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 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.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Sci-Fi Radio: Hear Radio Dra­mas of Sci-Fi Sto­ries by Ray Brad­bury, Philip K. Dick, Ursu­la K. LeGuin & More (1989)

Isaac Asimov’s Foun­da­tion Tril­o­gy: Hear the 1973 Radio Drama­ti­za­tion

X Minus One: Hear Clas­sic Sci-Fi Radio Sto­ries from Asi­mov, Hein­lein, Brad­bury & Dick

Lis­ten to 188 Dra­ma­tized Sci­ence Fic­tion Sto­ries by Ursu­la K. Le Guin, Isaac Asi­mov, Philip K. Dick, J.G. Bal­lard & More

Dimen­sion X: The 1950s Sci­Fi Radio Show That Dra­ma­tized Sto­ries by Asi­mov, Brad­bury, Von­negut & More

Hear 6 Clas­sic Philip K. Dick Sto­ries Adapt­ed as Vin­tage Radio Plays

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 and/or watch his films here.

by | Permalink | Comments (2) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (2)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.