What a curious thread unraveled from reading the scanned issue of Telepath #1 on eFanzines this weekend. The fanzine, originally published by Arthur Haddon in Dec 1951, provided some tidbits of information about Australia’s first (if short-lived) SF pulp, Thrills Incorporated. This pulp was created by Stanley Horowitz’ Transport Publications following the the success of the weird mystery pulp, Scientific Thriller which appeared in 1948. Thrills Incorporated appeared in March 1950 and lasted for a total of 23 issues, ending in June 1952.
In the pages of Telepath, one of the Sydney Futurian Society fans, Vol Molesworth (1924-1964), interviewed the editor of Thrills Inc which helped to “clear up a number of points that fans in Australia and abroad had been debating.” This may have been a reference to a series of plagiarisations that took place in the first year of Thrills issues. As the editor, Alister Innes, confessed to Molesworth, “In the early issues we were hoodwinked by certain unscrupulous writers who plagiarised American SF stories without our knowledge. As soon as this was pointed out by our readers, we sacked those writers. Our present day policy is to give an author a title and an illustration and get him to write a story around them.”
What a curious way to run a magazine! On the other hand, there might have been no way for the editors to have known that the stories were plagiarized. According to Garry Dalrymple (via email), foreign science fiction magazines were treated as contraband in Australia between 1940 and 1950. As prohibited imports, issues of SF mags were discovered during routine inspection of the mails, and returned to sender. This quarantine resulted in a market for locally printed SF pulps of questionable quality. At that time, said Dalrymple, just about the only new stuff getting through to Sydney (and the Sydney Futurians) were gifts from Forry Ackerman!
On the quality of production that went into those opportunistic Australian SF pulps, one author put it this way: “Very often, when the editor (Innes) was running to a tight schedule he would have the artwork already done and hand you a picture, saying ‘Three thousand worlds and a title, old boy, and I do need them by Friday.” One picture he gave me didn’t allow a lot of scope as far as the title was concerned, I thought, so I called it ‘Jet-Bees of Planet J’. He took another look at the picture when I brought in the manuscript, then looked at the title again ‘See what you mean, old boy’. He nodded approval. “Sort of self-propelled by their own farts.’