Thoughts On Amazing Stories Part 3: A Conversation With Patrick L. Price

Patrick L. Price edited Amazing Stories from September, 1986 until March, 1991, following a stint as Managing Editor while working under George Scithers (who would later go on to edit Isaac Asimov’s SF Magazine).  At the time, Amazing Stories was owned and published by TSR, the creators of the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game.  Patrick also edited Dragon magazine, TSR’s signature gaming publication.  Today he works in non-profit fields and is a member of the Amazing Stories Editorial Advisory Board.

Can you describe the time when you first discovered Amazing Stories? (If you remember the issue, please tell us a little bit about it – the cover, the contents, particular authors listed who made an impression)

It wasn’t until I was a sophomore in high school that I discovered Amazing Stories magazine. In fact, my good friend and classmate John “Mike” Ford was the person who showed me his copy of the magazine. I had never seen a pulp-fiction magazine of any genre—mystery, horror, science fiction, etc.—until that time.

Prior to that I had been reading many of the then-recent novels of Isaac Asimov, Arthur Clarke, Robert Heinlein, and their peers, as well as the works of Jules Verne (in the original French as I grew up in a multilingual home). And during my childhood, quirkily enough, my maternal grandmother (French herself) who attended to my brother and me when our parents worked the night shift, felt that the only television programming legitimate for viewing was “Rocky & Bullwinkle” (for its satire) and “The Outer Limits” (for its morality).

Amazing Stories, September, 1971. (Edited by Ted White) Image courtesy Galactic Central Press

In addition, as an Ojibwe two-spirit, I have generally perceived that the genre of science fiction generally presents a future where humanity is often united by its diversity, not divided by it. For those of us who are a minority, this is an extremely healing perspective, particularly during adolescence when being outside the norm is a point of ridicule by one’s peers. But I digress…

The copy of Amazing Stories that Mike Ford gave me to read was the September 1971 issue. I don’t remember the cover art, but I do remember that Ted White had a story in it as did Robert Silverberg.

What were your first impressions? How did it make you feel, what were your first thoughts about it?

What was most fascinating for me was that, up until the issue of Amazing Stories Mike Ford had loaned me, I had no idea that a venue for some really great genre short fiction existed. I have always enjoyed short fiction, for the challenge both to the author to present a salient issue in a very concise storytelling fashion and for the reader to embrace the lesson shared. I find it all very intimate, much as I do when one of my tribal elders gifts me with a creation myth or other tale.

This may or may not relate to your experiences with Amazing: Had you ever met Hugo Gernsback? If so, could you provide a brief sketch of your impressions of him (as well as some time-frame context)

I never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Gernsback.

Was getting the job exciting for you, just a job, something in-between?

Patrick’s first issue. Amazing Stories September 1986. Image courtesy Galactic Central Press

Has an association with the magazine helped, hurt or had no visible impact upon your career?

Wow! Having traveled more than a quarter of a century further down my life’s journey since I served as editor of Amazing Stories, here’s what I cannot claim:

  • I became a renowned science-fiction editor, writer, and/or columnist.
  • I became a devoted fan of everything science-fictional.
  • The science-fiction community will remember my contributions to the genre.

In fact, none of this I find to be of particular importance. Nonetheless, here are truths that I value that I embraced during my time at Amazing Stories and beyond:

  • I have the gift of helping others crystallize their creative visions. Just last year writer Sheila Finch and poet Jason Marchi mailed me copies of their respective story/poetry collections that honored how my editorial skills and insight had helped them in their respective careers.
  • I have strived to say what I have to say from a place of discernment, not from an egotistical or narcissistic stance. In the editorial field, not to mention others, I quickly discovered how easily one could reduce someone to emotional rubble or engender anger by speaking from a place of arrogance or self-importance. That helps no one! That burns proverbial bridges! Who needs that, and yet I’m amazed at the editorial responses some of my writer friends (both new and seasoned) receive.
  • I have learned that, as I can guide, so must I allow myself to be guided by others. And wherever the spirit of Martin H. Greenberg now resides, I cannot express my gratitude enough to him for this lesson. Marty was one of my greatest yet subtlest teachers, not just as an editor and anthologist, but as a friend throughout my tenure as Amazing’s editor.

 

Do you think that Amazing Stories was important to the development of science fiction, or was a ‘first magazine’ inevitable? Did it take the magazine and a “Hugo Gernsback” to make things happen, or are those just the incidences in our particular universe?

Patrick’s last issue, Amazing Stories, March 1991. Image courtesy Galactic Central Press

For me, it’s not an issue about whether it would have happened but that it happened.

So, yes, I do believe that the emergence of Amazing Stories was significant not only to science fiction but also to the whole cultural development of pulp fiction from its predecessor the dime novel. Its appearance on the newsstands certainly helped to focus the voice of those American readers who desired to understand the future possibilities and/or current realities to which science alluded or created during a time when America was becoming a more science and technology-driven nation.

As a cultural development, pulp fiction (which certainly includes Amazing Stories and later its buddies) became an important form of public entertainment, hence the emergence of about a dozen different genres.

All pulp magazine were cheapo to produce, and during the Great Depression, some sold a million copies (sadly, that was not the case for Amazing). During this era, pulp fiction was to the literary entertainment of the masses what Hollywood films were to their visual entertainment—sheer escapism.


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