Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Before the Golden Age-Anthony Boucher

Anthony Boucher
Pseudonym of William Anthony Parker White
Aka William A. P. White, Herman Mudgett, Herman W. Mudgett, H. H. Holmes
Editor, Reviewer, Critic, Translator, Radio and Television Scriptwriter, Author, Poet
Born August 21, 1911, Oakland, California
Died April 29, 1968, Oakland, California

William A.P. White was just fifteen years old when his story "Ye Goode Olde Ghoste Storie" was published in Weird Tales in January 1927. That must make him among the youngest authors to have contributed to "The Unique Magazine." A generation later, he contributed two more stories to Weird Tales under his pseudonym Anthony Boucher. That's the name by which most readers knew him during his short life and by which they know him today.

William Anthony Parker White was born on August 21, 1911, in Oakland, California. He graduated from the University of Southern California, and received his masters degree from the University of California, Berkeley. The Internet Speculative Fiction Database doesn't have his credits quite right. According to that website, White, using the name Anthony Boucher, composed a poem called "Sonnet of the Unsleeping Dead," which was dated 1935 but not published until 1947. In fact, that poem was first published under the name Parker White in Weird Tales for March 1935. The ISFDb gives Boucher's earliest credit as the mystery novel The Case of the Crumpled Dead from 1939. In actuality, The Case of the Seven of Calvary, from 1937, preceded it. Anthony Boucher's first science fiction story was apparently "Snulbug" from Unknown Worlds from December 1941. The editor of that magazine was John W. Campbell, Jr.

If you would like to read more about Anthony Boucher you might start with the Internet Speculative Fiction Database and the sites to which it is linked, and from there to Wikipedia and the sites to which it is linked. Suffice it to say that he was an indispensable editor, reviewer, critic, author, scriptwriter, and friend. Boucher contributed to a number of science fiction and fantasy magazines and founded one of his own, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, with J. Francis McComas, in 1949. The magazine is still in print after sixty-four years.

Boucher died of cancer on April 29, 1968, in Oakland. In a remembrance published the following year, McComas wrote:
Anthony Boucher died last April. He has been gone over a year now, and as James Reach wrote in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, "How shall we manage without him?" The answer is that we haven't managed too well.
In his remembrance, McComas mentioned Boucher's devout Catholicism. Wikipedia skips over that part, either out of negligence (likely) or that curious squeamishness or outright contempt people have these days towards religion. It seems to me that mention of Boucher's religion is essential in any discussion of the man and his work. For example, Boucher wrote two stories for Weird Tales under his pseudonym, "Mr. Lepescu" (Sept. 1945) and "The Scrawny One" (May 1949). "The Scrawny One" is a truly (and literally) diabolical story. I wonder if a casual believer or a non-believer could have imagined a character as evil, tricky, and--in Marvin Kaye's words--"nasty" as the title character. If you're looking for an equal to Screwtape, you might begin with Boucher's "scrawny one."

One last note: William A.P. White also used the pseudonyms H.H. Holmes and Herman W. Mudgett. That was a fiendish joke, for Holmes was the pseudonym of Mudgett, a monstrous serial killer of the nineteenth century, a man who should be as notorious today as Jack the Ripper.

And a bibliographical note: Anthony Boucher's papers are located at the Lilly Library at Indiana University.

For Weird Tales
"Ye Olde Ghoste Storie" (as by William A.P. White, Jan. 1927)
"Sonnet of the Unsleeping Dead" (poem, as by Parker White, Mar. 1935)
"Mr. Lepescu" (as by Anthony Boucher, Sept. 1945)
"The Scrawny One" (as by Anthony Boucher, May 1949)

The Magazine of Fantasy (retitled The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction with the second issue) made its debut in Fall 1949. The co-editor was Anthony Boucher, who also contributed a story under another pseudonym, H.H. Holmes. In my introduction to the current series of authors, I quoted Isaac Asimov, who stated that the Golden Age of Science Fiction came to an end in 1950 when Astounding was no longer the only science fiction magazine (or the only one worth reading I suppose). The implication is that The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction brought the Golden Age to its end. I'm not sure Asimov meant to say things in just that way. F. Orlin Tremaine claimed that the Golden Age began before 1938. Admirers of Anthony Boucher and of science fiction of the 1950s might request that its ending be extended to a later date, perhaps 1958, when Boucher left The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and the old pulp magazines were breathing their last.

Bill Stone is credited as the cover artist, but that's a photo cover. Was Stone the photographer, the technician who created the montage, the designer, or all three?
Beginning in 1952, Boucher and McComas edited an annual collection of the best stories from their magazine. This is the cover of that first collection with art by the greatest of space artists, Chesley Bonestell. By the way, Boucher and Bonestell both bore names with tricky pronunciations. Boucher is pronounced to rhyme with voucher. Bonestell is pronounced Bonn-es-stell.
Text and captions copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley

No comments:

Post a Comment