Posts tagged ‘Mary Gnaedinger’



If you’re among that large and growing fraction of our blog readerrs who never miss anything in the blog and never forget anything you haven’t missed, you may recall an occasional musing from me about how much fun (and also how much labor) editing Galaxy and If was. Pay was putrid, work was unending, but it was the best job I ever had, and if someone made me a comparable offer today I’d have a really hard time turning it down.

Well, no one has, but something is stirring in that general area. Lately I’ve been going over the problems involved in starting a new magazine. It would be called Super Science Stories, which is the name I christened one of the two magazines I created for the giant pulp house of Popular Publications when they gave the kid me his first editorial job.

It would use all reprints, swiping the idea from Famous Fantastic Mysteries, the magazine Mary Gnaedinger piloted for the Munsey group in the ’40s. Pulp paper. 4-color cover. 128 pages. Price somewhere around $1.95. Lettercol and, in every issue, a truculent J.W. Campbell-like editorial. Sound like fun? It does to me — with, of course, some other distinguishing traits I don’t want to talk about right now.

Retrome, Satanas!

I know I shouldn’t give it a thought, but if an offer got real, how could I say no?

G-8 and his Battle Aces

As best I remember, Al Norton was in charge of:

At some time during my furlough, Astonishing Stories had breathed its last, done in by the 10¢ cover price. We didn’t have any horror or love pulps — happily, because we all would have hated them. We also didn’t have any of the titles Popular was acquiring in its purchase of the venerable Frank A. Munsey’s company.

As far as I recall, Popular kept only two of the Munsey titles alive: Argosy and the fantasy-reprint magazine edited by Mary Gnaedinger, Famous Fantastic Mysteries. Mary herself came with the deal — also happily, because I occasionally thus had somebody to talk science fiction with.

All of the titles we worked on were pretty much your basic pulp. The air-wars were the least interesting to work on, partly because every last word of them was written by a single author under contract, David Goodis, who was not without talent — he published better things elsewhere — but didn’t waste any of it on our pulps, which were uniformly one dogfight after another, with the Spitfires and the P-40s triumphing over the Messerschmitts and the Heinkels.

Possibly the pulpiest of our get was our one superhero: The Master American Flying Spy Known as G-8. Their main difference from the air-war titles was that G-8 was fighting in World War I, and his victories were even more improbable.

G-8 was written by a very nice man named Robert J. Hogan, and (like Goodis) he wrote the entire editorial contents of each issue, including the “readers’ letters” by and to himself. But he was — forgive me if you’re still around, Bob — by all odds the pulpiest writer we had the misfortune to edit, and when the G-8 mag got swept away by wartime stresses we all condoled with him.

He looked at us with mournful eyes, thought the matter over for a while and then said, “Well, I’ve always wanted to try magazines like The Saturday Evening Post. So I guess I’ll see if I can get any of those big slick checks.”

We were all too well brought up to hurt his feelings, so none of us laughed until he was out the door. We didn’t see him for about a month, until he stopped in on the way to the bank, so he could show us the check he had just received. For a short story. From — of course — The Saturday Evening Post.

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I was not employed by Popular Publications for five or six months, during which time I didn’t look for another job. I decided to go for full-time writing instead, but when that period was over — when I got a telegram from Al Norton, asking me to come back as his assistant, at close to twice what I’d been earning as editor of my own two magazines — I said sure.

Everything I wrote in that period sold, some of it at a word rate twice as high as my highest before then, for a total income per week of work that was actually a tad higher than I had been getting from editorial salary plus my spare-time writing. Not everything sold immediately, though, and all in all that experience validated what I had long been saying for a long time: freelancing paid pretty well, but the checks came when they came, and not a minute before. It was nothing you could finance a marriage on.

And, as it happened, my girlfriend, Doris, was getting pretty tired of being a girlfriend around that time. She much preferred the honorific “wife.” But we’ll come to that a little later.

Although I had been out of the office only a few months, there had been some big changes already and more were coming. Frank A. Munsey’s magazine empire, consisting mostly of the weekly Argosy and a few other odds and ends, had been up for sale for some time, and when the price declined enough to be a bargain, Harry Steeger and Harold S. Goldsmith bought Munsey’s stable.

The one magazine that they continued pretty much unchanged was Famous Fantastic Mysteries, along with its editor, Mary Gnaedinger, a friendly and able woman a little older than I, who had settled in in what had once been my office. Steeger had big plans for Argosy. He was considering making it a men’s magazine, perhaps a little like Esquire, but he was taking his time making it happen.

My biggest surprise was that Jane Littel was gone, and a middle-aged man, salvaged from Munsey’s payroll, was editing the love pulps. I never met him but he created a minor annoyance for me. He found a poem of mine in the inventory, and not having been told that it was meant to be used under a pseudonym, went ahead and published it as by Frederik Pohl.

I do not claim that my published verse would make Frost or Eliot envious, but I didn’t want to be remembered for my sappier 25¢-a-line effusions. It turned out not to matter, since apparently none of the readers of the love pulps had ever heard of me anyway.

Rog Terrill’s monkey cage of male young editors had been depleted by the draft, and Al Norton’s helpers were gone as well, every one. I never knew any of Rog’s replacements well enough to remember their names.. Al, after losing all of his, had begun to replace them with two young women. One was named Olga Mae Quadland, friendly, able and good at the obligatory skills of spelling, grammar and punctuation. The other was a very pretty recent divorcee from San Diego, in New York for the first time of her life, and, actually, the one who turned out to be my second wife.

But that’s another story, and one that we haven’t come to yet.

To be continued. . . .

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