Planet Stories

The March 1951 issue of Planet Stories; art by Allen Anderson

Planet Stories was an American pulp science fiction magazine, published by Fiction House between 1939 and 1955. It featured interplanetary adventures, both in space and on some other planets, and was initially focused on a young readership. Malcolm Reiss was editor or editor-in-chief for all of its 71 issues. Planet Stories was launched at the same time as Planet Comics, the success of which probably helped to fund the early issues of Planet Stories. Planet Stories did not pay well enough to regularly attract the leading science fiction writers of the day, but occasionally obtained work from well-known authors, including Isaac Asimov and Clifford D. Simak. In 1952 Planet Stories published Philip K. Dick's first sale, and printed four more of his stories over the next three years.

The two writers most identified with Planet Stories are Leigh Brackett and Ray Bradbury, both of whom set many of their stories on a romanticized version of Mars that owed much to the depiction of Barsoom in the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Bradbury's work for Planet included an early story in his Martian Chronicles sequence. Brackett's best-known work for the magazine was a series of adventures featuring Eric John Stark, which began in the summer of 1949. Brackett and Bradbury collaborated on one story, "Lorelei of the Red Mist", which appeared in 1946; it was generally well-received, although one letter to the magazine complained that the story's treatment of sex, though mild by modern standards, was too explicit. The artwork also emphasized attractive women, with a scantily clad damsel in distress or alien princess on almost every cover.

Publication history

Planet Stories published Graham Ingels's only cover for a science fiction pulp in 1944.

Although science fiction (sf) had been published before the 1920s, it did not begin to coalesce into a separately marketed genre until the appearance in 1926 of Amazing Stories, a pulp magazine published by Hugo Gernsback. By the end of the 1930s the field was undergoing its first boom.[1] Fiction House, a major pulp publisher, had run into difficulties during the Depression, but after a relaunch in 1934 found success with detective and romance pulp titles. Fiction House's first title with sf interest was Jungle Stories, which was launched in early 1939; it was not primarily a science fiction magazine, but often featured storylines with marginally science fictional themes, such as survivors from Atlantis. At the end of 1939, Fiction House decided to add an sf magazine to its lineup; it was titled Planet Stories, and was published by Love Romances, a subsidiary company that had been created to publish Fiction House's romance titles. The first issue was dated Winter 1939. Two comics were launched at the same time: Jungle Comics and Planet Comics; both were published monthly, whereas Planet Stories was quarterly, and it is quite likely that the success of the comics funded the early issues of the pulps.[2]

Malcolm Reiss edited Planet Stories from the beginning, and retained editorial oversight and control throughout its run, though he was not always the named editor on the masthead; when other editors were involved, his title was "managing editor".[3] The first of these sub-editors was Wilbur S. Peacock, who took over with the Fall 1942 issue and remained until Fall 1945, after which he was replaced by Chester Whitehorn for three issues, and then by Paul L. Payne, from Fall 1946 to Spring 1950.[3]

With the Summer 1950 issue the editorship passed to Jerome Bixby, who was already editing Jungle Stories. Soon thereafter Planet Stories switched from a quarterly to bimonthly schedule. Bixby lasted a little over a year; Malcolm Reiss took over again in September 1951, and three issues later, in March 1952, Jack O'Sullivan became editor.[4] A contemporary market survey records that in 1953, payment rates were only one to two cents per word; this was substantially less than the leading magazines of the day.[5][6][notes 1] Planet Stories returned to a quarterly schedule beginning with the Summer 1954 issue, but the pulp market was collapsing, and the Summer 1955 issue was the final one.[4]

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