Friday, January 3, 2014


In 1936 Hugo Gernsback lost his second set of science fiction magazines, and barely escaped another bankruptcy, by selling Wonder Stories and it's companions to Ned Pines' Standard Publications. A streamlined publisher of successful pulp magazines, Pines put a savvy young man who had been a reader and fan of science fiction since childhood, Mort Weisinger, in charge. Weisinger jettsoned Gernsback's preoccupation with with Victorian gagetry and scientific lectures on how everything worked for the kind of juvenile whiz-bang ray guns and monsters slant Ray Palmer would later be pilloried for taking (often by authors who had grown up writing for Weisinger). A decade on, in the more ambitious hands of Sam Merwin Jr., Standard's line of pulps shot high in the field virtually overnight, becoming second only to John W. Campbell Jr.'s Astounding.

When [in 1936] Standard Publications bought Wonder Stories and renamed it Thrilling Wonder Stories, they had a man on their editorial staff just made for the magazine, Mort Weisinger. Weisinger was one of the early group of fans, including Ray Palmer, Julius Schwartz, and Forrest J. Ackerman, who published the legendary fan mag, Fantasy Magazine. Mort had had a few stories sold and wanted nothing more than to edit a stf magazine. He was given the assignment and carried on until he left in 1941 for an editorial position with the Superman comic magazine group. But this didn't end his stf editing career. Today, with Julius Schwartz, he co-edits two stf comic magazines, Strange Adventures and Mystery in Space, produced by the publisher of Superman.

Oscar J. Friend ran Thrilling Wonder Stories and Startling Stories, from 1941 until 1945, when Sam Merwin Jr., took them over.

Sam Merwin Jr. took over a tough job when TWS and Startling were handed to him. They were in a sad, sad state. Though Merwin didn't know too much about science-fiction, he is a darn good editor and knows a good story when he sees one. Slowly he built the mags up until when he left them only a few months ago, they were (and are) among the best of their types. Sam is a big man, about six-foot, heavily built and with an extra strong sense of humor. He left
the Standard mags to free-lance in writing science-fiction and other "pop" was doing. Young Merwin assured me his father was hard at work on a stf novel.types of stories. I had the pleasure of meeting his teen-age son at Steve Takacs' book shop only recently and inquired what his

Merwin leaves his stf magazines in good hands—in the hands of his silent partner, Sam Mines, who will carry on the policies of Merwin and add some of his own. Mines is an old-time stf fan. He started reading our favorite brand of literature during the early days of Gernsback, got sidetracked into westerns when he started writing, but now he's with his old love, scientifiction. Merwin paid him the greatest compliment possible when, at the 1st Fan-Vet Convention in New York, in April, he stated that Mines is the man who should have gotten the job of editing the Standard stf mags in the first place, "as he knows more about stf than I'll ever know." [Mines would purchase Philip Jose Farmer's The Lovers, for the first time bringing science fiction to a truly adult level.]

Sam Mines, back left. Ted Dikty (Best SF of the Year editor), back center, Jerome Bixby, back right.
Sitting left, Phil Farmer, sitting right Melvin Korshak. Circa 1950.

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