Published initially as Astounding Stories of Super Science (price 20 cents). The magazine was founded in 1930 with Harry Bates as editor under the ownership of Clayton Magazine Co.
The magazine was sold in 1933 to Street & Smith and also received a new editor, F. Orlin Tremaine.
History was made in the genre with the appointment of John W. Campbell, Jr. as editor in 1937. Before, Campbell had been a writer and contributor. He held the helm from 1937 until 1971, becoming part of the leadership which brought SF away from its space opera beginnings through a seachange into the form it currently holds.
Astounding through the years operated under a number of different names including:
- Astounding Stories of Super Science (later shortened to Astounding Stories)
- Astounding Science Fiction
- Analog Science Fact/Science Fiction
The magazine was initially published as a true pulp magazine with course paper, untrimmed edges, gaudy covers, and relatively uncomplicated story lines. Under editor Harry Bates, the tales were expected to be well constructed, with the science involved plausible. The die was cast for the future evolution of the magazine.
When Clayton went out of business in 1933, Street & Smith brought out an incarnation of the magazine beginning in October 1933. Under editor F. Orlin Tremaine the writers were encouraged to come up with novel ideas rather than recycling the same worn space opera fare. In 1934 the magazine became one of the first fiction magazines to publish a major work of non-fiction. Charles Fort's Lo! was published in 8 parts beginning in April 1934. Some of the writers in Astounding Stories during this period were Murray Leinster and John D. Clark. By the end of Tremaine's tenure as editor the magazine had become the most popular SF magazine of the era.
In 1937 John W. Campbell, Jr. became editor. He quickly renamed the magazine to Astounding Science-Fiction. Campbell placed emphasis on both words in the name, Science and Fiction. He demanded that writers not just have action but think through their stories, develop how changes in science would change humanity and the way people lived in the future. Campbell reigned during the Golden Age of SF, discovering and nurturing the careers of such new talents as A. E. Van Vogt, Robert A. Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov. Campbell often took time to write voluminous input to the author on a story whether he purchased it or sent a rejection slip. Other authors who found room for their work in the magazine were Theodore Sturgeon, L. Sprague deCamp, and Lester Del Rey.
Campbell tweaked the name of the magazine again in 1946, dropping the hyphen and making the last two words bold, creating Astounding SCIENCE FICTION. This logo remained until 1953.
The decade of the 50s saw changes. Astoundings success had bred a number of copycat publications, as well as helped create a booming market for SF in paperback editions. The market was becoming crowded and no longer was Astounding the only venue where SF readers could find top notch writing. Campbell also had a change of emphasis, reflecting his interests in 'fringe science', including psionics and other outre topics. Despite the slight change in subject, the emphasis was always on quality. The decade saw publication of L. Ron Hubbard's first article on Dianetics, which eventually became Scientology. It also saw publication of Tom Godwin's Cold Equations, sometimes included on the short list as one of the best SF short stories ever written.
During the 60s Campbell changed the name again, this time to Analog. Campbell had felt for a long time that Astounding was too sensational or juvenile to reflect what the magazine really contained. The 1960 title change was Campbell's final legacy to the magazine he had led so capably and so long. He died suddenly in 1971, leaving a very large pair of shoes to fill.
Following the death of John W. Campbell, Jr., Ben Bova was named editor and assumed the mantle in the January 1972 issue. He was to win 5 consecutive Hugo Awards in 1973-78 for Best Professional Editor. The award was created in 1973, after John W. Campbell, Jr. had passed from the scene. Bova was editor until November 1978.
Following the Bova years, Stanley Schmidt was named editor. He had also been nominated for Best Professional Editor honors each year from 1980-2006 but has never won. While not decorating his mantle with Hugo Awards, he has maintained Analog as the most widely read SF magazine in the English speaking world.
In an interesting and somewhat odd vein, the magazine had a British counterpart. From 1939 through 1963 the 'British Reprint Editions" of ASF were published under license by the Atlas Publishing and Distributing Company. These British reprints were unique in that they contained nothing which had not originally appeared in the American edition, but sometimes lacked the full content of their American cousin. The Brit issues were missing the editorials, serials, factual articles, and letter columns which fleshed out the US editions, making them slimmer and much more spartan than the US edition. The Brit editions usually followed the US content by several months, so when the name changed in America the British change occured some months later. The last of these British editions was released in April 1963, following which the American edition was imported directly into the British market by Condé Nast Publications.
Along the path it has taken in over 75 years of continuous publication, Analog has had its detractors. In contrast to some of the competition, Analog has maintained a very strict insistence on its basis in science, sometimes to the detriment of the story development and flow. Some writers have expressed the feeling that Analogs insistence has gone past the point of logic into a kind of scientific puritanism. The magazine has had the appellation 'scientist fiction' applied by its critics.
The legacy of Astounding and its heir has been the popularization of the SF genré, making it accessible to the reading public. Along the way they have fostered the careers of many writers who are on the 'who's who' list of SF authors. It would be safe to say that without magazines like Astounding and its competitors, the face of SF would be different than it is today. The magazine has accomplished its mission admirably. It has opened eyes and minds, provoked thought, and entertained whole generations of SF fans, and for that service we fans are profoundly grateful.
During its heyday, Analog
sold almost 115,000 copies per month. Like its competitors, it has suffered drastic reductions in circulation. During 2006 the magazine had a total circulation of just 28, 319 copies.
In a society which gets its news in 10 second flashes, who are preoccupied with the antics of Paris Hilton, who are treated to the sight of Britney Spears sans lingerie, perhaps there is no room for a magazine which requires the reader to think. The public seems to have an insatiable appetite for mindless pap, shoveled 24/7 by TV, billboards, and magazines. Magazines such as Analog have served to bring out the engineer in dreamers and the dreams out of engineers for decades. It would be a poorer landscape indeed should Analog and its kin fade away into publishing history.