Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Readings Over Christmas No. 2-The "Lomokome" Papers by Herman Wouk

On the Monday after Christmas we drove all the way to the top of the great state of Indiana. We ate lunch in a local restaurant, visited a local museum, and shopped at a national chain, Half Price Books, the only store that I'm likely to name on this blog. I found a few books, including The "Lomokome" Papers by Herman Wouk (Pocket Books, 1968). I had not known that the late Mr. Wouk (1915-2019) wrote a science fiction story. I was happy to find it, especially considering that it's illustrated. The artist was Harry R. Bennett (1919-2012), a near contemporary of the author.

Herman Wouk wrote a preface to the paperback edition of his story. It's dated May 27, 1967, his fifty-second birthday. He wrote that he was inspired to try his hand at science fiction by reading Marjorie Hope Nicolson's "charming book" Voyages to the Moon (1948). "The moon trip can be a romantic adventure, a social satire, or a utopian sermon," Wouk wrote. "Mine is a mixture of these." The "Lomokome" Papers has a good deal in common with The Moon Maid (1925) by Edgar Rice Burroughs and Maza of the Moon (1929-1930) by Otis Adelbert Kline, including a crashdown on the Moon's surface, the captivity of the lunanaut, an examination of lunar society, and accounts of war among the people of Earth's lone natural satellite.

The word Lomokome deserves explanation. According to the author, it's a Hebrew word meaning "Utopia" or "Nowhere." So we have another utopian/dystopian work, as well as another utopian/dystopian work about the Moon and its necessarily alien society, one that may be uncomfortably close to our own. The "Lomokome" Papers is self-consciously in the tradition of the fantastic voyages of literature dating from ancient times to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Many of these are satires, as is Wouk's short novel, the narrator of which is Lt. Daniel More Butler, USN, his name self-consciously derived from the names Daniel DefoeThomas More, and Samuel Butler. What Lt. Butler discovers on the Moon is a solution to the murderous destruction of warfare. What he finds, we would not like.

The "Lomokome" Papers was written in 1949 and apparently first published in Collier's in its issue of February 17, 1956. Again, Wouk wrote his preface on May 27, 1967. According to the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDb), the paperback edition was published in March 1968. My edition, with Harry Bennett's cover as shown below, is dated May 1968. It has since been published in Italian- and German-language editions. The timing of all of this is worth knowing, for The "Lomokome" Papers, in its proposed solution to the problem of war, is very much like the Star Trek episode "A Taste of Armageddon," written by Gene L. Coon and broadcast on February 23, 1967. Rather, it's the other way around. I have a feeling that if you look closely enough, you will find the roots or inspiration for many, if not most, Star Trek episodes in the magazine and book science fiction of the 1940s, '50s, and early '60s.

Original text copyright 2022 Terence E. Hanley

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Readings Over Christmas No. 1-Mention My Name in Atlantis by John Jakes

I read a lot last year. Book No. 51 was Mention My Name in Atlantis by John Jakes (Daw Books, 1972). Mr. Jakes' book is a kind of mock epic. The lead character and narrator is a Falstaffian figure called Hoptor the Vintner. His sometimes sidekick is Conax the Chimerical, king of a land of barbarians. Mention My Name in Atlantis is also a satire and a parody, including of the typical heroic fantasy hero and pulp writing in general. Here is an illustrative passage:

     "Pox on your map-makers!" screamed Conax. "Can I help it if those feeble-eyed fops are ignorant? I'd invite them to visit, but the thin-blooded villains would surely freeze their privates the minute they crossed the borders of my noble northern nation!"

     "He has florid rhetoric," observed General Pytho. "Rather like the purple phrasing of the tellers of adventure tales, who swap their narratives for a tenth of a zeb a word in the scroll mart." (p. 52)

The story is set in Atlantis and explains what happened to that now sunken continent. In addition to Atlantis, there are other Fortean subjects, namely ancient astronauts, alien abductions, and flying saucers. All are made continuous with heroic fantasy, a development that seems sure to have irritated purists of both Forteana and Howardiana (if there is such a word). That seems fine to me.

The cover of Mention My Name in Atlantis is by H.J. Bruck (1921-1995), a German-born artist. Bruck included at least two Frazetta swipes in his composition:


Here are the originals:

Look closely. You'll find them. Look closer still and you may find more.

Original text copyright 2022 Terence E. Hanley

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Three New Pages

Happy New Year and best wishes to everyone for a better, healthier, and more prosperous 2022.

I have added three new pages to Tellers of Weird Tales. They are:

  • Why Weird Tales?-The entire text of the essay, written anonymously by Otis Adelbert Kline and appearing in Weird Tales for May/June/July 1924.

The second and third of these pages are works in progress. I'll update them as I can. These and other pages are listed on the right. Click on them or the titles above for links.

Thanks to all who read and comment on my blog. This is a much better place with your participation. I invite new readers, researchers, and commenters to come and stay.

Text copyright 2022 Terence E. Hanley

Friday, December 31, 2021

Why Weird Tales?

Weird Tales was in trouble during that first year. The magazine that never dies almost did in 1924. Otis Adelbert Kline (1891-1946) stepped in to edit the triple-sized, first anniversary issue, May/June/July 1924. It would be the last issue of the magazine until November 1924, when Farnsworth Wright (1890-1940) took over. Coincidentally, that first-anniversary issue was whole number 13.

The first feature in Weird Tales for May/June/July 1924 was a kind of manifesto entitled "Why Weird Tales?" It was written, anonymously, by Kline. In it, he explained the purposes of publishing the magazine, first, to offer readers stories they wanted but were unlikely to find in other places; second, "to find and publish those stories that will make their writers immortal." H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) was not yet known when Kline wrote. Robert E. Howard (1906-1936) was only eighteen and just getting started as a writer. Dozens of now well-known authors had not yet been published in Weird Tales. Hundreds of still nearly unknown writers, the beginning subject of this blog, still awaited discovery.

According to the current Weird Tales website, the first issue of the magazine appeared on newsstands on February 18, 1923. In other words, in about seven weeks Weird Tales will enter its 100th year. "The Unique Magazine" hasn't been continuously in print for these one hundred years. But it still exists and is still known and read. There may be another issue coming in the not very distant future. Otis Adelbert Kline's vision still holds.

* * *

I have posted the complete text of "Why Weird Tales?" on a new page for this blog. See the list of pages at the right. I have transcribed this text from the original, which I found on the website Internet Archive at the following URL:

https://archive.org/details/WeirdTales1924050607ATLPM/page/n1/mode/2up

Any transcription errors are my own.

* * *

Otis Adelbert Kline mentioned many authors in his essay. Following is a list. Names in bold are of those whose work was published in Weird Tales in the period 1923-1974. Click on their names to see my biographies of these authors.

Kline devoted a good deal of his 2,100-word essay to Poe and Hawthorne, also a full paragraph to Charles Brockden Brown. Brown may have been more well known in the 1920s than he is today. He has been and may even still be a neglected author.

I almost overlooked H.G. Wells' name in "Why Weird Tales?" and was almost ready to make something of that. Even though his name is there, I might still make something of Kline's bare mention of it: Weird Tales does not seem to have followed in Wells' path, for his work was an innovation. Weird Tales came from older things. Even though the magazine published science fiction, especially in the 1940s and '50s under the supervision of Dorothy McIlwraith (1891-1976), its mainstay was the weird tale, a type of fiction that matured into its own subgenre, weird fiction, in the pages of "The Unique Magazine." That's my opinion.

* * *

There are many good points in "Why Weird Tales?" One passage jumped out at me, considering what I have written over the past year about Utopia and Dystopia in Weird Tales. That passage:

The ancient Hebrews used the element of fear in their writings to spur their heroes to superhuman power or to instill a moral truth. The sun stands still in the heavens that Joshua may prevail over his enemies.

I refer here to Jack Williamson's idea that Utopia is in the Greek tradition, while Dystopia is in an older Egyptian-Hebraic tradition. (See "Utopia & Dystopia in Weird Tales-Part Three: Dystopia Before Utopia," here.) I'll have more on that topic and wrap up that series after the new year arrives.

Until then, Happy New Year to everyone everywhere. If 2022 is going to be better than the previous two years, we will all have to make it better. It won't happen on its own.

The cover story of Weird Tales May/June/July 1924 was "Imprisoned with the Pharaohs" by Harry Houdini. I don't see a signature here, but this is almost certainly the work of William F. Heitman of Indianapolis. I wanted to show Heitman's work here because it reminds me of the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark when Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood are thrown into the pit. The more things change, the more they remain the same.

Original text copyright 2021 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, December 27, 2021

100 Years of "The Outsider"

This year is the 100-year anniversary of the composition of "The Outsider" and the 95th anniversary year of its initial publication. H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) was of course the author. He wrote "The Outsider" between March and August 1921. He completed his story during the same month in which he turned thirty-one years old. (1)

"The Outsider" was first published in Weird Tales in its issue of April 1926. It has been reprinted again and again in the years since. Some consider it to be Lovecraft's signature story. It headlined The Outsider and Others (1939), the first hardcover collection of Lovecraft's stories. The Outsider and Others was also the first book published by Arkham House of Sauk City, Wisconsin, a firm established specifically for publishing Lovecraft's works. 

There are themes of loneliness, alienation, strangeness, ugliness, and outsidedness in "The Outsider." From the story:

I know that I am an outsider; a stranger in this century and among those who are still men.

We have probably all felt this way in our lives; Lovecraft's story has great appeal because of that feeling, especially, I think, among teenagers and young adults. Alienation and feelings of outsidedness may in fact be symptomatic of the modern dilemma.

There have of course been other works of twentieth-century alienation. The first that comes to mind is The Stranger by Albert Camus (1942). Feelings of alienation and strangeness are fully human, though, and as old as time: It was Moses who first said, "I have been a  stranger in a strange land." The context and meaning of Moses' words might not be as we would see them today. Yet his statement remains, and it inspired a science fiction author of the twentieth century, Robert A. Heinlein, in the writing of his own novel about feeling as a stranger.(1a) Jim Morrison sang after him: "People are strange/when you're a stranger. . . ."

There is every kind and level of alienation, of feelings of strangeness and outsidedness, from the popular to the philosophical. Marx and Nietzsche also had something to say about alienation. So did Mary Shelley in Frankenstein, which may have been an influence upon Lovecraft in his writing of "The Outsider." I wonder, though: Is "The Outsider" a Kaspar Hauser-like story? (2) Maybe in general "The Outsider" has its roots in the nineteenth century, and the story of Kaspar Hauser has a significance that we underestimate. Edgar Allan Poe, perhaps the most powerful influence upon Lovecraft's writing of "The Outsider," was born in the first decade of that century, Lovecraft in the last. So, yes, the roots of the story are literally in the century previous to its composition.

There has been a lot of cancellation in recent years. Margaret Atwood and J.K. Rowling are two in the worlds of fantasy and science fiction who have recently been on the receiving end of efforts at cancellation. They're probably both too big to be cancelled, but then we would have thought the same thing about Beethoven and other Classical composers and Classical music not very long ago. Look what we have now. (3) Powerful people--people who fancy themselves as powerless, as among the oppressed, as victims because believing themselves to be on the lowest rung of the ladder actually places them on the highest--seek to silence outsiders, to silence anyone who disagrees with them, especially to silence women who speak out against their depraved ideologies.

There have been efforts at cancelling H.P. Lovecraft, too, but these seem only halfhearted to me. I have a possible explanation for this: Despite any of his perceived offenses, Lovecraft has too much to offer those among us who feel alienated, strange, or on the outside of things; also to materialists, the godless, unbelievers; to people who hate God because they believe he has failed them; people who feel that we are mere specks in a great and indifferent Cosmos, that there are great and hostile forces afoot in the universe that would destroy us, that ultimately we ought to be destroyed because we are so loathsome and contemptible. Lovecraft's mother called him ugly. In alienation there is often a sense of self-hatred. A child who is called ugly or stupid or whatever by his mother may also be filled with self-hatred. Those who hate themselves learn to hate humanity, too. They turn their hatred outward because hatred of the self is such an unbearable thing. They often fantasize about destroying humanity. Sometimes they do it, or as much of humanity as they can, like a German pilot flying an airplaneful of people into a mountainside, or a German totalitarian monster doing the same thing with his whole nation. Often these men (and women) destroy themselves. You can make a case that Lovecraft destroyed himself, by depriving himself of sustenance. His father should have sustained him. Instead he abandoned his son. His mother should have sustained him. Instead she called him ugly and kept him close, too close for him to have developed in a healthy way. Significantly or not, she died on May 24, 1921, about halfway through her son's composition of "The Outsider." (4, 5)

We can't psychoanalyze Lovecraft, least of all by looking at a work of fiction. Likewise, we can't and shouldn't try to psychoanalyze whole groups of people. People are, after all, individuals and are deserving of compassion as individuals. I'll just say that H.P. Lovecraft's authorship of "The Outsider" and many other stories--his construction of a compelling and to many people such a full and satisfying and mollifying fictional universe--may mean that he and they and it will never be cancelled.

Notes

(1) I have just finished (mostly) a series on Otis Adelbert Kline (1891-1946) who also had some success with a story written when he was thirty-one (or so), the serial "The Thing of a Thousand Shapes," published in the first two issues of Weird Tales, March and April 1923.

(1a) Update (Jan. 4, 2022): The first episode of The Book of Boba Fett, released last month, is also called "Stranger in a Strange Land."

(2) I'm not the first to make this association, although I have made it independently of anyone else (i.e., I thought it up before going to look for the idea in other people's work). Bhob Stewart (1937-2014) made the comparison in an undated essay published on line in 2015.

(3) See, for example, "Then They Came for Beethoven" by Daniel Lelchuk, dated September 19, 2020, on the website Quillette, here. Is Mr. Lelchuk the son of American novelist Alan Lelchuk? I read Alan Lelchuk's novel American Mischief (1973) not many years ago. The name and the book have stuck with me.

(4) Ironically, Lovecraft the inward outsider seems to have turned more outward after his mother died. Perhaps he was released. If it's not too bizarre to use these two words together, maybe only then did Lovecraft blossom.

(5) For a discussion of Lovecraft, his mother, their relationship, and related topics, see "Mommie Dearest: H.P. Lovecraft's Descent into Maternal Madness" by John A. DeLaughter, dated November 14, 2013, on The Lovecraft Ezine, here.

A final note: Like Narcissus, the narrator of "The Outsider" is undone by a mirror. The Lady in C.S. Lewis' Perelandra is almost undone by the same object. The Evil Queen in the story of Snow White is so undone. To look into a mirror--is this a loss of innocence? A gaining of self-awareness? And does a sense of self-awareness lead into irony? Into alienation?

Original text copyright 2021 Terence E. Hanley

Sunday, December 26, 2021

The New Weird Tales Story

Pulp Hero Press has released an expanded and enhanced edition of The Weird Tales Story, originally edited by Robert Weinberg and published in 1977. The editor of the new edition is Bob McLain. Essayists include S.T. Joshi, Darrell Schweitzer, Mike Ashley, Rob Roehm, Bobby Derie, Jason Ray Carney, Adrian Cole, Morgan Holmes--and me, Terence E. Hanley. My contributions are the essays "Dorothy McIlwraith" and "They Should Have Been in Weird Tales," both of which have appeared in slightly different form in this blog. One really welcome addition is the text of the first cover story in Weird Tales, "Ooze" by Anthony Rud.

The Weird Tales Story: Expanded and Enhanced (Pulp Hero Press, 2021)

Contents

  • Publisher's Note by Bob McLain
  • Foreword by Adrian Cole
  • Preface to the First Edition by Robert Weinberg
  • Introduction: A Real Weird Magazine by Jason Ray Carney
  • A Brief History by Robert Weinberg
  • Farnsworth Wright by E. Hoffmann Price
  • Why Weird Tales? by Otis Adelbert Kline
  • The Stories by Robert Weinberg
  • Dorothy McIlwraith by Terence E. Hanley
  • Ray Bradbury by Darrell Schweitzer
  • Mary Elizabeth Counselman by Mike Ashley
  • August Derleth by Darrell Schweitzer
  • Edmond Hamilton by Mike Ashley
  • Robert E. Howard and the Early Weird Tales (1923–1925) by Bobby Derie
  • Robert E. Howard and the Later Weird Tales by Rob Roehm
  • Henry Kuttner by Adrian Cole
  • Frank Belknap Long by Mike Ashley
  • H. P. Lovecraft by S. T. Joshi
  • C. L. Moore by Mike Ashley
  • Seabury Quinn by Darrell Schweitzer
  • Clark Ashton Smith by Mike Ashley
  • Manley Wade Wellman by Darrell Schweitzer
  • A Fellowship of Fear by Mike Ashley
  • They Should Have Been Weird Tales by Terence E. Hanley
  • Recollections of Weird Tales by Various Authors
  • Gothic to Cosmic: Sword-and-Sorcery in Weird Tales by Morgan Holmes
  • Cover Art by Robert Weinberg
  • Interior Art by Robert Weinberg
  • Beginnings and Ends by Robert Weinberg
  • Out of the Eyrie by Robert Weinberg
  • Competition by Robert Weinberg
  • Since 1954: The Magazine That Never Dies by Darrell Schweitzer
  • "Ooze" . . . Back to the Beginning by Anthony M. Rud
At 324 pages, the new Weird Tales Story is longer than the original, but its dimensions are reduced to about the size of a standard pulp magazine, 7 by 10 inches. The cover art is by Tom Barber. Interior artists include Alex Nino and Orvy Jundis, plus many of the original artists who illustrated Weird Tales magazine.


Original text copyright 2021 Terence E. Hanley

Friday, December 24, 2021