Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Four-Score Wednesday: Science Wonder Stories, June 1929

Well, the mail didn't come through (and, to be fair, it was a long shot), so the surprise will have to wait, and instead we start catching up with...

Science Wonder Stories, Volume 1, Number 1, June 1929. Published May 3, 1929.

is shown a high-tech battle between viruses and white blood cells of the 49th century in an exciting story by Dr. David H. Keller...

No, no, just kidding. Actually,

is illustrated WARRIORS OF SPACE. Artist Paul has shown vividly the night attack and destroying of the alien space flyer by our valiant terrestrial defenders. In the distance, floating on the Pacific, is another defeated space flyer, while two more are hovering over the waters, soon to be rammed by the earth flyer.

Click on the thumbnail in the corner to get a 150dpi image of this rare Science/Air/Just Plain Wonder Stories cover to have a realistically-colored sky. Frank R. Paul preferred them that way, but Hugo Gernsback felt that alternating colors like green, red, and yellow helped keep the covers eye-catching.

Speaking of Hugo Gernsback, here's his inaugural editorial:

by Hugo Gernsback

Taste in reading matter changes with each generation. What was acceptable to your grandparents, was hopelessly out of style for your parents. The literature of your parents--the Laura Jean Libby type of story and the dime novels, Buffalo Bill and Deadwood Dick are laughed at by the present generation.

The past decade has seen the ascendancy of "sexy" literature, of the self confession type as well as the avalanche of modern detective stories.

But they are transient things, founded on the whims of the moment. For the world moves swiftly these days and with it moves literature also.

Science-Mechanics-the Technical Arts--they surround us on every hand, nay, enter deeply into our very lives. The telephone, radio, talking motion pictures, television, X-Rays, Radium, super-aircraft and dozens of others claim our constant attention. We live and breathe day by day in a Science saturated atmosphere.

The wonders of modern science no longer amaze us--we accept each new discovery as a matter of course. We even question why it had not come about sooner.

The man in the street no longer recognizes in science the word impossible; "What man wills, man can do," is his belief.

Interplanetarian trips, space flyers, talking to Mars, transplanting heads of humans, death-rays, gravity-nullifiers, transmutation of elements--why not? If not to-day, well, then, tomorrow. Are they surprises? Not to him; the modern man expects them.

No wonder, then, that anybody who has any imagination at all clamors for fiction of the Jules Verne and H. G. Wells type, made immortal by them; the story that has a scientific background, and is read by an ever growing multitude of intelligent people.

SCIENCE WONDER STORIES supplies this need for scientific fiction and supplies it better than any other magazine.

I started the movement of science fiction in America in 1908 through my first magazine, "MODERN ELECTRICS." At that time it was an experiment. Science fiction authors were scarce. There were not a dozen worth mentioning in the entire world.

I wrote a number of such stories and novels myself and gradually grouped about me a circle of authors who turned out better and better work as the years went by. I still have the best of these authors with me and practically all of them are writing and will continue to write for this magazine.

Who are the readers of SCIENCE WONDER STORIES? Everybody. Bankers, ministers, students, housewives, bricklayers, postal clerks, farmers, mechanics, dentists--every class you can think of--but only those who have imagination. And as a rule, only those with intelligence and curiosity.

When the idea of the new magazine first formulated itself, naturally the name was of importance, and I put that into the hands of the future readers. The publishers, had no hand in it.

Many thousands of prospective readers were circularized by means of a single letter. They were asked to subscribe to a new and unknown, as well as un-named magazine. The result was truly amazing. I never experienced the like in my twenty-
five years of publishing experience.

And as the result of the popular vote, SCIENCE WONDER STORIES is the name of the new magazine. I asked for a vote, too, for the TYPE of story wanted most. And the type that carried the majority of votes I herewith pledge myself to publish.

The new readers voted for other things, too, notably for "Science News of the Month,"--a few pages of short paragraphs giving the latest scientific achievements of the entire world written in plain English, so that "he, who runs, may read and profit." That department begins in this issue.

Science fiction, as published in SCIENCE WONDER STORIES, is a tremendous new force in America. They are the stories that are discussed by inventors, by scientists, and in the classroom. Teachers insist that pupils read them, because they widen the young man's horizon, as nothing else can. Wise parents, too, let their children read this type of story, because they know that it keeps them abreast of the times, educates them and supplants the vicious and debasing sex story.

SCIENCE WONDER STORIES are clean, CLEAN from beginning to end. They stimulate only one thing--IMAGINATION. [Oh, well, then, to heck with that. -2010 Editor] Where is the reader who can remain phlegmatic when you take him to distant planets, into the far flung future 10,000 years hence, or on a trip into the fourth dimension?

No wonder these readers or fans, if you please, look upon science fiction with a sort of reverence.

I consider it a particularly fortunate occasion to welcome to our editorial and advisory board, an imposing array of scientific authorities and educators.

It has long been my feeling that having an authority in the various sciences who would pass upon the scientific correctness of such stories, would be of the greatest aid in mapping the future course of science fiction.

There has been altogether too much pseudo-science fiction of a questionable quality in the past. Over-enthusiastic authors with little scientific training have rushed into print and unconsciously misled the reader by the distortion of scientific facts to achieve results that are clearly impossible.

It is the policy of SCIENCE WONDER STORIES to publish only such stories that have their basis in scientific laws as we know them, or in the logical deduction of new laws from what we know. And that is the reason why ALL stories published in this magazine must pass muster before an authority. It is a guarantee to our readers that they will not get a false scientific education thru the perusal of these stories.

I believe that this innovation will make new history in magazine publishing. I know of no other fiction magazine that can muster such an array of authorities and educators to pass upon the quality of its stories.

It augurs well for the future of science fiction in America.

Gernsback padded his resumé a little, there. Although Modern Electrics began in April 1908, the first piece of fiction published therein didn't come for three years. He did write it, though--it was the first of twelve serialized installments of his novel Ralph 124C 41+.

I find it interesting that, barely three years into the existence of the science fiction magazine, Gernsback used the word that distinguishes the SF enthusiast as active participant in writing of "these readers or fans, if you please." I don't think SF fandom as a concept had sprung up yet.

There's irony in Gernsback's claim that the magazine would contain "only such stories that have their basis in scientific laws as we know them, or in the logical deduction of new laws from what we know." That very issue contained a story, "The Marble Virgin," in which an inventor turns a statue into a living woman. As the readers (or fans, if you please) rushed to point out, even granted the idea of turning marble to flesh, the result would be something of a woman-shaped bologna.

Also ironically, that title ostensibly chosen by popular vote, Science Wonder Stories, lasted only a year until Gernsback decided "that the word 'Science' has tended to retard the progress of the magazine" and shortened the title to just Wonder Stories.

The issue also featured entries in an essay contest on "What Science Fiction Means to Me." We published Jack Williamson's "Tremendous Contribution to Civilization" (the First Honorable Mention) in Thrilling Wonder Stories, Volume 1. Here's the $50.00 prize-winner.

The Door to the World of Explanation

Science fiction is my hobby, and yet it is more than that. It is my hobby because, during the past ten years, I have saved all magazines wherein I found science fiction stories. It is infinitely more in that it is healthful and invigorating food to my literary self. This simply means that to deprive me of such literature would be to "starve" that within me which yearns for something beyond the more or less humdrum existence to which we are--may I say it--physically held.

As a child I was thrilled when the knight rescued the princess; as a lad I marveled at the imagination of Jules Verne. But as a man, the fantastic faded. Gradually I came to see beyond the veil, to glimpse the cold fact of future possibilities. I like to read science fiction with this last in mind, feeling that the writer has the same viewpoint. I need only mention that the fiction of yesterday is common occurrence today.

I believe that the magazine of true science fiction is a standard scientific textbook. To the one who is seeking the light of scientific knowledge, science fiction is the broad and pleasant avenue toward the goal. For the layman to be well posted on scientific matters is to be well read on science fiction.

A few months ago I could not understand the fourth-dimension, that is, as the scientific world regards it. Today I do understand it, as it is understood in theory, of course, and I owe it to science fiction. True, the majority of writers are practically individual in their theories, but by weighing these and comparing them one can eventually reach the general explanation.

To the earnest reader of science fiction the world takes on new aspects. The weakness of humanity is becoming too familiar with the world as it is. The secret of advancement, I believe, is through science fiction, and as I read I look upon the things of today as old things, while the new is yet to be attained.

My worldly self rebels at the thought of whirling worlds within the atom; yet there is that within me which believes. The disbelief lies in the tendency to accept only that which we can see and feel, and otherwise comprehend through our five senses. This tendency grows upon us if we neglect to pierce beyond the commonplace.

To me science fiction is the door to the world of explanation. It is the telescope that reveals the gleam of future achievement, the microscope that reveals the fundamentals of that achievement. Through science fiction I can sense the harmony of a world growing ever better and better, of a humanity of brotherly-love, of a civilization nearing ultimate perfection. True, science fiction is a harsh master. It is no respecter of beliefs, being rather, through what has been termed extravagant fiction, a reminder of cold fact. Yet to me it is a pleasure to be so reminded of the task that is before us, of the old that is about us and of the new which we must attain.

Science fiction means to me all that is worthwhile, for it is the forerunner of that which is to come. It is the ship upon which I sail unchartered seas, and the ship that brings me home again, a better man because of the knowledge. I have gained what were once unknown lands. But I am not a "landlubber," and I can hardly wait to set sail once more. So here goes for the magazine stand.

                                                                                       B.S. Moore,
                                                                                 Walhalla, S.C.

I would suggest that "B.S. Moore" sounds like a pseudonym for an inveterate liar, but this is a clean, CLEAN website.

No comments: