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Posted in Collectibles For Sale,Pulps on January 23, 2015 @ 4:53 pm

I recently updated the site’s Collectibles For Sale section, and among the newly added items were a half dozen or so issues of Thrilling Wonder Stories from the late Forties and early Fifties. It’s been a good many years since I read the copies in my own collection, but after listing these duplicates I flipped through them and was reminded just how much fun they are.

Thrilling Wonder Stories and its sister magazine, Startling Stories, had always been fun, but they made great strides in the immediate aftermath of World War II under the editorship of Sam Merwin. He deemphasized their juvenile aspects — such as the hokey letter columns presided over by “Sergeant Saturn” — and gradually introduced a more mature type of science fiction. Startling continued to run book-length novels and TWS continued to run a mix of novelettes and short stories, but each began to eschew adolescent space opera in favor of more thoughtful and mildly provocative yarns. Humor and irony were found with increasing frequency, as were stories that ended on poignant or downbeat notes.

What’s really striking about the late Forties-early Fifties TWS is the roster of regular contributors. Practically every issue from this period boasts an all-star author lineup. You see the same names over and over on the covers and contents pages: Ray Bradbury, John D. MacDonald, Fredric Brown, L. Ron Hubbard, Robert A. Heinlein, Henry Kuttner, Leigh Brackett, Murray Leinster, Jack Vance, L. Sprague de Camp, and so on. You have the series of novelettes by Raymond F. Jones that were later adapted to film as This Island Earth. Believe me, there’s plenty of great reading in this period of the magazine’s history. Not every author is represented in every issue by a classic yarn; after all, TWS was far from the best paying market for SF. But the overall average is quite high. And even though they were controversial at the time (readers mostly disliked them), those “Good Girl Art” covers by Earle Bergey certainly make the magazine distinctive.

Anybody who enjoys pulp SF should have a few representative issues of Thrilling Wonder Stories in his or her collection. If you’re of a mind to sample this long-running, generally meritorious magazine, I strongly suggest beginning with the selection for sale elsewhere on this site.


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