Friday, October 31, 2014

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Galen C. Colin (1890-1973)

Author, Printer
Born September 5, 1890, Argonia, Kansas
Died June 14, 1973, presumably in Tucson, Arizona

Galen Cyril Colin was born on September 5, 1890, in Argonia, Kansas, and lived most of his life in Wichita where he worked as a printer. Colin wrote dozens of stories for Western pulps from 1927 to 1951, some under the Wild West Weekly house name of Collins Hafford. His work appeared in Cowboy Stories, Lariat Story Magazine, The Lone Ranger Magazine, Popular Western, Thrilling Western, Wild West Weekly, and others. Colin also wrote novels. A partial list:

  • Storm King Rides (1933)
  • The Lobos of Devil's Sink (1939)
  • Battling Buckaroos (1940)
  • Ramrod of the K Bar (1940)
  • Dry Gulch (1942)
  • Lone-Wolf Lawman (1943)
  • Rio Red (1944)
  • Home Spread (1951)
  • Buzzards of Bitter Creek

His four stories for Weird Tales have intriguing titles: "Snake" (Jan. 1924), "Eyes" (May/June/July 1924), "The Song Eternal" (Dec. 1924), and "Teeth" (Apr. 1926). "Teeth" was reprinted in the British anthology More Not at Night, edited by Christine Campbell Thomson (1926) and in a paperback edition called Not at Night (1960).

Galen C. Colin died on June 14, 1973, presumably in Tucson, Arizona, and was buried at East Lawn Palms Cemetery and Mortuary in Tucson.

Galen C. Colin's Stories in Weird Tales
"Snake" (Jan. 1924)
"Eyes" (May/June/July 1924)
"The Song Eternal" (Dec. 1924)
"Teeth" (Apr. 1926)

Further Reading
None known.

Storm King Rides (1933)
Battling Buckaroos (1940)
Flyin' M Buckaroo, a British edition (date unknown). Observers and fans have asked the question Is science fiction dying?, but has anybody asked Are Westerns dying? Does anyone care in the same way they care about science fiction? Put another way, why should science fiction hold a special place when other genres have fallen by the wayside? Why are there no more railroad stories, boxing stories, or Oriental adventure stories? Did those genres have their time and place and should now be relegated to the past? If so, why shouldn't science fiction also have had its glory, now past? 
Not at Night (1960), with Galen C. Colin's story "Teeth."

Text copyright 2014 Terence E. Hanley

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Valma Clark (1894-1953)

Aka Lyssa Carrol
Author, Playwright, Journalist, Teacher
Born July 20, 1894, Sedalia, Missouri
Died September 29, 1953, in the American Hospital of Paris, Neuilly-sur-Seine, France

Valma Clark was born on July 20, 1894, in Sedalia, Missouri, and graduated from the University of Rochester in 1916 with a degree in the arts. She was a teacher and journalist, but she was best known in her time for her short stories and novels. Under her own name and under the pseudonym Lyssa Carrol, she contributed to Action Stories, Ainslee's Magazine, All Sports, The American Magazine, Brief Stories, Collier's, Cosmopolitan, The Delineator, The Double Dealer, Liberty, Munsey'sStreet and Smith’s Detective Story Magazine, and many women's magazines. The FictionMags Index lists many of her credits but not the following:
  • "The Two Men Who Murdered Each Other" in Weird Tales (July/Aug. 1923)
  • "Zillah" in Weird Tales (Mar. 1924)
  • "Candlelight Inn" in Scribner's Magazine (Nov. 1926)
  • "Class" in Scribner's Magazine (Dec. 1927)
  • "Keeper of the Peace" in Modern Homemaking (Aug. 1929)
  • "The Will to Win" in Woman's World (July 1936)
  • A piece in Ladies' Home Journal (Apr. 1937)
  • "Tennis for Two" in Pictorial Review (Aug. 1938)
  • "Murder by the Stars" in Detective Story Magazine (Apr. 1943)
  • "The Man Who Loved the Classics" in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine (July 1951)
Her story "Judgement of the West" was made into a movie called The Slanderers (1924). "Ignition," from Scribner's (Jan. 1923) was selected for Best Short Stories Of 1923 (1924). Valma also wrote The Critic: A One-Act Comedy (1935) and two novels, Their Own Country (1934) and Horn of Plenty (1945). She lived in France from 1929 to 1940 and was in Paris with her sister Olga Clark (later Olga Clark Smith) when the Nazis invaded. During the war she worked for the United States government in Washington, D.C. An obituary in the Rochester Review (Feb. 1954, p. 31) summarizes her career:

Valma Clark died on September 29, 1953, and was buried at Neuilly-sur-Seine New Communal Cemetery in Neuilly-sur-Seine.

Valma Clark's Stories in Weird Tales
"The Two Men Who Murdered Each Other" (July/Aug. 1923)
"Zillah" (Mar. 1924)

Further Reading
"The Two Men Who Murdered Each Other" was reprinted in The Best of Weird Tales, 1923, edited by Marvin Kaye and John Gregory Betancourt (1997).

Two magazines with Valma Clark's byline on the cover, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine for November 1944 (top) and for August 1949, Australian edition (bottom).

Text and captions copyright 2014 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, October 27, 2014

Lines Straight and Tangled

I will try to untangle a very tangled web.

In Vril, the Power of the Coming Race (1871), Edward Bulwer-Lytton wrote of the Vril-ya, a subterranean race who are masters of a limitless source of energy known as Vril. Bulwer-Lytton's book is supposed to have been an influence upon Helen Blavatsky and her associates, who founded The Theosophical Society in New York City in 1875, just four years after the publication of the novel Vril. Among other things, Theosophists believed in Lost Continents and the current existence of a fifth (of seven) race, the Aryan Root race--i.e., us, on our way to some more advanced state of existence (in other words, a coming race, as in the subtitle of Bulwer-Lytton's book). H.P. Lovecraft was aware of Theosophy. He mentioned it in the opening paragraphs of "The Call of Cthulhu," and he may very well have named Cthulhu's island city, R'lyeh, after the people, the Vril-ya.

Raymond A. Palmer and Richard S. Shaver knew of the novel Vril as well. To them, the story of a subterranean race was no story at all but a fact. Their deep-dwellers were not advanced, however, but retrograde. They were called Deros (for Detrimental Robots), and they formed the basis of the so-called Shaver Mystery of the late 1940s science fiction. Even after Palmer had moved on to a far more powerful myth--that of flying saucers--the Shaver Mystery hung on. Albert Bender and Gray Barker both wrote about it in the 1950s and '60s.

L. Ron Hubbard probably knew something about Vril and Theosophy. Being a science fiction writer of the Golden Age, he almost certainly was familiar with the Shaver Mystery. When he decided to create his own religion based on science-fictional ideas, he probably drew on all three. Maybe there's a little bit of Cthulhu in Xenu as well.

In May 1947, only a month before Kenneth Arnold saw the first flying saucers, Astounding Science Fiction published Willy Ley's article "Pseudoscience in Naziland." In it, Ley, a scientist, science fiction writer, and Fortean author, alleged that Nazi occultists banded together to look for the secret energy source Vril. We should note that the Shaver Mystery was then raging in science fiction magazines and fandom, and that in all likelihood Dianetics was marinating in the sewer of L. Ron Hubbard's brain.

In 1959, Jacques Bergier and Louis Pauwels took up the idea of Nazi occultism in their book Le Matin des Magiciens (The Morning of the Magicians). They alleged the existence of a Vril-Society in Germany dating back to the time of the Great War and ties to the very real Thule Society, a proto-Nazi organization with a decidedly occultist bent. The book proved very popular and has led to a kind of cult of Nazi occultism in Fortean circles today.

Despite his French name, Jacques Bergier was a Russian Jew born Yakov Mikhailovich Berger on August 8, 1912, in Odessa. Bergier was or claimed to be lots of things. You can read about him elsewhere on the Internet. Bergier's writing partner, Louis Pauwels (1920-1997), was a French journalist, writer, and editor. With the success of Le Matin des Magiciens, Bergier and Pauwels founded a French magazine Planète, which published science fiction, fantasy, futurism, and non-fiction. Among the authors treated was H.P. Lovecraft. Among the magazine's writers of fiction were Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and Fredric Brown, all of whom had contributed to Weird Tales.

Planète ran from 1961 to 1972. One writer for the magazine and a friend of Bergier and Pauwels was the French author and UFOlogist Aimé Michel (1919-1992). Together with Bergier, Michel theorized on the existence of geographic lines along which UFO sightings occur. French intellectual theories are as common as cats on a Missouri farm. Michel called his orthoténie. It sounds to me like the theory of ley lines from a generation before. I'm certain those lines weren't named after Willy Ley, who was a scientist like Jacques Bergier's supposed cousin, George Gamow. The idea of ley lines was revived in the 1960s by John Michell (1933-2009), who was no relation to Aimé Michel, although their birthplaces align as perfectly as any two places on Earth.

According to Wikipedia, "Jacques Bergier set himself up as intellectual heir to Charles Hoy Fort." He and Pauwels followed up Le Matin des Magiciens with Impossible Possibilities (1968; Avon, 1975), a collection of science, speculation, and Forteana. Some science fiction and fantasy writers earn mention in the book: E.E. Smith, Arthur C. Clarke, Jack Williamson, and H.G. Wells for example. In a section called "Amoebas as Big as Oxen," Bergier wrote:
Science fiction already has tales of giant amoebas that have escaped from the laboratory of some mad scientist. (p. 247)
Pauwels and Bergier were clearly interested in science fiction as their publication of Planète showed. I wonder if Bergier realized that in writing about giant amoebas, he had also summarized the plot of "Ooze" by Anthony M. Rud, the first cover story in Weird Tales.

Jacques Bergier also wrote books on his own. One of them is called Extraterrestrial Visitations from Prehistoric Times to the Present (1970; Signet, 1974). Thankfully the book has an index, and right there are entries on H.P. Lovecraft, mostly to do with the existence of ancient and alien beings on Earth. In one passage, Bergier or his translator referred to them as "H.P. Lovecraft's Great Old Men." I can imagine one of them yelling, "Hey, you sailors, get off my slimy island!" There are also references or allusions to "At the Mountains of Madness," Irem, Abdul el Alhazred and the Necronomicon, "Through the Gates of the Silver Key," and "Pickman's Model."

In regards to the Necronomicon, Bergier claimed: "Lovecraft himself wrote me in 1935, and confirmed to many other correspondents as well, that he had invented the Necronomicon in every respect." (p. 84). Now, H.P. Lovecraft wrote a lot of letters, perhaps more than any other person ever, but did he really write to Jacques Bergier in 1935? I'm not in a position to say. What I can say, I guess, is that science fiction and pseudoscience seem to come from the same place, that is, from the imagination. Science fiction may actually be closer to the fiction of pseudoscience than to scientific fact. Conversely, pseudoscience may be science fiction trying to wedge its way into the real world. There may be little science to science fiction at all, in which case Edward Bulwer-Lytton or Charles Fort may be the true father of science fiction rather than Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, or Hugo Gernsback.

By the way, Jacques Bergier died on November 23, 1978, in Paris. His valediction may have been another allusion to science fiction (by Richard Matheson): "I am not a legend."

Copyright 2014 Terence E. Hanley

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Killers on the Road to Athens

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Demon Barbers and the first psychopath in literature. I proposed Sweeney Todd as the first, but I was and am open to other suggestions. An anonymous reader proposed another first. His or her comments from September 9, 2014, begin with a quote from my original posting as a reference:
"Sweeney Todd . . . is the earliest psychopath that I have found in literature."
The earliest psychopath as the central character, perhaps. Quite a few of the "bad knights" in mediaeval Arthurian stories show psychopathic features. One very early candidate as a psychopath is Procrustes in Greek mythology.
I had heard of Procrustes and the term Procrustean bed, but didn't know the significance of either. So I consulted my books on mythology. First, in Bergen Evans' Dictionary of Mythology (Dell Laurel Edition, 1975), I read that Procrustes, also called Damastes and Polypemon, was a "giant robber [and] son of Poseidon"
He is known chiefly for a famous, or infamous, bed which he offered, in the guise of hospitality, to his victims. If they were too short for the bed, he stretched their limbs until they fit. If they were too long for the bed, he lopped off whatever was necessary to make them fit. Theseus killed him by shortening him to fit his own bed. (p. 244)
Here's the kicker for those interested in the connection between the ordinary psychopath and the totalitarian dictator, a further quote from Evan's dictionary:
[Hence our adjective procrustean: = "tending to produce conformity by violent means."] (The brackets are in the original.) (1)
In her Mythology (1942), Edith Hamilton elaborates on some other killers:
His [Theseus'] idea of dealing with justice was simple, but effective: what each had done to others, Theseus did to him. Sciron, for instance, who had made those he captured kneel to wash his feet and then kicked them down into the sea, Theseus hurled over  a precipice. Sinis, who killed people by fastening them to two pine trees bent down to the ground and letting the trees go, died in that way himself. Procrustes was placed upon the iron bed which he used for his victims . . . . (p. 210).
In my old and very badly damaged copy of Gods & Heroes (Fawcett, 1966, pp. 200-202), the author, Gustav Schwab, described how Theseus slew in turn Periphetes the Club-Bearer, Sinnis [sic] the Pine-Bender, the aforementioned Sciron, the wrestler Cercyon, and finally Damastes, nicknamed Procrustes, the Stretcher. Every one of them was a robber, a rogue, and a murderer. Their cruelty and their particular pleasure in killing might mark them as psychopaths. (2)

Just as the totalitarian impulse has existed in every time, so has the person who takes pleasure in killing others. It's worth noting that the killers encountered by Theseus inhabited the countryside and had not yet made their way to the city. They did however make their way into the popular culture of their time, that is, into ancient myth.

Thanks to the anonymous reader who drew Procrustes to my attention.

(1) The Wikipedia-zation of research continues: In reading about Procrustes, I find that Jacques Derrida applied the metaphor of the Procrustean bed to a certain reading of "The Purloined Letter" by Edgar Allan Poe. This was the same Derrida who birthed deconstructionism, which, somewhere or other, has Marxism in its family tree. Bergen Evans' definition of procrustean--"tending to produce conformity by violent means"--comes to mind, for it's also a pretty good definition of Marxism. Further evidence that people of certain political persuasions are incapable of irony or self-awareness.
(2) Bullfinch's Mythology (Modern Library, no date, p. 124) tells a much more abbreviated version of Theseus' crime-fighting.

Copyright 2014 Terence E. Hanley

Edna Goit Brintnall (1886-1959)

Author, Poet, Playwright
Born November 18, 1886, Illinois
Died August 19, 1959, Los Angeles, California

Edna Goit was born on November 18, 1886, in Illinois. On June 21, 1910, she married Leslie G. Brintnall in Cook County, Illinois, and about that time relocated to California. Edna Goit Brintnall was a poet, a playwright, and an author of stories. Her credits include the following:

  • "Mes Amours" (poem) in House and Garden (Feb. 1920)
  • What Every Woman Wants (play, 1920)
  • "Deathless" (poem) in The Lyric West: A Magazine of Verse (1922)
  • "Dust" (short story) in Weird Tales (July 1932)

Edna Goit Brintnall died on August 19, 1959, in Los Angeles and was buried at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Edna Goit Brintnall's Story in Weird Tales
"Dust" (July 1932)

Further Reading
None except for the two poems listed above, which are available on the Internet.

Copyright 2014 Terence E. Hanley

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Kurt Barle-A Speculation

Kurt Barle wrote one story for Weird Tales. Published in the February 1935 issue, "Anything Could Happen" was his only story in the field of fantasy and science fiction. If it had been translated from the German, I might have a little more confidence in this speculation. Anyway, here it goes.

Curt (or Kurt) Schwabe-Barlewin was born on May 19, 1892, in Varel, near Oldenburg, Germany. On September 27, 1938, he and his family--wife Frieda and sons Arthur and Paul--sailed from Hamburg, Germany, on board the S.S. President Roosevelt. He gave his occupation as merchant and his race or people as Hebrew. The family arrived in New York on October 9, 1938. While the Schwabe family was en route to the United States, Nazi Germany began its occupation of the Sudetenland. Only a month later, on November 9-10, 1938, came Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass. Curt Schwabe had made previous trips to America in March 1926, September 1930, and June 1937. He had also previously traveled to Argentina and Canada. In 1938, he apparently came to stay.

In the 1940 census, the Schwabe family was enumerated in Watsonville, California. Curt was then the proprietor of a lunchroom. When he filled out his draft card during World War II, he was unemployed and gave an address in Santa Cruz. That city would remain his place of residence for the next couple of decades. Curt Schwabe died on August 13, 1971, in Los Angeles city or county.

The 1940 census is useful for giving, for those enumerated, their place of residence in 1935. Curt Schwabe gave his place of residence in 1935 as Varel, the city of his birth. (In 1934, he was listed in a local directory as a milliner.) In February 1935, "Anything Can Happen" by Kurt Barle was published in Weird Tales. Presumably Curt (or Kurt) Schwabe-Barlewin was then in Germany. If he was the author, perhaps the story was translated. But if he was a well-traveled merchant who had made trips to South and North American, perhaps he knew English well enough to write a story. In any case, that is my speculation and the best that I can do considering there isn't any Kurt Barle in the United States census.

Copyright 2014 Terence E. Hanley