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I read these in my bedazzed youth. Now it's the covers I love.

Two foreign exchange students got me started. They gave me a big cardboard box of sci-fi mags they'd accumulated. They lived in a quonset hut behind Jim Moore's dad's heating oil company across the street, and were on my Champaign-Urbana Courier route.

They weren't living in abject poverty. There were a lot of students living in tarpaper quonset huts in those postwar years; they'd been used as cheap military barracks during the war, and now they housed the flood of veterans on the GI Bill.

This seems to be the only photo on the Web of what were called the Parade Ground Units, which stretched away from Memorial Stadium.

They gave their name to WPGU, the student radio station. The huts far lasted their shelf life, and indeed in 1960 I myself worked on that station, which was still housed in a Parade Ground Unit. That was until Bob Auler, the celebrated fascist baby eater, fired me for stubbornly persisting in playing the Sons of the Pioneers performing "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" every morning at 8. I sincerely thought it was a great record. Still do. I told Auler I had better taste than his listeners. Still do.

WPGU is streaming right now .

But I digress. I have hundreds of these magazines in boxes in a closet. A few readers will understand that these rocket ships and Bug-Eyed Monsters awaken faint memories of pre-erotic stirrings -- not of sex, but of...something...some promise...some not-yet-experienced world...some possibility...

All erotic thoughts involve anticipation. Memory is never erotic, or gains its charge by the promise of something happening again, or by the fantasy that it is happening now.

Here are these magazines, bearing sacred names like Sturgeon, Asimov, Heinlein, Leinster, and Eric Frank Russell, who I thought had one of the best bloke names I'd ever heard. It is a notable cornerstone of sf magazine tradition that the covers were always original paingtings. Artists such as Kelly Freas, Ed Emshwiller and Chesley Bonstell became famous--to their fans, anyway. How many other magazines commissioned original artwork, except for the Saturday Evening Post?

As you embark on this journey through space and time, ask yourself which better inspires the adolescent imagination: Science fiction magazines, or video games?

The cover at the top, "Sad Robot," by Kelly Freas, is perhaps the most famous sf magazine cover of all time. The robot is realizing he has violated one or more of the Three Laws of Robotics. Oops!

Can you identify the single most influential person in the history of modern science fiction? I'm not going to tell you who this is, because I'm certain the photo will inspire discussion in the comments.

If you like these covers, there are lot more on the web. One place to start is Crotchedy Old Fan . • •The Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame.

• • •Memory awakes in all her busy train... • •