Coincidentally, I found mention of “the first SF I ever read” in a few places this year. The authors all happened to be about the same age, and all reading Gernsback publications with memorable Frank Paul covers. Paul, the primary illustrator of the first dedicated American SF magazine, is well known for his archetypal depiction of the alien machines from War of the Worlds. But the monolithic impression he made on Arthur C. Clarke is not so widely appreciated!
Arthur C. Clarke – Amazing Stories, November 1928
“The very first science-fiction magazine I ever saw had a cover by Frank Paul – and it is one of the most remarkable illustrations in the history of science fiction, as it appears to be a clear example of precognition on the part of the artist! I must have seen Amazing Stories for November 1928 about a year after it had been shipped across to England- so rumor has it, as ship’s “ballast”- and sold at Woolworth’s for 3p. How I used to haunt that once-famous store during my lunch hour, in search of issues of Amazing, Wonder, and Astounding, buried like jewels in the junk-pile of detective and western pulps! – Korshak, ed. From the Pen of Paul (Orlando: Shasta-Phoenix, 2009): 9.
Frederik Pohl – Amazing Stories Annual, 1927
“The name of the game that year was the Great Depression, but I didn’t know I was playing it. And at some point in that year of 1930 I came across a magazine named Science Wonder Stories Quarterly, with a picture of a scaly green monster on the cover [unfortunately not in our collection; how did that happen?!]. I opened it up. The irremediable virus entered my veins . . . That first issue of Science Wonder was heaven, but I didn’t realize that the fact that it was a magazine implied that there would be other issues for me to find. When another science fiction magazine came my way, a few months later, it was like Christmas. That was an old copy of the Amazing Stories Annual, provenance unknown. Given two examples, I was at last able to deduce the probability of more, and the general concept of “science-fiction magazines” became part of my life.” – Pohl, The Way the Future Was (New York: Del Rey, 1978): 2, 6.
Lester Del Rey – Science Wonder Quarterly, Fall 1929
“The Fall 1929 Science Wonder Quarterly has an unusually effective cover by Paul, showing three men in spacesuits, tethered by air lines to a rocket…This, incidentally, was the first science fiction magazine I ever read.” – Del Rey, The World of Science Fiction (New York: Garland, 1980): 50-51.