The first issue of Analog that I encountered was for February 1968. What attracted my attention to it on the newsstand was the Kelly Freas cover for the first part of “The Horse Barbarians” by Harry Harrison. When I looked at the Table of Contents, I saw the article “To Make a ‘Star Trek’” by G. Harry Stine. As this was when the original series was being aired, the article was most likely the reason I decided to purchase that issue. Of course, I did eventually get around to reading the fiction, which is what brought me back for the next issue and the next and so on. But it all started with the article.
The nature of my first connection with Analog led me to wonder if articles had always been a part of the magazine. A bit of research showed me that articles had not been a part of Astounding from the very beginning or even for a number of years that followed. Additional research will allow me to show how and when articles first came to Astounding. I will also look at a number of articles and authors that appeared in Astounding and Analog while John W. Campbell was editor.
Why should there be any non-fiction in a science fiction magazine? To answer that question, we must look at how different magazines, including the pre-Campbell Astounding, handled such material.
If we go back a number of years, we encounter the early magazines of Hugo Gernsback. The first was Modern Electrics, which began in 1908. According to Gernsback, the purpose of the magazine was “to teach the young generation science, radio and what was ahead for them.” Along with the technical articles, the issues sometimes included works of science fiction, usually by Gernsback.
Shortly after selling Modern Electrics in 1913, Gernsback created a new magazine, The Electrical Experimenter. In addition to technical articles, it contained both speculative non-fiction and science fiction. This pattern continued after it became Science and Invention in 1920.
When Gernsback created Amazing Stories in 1926, he could have inverted the pattern of his previous magazines and included some non-fiction to go with the fiction. But he did not do so initially. Except for his editorial, each issue contained only science fiction. In response to a reader’s suggestion in the February 1927 issue that the magazine include a feature to report interesting technical items, Gernsback said “Amazing Stories is a purely fiction magazine, and for the present we intend to keep it as such.”
In spite of his comment, Gernsback included a filler in that same issue. In science fiction magazines, these very short articles or notes are usually used to present some scientific or technical fact. This filler was about a real plant that was similar to one featured in a recent story. There was also a short article about H. G. Wells.
Gernsback then decided to include a feature, first appearing in August 1927, called “What Do You Know?” It was a list of science questions, giving the page where each answer could be found in a story. This feature was continued in Amazing Stories even after it passed out of Gernsback’s control in 1929. Fillers disappeared from Amazing Stories at that time, only to reappear in 1934.
When he created Science Wonder Stories, Gernsback had a similar feature to the one introduced in Amazing Stories, called “What is Your Knowledge of Science?” He then added another feature called “Science News of the Month,” followed by yet another called “Science Fiction Questions and Answers.” By the time we get to Thrilling Wonder Stories in 1936, “Science News of the Month” had vanished, but the other features remained. Fillers also appeared from time to time in both Wonder Stories and Thrilling Wonder Stories.
In addition to these features, however, there were only a couple of articles. One was a three-part article “The Problems of Space Flying” by Captain Hermann Noordung that began in the second issue of Science Wonder Stories in July 1929. This was a translation of certain chapters of his book that had been published in 1928. In the February 1930 issue of Science Wonder Stories, there appeared “Can Man Free Himself from Gravity?” by someone only identified as “Dr. Th. Wolff of Berlin.” In the article, Wolff stated that calculations showed that the highest a rocket could rise was 400 km above the surface of the earth. One of the responses was by Dr. Robert H. Goddard, who had created and successfully launched the first liquid fuel rocket in 1926. Goddard stated that this calculation did not take into account the use of a multiple stage rocket, a concept he had proposed in 1916.
Now let us look at the early years of Astounding, published by Clayton Publishing and with Harry Bates as editor. Unlike Amazing Stories and Science Wonder Stories, there were no science quizzes or pages of general science news. There were no articles either. Almost from the beginning, however, there were fillers presenting various scientific facts. These existed until the end of the Clayton Astounding in March 1933.
When Astounding Stories appeared in October 1933 as a Street & Smith magazine, the editor was F. Orlin Tremaine. Much has been written about Campbell as editor of Astounding, but very little about Tremaine. After his graduation from Valparaiso University in 1921, Tremaine worked on the staffs of magazines from a variety of publishers. In 1929, he came to Clayton Publishing, where he edited Miss 1929 and Miss 1930. He left Clayton when Miss 1930 was sold to another publisher. He returned to Clayton in 1932 to edit the humor magazine Bunk and My Love Story Magazine.
Tremaine joined Street & Smith as editor of three magazines that had been acquired from Clayton: Astounding Stories, Clues and Cowboy Stories. With Tremaine’s responsibility for these and later four additional magazines, much of the initial work on Astounding should be credited to Desmond Hall. He had also been at Clayton where had been assistant editor to Harry Bates on Astounding. But Hall was only associated with the Street & Smith Astounding until both he and Tremaine became involved with the launching of the magazine Mademoiselle, which appeared in 1935.
The action usually identified with Tremaine was the introduction of the “thought variant” into Astounding. It was meant to cause authors to present new ideas rather than to simply repackage old ideas that the readers had seen many times before. Whether or not they were called thought variants, the stories that appeared during Tremaine’s term as editor increased the popularity and standing of Astounding. Not much has been said, however, about what Tremaine did with regard to the introduction of non-fiction into the magazine.
In the first Street & Smith Astounding, the fillers had been replaced by short items relating strange and mystical occurrences. This experiment lasted for only one issue. The technically focused fillers started again in November 1933, but lasted for only three issues.
The next appearance of something other than fiction was the presentation, in eight installments, beginning in April 1934, of Charles Fort’s book Lo! Fort’s book may be described as an un-critical presentation of strange and unexplained phenomena from all over the world. Not science fiction, but not very scientific either. Following the completion of Lo! and the appearance of a filler, both in November 1934, there was another interval during which no items of non-fiction appeared in Astounding.
This interval ended in 1936. In a letter to his friend Robert Swisher, Campbell said: