What Got YOU Started?

Gary Westfahl’s critique of science fiction history – The Mechanics Of Wonder – has a very interesting catalog in the notes to one of the chapters that provides some detail on the first science fiction magazines seen (and read) by some of the greatest names in the field.  (Mr. Westfahl uses this data to prove a point that will be covered in a review of that work later).

I’ve heard and read stories from many of the greats – the first time I ran into science fiction, there was this really fascinating magazine on the news stands – any number of times.  It’s no secret that most of the greats got their start through exposure to the science fiction pulps.  But you know what?  I’ve never seen a comprehensive list compiled anywhere (until Mr. Westfahl’s), and certainly not one accompanied by images of the magazine issues in question.

Lets rectify that omission right now.

A. E. Van Vogt

A._E._van_Vogt,_ca._1963Has stated that his first exposure was the November 1926 issue of Amazing Stories

SFWA Grand Master (1995)

Caspar Award for Lifetime Achievement (precursor to the Prix Aurora Award)




Arthur C. Clarke

Clarke_sm(Later to be Sir) says that his first was the November 1928 issue of Amazing Stories

SFWA Grand Master (1985)

Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame inductee (1997)

Heinlein Award (2004)



John W. Campbell


claims it was the very first issue of Amazing Stories in April, 1926

Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame inductee (1996)

Two major writing awards named for him – The John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Novel and The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

The magazine he edited, Astounding Stories, was awarded a Best Professional Magazine Hugo Award 7 times



Jack Williamson

220px-Jwilliamsongot a copy of the March, 1927 issue from a friend.

SFWA Grand Master (1976)

Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame (1996)

World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award (1994)

World Horror Convention Hall of Fame (2004)

Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement (1998)



Eric Frank Russel


remembers the March, 1930 issue

He won one of the first Hugo Awards for Best Short Story

Awarded the Prometheus Award for LIfetime Achievement (1985)

Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame (2000)



Lester Del Rey

k41ffirst magazine was a different Gernsback publication – Science Wonder Quarterly

SFWA Grand Master (1990)

Skylark Award

Balrog Award


but he began purchasing and reading regularly with Amazing Stories –



Robert A. Heinlein

Heinlein-faceread Argosy, All Story and Gernsback’s Electrical Experimenter, that not infrequently published scientifiction

SFWA Grand Master (1974)

Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame (1998)

Four Hugo Awards for Best Novel


and we know from his biography that he discovered E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith when he purchased a copy of the August, 1928 issue while attending the Naval Academy –



Ted Sturgeon

Theodore_Sturgeonintermittently read Astounding Stories, Wonder Stories and Amazing Stories from 1930 on

Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame (2000)

World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement (1985)

wonder and astounding



Isaac Asimov

640px-Isaac.Asimov01discovered Amazing Stories in 1929

Best All Time Novel Series Hugo Award

SFWA Grand Master (1987)

Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame (2001)

Numerous Hugo and Nebula Awards



Clifford D. Simak

Clifford_Simakbegan reading Amazing Stories in 1927

SFWA Grand Master 1977

Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award (1987)



Fritz Lieber

FrtizLeiberbegan reading Amazing Stories with its first issue

Gandalf Grand Master of Fantasy Award (1975)

World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement (1976)

Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement (1988)

Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame (2001)



C. L. Moore

Catherine_Lucille_Moorebegan reading Amazing Stories in September of 1931

World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement (1981)

Gandalf Grand Master Award

Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame (1998)



Ray Bradbury

800px-Ray_Bradbury_(1975)_-cropped-picked up the Fall, 1928 issue of Amazing Stories Quarterly

Prometheus Award

National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters

National Medal of Arts

World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement (1977)

Gandalf Grand Master of Fantasy (1980)

Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement (1989)

SFWA Grand Master (19989)

First Fandom Hall of Fame Award (1996)

Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame (1999)




Philip Jose Farmer

640px-Philip-jos-farmercaught the bug in June of 1929 with Science Wonder Stories

SFWA Grand Master Award (2000)

World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement (2001)

Forry Award for Lifetime Achievement (2003)



Frederik Pohl

pohl-1first exposure was in 1930 to Science Wonder Stories Quarterly, though he soon located back issues of Amazing Stories and Astounding Stories

SFWA Grand Master (1993)

Edward E Smith Memorial Award (1967)

Eaton Award for Lifetime Achievement in Science Fiction (2009)

Thomas D. Clareson Award for Distinguished Service (1996)


featured pohl


Damon Knight

damon-knightthe founder of SFWA, remembers the bedsheet sized August-September 1933 issue of Amazing Stories

SFWA Grand Master (1994)

Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame 2003

Founder of SFWA

Co-founder of Clarion & Milford Writing Workshops


Jackie Hilles

When I was a kid my two cousins would visit during the summer. My older cousin was three years older and one summer when I was about in 5th grade, she brought a copy of The Martian Chronicles with her. I devoured that book. It was just the beginning of my love affair with SF.

Al Sirois

I got hold of Robert Heinlein’s HAVE SPACESUIT WILL TRAVEL from the local children’s library (my home town had a separate library for kids). Also, from the library in my grade school, I got a couple of Ruthven Todd’s “Space Cat” books. Again, I was about 7 or 8 years old. By that time I was reading above grade level, so I could follow the Heinlein book.

Chuck Rothman

I got started with a cartoon — “The Space Explorers.” First time I encountered SF. I was at an age I was not yet reading chapter books.

First actual novel was “Tom Swift and his Jetmarine.”

Alan Ziebarth

I might have read some grade school level books like Asimov’s Lucky Starr series but A Wrinkle in Time was the first SF book that started my love of SF. but my love of SF really kicked in when I read Bradbury’s Twice 22, which was an omnibus of The Golden Apples of the Sun and A Medicine for Melancholy. My addiction started when I read Again, Dangerous Visions.

Travis Creason

My first was also a Scholastic book, but a collection. It had two Arthur C. Clarke stories, and I was intrigued, knowing he was one behind 2001: A Space Odyssey. I hadn’t seen the movie, but was awfully curious after seeing stills in Boy’s Life magazine. But it took me years to discover others also wrote this kind of stuff as well.


And my own:

Steve Davidson

In, I think, second grade, I ordered a bunch of books from Scholastic (they passed around a checklist form).  Among others, I picked Lester Del Rey’s The Runaway Robot (actually written by Paul W. Fairman).  Robots!  In Space!  It filled my need for Fireball XL-5 like fare and I was hooked.


The issues and covers shown here are as accurate as current research allows;  some are “guesstimates” based on the year of an author’s discovery of science fiction.

Some of these magazine covers are available for purchase as posters (in two sizes) from the Amazing Stories Store.

Editor’s Note:  I’m aware that this list does not include many others active in the field during its formative years, especially influential female authors, such as Judith Merrill, Leigh Brackett, etc.  Information regarding their first magazine exposures is not currently available.  We would be happy to expand this list with verifiable information.

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1 Comment

  1. This is a wonderful article. Really nifty to discover what inspired these famous pros to pursue their career in SF&F.

    A. E. Van Vogt was in fact the first recipient of an Aurora Award. Here’s bit of info about it, quoting my own research from my “Aurora Awards” entry in my Canfancyclopedia (available at my https://www.cdnsfzinearchive.org/ web site):

    Note: the first Aurora was a single award known as ‘The Coeurl’, subsequent awards were called ‘Caspers’, and later the name was changed to the more dignified and thoroughly Canadian ‘Auroras’, but CSFFA is the proper, technical term, though not very catchy.

    The ‘Coeurl’ Award was created by John Bell, Bob Atkinson, George Allanson and Sheldon Goldman in 1980. The ‘Coeurl’ CSFFA was a magnificent $500 twenty-two inches long metal sculpture (designed by Nova Scotia sculptor Mike Spencer) depicting the monster of that name from A.E. Van Vogt’s story “Black Destroyer” on a rosewood base presented to Van Vogt by Spider Robinson at the Halcon 3 convention in Halifax in March of 1980. It was considered a lifetime achievement award.

    NOTE: Sculptor Mike Spencer comments re his creation of The Coeurl: “When I received the commission, I was keen to do it. I had read much of Van Vogt’s work years before along with a great deal of other science fiction. Only I didn’t know how I was going to manage to execute it. But shortly thereafter, and before the work was due, I went to a week-long workshop with Philadelphia sculptor Chris Ray.”

    “Chris, now sadly no longer with us, was the author of the bizarre and strangely compelling Mansect series of sculptures (among many others) that I admired extravagantly. The week with Chris provided the technique I needed to raise and form the hollow body of Coeurl. It consists of raised 16 ga. steel and hot-forged steel on a rosewood base. Design by myself and Owen Olton based on the description in Van Vogt’s story, The Black Destroyer, and the original artwork in the July 1939 issue of Astounding. The head and extremities are forged from solid bar and all the numerous pieces assembled by gas and electric welding. Fangs are set into holes drilled in the jaws. It has been erroneously reported (in an earlier version of this Canfancyclopedia) that this piece is “cast iron”. It’s not.”

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