Today’s Favorite Magazine From The V1N1 Collection: Famous Fantastic Mysteries

Today’s magazine is a departure from all of the previous entries for two reasons: it’s a magazine without a cover illustration, and it is a magazine – an influential one – whose content was edited by one of the first female SF/F editors, Mary Gnaedinger, who would edit this magazine, its successor Fantastic Novels and A. Merritt’s Fantasy Magazine for its entire, though short, run.

Lack of a cover illustration can be a problem for magazines sold primarily through newsstand display, and is sometimes used to reduce production costs. However, in the case of Famous Fantastic Mysteries, I think they gambled on a few key author names (Merritt & Cummings) and by invoking the name of every single popular magazine then distributed that had the kind of fare they were offering:

Amazing (Stories 1926), Thrilling (Wonder Stories 1936), Strange (Stories 1939), Astounding (Stories of Super Science 1930), Weird (Tales 1923), Startling (Stories 1939) and Eerie (Mysteries/Stories 1939/1939).

Priced at the low end for the time period (which ranged from 15 to 25 cents), and appearing to contain multitudes, the magazine must have appeared a bargain for newsstand habitues.

A few years later this magazine would spawn Fantastic Novels and A. Merritt’s Fantasy Magazine.

Fantastic Novels – 1940.                 A. Merritt’s Fantasy Magazine –                                                               1949.

Gnaedinger is credited as the “First Female Lead Editor” of Science Fiction and Fantasy, and, although all of the magazines she edited were reprint publications, you’ll find that does not diminish Gnaedinger’s contributions.  Read Lin Carter’s words from an obituary for the editor:

“I … am going to miss Mary Gnaedinger, who died at her home in the Bronx at the age of 78 … For nearly thirty years she edited Famous Fantastic Mysteries and … Fantastic Novels and A. Merritt’s Fantasy Magazine, and did yeoman service by tirelessly getting back into print many of the best of fantastic fiction. I owe her a personal debt, for it was in the pages of her magazines that I first read the great romances of H. Rider Haggard and A. Merritt, and such unusual works as Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday, Hodgson’s The Boats of the ‘Glen Carrig’, Cutcliffe Hyne’s The Lost Continent… She did good work for the cause of fantasy, and many readers beside myself are indebted to her.” (Wikipedia)

All three titles would extend to foreign editions:  Merritt’s was published in Canada, Famous a Canadian edition as well, while Fantastic Novels would be published in both Canada and the UK.

In later years all three titles would feature cover art (as did Merritt’s and Novels from the beginning); title typography would eventually come to feature the word “Fantastic” prominently, likely as a means to compete effectively with Fantastic Adventures.

These magazines undoubtedly greatly contributed to the field’s continued engagement with fantasy, and undoubtedly positively influenced contemporary (and later generations) of authors.  (Remember that the publishing scene, and the availability of older works, was a much different landscape back in those days.  Much of the reprinted materials was probably received as “new”, simply because it was just not available elsewhere.)

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