Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Wounds

Allison V. Harding wrote thirty-six stories for Weird Tales, more than any of the women and most of the men. Unlike the nine authors ahead of her on the list, Allison has never seen a collection of her stories in print. I doubt that there are many readers clamoring for such a collection, but for the sake of history or completeness there ought to be one. The problem of course--beyond a potentially very limited readership--has to do with copyrights. Who owns the rights to the stories of Allison V. Harding? I don't know. Viacom, the owners of the Weird Tales property, might. Or maybe the author herself or her heirs do. Or if Lamont Buchanan was in fact the author, and if he is still living, then maybe he does. The problems proliferate. I doubt that Jean Milligan (if she was the author) or Lamont Buchanan had or has a literary agent. That would go against the prevailing secrecy and reclusiveness of the Buchanan family. And how would anyone approach Mr. Buchanan or his heirs, if there are any, about reprinting his stories? After publishing his last book, Ships of Steam, in 1956, he seems to have disappeared from the face of the earth. I have his address and possibly his phone number, but Lamont Buchanan remains a mystery, probably by design.

In my research on different authors and artists, I have found that when someone seems to have disappeared from the public record or from society, it was not by accident or because of lost or inadequate records. It was by design. The illustrator Albert A. Matzke went into a hospital for the mentally ill. So did the cartoonist George O. Frink. Illustrator and cartoonist Russell O. Berg went down a different and equally obscure path. Margaret St. Clair successfully concealed her past from biographers and fans. She remained something of a recluse and a mystery throughout her long life. The secrecy, mystery, and obscurity of these people and of many others like them is almost always attributable to psychological and emotional issues, very often from childhood and childhood trauma.

In "Take the Z-Train," Lamont Buchanan told us what he was going to do: "He was going to break clean from the old life" (100 Wild Little Weird Tales [1994], p. 487). In 1949, he left Weird Tales. In 1956, he published his last book. In the sixty years since, he has lived a life unknown and unknowable to the outside world. The bitterness, unhappiness, and hopelessness of the author of "Take the Z-Train" seem to have been connected somehow to his childhood, or perhaps to his father's childhood. Mr. Buchanan's childhood ended nearly eight decades ago, yet the effects of childhood trauma would seem to persist. If the trauma--if there was one--originated in his father's childhood, or even farther back in the history of the Buchanan family, then the question arises: Is healing ever possible? Or do wounds last throughout the generations? I have the same questions about my own family, and the recent death of my ninety-year-old aunt have only brought them to the fore. My aunt had a wound--a physical wound--late in life. She tried to treat it herself. It festered in the darkness of her own treatment and almost killed her. It probably also precipitated her final illness and decline. I guess the lesson is that wounds don't heal in the dark or in secrecy. I wish my aunt had known that. I would say it to Lamont Buchanan and to the world if he or it would listen.

To be continued . . .

Copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley

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