An image of Amazing Stories.
An image of Amazing Stories.
An image of Science Wonder Stories.
An image of Captain Future.

Magazines were the main source of science fiction from 1926 until the early 1950s. Today there are relatively few science fiction magazines and most science fiction initially appears in book form.

The first American science fiction magazine was Amazing Stories, which was edited and published by Hugo Gernsback. The first issue, April 1926, featured a cover illustration by Frank R. Paul for Off on a Comet by Jules Verne, as well as the the story "The Man from the Atom" by Delaware author G. Peyton Wertenbaker. Gernsback called the subject of his new magazine "scientifiction" and emphasized the need for scientific accuracy. Most of the early issues were composed of reprints of stories by earlier authors such as Edgar Allan Poe and H. G. Wells, and translations of German and French science fiction.

The golden era of science fiction magazines began with Astounding Science Fiction, the first and most famous pulp science fiction magazine, which debuted in January 1930. John W. Campbell, Jr., its most important editor, is credited with turning the genre away from adventure stories on alien planets toward better written, scientifically literate stories. Stories by Frank Herbert, Isaac Asimov, A.E. van Vogt, Arthur C. Clarke, Fritz Leiber and many other famous writers all first appeared under Campbell's editorship.

Small-sized science fiction magazines in the digest format began appearing in the 1940s. The first to change to this size was Astounding in 1943. Under the editorship of Cele Goldsmith, Amazing Stories was tranformed from pulp-style adventure stories to more literary science fiction and included the first stories of Roger Zelazny and Ursula LeGuin. Other major digests, which published more literary science fiction, were The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Galaxy Science Fiction, and if. There also was no shortage of digests that continued the pulp tradition. Other Worlds and Imaginative Tales had no literary pretensions.

A new generation of writers also were attracted to the digests, which is where Ray Bradbury and Walter M. Miller Jr. first published their most famous stories. Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 first appeared in Galaxy Science Fiction and Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

The circulation of science fiction magazines has steadily decreased for the past twenty years although new formats have been attempted. These included web-zines, which gained some popularity at the beginning of the twenty-first century, but none have attained the importance and popularity of the earlier magazines.

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Last modified: 03/12/09