For today’s pick, I want you to imagine that you are young. Elementary school-aged young. Old enough to be aware that there is a very wide, exciting, interesting and confusing world out there, containing multitudes you have yet to discover.
You are smart enough and experienced enough to understand that there are things in that world that you are totally ignorant of. You have learned that you don’t know what you don’t know, and have discovered that there is a way to combat that ignorance. The antidote is Books, and the places you can find them – libraries, bookstores and used book stalls at Flea and Farmer’s Markets.
This limited research circumstance is at least partially owing to the fact that among those things that you don’t know you don’t know are computers, the internet and digital information storage and search of any kind, for the simple reason that those things do not yet exist in your present universe
You’ve recently become captivated by a literature that is apparently held in low-regard by most people who bother to mention it, yet you’ve decided that you don’t care, because it does something for you. Even at this young age you realize that the detractors are wrong.
One day, perusing the stands and tables at a used book stall, you happen across a book, oddly referred to as a “magazine”, though it only resembles Time or Look or Life superficially. Its title features those two words that in combination have come to stand for heady flights of imagination that could nevertheless be true – Science Fiction.
But this title promises even more. It promises excitement, but more than that, it promises DEFINITIVE, unparalleled, unequaled, unmatched examples. This is what you have been waiting for, a compilation of stories that will, through example, reveal the inner secrets, will draw back the curtain and offer access to the inner sanctum, because in picking it up, you will be reading
THE MOST THRILLING SCIENCE FICTION EVER TOLD
so assuredly that its title does not even need an exclamation point!
And yes, that is the actual title for 1966’s Ultimate Publishing Inc., reprint magazine.
Now truth to tell, THAT is about as uninspiring a cover illustration as you could possibly attach to a magazine with this title. Fortunately for me and my relationship with this title, this was not the first issue I saw. That was a later issue from 1970 –
and you will likely note that this cover features a spaceship in distress. Not necessarily derelict, but certainly heading that way.
Ultimate had acquired Amazing Stories and Fantastic Stories, along with artwork and content those magazine had published to date and were busily mining that inventory with a series of reprint magazines. TMTSFET was one of their early efforts.
That first cover featured an element from a 1948 Amazing shown above created by Malcolm Smith, while the issue that first caught my eye was from the cover of Amazing Stories from January 1955:
The magazine itself is noted for reprinting a fair amount of pretty good SF from the 30s, 40s and 50s, though that does seem to have been affected by SFWA’s objections to all of the reprints-without-compensation-to-authors as later incarnations started publishing older, lesser known (and likely no longer with us) authors. (That dispute was resolved with an agreed upon settlement: Ultimate had the rights to reprint these materials without compensation and the author’s organization had a right to argue on the behalf of its members despite the legalities.)
Interesting to me is the adoption of “Thrilling” for the title, as one of Gerndsback’s other original magazines was retitled as a member of the “Thrilling” group when it was purchased in 1936.
The magazine would go on to have 42 issues over a nine year publishing history and would experience three title changes, from The Most Thrilling Science Fiction Ever Told to Thrilling Science Fiction Adventures, back to The Most Thrilling Science Fiction Ever Told and, one issue later, finally settling on Thrilling Science Fiction.
It would also be merged with Science Fiction Adventure Classics at its end (another long-running reprint magazine).
You may now return to imagining yourself as an adult, unless you’d prefer to remain in the age of wonder.