Amazing Stories is one of those legendary magazines of the first fandom age. Launched in 1926 by Hugo Gernsback (ie: the guy the Hugo Awards are named after), it was the first magazine devoted to science fiction stories.
This forerunner status didn’t assure it success and the magazine suffered bankruptcy, changes in ownership, editorial style, legal troubles, and so it has had many incarnations.
In recent years, Steve Davidson and a small army have been making efforts to resurrect Amazing Stories as an e-magazine, at first as a magazine focusing on fandom, and now, more consciously approaching the role of a magazine that will be offering new fiction and a new editorial voice. But, as Davidson notes, baby steps is the key.
The 88th Anniversary issue features articles of science fact, articles about fandom, reprinted short fiction, and some new stories as well. It is a visually-powerful magazine, with some great interior and cover art, so it was beautiful to toggle through on my Kindle.
On the content side, I have strong feelings about the sf field and this magazine pulled those feelings in a couple of directions.
I’ll admit I floundered a bit trying to discern the editorial taste, until I looked at the first fandom context of Amazing Stories and the aura of nostalgia around the age and history of science fiction as a genre.
Smith, a Campbell-nominated and Aurora-winning writer, had a story of were-creatures in the Canadian wild, based in part on native legends, but with a uniquely modern political slant. Clemons’s story was very classic sf in style, about a prospecting and mining crew checking out a mysterious object on its quick way through the solar system.
“Virtually Yours” by Nina Munteanu was a creepy, dark romance channeling some Cyrano de Bergerac. On the other hand, Ira Nayman’s “Weird Stories, Strangely Told” is light absurdism, speculative fiction reviving the spirit of Airplane or Police Squad.
The only story I felt was over-the-top was “Cosmic Corkscrew” by Michael Burstein, although I get that I’m probably in the minority here (the story originally appeared in Analog and was nominated for a Hugo, I think).
The other reprints supported the nostalgic feel of the magazine and built support for the launch of an Amazing Stories featuring new fiction.
The broader question for me, for the health of whatever Amazing Stories is to become, is ultimately where its soul is at. Will this be a magazine aiming at the nostalgia audience or will this be a forward-looking magazine, with its own edge and editorial vision?
Either way, it will have to be capable of competing toe-to-toe with the literary quality and originality of Lightspeed, Clarkesworld, Asimov’s, F&SF, Analog, to say nothing of the anthologies and the very strong semi-pro magazines like On Spec?
This special issue did not answer that question for me, but it strikes me that the original Amazing Stories was home to adventure science fiction. If this new incarnation is aiming in that direction, a really good model for Amazing may be Beneath Ceaseless Skies.
BCS loudly and unapologetically publishes adventure fantasy, the most original and edgy it can find. And Amazing may need to somehow cultivate a crop of writers capable of delivering that kind of near-future hard sf, because other magazines already have trouble finding it.
So what do I leave you with on this 88th Anniversary issue? Pick up an issue of Amazing Stories and read it here.
And most especially pick up an issue of Amazing Stories when it launches with original fiction. That will tell where Amazing Stories wants to be.
Derek Kunsken is a writer of science fiction, fantasy and sometimes by accident, horror, living in Gatineau, Quebec. You can find out more about him at www.derekkunsken.com or @derekkunsken