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_194005 cover.jp

Thrilling Wonder Stories, May 1940

Howard V. Brown cover illustrates "Gems of Life." by Eando Binder

Captain Future, Wizard of Science, Fall

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, Jan. 1941, cover a

Fantastic Adventures, January 1941

Harold W. McCauley cover illustrates "The Floating Robot" by David Wright O'Brien

Spicy Mystery Stories, March 1941, HUGH

Spicy Mystery, March 1941

H. J. Ward cover illustrates "Welcome to Hell" by Robert Leslie Bellem

Weird Tales, July 1941.jpg

Weird Tales, July 1941

Hannes Bok cover illustrates "The Robot God" by Ray Cummings

Uncanny Tales, April 1942.jpg

Uncanny Tales, April 1942

K. P. Ainsworth cover illustrates "After 12,000 Years" by Stanton A. Coblentz

Strange Detective Mysteries, Sept. 1942

Strange Detective Stories, September 1942

Future-Fantasy-and-Science-Fiction-Decem

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 robot cover.

Amazing Stories, March 1943

Robert Fuqua cover illustrates "The Metal Monster" by E. K. Jarvis

Science Fiction Stories July 1943, cover

Science Fiction Stories, July 1943

Milton Luros cover illustrates "Dominion" by Arthur J. Burks

Amazing Stories, Jan.  1944, cover art b

Amazing Stories, January 1944

Robert Fuqua cover illustrates "The Mad Robot" by William P. McGivern

Startling Stories, Spring 1945.JPG

Startling Stories, Spring 1945

Earle Bergey cover illustrates "Sun of Danger" by Brett Sterling [Edmond Hamilton]

Startling Stories, November 1948 cover b

Startling Stories, November 1948

Earle Bergey cover illustrates "Against the Fall of Night" by Arthur C. Clarke

Famous Fantastic mysteries June 1950 cov

Famous Fantastic Mysteries, June 1950

Norman Saunders cover

Amazing Stories, November 1951 cover art

Amazing Stories, November 1951

Julian S. Krupa and Ed Swiatek cover illustrates "Beyond the Walls of Space"

by S. M. Tenneshaw

Science Fiction Adventures, Feb. 1953.jp

Science Fiction Adventures, February 1953

Earle Bergey cover

March 9, 2021