Fantastic was a fantasy and science fiction magazine published in the United States from 1952 to 1980. A sister publication, Fantastic Adventures, was merged into Fantastic beginning with May/June 1953 issue.
Begun in 1952 by editor Howard Browne and publishers Ziff Davis (Z-D) as an attempt at a sophisticated and handsome digest-sized magazine, Fantastic was initially a success, and became even more so by its third issue, which featured a story attributed to the enormously popular crime fiction writer Mickey Spillane. The story was actually written by Browne, a crime-fiction writer and editor who had been editing the pulp magazines line Z-D published at that time, including Amazing Stories, Fantastic Adventures, and the recently-folded Mammoth Detective, among others; apparently Spillane had told a version of the story he'd previously sold to Fantastic to a reporter from Life Magazine, where it appeared ahead of the Z-D magazine's publication, leaving Browne unwilling to run the actual Spillane text.
Subsequent issues of Fantastic sold well enough for the pulp Fantastic Adventures to be merged with it in 1954; Amazing had already been reshaped to resemble Fantastic. Browne was by his own account more comfortable with fantasy fiction than with sf, and soon was concentrating his attention on his writing career; his assistant Paul W. Fairman became editor of Fantastic and Amazing in 1956, and soon established a policy of reliable mediocrity by purchasing nearly all the contents of his issues from four writers: the young Robert Silverberg, Harlan Ellison, Randall Garrett and Milton Lesser (later better known as Stephen Marlowe), all commissioned to produce a certain amount of words per month, purchased unread.
Two innovations distinguished Fairman's regime: he published the first fantasy by Kate Wilhelm, and the sales of wish-fulfilment-fantasy-themed issues of Fantastic led to a short-lived companion magazine devoted to such fiction, Dream World. Beginning in 1959, Cele Goldsmith's editorship considerably improved the magazine; among the writers whose careers began with their sales to Goldsmith's issues, Ursula K. Le Guin has particularly praised her work, as have subsequent editors Barry N. Malzberg and Ted White.
Ultimate publications era and brief revival
Z-D sold Fantastic and Amazing to Sol Cohen in 1965, who founded Ultimate Publications to publish them; after brief periods of being edited by Joseph Wrzos (or "Ross," as he signed himself), Harry Harrison, and Barry N. Malzberg, White edited the magazine for a decade under trying financial circumstances, but gained much acclaim for the quality of the fiction, critical and historical nonfiction (by Fritz Leiber and others), and illustrations published by his Fantastic; it was the only other regularly-published U. S. professional magazine devoted to fantasy, aside from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, throughout most of those years. Despite attempts to reverse its poor sales, even as fantasy novels were reaching enormous audiences in the same years, Fantastic was merged with Amazing under Elinor Mavor's regime, in 1980.
A revival of the title, a retitling of the magazine Pirate Writings by its new publishers in 2000, was a nostalgic nod to the magazine's importance to the field.
Title changes and title confusions
A number of other magazines unrelated to the Z-D/Ultimate Fantastic have been published over the decades with the word "Fantastic" in their titles. In addition, Fantastic has had several titles on its own cover. Variant titles of Fantastic include
- Fantastic Science Fiction
- Fantastic Science Fiction Stories
- Fantastic Stories Of Imagination
- Fantastic: Science Fiction – Fantasy
- Fantastic Stories
- Fantastic Sword & Sorcery and Fantasy Stories
The title most likely to be confused is Fantastic Adventures, since that shared the same publishers and overlapped for some months. Other unrelated Science Fiction magazines include
- Fantastic Novels
- Famous Fantastic Mysteries
- Fantastic Science Fiction (two unrelated pulp-sized issues in 1952)
- Fantastic Story Magazine (a companion to Thrilling Wonder Stories, 1950-1955). This magazine was named Fantastic Story Quarterly until a change in publishing frequency made the name inappropriate.
- Fantastic Universe (1953-1960)
- Brian Stableford: Fantastic, in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2nd ed 1993)
- Checklist of issues
- Galactic Central Magazine Datafile
- Fantastic at Internet Speculative Fiction Database of the United States]]