Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Before the Golden Age-P. Schuyler Miller

P. Schuyler Miller
Technical Writer, Author, Reviewer, Amateur Archaeologist
Born February 21, 1912, Troy, New York
Died October 13, 1974, Blennerhasset Island, West Virginia

Peter Schuyler Miller was born on February 21, 1912, in Troy, New York, into an old New York family. He was descended from Colonel Philip Peter Schuyler (1736-1808), defender of Fort Schoharie, New York, during the Revolutionary War. The colonel's father was Captain Peter Schuyler, Jr. (1698-1779), builder of a frontier fort called Irondequoit. Going back even further, Peter Schuyler was the son of Colonel Peter F. Schuyler (1657-1724), colonial governor of New York and first mayor of Albany. In 1709, Schuyler took the five Iroquois Sachems to London (one died on the way), where they met Queen Anne and sat for portraits in her court.

Peter Schuyler Miller's father was Philip Schuyler Miller (1873-1936), a historian and a research chemist at the General Electric Company. As a child, Peter lived in Schaghticoke and Scotia, New York. He held a lifelong interest in archaeology and the Iroquois Indians. He was a member of the New York State Archaeological Association and advocated for historical preservation and conservation of natural resources in several letters to the New York Times. Like his father, Miller was a chemist by training. He received his master's degree in chemistry from Union College in Schnectady, New York. Also like his father, he worked for General Electric as a technical writer. From 1952 until his untimely death, Miller was a technical writer with the Fisher Scientific Company in Pittsburgh.

P. Schuyler Miller's first published science fiction was a story called "The Red Plague" for Wonder Stories, July 1930. Like so many science fiction writers of the Golden Age and before, he was a published author before he was out of his teens. Miller wrote science fiction during the 1930s, '40s, and '50s. He was also a bibliographer of Robert E. Howard's Conan stories, and in collaboration with others drew a map of Conan's world. Miller is most well known for his hundreds of reviews for Astounding Science Fiction and its successor, Analog Science Fiction and Fact, written between 1945 and his death. In the process of reviewing science fiction, Miller amassed a large collection of works, now located at the Carnegie Museums in Pittsburgh. The University of Kansas Libraries also have a collection of Miller's science fiction-related material.

The story of P. Schuyler Miller's death is an unusual one. An amateur historian and archaeologist, he was on a trip to West Virginia to study prehistoric sites, one or more of which were related to the "Fort Ancient Civilization," when he died suddenly on Blennerhassett Island, located next to Parkersburg, West Virginia (and within an hour's drive of where I write this). I don't know the circumstances of his death. The Internet again shows itself to be woefully inadequate. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction is silent on the matter. In any case, I would like to mention a minor and meaningless connection: In traveling from Pittsburgh (presumably) to Blennerhassett Island, P. Schuyler Miller more or less retraced the route Aaron Burr took in 1805 as he went about his alleged scheming against the United States. In 1946, the Aaron Burr Association was founded "[t]o keep alive the memory of Colonel Aaron Burr as a student, a soldier, a lawyer, a politician, a patron of the arts, an educator, a banker, and as a husband and father" and "to secure for him the honor and respect which are due him as one of the leading figures of his age." The director of that association for a time was Nathan Schachner, who, like P. Schuyler Miller, was a science fiction writer and a contributor to Weird Tales.

For Weird Tales
"Spawn" (Aug. 1939)
"John Cawder's Wife" (May 1943)
"Plane and Fancy" (July 1944)
"Ship-in-a-Bottle" (Jan. 1945)
"Ghost" (July 1946)

P. Schuyler Miller wrote five stories for Weird Tales. His second, "John Cawder's Wife," was the cover story for the May 1943 issue. Believe it or not, the cover art was by Margaret Brundage. I wonder if the Schuyler and Miller families would have had a portrait gallery like this one in their own home. It seems only natural that a man like Miller would have written about a line of descent. 
Miller wasn't a particularly prolific author of fiction, but he had his share of cover stories such as this one for "Old Man Mulligan" in Astounding Science-Fiction, December 1940. The art is by Rogers.
Here's another cover story, "Genus Homo," for Super Science Novels, March 1941. Miller often worked with other authors. His collaborator here was L. Sprague de Camp. The artist was Leo Morey.
Yesterday I wrote about Lloyd Arthur Eshbach and his Fantasy Press. Here's another title from that publisher, The Titan by P. Schuyler Miller (1952), with cover art by Hannes Bok.

Text and captions copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley

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