The Man from Mars: Ray Palmer's Amazing Pulp Journey [NOOK Book]


The rollicking true story of the legendary writer and editor who ruled over America’s fantasy and supernatural pulp journals in the mid-twentieth century, and shaped today’s UFO and sci-fi cultures: Ray Palmer.

Meet Ray Palmer. A hustler, a trickster, and a visionary. The hunchbacked Palmer, who stood at just over four feet tall, was nevertheless an indomitable force, the ruler of his own bizarre sector of the universe. Armed with only his typewriter, Palmer changed the world ...

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The Man from Mars: Ray Palmer's Amazing Pulp Journey

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The rollicking true story of the legendary writer and editor who ruled over America’s fantasy and supernatural pulp journals in the mid-twentieth century, and shaped today’s UFO and sci-fi cultures: Ray Palmer.

Meet Ray Palmer. A hustler, a trickster, and a visionary. The hunchbacked Palmer, who stood at just over four feet tall, was nevertheless an indomitable force, the ruler of his own bizarre sector of the universe. Armed with only his typewriter, Palmer changed the world as we know it – jumpstarting the flying saucer craze; frightening hundreds of thousands of Americans with “true” stories of evil denizens of inner earth; and reporting on cover-ups involving extraterrestrials, the paranormal, and secret government agencies.

As editor for the ground-breaking sci-fi magazine Amazing Stories and creator of publications such as Other Worlds, Imagination, Fate, Mystic, Search, Flying Saucers, Hidden World, and Space Age, Palmer pushed the limits and broke new ground in science fiction publishing in the 1940s and 1950s—and was reviled for it by purists who called him “the man who killed science fiction.”

In the first-ever biography devoted to the figure who molded modern geek culture, pulp scholar Fred Nadis paints a vivid portrait of Palmer—a brilliant, charming, and wildly willful iconoclast who helped ignite the UFO craze, convinced Americans of hidden worlds and government cover ups, and championed the occult and paranormal.

Palmer overcame serious physical handicaps to become the most significant editor during the “golden age” of pulp magazines; he rebelled in his own inimitable way against the bland suburban vision of the American Dream; he concocted new literary genres; and he molded our current conspiracy culture decades before The X-Files claimed that the truth was out there.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Freelance journalist and author Nadis (American studies, Doshisha Univ., Japan; Wonder Shows: Performing Science, Magic, and Religion in America) draws from his extensive background in American pop culture to compose a smartly researched and stimulating biography of the mysterious and audacious Ray Palmer, founder of the first fanzine, The Comet, in 1930. Later, Palmer was hired as the editor of Amazing Stories and began publishing the very popular space opera stories to attract younger readers. He went on to publish Richard Shaver's controversial Shaver Mystery Stories, in which the author claimed humankind was controlled by ancient inhabitants living in subterranean caves. While Palmer publicly expressed his belief in the stories, it's uncertain whether the statement was part of a ploy to increase circulation, which it did. Nadis relied on Palmer's published articles and editorials, a plethora of primary and secondary sources, and Palmer's FBI file to help sort fact from fiction as a Palmer archive hasn't been built. The author paints a story of a larger-than-life writer, editor, and publisher whose unorthodox methods propelled a nascent genre of tales, conspiracies, and other worlds into high visibility. VERDICT Recommended for sf and fantasy fans, popular culture enthusiasts, and general readers.—Mark Manivong, Lib. of Congress, Washington, DC
Publishers Weekly
One of science fiction’s greatest gadflies gets his due in this lively and entertaining biography. Raymond A. Palmer—who signed himself “Rap”—was one of science fiction’s earliest fans and launched the genre’s first fanzine, The Comet, in 1930. Eight years later, he was offered the plum job of editing Amazing Stories, which had debuted in 1926 as the first science fiction magazine. As Nadis recounts, Rap boosted the magazine’s flagging circulation by publishing space operas that appealed to younger readers. In 1945, he published a story by Richard Shaver, a psychologically troubled writer who believed that humanity was being controlled by an evil ancient subterranean race. For the next four years, “Shaver mysteries” dominated the magazine, and Rap’s insistence that they were true increased sales, but brought howls of outrage from fans who felt he was encouraging crackpots from the lunatic fringe. Eventually, Rap left science fiction to found Fate, Mystic, and a string of “true” paranormal and UFO magazines. Nadis quotes liberally from Rap’s editorials and reader letters to paint a vivid portrait of the postwar science fiction scene and fan culture. Rather than try to solve the mystery of how much Rap truly believed of what he published, Nadis presents his subject as an energetic provocateur who “offered unorthodox ideas to shake things up, overturn preconceptions, and create mystique.” (May)
Kirkus Reviews
The intriguing life story of a pioneer in science-fiction publishing and fandom. Nadis (Wonder Shows: Performing Science, Magic, and Religion in America, 2005) successfully cultivates the gee-whiz aura of prewar American culture, where bright youngsters like Ray Palmer (1910–1977) saw the future within garish "pulp" magazines. The author notes that Palmer, whose devotion to the original sci-fi magazine Amazing Stories won him its editorship, became "one of the most controversial figures in science fiction history [due to] a taste for the unorthodox." As with Ray Bradbury or Harlan Ellison (both of whom crossed Palmer's path), Palmer thrust himself into the birth of sci-fi's complex fandom in the 1920s and stayed through the explosive popularity of pulp in the 1930s and '40s, the rise of paperback originals in the '50s and then the decline of both industries (which for Palmer included a foray into smut publishing). Palmer, a loquacious, giddy booster of the genre despite terrible lifelong health problems, was both credited and blamed for driving the fusion of science fiction (which aspired to strict scientific principles in its early years) with mysticism and conspiracy theory. For instance, beginning in 1944, Amazing Stories introduced a bizarre serial concerning suppressed racial memories, the "Shaver Mystery," named for its author, an eccentric with whom Palmer became close friends. Later, as the pulp marketplace contracted, Palmer began other magazines, starting with Fate, focused on early flying saucer sightings; he was also at the center of the controversies around Area 51 and Roswell, N.M. Nadis demonstrates how figures like Palmer and Shaver provoked convulsive, lasting literary movements despite their ostracism from mainstream letters. He produces a vivid cultural history, capturing subtle transformations in American attitudes through an examination of the voluble Palmer's career and writings; however, the narrative style veers from droll to dry. Worthwhile reading for those interested in the origins of today's sci-fi fan culture and the still understudied subject of marginal literary publishing.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101616048
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 6/13/2013
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,326,400
  • File size: 9 MB

Meet the Author

Fred Nadis has been a visiting associate professor of American studies at Doshisha University in Japan, as well as a freelance journalist, publishing articles in the Atlantic Monthly and other magazines. He is the author of Wonder Shows: Performing Science, Magic, and Religion in America. Nadis has a Ph.D. in American studies from the University of Texas at Austin. He lives in California.

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