Today’s favorite is a pretty successful digest that debuted during the peak year of SF magazine publication history; when Fantastic Universe hit the stands, there were, or would be, 36 individual titles for SF&F readers to choose from.
Just for the heck of it (and to give everyone some perspective on the differences between newsstands and magazine racks today and those of 1953) here is a complete list of all of the titles that appeared that year:
Analog, Asimov’s, Fantasy and Science Fiction
Weird Tales, Amazing Stories, Fantastic, Fantastic Adventures (would merge with Fantastic this year), Thrilling Wonder Stories, Startling Stories, Fantastic Story Magazine, Wonder Story Annual (reprints), Astounding Science Fiction, Future Combined with Science Fiction Stories, Science Fiction Stories, Famous Fantastic Mysteries (reprints), Planet Stories, Science Fiction Quarterly (mostly reprints) Avon Science Fiction and Fantasy Reader, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Other Worlds, Universe Science Fiction, Galaxy Science Fiction, IF Worlds of Tomorrow, Galaxy Science Fiction Novels, Two Complete Science Adventure Books, Fantastic Story Magazine, Space Science Fiction, Space Stories, Science Fiction Adventures, Dynamic Science Fiction, Fantasy Magazine, Fantasy Fiction (retitling of Fantasy Magazine), Science Fiction +, Tops in Science Fiction (reprints), Rocket Stories, Vortex Science Fiction, Beyond Fantasy Fiction, Orbit Science Fiction, Cosmos Science Fiction and Fantasy, Spaceway
Twelve times as many titles. Ahhh well, it was nice while it lasted (not that I was personally able to avail myself, but I was able to tap in to the remainders at used book stores and conventions).
Fantastic Universe was one of the most successful digests introduced at this time, lasting almost seven years and producing some 69 issues.
FU (an occasionally fun abbreviation to use: “Which magazine would you like?” “FU”. “Hey, there’s no need to be insulting! I’m just trying to sell you a magazine!”) was, however, not known for publishing high-quality SF. It was even referred to in one reference as the “poor man’s F&SF”, although it did publish a few gems along the way.
The cover is a quite striking piece of astronomical art by Alex Schomburg, not necessarily associated with any story.
This first issue does contain shorts by both A. Bertram Chandler and Eric Frank Russell, two personal faves.
In later years the magazine would publish some SF historical essays by Moskowitz, as well as Budry’s Who?, a couple that would become Brunner’s The Whole Man, and an uncompleted serial by Frederic Brown.
Another magazine that saw the involvement of Sam Merwin and Leo Marguiles (publisher/editor, editor). Hans Henry Santesson took over at the end and edited an anthology based on stories that had run in the magazine.
In looking over the publishing history of Fantastic Universe and seeing how it is connected to other publications by virtue of editorial and publisher involvement, I’m thinking of putting together a “family tree” that will depict those relationships. There’d definitely be a Merwin branch, a Marguiles branch, a Pohl branch and a Wollheim branch.
But that will have to wait for another edition, lol.