The Retro-Hugo Awards

Editors of 1938

A version of this article was first published in a booklet distributed by Loncon 3 at the Hugo ceremony at LoneStarCon 3, the 2013 Worldcon.

1938 was the beginning of the first Golden Age of Science Fiction. That was in no small part due to wonderful work done by some truly great editors working primarily through pulp magazines, both with true short fiction and longer works serialised there. Astounding, Amazing, Tales of Wonder… the names are still recognisable today and that’s due primarily to the editors who built those amazing brands.

The first name that must be mentioned is John W Campbell Jr. 1938 saw Campbell editing Astounding, a duty he had begun with the last issue of 1937. During the year, Astounding was renamed to Astounding Science Fiction; the year also marked the transition of Campbell’s life as a writer to that of an editor. Over the course of twelve issues for 1938 he published works by himself (as Don A Stuart), E E “Doc” Smith, Raymond A Palmer, Jack Williamson, Clifford D Simak, L Sprague de Camp, L Ron Hubbard, and Lester Del Rey. Most notable to modern readers would likely be the Don A Stuart story “Who Goes There?” from the August issue, which is the basis for the various films named The Thing. Over the course of the year, Campbell also oversaw three full novel serialisations. These were Galactic Patrol (E E “Doc” Smith), The Tramp (L Ron Hubbard), and Three Thousand Years (Thomas Calvert McClary).

In the UK, Walter Gillings edited the full year’s complement of the first adult UK science fiction magazine, Tales of Wonder. Over the four issues for the year he published works by John Wyndham, John Russell Fearn and William F Temple, and an essay by Arthur C Clarke. The second world war would eventually spell the end for the publication, but Gillings served as editor throughout.

1938 saw the last two issues of Amazing Stories edited by T O’Conor Sloane, a position he had started not quite a full decade earlier. In the middle of the year, the magazine was sold to Ziff-Davis and the editorial tasks were taken on by Raymond A Palmer. Palmer oversaw the transition back to monthly publication before the year’s end, putting out five issues in the year.

Mort Weisinger was in the middle of his run as editor of Thrilling Wonder Stories, putting out six issues over the year including stories from Clifford D Simak, Stanley & Helen Weinbaum, John W Campbell, Ray Cummings, and Henry Kuttner.

Farnsworth Wright put out twelve issues of Weird Tales in 1938. The magazine owed much of its mystique to its frequent publication of works by H P Lovecraft, many of which appeared in 1938. It also saw publication of works by Jack Williamson, Robert E Howard, and Robert Bloch.