Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Republic of the Future by Anna Bowman Dodd-Part One

Awhile back, in writing about Francis Stevens, I mentioned a book called The Republic of the Future (1887) by Anna Bowman Dodd, an early dystopian novel and maybe the first by an American woman or by any woman anywhere. There isn't much about Anna Bowman Dodd on the Internet. Unfortunately, I don't have access to the online resources that I have used in the past in researching and writing about writers and artists. I'll just have to go with what I have found.

Anna Bowman Blake was born on January 21, 1858, in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of a merchant. In 1883, she married Edward Williams Dodd (1848-1909), a Bostonian and a direct descendant of John Hancock. Like his father-in-law, Dodd was a merchant. He was also a clubman, and according to the New York Times (Oct. 1, 1909), the Dodds' home on Madison Avenue in New York "was the rendezvous for all that was most distinguished in the social world, in art, and in literature." In later years he and his wife lived in France. Dodd was in failing health for some time towards the end of his life. He died at his home, Le Manoir de Vasouy, in Honfleur, Calvados, Normandy, in 1909. His widow survived him by two decades, dying in Paris on January 29, 1929.

Described by the Encyclopedia Americana as "a voluminous writer for the magazines from her youth," Anna Bowman Dodd authored many books, most of which are travel books, including Cathedral Days: A Tour in Southern England (1887), Glorinda, A Story (novel, 1888), On the Broads (illustrated by Joseph Pennell, 1896), Castilian Days (1899), Falaise, the Town of the Conqueror (1900), In the Palaces of the Sultan (non-fiction, 1903), On the Knees of the Gods (novel, 1908), Heroic France (1915), Up the Seine to the Battlefields (1920), In and Out of Three Normandy Inns (1924), Tallyrand, the Training of a Statesman, 1754-1838 (1927), The Struthers, and An American Husband in Paris. She also wrote for The London Art Journal. The Republic of the Future, or Socialism, A Reality, from 1887, was her first book or one of her first. Though satirical, it is also a serious foretelling of a future society into which we seemed to have arrived, at least in part.

You would think that a long-forgotten writer would remain forgotten. Instead, Anna Bowman Dodd was recently (in relative terms) the subject of an article called "An 1887 Science Fiction Novel Predicted DeBlasio and Bloomberg’s New York" by Daniel Greenfield (Feb. 15, 2014). When it comes to predictions, I'm with Yogi Berra who said (perhaps apocryphally), "It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future." Science fiction writers aren't very good at making predictions, but we should realize that science fiction isn't about prediction. Instead, the idea is to extrapolate into the future, or into an alternate past or present, what we already know about ourselves and the world in which we live. That's where the predictive power comes from, and that was what Anna Bowman Dodd was able to do, to a really startling degree, in 1887. I should point out that Looking Backward: 2000-1887 by Edward Bellamy (1850-1898) was published the same year as The Republic of the Future, although I don't know which came out first. The fashion in academia and the penumbrae of academia is to call a work like Anna's "reactionary" or "an attack" on socialism or progressivism. I would say that once an effective observer pokes holes into a gasbag of an idea, that idea can never really get off the ground. That's what Anna Bowman Dodd did with socialism, and in fewer than one hundred pages.

Next: Quotes from The Republic of the Future.

"The longer I stay here the more I am impressed with the profound melancholy which appears to have taken possession of this people." (p. 58)
"They have the look of people who have come to the end of things and have failed to find it amusing." (p. 23)

The other day, I closed with a painting from the 1940s, Lawrence's cover for Famous Fantastic Novels from September 1948. Here is a painting from that same era, "The Subway" by George Tooker (1920-2011), from 1950. The people in the picture don't seem to me to be melancholic so much as filled with anxiety and despair. Also, they aren't living in a socialist society. Nonetheless, there is a feeling of dystopian conformity and of being caged without the possibility of escape. The painting could easily be a work of fantasy or science fiction, but maybe of a later period, for it is in strong contrast with the exuberant images of science fiction of its time.

Text copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley

Sunday, May 24, 2015

A. Merritt Art Gallery-The Complete Moon Pool

"The Moon Pool" (1918) and its sequel, "The Conquest of the Moon Pool" (1919), were extraordinarily popular. It was only a matter of time before they were reprinted in book form, and it was a pretty brief time at that. I don't know the exact date of publication, but The Moon Pool, combining the two magazine stories, came out in 1919. The author, A. Merritt, revised and updated his stories for the book. For example, in keeping up with the times, the nefarious German from the original version became a nefarious Russian. I believe this is the original dust jacket. The artist was Joseph Clement Coll (1881-1921). 

It's hard to follow the publication history of "The Moon Pool" and "The Conquest of the Moon Pool." The two were first published separately, then revised and combined into a novel-length story, also called The Moon Pool. I believe all the editions you see here are of the combined version. This was the second, from 1929, published by Horace Liveright with a jacket illustration by Lee Conrey (1883-1976), who also did illustrations for The American Weekly, the same Sunday supplement on which A. Merritt worked for many years. 

Here is what must have been the first softbound edition, a digest-sized book and number 18 in the Avon Murder Mystery Monthly series, from 1944. The art is unsigned and the artist is unknown.

The 1951 edition, an Avon mass-market paperback, has that classic 1940s/1950s science fiction look to it. Unfortunately, the artist is unknown.

The 1956 edition, also from Avon, is a step down in my opinion. Not that Art Sussman (1927-2008) created a bad cover, it's just that something was lost when science fiction tried to become serious or relevant in the 1950s.

The 1962 edition from Collier Books is far more subdued. It almost looks like a book in the social sciences. The cover design was by Ben Feder, Inc., a firm run by none other than Ben Feder (1923-2009), an artist, real estate developer, and winemaker.

In 1968, Collier Books issued an edition with a more science-fiction-like cover by Don Ivan Punschatz (1936-2009). I would buy a book like this, even if I had never heard of the story or the author.

You didn't have to tell me that the cover artist on Avon's 1978 edition is British. It just has that look. His name is Rodney Matthews, he was born in 1945 in North Somerset, and he is still at work. 

Everybody likes A. Merritt, including the French. In 1957, the publisher Hachette came out with Le Gouffre de la Lune, number 48 in its series Le Rayon Fantastique. The cover artist is unknown.

The artist on the 1975 edition from J'ai Lu was Philippe Caza (b. 1941).

Rowena Morrill (b. 1944) was on hand for the 1986 edition. 

Here's a German edition from 1981 entitled Der Mondsee. I don't know the name of the cover artist.

Finally, an Italian-language version, Il Pozzo della Luna, from 1998, again by an unknown cover artist.

I would like to acknowledge The Internet Speculative Fiction Database in the writing of this series.
Captions copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley

Friday, May 22, 2015

A. Merritt Art Gallery-The Conquest of the Moon Pool

"The Conquest of the Moon Pool" by A. Merritt in
All-Story Weekly, February 15, 1919

Eight months after publishing "The Moon Pool," All-Story Weekly came out with "The Conquest of the Moon Pool," described on the cover as "An Amazing Sequel to an Unparalleled Adventure." It was Merritt's fourth published story and his first to be serialized. For the next six weeks, readers thrilled to the adventures of Merritt's heroes in a world found underground and beyond the ken of ordinary existence. "The reaction that followed the last of the six weekly installments," wrote Sam Moskowitz, "verged on hysteria." (1) Before the year was out, G.P. Putnam's Sons issued a hardbound edition of the saga, combining "The Moon Pool" with "The Conquest of the Moon Pool." In the ninety-five years since, the two stories have more often been reprinted in their combined form than individually.

"The Moon Pool"--I believe in the combined version--was serialized for the first time in Amazing Stories from May to July 1927. Merritt's name landed on the cover below that of H.G. Wells, but the illustration seems to be unrelated to his or their stories. The artist was Hugo Gernsback's mainstay, Frank R. Paul. Gernsback was of course a pioneer in radio. It's no surprise that radio equipment would figure so prominently on the cover. I'm not sure what the narrative is here. It could be that the woman is saying, "Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope." Or this could be the male fantasy projected by Gernsback or by science fiction in general, namely: Through science, you will get a woman. It's as true now as it was then, only now the woman is--though still miniature--two-dimensional and digital vs. three-dimensional and presumably real.

The original story "The Moon Pool" appeared in the first issue of Famous Fantastic Mysteries in September-October 1939. "The Conquest of the Moon Pool" followed over the next six issues, from November 1939 to April 1940.

The March 1940 issue of Famous Fantastic Mysteries was the first with a pictorial cover. Virgil Finlay created the cover art. The April issue, in which the last installment of "The Conquest of the Moon Pool" appeared, had an uncharacteristic cover from Frank R. Paul. It seems to me that the publishers of pulp magazines had noticed the vast popularity of comic books and printed this and other covers in response.

Finally, "The Conquest of the Moon Pool" was reprinted in its entirety in Fantastic Novels Magazine in September 1948. The controversy over "The Shaver Mystery" had raged over the previous few years among readers of science fiction. It's likely that Raymond A. Palmer, in formulating the Shaver Mystery, drew some of his ideas from the scientific romances of the early 1900s, including "The Moon Pool" saga. The companion title to Fantastic Novels Magazine was of course Famous Fantastic Mysteries. Many fantasy and science fiction stories are essentially mysteries, "The Call of Cthulhu" for example. Even early superheroes were called "mystery men." So is it any wonder that Ray Palmer would call his new mythology of subterranean races of robots a mystery? That would have been a powerful attraction to readers. Unfortunately, the Shaver Mystery didn't pan out for Palmer and his sidekick, Richard Shaver. On the other hand, Palmer latched on to an even more powerful myth in the 1947 with the coming of the flying saucers.

The Woman of the Moon Pool
There are images from science fiction that stick in the head of every fan. This one--by the artist Lawrence--sticks. To me it represents a long-ago and utterly lost era in American culture, especially in art and science fiction. The draftsmanship and technique are flawless. They are the work of a master craftsman. The foreshortening of the arm, the handling of flesh and underlying bone, the shading, the positioning and rendering of the fingers--all are perfect. That takes nothing away from the figure as a whole or its accoutrements, which are beautifully and impeccably done. In our current age when everything is becoming miniaturized, weapons in science fiction and comic books have become ridiculously huge (as have breasts and biceps). The artists and designers of today could learn a thing or two in the economy of Lawrence's little derringer-like blaster.

The woman is of course beyond glamorous. She reminds me of those sweater girls from postwar Hollywood movies--Virginia Mayo, Janet Leigh, Ava Gardner. Not that she is an object, for the woman in Lawrence's painting is strong and determined. She represented a certain ideal of her time, I'm sure. Women like her worked in factories and flew airplanes during the war. The men who fought, fought in part for her and to return to her. Together they defeated tyrants and built the most prosperous society the world has ever known.

My feeling of nostalgia goes beyond the artist's ability or the woman's looks or femininity or strength. A pulp magazine is a magazine full of stories and art, but it's also an artifact of a previous era. (I have read a quote that magazines are the closest thing to a time machine we have.) In the 1940s, the future as represented in science fiction was going to be great. Having survived the onslaught of totalitarianism (a kind of science-fictional system of belief), Americans looked with confidence (though also with some anxiety) to the future. A cover of a science fiction magazine like this one is a kind of symbol of those prevailing feelings and of the era in which it was published. A movie from that time is called The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), an ironic title to be sure, but also true and un-ironic in its way. (The line is spoken by Virginia Mayo's character.) A history of the same period is called The Best Years: 1945-1950 by Joseph C. Goulden (1976). The titles are not boastful or prideful. There's more than a sneaking suspicion that they are true.

Now we have arrived in the future--an alternate future--in which we have stopped ourselves dead in our tracks. Science fiction, being essentially optimistic, is no longer our genre of choice. Fantasy, including the darkest kinds of fantasy, has taken its place. Instead of being an expression of her own life and character, a beautiful woman--so called--is now a concoction of Botox, collagen, silicone, artificial tan, and a plastic surgeon's skill with knife and suction tube. Depictions of beautiful women today are seen as symbols of patriarchy, oppression, sexism, and injustice. Men and women both seem to prefer ugliness to beauty. I won't linger over that. The ills of our society go far deeper. Instead I wonder, did the men and women of the 1940s fight and die and build and bring children into the world so that we could give up hope and the freedom they won, so that we could collapse in on ourselves and wallow in our most miserable self-indulgent and self-absorbed misery? I wonder, too, does it make any sense to feel a sense of nostalgia for a time of hope and optimism, in other words, to look backward to a time of looking forward, to remember so fondly a previous civilization that fought for freedom and was filled with hope but that, for all practical purposes and mostly by our own actions, now lies in ruins at our feet?

Text and captions copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A. Merritt Art Gallery-The Moon Pool

"The Moon Pool" by A. Merritt in
All-Story Weekly, June 22, 1918


"The Moon Pool" was A. Merritt's third published story and the tale that won him his fame. Like Merrit's previous stories, "The Moon Pool" is a romance of other worlds accessible from our own through some kind of extraordinary passageway. In Merritt's tale, the moon provides the passageway. His stories must have been a great influence on other writers, H.P. Lovecraft, C.L. Moore, Edmund Hamilton, and probably Nictzin Dyalhis among them. Raymond A. Palmer, who fashioned "The Shaver Mystery" from the scientific romances he read in his youth, also fell under Merritt's spell. Sam Moskowitz, in his book Explorers of the Infinite (1963), recounted how, after the publication of "The Moon Pool," "letters by the hundreds began to pour across the desk of Robert H. Davis, the Munsey editor who had discovered Merritt." Davis had paid Merritt $50 for "The Moon Pool." He offered forty times that for a sequel.

In 1939, the Frank A. Munsey Company began reprinting works from its old story magazines, Argosy and All-Story Weekly. The lead story in the first issue of Famous Fantastic Mysteries, dated September-October 1939, was none other than "The Moon Pool" by A. Merritt. Mary Gnaedinger was editor.

Editor Alden Norton made use of "The Moon Pool" in the Canadian pulp Super Science and Fantastic Stories for December 1945. The format appears to have been the same: old stories reprinted for a new generation. The cover illustration was recycled as well. It had previously appeared on the cover of the September 1945 issue of Famous Fantastic Mysteries, presumably illustrating "Phra the Phoenician" by Edwin Lester Arnold. The art was by Lawrence Sterne Stevens (1886-1960).

Mary Gnaedinger also edited Fantastic Novels Magazine, a companion to Famous Fantastic Mysteries. In the May issue of 1948, she reprinted "The Moon Pool" once again, and the cover artist was once again Stevens, who went by the name Lawrence.

Captions copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, May 18, 2015

A. Merritt Art Gallery-The People of the Pit

"The People of the Pit" by A. Merritt in
All-Story Weekly, January 5, 1918


A. Merritt's second published story, "The People of the Pit," appeared in All-Story Weekly for January 5, 1918. The cover story was the first chapter of a serial called "Trapped" by Ben Ames Williams. The cover artist is unknown. "The People of the Pit" is a tale of the Far North, written when there were still recent memories of the Yukon Gold Rush. It's also a kind of Lost Worlds story and a story of a subterranean city, like earlier stories of the Vril-Ya and later stories of the Deros. There are also similarities in H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness to "The People of the Pit." With his second story, A. Merritt was poised for his first great success.
Caption copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley

Saturday, May 16, 2015

A. Merritt Art Gallery-Through the Dragon Glass

"Through the Dragon Glass" by A. Merritt in
All-Story Weekly, November 24, 1917

Abraham Merritt was a thirty-three-year-old journalist laboring away in New York City when All-Story Weekly published his first story, an Oriental fantasy called "Through the Dragon Glass." It's no surprise that his was not the cover story. Instead, a long-established author, Julian Hawthorne (1846-1934), son of Nathaniel Hawthorne, earned his place on the cover with "The Cosmic Courtship." Merritt's story was also a romance, though not "inter-planetary." Inter-dimensional might be the right word to describe it, as the "Dragon Glass, " an artifact looted from the Forbidden City at the end of the Boxer Rebellion, allows its possessor to pass from one plane into another. The uncanny qualities of the Dragon Glass make me think of the green casket in "Claimed!" by Francis Stevens, from 1920. The story also mentions Iram, the many-columned city of the desert that showed up as Irem in "The Nameless City" by H.P. Lovecraft (1921). The artist is unknown. The medium looks like watercolor or gouache. The technique, especially in the handling of the female figure, reminds me of the work of Roy G. Krenkel (1918-1983) or some other American illustrator of the 1950s and '60s.
Caption copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley

Friday, May 15, 2015

A. Merritt (1884-1943)-Part Two

So the careers of A. Merritt and Francis Stevens have some similarities and possibly some connections. The two authors may have met early in their careers, when she was working as a secretary at the University of Pennsylvania and he was a journalist at the Philadelphia Inquirer and The Sunday Supplement and/or The Sunday American Magazine, forerunner to The American Weekly. (1) Both had their first stories published in All-Story Weekly in 1917, and both wrote almost exclusively for the Munsey magazines (Argosy and All-Story) for several years. There was even a time when readers thought that "Francis Stevens" was a pseudonym of A. Merritt. They were only half right, for "Francis Stevens" was actually the pseudonym of Gertrude Barrows Bennett. One difference between Merritt and Stevens is that he became well known and very wealthy. She was neither.

It's reasonable to assume that Merritt was in contact with Gertrude Barrows Bennett. His first story in Famous Fantastic Mysteries or Fantastic Novels Magazine--two titles that reprinted stories from the old Munsey magazines--was "The Moon Pool," the lead story in the first issue of Famous Fantastic Mysteries, dated September-October 1939. Stevens' first story reprinted in those magazines was "Behind the Curtain" in Famous Fantastic Mysteries for January 1940. I have lost track of the source that says Merritt persuaded Mary Gnaedinger, the editor of Famous Fantastic Mysteries and Fantastic Novels Magazine, to reprint Francis Stevens' stories. I wonder now if he let Gertrude Barrows Bennett know about these new markets for her stories or if he secured payment for her for their reprinting. In any case, A. Merritt died of a heart attack on August 21, 1943, at his winter home in Indian Rocks Beach, Florida. Gertrude Barrows Bennett followed him to the grave in 1948. Nonetheless, Mary Gnaedinger continued reprinting their work. Six of Gertrude's thirteen stories were reprinted in Famous Fantastic Mysteries, Fantastic Novels Magazine, or Famous Fantastic Mysteries Combined with Fantastic Novels Magazine from 1940 to 1950. At least thirteen of Merritt's stories were so honored. His were also reprinted in Amazing StoriesAvon Fantasy Reader, FantasticLeaves, Satellite Science FictionScience and Invention, Science Fiction Digest, and Super Science and Fantastic Stories, as well as many collections and anthologies over the years.

Both A. Merritt and Francis Stevens had just one story published in Weird Tales, both in the 1920s. Merritt's contribution, "The Woman of the Wood" (Aug. 1926), was voted by readers the most popular story in the issue in which it appeared, for the entire year of 1926, and of all stories published from 1924 to 1940. It was reprinted in January 1934 and was again voted the most popular story in that issue. (2) Stevens' lone contribution, "Sunfire" (July-Sept. 1923) was published before readers were polled for their favorite stories. With it, her writing career came to an end, while Merritt's continued to the end of his life, although his last story published in his lifetime was in 1936, shortly before he became editor of The American Weekly in 1937 (3).

As further evidence of Merritt's popularity, in 1938, Argosy polled its readers for their favorite story in the fifty-eight-year history of the magazine. The winner was "The Ship of Ishtar" from 1924. Argosy proceeded to reprint Merritt's story and confessed that it had paid him the highest word-rate of any its authors.  The editor wrote: "This only proves he was worth it!" (4) More than a decade later, in December 1949, Merritt had a magazine published with his name in the title, A. Merritt's Fantasy Magazine. Mary Gnaedinger was the editor for five issues dated December 1949 to October 1950, when the magazine came to an end. Vargo Statten Science Fiction Magazine (1954) and Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine (1977-present) later fell into the category of magazines named for authors.

A. Merritt was and is a very popular writer, and his stories have seldom if ever been out of print. According to Sam Moskowitz, Avon Publications estimated that its reprintings of Merritt's stories had sold four million copies as of 1959. (5) Merritt's stories have been reprinted many times in many languages, including English, of course, as well as French, Italian, and German. They have also been adapted to the movies in Seven Footprints to Satan (1929) and two adaptations of "Burn, Witch, Burn!", The Devil Doll (1936) and Muñecos infernales (1961). He is supposed to have been an influence on Francis Stevens and H.P. Lovecraft, or they were an influence on him, or each other, or some combination of influences, one upon another, for which no one seems to have offered very much evidence. (6) Suffice it to say, Merritt's stories "are among the most famous titles in the canon of fantastic literature." (7) A. Merritt was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 1999.

A. Merritt's Story and Essay in Weird Tales
"The Moon Pool" (Aug. 1926; reprinted Jan. 1934)
"How We Found Circe" (Winter 1973; originally in The Story Behind the Story, 1942)

A. Merritt's Letters to "The Eyrie"
Oct. 1929
Oct. 1934
Nov. 1935

Further Reading
There is much to read about A. Merritt on the Internet and in those ancient artifacts known as books, including:
  • "The Marvelous A. Merritt" in Explorers of the Infinite by Sam Moskowitz (Cleveland: The World Publishing Company, 1963), pp. 189-207.
  • Introduction by Sam Moskowitz to "The Moon Pool" by A. Merritt in Under the Moons of Mars: A History and Anthology of "The Scientific Romance " in the Munsey Magazines, 1912-1920 (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970), pp. 137-138.
  • A. Merritt: Reflections in the Moon Pool by Sam Moskowitz (1985)

Notes
(1) Gertrude Barrows Bennett had arrived in Philadelphia in 1909 or 1910, either newly married or newly widowed. A. Merritt left Philadelphia in 1912 for New York City, but I can't say that he cut ties to his former city. It's worth noting that one of the characters in Stevens' story "Sunfire" (1923) is a "war-correspondent and a writer of magazine tales." Named Alcot Waring, he is described as a "vast mountain of flesh . . . obese, freckle-faced, with small, round, very bright and clear gray eyes" (The Nightmare and Other Tales of Dark Fantasy, p. 348). I have seen two photographs of Merritt but have never read a description of him. He doesn't appear to have been a small man, but he may not have been Alcot Waring-sized either. Like Waring, Merritt spent some time in Latin America, at least as a visitor and maybe as an explorer.
(2) Merritt also had an essay in the magazine, "How We Found Circe," in a later incarnation, Winter 1973.
(3) At the time, The American Weekly, the Sunday magazine of the Hearst newspaper chain, claimed "the largest circulation of any periodical in the world" according to Sam Moskowitz. (Source: Moskowitz's introduction to "How We Found Circe" in Weird Tales, Winter 1973, p. 26.) Considering his new responsibilities, we can't blame Merritt for not writing in the field of fantasy after 1937.
(4) Quoted in "The Marvelous A. Merritt" by Sam Moskowitz in Explorers of the Infinite (1963), p. 190.
(5) Explorers of the Infinite, p. 206.
(6) In "The Moon Pool" by Merritt (published June 22, 1918), there is a "moon-door." In The Heads of Cerberus by Stevens (published August-October 1919), there is a "moon-gate." If these things are evidence of influence, one upon another, then Merritt would seem the influence in this case. But how far does anyone want to go with something like that?
(7) Sam Moskowitz in his introduction to "The Moon Pool" by A. Merritt in Under the Moons of Mars: A History and Anthology of "The Scientific Romance " in the Munsey Magazines, 1912-1920 (1970), p. 137.

Abraham Merritt (1884-1943)
Text and captions copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley