Saturday, May 25, 2013

Before the Golden Age-Forrest J Ackerman

Forrest J Ackerman
Science Fiction Fan, Collector, Author, Editor, Agent, Publisher, Movie Projectionist, Actor
Born November 24, 1916, Los Angeles, California
Died December 4, 2008, Los Angeles, California

There will never again be a character like the irrepressible Forrest James Ackerman. He was born in and died in Los Angeles and was intimately tied to the science fiction scene in that city from the earliest days of fandom until his death just five short years ago. During those seven or eight decades, he amassed what was surely the largest private collection of science fiction and movie memorabilia in the history of the universe. He was a member of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society and as such knew Ray Bradbury, Henry Kuttner, Emil Petaja, Robert Heinlein, Jack Williamson, Fredric Brown, Leigh Brackett, Ray Harryhausen, and other luminaries. I suspect that when the young and very attractive Catherine L. Moore of Indianapolis paid a visit to Los Angeles in the 1930s, she and Ackerman met. Their collaboration for Weird Tales, the Northwest Smith tale "Nymph of Darkness," grew out of their acquaintance. It was Catherine's last Northwest Smith story and her last story for Weird Tales. [For a clarification, see the comments below.] Six months after it was published, she married Henry Kuttner in New York City. Ackerman went on to write more science fiction, plus scripts and magazine pieces. He also served as a literary agent for a number of writers, including Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, A.E. van Vogt, Curt Siodmak, and L. Ron Hubbard. His accomplishments and activities would fill volumes. Instead of filling volumes, I'll make an interesting connection: Ackerman's maternal grandfather was the architect George Wyman (1860-1939), an Ohioan most well known for designing the Bradbury Building in Los Angeles. If you think the Bradbury Building was named for Ray Bradbury, you're on the wrong track. That's not the connection of which I speak. Rather, Wyman designed the building based on a description from a science fiction novel, Looking Backward 2000-1887 by Edward Bellamy (1887). In a weird aside, Wyman was encouraged to take on the project from beyond the grave: he and his wife were spiritualists. The connection is not yet complete. The Bradbury Building was a setting for the movie Blade Runner (1982), a dystopia to match Bellamy's Utopia in Looking Backward. Finally, the building was the setting for Harlan Ellison's "Demon with a Glass Hand" in the television series The Outer Limits. Mr. Ellison has lived in southern California for decades and contributed to Weird Tales in 1984.

For Weird Tales
"Nymph of Darkness" with C.L. Moore (Dec. 1939)

Forrest J Ackerman co-created (with Trina Robbins) Vampirella and wrote the first story for the comic book in which she appeared. The first issue, from September 1969, featured cover art by Frank Frazetta.
Text and captions copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley

Friday, May 24, 2013

Before the Golden Age-Emil Petaja

Emil Petaja
Author, Poet, Science Fiction Fan, Collector, Publisher, Photographer
Born April 12, 1915, Milltown, Missoula County, Montana
Died August 17, 2000, San Francisco, California

Emil Petaja's life changed when he first read Weird Tales. Has any other teller of weird tales made such a claim? That fateful encounter came in 1931 when the author-to-be was in his mid-teens, a golden age for fantasy fans. He wrote his first published letter in a science fiction magazine in 1933, his first poem ("Witch's Bercuse" in Marvel Tales) in 1935, and his first story ("The Mist" in Phantasmagoria) in 1937. Because of his early activity in the field, Petaja earned a place as a member of First Fandom.

In this blog I have looked at lesser-known authors. My biographies of well-known authors have been brief. But as I have worked on the current series of authors first published before the Golden Age of Science Fiction, I have found that even some prominent authors have gotten short shrift, at least on the Internet. Arthur Leo Zagat and Nathan Schachner, Lloyd Arthur Eshbach, and P. Schuyler Miller are examples. You will find lists of their published works on the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, critical and historical information on The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, and some very limited biographical information on Wikipedia, but too often, the whole picture of a writer's life is missing. Emil Petaja is an exception. There is a lengthy biography of Petaja on Wikipedia. I won't rehash what the authors of that biography have written. Instead I'll just highlight a few facts.

Emil Theodore Petaja was born of Finnish parents in Milltown, Montana, nearly one hundred years ago. (The surname Petaja is Finnish for "pine"--it's fitting that a child with that name should come into the world in a place full of pine and in a town called Milltown.) Petaja became a fan and a collector of science fiction and fantasy as a teenager. In the 1930s, he corresponded with other genre writers, including H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith. Petaja moved to Los Angeles in 1937 and befriended Forrest J Ackerman, Ray Bradbury, Henry Kuttner, and Hannes Bok, among others. For a time he and Bok were roommates. After Bok's death, Petaja published memorial works for his friend under the Bokanalia Foundation, which he founded in 1967. Like Ackerman, Petaja was an inveterate collector of memorabilia, including movie memorabilia.

Petaja wrote science fiction, fantasy, horror, weird fiction, and detective stories. Much of his work was based on Finnish mythology and folklore. Weird Tales published eight of his stories and two of his poems. After a long and distinguished career during which he seems to have been in contact with every well-known person in his field, Emil Petaja died on August 17, 2000, in San Francisco. Ackerman, Bradbury, and--just this month--Ray Harryhausen have since passed away. Few if any of the old Los Angeles science fiction fans are left.

For Weird Tales
"Lost Dream" (poem, Jan. 1938)
"The Warrior" (poem, Jan. 1939)
"Monsieur Bluebeard" (Sept. 1944)
"The Music-Box from Hell" (May 1945)
"Votaress" (Sept. 1945)
"The Jonah" (Mar. 1946)
"Skydrift" (Nov. 1949)
"The Hungry Ghost" (Mar. 1950)
"The Insistent Ghost" (Sept. 1950)
"Live Evil" (July 1952)

Emil Petaja's Letters to "The Eyrie"
June 1932 
Sept. 1934 
Aug. 1935 
Apr. 1938 
Mar. 1946 

Some paperback covers of novels by Emil Petaja: The Caves of Mars (1965), one side of an Ace Double with cover art by Alex Schomburg. I have read this book. My best advice is just to look at the cover.
Alpha Yes, Terra No! (1965) with cover art by Ed Valigursky.
The Time Twister (1968) with cover art by Jack Gaughan.
The Star Mill (1966). Again, Gaughan was the artist.
The Path Beyond the Stars (1969), a third cover by Jack Gaughan.

Text and captions copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Before the Golden Age-Eando Binder

Eando Binder
Pseudonym of
Earl Andrew Binder
Author, Agent
Born October 4, 1904, Harkaw, Austria-Hungary
Died October 13, 1966, Cook County, Illinois
Otto Oscar Binder
Chemist, Author, Editor, Comic Book Script Writer
Born August 26, 1911, Bessemer, Michigan
Died October 14, 1974, Chestertown, New York

Brothers Earl Andrew Binder and Otto Oscar Binder wrote under the pen name Eando Binder. Otto, the more active and prolific of the two, kept the name even after Earl became inactive after the mid-1930s. Otto Binder used a number of pseudonyms in addition to the name Eando Binder. Earl acted as his agent. Their last name by the way was pronounced to rhyme with "cinder."

Earl A. Binder, the older of the two, was born in 1904 in Austria-Hungary, supposedly in a city called Harkaw. The spelling of that word may or may not be correct. The Binder family emigrated to the United States in 1910 according to one source. Otto Binder was born the following year in Bessemer, Michigan, a small city in the iron country of the Upper Peninsula. The Binders' father, Michael Binder, was a blacksmith. That may explain the family's residence in Bessemer. By 1930, they were in Chicago. Both boys were at home, Earl working in a machine shop and Otto as a chemist. Two years later, the pair published their first science fiction story, "The First Martian," in Amazing Stories in the month of Earl's birthday, October 1932.

Otto Binder was a prolific writer in a wide range of fields, including science fiction, science fact, flying saucers, comic books, and comic strips. The Adam Link series was his. Isaac Asimov acknowledged a debt to Binder in his own series about robots. Binder began writing for comic books in 1939, including scripts for Captain Marvel, Superman, Captain America, and Blackhawk. Binder co-created Mary Marvel and many other characters and situations in the Captain Marvel universe and the Superman universe. He also scripted the comic strip Our Ever Changing World (later Our Space Age), drawn by Murphy Anderson and Carl Pfeufer between 1960 and 1969. Binder wrote what must have been one of the first novels to come out of the Marvel Comics explosion of the 1960s. The Avengers Battle the Earth-Wrecker (1967) is an exciting novel that perfectly captures the flavor of the comic book. A third Binder brother, Jack Binder (1902-1986), drew comic book stories as well as illustrations for Weird Tales magazine. His story will have to wait for another time.

Earl and Otto Binder died at a relatively young age, both in October, Earl in 1966 at age sixty-two (nine days after his birthday), Otto in 1974 at age sixty-three.

For Weird Tales
"Shadows of Blood" (Apr. 1935, reprinted Jan. 1954)
"In a Graveyard" (Oct. 1935)
"The Crystal Curse" (Mar. 1936)
"The Elixir of Death" (Mar. 1937)
"From the Beginning" (June 1936)
"Giants of Anarchy" (June/July 1939)

A gallery of Otto Binder book covers: Adam Link-Robot (1965) with cover art by Jack Gaughan.
The same book in a reprint in 1968, artist unknown.
Anton York, Immortal (1965), artist unknown.
Menace of the Saucers, date unknown, but the groovy getup indicates the 1970s. The resemblance of the spaceships to the Millennium Falcon and a Cylon Raider suggests that it's from about 1977-1978. Cover art by  Atilla Hejja (1955-2007).
Finally, The Avengers Battle the Earth-Wrecker (1967), cover artist unknown.

Text and captions copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Before the Golden Age-P. Schuyler Miller

P. Schuyler Miller
Technical Writer, Author, Reviewer, Amateur Archaeologist
Born February 21, 1912, Troy, New York
Died October 13, 1974, Blennerhasset Island, West Virginia

Peter Schuyler Miller was born on February 21, 1912, in Troy, New York, into an old New York family. He was descended from Colonel Philip Peter Schuyler (1736-1808), defender of Fort Schoharie, New York, during the Revolutionary War. The colonel's father was Captain Peter Schuyler, Jr. (1698-1779), builder of a frontier fort called Irondequoit. Going back even further, Peter Schuyler was the son of Colonel Peter F. Schuyler (1657-1724), colonial governor of New York and first mayor of Albany. In 1709, Schuyler took the five Iroquois Sachems to London (one died on the way), where they met Queen Anne and sat for portraits in her court.

Peter Schuyler Miller's father was Philip Schuyler Miller (1873-1936), a historian and a research chemist at the General Electric Company. As a child, Peter lived in Schaghticoke and Scotia, New York. He held a lifelong interest in archaeology and the Iroquois Indians. He was a member of the New York State Archaeological Association and advocated for historical preservation and conservation of natural resources in several letters to the New York Times. Like his father, Miller was a chemist by training. He received his master's degree in chemistry from Union College in Schnectady, New York. Also like his father, he worked for General Electric as a technical writer. From 1952 until his untimely death, Miller was a technical writer with the Fisher Scientific Company in Pittsburgh.

P. Schuyler Miller's first published science fiction was a story called "The Red Plague" for Wonder Stories, July 1930. Like so many science fiction writers of the Golden Age and before, he was a published author before he was out of his teens. Miller wrote science fiction during the 1930s, '40s, and '50s. He was also a bibliographer of Robert E. Howard's Conan stories, and in collaboration with others drew a map of Conan's world. Miller is most well known for his hundreds of reviews for Astounding Science Fiction and its successor, Analog Science Fiction and Fact, written between 1945 and his death. In the process of reviewing science fiction, Miller amassed a large collection of works, now located at the Carnegie Museums in Pittsburgh. The University of Kansas Libraries also have a collection of Miller's science fiction-related material.

The story of P. Schuyler Miller's death is an unusual one. An amateur historian and archaeologist, he was on a trip to West Virginia to study prehistoric sites, one or more of which were related to the "Fort Ancient Civilization," when he died suddenly on Blennerhassett Island, located next to Parkersburg, West Virginia (and within an hour's drive of where I write this). I don't know the circumstances of his death. The Internet again shows itself to be woefully inadequate. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction is silent on the matter. In any case, I would like to mention a minor and meaningless connection: In traveling from Pittsburgh (presumably) to Blennerhassett Island, P. Schuyler Miller more or less retraced the route Aaron Burr took in 1805 as he went about his alleged scheming against the United States. In 1946, the Aaron Burr Association was founded "[t]o keep alive the memory of Colonel Aaron Burr as a student, a soldier, a lawyer, a politician, a patron of the arts, an educator, a banker, and as a husband and father" and "to secure for him the honor and respect which are due him as one of the leading figures of his age." The director of that association for a time was Nathan Schachner, who, like P. Schuyler Miller, was a science fiction writer and a contributor to Weird Tales.

For Weird Tales
"Spawn" (Aug. 1939)
"John Cawder's Wife" (May 1943)
"Plane and Fancy" (July 1944)
"Ship-in-a-Bottle" (Jan. 1945)
"Ghost" (July 1946)

P. Schuyler Miller wrote five stories for Weird Tales. His second, "John Cawder's Wife," was the cover story for the May 1943 issue. Believe it or not, the cover art was by Margaret Brundage. I wonder if the Schuyler and Miller families would have had a portrait gallery like this one in their own home. It seems only natural that a man like Miller would have written about a line of descent. 
Miller wasn't a particularly prolific author of fiction, but he had his share of cover stories such as this one for "Old Man Mulligan" in Astounding Science-Fiction, December 1940. The art is by Rogers.
Here's another cover story, "Genus Homo," for Super Science Novels, March 1941. Miller often worked with other authors. His collaborator here was L. Sprague de Camp. The artist was Leo Morey.
Yesterday I wrote about Lloyd Arthur Eshbach and his Fantasy Press. Here's another title from that publisher, The Titan by P. Schuyler Miller (1952), with cover art by Hannes Bok.

Text and captions copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Before the Golden Age-Lloyd Arthur Eshbach

Lloyd Arthur Eshbach
Science Fiction Fan, Author, Publisher, Salesman, Pastor
Born June 20, 1910, Palm, Pennsylvania
Died October 29, 2003, Myerstown, Pennsylvania

Lloyd Arthur Eshbach was born on June 20, 1910, in Palm, Pennsylvania, and grew up in nearby Reading. He started reading science fiction at the golden age of fifteen and read the first issue of Amazing Stories, published in 1926. Eshbach sold the third science fiction story he ever wrote to Science Wonder Stories in 1929. (1) He began collecting science fiction magazines in the 1920s and wrote letters to them as early as 1930. That early fan activity qualified him for membership in First Fandom, an association formed in 1959 among those who had been active in science fiction fandom since before January 1, 1938, in other words, before the Golden Age. The name of the organization refers to Olaf Stapledon's novel Last and First Men, another example of science fiction's claim to the British philosopher. (2)

Eshbach wrote a number of stories and poems published in science fiction magazines from the 1930s to the 1950s. His publishing career began in the early 1930s with two magazines, Marvel Tales and The Galleon. He continued in publishing after World War II with the founding of Fantasy Press in 1946. If Wikipedia's list of books published by Fantasy Press is correct, the first and last books under that imprint were by E.E. "Doc" Smith. Other authors included some of whom I have written these past few days, Arthur Leo Zagat, Jack Williamson, Murray Leinster, and Stanton A. Coblentz. Eshbach also issued Of Worlds Beyond: The Science of Science Fiction Writing (1947), the first book about the writing of science fiction, written by science fiction authors. Another first attributed to Eshbach: the term speculative fiction, co-created with Robert Heinlein.

Be warned: L. Ron Hubbard is about to rear his ugly head again, this time in relationship to the author at hand. In his memoirs, Over My Shoulder: Reflections on a Science Fiction Era (1982), Lloyd Arthur Eshbach reported that Hubbard told him, "I’d like to start a religion. That’s where the money is," in 1949. (3) "Dianetics: The Evolution of a Science" appeared in Astounding Science Fiction and in book form the following year. Coincidentally or not, 1950 is cited as the end date of the Golden Age of Science Fiction. 

John W. Campbell, Jr., editor of Astounding, endorsed Dianetics. That endorsement could only have hurt the cause of hard science fiction. But did science fiction fans who had so recently expressed hostility towards The Shaver Mystery have anything at all to say about Dianetics? John W. Campbell, Theodore Sturgeon, and A.E. van Vogt were involved in Dianetics in varying degrees from the beginning. But did Raymond Palmer win any well-known authors over to his twin mysteries, The Shaver Mystery and The Flying Saucer Mystery? Or were they too incredulous? (4) Compare the reputations of John W. Campbell and Raymond Palmer. Which is the god and which is the goat, at least in the minds of some science fiction fans? Say what you will about Raymond Palmer, at least he knew when he was peddling nonsense.

Speaking of religion . . . after 1958, Lloyd Arthur Eshbach was a publisher of religious material, a salesman for the Moody Bible Institute, and a pastor in the Evangelical Congregational Church. That church was founded in and based in Eshbach's home state of Pennsylvania. Its members are mostly of German descent. That may explain why the German Wikipedia entry on Eshbach is longer and more informative than the English version. Later in life, Eshbach returned to writing science fiction. His last book published within his own lifetime was The Scroll of Lucifer (1990). Lloyd Arthur Eshbach died on October 29, 2003, in Myerstown, Pennsylvania, at the age of ninety-three.

For Weird Tales
"Isle of the Undead" (Oct. 1936)
"The City of Dread" (Summer 1983) (5)

(1) This according to Wikipedia. However, the Internet Speculative Fiction Database doesn't seem to list a story published before 1930.
(2) Lest you think First Fandom is bound to get smaller year by year, there are other categories of membership to allow for fans from after 1938.
(3) Eshbach wasn't the only witness to statements like that coming from the inventor of Dianetics and Scientology. Theodore Sturgeon was also supposed to have been present at the birth of the idea, as were--by different accounts--Robert A. Heinlein and Harlan Ellison.
(4) Donald E. Keyhoe and Wilma Dorothy Vermilyea, aka Millen Cooke, believed in flying saucers. Millen Cooke wrote for Palmer's science fiction titles during the 1950s. Neither Keyhoe nor Cooke was a well-known science fiction author, however.
(5) Eshbach is the first author of whom I have written to be published in the 1980s revival of Weird Tales.

Lloyd Arthur Eshbach wrote one story for the original Weird Tales and it made the cover in October 1936.  I can't tell whether the nude figure on J. Allen St. John's cover is a man or a woman. If it's a man, he would have been a rarity on the cover of Weird Tales if not pulp magazines in general. Either way, St. John should have worked on his draftsmanship a little harder.
Although his byline was on the cover, Eshbach's tale for Wonder Story Annual in 1952 wasn't the cover story. Alex Schomburg was the cover artist however, and that's enough for me. 
Tyrant of Time, one of Eshbach's books for his own Fantasy Press. Note the robot at the press as the logo.
The motif of the printing press returned on the cover of Eshbach's memoirs, Over My Shoulder.
Text and captions copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Before the Golden Age-Jack Williamson

Jack Williamson
Author, Teacher
Born April 29, 1908, Bisbee, Arizona Territory
Died November 10, 2006, Portales, New Mexico

John Stewart "Jack" Williamson was a true Westerner. Born in the Arizona Territory, he spent the first few years of his life in west Texas. In 1915, he and his family set out for New Mexico in a covered wagon. The Williamson family tried farming, then turned to ranching in their new home state. According to Wikipedia, they are still ranchers.

Williamson's first published science fiction story is called "Metal Men." It appeared in Amazing Stories in December 1928 when the author was twenty years old. He went on to write hundreds of stories, essays, reviews, novels, and collections during a career that lasted nearly eight decades. After the death of Robert Heinlein in 1988, the mantle of "The Dean of Science Fiction" fell upon Jack Williamson. He also won many formal awards and recognitions.

Jack Williamson was a rarity among science fiction authors in that he held advanced degrees in English. He graduated from Eastern New Mexico University (ENMU, located in Portales) with bachelor's and master's degrees. He received his doctorate at the University of Colorado. Williamson taught at ENMU, endowed its literary magazine, hosted a lectureship series, and donated extensive collections to the university library.

In 1952 Williamson joined the ranks of science fiction authors who also wrote or drew comics with his scripts for Beyond Mars, a comic strip printed in the New York Daily News until 1955. The artist was one from the Milton Caniff school, Lee Elias (1920-1998). (1)

Williamson wrote eight stories for Weird Tales between 1932 and 1938. "The Wand of Doom" and the last part of "Golden Blood" were voted reader favorites for the issues in which they appeared.

Jack Williamson, an air force veteran of World War II, died the day before Veteran's Day, November 10, 2006. He was ninety-eight years old.

For Weird Tales
"The Wand of Doom" (Oct. 1932)
"Golden Blood" (six-part serial, Apr. through Sept. 1933)
"The Plutonian Terror" (Oct. 1933)
"Invaders of the Ice World" (Jan. 1934)
"Wizard's Isle" (June 1934)
"The Ruler of Fate" (Apr. 1936)
"The Mark of the Monster" (May 1937)
"Dreadful Sleep" (three-part serial, Mar. through May 1938)

(1) Other science fiction authors who worked in the comics include: Henry Kuttner, Harry Harrison, Alfred Bester, Otto Binder, and Fritz Leiber, Jr. If anyone can add to this list, please do.

Jack Williamson's serial "Golden Blood" began in Weird Tales in April 1933. The art, by J. Allen St. John, is one of the most famous of Weird Tales covers. 
The cover for the next month's issue is less remarkable.
For more than three years beginning in June 1933, every cover for "The Unique Magazine" was created by Margaret Brundage. Here is her illustration for Jack Williamson's story "The Ruler of Fate" for April 1936.
The six-part serial "Golden Blood" was collected in book form by Lancer in 1964 with cover art by Ed Emshwiller.
Stories by Jack Williamson were also published in Strange Tales, a Weird Tales imitator. This cover is from January 1932, before the author's first appearance in Weird Tales. The cover art is by Wesso. Note the similarity of the main title design of Batman to that of Strange Tales. This cover goes in the category of "Woman and Wolf." See my posting of January 27, 2014, here.

Text and captions copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Before the Golden Age-Olaf Stapledon

Olaf Stapledon
Author, Philosopher, Lecturer, Pacifist
Born May 10, 1886, Seacombe, Wallasey, Wirral Peninsula, Merseyside, England
Died September 6, 1950, Caldy, Wirral Peninsula, England

William Olaf Stapledon was older by a generation than John Russell Fearn, yet he arrived in the world of science fiction only in 1930 with his novel Last and First Men: A Story of the Near and Far Future. Stapledon did not write for pulp magazines. According to The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, he was unaware of genre science fiction. Instead he wrote a series of philosophical science fiction novels published between 1930 and 1950. In other words, he was a writer who had little in common with Fearn and other pulp writers and perhaps more in common with someone like C.S. Lewis. On the other hand, Stapledon, though he served with the Friends' Ambulance Unit in World War I, studied ethics and philosophy, and spoke on pacifist causes, was not religious like Lewis. He seems to have been a complex man possessed of complex thoughts and ideas.

I said that Stapledon arrived in the world of science fiction in 1930. It might be truer to say that he never really arrived, that in fact he remained an outsider and that science fiction claims him rather than the other way around. It's worth noting that he was born and died on the far fringes of an island.

As he was wont to do, Sam Moskowitz dug up a work by Olaf Stapledon and published it in his revival of Weird Tales in the Winter issue of 1973. The poem "Time" is from a collection, Latter-Day Psalms, Stapledon's first book, published just before Christmas 1914 in the first year of World War I. That war, along with its sequel, can be counted among the worst disasters ever to befell Western civilization (and thereby, civilization itself). Stapledon took the long view in his psalms, treating war generally in the poems "Strife," "War," and "Peace," and asking larger questions in poems such as "The City" ("Does the Most High God delight in the sacrifice of souls?") and "Time" (below).

A few days ago I posted a poem by Stanton A. Coblentz about the end of the world. Below is another by Olaf Stapledon. Time is indeed fleeting, but do all things come to nought? Isn't it that kind of despair that leads men to fight "one with another, as monkeys over a straw," or that makes "men and women . . . loathsome" because "they [have] forgotten love"? (Lines from "The City.") Maybe each man chooses his own brand of despair. I think we can all agree that poems are preferable to murder.

by Olaf Stapledon

Wherefore hast thou made the world that it shall die, and the heavens 
      that they shall burn out like a flame? 
What wilt thou do when the stars are all extinguished, and there is no 
      place for life? 
The sons of men have builded for themselves a house of beauty. It is 
      continually embellished. 
The last of the generations shall dwell therein and die; and the beauty 
      that was builded shall be no more. 
A lover and his beloved have met together in the evening. Evening 
      shall return, but they return not. 
The home that seemed eternal is broken up and scattered. The 
      children remember it; they die; it is no more. 
I am heavy of heart because of fleeting time, and because all things 
      come to nought. 

Olaf Stapledon may not have been aware of genre science fiction, but genre science fiction was aware of him. I wonder what he would have made of this cover of Odd John from 1959. (Cover art by Robert Stanley, Jr. [1918-1996]).
Text and captions copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Before the Golden Age-John Russell Fearn

John Russell Fearn
Born June 5, 1908, Worlsey, Lancashire, England
Died September 18, 1960, Blackpool, Lancashire, England

Much has been written about this author who wrote much. I'll write much less. British author John Russell Fearn wrote hundreds of essays, stories, novels, and collections published between 1933 and 2013. You can read some of his titles on The Internet Speculative Fiction Database and the online Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. Fearn penned science fiction, mysteries, Westerns, and maybe romances, too. His pseudonyms number in the double digits: Vargo Statten, Volsted Gridban (also used by E.C. Tubb), Thornton Ayre, Polton Cross, Geoffrey Armstrong, Dennis Clive, John Cotton, Ephriam Winiki, Mark Denholm, Spike Gordon, Conrad G. Holt, Lawrence F. Rose, John Russell, and Earl Titan. Fearn also used the house names Astron Del Martia, "Griff," Paul Lorraine, and Brian Shaw. His many series included The Golden Amazon series, which was especially popular with women. The Toronto Star published Golden Amazon stories in its weekend magazine section for many years.

Fearn was born in and died in the United Kingdom. He produced fiction out of proportion to his fifty-two short years on earth.

For Weird Tales
"Portrait of a Murderer" (Dec. 1936)

The Golden Amazon in "The Amazon Strikes Again" from the Toronto Star, Saturday, February 21, 1948. This looks like it could be an advertisement for some kind of hair product. Instead, it's an illustration for the "Star Weekly Complete Novel," which was later printed in book form. With images like this appearing in newspapers and magazines, it's no wonder people saw flying saucers in the skies and encountered "Nordic" aliens when the things landed. The artist's signature is on the right, but I can't read it.
Here's a Harlequin paperback of The Deathless Amazon. It looks like the guy in the Star Trek-looking shirt could actually be enjoying the attention he's getting from the Golden Amazon. The cover art is by Paul Anna Soik (1919-1999), a prolific artist for Harlequin Books. 
John Russell Fearn is on the short list of science fiction authors who have had a magazine named for them, even if Vargo Statten is a pseudonym. This is a British magazine as you can see. That's a pretty cool spaceship. Unfortunately I don't know who drew it.
Text and captions copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, May 13, 2013

Before the Golden Age-Arthur Leo Zagat and Nathan Schachner

Arthur Leo Zagat
Chemist, Lawyer, Author, Teacher, Government Worker
Born February 15, 1896, New York, New York
Died April 3, 1949, The Bronx, New York

Nathan Schachner
Chemist, Lawyer, Author, Biographer, Historian
Born January 16, 1895, New York, New York
Died October 2, 1955, The Bronx, New York

The lives of Arthur Leo Zagat and Nathan Schachner are so closely linked that it's best to write about them together in one posting. Born in New York City, the two were separated by only a year and a month in age. Both studied law, both were war veterans, both married and had one daughter each, and both wrote pulp fiction. In their writing, Zagat and Schachner were frequent collaborators. They even died in the same place, though five and half years apart.

Arthur Leo Zagat was born on February 15, 1896, in New York City. His father was a druggist and a president of the Bronx Pharmaceutical Association. Zagat graduated from the City College of New York (where he studied chemistry) and fought in World War I. After the war, he attended L'Université de Bordeaux. In returning to the United States, Zagat studied law at Fordham University while working at his father's drug store. Although he graduated, Zagat did not practice law. Instead he took up writing.

According to The Speculative Fiction Database, Zagat's first published science fiction story was "The Tower of Evil," which appeared in Wonder Stories Quarterly in its Summer 1930 issue. Zagat collaborated with Nathan Schachner on that and several more stories published in 1930-1931. Wikipedia credits Zagat with about 500 stories in a career that was cut short by his death.

During World War II, Arthur L. Zagat was an executive in the Office of War Information in New York City. In addition, he taught writing at New York University, visited veterans in hospital, and founded the Writers' Workshop for veterans who wanted to get started in the profession. Prior to the war (in 1941), Zagat was elected to the national executive committee for the pulp writers' section of the Authors League of America. Oscar Schisgall was chairman, while Zagat served as treasurer and Robert Carse as secretary. Frederick Faust and Erle Stanley Gardner were among the committee members. According to the website Horror News, Zagat is credited as a writer on the Outer Limits episode "The Bellero Shield," starring Martin Landau and Sally Kellerman.

Arthur Leo Zagat died on April 3, 1949, at home in The Bronx. He was only fifty-three years old. Zagat was buried at Cypress Hills National Cemetery in Brooklyn.

Nathan Schachner enjoyed an equally illustrious career. Born on January 16, 1895, in New York City, Schachner graduated from the City College of New York in 1915 and received his degree as a doctor of jurisprudence from New York University in 1919. (1) Schachner began his career (in 1915) as a chemist with the Board of Health in his native city. (2) During World War I, Schachner served in the U.S. Army in the Chemical Warfare Branch. Schachner practiced law after the war. After 1936 he devoted himself to writing and published his first work of history and biography, Aaron Burr, in 1937.

Nathan Schachner's first science fiction story was "The Tower of Evil," his collaboration with Arthur Leo Zagat. Many more stories rolled out of his typewriter during the 1930s. According to The Internet Speculative Fiction Database, Schachner's last published science fiction was in 1941 (except for reprintings). Also worth noting is Schachner's involvement in the American Rocket Society, founded in 1930 as the American Interplanetary Society by science fiction writers George Edward Pendray (1901-1987), David Lasser (1902-1996), Laurence Manning (1899-1972), and others. (3) Nathan Schachner was also a member of the Authors League of America, director of the Aaron Burr Association, director of public relations of the National Council of Jewish Women, and a consultant with the American Jewish Committee.

Schachner died on October 2, 1955. His place of death was the same as his onetime collaborator, Arthur Leo Zagat--not just the city, or the borough, but the same address, 1749 Grand Concourse, The Bronx, New York. That's the location of the massive (another overused word, but in this case appropriate) Lewis Morris Apartment Building. Nathan Schachner was buried at Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.

For Weird Tales
"The Dead-Alive" by Arthur Leo Zagat and Nathan Schachner (Apr./May 1931)
"Table for Two" by Arthur Leo Zagat (Jan. 1942)
"The Two Moons of Tranquilla" by Arthur Leo Zagat (Jan. 1943)
Letter to "The Eyrie" from Arthur Leo Zagat (Jan. 1943)

For Oriental Stories
"The Song of the Cakes" by Nathan Schachner and Arthur Leo Zagat (Autumn 1931)

(1) I don't know when or how Zagat and Schachner met, but it could have been when they were students. Both attended the City College of New York, but perhaps at different times. Both were chemists and lawyers as well as pulp fictioneers. They would have had many opportunities to run into each other.
(2) I wonder if Schachner would have crossed paths with Sylvia Saltzberg (1896-1952), who was the same age and who worked as a pathologist for the city.
(3) I wrote about John Whiteside Parsons a year ago. I don't remember now if Schachner or any of the other members of the American Rocket Society were mentioned in Parsons' biography. Can anyone help?

"Seven Out of Time" was a six-part serial by Arthur Leo Zagat, published in Argosy Weekly in 1939. The art is by Rudolph Belarski.
Ten years later, Fantasy Press issued the story in hardback with cover art by A.J. Donnell. That's not a bad drawing, but you might as well call it a swipe. Oddly enough, the woman is smiling. I like the ambiguous title by the way. 
"Sunrise Tomorrow" was serialized in Argosy in 1940. The devastated city, the contemporary man thrown into a resulting savage world--it's an old story. I wonder what the first of its kind was. The art was again by Belarski.
Text and captions copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Before the Golden Age-Stanton A. Coblentz

Amazing Stories, the first regular science fiction magazine in America, made its debut in April 1926. Before that, readers of science fiction (a term that had not yet been invented) would have contented themselves with tales told in Argosy and other story magazines. Even after 1926, science fiction magazines were slow in taking off: the next successful titles, Astounding Stories and Wonder Stories, didn't go into print until 1930. Astounding, in its incarnation of 1938, was the place where the Golden Age of Science Fiction began. (1)

Ray Cummings, Ralph Milne Farley, and Murray Leinster wrote their first science fiction stories before 1926 when Amazing Stories first showed up on the newsstand. The next few authors, beginning with Stanton A. Coblentz, made their debut in science fiction between 1926 and 1938. If we were comic book fans, we might call this the Platinum Age. Instead, we'll just continue calling it what Isaac Asimov called it: Before the Golden Age.

Stanton A. Coblentz
Author, Editor, Poet, Critic, Reviewer, Historian
Born August 24, 1896, San Francisco, California
Died September 6, 1982, Monterey, California

I have to begin with an observation: the Internet is part gold (or at least gold-plated) and part sludge. Why is that people writing on the Internet don't do the easiest thing in the world and look to other sources on the Internet for their information? Why do online encyclopedias and databases tell only half the story when the untold half is in plain sight? Shouldn't something that claims to be an encyclopedia be--you know--encyclopedic? Shouldn't a database contain data? Maybe my observation is actually a complaint (but not quite a rant). In any case, I'll go on.

Stanton Arthur Coblentz was born on August 24, 1896, in San Francisco, California. I haven't found anything to suggest that Coblentz was acquainted with other California authors of his day. Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?), George Sterling (1869-1926), and Jack London (1876-1916) were generations older than he. On the other hand, Clark Aston Smith (1893-1961) was roughly the same age as Coblentz. A survivor (an overused word) of the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, Coblentz received his bachelor's and master's degrees at the University of California, Berkeley. He was a prolific writer of reviews, criticism, poetry, satire, fiction, and history. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction describes him as a "novelist and traditionalist poet who wrote polemics in defence of his rather bad verse, beginning with his MA thesis, published as The Poetic Revival in America (1917)." His reputation is that of an imaginative satirist but a poor writer, a stodgy poet, and a critic of the modern in verse. For decades, Coblentz wrote for newspapers such as the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. He also wrote pulp fiction. His first published science fiction was "The Sunken World: A Romance of Atlantis" from Amazing Stories Quarterly, Summer 1928. The Wonder Stick, his first novel in book form, followed in 1929. Coblentz wrote thirteen stories and six poems for Weird Tales, all published between 1942 and 1953. "The Girl with the Indigo Eyes" was published in the magazine after his death. 

There's a great deal of uncompiled information on Stanton A. Coblentz scattered across the face of the Internet. His story is too big for a blog posting. Fortunately, the author penned his own biography, Adventures of a Freelancer: The Literary Exploits and Autobiography of Stanton A. Coblentz, with Dr. Jeffrey M. Eliot (1983). You can also read about Coblentz on Wikipedia, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, and The Internet Speculative Fiction DatabaseScience-Fiction: The Gernsback Years by E. F. and Richard Bleiler (1998) includes a lengthy entry on Coblentz and his works. If you stick with your search, you will find other sources as well.

For Weird Tales
"The Treasure of Red Ash Desert" (Mar. 1942)
"The Victory of the Vita-Ray" (Nov. 1942)
"The Glass Labyrinth" (May 1943)
"The Shoes of Judge Nichols" (Mar. 1944)
"The Man Who Wouldn't Hang" (July 1944)
"To the Moon" (poem, Sept. 1944)
"Midnight Moon" (Nov. 1945)
"For Love of  Phantom" (July 1946)
"On a Weird Planet" (Mar. 1947)
"The Dog That Came Back " (July 1947)
"Atlantis" (Nov. 1947; reprinted Fall 1973)
"The Grotto of Cheer" (May 1948)
"The Daughter of Uzrun" (Sept. 1948)
"The Will of Raminchantra" (Mar. 1949)
"The Ubiquitous Professor Karr" (July 1949)
"The Mysterious Miss Malta" (Jan. 1950)
"The Round Tower" (May 1950)
"The Haunted" (Nov. 1950)
"A Fog Was Blowing" (May 1953)
"The Girl with the Indigo Eyes" (Winter 1985)

At the risk of sounding like Garrison Keillor: Here's a sonnet by Stanton A. Coblentz from 1961:

After the Bomb
By Stanton A. Coblentz

If some small planet, of the billion spheres
That roll with teeming life through edgeless space,
Glares with atomic fire, and disappears
Totally as the warring Trojan race,
Orion will turn calmly as of old,
Perseus gleam with jewel-pointed light,
And deep in Crux a savant may behold
One casual spark puff out against the night

But to this world that struggled eon-long
To climb from scum and ooze to laurel green,
And hear a Shakespeare's voice, a Schubert's song,
And probe the pit of heaven and proton screen,
Who shall compute the loss? The void may throb
With tremblings of a great, lone Watcher's sob.

(1) Astounding Stories, renamed Astounding Science-Fiction in 1938, is still in existence as the digest-sized Analog Science Fiction and Fact. At some point, I don't know when, the hyphen was dropped from the title Astounding Science-Fiction.

Stanton A. Coblentz began his career as an author of science fiction with "The Sunken World" (1928). That story has been reprinted again and again. I believe this is the hardcover edition of 1948 with art by Roy Hunt.
In 1929, Coblentz had his first novel printed in hardbound. Called The Wonder Stick, it's a the story of a caveman, as you might guess by looking at the cover art. The artist was Samuel Glanckoff (1894-1982), an illustrator, cartoonist, and comic book artist.
"The Planet of Youth" was first published in Wonder Stories in October 1932, then reprinted in the British magazine Tales of Wonder in 1938. The artist was W.J. Roberts. 
Jungle girls were popular during the 1940s and '50s and a gorilla on the cover was supposed to sell more books, so why not combine them as in this cover of Thrilling Wonder Stories from Summer 1946? The cover artist was Earle Bergey.
Avon published small paperbacks in the 1940s and '50s and the covers typically looked like this one for Into Plutonian Depths from 1950. The story had originally appeared in Wonder Stories Quarterly in Spring 1931. I don't know the cover artist.
Here are three Avalon hardbacks by Stanton Coblentz: Hidden World (1957) with art by Ric Binkley; The Lizard Lords (1964) with art by Gray Morrow; and The Day the World Stopped (1968), artist unknown. The hidden world beneath the surface of the earth is an ageless idea, older than Hades and as new as Journey to the Center of the Earth, Pellucidar, and The Shaver Mystery. The title of The Day the World Stopped evokes memories of The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951).
Stanton A. Coblentz composed three books in "The Outlanders Series," The Moon People (1964), The Crimson Capsule (aka, The Animal People, 1967), and The Island People (1971). Here's a Belmont edition of the first installment with cover art by O'Brien.
Text and captions copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley