Friday, September 21, 2018

Harold S. Farnese (1890 or 1891-1945)-Part Two

Career in Music-Part One
In January 1916, Harold S. Farnese arrived in the United States, evidently to stay. A native of Monaco and recently of Montreal, Canada, he was twenty-five years old, and, though he had been educated as a performer and composer of music, Farnese was then employed as a bank clerk. Moving back and forth between Los Angeles and San Francisco, he would work in that capacity (and as a bookkeeper) for several years. But in the 1920s, the decade during which he turned thirty and closed in on forty (like Jacob Clark Henneberger and H.P. Lovecraft), Farnese got off on a different path, towards music but also towards an interest in weird fiction.

The earliest mention I have of Farnese in a newspaper article is his authorship of "Autumnal Gale," a piece for piano performed in 1926 in Solvang, California, by J. Ellis Smith. Four years later, in December 1930, Farnese played a full program of his own music at the auditorium of Barker Brothers Furnishings in Los Angeles. (1) Then, beginning in early 1931, Farnese had fairly frequent mention in newspapers, mostly to do with his work at the Institute of Musical Education in Los Angeles.

Established in 1915 and incorporated in 1926, the Institute of Musical Education published, sold, and conducted educational courses not only for young music students but also for music teachers. Farnese was with the institute as early as December 1930 (2). First he taught piano and theory. By February 1932, he had become dean, and he remained in that position throughout the 1930s and evidently into the 1940s. Farnese also conducted the symphony orchestra at the institute.

In March 1941, Farnese placed a classified ad in the Los Angeles Times calling himself a "retired conductor" but also "graduate of [the] Paris Conservatory of Music and Dean of [the] Institute of Musical Education." He advertised his services to "several serious applicants in [a] proven condensed method of piano or harmony." When he filled out his draft card a year later, Farnese gave his place of employment as 715 South Park View, Los Angeles, the location of the Institute of Musical Education (and now, I think, the location of a strip mall). The following year, the institute was dissolved.

To be continued . . . 

Notes
(1) As of 2012, the Barker Brothers building was owned by Downtown Properties, which also owned at the time the famous Bradbury Building.
(2) A month earlier, in November 1930, the story of a minor business scandal involving the owner of the institute, a Mr. S.D. Weaver, came out in the press. I wonder if the two events--the scandal and Farnese's employment at the Institute of Musical Education--could have been related.

Text copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, September 17, 2018

Harold S. Farnese (1890 or 1891-1945)-Part One

Aka Harold Sulzire (or Sulzer) Farnese, Harold Solcetto Farnese, H.S. Farnese
Bank Clerk, Bookkeeper, Musician, Composer, Conductor, Educator
Born March 11, 1890 (or 1891), Monaco
Died October 29, 1945, Los Angeles City or County, California

Origins
Harold S. Farnese didn't write any stories, poems, or articles for Weird Tales, nor was he a cover artist or illustrator. His eight letters published in "The Eyrie," the letters column of Weird Tales, failed to land him in the top twenty contributors in that category. You might say that he was a pretty minor figure in the history of the magazine and its contributors. Except for that part where he was so central to a certain understanding of what we call the Cthulhu Mythos. Beyond that, Farnese may have been the first person to adapt a work by H.P. Lovecraft to a form other than verse or prose.

Harold S. Farnese was born on March 11, 1890 (or 1891), in Monaco. His father, named James (or equivalent), was Italian. His mother was French. (Farnese's mother tongue was also French.) When I'm working on genealogical or biographical research, I tend to put more weight on earlier rather than later sources. I also like information written down by or directly provided by the person in question. That's why I have 1890 as Farnese's probable birth year and Sulzire as a probable middle name, for both are from Farnese's draft card from 1917. (1)

According to a later newspaper source, Farnese was a graduate of the Paris Conservatory of Music. Another newspaper source gives a fuller account of his education:
Harold Farnese, dean of the institute, studied piano under Martial Lecompte and Sapellnikoff, theory and composition under Racky, a pupil of Saint-Saens [sic], and graduated from the Dijon Conservatory. (2, 3)
The institute mentioned here was the Institute of Musical Education, established in Los Angeles in 1915. More on that in part two of this series.

In the U.S. census of 1920, Farnese gave information that he had immigrated to the United States in 1914 but that he was not yet a citizen. (4) I found another record for a border crossing he made in January 1916 from Canada to the United States in which he gave his occupation as bank clerk; his place of national origin ("Nationality") as Germany; his father's name as James; his father's address as Frankfurt am Main, Germany; and his last permanent residence as Montreal, Canada. Farnese's stated final destination was Los Angeles, California, and that's where he went after all. (5)

When he filled out his draft card in 1917, Farnese was still an alien (i.e., not yet a citizen), living at 2195 West 27th Street in Los Angeles, and working as a bank clerk at Hellman Bank. That name is new to me but is no doubt familiar to those who know the history of Los Angeles, as the Hellmans--two German-born brothers--helped to establish many of that city's institutions. Presumably, Farnese's employer was connected in one way or another to these men. It's worth noting here that Farnese seems to have worked in banks and with musicians and composers who had foreign ties. He may never have really cut his own ties to Europe.

In 1919-1921, Farnese lived in San Francisco at 610 Geary Street, site of a hotel, and worked as a bookkeeper and bank clerk. By 1922, he was with the Bank of Italy in San Francisco. Farnese turned thirty-two that year. Sometime during the decade that followed, his life seems to have taken a turn. Unbeknownst to himself and everybody else in the world besides Jacob Clark Henneberger, Farnese also arrived that year at the eve of Weird Tales.

To be continued . . .

Notes
(1) I haven't seen Farnese's surname as anything but Farnese, but there are indications that Sulzire and Solcetto are also surnames. Until we know something more, I'll assume that Sulzire and Solcetto were surnames in Farnese's family. If I figure this right, Sulzire is a Corsican name, while Solcetto is Italian. Farnese is also an Italian name and a pretty prominent one at that. All of this would match well with Farnese's mother as having been French and his father as having been Italian. Incidentally, Farnese used the middle name Sulzire in his World War I draft card and Solcetto in his World War II draft card.
(2) "Faculty Body at Music Institute Has Top Rating," Los Angeles Times, Jan. 26, 1936, p. 56.
(3) I don't know who Martial Lecompte or Racky were, but I presume that "Sapellnikoff" was the Russian pianist Wassily Sapellnikoff (1867-1941).
(4) In the census of 1920, there is a column for citizenship with choices of either "Naturalized or alien." The abbreviation for Harold Farnese was "Pa," denoting "Papers," i.e., Farnese had "take[n] out papers of declaration of intention to become a citizen." 
(5) About half of the information in this record is unclear; there seems to be a problem with the way the original pages were scanned or photographed and then fitted together again in a digital format.

Revised September 18, 2018. Be aware that previous versions of this article contained errors.
Original text copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Topics for a Summer Night-Part Three

The National Museum of Brazil burned last Sunday. You may not have known it if you had been watching Yahoo "news" or similar outlets. If a Kardashian had burned, you would have known about it (and the loss would have been pretty negligible in comparison), but two hundred years of a nation's history can go up in flames and we remain oblivious. This is a tragedy and a disaster, and I guess I want to do something about it--to salvage something from the ruins--to raise up if I can in some way the people of Brazil, who have created so much beautiful music and so many great works of art and culture.

So I am searching for Brazilian weird fiction, fantasy, and science fiction, as well as art in those genres. Fortunately I have a two-volume set called Arte no Brasil, published in Brazil in 1979, in which to begin. That set has led me to some works by Brazilian artists that touch on the genres at hand.

From 1636 to 1644, the Dutch artist Albert Eckhout (ca. 1610-1665) lived in Brazil and completed a number of paintings of native peoples, flora, and fauna. Here is his painting Mulher Tapuia (Tapuian Woman), from 1641. She looks pleasant enough, but I'm pretty sure that the basket she has strapped across her forehead isn't big enough to carry a whole man. And what does she have in her right hand but another right hand? Anyway, this is an ethnographic kind of painting, not a genre work, yet it has its macabre elements. Encounters with cannibalism and other strange and exotic things in the jungles and wilds of South and Central America are a mainstay of weird fiction. As in the case of the artist Eckhout, the men and women making those encounters are always Europeans or Americans. It's always us encountering them. But what about a weird tale told from the perspective of an American Indian or a South American native traveling to Washington, D.C., New York, London, or Paris? Would he not encounter equally strange and exotic things? And how would he account for them? How would he explain and describe them to his countrymen?

Most of the works in the first volume of Arte no Brasil are religious or ecclesiastical. A lot of it is of the architecture of churches or sculpture of scenes from the Bible, like life-sized dioramas. In other words, there's a lot of supernatural subject matter, but all of it is Christian, more specifically Catholic in nature. I was a little puzzled by the overall lack of the fantastic, but then I read an article about Brazilian science fiction, and I think I have an explanation. More on that in a while.

The first known use of the word zombi in print in English is in Robert Southey's History of Brazil, from 1819. However, Southey's zombi is nowhere near our zombie of today. He seems to have used the word exclusively to refer to Zombi, the leader of a slave revolt. In looking into the origins of the word, Southey wrote: ". . . I examined a book of religious instructions in the Portuguese and Angolan languages [. . .] and there I found that NZambi is the word for Deity." (Vol. III, p. 24) The man of whom he wrote was Zumbi (1665-1695),  a national hero in Brazil and subject of this painting by the twentieth century Brazilian impressionist Antônio Parreiras (1860-1937). I wonder if Zumbi's name as a symbol of rebellion against slavery could have found its way into African cultures in the Caribbean and North America. It hardly seems likely, but then I'm not an ethnologist or folklorist. It seems far more likely to me that the words zumbi, zombi, and zombie (probably also jumbee and jumbie) have a common origin in Africa and were brought here or evolved here in the New World. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when westerners finally noticed, these words had come to mean different things in different places.

It was only when I got into the twentieth century that I found fantastic art in Arte no Brasil, and then only a little.

The Portuguese caption for this print by Marcelo Grassman (1925-2013) reads: "Animais fantásticos, numa atmosfera de pesadelo, evocam sombrias estampas medievais em obras como Incubus Sucubus n.o 2, xilogravura realizada por Marcelo Grassman em 1953."

By an online translation, that means: "Fantastic animals, in a nightmarish atmosphere, evoke sombre medieval prints in works such as Incubus Succubus no. 2, woodcut by Marcelo Grassman in 1953." Some of Grassman's work reminds me a little of that of Lee Brown Coye.

Otávio Araújo (1926-2015) was a Brazilian surrealist. This picture, Saudade de Santa Teresa, is a striking example of his work. Like Grassman, he seems to have looked to the distant past for inspiration.

So what about the apparent lack of weird fiction, fantasy, and science fiction in Brazil? According to Manuel da Costa Pinto in Folha de S.Paulo (May 31, 2003), O Doutor Benignus by Augusto Emilio Zaluar (1875) was the first Brazilian science fiction novel. (It was written, however, by a Portuguese native, naturalized as a Brazilian citizen in his younger years.) In regards to Brazilian science fiction, Signore Pinto writes:
Far from embarking on a copy of European or North American models, Brazilians express the passive, contemplative character that science assumes in a technologically outdated country, as in "Benignus" . . . . (1)
I take that to mean that Brazil, being a more conservative and less progressive kind of country, is less suited to science fiction than its counterparts in Europe or North America. As Arte no Brasil indicates, fantasy would seem to be more up the Brazilian alley, and in reviewing the book Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror in Brazil (1875 to 1950), by Roberto de Sousa Causo, Signore Pinto seems to confirm this idea:
Science fiction itself would have been rooted in fantastic voyages--such as the accounts of Lucian of Samosata ("A True Story"), Jonathan Swift ("Gulliver's Travels"), Kepler ("Somnium") or Cyrano de Bergerac ("The Other World")--and imaginary places like the legendary kingdom of Prester John, "The Utopia" of Thomas More or the world prophesied by Vieira in "History of the Future." 
The siblings [of science fiction] would be "fantasy," in which science gives rise to magical phenomena (as in the cycle of King Arthur), and "horror," whose dreamlike atmosphere of claustrophobia goes back to the Gothic novel and the "Nights in the Tavern" by Álvares de Azevedo. 
This plurality of sources, in turn, gains a special nuance in a Brazilian setting. And if this is valid for all of our literature, it is possible to find traces of medieval folklore both in the popular literature of the Northeast and in Guimarães Rosa, an important author of [science fiction] as Braulio Tavares renews this amalgam by writing the fantastic series titled "The Stone of Noon or Artur and Isadora." (2)
So the pattern seems to hold. Conservative writers, artists, and cultures look to the past and create works of fantasy, history, romance, and horror (or weird fiction), while their more liberal or progressive counterparts look to the future and create works of science fiction. (3) If all of this is true, then a Brazilian author of yesteryear might easily have found a home in Weird Tales. What was lacking for most of the history of the magazine, of course, were strong connections between the United States and our neighbors to the south, connections that would have carried art and literature back and forth between us. We may have received their music (and they received ours) but not much else as far as I can tell. Maybe in some future incarnation of "The Unique Magazine" we will see and read works by Brazilian authors and artists. Maybe in that way a magazine can become a museum that never burns.

Notes
(1) "Science fiction Is the Atlantis of Brazilian Literature" by Manuel da Costa Pinto, Folha de S.Paulo, May 31, 2003, here.
(2) I used an online translator to render this article into English. I have made a few adjustments. As you can see, the results are imperfect, but you get the drift.
(3) I don't think we should underestimate the very powerful influence of the Church on the culture of a thoroughly Catholicized nation. After all, there is in the Bible, Catholic teachings, and Catholic culture all of the stories of the fantastic, the supernatural, the mystical, and the magical that a believer might want or need. Secular fantasy, as in our genre fiction, might be superfluous. Anti-Christian or anti-Catholic fantasy, as in so much of our contemporary genre fiction, would be unwelcome. And science fiction might not gain much traction in such a place, not only because of its inherent conservatism but also because Christians already have a fully satisfying vision of the future, one that looks nothing like Star Trek or The Jetsons.

Original text copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Topics for a Summer Night-Part Two

On Sunday night, September 2, 2018, the National Museum of Brazil burned, and with it went great and irreplaceable treasures of the Brazilian people, of their land, their nation, their history, and their culture. Every moment of every day, we lose something of our culture, most obviously when books, works of art, writings, and other works of the heart and mind are destroyed or discarded; less so when a person dies. But for so much to be lost so suddenly and in such a spectacular fashion seems to me an unspeakable tragedy. We can only imagine how the Brazilian people feel, for this is nearer to them than it is to us in America and Europe. But in the big scheme of things, this is our loss, too.

I became acquainted with Brazilian culture by listening to Brazilian music. Bossa nova and samba were everywhere in America in the 1960s and '70s. It was the theme music in movies and television, the background music in malls and shopping centers and on elevators, and in much of what was called adult contemporary or easy listening on the radio. For young people, it was easy to ignore or dismiss. When we were kids, we had a copy of Gary McFarland's Soft Samba Strings. It came from a favorite uncle, and though we listened to it and liked it, I think we had a sense that this was music for an older generation. How little we knew.

I came back to bossa nova and samba almost two decades ago, first by way of Sérgio Mendes and Brasil 66. I hate to say this about an Internet behemoth, but YouTube in recent years has been a godsend. You can hear music now that you would never have heard before. On the other hand, I don't hate to say that a man named José Freitas, who posts Brazilian music by the boatload on YouTube, deserves a medal for his tireless work. Obrigado, Signore Freitas.

One of my favorite Brazilian musicians--one of my heroes really for his devotion to his art-- is the guitarist and composer Baden Powell (1937-2000). If you want to see a work of wonder, watch his nine-minute performance of "Prelude in A Minor" from his later years. And if you want to hear a more popular work, listen to his collaboration with Vinicius de Moraes, Os Afro Sambas, from 1966, that nearly matchless year of popular culture, in which the two are backed by Quarteto em Cy, sisters who sing like angels.

As far as I know, there was never a Brazilian author or artist in Weird Tales, at least in its first several incarnations, that is, up to 1985. There may have been since then, but I don't have an index for the issues published in the period 1988-2014. But in my search for Brazilian weird fiction, fantasy, and science fiction, I begin with a song from Os Afro Sambas, "Canto de Iemanjá," composed by Baden Powell and sung by Vinicius and Quarteto em Cy. Baden Powell was interested in the traditional music of his native land, also, it seems certain, in its traditional culture, for, despite his Anglo name, he was of African descent. His "Canto de Iemanjá" is drawn from the Brazilian, and more distantly, the African goddess whose name is rendered in Portuguese as Iemanjá. She is sometimes depicted as a mermaid, and she is the mother whose children are like fish (I think that means plentiful rather than finny), a protector of women, a symbol of fecundity, also of waters and the ocean sea. The song begins at about the 12:25 mark of Os Afro Sambas. I don't understand the words, yet they speak, drawing the listener on, through the darkness and mist, through which they echo and fade, whisper and call. Iemanjá beckons . . . 

To be continued . . .

This cover for Weird Tales by Virgil Finlay from December 1937 is not of Iemanjá, but it's the closest thing I can find to a woman of the sea. The cover story is "The Sea-Witch" by the enigmatic Nictzin Dyalhis.

Text copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Topics for a Summer Night-Part One

Yes, I admit, this is supposed to be a blog about Weird Tales magazine and the men and women who contributed to it over the last near-century. It's not really supposed to be about Star Wars or Star Trek, and it's definitely not supposed to be about a creepy FBI agent, who is, by the way, so very disgusting that writing about him the other day has left a really bad taste in my mouth. I for one don't like the sensation. I hope that I haven't disgusted you too much by putting him before you. If I have, I'm sorry. In any case, I'll bring that unsavory topic to a close by observing that the agent in question is a good example of what happens when you give small men outsized power.

I've gotten around the narrow focus on Weird Tales by changing the blurb you see on your right. In case you haven't noticed, it now reads:
Welcome to Tellers of Weird Tales, an online compendium of the men and women, writers and artists, stories and ideas that appeared in Weird Tales and other weird fiction and science fiction magazines of the pulp era. [Emphasis added.]
Pretty sneaky, huh? Even that wider focus doesn't include Star Wars and Star Trek, though, unless I do a little dodging and weaving. After all, both franchises have their roots in far older forms and genres. For example, "When the Green Star Waned" by Nictzin Dyalhis, first published in Weird Tales in April 1925, with its fearless crew and their rescue of a planet, could easily be adapted to an episode of Star Trek. (And isn't a phaser really just a blastor?) For another example, the creators of the original series drew from magazine science fiction for many of their concepts, plots, and story ideas, including those depicted in the episodes "Operation: Annihilate" and "The Trouble with Tribbles," both from 1967. In the former, there are flying pancakes that attach themselves to people's backs and tap into their nervous systems, just as in The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein, serialized in Galaxy Science Fiction in 1951. (Basil Wolverton used the same concept in his weird and brilliant science fiction story "The Brain-Bats of Venus," published in Mr. Mystery #7 in 1952.) In the latter appear little furry creatures like the flat cats in Heinlein's novel The Rolling Stones, originally in Boys' Life in 1952. Now I'll stretch really, really far and point out that Robert A. Heinlein contributed to Weird Tales in the 1940s. As for Star Wars, I think I have already traced the descent (shakily or not) of Han Solo through Leigh Brackett's Eric John Stark to Northwest Smith, created by C.L. Moore for the 1930s Weird Tales. I should point out here that Robert Heinlein was also inspired by C.L. Moore in the title of his story "The Green Hills of Earth" (The Saturday Evening Post, Feb. 8, 1947), based on a song of the same name from "Shambleau" (Weird Tales, Nov. 1933). And could Ernest Hemingway have been inspired by C.L. Moore as well? After all, his book Green Hills of Africa was published in 1935, after Northwest Smith had hummed his little song . . . nah, couldn't be.

So I can try to justify writing about Star Wars and Star Trek with that kind of logic, but I really only need one bit of logic: this is my blog and I can write about whatever I want. And what I want to write about next is Brazilian culture.

To be continued . . . 

In the category of "They Should Have Been in Weird Tales," there is Basil Wolverton. I can't lay my hands on one of my favorite panels by him, so this one will do, but when it comes to Wolverton, any panel will do. He was inimitable--irreplaceable. His kind, of which there was only one, will never be seen again. (I have to ask, though, was he influenced by Matt Fox of Weird Tales?)

Text copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, September 3, 2018

Heroes and Villains

While I was away, my sister got me hooked on Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It's an enjoyable show, and the little dropped hints, continuing plot threads, and cliffhanger endings remind me of the Marvel comics we read when we were kids. We watched about a season and a half before I had to leave home. I'm not sure when I'll get back to it.

While I was watching the show, a thing occurred to me. Earlier this summer, we were treated to the horrifying spectacle of FBI agent Peter Strzok's testimony before Congress concerning his abuse and misuse of his position, authority, and resources before and after the last presidential election. I won't sugar coat it. I think Mr. Strzok is a creep and a dweeb. Having grown up without any siblings in Iran, Africa, and perhaps also in Saudi Arabia, he was, I suspect, improperly socialized as a child. He may never have learned what it is to be an American, despite the fact that his father spent twenty years in the U.S. Army. (He certainly doesn't know anything about the U.S. Constitution.) Peter Strzok the son then spent four years cloistered in an exclusive Catholic preparatory school. After sending gazillions of text messages to his lover in 2015 and after, he got caught, like a child with his hand in the cookie jar. But instead of being contrite, he lashed out at the people who questioned him, like a rotten, spoiled, pampered brat. His performance in front of Congress was both weird and disgusting. Watch him if you can as he squirms and smirks, sneers and threatens. There is contempt and arrogance in him, but there is also fear, the fear of a schoolboy who wants to do well but has failed. We may be in for more of this later on, but for now, the execrable Mr. Strzok is out of a job at the FBI. We can be thankful at least for that.

Even before I watched Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., I was reminded in seeing Peter Strzok of a figure from popular culture. In watching the show, though, it occurred to me that maybe he, in his sophomoric way, imagines himself as Agent Phil Coulson, the fearless and slightly extra-legal head of a cadre of super-agents tasked at protecting us from the bad guys. I see him instead as closer to what he really is. Spoiled, immature, and dangerous in the extreme in his contempt for others and in his continued abuse of power, Peter Strzok is like Charlie X from the first season of Star Trek.

Who says science fiction lacks predictive power?


Text copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley

Friday, August 31, 2018

Back Again

I'm back again after several weeks with my family. My uncle died while I was away. He had lived a long life and was a veteran of the Korean War and a teacher in the Indianapolis Public Schools for thirty years. He specialized in American history but claimed to have known more about its Irish counterpart. He was also a devoted Catholic.

I don't think my uncle was especially interested in science fiction and fantasy, but he was a great fan of Sherlock Holmes and Father Brown. It's no coincidence as far as my uncle went that Arthur Conan Doyle was of Irish-Catholic descent and that G.K. Chesterton, though falling short of Irishness, became, nevertheless, a Catholic. While Conan Doyle went in for nonsense in the Cottingley Fairies affair, Chesterton was, by virtue of his faith, more well grounded. We have him to thank for an idea that has been paraphrased thusly: "When a man stops believing in God he doesn’t then believe in nothing, he believes anything." The American Chesterton Society traces that paraphrased idea to the research and conclusions of Chestertonian Robin Rader of  Zambia, who believes it came from two quotes found in the Father Brown stories:
"It's the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense." (From "The Oracle of the Dog," 1923.)
and
"You hard-shelled materialists were all balanced on the very edge of belief--of belief in almost anything." (From "The Miracle of Moon Crescent," 1924.)
I have written before about weird fiction against materialism. I think you could make an argument that weird fiction is against other kinds of belief as well, those that have displaced a belief in God, or at least in the supernatural. Many of these beliefs are based, I think, in Scientism, that bastard-child of science and religion. In my view, Scientism is not about science but of the perceived supremacy and worship of what some people call science, or what has lately sometimes been called "settled science," that is, an unquestioned and unquestionable dogma more characteristic of religion. One bit of "settled science" is that the world is overpopulated, in other words, that there are too many of us and that it would be better off with some us--meaning you--gone. (Have you ever noticed how people who believe in overpopulation never talk about getting rid of themselves?)

As a supposedly scientific idea, overpopulation would have entered science fiction at some point, perhaps not long after it had become a concern in the real world. I'm not sure when that was. The online Encyclopedia of Science Fiction suggests that the starting point was in the 1950s, but that overpopulation as a theme in science fiction really took off in the 1960s. That's my sense, too. Here's a quote from the Encyclopedia:
The most powerful attempt to confront the issue squarely and in some detail was Harry Harrison's Make Room! Make Room! (1966), a novel whose thrust was entirely lost when it was filmed as Soylent Green (1973). 
I don't agree so much with the comment about Soylent Green, but it's clear to me that overpopulation as a theme was pretty well established in science fiction by the end of the 1960s. Witness "The Mark of Gideon," an episode from the final season of Star Trek, broadcast on January 17, 1969. Witness also the publication in 1970 of The World Outside by Robert Silverberg.

Overpopulation was big in the 1970s. Even otherwise sensible people believed that the world was or soon would be crawling with humanity and that, as a result, there would be disaster, or, alternatively, dystopia (as in Soylent Green [1973] or Logan's Run [1976]), which is only another kind of disaster. If anyone foresaw that we would actually face in the twenty-first century a different kind of disaster, that of demographic collapse, I don't know who that would have been.

Implicit in all of the talk of overpopulation is an anti-human sentiment. But in giving up on a belief in God, and in transferring our most fervent religious beliefs to materialism, atheism, Darwinism, socialism, and so on, many in the world today have become so thoroughly anti-human that they despise humanity and wish for us to be extinguished. My sense is that they despise themselves, but that, because self-hatred is a psychically unbearable condition, they transfer their hatred to the rest of the world. They also, I think, transfer it to God. (My question is, why are they so angry at somebody they don't even believe in?)

Another variation on this anti-human attitude is expressed by people who have elevated animals to the level of people (or have demoted people to the level of animals), in the process casting their pets into the roles of surrogate children and lovers. How long will it be before we can mate with genetically modified pets to produce hybrid dog-people who love us as dogs love us, without reserve, unconditionally, and beyond the imperfect love of our fellow human beings? I suspect it will happen, sooner rather than later. Who in science fiction, as unquestioning of the dogma of overpopulation as the writers of the genre have been, foresaw that we would do these things? Who, in or out of science fiction, envisioned that we would face not overpopulation but demographic collapse partly because we love only our animals and no longer our fellow human beings? 

A perfect and indestructible love--where have we found that before? We seem to remember something like it in the far-distant past, before Scientism became the faith of choice. What was its Source? Who offered it? The difference is that the love offered by a hybrid dog-child is perfectly manipulable. We are its masters. We need not be humble or submit to Anyone's will, because it is our will that is being expressed. Our dog-children will come from our own image of ourselves--those will be our genes in there after all. In other words, our dog-children will be perfect, three-dimensional, organic, hybrid human-canine selfies.

My uncle understood the anti-human attitude of the believers in overpopulation, and he understood it decades ago, shortly after the theme had entered science fiction but before it had taken off in the 1960s. I doubt that he was aware of these developments, but he knew of parallel developments in the real world, for in a long letter to the Indianapolis Star, published on August 26, 1961 (p. 10) and in response to a previous newspaper item, he wrote:
The problem [of population] is not to be solved by impoverishing the earth of the greatest of its riches, "the life and intelligence of man."
I don't know the origin of the quoted phrase. Nonetheless, he saw that the implicitly anti-human policies of the believers in overpopulation were (and are) likely to prove disastrous. And he didn't just dream that up. His faith and his love for his fellow man were behind it. He lived that faith, and he acted out that love, perhaps nowhere so much as in the classroom, in front of the students who attended Harry E. Wood High School in downtown Indianapolis, with its broken windows, darkened brick walls, and run-down facilities. This was an inner city school of the 1970s, when inner cities were polluted, abandoned, and falling apart, like in a scene from Soylent Green. But my uncle, a scholar like Sol, kept faith and served his students. He was pro-human. He chose love over hate, peace over war, freedom over slavery. And because of the things he valued, thus lived, he was remembered by his students, one of whom graduated in the year that letter was published in the Indianapolis Star and who came to the funeral home fifty-seven years later to see him and honor him one last time.

Copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley