Thursday, December 21, 2006

Startling Stories - The Journey Begins

Startling Stories began its life in 1939 and ran for 99 issues until the Fall issue of 1955. It joined the family of Better Publications including Thrilling Wonder Stories, Popular Western, Thrilling Mystery, Thrilling Western, Thrilling Detective, Thrilling Adventures, Thrilling Love, The Phantom Detective, Everyday Astrology and more, 26 titles in all. Startling would publish a novel in each issue plus a reprint story in the "Scientifiction's Hall Of Fame". Also in the mix were a science column, a "picture biography" of a great science figure and "The Ether Vibrates", the letter column.

Since the publication of Startling was hyped in the pages of Thrilling Wonder Stories, the first issue actually had letters to publish. Good wishes came from pros such as Edmond Hamilton, Otis Adelbert Kline, Manly Wade Wellman, Earl & Otto Binder and Arthur K. Barns.

Startling got off to a good start by publishing Stanley G. Weinbaum's "The Black Flame". Also in the issue was an appreciation of Weinbaum by Otto Binder. Other stories included "The Eternal Man" by D. D. Sharp (first published in Science Wonder Stories, August, 1929) the first entry into the Scientifiction Hall Of Fame, and "Science Island" by Eando Binder. The rest of the issue was taken up by features including a review of Science Fiction fan magazines; Prophets of Science, a guest editorial by Otis Adelbert Kline; They Changed The World - Albert Einstein, told in pictures; Thrills In Science by Mort Weisinger who later guided the fortunes of Superman for many years; Science Question Box; Scientific Crossword Puzzle and, finally, The Ether Vibrates. The cover art is not signed, but illustrates Eando Binder's story "Science Island". Since it resembles the interior illustration it is possibly by Wesso, but that is only a guess.

The issue led off with A Tribute to the late Stanley G. Weinbaum by Otto Binder. Weinbaum died at the height of his popularity and far too young. The Forecast for Coming Issues stories by Binder, Wellman, Kline and many others. It also plugged the upcoming issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories.

The first column is "Reviewing The Science Fiction Fan Publications", most likely by Mort Weisinger. Titles reviewed were "Tomorrow", from England, by Douglas W. F. Mayer and G. S. Airey; "Imagination" from the Los Angeles chapter of the Science Fiction League; "The Science Fiction Fan" by Olon F. Wiggins of Denver, Co; "Fantasy-News" from New York's James V. Taurasi; and "New Fandom", also from New York, by Sam Moskowitz, William S. Sykora, Raymond Van Houten and James V. Taurasi.

Otis Adelbert Kline ("Well-Known Scientifiction Novelist") contributed the first Guest Editorial, "Prophets Of Science". It praised the imaginations of those who write about the future.

The novel for this issue is The Black Flame by Stanley G. Weinbaum, illustrated by Wesso. "Thomas Connor Pits Ancient Knowledge and Daring Against Immortals Who Have Ruled a Strange New World for Centuries!"

"They Changed The World" by Jack Binder presented the life of Albert Einstein in pictures. Einstein was certainly an apt subject, being the Number One Science Celebrity of the day.

"Scientifiction's Hall Of Fame" printed stories that "stand the test of time", and incidentally, were published in the Wonder Stories family of magazines. The series was inauguerated by D. D. Sharp's story "The Eternal Man", illustrated by Frank R. Paul. Weisinger didn't give us a blurb on this one, but the theme is man's search for immortality.

"Thrills In Science, Thumbnail Sketches of Great Men and Achievements" was contributed by Mort Weisinger. This issue featured Joseph Priestly and the discovery of oxygen; Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen and his experiments with X-Rays; Professor Max Pettenkofer's rash experiment with cholera germs; and amateur astronomer Jeremiah Horrocks predicting the transit of Venus across the face of the Sun.

The Science Question Box was intended to answer reader's questions about science. This issue fielded questions on absolute zero, how well do animals see, how would the Earth end and "Therbligs", described as hand motions used to perform different jobs. Obviously not a common term.

The second short story in this issue was "Science Island" by Eando Binder, illustrated by Wesso. "A Cold-Blooded Scientific Napoleon with the Brain of a Genius and a Body of Metal Threatens to Dominate Mankind!"

The Ether Vibrates was intended to be direct line of communication by the editor and the readers. Letters in this issue were from Arthur K. Barnes, Edmind Hamilton, Otis Adelbert Kline, Manly Wade Wellman, Earl and Otto Binder, Arthur J. Burks, Issac Asimov (just becoming a pro), John Giunta (later to illustrate comic books and Science Fiction magazines), Seymour Kapetansky, Grace Kobell, Charles Ward (from Los Angeles, not Arkham) and William Novak.

The final feature is the Scientific Crossword Puzzle.

All told, Startling Stories got off to a good start and it went on to have a respectable run. When it finally folded in 1955 it had been combined with Thrilling Wonder Stories and Fantastic Story Magazine. But that final issue bore the title Startling Stories.

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