The Internet is a great reference for factual information, but it can also be a destination for fun, too. That's as it should be: All work and no play makes for a boring World Wide Web. Science fiction fans need not feel left out in the cold; there are plenty of fun sf-related sites around. Here are just a few of them....

Browse the Magazines of Yesteryear

Did you ever wonder what magazines looked like back between the late 1800s and the early 1900s? Now you can when you visit The Pulp Magazines Project, a digital archive dedicated to the study and preservation of pulp magazines, available to anyone with an Internet connection. (That's you.) The website also offers historical information and biographies of the people involved with pulp magazines: authors, artists and publishers. For example, you can find the very first issues of the seminal science fiction magazine from the Golden Age, Amazing Stories. The website lets you open the pages right on your computer screen where you can see the scanned pages of the magazines themselves. Not only are you getting the content, but you are also getting the presentation, including the layout. You also get to experience classic advertising at its finest. For fun (because this is how sf geeks have fun) I perused some early issues of Amazing Stories and found that several of the old time ads promise readers that it's super easy to get government jobs! (Was that a thing?)  

Another trip down a more recent memory lane is the online archive of OMNI Magazine. OMNI was a science and science fiction magazine published in the U.S. and the U.K. that contained both factual science articles and short works of science fiction. OMNI ran from 1978 to 1995. (There was even a short-lived Internet version in 1998. Yes, Virginia, there was an Internet in 1998, though it was mostly comprised of flashing text and made up from cups and string.) The online archive of OMNI is far from complete, but the page scans bring the reading experience to life. The science articles were cutting edge for their day and the fiction section nabbed some of the field's best authors. It's definitely worth a look.

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See What SF Magazine Covers of the Past Looked Like

Perhaps this is just the raving science fiction fanboy in me talking, but I love vintage SF. Sure, by modern standards there is plenty to poke fun at, but darn it, it was charming in its own backward-thinking way. If nothing else, it serves as a reminder of the times—simpler and less-enlightened though they may be. And the best part about it? The cover art! Tons and tons of glorious, attention-getting, sometimes beautiful in its absurdity cover art. There are several good websites that celebrate golden age cover art.

One of them is Visco - The Visual Catalogue of Science Fiction Cover Art. This pretty much does as advertised, but oh, the sheer volume is enough to boggle the visual cortex. The list of covered magazines is quite comprehensive. There are magazines I never even knew existed before I visited Visco. This is one of those sites where one click leads to another and another, and just when you think you can quit, you’re clicking again. If you want to contribute to the site, its proprietor Terry Gibbons is always on the lookout for missing images.

Another site is the aptly named Cover Browser. This superb website not only covers magazines, but also comics and special editions, as well as a host of other extras. If it has a cover, you might find it here. The site comes with a convenient search box so you don't get lost perusing is many sections, which can easily become overwhelming when you click the "more" link and see how comprehensive it truly is.  

There are plenty of other websites that offer fun galleries as well. It would be endless to list them all, however I will give a quick shout-out to The Art of Penguin Science Fiction and Pulp Crush. More cover-art fun than you shake a raygun at. (I'm legally obligated to remind readers that the Surgeon General advises against the shaking of rayguns.)

Design Your Own Pulp Magazine Covers

Did browsing all those magazine covers make you wish you could create your own? You're in luck! Once you've had your fill of historical magazine covers designed by others, pull up Pulp-o-Mizer on your web browser. This is a spectacularly well-done interactive website that allows you to design pulp magazine covers of your own. The options are many: change the magazine titles and text, position it and change the typeface and colors, pick one of many decorative backgrounds that evoke the pulp mags of yesteryear, add foreground elements to suit your taste and mood, and many more dials and knobs that will easily eat up your time. This Pulp-o-Mizer will even let you save your designs and re-load them later. And if you love your design so much that you can’t get enough of it, there are options to let you buy merchandise branded with your own cover design.

John DeNardo is the editor of SF Signal, a Hugo Award-winning group science-fiction and fantasy blog featuring news, reviews and interviews. You can follow him on Twitter as @sfsignal.