided to inaugurate a prize story contest--the first this magazine has conducted.

Of late there has been a very strong demand from our readers for aviation stories of the interplanetary type; that is, stories which have their locale on not only our own earth, but also in other worlds.

Heeding this request, as we heed every impressive request from our readers, we are launching ourselves with vigor into the publication of interplanetary flying stories.

The front cover of this month's issue reflects this policy. It is, frankly, a scene laid on a distant world.

Just what the story is, I do not know, even though I originated the idea of the illustration. And, although it has been executed by the masterful brush of our own artist, Paul, he also is ignorant of its ultimate meaning.

What it is all about, therefore, we leave entirely up to you; and we are certain that many of our readers will be able to tell all of us exactly what happened on that far-distant world.

The present contest, then, is centered around this month's cover illustration. I can give you no further clues as to what the picture is all about, except what I have already said. You will have to use your own ingenuity in writing a plausible and convincing story around it. The picture speaks for itself.

You are asked, then, to write a story around the cover illustration; and, the more interesting, the more exciting, and the more scientifically probable you make it, the higher will be your rating when the prize winners are selected.

Remember that anyone can participate in this contest. You do not have to he a polished or experienced author; but, as a friendly word of advice, if you have never written a story, it would he well to submit it to a literary friend or teacher before you enter it in the competition.

Study the details of the cover illustration carefully; AND BE SURE THAT YOU DO NOT MISS ANY OF THE DETAILS, BECAUSE THEY ARE ALL IMPORTANT.

In a contest of this kind it is, naturally, impossible to have a great many prizes. For this reason, there are only four, to be awarded to the writers of the four best stories submitted. Each of these prize-winning stories, we know, will be a treat for our readers. The reason is that authors of imagination will naturally have entirely different plots and different ideas as to what the cover illustration represents.

But before you start writing, be sure to read the following rules carefully.

(1) A short science-aviation-fiction story is to be written around the cover picture of the February 1930 issue of AIR WONDER STORIES.

(2) The story must be of the science-aviation-fiction type. It should be plausible in the light of our present knowledge of aviation and science.

(3) The story must be between 5,000 and 8,000 words.

(4) All stories must be submitted typewritten, double-spaced; or legibly penned, with spaces between lines. Pencilled matter cannot be considered. Stories must be received flat, not rolled.

(5) No manuscripts will be returned unless full return postage is enclosed.

(6) Because of the large number of manuscripts expected, the editors cannot enter into correspondence on stories submitted.

(7) In awarding the prizes, AIR WONDER STORIES acquires full rights of all kinds; such as translation into foreign languages, syndicate rights, motion-picture rights, etc. The Board of Editors will be the sole judges as to the winners.

(8) Stories in addition to the prize-winning ones may be chosen by the editors, at their option, for publication at the usual space rates of this magazine.

(9) The contest closes on March 5, 1930, at noon, at which time all manuscripts must have been received at this office.

(10) Any one except employees of the Stellar Publishing Corporation and their families may join this prize contest. It is not necessary to be a subscriber to the magazine.


For the guidance of new authors, we have prepared a pamphlet entitled, "Suggestions to Authors." This will be sent to applicants upon receipt of 5c. to cover postage.

All manuscripts must be addressed to Editor, Prize Cover Contest, AIR WONDER STORIES, 96-98 Park Place, New York.

The four prizes, by the way, were $150, $75, $50, and $25 in gold. $25 comes to no more than half a cent a word. Considering that, as I understand it, the normal pay rate for the Gernsback magazines was a penny a word, this would mean that the possible non-prize-winners who nonetheless succeeded in selling their stories to the magazine (as per #8, above) would be making at least as much as the Third Prize winner, and at least twice as much as the Fourth Prize winner. (By contrast, Gernsback offered these same prizes in a contest in the November 1929 Science Wonder Stories for stories under 1,500 words, making the $25 Fourth Place prize worth at least one and two-thirds cents a word.)

Anyway, we'll be hearing more about this contest in a subsequent edition of Four-Score Wednesday.

A contest featured in this issue that we won't be hearing any more about is the one seeking a slogan for the magazine.  The prize was $100 in gold, which seems like a better deal than the cover contest. The winner was to be announced in the July 1930 issue of Air Wonder Stories. As it happened, May was its last issue.

Next week, depending on the mail, we either start catching up by going back to the beginning with the inaugural issue (June 1929) of Science Wonder Stories... or we have a little surprise.

1 comment:

lartronics said...

In those days $300 was a lot of money....

When I worked for Hugo he had very specific ideas about what was Sci_Fi and what wasn't. Those comments are included in the book

For more information on Hugo Gernsback check out a new biography available on Amazon.

The document was found by me when we closed down Gernsback Publications in 2003. It was an old ms that I edited and produced as a book.

Follow the link and you can go to the book and thanks to Amazon’s “look inside” feature, you can even get an idea of what it covers.

Hope you find it interesting.

The book is also available as an E-book for the Kindle or your PC or Mac at Amazon.

For more information feel free to contact me, Larry Steckler, at