Science-Fiction Plus

Cover of the first issue of Science-Fiction Plus; art is by Alex Schomburg[1]

Science-Fiction Plus was an American science fiction magazine published by Hugo Gernsback for seven issues in 1953. In 1926, Gernsback had launched Amazing Stories, the first science fiction magazine, but he had not been involved in the genre since 1936, when he sold Wonder Stories. Science-Fiction Plus was initially in slick format, meaning that it was large-size and printed on glossy paper. Gernsback had always believed in the educational power of science fiction, and he continued to advocate his views in the new magazine's editorials. The managing editor, Sam Moskowitz, had been a reader of the early pulp magazines, and published many writers who had been popular before World War II, such as Raymond Z. Gallun, Eando Binder, and Harry Bates. Combined with Gernsback's earnest editorials, the use of these early writers gave the magazine an anachronistic feel.

Sales were initially good, but soon fell. For the last two issues Gernsback switched the magazine to cheaper pulp paper, but the magazine remained unprofitable. The final issue was dated December 1953.

In addition to the older writers he published, Moskowitz was able to obtain fiction from some of the better-known writers of the day, including Clifford Simak, Murray Leinster, Robert Bloch, and Philip José Farmer, and some of their stories were well-received, including "Spacebred Generations", by Simak, "Strange Compulsion", by Farmer, and "Nightmare Planet", by Leinster. He also published several new writers, but only one, Anne McCaffrey, went on to a successful career in the field. Science fiction historians consider the magazine a failed attempt to reproduce the early days of the science fiction pulps.

Publication history

The first science fiction (sf) magazine, Amazing Stories, was launched in 1926 by Hugo Gernsback at the height of the pulp magazine era.[2][3] It helped to form science fiction as a separately marketed genre,[2] and although Gernsback lost control of Amazing Stories in a bankruptcy in 1929, he quickly started several more sf magazines, including Air Wonder Stories and Science Wonder Stories.[3] The two magazines were soon combined as Wonder Stories, which lasted until 1936, when Gernsback sold it to Ned Pines of Beacon Magazines.[4] Gernsback remained in the publishing business as proprietor of several profitable magazines, but he did not return to the sf field for nearly seventeen years, when Science-Fiction Plus appeared.[5]

Gernsback hired Sam Moskowitz to edit the new magazine, and produced a dummy issue in November 1952 that was never distributed or intended for sale; it was printed for trademark purposes, and contained only stories by Gernsback himself, under his own name and several pseudonyms. The first issue produced for sale was dated March 1953. It was a slick, meaning that it was in large format and was printed on high-quality paper; this was a step up from the cheap paper used in the leading science fiction magazines of the day, and sf historian Mike Ashley notes that in theory this should have given Gernsback a marketing edge. The price, 35 cents, was also competitive. Sales were initially good, and Science-Fiction Plus remained on a monthly schedule until June, but when the circulation began to slip, the magazine became bimonthly beginning with the August issue. Gernsback distributed Science-Fiction Plus along with his technical magazines, and if the circulation of the new magazine had been comparable to that of his other titles, it would have been profitable despite the more expensive slick paper, but sales were insufficient for it to continue. In October Gernsback cut costs by switching to cheaper pulp paper, but only one further issue, dated December 1953, appeared.[5][6]