US magazine, pulp-size Mar 1939-Aug 1941, BEDSHEET-size Oct 1941-Apr 1943, then back to pulp-size to Oct 1943. 39 issues Mar 1939-Oct 1943. Monthly Mar 1939-Dec 1940, then bimonthly. Published by STREET \& SMITH; ed John W. CAMPBELL Jr.The fantasy companion to ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION, U was one of the most unusual of all PULP MAGAZINES, and its demise one of the most lamented. \#1 featured Eric Frank RUSSELL's novel Sinister Barrier (Mar 1939; 1943; rev 1948), but a better indicator of the direction inwhich the magazine would develop was, in the same issue, H.L. GOLD's story "Trouble with Water", a humorous fantasy exploiting the incongruity ofconfronting a 20th-century American with a figure out of folklore. While U featured some ordinary sf and some SWORD-AND-SORCERY stories, particularly during its first year, it quickly attracted a group of regular contributors who defined its very individual flavour. Among them was L. Sprague DE CAMP, with such stories as "Nothing in the Rules" (1939), LESTDARKNESS FALL (1939; 1941), "The Wheels of If" (1940) and his collaborations with Fletcher PRATT: "The Roaring Trumpet" (1940), "The Mathematics of Magic" (1940) - combined in The Incomplete Enchanter, fixup1942) - The Castle of Iron (1941; 1950) and others. These De Camp/Pratt stories - the Harold Shea series, in which the hero is transported into a series of fantasy worlds drawn from Norse mythology, Spenser's Faerie Queene (1590-96) and so forth - typify the exuberantly wacky approach tofantasy which U made its own. Other authors who appeared frequently were Anthony BOUCHER, Cleve CARTMILL, L. Ron HUBBARD - with Slaves of Sleep(1939; 1948), "The Indigestible Triton" (1940), "Fear" (1940), "Typewriter in the Sky" (1940) (these 2 collected as Fear \& Typewriter in the Sky [coll 1951]) and many others - Henry KUTTNER, Fritz LEIBER, whosesword-and-sorcery Fafhrd/Gray Mouser series had a wry, ironic tone which suited the magazine very well, Theodore STURGEON and Jack WILLIAMSON. U occasionally carried serials, but most issues included a complete novel or novella. Notable examples were Robert A. HEINLEIN's "The Devil Makes the Law" (1940; as "Magic, Inc." in Waldo \& Magic, Inc. [coll 1950]),Williamson's DARKER THAN YOU THINK (1940; 1949), Alfred BESTER's "Hell is Forever" (1942), Leiber's Conjure Wife (1943; 1953) and A.E. VAN VOGT's The Book of Ptath (1943; 1947; vt Two Hundred Million A.D.).Until June 1940 U had illustrative covers, of which the best (apart from \#1, by H.W. Scott) were the work of Edd CARTIER, the artist whose style most exactly caught U's tone. With the July 1940 issue U adopted a lettered cover intended to give it a more dignified appearance. In Oct 1941 it switched, 3 months before ASF, to the larger bedsheet format, at the same timechanging its name to Unknown Worlds. The Dec 1943 issue was to have adopted the DIGEST size which ASF had taken the previous month, but it never appeared: wartime paper shortages had put an end to the magazine. After WWII, a revival was mooted, and an anthology in magazine format,From Unknown Worlds (anth 1948) was put out to test the market, but U never reappeared, although H.L. Gold's fantasy companion to Gal, BEYOND FANTASY FICTION, was an avowed imitation. Anthologies drawn from U's pagesinclude The Unknown (anth 1963) and The Unknown Five (anth 1964), both ed D.R. BENSEN, and Hell Hath Fury (anth 1963) ed George HAY.The UK edn, fromAtlas Publishing Company, had fewer pages and was unusual in appearing for more issues (41) than the original, outlasting it by 6 years. It was published regularly Sep 1939-Dec 1940, then intermittently for 3 years, then mostly quarterly, ending with Winter 1949. Like its parent, but a little later (June 1942) it changed its title to Unknown Worlds.U appeared during Campbell's peak years as editor. Its reputation may stand as high as it does partly because it died while still at its best.
   See also: GOLDEN AGE OF SF.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.


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