Special Issues in My Science Fiction Magazine Collection

The premier issue of Science Fiction Age, November 1992
The premier issue of Science Fiction Age, November 1992

I saw the new Dune film the other night. I enjoyed it, although I hadn’t realized that it was going to be a 2-parter. I’m kind of tired of multipart films; it’s too long in between and I lose the continuity of the story. Better to remake Dune as a miniseries anyway, it seems to me. Anyway, seeing the picture reminded me of the book, of course, which I read only once back in 2004. I enjoyed it when I read it, and still have the gist of the story in my head, but much of it faded. In all of the talk of the film, what sometimes get lost is that the story first appeared in the December 1963 issue of Analog Science Fiction, as the opening of a 3-part serial.

This got me thinking: I know I don’t have Dune in my magazine collection, but what special issues do I have? Ones that matter to me?

First, there is the complete run of Science Fiction Age edited by Scott Edelman. This magazine had the good fortune to appear just when I began to write for publication. I submitted quite a few stories to the magazine over the years, but never sold one there. I did, however, have two letters printed in the magazine over its 8 year run, my first foray into fandom. That magazine is still my favorite science fiction magazine. It was a glossy, and had wonderful stories by established writers, as well as new ones. It was that magazine that introduced me to Scott Edelman, Barry N. Malzberg, and Paul Di Filippo, all of whom I’d come to know IRL, as the kids say, many years later.

In it I also discovered many new writers whose stories I greatly admired, among them William Shunn, whose story “Two Paths in the Forest Toulemonde” in the January 1994 issue blew me away. Another was Martha Soukup, whose “In Defense of of Social Contracts” likewise made me realize that s.f. was much more than what I thought it to be. I could go on and on here. I love the magazine, and now and then flip wistfully through its pages, wishing it could have gone on longer than it did.

I’ve written how almost everything I learned about science, I learned from Isaac Asimov. When I say this, I am referring mostly to the 399 monthly essays he wrote for the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction from November 1958 until his death in 1992. Actually, this monthly science column first began in the January 1958 issue of Venture magazine. After that magazine folder, the series moved to F&SF. In my collection, I have both the January 1958 Venture and the November 1958 F&SF. I wanted them because those essays meant so much to me.

Among the magazines in my collection is a complete run of Astounding Science Fiction from July 1939 through December 1950, covering what if often referred to as the Golden Age of science fiction. (Others consider Galaxy’s run in the 1950s to be the real Golden Age.) I originally obtained these issues while I was writing my Vacation in the Golden Age series. In the set of 1942 issues I obtained, many of the issues were signed by A. E. van Vogt and Jack Williamson. How’s that for luck! However, two issues in my Astounding collection stand out in my mind: the May 1939 and July 1939 issues of Astounding.

The May 1939 issue is not part of my consecutive golden age run. But it contains one of my favorite stories from that time, Lester Del Rey’s “The Day Is Done.” The July 1939 issue is probably more familiar to people. This is often considered to be the opening salvo of the Golden Age. It contains Isaac Asimov’s first story in Astounding. It also contains a lead story by A. E. Van Vogt, “Black Destroyer” with that amazing cover.

One other issue of Astounding that I wanted to call out is the May 1950 issue. This issue is famous not for its fiction, but for its nonfiction essay, “Dianetics” by L. Ron Hubbard. This essay was later turned into a book by the same name, and a whole movement formed from it. Whatever you think of Hubbard and Scientology, he was an incredible writer in his day. One of my favorite reads during my Vacation in the Golden Age was his 3-part serial, “Final Blackout” which debuted in the April 1940 issue of Astounding.

There are other issues in my collection that I enjoy. I have the July 1977 special Harlan Ellison issue of F&SF. I have the premier issue of Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. I have others that have meaning to me alone: the March 1972 issue of Analog–the month I was born, to say nothing of the 4 issues of Analog in which my own writing has appeared (2 stories, and 2 guest editorial).

Every now and then I flip through these magazines and marvel at them. I skim the letter columns, look at the ads, and sometimes listen to the pages riffle as I inhale their scents.

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