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An amazing revival: Classic sci-fi magazine makes its way to web

Last modified: 3/6/2013 9:53:12 AM
Whether you realize it or not, your life would not be the same if not for a little magazine called Amazing Stories, first published back in 1926 by a man named Hugo Gerns-back. The movies you watch, the games you play, the technology you use, the scientific advances you take for granted – all swirl outward from one source like the animation in that trippy title sequence from Dr. Who.

“You can’t walk around these days without coming across things that trace their roots back to this magazine,” said Steve Davidson, a Hillsboro entrepreneur who now holds the trademark to the Amazing Stories name. “Everybody is totally affected by it.”

Davidson has big plans for reviving the magazine, which, after a long series of owners, finally went under in 2005. He has launched a website (amazingstoriesmag.com), where he hopes to reignite the spirit of Amazing Stories and corral sci-fi fans of all stripes back together in one spot. “I have yet to see anything that’s similar to what I’m doing,” he said.

Davidson has enlisted 80-some bloggers – all highly credentialed

sci-fi geeks – to write on niche subjects ranging from gaming to comics to classic books. He calls it a social magazine because it both pushes content to the user and takes in user information by way of a free subscription. The idea is to bring people together around their specific interests, much like the original magazine, which enjoyed a thriving letters section.

“Science fiction fandom, which is the grandfather of just about every kind of fandom you’d care to imagine, was born in that magazine,” Davidson said. “They actually included the addresses for letter writers, which allowed fans of the magazine to get in touch with each other. . . . Everything transpired from there.”

Everything isn’t all that much of an overstatement. The term “science fiction” was coined on the cover of Amazing Stories, and along with breeding the first “fanboys,” the magazine inspired pursuits both serious and fanciful. The modern superhero was invented by two Amazing Stories readers who joined the fan club and were looking for a way to express themselves, and much of today’s technology was invented by science fition fans who were inspired by one descendant or another of Amazing Stories.

Over the years though, these descendants took fandom in so many directions they could no longer be contained under one banner. “That original group of people has factionalized, and we have Twilight fans and Star Trek fans and Dr. Who fans and Battlestar Galactica fans. The list is endless,” Davidson said. “Separately these groups, these organizations, this demographic of people are not large enough to attract any kind of advertising in any serious way.”

Science fiction and fantasy fans do seem to share a certain je ne sais quoi, though. Davidson has been pleasantly surprised by the number of young fans who are interested in the history of comics, movies and the likes. And as an old-school fan himself, he nevertheless can appreciate – if not enthuse about – newer genres such as anime.

If he can pull that common thread while at the same time using modern hyper-niche marketing, he thinks he can re-build the Amazing Stories empire.

One of the original movers and shakers in the paintball industry, Davidson also has a background in intellectual property and has made a habit of perusing government records for lapsed trademarks. In 2008 one of his searches turned up the Amazing Stories name.

“I literally could not believe it, so much that I pulled my wife in to read the screen to make sure I wasn’t imagining it,” Davidson said.

He applied for rights to the name and was granted it in November of 2011 after 3½ years of waiting. The website went live a couple of months ago. Davidson’s primary goal is to grow membership large enough to attract serious advertisers.

When he can demonstrate a solid readership and a revenue stream, he wants to start publishing fiction – the backbone of the original magazine. “Once we have the fiction, our membership will grow even larger,” he said.

To give readers a taste of what’s in store, Amazing Stories will publish its first piece of fiction – a comic book written by David Gerrold (a former Star Trek writer) and drawn by Troy Boyle. Titled “A Doctor for the Enterprise,” it’s a mash-up of the original Star Trek, Dr. Who and a modern TV show that can’t be revealed yet. It will be published on the website and available as a limited print edition.


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