World Fantasy Con Visit #WFC13, Brighton – SF Genre Magazines

Brian is back in Brighton and back in his old stomping ground – the Metropole Hotel – for the World Fantasy Convention this weekend. His visit kicked off with a panel discussing the demise of the genre magazine. He was joined by equally greyed hair co-panellists Robert K Weiner, publisher of illustrated horror, William F Nolan, author of Logan’s Run, Malcolm Edwards of Orion & subsidiary Gollancz & founder of Interzone Magazine, and moderator Gordon Van Gelder, editor & publisher of Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine (first published 1949).

The distinguished panel - left to right - Robert K Weiner, William F Nolan, Gordon Van Gelder, Brian Aldiss & Malcolm Edwards
The distinguished panel – left to right – Robert K Weiner, William F Nolan, Gordon Van Gelder, Brian Aldiss & Malcolm Edwards

The discussion started around how the genre magazine format became more of a Readers Digest magazine but was seriously impacted by the paperback boom of the 50s and 60s.

WFN – It was easy to sell SF stories to magazines back then. Planet Stories was one of the last pulp publications to stop.
BWA – Back then there were good libraries in the UK, but they didn’t lend. Hugo Gernsback popped up in Luxembourg and published Amazing Stories… he believed that he’d invented SF. SF is all based on assumptions. It’s a Victorian assumption that space is a void, but is actually teaming with particles which mean we may never actually get to Mars!
METales of Wonder was published 16 times in the 30s but the paper ran out when the 2nd World War started. Back then US magazines came to the UK as ballast in ships! Half the stories were ripped out. UK magazines in the 40’s were very thin things. New Worlds was started by fans, just like Interzone 40 years later. The late 40s was when fan power really kicked off.
BWAJohn W Campbell knew his stuff and would advise his authors on what to write. “If you’ve written a novel it’s best if you have a one-word title” i.e. Hothouse. If you’ve written a story but haven’t thought of a title, scrap the story!
ME – Foreign titles such as Hugip(?) and Der Orkidgarten were published by guys who went to the same German college.
GVG – Readers Digest was the biggest success – Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine followed suit. Fiction was supposed to be digested in less small a format! Distribution was the problem. The 50’s saw dozens of distributors shrink down to just 6 by the end of the decade. Analog, Weird Tales, Interzone, On Spec, Space Ways were left.
WFN – The internet is where this is happening now and unless you’re also published online you don’t get published. Jason V Brock is pioneering this new style. Publications are like a trade paperback but called a magazine. This is the future.
RMF – with sales steadily declining a number of them died off. The internet has turned all this on it’s head. Distribution channels have changed.
GVG – new stand sales are still in decline. There is a lack of distribution, not readership.
ME – I read rabidly through SF in my local library. I saw new SF magazines monthly on the shelf at my local kiosk. SF is still published prolifically but it’s not labelled that way.
GVG – we agree that SF isn’t discovered in the same way online as offline (Ed: I disagree!).
BWAModern Boy Magazine – Murray Roberts aka Captain Justice – childhood hero. Lived on a platform mid-Atlantic and was both US and British.
WFN – the future is electronic. Started Gamma Magazine with Charles Fish in the 50s but it was killed by distribution. It was never unloaded from the truck and then we were charged for having it sent back.
RMW – print and digital will both continue to co-exist
ME – SF magazines have been enduring. There aren’t many new ones round now so it’s the old classics that last. Shadow Magazine and Doc Savage in the 30’s sold huge volumes; SF sold far fewer. When they got 2 or 3 fans together they’d decide to start a magazine.
GVG – SF & Fantasy work better as short stories – suspense/thrillers don’t trim down
BWA – SF asks popular question – why, how & what are we doing.
WFN – SF is trending towards High Fantasy which is not purist.
BWA – SF & fantasy have now united so it’s harder to differentiate

#WFC13 Signing Alley Brian signing Malcolm Edward's latest 1950's purchase!


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