CULT MAGAZINES: A to Z – a highly recommended new book…

Although I focus on men’s adventure magazines on this blog, I also enjoy reading — and reading about — vintage magazines from many other genres.

I have been a huge fan of science fiction magazines and books since I was a kid in the 1950s.

I somehow overlooked the men’s adventure magazine genre in the ‘50s and ‘60s and didn’t discover them until later. But, as a teenager and young adult, I did enjoy Playboy and other girlie or “bachelor” mags. I also also became a lifelong fan of campy erotic pulp paperbacks. (My favorite was The Man from O.R.G.Y. series).

I’m still a fan of such stuff. So, naturally, I am a fan of the legendary Earl Kemp.

In case you didn’t know, Kemp is (among many other things) the Dean of science fiction fanzines, the editor of some of the best book compilations of vintage sci-fi stories and the editor of some of the most outré erotic pulp paperbacks of the ‘60s and ‘70s.

The latest book edited by Kemp, with co-editor and graphic designer Luis Ortiz, is Cult Magazines: A to Z.

It’s aptly subtitled “A Compendium of Culturally Obsessive & Curiously Expressive Publications.”

This lavishly-illustrated book, published by Nonstop Press, explores a selected list of the coolest, weirdest and wildest magazines published between the 1920s and the 1980s. They include classic pre-World War II pulps, postwar men’s adventure magazines, “confidential” style scandal rags, girlie magazines, horror and science fiction mags, “true crime” and detective magazines, and some bizarre magazines that are almost unclassifiable.

Cult Magazines: A to Z is partly a “coffee table” art book that you can spend hours just browsing through.

It’s also an interesting magazine history and reference book.

It includes beautiful, high-rez scans of hundreds of magazine covers and interior pages. These are accompanied by insightful write-ups on the history of each of the magazines featured, written by a long list of knowledgeable contributors.

In his introduction to the book, Luis Ortiz notes:

“Authorities saw these cult magazines as outside mainstream consumer culture and therefore suspect, but many had a loyal following that actively searched for their favorite magazines. This book can be read as a tribute to the daring of a few non-conformist publishers and editors, and the readers that danced with them along the edge of that wide-open cliff.”

Ortiz’ co-editor, Earl Kemp, was himself one of those envelope-pushing editors in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Science fiction fans know Kemp primarily as the editor a number of pioneering science fiction fanzines published from the early 1950s to the mid-1960s, such as Destiny and SaFari, and as the editor of seminal sci-fi story compilations.

But from the mid-1960s into the ‘70s, Kemp was the top editor at Greenleaf Classics, a company that published erotic paperbacks and girlie magazines.

Greenleaf was owned by Chicago publisher William Hamling, who in 1955 created the great men’s bachelor magazine Rogue (once edited by Kemp’s old friend and another literary hero of mine, Harlan Ellison).

While at Greenleaf, Kemp oversaw the publication of hundreds of “sleaze paperback” novels.

He also edited an infamous illustrated version of the 1969 “Presidential Report of the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography” — audaciously adding photos of the “obscene and pornographic” things the Commission reviewed.

Ironically, although the Commission’s report recommended ending America’s long-standing, prudish efforts to censor what adults read and view, Kemp and Hamling were convicted of obscenity for distributing the illustrated version of the report.

They were each given a one year prison sentence. Both only served the federal minimum of three months and a day. But, of course, even that seems absurd now.

It’s also ironic that, today, surviving copies of The Illustrated Presidential Report of the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography sell for hundreds of dollars.

In recent years, Kemp has been publishing reprints of his old science fiction fanzines on his personal website.

He has also been producing a fascinating new ezine about vintage science fiction magazines, pulp paperbacks, his publishing exploits and other cool stuff, titled e*I* (distributed by

Several years ago, Kemp co-edited the book SIN-A-RAMA: Sleaze Sex Paperbacks of the Sixties, published by Feral House.

One of his co-editors on that one was Adam Parfrey, author of the great book about men’s adventure magazines, It’s a Man’s World (another Feral House publication).

SIN-A-RAMA and It’s a Man’s World are on the list of books that I highly recommend to readers of this blog.

Cult Magazines: A to Z has now been added to that list.

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