The Visionaries, Madmen, and Tinkerers Who Created the Future That Never Was
THE LOOK OF THE FUTURE - PULP ROBOT COVERS
1940s - 1950s
Pulp magazines struggled once World War II started and never recovered. Wartime restrictions meant that even the cheap pulp paper they were printed on was hard to come by. Worse, the publishing world had discovered the mass market paperback format. These literally pocket-sized books used far less paper yet delivered more wordage from bigger name authors for the same quarter. Pulp publishers tried lowering their prices in response but that left them bereft of the inflow to hire top-tier authors to replace the grind-'em-out specialists who filled thousands of pulp pages.
F&sf made virtually no inroads into the paperback market, so the genre pulps theoretically had the market to themselves. They ran into an unmovable obstacle in the person of John W. Campbell, Jr. As editor of Astounding Science-Fiction from 1937 on (and, for a few years, Unknown Fantasy Fiction), he so thoroughly dominated the market for quality f&sf that none of his many competitors could thrive. The short-lived publications ran stories by teenage friends of the teenaged editors and swiftly ran the genre's reputation farther into the ground than the gaudy superscience of the 1930s had.
Campbell saw the future first. Astounding converted into digest format in 1944. Two major competitors finally emerged at the end of the decade. The Magazine of Fantasy in 1949, adding and Science Fiction the next year just before Galaxy Science Fiction launched. Both were digests. A few pulps continued to hit newsstands, mostly from pulp companies trying to amortize costs with additional titles, but pulps were dead by around 1953. They were silent movies in a Cinerama world.
Oddly, Campbell never ran a robot cover on a pulp Astounding (except for one early issue probably using up old inventory), so the selections on this page are a melange of lesser magazines, chosen more to feature as many titles as possible and as many different takes on robots. No attempt to be comprehensive is implied. Information about the covers is from ISFDB.com.
Fantastic Adventures, January 1940
H. W. McCauley cover illustrates “The Robot Peril” by Don Wilcox
Amazing Stories, February 1940
C. L. Hartman cover illustrates "Adam Link's Vengeance" by Eando Binder
Thrilling Wonder Stories, May 1940
Howard V. Brown cover illustrates "Gems of Life." by Eando Binder
Captain Future, Wizard of Science, Fall 1940
Earle Begley cover
Amazing Stories, October 1940
Leo Morey cover illustrates "Raiders out of Space" by Robt. Moore Williams
Fantastic Adventures, January 1941
Harold W. McCauley cover illustrates "The Floating Robot" by David Wright O'Brien
Spicy Mystery, March 1941
H. J. Ward cover illustrates "Welcome to Hell" by Robert Leslie Bellem
Weird Tales, July 1941
Hannes Bok cover illustrates "The Robot God" by Ray Cummings
Uncanny Tales, April 1942
K. P. Ainsworth cover illustrates "After 12,000 Years" by Stanton A. Coblentz
Strange Detective Stories, September 1942
Future Fantasy and Science Fiction, December-1942
Robert C. Sherry cover illustrates "The Key to the Black Planet"
by Martin Pearson [Donald A. Wollheim]
Amazing Stories, March 1943
Robert Fuqua cover illustrates "The Metal Monster" by E. K. Jarvis
Science Fiction Stories, July 1943
Milton Luros cover illustrates "Dominion" by Arthur J. Burks
Amazing Stories, January 1944
Robert Fuqua cover illustrates "The Mad Robot" by William P. McGivern
Startling Stories, Spring 1945
Earle Bergey cover illustrates "Sun of Danger" by Brett Sterling [Edmond Hamilton]
Startling Stories, November 1948
Earle Bergey cover illustrates "Against the Fall of Night" by Arthur C. Clarke
Famous Fantastic Mysteries, June 1950
Norman Saunders cover
Amazing Stories, November 1951
Julian S. Krupa and Ed Swiatek cover illustrates "Beyond the Walls of Space"
by S. M. Tenneshaw
Science Fiction Adventures, February 1953
Earle Bergey cover
March 9, 2021