Amazing and Fantastic Stories Magazines

Amazing Stories is an American science fiction magazine launched in April 1926 by Hugo Gernsback's Experimenter Publishing. It was the first magazine devoted solely to science fiction. Before Amazing, science fiction stories had made regular appearances in other magazines, including some published by Gernsback, but Amazing helped define and launch a new genre of pulp fiction. Fantastic was an American digest-size fantasy and science fiction magazine, published from 1952 to 1980. It was founded by Ziff-Davis as a fantasy companion to Amazing Stories. Early sales were good, and Ziff-Davis quickly decided to switch Amazing from pulp format to digest, and to cease publication of their other science fiction pulp, Fantastic Adventures. Within a few years sales fell, and Howard Browne, the editor, was forced to switch the focus to science fiction rather than fantasy.When Sol Cohen bought both Amazing and Fantastic in early 1965, he decided to maximize profits by filling the magazines almost entirely with reprints. Cohen had acquired second serial rights from Ziff-Davis to all stories that had been printed in both magazines, and also in the companion magazines such as Fantastic Adventures. Joseph Wrzos, the new editor, persuaded Cohen that at least one new story should appear in each issue; there was sufficient inventory left over from Goldsmith's tenure for this to be done without acquiring new material. Readers initially approved of the policy, since it made available some well-loved stories from earlier decades that had not been reprinted elsewhere. Both of Wrzos's successors, Harry Harrison and Barry Malzberg, were unable to persuade Cohen to use more new fiction.

When Ted White in took over in 1969, it was on condition that the reprints be phased out. This took some time: for a while both Amazing and Fantastic continued to include one reprint every issue. With the May 1972 issue, however, the transformation was complete, and all stories were new. In addition to eliminating the reprints, White reintroduced several features such as a letter column and "The Clubhouse," a fanzine review and fannish news column, and continued the book review column, as well as a series of science articles by Gregory Benford and David Book. He also redesigned the look of the magazine, making it, in science fiction historian Mike Ashley's words, "far more modern and sophisticated".

White was willing to print a variety of fiction, with traditional stories side-by-side with more experimental material that was influenced by the British New Wave or by 1960s psychedelia. In 1971 he serialized Ursula K. Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven, about a man whose dreams can modify reality. One writer who was influenced by this was James Tiptree, Jr., who later wrote that "after first plowing into the first pulpy pages of the 1971 Amazing in which Lathe came out, my toe-nails began to curl under and my spine hair stood up." White's willingness to experiment led to Amazing running more stories with sexual content than other magazines. One such story, White's own "Growing Up Fast in the City", was criticized as pornographic by some of Amazing's readers. Other stories, such as Rich Brown's "Two of a Kind", about the violent rape of a black woman and the subsequent death of her rapists, also led to controversy. White also printed more conventional fiction, however, much of it of high quality. The magazine was nominated for the Hugo award (a readers' award, named for Hugo Gernsback) for best editor three times during his tenure (1970, 1971 and 1972), finishing third each time.

White's ability to attract new writers suffered because of the low rates he paid: one cent per word, as compared to three or five cents per word at the leading competitive magazines. To compensate, White cultivated new writers whose experimental work was not selling elsewhere. White made a deal in 1971 with Gordon Eklund, who was hesitating to become a full-time writer because of the financial risks. White agreed to buy anything Eklund wrote, on condition that Eklund himself believed it was a good story. The result was that much of Eklund's fiction appeared in Amazing and Fantastic over the next few years.

Amazing's reputation had been for formulaic science fiction almost since it began, but White was able to bring the magazine to a higher standard than any other editor except Cele Goldsmith, and gave Amazing a respectable position in the field. His successors were not able to maintain the level of quality that he achieved.

We are lucky enough to have complete series from 1971 - 1979 of both magazines during the high point of Ted White’s editorship. 


                                                                                                                 Two Paperback anthologies from the magazines.