Science Fiction Adventures (1952 magazine)

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Science Fiction Adventures was an American digest-size science fiction magazine, published from 1952 to 1954 by Science Fiction Publications. It was edited by Lester del Rey, under the pseudonym "Philip St. John", and was targeted at a younger audience than its companion magazine, Space Science Fiction. Contributors included Algis Budrys, Raymond Z. Gallun, Robert Sheckley, and del Rey himself, who published his novel Police Your Planet under the pseudonym "Erik van Lhin". Damon Knight contributed a book review column beginning with the fifth issue. Cyril M. Kornbluth's novel The Syndic was serialized in 1954. Artwork was provided by H.R. van Dongen, Kelly Freas, and Paul Orban, among others.

Lester del Rey left at the end of 1953, and his place was taken by Harry Harrison, but the magazine lasted for only three more issues.[1]

Publication history[edit]

Issues of Science Fiction Adventures showing volume/issue number.
Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1952 1/1
1953 1/2 1/3 1/4 1/5 1/6 2/1
1954 2/2 2/3
The colours indicate the editor; Lester del Rey for the first six issues, then Harry Harrison.

American science fiction (sf) magazines first appeared in the 1920s with the launch of Amazing Stories, a pulp magazine published by Hugo Gernsback. World War II and its attendant paper shortages interrupted the expanding market for the genre, but by the late 1940s the market began to recover again.[2] In October 1950, the first issue of Galaxy Science Fiction appeared; it reached a circulation of 100,000 within a year, and its success encouraged other publishers to enter the field.[3] John Raymond, at that time primarily a publisher of men's magazines, was told by his distributor that science fiction was a growing field; Raymond knew nothing about sf so he asked Lester del Rey for advice, and then offered him the job of editor on the new magazine. Del Rey was initially hesitant, but agreed, and became the editor of Space Science Fiction, with the first issue dated May 1952. When another distributor approached Raymond to ask if he would be interested in publishing a science fiction title, he suggested to del Rey that this second magazine should focus on action stories. The result was Science Fiction Adventures.[4]

The first issue was dated November 1952. The subsequent schedule was "erratic, based on [Raymond's] whim", according to science fiction historian Mike Ashley: Raymond would give del Rey only a day's notice of issue deadlines, so del Rey had to use whatever material he had available. Del Rey was also editing two more magazines that Raymond launched after Science Fiction Adventures: Rocket Stories and Fantasy Magazine, both of which were launched in early 1953. The break-even circulation for Raymond's digest magazines was 45,000; according to del Rey, Science Fiction Adventures' circulation was not far short of 70,000, so it was a profitable venture. Del Rey met with Raymond to propose that the money should be plowed back into the magazines, and Raymond agreed. Raymond did nothing to put the new plan into effect, however, and when del Rey went to the offices to complain because he had heard that some authors had not been paid, he was told by the art director that Raymond, who was not there, had decided to cut payment rates to one cent per word, only include art by the art director, and cut the page count to 144 pages. Del Rey resigned, and later recalled that "Raymond informed everyone that I'd been fired, and his lawyer threatened to sue me for slander and libel because I'd returned the manuscripts to authors, stating that the new rate was in effect. My reply convinced the lawyer to lay off."[4]

Raymond hired Harry Harrison to replace del Rey for three of the magazines, not including Fantasy Magazine, but Raymond soon gave up on the other titles. Harrison edited three more issues of Science Fiction Adventures before Raymond tired of that too: the last issue was dated May 1954.[4]

Contents and reception[edit]

The editorial policy for Science Fiction Adventures was intended to position it between Space Science Fiction, the senior magazine in Raymond's list, and Rocket Stories, which was intended to carry more juvenile material.[5] Del Rey explained in his goals for the magazine in an editorial in the first issue: "We also feel that science fiction isn't meant to be educational. It is primarily fiction, not a discourse on science. The science in the stories should be acceptable, of course ... But the problems of the people in the stories must be stressed more than the gadgets they use." Fiction in the first issue included The Fires of Forever, a novel by Chad Oliver, stories by L. Sprague de Camp and C.M. Kornbluth, and a non-fiction article by del Rey himself. In the opinion of science fiction historians Ted Krulik and Bruce Tinkel the magazine improved over its first year; they particularly praise Police Your Planet, a novel by del Rey that began serialization in the March 1953 issue under the pseudonym Erik van Lhin, and Raymond Z. Gallun's Ten to the Stars. Other well-known writers from whom del Rey was able to obtain stories included Algis Budrys and Robert Sheckley, and C.M. Kornbluth's novel The Syndic was serialized in the first two issues edited by Harry Harrison.[1]

A series of articles about sf appeared,[5] including William Tenn's "The Fiction in Science Fiction", described by Krulik and Tinkel as "one of the first to treat science fiction as a serious form of literature".[1] Damon Knight, one of the most important literary critics of sf to emerge from within the genre, contributed a series of book reviews; he had begun the column, titled "The Dissecting Table", in 1950 in the short-lived Worlds Beyond, and continued it in Science Fiction Adventures. Sf historian Mike Ashley considers that it although it took some time for the effects of Knight's reviews to appear, the column drove "a wedge into the sf world and [began] to separate what was good from what was bad". The column continued after Science Fiction Adventures folded, in Future Science Fiction and elsewhere, and Knight's criticism was later collected into In Search of Wonder, which won a Hugo Award in 1956.[4]

Many of the artists who contributed were well-known in the field, including Alex Schomburg, Mel Hunter, Ed Emshwiller, and H.R. van Dongen. Interior artists included Kelly Freas and Paul Orban.[1]

Bibliographic details[edit]

The first issue of Science Fiction Adventures was published by Science Fiction Publications, and the remaining eight by Future Publications, both of New York. The first six issues were edited by Lester del Rey, under his pseudonym "Philip St. John"; the last three issues were edited by Harry Harrison. Michael Shaara was associate editor. Each issue was digest-sized, 160 pages, and priced at 35 cents.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e Krulik & Tinkel (1985), pp. 520-524.
  2. ^ Edwards & Nicholls (1993), pp. 1068–1069.
  3. ^ Ashley (2005), pp. 32-33.
  4. ^ a b c d Ashley (2005), pp. 51-56.
  5. ^ a b Stableford, Brian; Ashley, Mike (June 28, 2019). "Science Fiction Adventures". The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. Retrieved November 15, 2020.