The first issue of Galaxy, dated October 1950, already heralded to the highest standards of the field. The authors it published regularly contributed to the leading magazine Astounding, writing a kind of elegant and humanistic science fiction which although not previously unknown had always been anomalous. Its founding editor, H. L. Gold (1914-1996), was a science fiction writer of some prominence whose editorial background had been in pulp magazines and comic books; however, his ambitions were distinctly literary, and he was deliberately search for an audience much wider and more eclectic than the perceived audience of science fiction. His goal, he stated, was a magazine whose fiction "Would read like the table of contents of a literary magazine or the Saturday evening post of the 21st century, dealing with extrapolation as if it were contemporary." The magazine, although plagued by distribution difficulties and an Italian-based publisher (World Editions), was an immediate artistic success, and when its ownership was transferred with the issue of August 1951 to its printer Robert M. Guinn, it achieved financial stability for the remainder of the decade.
Galaxy published every notable science fiction writer of its first decade and found in many writers who would become central figures: Robert Sheckley, James Gunn, Wyman Guin, and F. L. Wallace, among others. Galaxy revivified older writers such as Frederik Pohl and Alfred Bester (whose first novel, The Demolished Man, was commissioned and directed page by page by Gold). John Campbell fought with Astounding and remained an important editor, and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (inaugurated a year before Galaxy) held to high standards of literary quality while spreading its contents over two fields, but Galaxy was incontestably the 1950s' flagship magazine for the acidly satiric, sometimes profoundly comic aspect of its best contributions. Galaxy had a lasting effect not only upon science fiction but upon literature itself. J.G. Ballard stated that he had been deeply affected by Galaxy. Alan Arkin, an actor who became a star after 1960 and won an Oscar in the new millennium, contributed two stories in the mid-fifties.
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