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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

An appropriation-friendly, image-rich, experimental research library. Independent and open to the public.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

1959 letter-writer critiques Another Science Fiction, in advance

I do love a good counter-narrative. As I continue research toward the next book, it's inevitable that from time to time things turn up that would have really enhanced the research on Another Science Fiction (ASF), if I'd only seen them a few years back. Today's study of Industrial Marketing magazine brought to life a real humdinger of an anti-ASF story. Industrial Marketing magazine ran a monthly column called Copy Chasers that analyzed and criticized trends in industrial advertising. In the September, 1959, Copy Chasers column the editors reprinted a letter from a reader in full.

This reader, identified only by the initials A.I.H., had a loud complaint to make about aerospace ads. This letter delighted me in its cheerfully oppositional sensibility, enough that I'm going to reprint all four paragraphs here. I can only hope this poor person did not live to be tortured by receiving ASF as a birthday present:

"I think it's time someone unmasked what I like to call the 'wild blue yonder' boys. They don't fit into a market class, but you'll find them poised for blast-off, shuddering under unbelievable MACH's and tooling off with lots of smoke on the pages of Scientific American, Missiles & Rockets, and Aviation Week.

These ads are characterized by top drawer artwork and copy which may be classed as 'Repressed Air Force.' In most cases the copywriter seems to be covering a lack of technical knowledge with a CO2 vapor.

My argument is this: Why do these advertisers think that the man who has a mind so technically complex and an education to go with it, can still be naive enough to be impressed with 'space glamour.'

In my opinion, lots of good ad dollars are being wasted by advertisers who, if they had any sales success in these markets, must have sufficient technically sound sales arguments to present in their advertising. Why then, do they shroud them with ineffectual rocket roar? --A.I.H."
--posted by Megan Prelinger