Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Hugo Gernsback's Science-Fiction Plus discovered in the Rare Books Collection

I was very excited to discover that my library's Rare Books Collection, which I don't shut up about, has the complete run of Hugo Gernsback's Science-Fiction Plus (or Science-Fiction +, as it appears on the cover). Granted, it only ran for seven issues in 1953, but I'm still impressed we have it.

One story, published in the August issue (no. 5), is of particular interest to me: Clifford D. Simak's "Spacebred Generations," a short story set aboard a generation starship. This story was kindly recommended to me by someone following this blog, so now I can read it and comment on it in my thesis and upcoming conference paper. Also of interest is an article in the April issue (no. 2) by Leslie R. Shepherd on "Interstellar Flight," which contains a discussion about the feisability of multi-generational interstellar travel. Below is the cover for this issue, featuring a large (generation?) spaceship, apparently carved out of an asteroid.

I did some searching through Google Books, which I love, and found a few sources which discuss this short-lived magazine, including Hugo Gernsback and the Century of Science Fiction by Gary Westfahl, Transformations: The Story of the Science Fiction Magazines from 1950 to 1970 by Michael Ashley, and Science-Fiction: The Gernsback Years by Everett F. Bleiler and Richard J. Bleiler. From what I can gather, Science-Fiction Plus was an attempt to resurrect the "bedsheet" size magazine, with older and more established sf authors, in a less pulp-ish publication. However, this resulted in the magazine appearing anachronistic, with the old names and old style no longer holding the weight they used to. Furthermore, Gernsback kept the magazine firmly grounded in his rather restrictive idea of science fiction, which had not changed in some thirty years. As sales declined, the magazine was changed from the classier glossy format to the old pulp paper format. Finding that Science-Fiction Plus wasn't as profitable as he'd hoped, Gernsback cancelled it.

On the topic of my library's Rare Books collection: they have just opened a new exhibition on "lewd and scandalous books." You can view the virtual exhibition online, or come in and see it at the Rare Books Exhibition Room at the Matheson Library. The opening of the exhibition was integrated into the recent Bibliographic Society of Australia and New Zealand 2010 conference, which was titled To Deprave and Corrupt: Forbidden, Hidden and Censored Books. A friend of mine, Patrick Spedding, has been writing about the conference and exhibition on his blog.

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