Launch of Urania, the first collection of science fiction novels.

Cover of the first novel from the book series I Romanzi di Urania: The Sands of Mars by Arthur Clarke. Italy, 10th October 1952 Image licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Stories from another world are born: Urania

The term "fanta-scienza" (science fiction), initially written with the hyphen, was coined by Giorgio Monicelli, Tomaso’s first-born and Alberto Mondadori’s cousin. Together, the two cousins designed two periodical series exclusively dedicated to that escapism fiction, precisely the science fiction, developed in the United States in the 30s and still unknown in Italy. In fact, besides a few isolated proposals, until the 1950s there wasn’t a continual offer that could satisfy the public.

The first publication was I romanzi di Urania, a twice-monthly magazine containing long stories, issued for the first time on October 10th, 1952, and a few weeks later there was the launch of Urania, a monthly magazine with short stories, articles and, on the model of American magazines, a sections for letters from readers. This was an adventure that lasted only 14 issues. This failure highlighted a specific characteristic of the typical Italian reader who was always reluctant to embrace magazines with very long pieces, a format that was enjoyed by a narrow circle of fans. After the magazine’s closure, the format adopted was that of pocket books and from issue number 153 Urania included only novels.

After a decade, the executive management of the book series was transferred to Carlo Fruttero, who is still remembered, not only for his guidance that further improved Urania, but also for his statements that: “the two great branches of science fiction are adventure and the description of the world. Thanks to adventure we can explore our solar system; but this is Jules Verne; the real future is the settlement on Beneb”, in a world three thousand light years from here. “And this story from another world can be told only by a writer”.