Fading Shadows

FADING SHADOWS was a small press publishing house that began in June 1982 with the publication of ECHOES, the hobby magazine for the pulp enthusiast. The magazine lasted for 100 issues before becoming a newsletter, finally ceasing in December 2004. However, in June 1995, FADING SHADOWS branched out to fiction magazines with the first issue of CLASSIC PULP FICTION STORIES. That first issue contained a number of stories written in the pulp tradition, from a Vietnam War story to the start of a science fiction serial. Also in the first issue were new stories of Ki-Gor, Doc Harker, Bill Barnes, and the Phantom Detective. In coming issues, there were more of the same, though the characters still under copyright were quickly dropped. But the writers continued to send in new adventures of the Black Bat, Phantom Detective, Doctor Death, and even a Jim Hatfield western by James Reasoner.

Soon it became apparent that one magazine could not contain all of the stories coming in to FADING SHADOWS, so more titles were quickly added: WEIRD STORIES for the weird menace genre, STARTLING SCIENCE STORIES for the science fiction (title later changed to ALIEN WORLDS), DETECTIVE MYSTERY STORIES for the detective mystery fans, EXCITING UFO STORIES for the UFO crowd, and DOUBLE DANGER TALES for the new hero stories. There was no shortage in writers and artists, only in subscriptions.

In the beginning, there were only a few established authors. James Reasoner, Will Murray, Clayton and Patricia Matthews, and maybe one or two others. But many of the new writers that got their start with FADING SHADOWS went on to become established writers in their own right. Although FADING SHADOWS was not able to pay for their stories, they sharpened their writing skills while turning out great yarns for the genre magazines, and are now writing novels for paying markets. One writer that would have made it big passed away much too young. Sean Danowski was something of a creative genius, and could write any genre. He stood almost seven foot tall, and had to use a cane to walk, and was barely thirty years old when he died of a rare cancer. Sean created several new hero characters in the mold of The Shadow and Secret Agent X, but he preferred the title CLASSIC PULP FICTION STORIES over that of DOUBLE DANGER TALES, and wanted most of his stories in CPFS. Before he became too ill to sit up, Sean was putting his own weird menace book together, which he was writing and designing. Unfortunately, he never had the chance to finish it.

Other writers did become discouraged. Not because they were not being paid. They understood that ECHOES was paying the bill for printing the magazines, and FADING SHADOWS was not making any profit. What discouraged most of them was the lack of recognition. Not only couldn’t the magazines bring in subscriptions, it was impossible to get letters of comment from readers.

To get a general idea of how many words were published in these genre magazines, each issue contained approximately 40,000 words. There were 91 issues of CLASSIC PULP FICTION STORIES, 32 issues of STARTLING SCIENCE STORIES, 39 issues of ALIEN WORLDS, 55 issues of DETECTIVE MYSTERY STORIES, 63 issues of DOUBLE DANGER TALES, 26 issues of WEIRD STORIES, and 6 issues of EXCITING UFO STORIES, for a total of 312 issues. You do the math. That adds up to a lot of words for a small press publishing house.

Publishing on a monthly schedule made it impossible to get special art for each issue. Although there were probably a dozen artists contributing to the genre magazines, by the time a story came in, there wasn’t time to ask a specific artist to do something special for that story, so artists were asked to send generic art, i.e., a science fiction, a detective, or a general piece, or just a flying saucer or cowboy illustration, and when there was a story that sort of matched, that’s where the art went. And artists and writers were all treated the same. There were no favorites played. The only reason the same author might appear in six straight issues was because that author got his stories in on time. But even then, attention was given to each issue, and what authors and art was on hand, and what artist or author should be next.

There were problems. The magazines were a two-person operation, Tom and Ginger Johnson, both sharing in typing stories to format. The early years were done on manual typewriters, and then word processors, until finally, Ginger was using a computer. Most authors sent their manuscript in double-spaced, and each story had to be retyped to format dimensions. There was no time for a proofreader, and one was desperately needed, as typos appeared in every issue, if not every story! The magazines were amateurish at best, but the stories and art were top notch.

In a way, FADING SHADOWS paved the way. Genre magazines like ours closed out the last century and started the new century before ceasing publication. In March of 2002, Tom had a stroke, which limited his workload, and Ginger was not able to take on more of the responsibility, so it was decided to plan on stopping the magazines. ECHOES was now a newsletter, and not bringing in enough money to support the genre magazines anyway, so one at a time, the titles folded, until they were all gone by December of 2004.

Some day I would like to compile an index to the authors and stories that were published under the FADING SHADOWS imprint, but that would be a massive task, and I’m not sure I am up to it. However, all of the data is available at http://www.geocities.com/fadingshadows1/index.html At least the authors and titles are available. The cover and interior art is not listed.

Anyone care for the task? (Smile)

3 Comments

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  1. Hi, Tom and Ginger

    Very interesting thumbnail history…thanks for sharing.

    You guys have contributed a lot to maintaining the traditions.

  2. Tom,

    What a great story! I was one of the authors privileged to be a part of your wonderful mags, and I miss them so much!

    Your admiring fan,
    Gail

  3. Interesting. I guess I need to work on getting some of your back issues, mainly Double Danger Tales.

    What about your other zines, Echoes, Behind the Mask and Action Adventure Stories?

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