Not too long ago, for the low, low price of one thin dime, you could prowl the back alleys of a dark and seedy city in search of gangsters and racketeers, ride the range in pursuit of horse thieves and cattle rustlers, soar through the clouds on missions of daring and intrigue, confront eldritch horrors that could drive men mad with but a glance, voyage far beneath the sea in search of lost civilizations, and blast off for the uncharted regions of the galaxy. How, you ask? Simple: by buying one of the many pulp magazines that appeared on newsstands throughout America during the first half of the twentieth century.
In the days before television and video games, the pulps, square-bound magazines printed on cheap wood pulp paper (hence the name), most often bearing garish, eye-catching covers, were a prime source of entertainment for adults and children alike. Fans could follow the adventures of Doc Savage or the Shadow, or perhaps lose themselves in the hard-boiled crime fiction of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, or Robert Leslie Bellem. Best of all, though, were the science fiction pulps, with amazing and astounding stories of life on other planets, hideous aliens, streamlined rocket ships, and all kinds of futuristic devices.
Hugo Gernsback paved the way in 1926 with the first issue of Amazing Stories, a magazine devoted to "scientifiction," as Gernsback called it (the term "science fiction" wouldn't be heard until 1947, and "sci-fi" had to wait until Forrest J Ackerman coined the term in 1954).
One of the seminal science fiction publications, The Amazing Stories magazine introduced the time-lost Buck Rogers to the world, as well as a number of important authors, including Arthur Merritt, Edward E. "Doc" Smith, Fritz Lieber, Clifford D. Simak, Ray Bradbury,L. Ron Hubbard, Robert Heinlein, and Theodore Sturgeon. Amazing's chief competitor was, "Astounding Science Fiction", which debuted in 1930 with an initial emphasis on more action-oriented sci-fi stories than were being presented in Amazing. In 1937, John W. Campbell became the editor of the magazine, and revamped it to focus on more thoughtful and literary tales of science fiction and fantasy. The result was a sales blockbuster.
Amazing and Astounding magazines, were the best of the science fiction pulps, but the field was virtually limitless, with dozens of titles published each month. With so many pages to fill, editors were always on the lookout for writers who could turn out good stories quickly, and on a regular basis.
Some of the greatest sci-fi writers of our time are now thrilling a new generation of fans to read sci-fi pulp fiction or experience them in audio book form. Sci-fi pulps are alive and well again due to their extraordinary ability to entertain, just as they did in the golden age of pulp fiction!