Sunday, June 08, 2008

Vargo Statten SF Magazine - part 2

The second batch of covers for the Vargo Statten SF Magazine.

Twenty pictures covering nineteen issues... I've posted two for the final issue as I noticed that the colouring was so different on the two copies I've seen.

The magazine was a spin-off from the hugely successful Vargo Statten novels published by Scion Ltd. from 1950. Written by John Russell Fearn, already well-established in American pulps as a leading sf writer, the Statten novels were colourful, exciting adventure yarns, strong on ideas and action.

By 1950, the original paperback market was looking for ways to expand their output and Scion led the way with Fearn's novels. Publishers began to flood the market with dozens of other titles, often using bizarre pseudonyms (Astron Del Martia, Vektis Brack, Bengo Mistral, etc.) to disguise the names of authors who had no background in sf. With no quality control at work, the good sf that was appearing (usually from Scion and Hamilton & Co.) was swamped by mediocre stories.

The Vargo Statten SF Magazine arrived in January 1954 and styled itself upon the pulp action of the novels. This made the magazine too juvenile for the tastes of many, although at the same time the magazine was very fan-friendly, carrying columns and reviews by some of the leading fans of the day, notably A. Vince Clarke's "Inquisitor" column and a "Who's Who in Fandom". The lead stories were generally written by some of the better authors contributing to Scion, namely Fearn himself and E. C. Tubb. As a market for new writers, the magazine scored only once, publishing the first sf story by Barrington J. Bayley.

The magazine had potential but changes behind the scenes led to numerous problems. Scion needed to be re-financed, owing large debts to their printers and editor Alistair Patterson departed after only three issues. John Russell Fearn took over as editor and struggled to find good material with only a limited budget. A film fan, he introduced adaptations of movies such as It Came From Outer Space and Them!. With issue 6, Vargo Statten was dropped from the title, which became the more sedate British Science Fiction Magazine and Fearn began revising old stories from American pulps to eke out the money. Science articles were a regular feature, as they were in most British sf magazines.

From December 1954, the printers Dragon Press also became the publisher and Fearn's budget was cut again. Unknown bylines such as Maxwell M. Commander and Ralph Gaylen were appearing, some almost certainly pen-names while others were authors whose sales to the British Space Fiction Magazine (as the title became in June 1955) were often their one and only contribution to sf.

Under Dragon Press the magazine settled to a digest format with 128 pages (having initially appeared as a pulp and then in a large digest format). As well as a new title, the magazine also adopted a standard cover design, but even these cost-cutting exercises failed to save the magazine from a national printers' strike and the last issue appeared in February 1956.

1 comment:

  1. I only hope that somewhere, someone (with lots of affection and lots of time) is digitizing this stuff. There are so many fun stories and, probably a good many lost gems that have gone unanthologized.
    A lot of old SF mags are starting to turn up shared on the web in pdf or cbr formats... These, I never even heard of. Sounds like buried treasure to me.
    I prefer to remain anomalous...



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