Galaxy Science Fiction

David Stone's cover for the first issue of Galaxy

Galaxy Science Fiction was an American digest-size science fiction magazine, published from 1950 to 1980. It was founded by a French-Italian company, World Editions, which was looking to break into the American market. World Editions hired as editor H. L. Gold, who rapidly made Galaxy the leading science fiction (sf) magazine of its time, focusing on stories about social issues rather than technology.

Gold published many notable stories during his tenure, including Ray Bradbury's "The Fireman", later expanded as Fahrenheit 451; Robert A. Heinlein's The Puppet Masters; and Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man. In 1952, the magazine was acquired by Robert Guinn, its printer. By the late 1950s, Frederik Pohl was helping Gold with most aspects of the magazine's production. When Gold's health worsened, Pohl took over as editor, starting officially at the end of 1961, though he had been doing the majority of the production work for some time.

Under Pohl Galaxy had continued success, regularly publishing fiction by writers such as Cordwainer Smith, Jack Vance, Harlan Ellison, and Robert Silverberg. Pohl never won the annual Hugo Award for his stewardship of Galaxy, winning three Hugos instead for its sister magazine, If. In 1969 Guinn sold Galaxy to Universal Publishing and Distribution Corporation (UPD) and Pohl resigned, to be replaced by Ejler Jakobsson. Under Jakobsson the magazine declined in quality. It recovered under James Baen, who took over in mid-1974, but when he left at the end of 1977 the deterioration resumed, and there were financial problems—writers were not paid on time and the schedule became erratic. By the end of the 1970s the gaps between issues were lengthening, and the title was finally sold to Galileo publisher Vincent McCaffrey, who brought out only a single issue in 1980. A brief revival as a semi-professional magazine followed in 1994, edited by H. L. Gold's son, E. J. Gold; this lasted for eight bimonthly issues.

At its peak, Galaxy greatly influenced the science fiction genre. It was regarded as one of the leading sf magazines almost from the start, and its influence did not wane until Pohl's departure in 1969. Gold brought a "sophisticated intellectual subtlety" to magazine science fiction according to Pohl, who added that "after Galaxy it was impossible to go on being naive."[1] SF historian David Kyle agreed, commenting that "of all the editors in and out of the post-war scene, the most influential beyond any doubt was H. L. Gold".[2] Kyle suggested that the new direction Gold set "inevitably" led to the experimental New Wave, the defining science fiction literary movement of the 1960s.

Publication history

The first science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories, appeared in 1926. By the end of the 1930s, the genre was flourishing in the United States,[3][4] but World War II and its resulting paper shortages led to the demise of several magazines. In the late 1940s, the market began to recover.[4] From a low of eight active US magazines in 1946, the field expanded to 20 just four years later.[5] Galaxy's appearance in 1950 was part of this boom. According to sf historian and critic Mike Ashley, its success was the main reason for a subsequent flood of new releases: 22 more science fiction magazines appeared by 1954, when the market dipped again as a side effect of US Senate hearings into the putative connection between comic books and juvenile delinquency.[5][6]

Origins and 1950s

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1950 1/1 1/2 1/3
1951 1/4 1/5 1/6 2/1 2/2 2/3 2/4 2/5 2/6 3/1 3/2 3/3
1952 3/4 3/5 3/6 4/1 4/2 4/3 4/4 4/5 4/6 5/1 5/2 5/3
1953 5/4 5/5 5/6 6/1 6/2 6/3 6/4 6/5 6/6 7/1 7/2 7/3
1954 7/5 7/5-A 7/6 8/1 8/2 8/3 8/4 8/5 8/6 9/1 9/2 9/3
1955 9/4 9/5 9/6 10/1 10/2 10/3 10/4 10/5 10/6 11/1 11/2
1956 11/3 11/4 11/5 11/6 12/1 12/2 12/3 12/4 12/5 12/6 13/1 13/2
1957 13/3 13/4 13/5 13/6 14/1 14/2 14/3 14/4 14/5 14/6 15/1 15/2
1958 15/3 15/4 15/5 15/6 16/1 16/2 16/3 16/4 16/5 16/6 17/1 17/2
1959 17/3 17/4 17/5 17/6 18/1 18/2
Issues of Galaxy from 1950 to 1959, showing volume/issue number. H. L. Gold
was editor throughout the 1950s.[7]

H. L. Gold, Galaxy's first editor, had worked at Standard Magazines in the early 1940s as an assistant editor, reading for Standard's three science fiction pulps: Startling Stories, Thrilling Wonder, and Captain Future.[8] With the advent of the war, Gold left publishing and went into the army, but in late 1949 he was approached by Vera Cerutti, who had once worked for him. Cerutti was now working for a French-Italian publisher, Éditions Mondiales Del Duca founded by Cino Del Duca,[9] that had opened an office in New York as World Editions.[8] She initially asked Gold for guidance on how to produce a magazine, which he provided. World Editions took a heavy loss on Fascination, its first attempt to launch a US magazine, and Cerutti returned to Gold asking for recommendations for new titles.[4][7][10] Gold knew about The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, a digest launched in the fall of 1949, but felt that there was still room in the market for another serious science fiction magazine.[8] He sent a prospectus to World Editions that included a proposal for a series of paperback sf novels as well as a periodical,[11][12] and proposed paying three cents a word, an impressively high rate, given that most competing magazines were paying only one cent a word. World Editions agreed, hired Gold as the editor, and the first issue appeared in October 1950.[8] The novel series subsequently appeared as Galaxy Science Fiction Novels.[11]

Gold initially suggested two titles for the magazine, If and Galaxy. Gold's art director, Washington Irving van der Poel, mocked up multiple layouts and Gold invited hundreds of writers, editors, artists, and fans to view them and vote for their favorite; the vote was strongly for Galaxy as the title.[11][notes 1] For the first issue, Gold obtained stories by several well-known authors, including Isaac Asimov, Fritz Leiber, and Theodore Sturgeon, as well as part one of Time Quarry by Clifford D. Simak (later published in book form as Time and Again). Along with an essay by Gold, Galaxy's premiere issue introduced a book review column by anthologist Groff Conklin, which ran until 1955, and a Willy Ley science column. Gold sought to implement high-quality printing techniques, though the quality of the available paper was insufficient for the full benefits to be seen.[7] Within months, the outbreak of the Korean War led to paper shortages that forced Gold to find a new printer, Robert M. Guinn. The new paper was of even lower quality, a disappointment to Gold.[notes 2][13] According to Gold, the magazine was profitable within five issues: an "incredible" achievement, in his words.[14]

In the summer of 1951, disagreements within World Editions led to attempts to disrupt Galaxy's distribution.[15] According to Gold, the circulation director and the head of the American office stockpiled many issues instead of distributing them, and made sure that the ones that did get distributed went to areas of the United States, such as the South, where there was little or no audience for the magazine.[notes 3] The head of the French office of World Editions came to the United States to find out what the problem was, and recommended that the magazine be sold to the two Americans, for $3,000—a very low price. They tried to recruit Gold, but he contacted the Italian office, which rejected the sale and eventually agreed to sell Galaxy to the printer, Robert M. Guinn. It was only after the sale was complete that the sabotaged distribution came to light; World Editions wanted to buy back the magazine, but Guinn quoted a price four times as high as he had paid. In Gold's words, "he, Guinn, knew what he was buying, whereas World Editions hadn't known what they were selling".[17]

Guinn's new company was named Galaxy Publishing Corporation, and it took over beginning with the October 1951 issue. Gold remained as editor, but lost the assistance of staff at World Editions, relying instead on help from Jerome Bixby, Algis Budrys, Theodore Sturgeon, and Gold's wife, Evelyn Paige. Science fiction author Frederik Pohl, then working as a literary agent, was also helpful in connecting writers with Gold.[15]

By the late 1950s, the science fiction magazine boom was over, and the relatively low circulation of the magazines did not endear them to distributors, the middlemen who transported magazines from the publishers to the newsstands and other outlets. Gold changed the title from Galaxy Science Fiction to Galaxy Magazine with the September 1958 issue, commenting that the term science fiction "scares many people away from buying". Galaxy's circulation, at about 90,000, was the highest of the science fiction magazines, but Guinn decided to cut costs, and in 1959 raised the cover price and changed the magazine to a bimonthly schedule, while increasing the page count. Guinn also cut the rates paid to authors from three (and occasionally four) cents a word to one and a half cents a word. These changes saved Galaxy over $12,000 a year. The result was a fall in circulation to about 80,000 within two years, but this was sustainable because of the savings from the fiction budget.[18][notes 4]


Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1960 18/3 18/4 18/5 18/6 19/1 19/2
1961 19/3 19/4 19/5 19/6 20/1 20/2
1962 20/3 20/4 20/5 20/6 21/1 21/2
1963 21/3 21/4 21/5 21/6 22/1 22/2
1964 22/3 22/4 22/5 22/6 23/1 23/2
1965 23/3 23/4 23/5 23/6 24/1 24/2
1966 24/3 24/4 24/5 24/6 25/1 25/2
1967 25/3 25/4 25/5 25/6 26/1 26/2
1968 26/3 26/4 26/5 26/6 27/1 27/2 27/3 27/4 27/5
1969 27/6 28/1 28/2 28/3 28/4 28/5 128/6 129/1 129/2 129/3 29/4
Issues of Galaxy from 1960 to 1969, showing volume/issue number. Issues are
color-coded to show when each editor was in charge; the editorship passed from
H.L. Gold to Frederik Pohl and then to Ejler Jakobsson during the 1960s.[7] Note
that the apparent error in volume numbering in late 1969 is in fact correct.

Guinn acquired If, another science fiction magazine, in 1959, and gave it to Gold to edit as well. The July 1959 issue of If was the first under Gold's editorship. Galaxy's shift to a bimonthly schedule had been intended to help reduce the workload on Gold, who was not in good health; he was able to take on If as well because the two magazines alternated months of publication.[20] Towards the end of the 1950s Frederik Pohl began to help Gold, occasionally to the extent of performing all the editorial duties, including writing the editorials and blurbs and working with the printer. Gold, who was agoraphobic, was making efforts at this time to leave his apartment, but in 1960 he was seriously injured in a taxi accident, and proved unable to continue as editor. Pohl took over at some point in early 1961, though he was not listed on the masthead as editor until the December 1961 issue.[21][22]

Pohl attempted to persuade Guinn to double the pay rate of one and a half cents a word back to the former level of three. Guinn refused, but Pohl was able to find enough material that he could purchase at a low rate to allow him to offer some authors three cents per word. The strategy was successful in improving circulation, and Guinn eventually acceded to the rate increase.[23]

Pohl also tried hard to persuade Guinn and Sol Cohen, whom Guinn had hired to help with the publishing duties, to switch both Galaxy and If to monthly schedules. In late 1962, they agreed, but soon changed their minds and decided to start a third science fiction magazine instead. This was Worlds of Tomorrow, which was launched in April 1963 and lasted until mid-1967 (it was briefly revived in 1970–71).[24][25] Another companion magazine, International Science Fiction, was tried in late 1967, but lasted only two issues; it showcased stories translated from other languages, and sales were very weak.[26] Finally, in 1968 Guinn launched Worlds of Fantasy, edited initially by Lester del Rey, Galaxy's managing editor; only four issues appeared.[27] In the middle of 1968, Galaxy was restored to a monthly schedule.[7]

1970s and after

In 1969, Guinn sold Galaxy to Universal Publishing and Distribution Corporation (UPD). Pohl was in Rio de Janeiro at a World Science Fiction Symposium when the sale went through; he heard the news when he returned to the Galaxy office afterwards and within a few days decided to resign.[notes 5] He remained on the masthead as "editor emeritus", a post invented to keep Pohl from moving to one of the other sf magazines, and went back to his writing career.[28] His place was taken by Ejler Jakobsson, who was working in UPD's book department. Lester del Rey stayed on as features editor, and Judy-Lynn Benjamin took his place as managing editor.[29] Jack Gaughan was made art editor.[30]

Galaxy's circulation had held relatively steady in the mid-1960s, ranging between 73,000 and 78,000, but the UPD acquisition coincided with a precipitous drop—from 75,300 for the year ended October 1968, circulation fell to 51,479 just one year later. Difficulties with distribution also cut into income, and Arnold Abramson, UPD's owner, decided to cut costs and maximize profits. Galaxy went bimonthly in August 1970, ending a two-year spell of monthly scheduling (though a couple of months had been missed). The page count, which had been cut from 196 to 160 when UPD bought it, was increased again, and the price was raised from 60 cents to 75 cents. A British edition began in May 1972, published by Tandem Books, which was owned by UPD. The net effect of all these changes was a substantial increase in profitability. Circulation in 1972 also rose by about 6,000 issues, though it is possible that this was solely due to the new British edition.[31]

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1970 29/5 29/6 30/1 30/2 30/3 30/4 30/5 30/6 31/1
1971 31/2 31/3 31/4 31/5 31/6 32/1 32/2 32/3
1972 32/4 32/5 32/6 33/1 33/2 33/3
1973 33/4 33/5 33/6 34/7 34/8 34/1 34/2 34/3
1974 34/4 34/5 34/6 34/7 35/5 35/6 35/7 35/8 35/9 35/10 35/11 35/12
1975 36/1 36/2 36/3 36/4 36/5 36/6 36/7 36/8 36/9
1976 37/1 37/2 37/3 37/4 37/5 37/6 37/7 37/8 37/9
1977 38/1 38/2 38/3 38/4 38/5 38/6 38/7 38/8 38/9 39/1
1978 39/2 39/3 39/4 39/5 39/6 39/7 39/8
1979 39/9 39/10 39/11
1980 40/1
1994 1/1 1/2 1/3 1/4 1/5 1/6
1995 2/1 2/2
Issues of Galaxy from 1970 to the last issue, including the revival in 1994, showing
volume/issue number; the apparent errors at July and September 1973, and the odd
numbering of volume 35, are in fact correctly shown. The editors, in sequence, were
Ejler Jakobsson, James Baen, J.J. Pierce, Hank Stine, Floyd Kemske, and E.J. Gold.[7]

UPD began to have financial difficulties in the early 1970s, and when Judy-Lynn del Rey (formerly Judy-Lynn Benjamin) left in May 1973 to work at Ballantine Books, Jakobsson's workload increased greatly. He resigned less than a year later, citing overwork and other issues, and was replaced by James Baen, who took over with the June 1974 issue after Pohl declined the post.[32] Baen also took over the editorship of If, but rising paper costs forced the closure of If at the end of 1974, and the title was merged with Galaxy.[33] The magazine had returned to a monthly schedule in September 1973, but it was only patchily adhered to, with at least a couple of issues missed every year except 1974. Baen was successful at increasing circulation again, bringing it from 47,789 when he took over to 81,035 when he left. The magazine was profitable for UPD, but the financial pressure on the parent company took its toll and Baen left in late 1977 to work for Ace Books—the October issue was his last.[7][34]

Baen was replaced by John J. Pierce, but the situation only worsened. Pierce resigned within a year: the company was in increasing debt, and his office assistant recalls that the office appeared inefficiently run, though he commented that Pierce "clearly loved what he did and knew what he was talking about". Pierce's replacement was Hank Stine, who took over in late 1978, though because of Galaxy's irregular schedule Pierce's last issue was March–April 1979. Stine managed to produce only two more issues, June–July 1979 and September–October 1979, before UPD's financial problems spelled the end. Rights to the title were transferred to a new company, Galaxy Magazine, Inc., owned by Vincent McCaffrey, proprietor of Avenue Victor Hugo, a second-hand book store in Boston; UPD retained a ten percent interest in order to receive income from future sales to pay off their debts. Stine had compiled two more issues, but neither ever appeared; McCaffrey, who had also launched a separate magazine, Galileo, had cash-flow problems that prevented him from distributing the magazine as he had planned. One more issue did finally appear from McCaffrey, in July 1980, in a large format; it was edited by Floyd Kemske. A subsequent issue, to be dated October 1980, was assembled, but never distributed.[35][36]

The last few years of Galaxy's life were marked by stories of unpaid contributors. John Varley, for example, reported that he was still owed money for his stories five years after they appeared. Submissions from well-known writers fell away, and the lack of financial support from UPD meant that the pay rate was an unattractive one cent per word. Higher postal rates, higher paper costs, and continuing competition from the paperback science fiction market all added to the pressure on Galaxy. These problems were not resolved by the sale to McCaffrey, who did not even have enough money to pay for circulation postage, with the result that not every Galaxy subscriber received a copy of the final issue.[7] Frederik Pohl places the blame for Galaxy's demise on Arnie Abramson, who, Pohl contends, "simply did not perform [the] basic functions of a publisher": paying the authors, ensuring subscribers received copies, and meeting other obligations.[37]

In 1994, the magazine reappeared briefly as a semi-professional publication under the editorship of E. J. Gold, son of H. L. Gold. E. J. Gold produced eight issues on a regular bimonthly schedule, starting with the January–February 1994 issue, and ending with March–April 1995.[16][38]