Analog Science Fiction and Fact

First issue of Astounding Stories of Super-Science, dated January 1930. The cover art is by Wesso.

Analog Science Fiction and Fact is an American science fiction magazine published under various titles since 1930. Originally titled Astounding Stories of Super-Science, the first issue was dated January 1930, published by William Clayton, and edited by Harry Bates. Clayton went bankrupt in 1933 and the magazine was sold to Street & Smith. The new editor was F. Orlin Tremaine, who soon made Astounding the leading magazine in the nascent pulp science fiction field, publishing well-regarded stories such as Jack Williamson's Legion of Space and John W. Campbell's "Twilight". At the end of 1937, Campbell took over editorial duties under Tremaine's supervision, and the following year Tremaine was let go, giving Campbell more independence. Over the next few years Campbell published many stories that became classics in the field, including Isaac Asimov's Foundation series, A.E. van Vogt's Slan, and several novels and stories by Robert A. Heinlein. The period beginning with Campbell's editorship is often referred to as the Golden Age of Science Fiction.

By 1950, new competition had appeared from Galaxy Science Fiction and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Campbell's interest in some pseudo-science topics, such as dianetics (an early version of scientology), alienated some of his regular writers, and Astounding was no longer regarded as the leader of the field, though it did continue to publish popular and influential stories: Hal Clement's novel Mission of Gravity appeared in 1953, and Tom Godwin's "The Cold Equations" appeared the following year. In 1960, Campbell changed the title of the magazine to Analog Science Fiction & Fact; he had long wanted to get rid of the word "Astounding" in the title, which he felt was too sensational. At about the same time Street & Smith sold the magazine to Condé Nast. Campbell remained as editor until his death in 1971.

Ben Bova took over from 1972 to 1978, and the character of the magazine changed noticeably, since Bova was willing to publish fiction that included sexual content and profanity. Bova published stories such as Frederik Pohl's "The Gold at the Starbow's End", which was nominated for both a Hugo and Nebula Award, and Joe Haldeman's "Hero", the first story in the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning "Forever War" sequence; Pohl had been unable to sell to Campbell, and "Hero" had been rejected by Campbell as unsuitable for the magazine. Bova won five consecutive Hugo Awards for his editing of Analog.

Bova was followed by Stanley Schmidt, who continued to publish many of the same authors who had been contributing for years; the result was some criticism of the magazine as stagnant and dull, though Schmidt was initially successful in maintaining circulation. The title was sold to Davis Publications in 1980, then to Dell Magazines in 1992. Crosstown Publications acquired Dell in 1996 and remains the publisher. Schmidt continued to edit the magazine until 2012, when he was replaced by Trevor Quachri.

Publishing history


In 1926, Hugo Gernsback launched Amazing Stories, the first science fiction (sf) magazine. Gernsback had been printing scientific fiction stories for some time in his hobbyist magazines, such as Modern Electrics and Electrical Experimenter, but decided that interest in the genre was sufficient to justify a monthly magazine. Amazing was very successful, quickly reaching a circulation over 100,000.[1] William Clayton, a successful and well-respected publisher of several pulp magazines, considered starting a competitive title in 1928; according to Harold Hersey, one of his editors at the time, Hersey had "discussed plans with Clayton to launch a pseudo-science fantasy sheet".[2] Clayton was unconvinced, but the following year decided to launch a new magazine, mainly because the sheet on which the color covers of his magazines were printed had a space for one more cover. He suggested to Harry Bates, a newly hired editor, that they start a magazine of historical adventure stories. Bates proposed instead a science fiction pulp, to be titled Astounding Stories of Super Science, and Clayton agreed.[3][4]

Astounding was initially published by Publisher's Fiscal Corporation, a subsidiary of Clayton Magazines.[4][7][8] The first issue appeared in January 1930, with Bates as editor. Bates aimed for straightforward action-adventure stories, with scientific elements only present to provide minimal plausibility.[4] Clayton paid much better rates than Amazing and Wonder Stories—two cents a word on acceptance, rather than half a cent a word, on publication (or sometimes later)—and consequently Astounding attracted some of the better-known pulp writers, such as Murray Leinster, Victor Rousseau, and Jack Williamson.[3][4] In February 1931, the original name Astounding Stories of Super-Science was shortened to Astounding Stories.[9]

The magazine was profitable,[9] but the Great Depression caused Clayton problems. Normally a publisher would pay a printer three months in arrears, but when a credit squeeze began in May 1931, it led to pressure to reduce this delay. The financial difficulties led Clayton to start alternating the publication of his magazines, and he switched Astounding to a bimonthly schedule with the June 1932 issue. Some printers bought the magazines which were indebted to them: Clayton decided to buy his printer to prevent this from happening. This proved a disastrous move. Clayton did not have the money to complete the transaction, and in October 1932, Clayton decided to cease publication of Astounding, with the expectation that the January 1933 issue would be the last one. As it turned out, enough stories were in inventory, and enough paper was available, to publish one further issue, so the last Clayton Astounding was dated March 1933.[10] In April, Clayton went bankrupt, and sold his magazine titles to T.R. Foley for $100; Foley resold them in August to Street & Smith, a well-established publisher.[11][12][13]

Street & Smith

Science fiction was not entirely a departure for Street & Smith. They already had two pulp titles that occasionally ventured into the field: The Shadow, which had begun in 1931 and was tremendously successful, with a circulation over 300,000; and Doc Savage, which had been launched in March 1933.[14] They gave the post of editor of Astounding to F. Orlin Tremaine, an experienced editor who had been working for Clayton as the editor of Clues, and who had come to Street & Smith as part of the transfer of titles after Clayton's bankruptcy. Desmond Hall, who had also come from Clayton, was made assistant editor; because Tremaine was editor of Clue and Top-Notch, as well as Astounding, Hall did much of the editorial work, though Tremaine retained final control over the contents.[15]

The first Street & Smith issue was dated October 1933; until the third issue, in December 1933, the editorial team was not named on the masthead.[15] Street & Smith had an excellent distribution network, and they were able to get Astounding's circulation up to an estimated 50,000 by the middle of 1934.[16] The two main rival science fiction magazines of the day, Wonder Stories and Amazing Stories, each had a circulation about half that. Astounding was the leading science fiction magazine by the end of 1934, and it was also the largest, at 160 pages, and the cheapest, at 20 cents. Street & Smith's rates of one cent per word (sometimes more) on acceptance were not as high as the rates paid by Bates for the Clayton Astounding, but they were still better than those of the other magazines.[17]

Hall left Astounding in 1934 to become editor of Street & Smith's new slick magazine, Mademoiselle, and was replaced by R.V. Happel. Tremaine remained in control of story selection.[18] Writer Frank Gruber described Tremaine's editorial selection process in his book, The Pulp Jungle:[19]

As the stories came in Tremaine piled them up on a stack. All the stories intended for Clues in this pile, all those for Astounding in that stack. Two days before press time of each magazine, Tremaine would start reading. He would start at the top of the pile and read stories until he had found enough to fill the issue. Now, to be perfectly fair, Tremaine would take the stack of remaining stories and turn it upside down, so next month he would start with the stories that had been on the bottom this month.

Gruber pointed out that stories in the middle might go many months before Tremaine read them; the result was erratic response times that sometimes stretched to over 18 months.[20]

In 1936 the magazine switched from untrimmed to trimmed edges; Brian Stableford comments that this was "an important symbolic" step, as the other sf pulps were still untrimmed, making Astounding smarter-looking than its competitors.[4] Tremaine was promoted to assistant editorial director in 1937. His replacement as editor of Astounding was John W. Campbell, Jr.. Campbell had made his name in the early 1930s as a writer, publishing space opera under his own name, and more thoughtful stories under the pseudonym "Don A. Stuart". He started working for Street & Smith in October 1937, so his initial editorial influence appeared in the issue dated December 1937. The March 1938 issue was the first that was fully his responsibility.[21][22] In early 1938, Street & Smith abandoned its policy of having editors-in-chief, with the result that Tremaine was made redundant. His departure, on May 1, 1938, gave Campbell a freer rein with the magazine.[23]

One of Campbell's first acts was to change the title from Astounding Stories to Astounding Science-Fiction, starting with the March 1938 issue. Campbell's editorial policy was targeted at the more mature readers of science fiction, and he felt that "Astounding Stories" did not convey the right image.[23] He intended to subsequently drop the "Astounding" part of the title, as well, leaving the magazine titled Science Fiction, but in 1939 a new magazine with that title appeared. Although "Astounding" was retained in the title, thereafter it was often printed in a color that made it much less visible than "Science-Fiction".[4] At the start of 1942 the price was increased, for the first time, to 25 cents; the magazine simultaneously switched to the larger bedsheet format, but this did not last. Astounding returned to pulp-size in mid-1943 for six issues, and then became the first science fiction magazine to switch to digest size in November 1943, increasing the number of pages to maintain the same total wordcount. The price remained at 25 cents through these changes in format.[7][24]

Four clips of the title layout from 1960
The changes in layout during 1960, showing the January, February, September and October title layouts

The price increased again, to 35 cents, in August 1951.[7] In the late 1950s, it became apparent to Street & Smith that they were going to have to raise prices again. During 1959, Astounding was priced at 50 cents in some areas to find out what the impact would be on circulation. The results were apparently satisfactory, and the price was raised with the November 1959 issue.[25] The following year, Campbell finally achieved his goal of getting rid of the word "Astounding" in the magazine's title, changing it to Analog Science Fact/Science Fiction. The "/" in the title was often replaced by a symbol of Campbell's devising, resembling an inverted U pierced by a horizontal arrow and meaning "analogous to". The change began with the February 1960 issue, and was complete by October; for several issues both "Analog" and "Astounding" could be seen on the cover, with "Analog" becoming bolder and "Astounding" fading with each issue.[4][26]

Condé Nast

Street & Smith was acquired by Samuel Newhouse, the owner of Condé Nast, in August 1959, though Street & Smith was not merged into Condé Nast until the end of 1961.[27] Analog was the only digest-sized magazine in Condé Nast's inventory—all the others were slicks, such as Vogue and Vanity Fair. All the advertisers in these magazines had plates made up to take advantage of this size, and Condé Nast changed Analog to the larger size from the March 1963 issue to conform. The front and back signatures were changed to glossy paper, to carry both advertisements and scientific features. The change did not attract advertising support, however, and from the April 1965 issue Analog reverted to digest size once again. Circulation, which had been increasing before the change, was not harmed, and continued to increase while Analog was in slick format.[28] From the April 1965 issue the title switched the "fiction" and "fact" elements, so that it became Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact.[29]

Campbell died suddenly in July 1971, but there was enough material in Analog's inventory to allow the remaining staff to put together issues for the rest of the year.[30] Condé Nast had given the magazine very little attention, since it was both profitable and cheap to produce, but they were proud that it was the leading science fiction magazine. They asked Kay Tarrant, who had been Campbell's assistant, to help them find a replacement: she contacted regular contributors to ask for suggestions. Several well-known writers turned down the job; Poul Anderson did not want to leave California, and neither did Jerry Pournelle, who also felt the salary was too small. Before he died, Campbell had talked to Harry Harrison about taking over as editor, but Harrison did not want to live in New York. Lester del Rey and Clifford D. Simak were also rumored to have been offered the job, though Simak denied it; Frederik Pohl was interested, but suspected his desire to change the direction of the magazine lessened his chances with Condé Nast.[31] The Condé Nast vice president in charge of selecting the new editor decided to read both fiction and nonfiction writing samples from the applicants, since Analog's title included both "science fiction" and "science fact". He chose Ben Bova, afterwards telling Bova that his stories and articles "were the only ones I could understand".[31] January 1972 was the first issue to credit Bova on the masthead.[7]

Bova planned to stay for five years, to ensure a smooth transition after Campbell's sudden death; the salary was too low for him to consider remaining indefinitely. In 1975, he proposed a new magazine to Condé Nast management, to be titled Tomorrow Magazine; he wanted to publish articles about science and technology, leavened with some science fiction stories. Condé Nast was not interested, and refused to assist Analog with marketing or promotions. Bova resigned in June 1978, having stayed for a little longer than he had planned, and recommended Stanley Schmidt to succeed him. Schmidt's first issue was December 1978, though material purchased by Bova continued to appear for several months.[32]

Davis Publications, Dell Magazines, and Penny Publications

In 1977, Davis Publications launched Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, and after Bova's departure, Joel Davis, the owner of Davis Publications, contacted Condé Nast with a view to acquiring Analog. Analog had always been something of a misfit in Condé Nast's line up, which included Mademoiselle and Vogue, and by February 1980 the deal was agreed. The first issue published by Davis was dated September 1980.[33] Davis was willing to put some effort into marketing Analog, so Schmidt regarded the change as likely to be beneficial,[32] and in fact circulation quickly grew, reversing a gradual decline over the Bova years, from just over 92,000 in 1981 to almost 110,000 two years later. Starting with the first 1981 issue, Davis switched Analog to a four-weekly schedule, rather than monthly, to align the production schedule with a weekly calendar. Instead of being dated "January 1981", the first issue under the new regime was dated "January 5, 1981", but this approach led to newsstands removing the magazine much more quickly, since the date gave the impression that it was a weekly magazine. The cover date was changed back to the current month starting with the April 1982 issue, but the new schedule remained in place, with a "Mid-September" issue in 1982 and 1983, and "Mid-December" issues for more than a decade thereafter.[33] Circulation trended slowly down over the 1980s, to 83,000 for the year ending in 1990; by this time the great majority of readers were subscribers, as newsstand sales declined to only 15,000.[29]

In 1992 Analog was sold to Dell Magazines, and Dell was in turn acquired by Crosstown Publications in 1996.[29] That year the Mid-December issues stopped appearing, and the following year the July and August issues were combined into a single bimonthly issue.[29] An ebook edition became available in 2000 and has become increasingly popular, with the ebook numbers not reflected in the published annual circulation numbers,[29] which by 2011 were down to under 27,000.[34] In 2004 the January and February issues were combined, so that only ten issues a year appeared. Schmidt retired in August 2012, and his place was taken by Trevor Quachri, who continues to edit Analog as of 2018.[29][35] From January 2017, the publication frequency became bimonthly (six issues per year).[36]

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