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.
Text and captions copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley

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