[Due to the truly unfortunate fact that not only is my laptop dying, but I’ve also left my charger at home, this following paragraph may be a bit brief.]
I just wanted to comment on the juxtaposition of the desire on the part of AMAZING STORIES itself to be taken as a serious vehicle for serious literature while being printed in the pulp format. Though I’ve never seen a pulp magazine in person, the concept gives off a very cheap air (for lack of a better word). What comes to mind is a small booklet, expensive perhaps for children on a tight allowance, with rough pages. It hardly gives off the sophisticated air of a literary publication. Yet Gernsback’s Editorial notes both (though especially the first) seek this type of readership and acknowledgement despite the physical form AMAZING STORIES (and its all-capitalized title) present. It seems the readership however has met them on this point in some manner as seen in the little reader notes included in the “Thank you!”
I’m having a difficult time articulating a response to this, to be completely honest. My mind keeps returning to the ebook vs paper book debate that’s happening, and I suppose that means something. I mean, I guess the format of the magazine irritated me a bit; I hate reading in columns. I don’t like the way it looks on a page, cluttered and clunky. This means something, because I suppose it makes me far more conscious in the way I perceive the world we live in now, even the work we do on this blog. How this can be typed out, as long as I want it to be (within reason, of course) and disseminated across the planet in a matter of seconds, whereas Gernsback and the staff for “Amazing Stories” had to put their work out on newsstands, were dependent upon subscribers and advertisers to put their work out there. And how they were also limited by space; those columns that I hate so much needed to be done to conserve space, so fewer pages would be used, and more copies could be put out for cheap. The paper had to be cheaper, of course; glossy paper means higher subscription prices and maybe fewer subscribers. Sure, it would be nicer looking, but it would also be way more money to print. I mean, there’s always the argument that the magazine material reflects the content, but I’m not sure I agree with that assessment. Making a cheap item look expensive is way easier now. Also glossy paper is way cheaper.
I know that the pulp magazine was a newer medium at the time Amazing Stories was initially published; perhaps the lack of a longer history of the medium itself (as opposed to print books) made the physical item itself seem conceptually connected to the genre of the stories within–it’s not difficult to imagine a reader getting caught up in the feeling of participating in the same kind of exciting, forward-thinking novelty that defined ‘scientifiction.’ The paper quality, font choice, and columned layout also seems to recall newspapers: while a magazine for fictional works, Amazing Stories may have drawn a line of association from itself (which will become cold hard fact) to informative journalism (which already is).