Fantastic Story Quarterly

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Earle K. Bergey illustration for the unique circular cover design of Fantastic Story Magazine (January 1953).

Fantastic Story Quarterly was a 1950–55 science fiction pulp magazine which merged pulp reprints with new stories.

It was published on a quarterly schedule by Best Books, a subsidiary imprint of Standard Magazines. Initially priced at 25 cents, the 160-page debut issue appeared in Spring 1950. Beginning with the Summer 1951 issue, it was known as Fantastic Story Magazine until it folded (Spring 1955), leaving a total of 23 issues.

The first editor, Sam Merwin, Jr., left with the Fall 1951 issue. His replacement, Samuel Mines, edited from the Winter 1952 issue until Fall 1954, when he was replaced by Alexander Samalman who edited the last two issues in 1955 (Winter, Spring).[1]

Publication history and contents[edit]

The first science fiction (sf) magazine, Amazing Stories, was launched in 1926 by Hugo Gernsback at the height of the pulp magazine era.[2] It helped to form science fiction as a separately marketed genre,[2] and by the mid-1930s several more sf magazines had appeared, including Wonder Stories, also published by Gernsback.[3] In 1936, Ned Pines of Beacon Publications bought Wonder Stories from Hugo Gernsback.[4] Pines changed the title to Thrilling Wonder Stories,[5] and in 1939 and 1940 added two more sf titles: Startling Stories and Captain Future.[6][7] Pines had acquired reprint rights to the fiction published in Wonder Stories as part of the transaction, and he instituted a "Hall of Fame" department in Startling Stories to carry some of this material. Captain Future also carried reprint material, but neither Startling nor Captain Future had room for some of the longer stories in the backfile. At the end of the 1940s a boom in science fiction magazines encouraged Pines to issue a new magazine, titled Fantastic Stories Quarterly, as a vehicle for reprinting this older material. The original plan was for the magazine to carry no new material, but this policy was changed shortly before publication, and at least one new story was included in every issue.[8]

The initial schedule was quarterly, and the magazine became popular with fans, because of the access it gave them to old favorite stories. Much of the older material had not yet been republished in book form, and reprint magazines such as Fantastic Story Quarterly were the only way to read these stories other than by acquiring a second-hand copy of the original magazines. In late 1952 it switched to a bimonthly schedule, having changed its title to Fantastic Story Magazine the previous year, but this only lasted until the following year. It was back on a quarterly schedule starting with the Winter 1954 issue. The pulps were in rapid decline by the mid-1950s, and both Fantastic Story Magazine and Thrilling Wonder Stories were merged with Startling Stories in mid-1955, though Startling itself ceased publication at the end of the year.[8]


Each issue featured a lead novel or novella and short stories. A. E. van Vogt's Slan was reprinted in issue #10, and Stanley G. Weinbaum's The Black Flame was reprinted in #9. In the first issue, Edmond Hamilton's novel The Hidden World was followed by "Trespass!", a short story collaboration by Poul Anderson and Gordon Dickson, plus stories by Raymond Z. Gallun, John Russell Fearn and others. The second issue included stories by James Blish and Jack Williamson, with Eando Binder in the third issue and Eric Frank Russell in the fourth, followed by Damon Knight (#5), Henry Kuttner (#6), Chad Oliver (#7), L. Sprague de Camp (#8), Sam Merwin, Jr. (#9), Daniel Keyes (#10), Fletcher Pratt (#11), Walter M. Miller, Jr. (#12), Richard Matheson (#13), H. L. Gold and Carl Jacobi (#14), Murray Leinster (#15), Philip K. Dick (#16), Manly Wade Wellman and Otis Adelbert Kline (#17), John W. Campbell, Jr. (#18), Alfred Coppel (#19), Ray Bradbury and Ray Cummings (#20), Arthur K. Barnes (#21), Jack Vance (#22) and David H. Keller (#23).[1]

Cover design[edit]

A curved logo was used for the Fantastic Story Quarterly title, and this same logo design continued on Fantastic Story Magazine for six issues until it was discontinued with the tenth issue (Summer 1952). The magazine was recognizable in 1952-53 by an unusual and distinctive cover design which placed the illustration in a circle surrounded by a flat color. This experiment received a cover display for five issues, from the Fall 1952 issue until May 1953. It's probable that this cover concept was a nod in the direction of Flair, a 1950-51 slick magazine which received much attention because each issue had a die-cut hole in the front cover revealing an image on the first interior page.[1]

The cover illustrators included Jack Coggins, Ed Emshwiller, Alex Schomburg and Earle K. Bergey. Illustrations by Bergey usually featured women in space helmets and bikinis or skin-tight outfits, a type of apparel that later served as the inspiration for Princess Leia's slave-girl costume in Return of the Jedi.

One issue (Fall 1954) was prominently displayed as a prop in the movie Back to the Future, showing that the character was a science fiction reader during the early 1950s.

Bibliographic details[edit]

Winter Spring Summer Fall
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1950 1/1 1/2 1/3
1951 2/1 2/2 2/3 3/1
1952 3/2 3/3 4/1 4/2 4/3
1953 5/1 5/2 5/3 6/1 6/2
1954 6/3 7/1 7/2 7/3
1955 8/1 8/2
Issues of Fantastic Story from 1950 to 1955, showing volume and issue
numbers, and color-coded to show who was editor for each issue. The
editors, in sequence, were Sam Merwin, Samuel Mines, and Alexander
Samalman. Underlining indicates that an issue was titled as a quarterly
(e.g. "Winter 1954") rather than as a monthly.

The magazine was a quarterly for all but six issues, from November 1952 to September 1953. The title changed from Fantastic Stories Quarterly to Fantastic Stories Monthly with the fifth issue, and remained under that title through the end of its run, though the magazine was still a quarterly at the time the title changed. The Fall 1952 issue was also dated September 1952. There were seven volumes of three numbers, and a final volume of two numbers. The magazine was in pulp format and priced at 25 cents throughout its life; it began at 160 pages and dropped to 144 pages with the Spring 1951 issue, then to 128 pages with the September 1953 issue, and finally to 112 pages for the last two issues. The publisher was Best Books, of Kokomo Indiana; which was owned by Standard Magazines of New York. The editor was initially Sam Merwin; Samuel Mines took over with the Winter 1952 issue, and the last two issues were edited by Alexander Samalman.[8]


  1. ^ a b c Collectors' Showcase
  2. ^ a b Ashley, Mike; Nicholls, Peter; Stableford, Brian (July 8, 2014). "Amazing Stories". SF Encyclopedia. Gollancz. Retrieved January 13, 2015. 
  3. ^ Ashley, Mike; Edwards, Malcolm; Nicholls, Peter (August 23, 2014). "SF Magazines". SF Encyclopedia. Gollancz. Retrieved January 15, 2015. 
  4. ^ Ashley (2000), p. 91.
  5. ^ Ashley (2000), p. 100.
  6. ^ Ashley (2000), p. 136.
  7. ^ Ashley (2000), pp. 151−153.
  8. ^ a b c Ashley (1985), pp. 249−250.


  • Ashley, Mike (1985). "Fantastic Story Quarterly". In Tymn, Marshall B.; Ashley, Mike. Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Weird Fiction Magazines. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. pp. 249–250. ISBN 0-313-21221-X. 
  • Ashley, Mike (2000). The Time Machines:The Story of the Science-Fiction Pulp Magazines from the beginning to 1950. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. ISBN 0-85323-865-0.