Enter a Huge Archive of Amazing Stories, the World’s First Science Fiction Magazine, Launched in 1926

If you haven’t heard of Hugo Gernsback, you’ve surely heard of the Hugo Award. Next to the Nebula, it’s the most prestigious of science fiction prizes, bringing together in its ranks of winners such venerable authors as Ursula K. Le Guin, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, Neil Gaiman, Isaac Asimov, and just about every other sci-fi and fantasy luminary you could think of. It is indeed fitting that such an honor should be named for Gernsback, the Luxembourgian-American inventor who, in April of 1926, began publishing “the first and longest-running English-language magazine dedicated to what was then not quite yet called ‘science fiction,’” notes University of Virginia’s Andrew Ferguson at The Pulp Magazines Project. Amazing Stories provided an “exclusive outlet” for what Gernsback first called “scientifiction,” a genre he would “for better and for worse, define for the modern era.” You can read and download hundreds of Amazing Stories issues, from the first year of its publication to the last, at the Internet Archive.

Like the extensive list of Hugo Award winners, the back catalog of Amazing Stories encompasses a host of geniuses: Le Guin, Asimov, H.G. Wells, Philip K. Dick, J.G. Ballard, and many hundreds of lesser-known writers. But the magazine “was slow to develop,” writes Scott Van Wynsberghe. Its lurid covers lured some readers in, but its "first two years were dominated by preprinted material,” and Gernsback developed a reputation for financial dodginess and for not paying his writers well or at all.




By 1929, he sold the magazine and moved on to other ventures, none of them particularly successful. Amazing Stories soldiered on, under a series of editors and with widely varying readerships until it finally succumbed in 2005, after almost eighty years of publication. But that is no small feat in such an often unpopular field, with a publication, writes Ferguson, that was very often perceived as “garish and nonliterary.”

In hindsight, however, we can see Amazing Stories as a sci-fi time capsule and almost essential feature of the genre’s history, even if some of its content tended more toward the young adult adventure story than serious adult fiction. Its flashy covers set the bar for pulp magazines and comic books, especially in its run up to the fifties. After 1955, the year of the first Hugo Award, the magazine reached its peak under the editorship of Cele Goldsmith, who took over in 1959. Gone was much of the eyepopping B-movie imagery of the earlier covers. Amazing Stories acquired a new level of relative polish and sophistication, and published many more “literary” writers, as in the 1959 issue above, which featured a “Book-Length Novel by Robert Bloch.”

This trend continued into the seventies, as you can see in the issue above, with a “complete short novel by Gordon Eklund” (and early fiction by George R.R. Martin). In 1982, Ferguson writes, Amazing Stories was sold “to Gary Gygax of D&D fame, and would never again regain the prominence it had before.” The magazine largely returned to its pulp roots, with covers that resembled those of supermarket paperbacks. Great writers continued to appear, however. And the magazine remained an important source for new science fiction—though much of it only in hindsight. As for Gernsback, his reputation waned considerably after his death in 1967.

“Within a decade,” writes Van Wynsberghe, “science fiction pundits were debating whether or not he had created a ‘ghetto’ for hack writers.” In 1986, novelist Brian Aldiss called Gernsback “one of the worst disasters ever to hit the science fiction field.” His 1911 novel, the ludicrously named Ralph 124C 41+: A Romance of the Year 2660 is considered “one of the worst science fiction novels in history,” writes Matthew Lasar. It may seem odd that the Oscar of the sci-fi world should be named for such a reviled figure. And yet, despite his pronounced lack of literary ability, Gernsback was a visionary. As a futurist, he made some startlingly accurate predictions, along with some not-so-accurate ones. As for his significant contribution to a new form of writing, writes Lasar, “It was in Amazing Stories that Gernsback first tried to nail down the science fiction idea.” As Ray Bradbury supposedly said, “Gernsback made us fall in love with the future.” Enter the Amazing Stories Internet Archive here.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

 

Free: 355 Issues of Galaxy, the Groundbreaking 1950s Science Fiction Magazine

Along with Astounding Science Fiction and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Galaxy Magazine was one of the most important science fiction digests in 1950s America. Ray Bradbury wrote for it--including an early version of his masterpiece Fahrenheit 451--as did Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Frederik Pohl, Theodore Sturgeon, Cordwainer Smith, Jack Vance, and numerous others.

Now a fairly decent collection of issues (355 in total) is available for your perusal at archive.org for absolutely free. It’s not complete yet, but it’s close.




When Galaxy appeared in October 1950, it promised a kind of science-fiction different from the space operas of previous decades. As an “annual report” written by publisher H.L. Gold proclaimed,

...other publishers thought the idea of offering mature science fiction in an attractive, adult format was downright funny. They knew what sold--shapely female endomorphs with bronze bras, embattled male mesomorphs clad in muscle, and frightful alien monsters in search of a human soul.

And while Astounding Science Fiction was focused on technology--suited for an America that had fundamentally changed since WWII--H.L. Gold’s Galaxy focused on ideas, humor, satire, psychology and sociology. It also had one of the best pay rates in the industry, and offered some of its writers exclusive contracts. And the writers responded in kind and followed their own obsessions--although Gold often pitched ideas.

(Ironically, though immersed in stories of inner and outer space, Gold was an acute agoraphobe, and stayed in his apartment, communicating by phone.)

After a wobbly start graphics-wise, Gold hired Ed Emshwiller in 1951 to paint covers, whose often humorous style (e.g. this Christmas issue below) suited the humor inside the issue.

Confident in their stable of writers, Galaxy produced the wonderful birthday cover at the top, featuring caricatures of everybody from Bradbury to Asimov. There’s also a guide to see who’s who.

A series of editors--including Frederik Pohl--took over from Gold after a car accident in 1961, and by 1977--eight years after Pohl's departure--the magazine was on its decline. There were more iterations, reprints, anthologies, and online versions, but the essential run is here. And those first ten years changed American science-fiction forever, paving the way for experimental writers like Philip K. Dick and William Gibson.

You could start with the Ray Bradbury story (“The Fireman”) we told you about, or Robert A. Heinlein’s “The Puppet Masters.”

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast and is the producer of KCRW's Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

Download 36 Dadaist Magazines from the The Digital Dada Archive (Plus Other Avant-Garde Books, Leaflets & Ephemera)

In searching for a treasure trove of publications springing from the avant-garde, deliberately irrational, early 20th-century European "anti-art" art movement known as Dada, where would you first look? Many corners of the world's historic cultural capitals may come right to mind, but might we suggest the University of Iowa? Even if you don't feel like traveling to the middle of the United States to plunge into an archive of highly purposeful nonsense, you can view their impressive collection of Dada periodicals (36 in total), books, leaflets, and ephemera online.

"Founded in 1979 as part of the Dada Archive and Research Center, the International Dada Archive is a scholarly resource for the study of the historic Dada movement," says its front page. The collection contains "works by and about the Dadaists including books, articles, microfilmed manuscript collections, videorecordings, sound recordings, and online resources," and in its digital form it "provides links to scanned images of original Dada-era publications in the International Dada Archive," including the influential Dada and 291, as well as "many of the major periodicals of the Dada movement from Zurich, Berlin, Paris, and elsewhere, as well as books, exhibition catalogs, and broadsides by participants in the Dada movement." (Note: if you click on magazines in the collection, you can download the various pages.)

The history of the archive, written by Timothy Shipe, also addresses an important question: "Why Iowa? One answer lies in a clear affinity between the Dada movement and this University. The internationalist, multilingual, multimedia nature of Dada makes Iowa, with its International Writers' Program, its Writers' Workshop, its Center for Global Studies, its Translation Workshop and Center, its dynamic programs in music, dance, art, theater, film, literature, and languages, an especially appropriate place to house the Dada Archive. A brief glance at the history of Dada will make this affinity clear."

 

You can learn more about that history from the Dada material we've previously featured here on Open Culture: the video series The ABCs of Dada which explains the movement (or at least explains it as well as anyone can hope to); the material we gathered in celebration of its hundredth anniversary last year; and three essential Dadaist films by Hans Richter, Man Ray, and Marcel Duchamp. That will put into clearer context the 36 journals you can peruse in the University of Iowa's Digital Dada Archive, some of which put out many issues, some of which stopped after the first, and all of which offer a glimpse of an artistic spirit, scattered across several different countries, which flared up briefly but brightly with anarchic energy, destructive creativity, a forward-looking aesthetic sense, and no small amount of humor.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Omni, the Iconic Sci-Fi Magazine, Now Digitized in High-Resolution and Available Online

There was a time, not so long ago, when not only could a blockbuster Hollywood comedy make a reference to a science magazine, but everyone in the audience would get that reference. It happened in Ghostbusters, right after the titular boys in gray hit it big with their first high-profile busting of a ghost. In true 1980s style, a success montage followed, in the middle of which appeared the cover of Omni magazine's October 1984 issue which, according to the Ghostbusters Wiki, "featured a Proton Pack and Particle Thrower. The tagline read, 'Quantum Leaps: Ghostbusters' Tools of the Trade.'"

The movie made up that cover, but it didn't make up the publication. In reality, the cover of Omni's October 1984 issue, a special anniversary edition which appears at the top of the magazine's Wikipedia page today, promised predictions of "Love, Work & Play in the 21st Century" from the likes of beloved sci-fi writer Ray Bradbury, social psychologist Stanley Milgram, physicist Gerard O'Neill, trend-watcher John Naisbitt — and, of course, Ronald Reagan. Now you can find that issue of Omni, as well as every other from its 1978-to-1995 run, digitized in high-resolution and made available on Amazon.




"Omni was a magazine about the future," writes Motherboard's Claire Evans, telling the story of "the best science magazine that ever was." In its heyday, it blew minds by regularly featuring extensive Q&As with some of the top scientists of the 20th century–E.O. Wilson, Francis Crick, Jonas Salk–tales of the paranormal, and some of the most important science fiction to ever see magazine publication" by William Gibson, Orson Scott Card, Harlan Ellison, George R. R. Martin — and even the likes of Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, and William S. Burroughs. "By coupling science fiction and cutting-edge science news, the magazine created an atmosphere of possibility, where even the most outrageous ideas seemed to have basis in fact."

Originally founded by Kathy Keeton (formerly, according to Evans, "a South African ballerina who went from being one of the highest-paid strippers in Europe") and Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione, Omni not only had an impact in unexpected areas (the eccentric musical performer Klaus Nomi, himself a cultural innovator, took his name in part from the magazine's) but took steps into the digital realm long before other print publications dared. It first established its online presence on Compuserve in 1986; seven years later, it opened up its archives, along with forums and new content, on America Online, a first for any major magazine. Now Amazon users can purchase Omni's digital back issues for $2.99 each, or read them for free if they have Kindle Unlimited accounts. (You can sign up for a 30-day free trial for Kindle Unlimited and start binge-reading Omni here.)

Jerrick Media, owners of the Omni brand, have also begun to make available on Vimeo on Demand episodes of Omni: The New Frontier, the 1980s syndicated television series hosted by Peter Ustinov. And without paying a dime, you can still browse the fascinating Omni material archived at Omni Magazine Online, an easy way to get a hit of the past's idea of the future — and one presenting, in the words of 1990s editor-in-chief Keith Farrell, "a fascination with science and speculation, literature and art, philosophy and quirkiness, serious speculation and gonzo speculation, the health of the planet and its cultures, our relationship to the universe and its (possible) cultures, and a sense that whatever else, tomorrow would be different from today."

via The Verge

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

 

Discover “Unpaywall,” a New (and Legal) Browser Extension That Lets You Read Millions of Science Articles Normally Locked Up Behind Paywalls

Earlier this month, Impactstory, a nonprofit supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, launched, Unpaywall, a free browser extension that helps you "find open-access versions of paywalled research papers, instantly."

As the co-founders of Impactstory describe itUnpaywall is "an extension for Chrome and Firefox that links you to free full-text as you browse research articles. Hit a paywall? No problem: click the green tab and read it free!"

Their FAQ gets into the mechanics a little more, but here's the gist of how it works: "When you view a paywalled research article, Unpaywall automatically looks for a copy in our index of over 10 million free, legal fulltext PDFs. If we find one, click the green tab to read the article."




While many science publishers put a paywall in front of scientific articles, it's often the case that these articles have been published elsewhere in an open format. "More and more funders and universities are requiring authors to upload copies of their papers to [open] repositories. This has created a deep resource of legal open access papers..." And that's what Unpaywall draws on.

This seems like quite a boon for researchers, journalists, students and policymakers. You can download the Unpaywall extension for Chrome and Firefox, or learn more about the new service at the Unpaywall website.

Note: Over at Metafilter, you can find a good list of sources of, or methods for, obtaining free academic content.

via London School of Economics/Metafilter

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Download 437 Issues of Soviet Photo Magazine, the Soviet Union’s Historic Photography Journal (1926-1991)

The early years of the Soviet Union roiled with internal tensions, intrigues, and ideological warfare, and the new empire’s art reflected its uneasy heterodoxy. Formalists, Futurists, Suprematists, Constructivists, and other schools mingled, published journals, critiqued and reviewed each other’s work, and like modernists elsewhere in the world, experimented with every possible medium, including those just coming into their own at the beginning of the 20th century, like film and photography.

These two mediums, along with radio, also happened to serve as the primary means of propagandizing Soviet citizens and carrying the messages of the Party in ways everyone could understand. And like much of the rest of the world, photography engendered its own consumer culture.




Out of these competing impulses came Soviet Photo (Sovetskoe foto), a monthly photography magazine featuring, writes Ksenia Nouril at the Museum of Modern Art’s site, “editorials, letters, articles, and photographic essays alongside advertisements for photography, photographic processes, and photographic chemicals and equipment.”

Soviet Photo was not founded by artists, but by a photojournalist, Arkady Shaikhet, in 1926 (see the first issue's cover at the top). Though its audience primarily consisted of a “Soviet amateur photographers and photo clubs,” its early years freely mixed documentary, didacticism, and experimental art. It published the “works of international and professional photographers” and that of avant-gardists like Constructivist painter and graphic designer Aleksander Rodchenko.

The aesthetic purges under Stalin---in which artists and writers one after another fell victim to charges of elitism and obscurantism---also played out in the pages of Soviet Photo. “Even before Socialist Realism was decreed to be the official style of the Soviet Union in 1934,” Nouril writes, “the works of avant-garde photographers,” including Rodchenko, “were denounced as formalist (implying that they reflected a foreign and elitist style).” Soviet Photo boycotted Rodchenko’s work in 1928 and “throughout the 1930s this state-sanctioned journal became increasingly conservative,” emphasizing “content over form.”

This does not mean that that the contents of the magazine were inelegant or pedestrian. Though it once briefly bore the name Proletarskoe foto (Proletariat Photography), and tended toward monumental and industrial subjects, war photography, and idealizations of Soviet life during the Stalinist years. After the 60s thaw, experimental photomontages returned, and more abstract compositions became commonplace. Soviet Photo also kept pace with many glossy magazines in the West, with stunning full-color photojournalism and, after glasnost and the fall of the Berlin wall, high fashion and advertising photography.

Fans of photography, Soviet history, or some measure of both, can follow Soviet Photo’s evolution in a huge archive featuring 437 digitized issues, published between 1926 and 1991. Expect to find a gap between 1942 and 1956, when publication ceased “due to World War II and the war’s aftereffects.” Aside from these years and a few other missing months, the archive contains nearly every issue of Soviet Photo, free to browse or download in various formats. “Dig deep enough,” writes photo blog PetaPixel, “and you’ll find some really interesting (and surprisingly familiar) things in there.” Enter the archive here.

 

via PetaPixel

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Rock Scene: Browse a Complete Online Archive of the Irreverent Magazine That Chronicled the 1970s Rock & Punk Scene

The website RockScenester, assembled by Ryan Richardson, has created a complete online archive of Rock Scene magazine, which ran from 1973 through 1982.

In the book There Goes Gravity: A Life in Rock and Roll, Rock Scene's co-founder Lisa Robinson writes, the magazine "was printed on cheap paper and the ink came off on your hands." "It was an irreverent, cult music magazine that documented and glamorized the rise of glamrock and punk rock." "Part fanzine, part tabloid, Rock Scene was where you could see what happened before or after the show, particularly at parties and backstage." "Years after Rock Scene was out out print," Robinson continues, "musicians--Michael Stipe, Duran Duran's Nick Rhodes, Pearl Jam's Jeff Ament, Thurston Moore, Chrissie Hynde and many others--would tell me that they grew up trying to find it in their small towns." They wouldn't have that problem today.

Every single issue of Rock Scene, from 1973 through 1982, has been scanned cover to cover. (Richardson personally dropped $1500 on the project.) You can flip through editions featuring David Bowie (1973), The New York Dolls (1974), Lou Reed (1974), The Rolling Stones (1974), Peter Gabriel (1975), Patti Smith (1976) Robert Plant (1977), The Ramones (1977), Iggy Pop (1977) and Debbie Harry (1982). Or just explore the full archive here. There's 54 in total.

More zines can be found in the Relateds below.

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via @darkshark

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