Stories from Universe #1 June 1953
In June 1953 Ray Palmer launched Universe Science Fiction from 139 North Clark Street in Chicago, under the editorial name of George Bell and Bell Publications, Inc. Here’s an excerpt of his opening editorial with typical Palmer grandiloquence:
“We have been a fan and student of science fiction for more than 20 years. We have our ideas of what a good science fiction magazine ought to contain and they are very simple. This first issue of UNIVERSE will show you how well we have met this simple objective. It is only this: To give you the best science fiction stories published in America today!”
Robert Bloch’s “Constant Reader” is first up. A small team of space explorers land on 68/5 planet. “We waited while the roboship did its job. It was our star reporter, our roving photographer, our official meteorologist, our staff geologist, our expert in anthropology and mineralogy, our trusted guide and—most important, on many occasions—our stalking-horse.” It soon discovers 68/5 planet is rather like Earth, oxygen and gravity-wise. But it’s lifeless, its dusty surface a flat, slate-colored desert.
Each crewman has his own quirks. George Dale’s is books. “Yes, real books, the old-fashioned kind that were printed on paper and bound together between leather or board covers.”
When the crew disembarks they relish leaving the cramped space of their ship to bask in the warmth of 68/5 planet’s sun. All is well for at least two paragraphs until all five crewmen simultaneously black out. Despite the robotship’s report, the place is inhabited by an alien intelligence that enjoys a good book, and has the ability to transform the fictive world into reality.
Universe June 1953
The first issue of Universe Science Fiction debuted in June 1953. It was published by Bell Publications at the same address on Clark Street where Clark Publishing had begun Fate and Other Worlds in the late 1940s. Ray Palmer edited those two titles as Robert N. Webster and created a new pseudonym for Universe, George Bell.
Universe ran for ten issues and then folded into Other Worlds, with a dual numbering system from that point on. Here is the contents of Universe #1:
“Constant Reader” by Robert Bloch
“The World Well Lost” by Theodore Sturgeon
“The Castaway” by Murray Leinster
“Down Will Come the Sky” by Nelson Bond
“Bow Down to Them” by Mark Clifton
“Muscle Man” by Frank M. Robinson
“Stowaway” by Mack Reynolds
“The End” by Charles E. Fritch
Malcolm H. Smith was the cover artist and art director for the magazine. His painting depicts Reynolds’ “Stowaway.”
Interior illustrators include Michael Becker, W.E. Terry, Bert Duuur, H.W. McCauley, Malcolm H. Smith, John Cadel, Herb Ruud and Gredno Mahasm.
Other Worlds #1 November 1949
I’ve always been a sucker for this cover. Fred Nadis wrote about it in his 2013 biography of Ray A. Palmer “The Man from Mars.”
In 1949 RAP announced to a crowd at the 7th World Science Fiction Convention in Cincinnati that he was the Robert N. Webster, who edited the Fate and Other Worlds Science Stories digests. The latter a magazine he would make brilliant, like Astounding. He gave the cover of Other Worlds #1, painted by Malcolm H. Smith, depicting Richard Shaver’s Snake Woman, to the convention organizers for auction.
At the convention RAP met Bea Mahaffrey, whom he immediately hired for Clark Publications.
Search #21 June 1957
Ray Palmer’s Mystic Magazine ran for 16 issues before changing its title to Search Magazine with issue #17. He described the change in Mystic #16 (July 1956):
“So, if horror-comics have sullied the word Mystic, let’s supplant it with one that has distinction, reputation, solidarity, common-sense, and respectability.”
In Search #21, from June 1957, he announced a new title, Flying Saucers, or to be more precise, Flying Saucers from Other Worlds.
He also published a magazine called Other Worlds which I understand was incorporated into Flying Saucers at some point. But in June 1957 the two were separate entities. Here’s the state of things as he described them then:
“We have been completely smothered with mail these past few months, and with Search going monthly, Flying Saucers getting its start, and our science fiction magazine Other Worlds going great guns, we find ourselves the busiest editors in the world!”
“Flying Saucers is a larger magazine than Search being 61/2 x 91/4 inches in size.”
Confounding collectors, Palmer seemed to love changing the titles and sizes of his magazines. Both Other Worlds and Flying Saucers grew larger over their evolutionary runs.
Fate Magazine #497, Vol. 44 #8, Aug. 1991 with Curtis Fuller (1912-1991) tribute
In the late 1940’s, Raymond A. Palmer was editor of Amazing Stories and Curtis Fuller was editor of Flying, both published by Ziff-Davis. When the company announced they’d move their offices from Chicago to New York as of 1950, it sparked a new publishing venture.
Palmer and Curtis knew that stories of unexplained phenomenon like UFOs were widely popular with readers and decided the market would support a magazine completely dedicated to other-worldly subjects—and Fate magazine was born.
Not long after Palmer moved from Chicago to Amherst, Wisconsin, the Fullers bought out his interest in the magazine, and Mary Fuller took over as editor.
Fate April 1951
In the early days Fate magazine was mostly under Raymond A. Palmer’s direction. He single-handedly wrote much of the early issues under various pseudonyms, including that of the editor, Robert N. Webster. His partner, Curtis Fuller kept busy editing Flying and being prime caregiver to his children while his wife Mary battled tuberculosis in a TB sanitarium. In those early years, Fuller’s main contribution was his “I See By the Papers” column, which began in 1952.