Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Wardon Allan Curtis (1867-1940)

Aka Warden Allan Curtis
Journalist and Author
Born February 1, 1867, New Mexico Territory
Died January 20, 1940, Plymouth, New Hampshire

Wardon Allan Curtis was born in the New Mexico Territory on the first day of February, 1867. He was the son of Captain Charles Albert Curtis, U.S.A., and Harriet Louise Hughes Curtis. I suspect that he was born on or near a military installation. He may have moved from place to place as a child as military children do. In 1889, Curtis received his bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin. He worked as a journalist after that and was with the Chicago Daily News in 1910-1913, the Boston Herald in 1913-1916, and the Manchester Union in 1924-1928. Curtis also served as secretary of the Publicity Commission of New Hampshire in 1921-1925. From at least 1899 onward, Wardon Allan Curtis wrote science fiction and fantasy stories. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1995) writes:
His most important sf [i.e., science fiction] is a short story about a brain transplant, "The Monster of Lake LaMetrie" (1899 The Windsor Magazine), in which the brain is human and the recipient body that of a prehistoric survival from a bottomless lake that may lead into a hollow earth.
If that description doesn't make you want to read the story, I don't know what will.

The Black Cat published his story "The Fate of the 'Senegambian Queen'" in 1900. Weird Tales reprinted the story in its Fall 1973 issue. An Arabian Nights kind of story, "The Seal of Solomon the Great," appeared in The Argosy in February 1901. Almost two decades later, All-Story Weekly printed his tale "The Mahoosalem Boys" (May 15, 1920). All other credits for Curtis as listed in the Internet Speculative Fiction Database are from his 1903 collection The Strange Adventures of Mr. Middleton, "a mixture of Oriental fantasy and bizarre mystery," according to The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

Wardon Allan Curtis lived in New Hampshire late in life and died in Plymouth twelve days before his seventy-third birthday. He was buried in Green Grove Cemetery in Ashland, New Hampshire.

Wardon Allan Curtis' Story in Weird Tales
"The Fate of the "Senegambian Queen'" (Fall 1973, originally in The Black Cat, Nov. 1900)

An illustration by Stanley L. Wood (1866-1928) for Wardon Allan Curtis' story "The Monster of Lake LaMetrie" from 1899, demonstrating the connection between science fiction and cryptozoology. A story like this one would later have been included in that hybrid genre known as weird western. The Valley of Gwangi (1969) was a later entry in that selfsame genre.
Curtis wrote a series of interrelated tales in The Strange Adventures of Mr. Middleton (1903). My first question upon seeing this cover illustration: "Just what are they smoking?"
Text and captions copyright 2012 Terence E. Hanley

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