Monday, November 3, 2014

Robert S. Carr (1909-1994)-Part 1

Robert Spencer Carr
Novelist, Short Story Writer, Poet, Editor, Movie and Television Scriptwriter, Movie Director, UFOlogist
Born March 26, 1909, West Virginia or Washington, D.C.
Died April 28, 1994, Dunedin, Florida

Robert Spencer Carr was a prodigy who had his first published story in Weird Tales at age fifteen and his first published novel at age eighteen. Born on March 26, 1909, in either West Virginia or Washington, D.C., he delved into fringe beliefs throughout his life. In 1932-1937, he lived in the Soviet Union, apparently as a convert to Communism. In the 1940s, he joined the Fortean Society. After the war, Carr moved to New Mexico to start a lamasery--in an old tavern in the ghost town of Glorieta of all places. Once in New Mexico, Carr may have heard stories of flying saucers crashing to earth. Much later in life--in October 1974--he made national headlines when he claimed that alien bodies had been recovered from a crashdown near Aztec in 1948 and removed to Wright Field (later called Wright-Patterson Air Force Base). The story was a revival of a hoax perpetrated at the beginning of the flying saucer era but treated as fact in Behind the Flying Saucers by Frank Scully (1950). Though discounted in the 1950s and in the 1970s, the story helped fuel conspiracy theories about the supposed crashdown at Roswell in 1947. Late in life, Carr attended the Science of Mind Church in Florida, not to be confused with Scientology.

Robert Spencer Carr seems to have been a searcher and a wanderer. In 1910 he was in Charleston, West Virginia, with his family. By 1920 they were in Washington, D.C., and by 1930 Carr was married, though still living in the nation's capital. By then also he was a full-fledged writer, while his wife Frances operated a beauty parlor. Carr also lived in Ashley, Ohio, Chicago (as an associate and friend of Farnsworth Wright, E. Hoffman Price, and other Weird Tales writers), New Orleans, Hollywood, and New York. As mentioned, Carr spent half of the 1930s in the Soviet Union. He drew on his experiences there for a novel, The Bells of St. Ivan's (1944). In the same week that the book was published--on May 5, 1944--Carr enlisted in the U.S. Army at Fort MacArthur in San Pedro, California. He separated about a year later and soon after went to New Mexico.

Carr was a prolific author. His first published story, "The Composite Brain," was in Weird Tales in the same month he turned sixteen. That puts him in a category with William A.P. White (Anthony Boucher) and Thomas Lanier Williams (Tennessee Williams) as authors published in "The Unique Magazine" while they were still teenagers. From 1925 to 1928, Carr had six stories and four poems in Weird TalesThe Rampant Age, a novel about young people, was published in early 1928 when Carr was only eighteen and with the editorial help of Farnsworth Wright. The book was adapted to a movie of the same name. You can watch it in its entirety on YouTube.

After World War II, slick magazines, including The Saturday Evening Post, began publishing science fiction, evidence that a pulp genre was gaining in respectability in the postwar world. Robert A. Heinlein is credited as the first postwar science fiction writer in the Post. His story "The Green Hills of Earth" from February 8, 1947, (1) beat Robert Spencer Carr's initial effort, "Morning Star," from December 6, 1947, by ten months. Carr is unusual in that--as a science fiction writer of the Golden Age--he broke into slick magazines and only later was published in pulps or digests. His three magazine novellas or novelettes--"The Laughter of the Stars," "Morning Star," and "Those Men from Mars"--plus a new story, "Mutation," were collected in book form in Beyond Infinity in 1951. In reading a synopsis of "Morning Star," I'm reminded of Abbott and Costello Go to Mars (1953) and Queen of Outer Space (1958).

To be continued . . .

Notes
(1) The title "The Green Hills of Earth" is from a song sung in the Northwest Smith series by Weird Tales writer C.L. Moore.

The Rampant Age (1928) by Robert Spencer Carr
An advertisement for The Room Beyond, from the New York Times (1948).
And the book itself, The Room Beyond by Robert Spencer Carr (1948).

Text copyright 2014 Terence E. Hanley

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