With “space tourism” really heating up recently, we’re taking a look back at past dreams of galactic travel as seen through the pulp science fiction of the 1930s-1950s. Many of these “astounding stories” feature the Golden Age sci-fi trope known as Space Opera, future heroes battling creatures and challenges from beyond Earth, often laced with social commentary.
The dawn of the Golden Age of Science Fiction can arguably be marked by the 1939 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, which featured the groundbreaking story “Black Destroyer” by A. E. van Vogt and included work by Isaac Asimov and the first story from Robert A. Heinlein, well-known for his dedication to scientific accuracy in his storytelling, a genre known as Hard Science Fiction.
The pulp science fiction magazine covers of this era were colorful and dynamic, with figures and settings that appeared to be in motion. The characters depicted were highly expressive and bore all the characteristics of the Space Opera trope: manly heroes, frightening monsters, fantastic technology, and scantily clad damsels in distress.
Here are just a few examples of these pulp covers, which offer a peek at the past and the future at the same time. You can also see many more examples in our 2022 Vintage Sci-Fi Calendar, featuring 12 frame-ready prints of vintage science fiction magazine covers, in stock now.
Planet Stories, Vol. 2, No. 7; Summer 1944; Art: George Gross
Science Fiction Quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 2; August 1951; Art: Leo Morey
Astounding Stories, Vol. 7, No. 3; September 1931; Art: H. W. Wesso