Saturday, April 7, 2012

Authors of the Golden Age of Science Fiction-Part 3

Golden Age Authors in Weird Tales

Finally, the list. These are some of the authors of the Golden Age of Science Fiction who contributed to Weird Tales. Their names appear here in chronological order of their first contribution to the magazine.

Lester del Rey
Pseudonym of Leonard Knapp
Aka Ramon Felipe Alvarez-del Rey
Born June 2, 1915, Saratoga, Minnesota
Died May 10, 1993, New York, New York

For Weird Tales
"Cross of Fire" (May 1939)

Of the authors on this list, only Lester del Rey was first published in Weird Tales during the Farnsworth Wright era. "Cross of Fire" (May 1939) came early in his career as a writer and editor. Del Rey went on to edit a number of magazines and two lines of books--Ballantine Books and its division, Del Rey Books--all in the genres of science fiction and fantasy. He also wrote the introduction to The Best of C.L. Moore (1975), a collection of ten stories, three of which were drawn from Weird Tales, with six more from Astounding Science-Fiction or its companion magazine Unknown.

Nelson S. Bond
Born November 23, 1908, Scranton, Pennsylvania
Died November 6, 2006, Roanoke, Virginia

For Weird Tales
"The Unusual Romance of Ferdinand Pratt" (Sept. 1940)
"Honeymoon in Bedlam" (Jan. 1941)
"The Downfall of Lancelot Biggs" (Mar. 1941)
"Where Are You, Mr. Biggs?" (Sept. 1941)
"The Ghost of Lancelot Biggs" (Jan. 1942)
"Visibility: Zero" (Sept. 1942)
"The Master of Cotswold" (Jan. 1944)

Nelson Slade Bond enjoyed a varied career as a pulp fiction writer, newspaperman, philatelist, radio scriptwriter, public relations man, bookseller, and literary executor of the estate of James Branch Cabell. Bond wrote seven stories for Weird Tales, at least three of which recount the humorous adventures of the spaceman Lancelot Biggs.

Theodore Sturgeon
Né Edward Hamilton Waldo
Born February 27, 1918, Staten Island, New York
Died May 8, 1985, Eugene, Oregon

For Weird Tales
"Cell Mate" (Jan. 1947)
"Fluffy" (Mar. 1947)
"The Deadly Ratio" (Jan. 1948)
"The Professor's Teddy Bear" (Mar. 1948)
"Abreaction" (July 1948)
"The Perfect Host" (Nov. 1948)
"The Martian and the Moron" (Mar. 1949)
"One Foot and the Grave" (Sept. 1949)

Theodore Sturgeon wrote eight stories for Weird Tales, all dating from 1947-1949. (1) By that time he was a decade into a career that would eventually include scores of short stories, novels, anthologies, and television scripts, including two for Star Trek. Sturgeon is known for--among many other things--his adage in defense of science fiction: "Ninety percent of everything is crud." I presume that "everything" includes religion (or pseudo-religion), yet Sturgeon went along with Dianetics and late in life became an atheist. Sturgeon's adage reminds me of a quote from another writer, Ernest Hemingway: "The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shock-proof, sh-t detector. This is the writer's radar and all great writers have had it."

(1) "Abreaction," the title of one of those stories, is a psychotherapeutic technique involving recalled or relived trauma as a kind of catharsis. L. Ron Hubbard observed abreactive therapy while in a U.S. Navy hospital during World War II and adapted it to the practice of Dianetics and Scientology. I haven't read "Abreaction," but it's interesting that Sturgeon and Hubbard struck upon the same topic, perhaps at about the same time. By the way, The Aberee was the title of an early newsletter (beginning in 1954) on topics related to Dianetics and Scientology. I'm not sure of the meaning of the word aberee, but I presume an aberee is a person who has undergone abreactive therapy. Or maybe an aberee is a person who has become aberrant. If anyone knows, please leave a comment.

Eric Frank Russell
Aka Duncan H. Munro
Born January 6, 1905, near Sandhurst, Berkshire, England
Died February 28, 1978
Leslie J. Johnson
Born May 18, 1914, North Liverpool, England
Died ?

For Weird Tales
"Venturer of the Martian Mimics" (Mar. 1947)
"Displaced Person" (Sept. 1948)
"The Ponderer" (Nov. 1948)
"The Big Shot" (Jan. 1949)
"The Rhythm of the Rats" (July 1950)
"Hell's Bells" as by Duncan H. Munro (July 1952)
"Eternal Rediffusion" with Leslie J. Johnson (Fall, 1973)

Despite his English origins, Eric Frank Russell was published Astounding Science-Fiction, Unknown, and Weird Tales, all of which were American magazines. His sometime collaborator was fellow Englishman Leslie J. Johnson, with whom he wrote his first story for Astounding. Russell penned seven tales for Weird Tales, six between 1947 and 1952, and the last in Sam Moskowitz's revival in the early 1970s. Johnson was his co-author on that story, entitled "Eternal Rediffusion." Interestingly, many of Russell's stories are on Fortean topics. Perhaps more interestingly, The Beatles' Apple Corporation purchased the movie rights for his novel Wasp, which never made it to film.

William Tenn
Pseudonym of  Philip Klass
Born May 9, 1920, London, England
Died February 7, 2010, Mount Lebanon, Pennsylvania

For Weird Tales
"Mistress Sary" (May 1947)

William Tenn was the pseudonym of British-born American writer Philip Klass. An army veteran of World War II, Klass began publishing science fiction in 1946. "Mistress Sary," for Weird Tales (May 1947), would have been an early effort. Klass taught English and literature at Penn State University for nearly a quarter of a century.

Robert A. Heinlein
Born July 7, 1907, Butler, Missouri
Died May 8, 1988, Carmel, California

For Weird Tales
"Our Fair City" (Jan. 1949)

Robert A. Heinlein is far too interesting a character to cover in a mere paragraph. Suffice it to say, he was one of the most successful and well-known of science fiction authors by the time Weird Tales printed his story, "Our Fair City," in its January 1949 issue. Some interesting trivia and not-so-trivia: Heinlein graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and became an officer, as his friend L. Ron Hubbard did after him. Discharged for medical reasons, Heinlein worked at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard during World War II and recruited Isaac Asimov and L. Sprague de Camp to work there as well. I wonder whether they were connected to the (apocryphal) Philadelphia Experiment. Even if Heinlein didn't participate in the invention of teleportation, he at least played his part in the invention of the waterbed. Incidentally, two earlier tellers of weird tales, Elizabeth Gaskell and Mark Twain, also mentioned waterbeds in their fiction.

Isaac Asimov
Born Between October 4, 1919, and January 2, 1920, Petrovichi, Russian SFSR
Died April 6, 1992, New York, New York
James MacCreigh
Pseudonym of Frederik Pohl
Born November 26, 1919, Brooklyn, New York

For Weird Tales
"Legal Rights" by Isaac Asimov and James MacCreigh (Sept. 1950)

Isaac Asimov and Frederik Pohl are equally interesting characters. Of all the writers on this list, only Pohl is still living--and blogging! His blog, The Way the Future Blogs, is informative and up-to-date. (More so than my own: at this writing, his most recent entry is dated March 30, 2012, mine, only March 28, 2012.) You can reach it by clicking here.

Asimov and Pohl met as teenaged science fiction fans in New York City and became lifelong friends. Their collaborations include "Legal Rights," a story in Weird Tales from 1950, and--four decades later--the non-fiction book Our Angry Earth (1991).

L. Sprague de Camp
Né Lyon Sprague de Camp
Born November 27, 1907, New York, New York
Died November 6, 2000, Plano, Texas
(Murray) Fletcher Pratt
Born April 15, 1897, Buffalo, New York
Died June 11, 1956, Long Branch, New Jersey

For Weird Tales
"When the Night Wind Howls" with Fletcher Pratt (Nov. 1951)
"Where To, Please?" (Sept. 1952)
"Caveat Emptor" (Mar. 1953)

L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt were another pair of collaborators. Like Asimov, they wrote science fiction and non-fiction. Among de Camp's books was Science-Fiction Handbook (1953), an invaluable work for students of the genre. The book's author seems to have offended and outraged several generations of fans of both H.P. Lovecraft (through his 1975 tome, Lovecraft: A Biography) and Robert E. Howard (through his Conan pastiches and posthumous collaborations). On the plus side for Fletcher Pratt: his wife, Inga Marie Stephens Pratt Clark (1906–1970), was a science fiction illustrator.

If I have done my research right, only two stories by the authors listed above became Weird Tales cover stories. Here is the first: "Legal Rights" by Isaac Asimov and the pseudonymous James MacCreigh from the September 1950 issue. The artist was Bill Wayne. The man on the right looks suspiciously like Isaac Asimov.
And here's the second, "Hell's Bells" by Duncan H. Munro, aka Eric Frank Russell, from July 1952, with cover art by Jon Arfstrom.

Text and captions copyright 2012, 2017 Terence E. Hanley


  1. Theodore Sturgeon was *not* a pseudonym of "Edward Hamilton Waldo," since there was a legal name change to "Theodore Sturgeon" long before he started writing. (Ex-president Gerald Ford was born Leslie King but you wouldn't call "Gerald Ford" a pseudonym, would you?) / Denny Lien

  2. Denny,

    No I wouldn't. I completely overlooked the legal name change. Thanks for pointing it out. By the way, I attributed the second cover to Frank Kelly Freas. It was actually the work of Jon Arfstrom. I have made corrections and apologize for the errors.


  3. Leslie J Johnson was my grandfather and would be delighted that his work is being discussed online!

  4. Dear Anonymous,

    I'm glad to hear that. Is there anything more you can tell us about him?

    Terence Hanley