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1920s - 1930s

Pulp magazines evolved in the late 19th century from earlier fiction magazines. Rival publishers learned that fat, cheap magazines sold incredibly well. At first, they covered all types of fiction indiscriminately, including those stories called "scientific romances," back when a romance was synonymous with an adventure. Reader feedback made the publishers rethink that policy. People who wanted a certain type of story were growing frustrated by having to skip past hundreds of pages to get to something they liked.


Specialty pulps appeared sporadically at first, but by the 1920s most pulps, except for the few top-of-the-line elites, limited themselves to a single subject. What we now call science fiction comes from one man, Hugo Gernsback, the leader in radio and even television magazines and allied electronic subjects. His Amazing Stories created the genre and when he lost control of the magazine his later series of Wonder publications competed with Amazing and Astounding to create the Golden Age of Adjectival Titles.


Robots were slow to penetrate science fiction. My database shows fewer than a dozen stories about robots appearing in the 1920s. By the 1930s, though, writers and artists realized the possibilities of the robot menace, a scourge that could substitute for aliens and giant monsters to wreak havoc on American cities and menace the stalwart heroes. No image of what a robot should look like had coalesced in the popular mind, so artists could create wild and mechanically implausible monsters to freeze buyers' blood. I can't explain the fascination for tentacles that so many had.

I've tried to pull covers from many different magazines and artists with no attempt to be comprehensive. Information about the covers is from

Argosy All Story Weekly, August 7, 1920

Stockton Mulford cover illustrates “The Metal Monster” by A. Merritt

Weird Tales, December 1926

Joseph Doolin cover illustrates “The Metal Giants” by Edmond Hamilton

Amazing_Stories_January_1928, cover by F

Amazing Stories, January 1928

Frank R. Paul cover

Amazing Stories, October 1928

Frank R. Paul cover illustrates "To the Moon by Proxy" by J. Strossel

Scientific Detective Monthly, March 1930

Jno Ruger cover illustrates “The Robot Terror” by Melbourne Huff

Astounding Stories, January 1931

H. W. Wesso cover illustrates “The Gate to Xoran” by Hal K. Wells

Wonder Stories, December 1931

 Frank R. Paul cover illustrates “The Reign of the Robots” by Edmond Hamilton

Amazing Stories, April 1932

Leo Morey  cover illustrates "The Lost Machine" by John Wyndham

Wonder Stories, March 1933

Frank R. Paul cover illustrates "Wanderers of Time”

by John Beynon Harris [John Wyndham]

Wonder Stories, November 1933

Cover not credited,  illustrates "The Call of the Mech-Men” by Lawrence Manning

Amazing Stories, March 1934

Leo Morey cover illustrates “Triplanetary” by Edward E. Smith, Ph.D.

Wonder Stories, February 1935

Frank R. Paul cover illustrates "The Robot Aliens" by Eando Binder

Amazing Stories, April 1934, cover by Le

Amazing Stories, April 1934

Leo Moray cover illustrates "The Mentanicals" by Francis Flagg

Wonder Stories, September 1935, cover by

Wonder Stories, September 1935

Frank R. Paul cover

Astounding Stories march 1938, cover by

Astounding Science-Fiction, March 1938

H. W. Wesso cover illustrates "Something from Jupiter"

by Dow Elstar [Raymond Z. Gallun]

Amazing Stories, April 1938.jpg

Amazing Stories, April 1938

Robert Fuqua cover illustrates "World Without Women"

by Thornton Ayre [John Russell Fearn]

Amazing Stories, January 1939

Robert Fuqua cover illustrates "I, Robot" by Eando Binder

Startling Stories, Jan. 1939, cover by b

Startling Stories, January 1939

Howard V. Brown cover

Fantastic Adventures May 1939 cover.jpg

Fantastic Adventures, May 1939

Robert Fuqua cover illustrates "Revolt of the Robots" by Arthur Tofte

Startling Stories, July 1939, cover by b

Startling Stories, July 1939

Howard V. Brown cover illustrates "Robot A-1" by Oscar J. Friend

The Spider, December 1939

March 9, 2021

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