Sunday, June 30, 2013

Michael Avallone (1924-1999)

Author, Editor
Born October 27, 1924, New York, New York
Died February 26, 1999, Los Angeles, California

I have written recently about a couple of authors--Murray Leinster and E.C. Tubb--who penned novelizations of television shows. Another in that group was Michael Avallone. Born in New York City on October 27, 1924, Michael Angelo Avallone, Jr., was an army veteran of World War II and a seller of stationery before he got into the business of writing fiction. Once in, he never let up. No one knows how many books he wrote, but it was upwards of 150. Part of the confusion comes from Avallone's use of more than a dozen pseudonyms. He called himself "The Fastest Typewriter in the East" and said that he would rather write than eat or sleep. Not bound to any particular genre, Avallone wrote science fiction, fantasy and horror, Gothic fiction, Westerns, thrillers, mysteries, soft porn, sports stories, children's books, and adaptations from television shows, including The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Hawaii Five-O, Mannix, and The Partridge Family. According to the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, Avallone's first published science fiction or fantasy was "The Man Who Walked on Air" in Weird Tales, September 1953. There doesn't seem to have been any moderate opinion on Avallone and his work. He was one of his own favorite authors. Not everyone shared that opinion. In any case, Michael Avallone, born a generation too late for the pulps, died in Los Angeles on February 26, 1999. He was seventy-four years old.

Michael Avallone's Story in Weird Tales
"The Man Who Walked on Air" (Sept. 1953)

Further Reading

Michael Avallone's first book was The Tall Delores (1953), a detective novel starring Ed Noon. I guess the low point of view on the cover illustration is to emphasize the woman's height. The tight, white sweater and the lifted arm emphasize her other physical qualities.
Avallone followed that book with The Spitting Image (1953), another Ed Noon mystery. This time there's a photo cover and the sweater is red. You can bet that the person handling a Luger in old movies and TV shows is a bad guy. It's no different here.
Avallone is well known for his novelized adaptations of TV shows and movies, but who knew The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was translated into French? (Shouldn't that be L'homme de l'oncle?)
If I'm not mistaken, Avallone's novel, The Doctors, was a tie-in to a daytime soap opera that ran on NBC-TV for about a gazillion episodes from 1963 to 1982. 
Michael Avallone is known for his turns of phrase. He may or may not not have written the blurb on the cover of Sex Kitten (1962), but that and the illustration shouldn't leave any doubts as to what you'll get when you read the book.
Michael Avallone became a pretty regular contributor to Tales of the Frightened with its first issue in Spring 1957. His story was "The Curse of Cleopatra." If I had seen this magazine on the newsstand, I would have snapped it up, if only for Rudy Nappi's cover.
Text and captions copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Richard Matheson (1926-2013)

Author, Screenwriter
Born February 20, 1926, Allendale, New Jersey
Died June 23, 2013, Calabasas, California

Richard Matheson died earlier this week and the Internet has started to notice. The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times printed obituaries four days ago. If the two Times are correct, then Wikipedia predictably has posted erroneous information on his place of death.

I'm not sure that I can offer more than what has already been written about Mr. Matheson. If you are from a certain generation or two, and if you watched television and movies in the genres of science fiction and fantasy, you have seen things sprung from his imagination: The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957); "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" from The Twilight Zone (1963); The Last Man on Earth (1964, remade as The Omega Man, 1971); Duel (1971); The Legend of Hell House (1971); The Night Stalker (1972, and its sequel, The Night Strangler, 1973); and Trilogy of Terror (1975). Wherever there was fear, terror, or dread of the most memorable kind, there was Richard Matheson.

I should have included Richard Matheson on my list of "More Authors of the Golden Age of Science Fiction," for his first published science fiction story came out in 1950. The story is called "Born of Man and Woman," and it originally appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in Summer 1950. I have not read "Born of Man and Woman" but a description of the plot makes me think of "The Outsider" and "The Dunwich Horror" by H.P. Lovecraft. Matheson's story was selected for inclusion in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 1971.

Richard Matheson had two stories printed in Weird Tales, "Wet Straw" and "The Slaughter House," both from 1953. He was friends with Ray Bradbury and Forrest J Ackerman, both of whom also contributed to Weird Tales. Another in his circle of friends was Charles Beaumont (1929-1967), who died on the day after Matheson's forty-first birthday of a weird and unknown affliction like something out of a science fiction story (or like The Incredible Shrinking Man). I have made a mental list of authors and artists who should have been in Weird Tales. Charles Beaumont is near the top of that list. (Others include Frank Frazetta and John Jakes.) In remembering Richard Matheson, we should also remember Charles Beaumont.

Richard Burton Matheson, son of Norwegian immigrants, died on June 23, 2013, at his home in Calabasas, California. He was eighty-seven years old.

For Weird Tales
"Wet Straw" (Jan. 1953)
"Slaughter House" (July 1953)

Richard Matheson adapted the screenplay for The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) from his own novel published the year before (with a less sensationalistic title). The cover artist was Mitchell Hooks.
Matheson also co-wrote the screenplay for The Last Man on Earth (1964), adapted from his novel I Am Legend (1954) with apocalyptic cover art by Stanley Meltzoff.
Matheson also wrote thrillers and Westerns. Here's the cover of a British edition of Ride the Nightmare from 1959, artist unknown. 
Text and captions copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley

Thursday, June 27, 2013

More Authors of the Golden Age of Science Fiction-E.C. Tubb

E.C. Tubb
Edwin Charles Tubb
Author, Editor
Born October 15, 1919, London, Englad
Died September 10, 2010, London, England


If the Golden Age of Science Fiction ended in 1950, then E.C. Tubb missed the mark by a year. His first published science fiction story, "Greek Gift," showed up in the British magazine New Worlds in Autumn 1951. Hundreds more novels and short stories poured from his pen over the next half century, including not just science fiction but also Westerns, detective fiction, adventure, comic book scripts, and adaptations from television. According to Wikipedia, Tubb wrote more than 140 novels and 230 short stories and novellas. He also served as editor of Authentic Science Fiction in 1956-1957. Short on material, he wrote an entire issue himself using different pseudonyms. In fact, Tubb is known to have used fifty-eight different pseudonyms in his writing. His most well-known series, comprising thirty-three volumes, is The Dumarest Saga. I have not read these books, but the description of an Earthman far from home and seeking his mythical home planet sounds like it could have inspired Battlestar Galactica. Tubb was more directly involved in another 1970s science fiction show, this one about people wandering away from planet Earth: Space: 1999.

E.C. Tubb wrote one story published in Weird Tales, "Sword in the Snow," from the Fall 1973 issue under the editorship of Sam Moskowitz. In his introduction, Moskowitz favorably compared it to the work of C.L. Moore.

A lifelong resident of London, E.C. Tubb died in 2010 at age ninety.

For Weird Tales
"Sword in the Snow" (Fall 1973)

The Winds of Gath, the first volume in the saga of Dumarest of Terra in an edition from 1982. The illustrator was Paul Alexander. 
This is the first chance I have had to show a Turkish edition of a science fiction or fantasy novel. I couldn't pass it up: E.C. Tubb's novelized version of Space: 1999, date unknown.

So that brings an end to my list of "More Authors of the Golden Age of Science Fiction." What's next? I wish I knew.

Text and captions copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

More Authors of the Golden Age of Science Fiction-H. Beam Piper

H. Beam Piper
Henry Beam Piper
Laborer, Nightwatchman, Author, Gun Collector
Born March 23, 1904, Altoona, Pennsylvania
Died On or about November 6, 1964, Williamsport, Pennsylvania

We can add Henry Beam Piper to the list of writers and artists who died alone in a room, whether by their own hand or otherwise. He was born on March 23, 1904, in Altoona, Pennsylvania. The question of his Christian name--was it Henry or Horace?--is answered easily enough by referring to the U.S. census. Piper was self-educated and worked common jobs on the railroad. He was past forty by the time his first science fiction story, "Time and Time Again," was published in Astounding Science Fiction in April 1947. Piper wrote many more stories during his brief career, including one story for Weird TalesThe last entry in Piper's diary was dated November 5, 1964. His body was found on either November 9 or November 11. In between those two dates, H. Beam Piper shot himself with a handgun from his own collection. He was sixty years old.

To read more about him, see The H. Beam Piper Memorial Site.

For Weird Tales
"Dearest" (Mar. 1951)

The Cosmic Computer by H. Beam Piper in an Ace edition from 1964. The original title was The Junkyard Planet. I like that one better. The artist was Ed Valigursky.
Piper is probably most well known for his Fuzzy books. Little Fuzzy, from 1962, was reissued in 1976 with cover art by Michael Whelan.
Text and captions copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

More Authors of the Golden Age of Science Fiction-Margaret St. Clair-Part 2

Born in Kansas in 1911, orphaned with the death of her father in 1919, and removed to California with her mother in 1928, Eva Margaret Neeley attended Santa Ana Junior College (now Santa Ana College), where she contributed to Tavern Post, the college literary magazine, and First the Blade, California Collegiate Anthology of Verse. At the time, Santa Ana Junior College was, I believe, a department of Santa Ana High School. Eva Margaret Neeley may have graduated from that high school before continuing at the college located on the same grounds. Then again, she may have received her high school diploma in her native Kansas before arriving in California at around age seventeen.

Eva Margaret Neeley, sometimes shortening her name to Margaret Neeley, graduated from Santa Ana Junior College in June 1930 and thereafter matriculated at the University of California, Berkeley. She was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and a winner of scholarships at Berkeley. On May 15, 1932, she received her bachelor of arts degree with honors. Eleven days later, on May 26, 1932, she married Raymond E. St. Clair in Berkeley.

Raymond E. St. Clair, who must have been the man "Eric" described in Margaret St. Clair's various biographies, was born on July 30, 1903, in Upland, California. Eight years older than his wife, he was at various times, according to Wikipedia, a "statistician, social worker, horticulturist, shopfitter, and a laboratory assistant in the University of California at Berkeley Physics Department." (He also seems to have been a very early example of someone falling for the schemes of a Nigerian "prince." See the letter in "Let the Public Speak: Offer of African 'Tiger Skin' Merits Scrutiny, Says Reader" in The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, California, August 24, 1951, page 4.) According to the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, Eric St. Clair wrote four stories published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (edited by Anthony Boucher) in 1955-1956 and 1964-1965. Like his wife, St. Clair was elusive, and I have little further information on him except for the date and place of his death, March 10, 1986, in Mendocino County, California. (1)

In 1934, Margaret St. Clair graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with a master's degree in Greek classics. Two years later, she and her husband went on a trip to China. At the time the young couple were still living in Berkeley. By 1940, the St. Clairs were in Contra Costa County, California. They would remain in California for the rest of their long lives. Again according to Wikipedia, they lived in El Sobrante and Point Arena later in life.

Raymond E. St. Clair was, as mentioned above, an economist and statistician by trade. His occupation makes it all the more odd that he and his wife were involved in witchcraft and were associated with British Wiccans Gerald Gardner and Raymond Buckland. The St. Clairs were also readers of Robert Graves and Dion Fortune. I can speculate that in her reading, Margaret St. Clair, a student of Greek classics, came upon Graves' theorizing on the existence of a White Goddess in ancient Europe and Middle East. The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth (1948) may also have led her to a certain brand of feminism, although her birth during the Progressive Era, in Kansas, a hotbed of Progressivism, moreover, her upbringing by her widowed mother, must have been a more powerful influence upon her. (Her mother demonstrated her independence in 1908 by attaining her driver's license while living in Hutchinson, Kansas.) As for nudism, another of Margaret St. Clair's interests according to Wikipedia, I would guess that that came from her involvement in Wicca. It's worth remembering that her parents were married on Halloween--Samhain in the Wiccan Wheel of the Year--and that her father was born on Lammas (Aug. 1). Wikipedia has one more note on the personal lives of the St. Clairs: that they "decided to remain childless." How or why they came upon that decision is anybody's guess.

Margaret St. Clair's first published science fiction was a short story called "Rocket To Limbo," published in Fantastic Adventures in November 1946. Writing under her own name or under the pseudonyms Idris Seabright and Wilton Hazzard, she published several novels, collections of short stories, and essays from 1946 to 1985. Margaret St. Clair is best known for her short stories. From 1946 to 1981, she had scores of stories in that form published in science fiction pulps, digests, and other magazines. Her stories for Weird Tales were ten in number, all published from 1950 to 1954. Her last, "Brenda," from March 1954, came in the last year of the magazine's run. Three of her tales, including "Brenda," have been adapted to television. Margaret St. Clair also wrote mystery and detective stories. Her story "The Perfectionist" was adapted to a play called "A Dash of Bitters," first performed in 1954.

Some events attended by Margaret St. Clair:

  • March 1953, Alameda Branch Library, Alameda, California--Panelist for a discussion called "What Is Science Fiction?" put on by Reginald Bretnor. Other panelists were Phyllis Sterling Smith, William Brown, and Rosalie Moore.
  • June 24-26, 1953, Orchard Meadow Hall, Mills College, Oakland, California--On the faculty of the second annual Mills College Writers' Conference. Her subject was science fiction. Other science fiction guests included Phyllis Sterling Smith and Anthony Boucher.
  • September 3-6, 1954, Sir Francis Drake Hotel, San Francisco, California--Guest at the Twelfth Annual Science-Fiction Convention along with Anthony Boucher, Poul Anderson, Philip K. Dick, and others.
  • June 30-July 1, 1956, Hotel Leamington, Oakland, California--Guest at the Ninth Annual West Coast Science Fiction Conference--Westercon--where she shared a bill with Miriam Allen de Ford. Others guests included Richard Matheson, Richard Barbour Johnson, and toastmaster Anthony Boucher. 

Science fiction encyclopedist John Clute characterized Margaret St. Clair as "elusive." Her elusive reply? "[I]t may be so." That elusiveness helps to explain why her biography is almost certainly still incomplete at this late date.

Margaret St. Clair died on November 22, 1995, in Santa Rosa, California. She was eighty-four years old.

For Weird Tales
"The Family" (Jan. 1950)
"The Corn Dance" (Mar. 1950)
"The Last Three Ships" (May 1950)
"Mrs. Haek" (July 1950)
"The Invisible Reweaver" (Nov. 1950)
"Professor Kate" (Jan. 1951)
"The Little Red Owl" (July 1951)
"The Bird" (Nov. 1951)
"Island of the Hands" (Sept. 1952)
"Brenda" (Mar. 1954)

Further Reading
See the Wikipedia entry on Margaret St. Clair for further information. Her papers are at Rivera Library, University of California, Riverside. You can read a description by clicking here.

Note
(1) I wonder now whether there was any connection between Eric St. Clair and Jack Parsons, who was both a physicist and an occultist involved in black magic. Anthony Boucher, a friend and admirer of Margaret St. Clair, wrote about Parsons and the science fiction scene in southern California in an oblique way in his mystery novel Rocket to the Morgue, published in 1942. Although several science fiction writers appear in the novel as thinly disguised characters, I don't know that Margaret St. Clair or her husband is included in its pages.

Writing as Idris Seabright, Margaret St. Clair was published in The Magazine of Science Fiction in September 1956 with her story "Stawdust" [sic]. Note the suggestion of magical practice in the star--albeit a six-pointed star--drawn on the floor. The cover art was by Frank Kelly Freas.
The Green Queen, one half of an Ace Double from 1956 with cover art by Ed Valigursky. This time note the classical costume of the woman and the inferior position of the man.
Another Ace Double from almost a decade later, Message from the Eocene (1964). The cover artist was Jack Gaughan.
Finally, an Ace Double from 1960, The Games of Neith, with cover art once again by Ed Valigursky. The figure of the woman suggests the birth of Aphrodite.

Revised October 3, 2017
Text and captions copyright 2013, 2017 Terence E. Hanley

More Authors of the Golden Age of Science Fiction-Margaret St. Clair-Part 1

Margaret St. Clair
Née Eva Margaret Neeley
Aka Idris Seabright, Wilton Hazzard
Author, Poet
Born February 17, 1911, Hutchinson, Kansas
Died November 22, 1995, Santa Rosa, California

Margaret St. Clair is and was a well-known author of science fiction and one of few women working in the genre during the 1940s. I thought her biography would have been worked out by now, but that doesn't seem to be the case. I guess I'll just go step by step and try to clear up the misinformation or the lack of information on her life.

First, Margaret St. Clair was born Eva Margaret Neeley on February 17, 1911, in Hutchinson, Kansas. The Neeley family was descended from Irish settlers of colonial North Carolina and from a soldier in the Continental Army. Her father was George Arthur Neeley, a Kansas lawyer and farmer born on August 1, 1879, in Detroit, a village in Pike County, Illinois. His father, George W. Neeley, was a twice-wounded veteran of the Confederate army and at various times a merchant, U.S. marshal, judge, sheriff, deacon, and farmer on 160 acres in the Cherokee Strip. George A. Neeley's mother and George W. Neely's wife was Mary Elizabeth Stephens.

George A. Neeley was educated in Joplin, Missouri, and in Wellston, Oklahoma. He graduated from Southwestern Baptist University in Jackson, Tennessee, in 1902, and received his law degree from the University of Kansas in 1904. In 1908, he moved to Hutchinson, Kansas, and opened a law office. He also became active in business and acquired a large farm of 480 acres in western Kansas. (That's large at least for my home state. In western Kansas, that might be a pretty small spread.) Neeley ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1910 but lost. He won a special election shortly thereafter and served in the Sixty-Second and Sixty-Third Congresses, in session from 1911 to 1915.

On October 31, 1904, George A. Neeley married Elvira "Eva" Margaret Hostetler, a teacher, in Mulvane, Kansas. She was the daughter of Jonathan Newland Hostetler, a Civil War veteran on the Union side and a merchant and farmer from Indiana. Her mother was Martha (Fish) Hostetler. Elvira, or Eva, was born on September 19, 1875, in Bedford, Indiana. Her sister, Estella "Stella" Hostetler married another Kansas politician, future governor Walter Roscoe Stubbs (1858-1929), who was, incidentally, also a Hoosier. He was in fact governor when his niece, Eva Margaret Neeley, was born in 1911.

George A. and Eva M. Neeley had two children, George Newland Neeley, born August 5, 1905, and Eva Margaret Neeley, born February 17, 1911. The younger George Neeley died on December 21, 1907, before his sister was born, thus Margaret St. Clair grew up as an only child. On the first day of January 1919, she became an orphan when George Arthur Neeley died in Hutchinson, Kansas. By the time of the 1920 census, Eva Neeley and her daughter, called Margaret E. Neeley, were living in Lawrence, Kansas. By 1930 they were in Santa Ana, California.

I have gone into all this detail because no one else has. In my genealogical research, I find that when something seems amiss, it probably is amiss. (Or, as a fence-builder I knew in Missouri said when judging fenceposts, "If it looks crooked, it probably is crooked.") What is amiss is that Margaret St. Clair's identity seems to have been hidden for so long. I believe there's something to that, something revealing about an author who has been described as "elusive."

Like her mother before her, Margaret St. Clair shed her identity: Eva Margaret Neeley became Margaret Neeley, then Margaret St. Clair. (She also used pseudonyms in her writing, though that practice was common among pulp authors.) She may have been following the example of her mother, Elvira Margaret Hostetler, who became Eva Neeley. (Eva Neeley seemed to have named her daughter after her own assumed identity.) After 1919, mother and daughter seem to have cut themselves adrift. Eva Neeley may very well have been independently wealthy upon the death of her husband. As she moved from place to place, she did not give any occupation. She and her daughter seem to have been two alone. Who now knows what their lives were like over those many years. In any case, nowhere that I have found does anyone point out that Margaret St. Clair was the daughter of a U.S. Representative. In her lifetime, she seems not to have revealed anything publicly of her origins or her childhood. And so only now, more than a century after her birth, does the truth come out. I find that curious in the extreme.

So, Eva Margaret Neeley became Margaret Neeley before becoming Margaret St. Clair upon her marriage in 1932. Her mother, Eva Neeley, died on July 12, 1958, in Alameda County, California, at the age of eighty-two. By then Margaret St. Clair had become a successful writer of science fiction and fantasy tales. Yet she remained elusive.

To be continued . . .


Revised October 3 & 7, 2017.
Text copyright 2013, 2017 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, June 24, 2013

Happy Birthday, Ambrose Bierce!

Today is Ambrose Bierce's birthday. He was born on June 24, 1842, along Horse Cave Creek in Meigs County, Ohio, not far from where I write this. I can say today is his birthday rather than the anniversary of his birth because nobody knows that he died. He just disappeared in late 1913. Some people place the year of his death as 1914. That seems like overconfidence to me. For all we know, old Ambrose is still wandering around out there somewhere. Charles Fort, for example, speculated that someone in the great universe is collecting Ambroses. If you have collected a perfectly good Ambrose, wouldn't you want to preserve it for as long as you could?

Today is also the birthday of flying saucers. On June 24, 1947, Kenneth Arnold spotted the first lot of them while he was winging his way past Mount Rainier. As everyone now knows,  the alien pilots of those flying saucers like to abduct people. The first experiences people had with saucermen were not abductions however, but contact. George Adamski was the first and most famous of the contactees. Many years before that, he had served in the U.S. Army on the Mexican border. I wonder if he would have encountered Ambrose Bierce in either one of those places, either in Mexico or on a spaceship bound for Venus. If he did, he never let on as far as I know.

Happy Birthday, Ambrose Bierce!

(And Happy Birthday to the Flying Saucers, too.)

Copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley

More Authors of the Golden Age of Science Fiction-Gardner F. Fox

Gardner F. Fox
Lawyer, Author, Comic Book Script Writer
Born May 20, 1911, Brooklyn, New York
Died December 24, 1986, Jamesburg, New Jersey

I have written about comic books and science fiction over the last few entries. Despite the fact that the two subjects are closely allied, few artists and writers have bridged the gap between them. In fact, if what my friend says is true, there are a lot of science fiction people who look down their noses at comics. I'm not sure how you can be interested in one without being interested in the other. Besides, how can science fiction fans, who have suffered from ridicule, derision, hostility, and just plain indifference from a wider world, begin to treat another likeminded group of fans the same way? Anyway, I would like to write about Gardner F. Fox, a rare author who was successful in both comic books and pulp fiction.

Any account of the career of Gardner F. Fox reads like a book of wonders. In a career spanning half a century, Fox wrote at least 160 books and 4,000 or more comic book stories, as well as short stories for Weird Tales, Planet Stories, Amazing Stories, sports pulps, Western pulps, and hybrid Western-romance pulps. According to one source, Fox wrote at least one novel per year between 1944 and 1982 (except for three years). He typically wrote three novels per year and in 1974 published an astonishing twelve novels. Fox created, co-created, or helped develop or revive The Flash, Hawkman, Sandman, The Atom, Adam Strange, the Justice Society of America, and Batman's utility belt, Batarang, and Batgyro. (One of my favorite Fox characters is Cave Girl.) During the 1960s boom in heroic fantasy, Gardner Fox penned several novels each of the characters Kothar and Kyrik. He also wrote stories of "the Lady from L.U.S.T." In fact, there seems to be little that Gardner F. Fox did not do as a writer. (1)

Gardner Francis Fox was born on May 20, 1911, in Brooklyn, New York. On his eleventh birthday, Fox received two of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars books. Like so many writers of his generation, reading those books changed his life. He became an avid reader and devoted fan of fantasy. More practically, he studied law at St. John's University and was admitted to the bar in his native New York in 1935. Although the worst part of the Great Depression had passed, a double dip was on the horizon. Luckily for Fox, comic books were entering their golden age and they needed writers. Fox began writing for DC comics in 1937. Over the next four decades, his stories appeared not only in DC (his main employer), but also in Marvel Comics, Warren Publications, and Eclipse Comics, the last in 1985. Fox held vast knowledge of the most arcane subjects. His reference library of books and files has become legendary.

Gardner F. Fox died on Christmas Eve in 1986 in Jamesburg, New Jersey, at the age of seventy-five. I'm happy to report, though, that people still read his works and probably will for as long as there are fans of science fiction and comic books.

For Weird Tales
"The Weirds of the Woodcarver" (Sept. 1944)
"Rain, Rain, Go Away!" (May 1946)
"The Rainbow Jade" (Sept. 1949)

Notes
(1) My sources are the online Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, the Speculative Fiction Database, and Wikipedia.

You could create a blog of its own with images related to the work of Gardner F. Fox. Instead I'll offer an image for each of four series he wrote during the 1960s and '70s. Chronologically, Kyrik, subject of four novels published in 1975-1976, came last. I'll put him first for no reason at all. Note the blurb, "In the Tradition of Conan." Between the mid-sixties and the mid-seventies, everything was in the tradition of Conan (or the Lord of the Rings). You've got to hand it to Fox and cover artist Ken Barr: Howard and Frazetta never depicted a rhinoceros drawing a chariot in their works.
Americans weren't alone in their tastes for sword-wielding barbarians. Here's an Italian edition from 1990 featuring Gardner Fox's Kothar, another spawn of Conan. Kothar appeared in five novels in 1969-1970. Note not one but two Frazetta swipes. 
Speaking of Frazetta, here's his cover for Warrior of Llarn, an Ace edition from 1964. It looks like Frazetta was still in his watercolor period when he created this illustration. The colors and the execution are dazzling. Alan Morgan of Llarn appeared in two books by Gardner Fox in 1964 and 1966. 
Finally, Gardner Fox writing as Rod Gray in one of four novels he wrote in the Lady from L.U.S.T. series. James Bond started it with SMERSH and SPECTRE. It's no wonder that CONTROL, KAOS, U.N.C.L.E., T.E.R.R.A., and L.U.S.T. followed. Gardner Fox wrote four books in the Lady from L.U.S.T. series in 1969-1970, all under the house name Rod Gray. The Copulation Explosion was his last. Fox must have known from his experience in comic books that gorilla covers sell books. Why not a gorilla photo cover for a soft-porn novel? Is that Bob Burns or is he just played by Bob Burns? Or maybe it's another Bob--Bob Heironimus.

Text and captions copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Science Fiction and Comic Books-Part 4

Comic books and superheroes drew heavily from the pulps. Comic books were replete with science fiction superheroes (Superman), detective superheroes (Batman), weird fiction superheroes (The Spectre), plus magicians, adventurers, aviators, historical heroes, and other kinds of pulp characters. Pulp writers also wrote for the comics, among them, Henry Kuttner (All-American ComicsGreen Lantern), Manly Wade Wellman (Captain MarvelBlackhawk), Fritz Leiber, Jr. (the Buck Rogers newspaper comic strip), Jack Williamson (the Beyond Mars comic strip), and Otto Binder (hundreds of stories for DC Comics, including key Superman stories). (1) Far fewer artists made the crossover, for drawing comic books would have been a step down for most pulp artists. One exception was Virgil Finlay, but then Finlay was reduced to drawing illustrations for astrological magazines in the 1960s. Far more artists went from comic books to illustration. Frank Frazetta was a perfect example of that.

In taking anything from the comics, science fiction would only have been borrowing from itself. After all, the superman (or the super-powered mutant), super-science, aliens, time travel, and so many other staples of  the comic book story originated in science fiction. Science fiction borrowed some writers from the comics however. Harry Harrison, who drew comics for EC, is the first to come to mind. I can think of one instance when comics got the scoop on science fiction, and that's when the first landing of a man on the moon was broadcast on television in the fictional confines of the comic strip Alley Oop (in 1947, twenty-two years before the real event). Up until then, no science fiction author had imagined such a thing. I'm sure there were other developments in science fiction that took place in the comics, but I don't know of any offhand. That's a question worth some study.

I'll make just one more observation. As I said, the integration of words with pictures is essential in formulating and understanding comics. The standard science fiction story is of course devoid of pictures. The words carry the story. I can think of one science fiction story that is richer for its unique visual content. I think it's one of the very finest science fiction novels, a tour de force that I can recommend to people even if they don't like science fiction. The novel is called The Stars My Destination. It was written by Alfred Bester, a former comic book scriptwriter.

I have written all this as a lead-in to one of the last writers on my list of "More Authors of the Golden Age of Science Fiction," the prolific and multitalented Gardner F. Fox. His biography is next.

Notes
(1) Incidentally, Buck Rogers also originated in the pulps, in the novelette Armageddon 2419 A.D. by Philip Francis Nowlan (Amazing StoriesAugust 1928). Less than six months later, the comic strip Buck Rogers in the 25th Century A.D. made its debut. On the same day--January 7, 1929--Tarzan also appeared in the comics for the first time. Ten days later, another now famous character made his debut in the comic strip Thimble Theatre. Comic strip historian and Weird Tales contributor Bill Blackbeard made a case that "the first genuine, unshootable, unpoisonable, door-smashing, house-lifting comic strip superham of them all [was] Elzie Segar's Popeye."

Text copyright 2013 by Terence E. Hanley

Science Fiction and Comic Books-Part 3

Science fiction is a genre. Comic books are a medium. You'll need some apples and oranges if you're going to compare them. Science fiction was popularized in the medium of pulp magazines. We know when they began. The date was October 1896. The venue was the first all-story issue of Argosy printed on rough pulp paper. I suspect that science fiction appeared in the pages of pulps almost immediately after that. Eighteen ninety-six was after all plumb in the middle of H.G. Wells' four-year streak of successful science fiction novels. In any case, science fiction became a staple of the pulps, and by the 1930s there were at least half a dozen titles devoted exclusively to the genre.

Comic books lagged behind science fiction (and pulp magazines for that matter) by a generation, but when they finally hit the newsstands in the 1930s, they were almost fully formed. Titles very quickly proliferated. By the postwar period, millions of everyday Americans--and not just children--were reading comic books every month. We would find their numbers almost unbelievable. Print runs in the hundreds of thousands were not unheard of. Like science fiction fans before them, comic book fans wrote letters to their favorite magazines, published fanzines (beginning in the 1950s and early 1960s), and held comic book conventions beginning in about 1964. (I hope someone can help with more accurate dates.) Although comic books can carry any number of genres, today they are identified almost exclusively with the genre of superheroes, Superman being their Adam. Superman however did not originate in comic books but in the genre of science fiction.

In his first incarnation, Superman was a bald villain. Created by Cleveland teenagers Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the character made his debut in a story called "The Reign of the Superman," printed in Siegel's self-published fanzine, Science Fiction: The Advance Guard of Future Civilization #3, in 1933. (Once again, this is an anniversary year: eighty years since Superman's earliest incarnation and seventy-five since Action Comics #1.) Superman's two creators spent the next several years developing their character and attempting to get him in print. They succeeded beyond their wildest dreams when Superman became one of the most popular and recognizable characters in the world. Superheroes poured out of the woodwork during the late thirties and into the forties. It's hard for us to imagine now, but Superman was truly something new. The superhero genre might never have gotten off the ground without him.

To be concluded . . . 

Text copyright 2013 by Terence E. Hanley

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Science Fiction and Comic Books-Part 2

If you're looking for the first comic strip in the format we recognize today--a sequence of images in which words and pictures are integrated in the telling of a story--then comics probably date from the 1890s. Sorry, Rodolphe Töpffer. (1) The origins of modern day science fiction are less discrete. One argument might be just as good as another. But why don't we start with the 1890s and the publication of H.G. Wells' novels The Time Machine (1895), The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), and The War of the Worlds (1898)? In a period of four years, Wells produced a time travel story, a story of monsters and mutation, the tale of an invisible man, and--for all practical purposes--the first narrative of an invasion from outer space. All would be fodder for science fiction writers of the twentieth century. And we shouldn't forget that the first pulp magazine was published in 1896.

If science fiction and comics were born in 1895-1896, they didn't quite grow up together. Newspaper comics became enormously popular, and (despite later claims to primacy made by European intellectuals) a truly and uniquely American art form. Book publishers cashed in on the popularity of newspaper comics by issuing bound collections of reprints. These were supposedly the first comic books and the mark of the so-called Platinum Age of Comic Books. (Comic book fans have shown themselves to be far more thorough systematizers than science fiction fans.) The first comic books in the format we recognize now were printed in 1933, but these, too, were reprints. The first comic books with original material didn't show up in print until 1935.

Science fiction on the other hand evolved in the pages of pulp magazines, from the early scientific romances, through planetary romance, "Scientifiction," and space opera, to the science fiction of the 1930s. Edgar Rice Burroughs was instrumental in popularizing science fiction. One Golden Age author after another attributed his or her interest in the genre to first reading Burroughs, especially the Martian novels, which began with the pulp serial "Under the Moons of Mars" (1912), published in book form as A Princess of Mars in 1917. The next two decades saw the first publication of an all-fantasy magazine (Weird Tales in 1923), the first all-science fiction magazine (Amazing Stories, 1926), the invention of the term science fiction (1929), the first science fiction fan clubs (ca. 1929), and the first science fiction fan magazine (The Comet, 1930). The first science fiction conventions followed in the 1930s. By the time the Golden Age of Science Fiction began in 1938 (or even 1933), the die was cast. Science fiction was more or less what we know today.

To be continued . . .

Note
(1) The important point here is the integration of words and pictures. Rodolphe Töpffer and other European cartoonists even to this day separate their words, in the form of captions, from their pictures. Prince Valiant is a good example of the European approach. (It's the reason why I think that Prince Valiant may not be a true comic strip. It's worth noting that Hal Foster, the creator of Prince Valiant, was Canadian, hence closer in some ways to Britain than to America.) Some early American newspaper comics used the same approach, but most switched to using word balloons after the example of Richard F. Outcault in his drawings of the Yellow Kid. Although the Kid made his debut in 1895, it took about a year before Hogan's Alley (the name of the feature in which he appeared) evolved into what we would call a comic strip. Historians argue over the date of the first American newspaper comic strip. Some say 1895, some 1896. That's close enough.

Copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, June 10, 2013

Science Fiction and Comic Books-Part 1

The Golden Age of Science Fiction is said to have begun in 1938 when John W. Campbell, Jr., assumed full editorial control of Astounding Stories (thereafter renaming it Astounding Science-Fiction). The previous editor, F. Orlin Tremaine, asserted that the Golden Age, or at least a Golden Age, began in 1933 when he himself took over at Astounding. I won't quibble with Tremaine or with the science fiction authors and fans who claim 1938 as their beginning date. In either case, this year is an anniversary year for science fiction, a diamond jubilee if the year was 1938, an eightieth anniversary if the year was 1933.

Two thousand thirteen is an anniversary year for the beginning of another Golden Age. And again, there is disagreement as to when that Golden Age--the Golden Age of Comic Books--began. Some say 1938, and for good reason, for that was the year Superman made his debut in comic books. Others claim 1933 as the beginning, for in that year comic books in their present form first appeared. Again, this year is either the seventy-fifth or the eightieth anniversary of the beginning of a Golden Age. (1) Again, I won't quibble. I'll just say Happy Anniversary.

Although there could not have been science fiction until there was such a thing as science, historians of the genre trace its origins back thousands of years. Likewise, historians of the comics look to ancient (or even prehistoric) sources for the origins of their medium. You can make a good case that science fiction predates comics. If you do, you might use Mary Shelley's romance Frankenstein (1818) as Exhibit A. (2) The earliest examples of what we might recognize as comic strips were the work of Rodolphe Töpffer (1799–1846) and date from 1827. (3) But what about science fiction and comics in their present form? When did they originate?

To be continued . . .

Notes
(1) If 1938 was the year, and the first Campbell issue of Astounding and Action Comics #1 were the two periodicals that kicked off their respective Golden Ages, then we are, as I write this, in what you might call a two-month anniversary period: John W. Campbell became editor of Astounding with the May 1938 issue, while Action Comics #1 was dated June 1938.
(2) According to Wikipedia, Brian Aldiss has argued in Mary Shelley's favor.
(3) If Frankenstein was the first science fiction story and Rodolphe Töpffer the first comic strip artist, then maybe Switzerland should claim both science fiction and comics as its own: Frankenstein was conceived beside Lake Geneva; Töpffer was born in Geneva.

Copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley

Saturday, June 8, 2013

More Authors of the Golden Age of Science Fiction-Damon Knight

Damon Knight
Author, Editor, Critic, Artist, Cartoonist, Science Fiction Fan
Born September 19, 1922, Baker, Oregon
Died April 15, 2002, Eugene, Oregon

Damon Knight was the youngest by far of my current batch of authors of the Golden Age of Science Fiction. He may have been the most precocious among them as well, becoming as he did a science fiction fan at age eleven and publishing his own two-issue fanzine as a teenager. Born in 1922, Knight was only seventeen when his first cartoon was published in Amazing Stories in May 1940. That same year, Knight also had his first fiction ("The Itching Hour," Futuria Fantasia, Summer 1940) and his first non-fiction (one or more pieces in 1939 Yearbook of Science, Weird and Fantasy Fiction) published. The record of his career, which started off so auspiciously, is extraordinary.

Knight wrote reviews, essays, memoirs, editorial content, and of course fiction in his six decades in science fiction. I won't go into his accomplishments when you can read them in other sources. Being an artist myself, I would like to mention that Damon Knight drew illustrations for several science fiction and fantasy magazines. There aren't many writers of science fiction and fantasy who are also artists. Weird Tales may have had more than its share with C.L. Moore, Hannes Bok, Virgil Finlay, and Damon Knight. Also, I would like to point out that Knight was married to another science fiction writer, Kate Wilhelm (b. 1928).

According to Wikipedia, Damon Knight attributed the term "idiot plot" to James Blish but helped to popularize it in his own critical essays. We have all seen and suffered through movies and TV shows with idiot plots, although we may not have known there was a term for such a thing. An idiot plot, simply enough, is a story that depends on the stupidity of its characters: if they weren't so stupid, the story would come to an immediate end. I have complained for years that the people in a movie or TV show can't be and shouldn't be less intelligent than the people watching it. If they are, the show is in real trouble. Some examples of idiot plot devices: "There's a psycho killer on the loose--let's split up." Or, "There's a Tyrannosaurus rex trying to find us and eat us--let's draw attention to ourselves by shining a flashlight in his eyes." Or, "These aliens speak in metaphors instead of words, but we're too stupid to figure that out in the first five minutes of the show the way our viewers have." (That last example is from Star Trek: The Next Generation, an idiot plot champion if there ever was one.) Damon Knight seems to have been a crusader against bad writing. I'm glad he stood against the idiot plot and other sins.

Finally, Damon Knight wrote "To Serve Man" (Galaxy Science Fiction, Nov. 1950), a sort of idiot plot turned inside out. That story became one of the most memorable episodes from The Twilight Zone and a very fine in-joke from Naked Gun 2-1/2. It was also won a Retro-Hugo Award in 2001, a year before the author's death.

For Weird Tales
"Ghouls Feeding" (poem, Mar. 1944)

Illustrations for Weird Tales
"Herbert West: Reanimator: The Scream of the Dead" by H.P. Lovecraft (Nov. 1942)
"The Dead World" by Clarence Edwin Flynn (poem, Nov. 1942)
"Seventh Sister" by Mary Elizabeth Counselman (Jan. 1943)
"Quest Unhallowed" by Page Cooper (poem, Mar. 1945)
"The Haunted Stairs" by Yetza Gillespie (poem, May 1946)

Damon Knight became a member of the Futurian Society, based in New York City, in 1941. Among the group's other members were Isaac Asimov, Frederick Pohl, Cyril Kornbluth, James Blish, Judith Merril, and Donald A. Wollheim. "Seven marriages and five divorces took place within this group," Knight remembered. "Like the members of any other large family, the Futurians sometimes found they couldn't stand each other: there were quarrels, feuds, factions, even a few more or less serious murder threats." Knight wrote about the group in his memoir from 1977, The Futurians. Despite the occasional or frequent enmity among the members, I have a feeling they looked back on their days in the Futurians as a kind of golden age.
Damon Knight had just turned twenty when this illustration for "Herbert West: Reanimator" was published in Weird Tales in November 1942. The model for West was Knight's friend, John B. Michel (1917-1969).

Text and captions copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley