Other Worlds, Universe Science Fiction, and Science Stories

The first issue of Other Worlds; cover art by Malcolm Smith

Other Worlds, Universe Science Fiction, and Science Stories were three related US magazines edited by Raymond A. Palmer. Other Worlds was launched in November 1949 by Palmer's Clark Publications and lasted for four years in its first run, with well-received stories such as "Enchanted Village" by A. E. van Vogt and "Way in the Middle of the Air", one of Ray Bradbury's "Martian Chronicle" stories. Since Palmer was both publisher and editor, he was free to follow his own editorial policy, and presented a wide array of science fiction.

Palmer entered a partnership with a Chicago businessman in 1953 to create Bell Publications, and printed Universe Science Fiction from June 1953. Palmer used the new company to abandon Other Worlds and launch Science Stories, in order to escape from Clark Publications' financial difficulties. Hence Science Stories can be considered a continuation of Other Worlds. Science Stories was visually attractive but contained no memorable fiction. Universe, on the other hand, was drab in appearance, but included some well-received stories, such as Theodore Sturgeon's "The World Well Lost", which examined homosexuality, a controversial topic for the time.

Palmer's Chicago partner lost interest, so he took over both Science Stories and Universe Science Fiction under a new company. In 1955 he culled both magazines and brought back Other Worlds, numbering the issues to make the new magazine appear a continuation of both the original Other Worlds and also of Universe. In this new incarnation the magazine was less successful, but did print Marion Zimmer Bradley's first novel, Falcons of Narabedla. In 1957 Palmer changed the focus of the magazine to unidentified flying objects (UFOs), retitling it Flying Saucers from Other Worlds, and after the September 1957 issue no more fiction appeared. Palmer eventually settled on Flying Saucers, Mysteries of the Space Age as the title, and in that form it survived until June 1976.

Publishing history

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1949 1/1
1950 1/2 1/3 1/4 2/1 2/2 2/3 2/4
1951 3/1 3/2 3/3 3/4 4/1 3/6 3/7
1952 3/5 4/2 4/3 4/4 4/5 4/6 4/7 4/8 4/9
1953 5/1 5/2 5/3 5/4 5/5 5/6 5/7
The first four years of Other Worlds, showing volume and issue number. Palmer was editor

In 1945, Raymond Palmer, the editor of Amazing Stories, published "I Remember Lemuria", by Richard Shaver, in the March 1945 issue. The story, about prehistoric civilizations, explained all the disasters on Earth as the work of evil robots. Palmer presented the story as a mixture of truth and fiction, and the response from readers was strong enough that he bought more stories from Shaver, and promoted what he called the "Shaver Mystery". Circulation grew dramatically, but the publisher, Ziff-Davis, became alarmed at the ridicule the stories were drawing in the press, and ordered Palmer to tone down the material. Palmer complied, but planned to leave. He formed his own publishing company, Clark Publications, in 1947, and launched Fate in 1948.[1] In 1949 Palmer left Ziff-Davis, and launched Other Worlds Science Stories in digest format; the editor was listed as Robert N. Webster, a pseudonym Palmer used to conceal his activities since he was still working at Ziff-Davis when the first issue appeared.[2] Palmer had planned to distribute free copies of the first issue to fans at that year's World Science Fiction Convention in Cincinnati. Printing delays meant the magazine did not appear until late in the year.[3] At the convention Palmer announced that "Robert N. Webster" was his pseudonym, and gave the convention organizers the original artwork for the first issue for auction.[4] He also met, and immediately hired, Bea Mahaffey, a Cleveland fan, as his managing editor, starting with the fourth issue, dated May 1950.[3][4]

Palmer planned another science fiction (sf) title, Imagination, to be launched in the fall of 1950,[5] but in June, he suffered a serious accident and was temporarily paralyzed, and Mahaffey took over in his absence. Palmer was able to help with editing both magazines even while in the hospital, but by September he decided to sell Imagination to William Hamling, and keep Other Worlds.[5][6] Despite the high cover price of 35 cents, Other Worlds did well enough for Palmer to increase the publication frequency from bimonthly to every six weeks, but faced competition from two new magazines launched at about the same time: The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, the first issue of which had appeared at the end of 1949, and Galaxy Science Fiction, which published its first issue in October 1950.[6][7] Both were very successful, with higher budgets than Palmer was able to afford, and Other Worlds suffered as a result.[6] The magazine was doing well enough for Palmer to move it to monthly publication at the end of 1952. It stayed on a regular schedule until the July 1953 issue,[8] but Palmer's finances eventually worsened to the point that he was unable to pay his printer.[9]

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1953 1 2
1954 3 4
The four issues of Science Stories, showing issue number; all four were edited by Palmer and Mahaffey.

Palmer was contacted by a Chicago businessman interested in starting a sf magazine, and took the opportunity to resolve his financial problems by forming a new company, Bell Publications, in partnership with the businessman (whose name was never revealed), and starting two magazines: Universe Science Fiction and Science Stories.[9] Universe's first issue appeared in June 1953, while Other Worlds was still being published. It was financed by Palmer's partner, and intended as a bimonthly, though in fact the first four issues were on a quarterly schedule. It was edited by Palmer and Mahaffey, who used the collective pseudonym "George Bell" for the first two issues.[10] Science Stories followed in October, also edited by Palmer and Mahaffey as "George Bell", and published by Bell Publications;[11] this was effectively the same magazine as Other Worlds Science Stories, with "Other Worlds" dropped from the title.[8] In the second issue of Science Stories, Palmer explained the reason for the new magazine: "For a variety of reasons—and let's be honest, most of them were financial—we had to make a spur-of-the-moment decision to discontinue Other Worlds and replace it with the magazine you are now reading. We phoned the typesetter, halted work on the August OW, and lifted the editorial and stories we needed for Science Stories No. 1 from OW material on hand".[12] Subscribers to Other Worlds were given the option to continue their subscription with whichever of the two magazines they preferred.[12]

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1953 1 2 3
1954 4 5 6 7 8
1955 9 10 11 (32) 12 (33) 13 (34) 14 (35)
1956 15 (36) 16 (37) 17 (38) 18 (39) 19 (40)
1957 20 (41) 21 (42) 22 (43) 23 24 25 26 27
1958 28 29 30 31 32
Universe and Other Worlds, including the first few issues of Flying Saucers, showing issue numbers. Palmer and Mahaffey
edited the ten issues of Universe, and Palmer was the editor for the subsequent issues.

When the anonymous businessman lost interest in the project Palmer bought him out, financed by the sale of his half share in Clark Publications, which had published Other Worlds and Fate. He founded Palmer Publications and took over the new magazines with Universe's third issue and Science Stories' second issue, and abandoned the pseudonym.[9][13] He launched Mystic Magazine, which, like Fate, published occult material, both fact and fiction.[13][14] Science Stories failed to sell well,[15] and ceased to appear after the April 1954 issue, but Universe continued, going bimonthly after the March 1954 issue.[10][11] A total of ten issues appeared under the title Universe Science Fiction, and with the May 1955 issue the title Other Worlds Science Fiction reappeared.[10][16] The new version of Other Worlds initially carried both Universe's numbering and the issue numbering from the original run of Other Worlds.[16] Palmer closed the offices in Evanston, Illinois, and edited the magazine from his home in Wisconsin; Mahaffey continued to work on the magazine by mail from Cincinnati. From November 1955 the format changed to pulp size: this was against the prevailing market winds, as almost all the pulps had died out by this time.[13] In 1956 an unexpected tax bill forced Palmer to let Mahaffey go, and he ran the magazine by himself from that point on.[17]

The following year Palmer switched the magazine's focus to flying saucers. To try to maintain the existing readership while attracting new readers, Palmer emphasized sf and flying saucers in alternate issues: for example, the June 1957 issue was titled FLYING SAUCERS from Other Worlds, and the July issue was Flying Saucers from OTHER WORLDS. He also hoped that each issue would be kept longer on newsstands if the distributors thought they were dealing with two magazines. The experiment did not last; from the July/August 1958 issue the title was shortened to Flying Saucers, and the magazine ceased to carry fiction.[18][19][20] Palmer retired to Amherst, Wisconsin, and took over its printing.[19] Bibliographic sources focus on the science fiction issues, and do not index the magazine after 1958, but it continued publication until 1976 as a non-fiction magazine.[2][21][22]

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