Astounding Stories

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February 1931. JMU’s oldest issue.

The longest running science fiction magazine, Analog Science Fiction & Fact, began as a news stand pulp magazine in 1930 called Astounding Stories in imitation of the successful magazine, Amazing Stories, which often carried tales about the wonderful possibilities of science.

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William Clayton, a successful pulp publisher, first called his magazine Astounding Stories of Super-Science to stress that it would only cover science fiction, but then the Super-Science title was dropped after the first year. Astounding Stories would sell well during the Depression, introducing many readers to the genre by focusing on adventure stories that just happened to include elements of future science.

 

Credit problems eventually forced the magazine to be sold to Street & Smith in 1933. The new publishers pushed the stories beyond mere adventure tales into explorations about the consequences of science and technology on our lives.

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John Wood Campbell took over as editor in 1937 and changed the name to Astounding Science Fiction the following year. He shaped the magazine into one of the leading voices in the development of American science fiction over the next thirty years. Isaac Asimov, L. Ron Hubbard, Clifford Simak, and Lester del Ray were recognized as leading authors in the field because of their early stories in the magazine. Campbell created a new human focus for the fantastical stories of future technologies and alien worlds.

Astounding-1941-02_001Just like most magazine advertising of the time, cigarettes and liquor were commonly promoted in the big, glossy ads of Astounding Science Fiction, but there were also many smaller notices for things such as training schools and medical devices. The ads – like this horse peddling whiskey in 1946 – are an important part of what students use these magazines for in learning more about the era and the history of media.

Astounding-1946-04_002JMU Special Collections now hold dozens of these important science fiction issues, which join our growing collection of major pulp magazines such as Black Mask, Weird Tales, and Amazing Stories from the years before World War Two. Students and researchers can find a wealth of material about the cultural history of 20th century America and the significant writers of the time with these collections.

Astounding-1950-05_001In 1960, the name of the magazine changed again, this time to Analog Science Fact & Fiction. Analog continues to sell today and can look back on decades of carrying some of the country’s best science fiction stories. JMU will be expanding our holdings of the magazine to make these great issues available for decades to come.

 

 

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About Mark Peterson

Rare Books and Research Services Librarian at James Madison University Libraries.

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