I honestly can’t believe that I’ve skipped this one up until now, especially considering that it was an early SF pulp, published stuff, was directly involved in the “Dianetics Debate”, had some wonderful (and risque) covers, some by one of of our greatest artists and an interesting title change history.
Oh. And it also predated its comic book namesake by a few years. Yes. The MCU arguably began with THIS Science Fiction pulp magazine!
I speak, of course, of Marvel /Science Stories/Tales/Stories/Science Fiction from 1938.
Among other interesting tidbits related to this magazine (beyond the fact that its lack of financial success probably directly contributed to the creation of Marvel Comics, first known as Timely Comics, which is a pretty big tidbit….) is that one of its associate editors was Daniel Keyes, the author of Flowers for Algernon.
Another would be its lurid covers from the era of “threatened damsel” covers, although it would feature Hannes Bok a couple of times (one such cover instantly recognizable to many fans).
It did also manage to publish stories by name authors – Keller, Binder, Williamson, Kuttner, Taine, Matheson, Tenn, Vance – but the two things that fascinate me the most are the title changes and the “debate” on Dianetics that it published as three essays, one by Hubbard (Pro), one by Sturgeon (Neutral) and one by Del Rey (Con), in which Lester Del Rey calls it out for the con that it is:
“To a careful reader, of course—or anyone who understands the semantics of either Ogden and Richards, or Korzybski—the first pages alone show the flimsiness of the “scientific” knowledge behind it. After a brief opening eulogy to himself as greater than the inventor of fire, the wheel or the arch, Mr. Hubbard says: “Dianetics is the science of the mind. Far simpler than physics or chemistry, it compares with them in the exactness of its axioms …”
“Surely even Mr. Hubbard must know that no man’s opinion of what has happened to his mind is any proof of anything.”
“Also, it’s rather interesting to notice that the study is being done by men who have a major stake in seeing Dianetics accepted. The royalty on the books sold, the $500 fees, and all the other money rolling in go into a non-profit, tax-free foundation, of course: but the officers of the foundation can always draw any salary they choose for themselves. By judicious management, these men can arrange for a life-time, handsome source of income. They’d be fools not to see such possibilities, and they are not fools.”
and, from Sturgeon’s middle of the road response:
“There is a deplorable proclivity in the human animal to get faddistic about certain ideas. Faith is a beautiful thing. So are forest fires, and the color of gangrene. I think faith—especially capital-F Faith—is more dangerous and more disgusting than either. It is a substitute for thought. Dianetics, for all its effectiveness, is not a panacea, and Ron Hubbard is not the Messiah. If you are feeling either of these two things, go take a cold shower.” (Emphasis mine.)
Dianetics is, of course, the precursor to Scientology. Most interesting is, I think, the fact that neither Sturgeon nor Del Rey mention the “I’ll found a religion” story. (You can read the entire debate here. You can also read the Church of Scientology’s responses and actions regarding the “If you want to make a million, found a religion” debate, which they claim is false and has been ruled against in German courts, here. And if you really want to delve into it, read this – then go hunting for some fanzines online.)
And then there’s the title changes:
Over the course of a scant fifteen issues, Marvel’s title changed no less than five times. Which means, of course, that I’ve got to collect 4 more issues of that magazine.
It went from Marvel Science Stories in 1938 to Marvel Tales at the end of 1939. Towards the end of 1941 it changed again to Marvel Stories.
When it was resurrected after nearly a decade, it returned to the stands as Marvel Science Stories in 1950. Mid-way through 1951 it changed to, and ended as, Marvel Science Fiction.
It would also morph from a standard pulp, to a digest format and back to pulp format with its last issue.
There was also a single issue of a UK edition published with its resurrection in 1951.
Here’s a lineup of the covers with the title changes:
And there’s that Hannes Bok cover I mentioned previously.
Incidentally, the entire first issue is up on Archive.org, although not all issues of the Marvel run are available, apparently. Issue V1N1 can be read here.