Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What Is the Monster of the Twenty-First Century?-Part Four

Psychopaths and Other Killers

At first glance, the psychopathic killer would appear to be a good candidate for the monster of the twenty-first century, for he embodies to some degree the spirit of the age. In my previous posting, I tied the psychopathic killer or serial killer to the city, a place of loneliness, anxiety, and despair. (1) Jack the Ripper, H.H. HolmesPeter Kürten (aka the "Vampire of Düsseldorf"), John Wayne Gacy, and Jeffrey Dahmer are examples of the urban serial killer. There are also serial killers in small towns and rural areas. And as Jim Morrison sang, there are killers on the road. Large cities inhabited by masses of isolated and desperate people are the natural hunting ground for the killer, but the anonymity and ease of travel in the United States, moreover, the vastness and loneliness of this great continent, also suit him well. Will Rogers said that we are the first nation in history to go to the poorhouse in an automobile. There are those among us who have driven their cars to houses of horror.

The psychopathic killer is scary for sure, but he has some problems, and not just in the obvious ways. First, there aren't many of him (we hope). He is also alone and isolated, without followers and recruits. And for all the power he exercises upon his victims and all the terror he invokes in the general public, he is in essence weak. As evidence, he preys upon the weakest and most vulnerable in society. Psychopaths may hunt among us, but they are also hunted. Jack the Ripper presumably got away. In today's world, it is harder for a serial killer to escape, especially with the advanced technology we have for catching him, such as DNA evidence, surveillance video, cell phones, and crime databases. Not every serial killer is caught, but those that are usually end up being put to death by a far more powerful State. If a monster is a powerful and enduring creature on the edges of the imagination, the psychopath doesn't amount to much. After he is gone, life goes on, and within a couple of generations, his name is largely forgotten.

There are of course other kinds of killers. They, too, are monsters. The mass murderer is one example. The political terrorist is another. Kermit Gosnell ran his own house of horrors in Philadelphia. He represents another kind of monster, one that operates, perhaps significantly, by the apathy, acquiescence, and even outright support of large numbers of people. All these types of monsters embody the spirit of our times in one way or another. All give warning of some kind, which was the original meaning of the word monster. All are aberrant, though maybe not for much longer. None, however, resonates in the way that the monsters of the past resonate. In the end, they may be too ordinary, even banal, for there have been killers among us since the beginning of time.

To be continued . . .

(1) I have been using the terms psychopath, psychopathic killer, and serial killer pretty well interchangeably. That may not be entirely accurate, but you get the idea.

Copyright 2014, 2023 Terence E. Hanley

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

What Is the Monster of the Twenty-First Century?-Part Three

The Psychopathic Monster

When I was a child, I watched monster movies every chance I got. Every Friday night, our local horror host, Sammy Terry, showed monster movies from the 1930s through the 1960s, and on Saturday nights, we were treated to Science Fiction Theater. (1) Then, in the late 1970s and early '80s, a new kind of horror movie showed up at the theater. Mad slashers and hackers--Michael Myers from Halloween (1978), Jason from Friday the Thirteenth (1980), and all their demented offspring--practically monopolized horror movies for years. I objected. My complaint was that these are not horror movies and that slashers and hackers are not monsters. In my mind, a monster is a vampire, a werewolf, a zombie, or a space alien, or a giant ant, tarantula, or praying mantis. A horror movie has a monster, not a human being, as its villain or antagonist. I was not interested in guys with knives. (2) I felt that the essence of horror or terror is not blood and guts but something else. But I was missing something, for the murderous psychopath is in fact a monster, and one of the few real kinds of monsters in human history.

In our scientific age--more accurately, in this age of Scientism--we see psychopathy as a mental illness or as an organic (in other words, material) phenomenon. The psychopath might cut people into pieces, but that's only because there is something wrong with his brain. In the Middle Ages and even into the twentieth century, people who cut, shredded, and consumed other people were called beasts, werewolves, or vampires. They were seen as evil, demonic, or possessed. Only in the nineteenth century, when psychology became a science of sorts, did the psychopath cross over from the realm of the supernatural or metaphysical into the realm of the material or scientific. The psychopath did another kind of crossing over as well. In the Middle Ages, he lived on the fringes of humanity, in a cave, deep in the woods, or in a hovel on the edge of settlement. (3) But in the nineteenth century--not coincidentally, towards the end of the nineteenth century--the psychopathic killer moved to the city, and there he found his natural home.

For most of the history of humanity, we lived on farms and in rural areas. There were cities of course, and people were naturally drawn to cities, but life in the city as we know it was not possible until the mass movements and mass developments of the nineteenth century--mass production, mass transportation, mass education, mass employment, mass organization, mass media, and so on. The psychopathic killer had a hard time of it in his hometown. There would have been little in the way of privacy. Everyone knew everyone else. Moreover, the psychopath would not have easily found prey among people who were intimately connected to family, friends, church, and society. But the developments of the nineteenth gave the psychopath all he needed, for in a city of masses, he found secrecy, privacy, and anonymity for himself, and the loneliness, isolation, and alienation he needed in his prey. By the 1880s, it seems, large cities reached critical mass. In 1888, Jack the Ripper butchered five women in London. Five years later, H.H. Holmes dissected, dissolved, and otherwise mutilated and murdered at least twenty-seven in his Chicago house of horrors. The day of the serial killer had arrived, and as the twentieth century progressed, he became ever more notorious, a true monster for our times. He is still with us and not likely to go away anytime soon, for, again, he thrives on the secrecy, privacy, anonymity, isolation, and alienation of modern life, especially in cities and especially among the lives of the lonely and desperate masses.

To be continued . . .

(1) Both were on WTTV Channel 4 out of Bloomington and Indianapolis, one of the premiere independent TV stations in the United States. Pay TV of today is basically Channel 4 of old: old movies, old television shows, old cartoons, sports, talk shows, news, etc.
(2) I also objected to the stupidity of the characters, who, when faced with the realization that a crazy guy with a knife is on the loose, decide to split up. And I objected to the subtext for so many of those movies: that independent teenagers, experimenting with sex and other transgressions, must be punished by being cut into pieces. It's a kind of Puritanism that, I suppose, goes back to our origins as a nation.
(3) That at least is the popular notion. There were psychopaths or serial killers among the well born as well. Elizabeth Báthory is the obvious example. In any case, it's worth noting that the historical monster also inhabited the outer edges of the world. It's no coincidence that the psychopath--the Medieval beast, vampire, or werewolf--did as well. I will have more on all that by the end of this series of articles.

Copyright 2014, 2023 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, April 28, 2014

What Is the Monster of the Twenty-First Century?-Part Two

Monsters in an Age of Science

About half of the stories from Fritz Leiber's book Night's Black Agents (Berkley, 1978) were first published more than seventy years ago, and all but one are from the 1940s. The world in which he and his monsters lived is now mostly in ruins, the ruins mostly swept away and forgotten. If we in the twenty-first century are to have our monsters, they must be monsters for our time, just as Leiber's monsters were the embodiments of the terrors and anxieties of his own time. So if the monsters of a given age embody the spirit of that age, what then is the spirit of our age? That's not an easy question, and I won't hazard an answer just yet. It might be easier to make a list of candidates for monsters of the twenty-first century.

The supernatural monster is a thing of the past. It can't survive in world in which Scientism is the prevailing belief (1) unless it is given a scientific explanation. If that's the case, then our twenty-first century monsters must have scientific origins. (2) The scientific monster goes back as far as Mary Shelley's Gothic romance Frankenstein (1818) and perhaps a little before that, but only so far as the origins of what we call science. Monsters first imagined or encountered in the nineteenth century--robots, androids, cryptozoological creatures (or cryptids), invisible creatures, aliens from other planets--are all scientific in origin. (3) There are at least two other types of monsters made possible by science and by the developments of the nineteenth century. Both are still with us. Both are candidates for the monster of the twenty-first century.

First, the psychopathic killer.

To be continued . . .

(1) A belief of religious scope and intensity. I have written before about the natural vs. the supernatural and the material vs. the mystical. See my postings on Richard Matheson and Fritz Leiber, Jr.
(2) I'm not sure that is the case, but for the sake of argument, I will just assume that it is.
(3) There were monsters of this type before the nineteenth century to be sure. After all, mechanical monsters appeared as early as the Classical era. However, without science, there can't be a scientific monster, and without a world steeped in science and Scientism, the scientific monster can't displace the supernatural monster.

Copyright 2014, 2023 Terence E. Hanley

Friday, April 25, 2014

What Is the Monster of the Twenty-First Century?-Part One


"We begin by denying all the old haunts and superstitions. Why shouldn't we? They belong to the era of cottage and castle. They can't take root in the new environment."

"The supernatural beings of a modern city? Sure, they'd be different from the ghosts of yesterday. Each culture creates its own ghosts."

--from "The Hound" by Fritz Leiber (Weird Tales, Nov. 1942)

A year and a half ago, I wrote about the problem of the weird tale, namely: how does an essentially Medieval genre remain relevant in a modern age? Consciously or not, Fritz Leiber, Jr., attempted a solution to that problem, especially in his stories "Smoke Ghost" (1941), "The Hound" (1942), and "The Dreams of Albert Moreland" (1945). (1) Leiber's solution was to recognize that, one, there will always be monsters, and, two, that the people of every age create monsters to suit their age, or, as one of the characters in "The Hound" says, "Each culture creates its own ghosts." To that end, Leiber created monsters for the early twentieth-century city--not the vampire, werewolf, witch, or ghost of the Middle Ages, but a sooty, smokey, black rag of a rooftop urban ghost; a slavering, pursuing hound, symbolic of the alienation, isolation, and horror of city life; and a powerful and terrifying chess player, representing a uniquely modern monster, the totalitarian dictator.

So Fritz Leiber, Jr., created monsters for his time. Those monsters represented some of the forces--science, reason, urbanization, mechanization, industrialization--that helped bring about the end of the Medieval world and the monsters that haunted it. But in writing about Fritz Leiber and the problem of the weird tale, I overlooked something that deserves some scrutiny, for the world in which he and his monsters lived is now long gone. We no longer live in the era of the industrial city, just as we no longer live in the "the era of cottage and castle." Just as the werewolf and vampire of the Middle Ages is ill-suited to the twentieth century, so too are the monsters of the modern age ill-suited to our own time. So if the monsters of the twentieth century are as antiquated as the monsters of the Middle Ages--if "[t]hey can't take root in the new environment"--what will our monsters be? In other words, what is the monster of the twenty-first century?

To be continued . . .

(1) The quotes at the heading of this article and many more like them suggest that Leiber's attempts to solve the problem of the weird tale were in fact conscious.

Copyright 2014, 2023 Terence E. Hanley

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Whence R'lyeh?-Part Two

A couple of years ago, I played a little word game in which I derived the name of an imaginary place, R'lyeh, from that of a real place, Brooklyn. H.P. Lovecraft was familiar with both places: he created one and lived in the other. My word game was just that--a game. But for some time now, I have considered the idea that the name R'lyeh came from a certain other source. I may or may not be the first to propose a connection between the two.

R'lyeh is the name of the sunken city in which Cthulhu lies dreaming until the stars are right and he can awaken to reclaim the earth. In "The Call of Cthulhu" (written in 1926, published in 1928), R'lyeh is heaved up from the ocean floor by a powerful earthquake. Worldwide disturbances ensue before the city sinks again, presumably taking its lone inhabitant with it. For the moment we are safe.

Various people have proposed various sources of inspiration for "The Call of Cthulhu." Wikipedia lists some of them:
  • "The Kraken" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1830)
  • "The Horla" by Guy de Maupassant (1887)
  • "The Novel of the Black Seal" by Arthur Machen (1895)
  • The Story of Atlantis (1896) and The Lost Lemuria (1904) by William Scott-Elliott
  • The Gods of Pegāna (1905) and "A Shop in Go-By Street" (1919) by Lord Dunsany
  • The Moon Pool by A. Merritt (1919)
Note that almost all are works of the Victorian Era or by writers of the Victorian Era. Note also that all are works of fiction or verse except for William Scott-Elliott's books, which are pseudo-historical, or, more precisely, Theosophical. Thereby hangs a tale.

Although Theosophy is supposed to have predated the Victorian Era, it is most closely identified with Madame Blavatsky (1831-1891), a Russian occultist and one of the founders of The Theosophical Society. (1) In turn, Madame Blavatsky is identified with her ideas about previous races and civilizations and about the sunken continents Atlantis and Lemuria. Theosophist William Scott-Elliot mapped those continents in his role as the cartographer and historian of places that never were. Even under Scott-Elliott's scheme, the sunken city R'lyeh would have been in a part of the Pacific Ocean distant from Lemuria.

H.P. Lovecraft knew of Theosophy and referred to its believers in the second paragraph of "The Call of Cthulhu":
Theosophists have guessed at the awesome grandeur of the cosmic cycle wherein our world and human race form transient incidents. They have hinted at strange survivals in terms which would freeze the blood if not masked by a bland optimism. But it is not from them that there came the single glimpse of forbidden eons which chills me when I think of it and maddens me when I dream of it.
Richard S. Shaver (1907-1975) and Raymond A. Palmer (1910-1977), the originators of the so-called "Shaver Mystery," were almost certainly inspired by Theosophy as well. (2) Like Theosophy, The Shaver Mystery is a secret history of the earth and its races of men. And like Theosophy, The Shaver Mystery was inspired by a previous source.

In 1956, a guest interviewer on the Long John Nebel radio show asked Raymond A. Palmer if Edward Bulwer-Lytton's novel The Coming Race (1871) was a possible precursor to Shaver's stories of evil, subterranean Deros and beneficial Teros. Palmer admitted that the novel was in fact one precursor, but that The Coming Race is actually further evidence in favor of The Shaver Mystery and not merely a work of fiction. It's a curious and rather deft move to take a possible swipe and turn it into a buttress for your own claims. But that's what Palmer--no fool to be sure--did.

If Shaver and Palmer swiped ideas from The Coming Race, they weren't the first to do so. In Isis Unveiled (1877) and The Secret Doctrine (1888), Madame Blavatsky herself claimed that Bulwer-Lytton's fictional subterranean race and their occult source of energy are essentially real. Through the works of nineteenth century Theosophists, Bulwer-Lytton's ideas were transmitted to the twentieth century, so far in fact that they were supposed to have been studied by Nazi occultists. We know that in part because of Willy Ley's article, "Pseudoscience in Naziland," which appeared in the May 1947 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. The Shaver Mystery was in full swing by then in the pages of Amazing Stories and Fantastic Adventures. Those two magazines were of course the main rivals to Astounding. They were also edited by Ray Palmer. Within a very short time, Raymond A. Palmer and John W. Campbell, the editor of Astounding, would embrace their own versions of pseudoscience (or pseudo-religion), for by the time "Pseudoscience in Naziland" was published, L. Ron Hubbard was already slouching towards Dianetics, and Kenneth Arnold was only a month away from seeing the first flying saucers.

As I have suggested, The Coming Race by Edward Bulwer-Lytton is a novel about a subterranean super-race in control of a powerful source of occult energy. And as I have pointed out, those ideas found their way into the beliefs of the Theosophists and other occultists. They also found their way into the pseudo-religions, pseudo-history, and pseudoscience of the twentieth century. Richard Shaver and Raymond Palmer knew about them. So did John W. Campbell and almost certainly L. Ron Hubbard. And of course they found their way into pulp fiction, more particularly, into "The Call of Cthulhu." The Coming Race by the way was reprinted under a more elaborate title, Vril, the Power of the Coming Race, for Vril was the name Bulwer-Lytton gave his imaginary source of energy. (3) The masters of that energy--Bulwer-Lytton's subterranean super-race--were called Vril-ya, a word echoed in the name of great Cthulhu's island city.

* * *

Before preparing this article, I had never read "The Kraken" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Now that I have read it, it's hard for me to believe that Lovecraft never read the poem or was not inspired by it in his writing of "The Call of Cthulhu." You can judge for yourself. Credit goes to Robert M. Price for making the connection.

The Kraken
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Below the thunders of the upper deep;
Far far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee
About his shadowy sides; above him swell
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;
And far away into the sickly light,
From many a wondrous grot and secret cell
Unnumber'd and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green.
There hath he lain for ages, and will lie
Battening upon huge seaworms in his sleep,
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by man and angels to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.

(1) The Theosophical Society was founded in New York City in 1875. Incidentally, Helena Petrovna Bavatsky shared her first two initials with Howard Phillips Lovecraft.
(2) As were Talbot Mundy, Robert E. Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith.
(3) According to William Scott-Elliott, Vril was also used to power aircraft in ancient Lemuria. In the twentieth century, believers in UFOs proposed something similar as the driving force behind flying saucers.

"Lemuria at its greatest extent," a map by or for William Scott-Elliott and The Theosophical Society. R'lyeh would have been in what is now the South Pacific, well south of Lemuria (orange on the map).

P.S. (Apr. 24, 2014): In my first paragraph above, I wondered whether I am first to make the connection between Vril-Ya and R'lyeh. It turns out I am not. Here is a link to an Internet conversation from 2008:

Text and captions copyright 2014, 2023 Terence E. Hanley

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Johanson and the Monster

The old saying is that life imitates art. In 1926, H.P. Lovecraft composed "The Call of Cthulhu," a story that would become a classic of twentieth century horror and fantasy. Published in Weird Tales in February 1928, "The Call of Cthulhu" is a kind of mystery in which a scientific investigator attempts to reconstruct the events of a time only recently past. The key piece of evidence in his reconstruction is the diary of a Norwegian sailor, Gustaf Johansen, who was there when Cthulhu awoke from his slumbers on the island city of R'lyeh. Johansen was the lone survivor of that encounter, but even he has succumbed to the influence of Cthulhu before the story ends.

The fainting narrator is a cliché in the writings of H.P. Lovecraft. Alternatively, the narrator is driven insane by his experience, sometimes temporarily, often permanently. Even if his insanity is only temporary, the narrator must lie abed before recovering himself. Gustaf Johansen is not the narrator of "The Call of Cthulhu," but of all the characters in the story, he comes in closest contact with its horrors. Made of sturdier stuff than the typical Lovecraftian narrator, Johansen nonetheless falls into a state of depression or despair after encountering Cthulhu. In the end, he dies mysteriously, almost certainly at the hands of cultists.

Four years after the publication of "The Call of Cthulhu," the Swedish overseer of a rubber plantation in the Belgian Congo reported an experience like that of Gustaf Johansen, though admittedly not by degree. His name was J.C. Johanson, and on a hunting trip in the Kasai Valley, he and his bearer encountered a monster out of the past. Described as a lizard sixteen yards long, the creature was devouring a rhinoceros when the two men came upon it. Johanson is supposed to have taken pictures of the creature. The two images circulating on the Internet have been shown to be fakes. In any event, Johanson's reaction is familiar to anyone who has read a story by H.P. Lovecraft:
The experience was too much for my nervous system. Completely exhausted, I sank down behind the bush that had given me shelter. Blackness reigned before my eyes. . . . I must have looked like one demented when at last I regained camp. . . . For eight days I lay in a fever, unconscious nearly all the time. (1)
Even Johanson's expressions--"Blackness reigned before my eyes"--echo writing from the pulps.

I have never seen a Tyrannosaurus rex eating a rhinoceros or for that matter a ham sandwich. I can't say what my reaction would be to such a thing. But pulp writers and moviemakers don't seem to have a lot of faith in the psychological strength and stability of their fellow human beings. If Johanson was laid low by the sighting of a dinosaur in the African jungle, I don't think he should have been in Africa in the first place, so far as it is from a fainting couch. In other words, Johanson's story sounds like a story. I wonder if the man himself ever existed. And if it was just a story, I wonder if the person who thought it up had read "The Call of Cthulhu" not long before.

(1) Quoted in Monsters and Mythic Beasts by Angus Hall (1975), p. 87.

Copyright 2014, 2023 Terence E. Hanley

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Reaching Hands

Reaching hands are something of a cliché‎, especially in movies. Artists and moviemakers use reaching hands to create a sense of mystery and suspense. But using reaching hands on a magazine cover serves another purpose: it allows the artist to pack a lot of stuff into his or her tableau, and whoever can't fit can at least get his hand into the picture. That's not always the case, but it happens often enough, and when it does, the composition suffers, as in Rankin's cover and Senf's cover from January 1931. Even Margaret Brundage was guilty in an otherwise fine cover from March 1937. In any case, the artists who contributed to Weird Tales relied on reaching hands for twelve covers in all. 

Weird Tales, April 1930. Cover story: "The Dust of Egypt" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by Hugh Rankin. The first reaching hand cover doesn't quite fit the pattern, for the hand isn't obviously a threat, even if seems to be controlling the creature in the background.

Weird Tales, May 1930. Cover story: "The Brain Thief" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by C.C. Senf. You almost get three for one in this picture: the guy in the turban has not one but two reaching hands. In the background is another reaching hand holding a sword. As you can see, sometimes the reaching hand is the hand of a good guy, but most of the time, it's the hand of a bad guy.

Weird Tales, January 1931. Cover story: "The Lost Lady" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by C.C. Senf, whose weird-menace cover has a little bit of everything: a beautiful and scantily clad woman, a green monster, a bald villain with a cat-o'-nine-tails, a reaching hand holding a pistol, and some bondage for those who favor that kind of thing. There's so much squeezed into the picture in fact that the hero is squeezed out. As always, Senf handled the female form, face, and hair very nicely and with good taste. It's pretty plain to me that Senf liked and respected women, even if he did tie them to a post on occasion. There are entirely too many artists who don't like or respect women, and they show it in their art.

Weird Tales, November 1931. Cover story: "Placide's Wife" by Kirk Mashburn. Cover art by C.C. Senf. From here on out, the reaching hands are bad hands, or at least they appear to be.

Weird Tales, December 1931. Cover story: "The Dark Man" by Robert E. Howard. Cover art by C.C. Senf. This may be the most well composed of all the reaching hand covers.

Weird Tales, July 1932. Cover story: "The Phantom Hand" by Victor Rousseau. Cover art by C.C. Senf. At last, the reaching hand has found its way into the title of a cover story!

Weird Tales, March 1935. Cover story: "Clutching Hands of Death" by Harold Ward. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. Here the reaching hands have become "clutching hands," and not just any clutching hands, but "clutching hands of death." 

Weird Tales, May 1935. Cover story: "The Death Cry" by Craig Kennedy. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. Finally, a man rather than a woman is in peril from the reaching hands.

Weird Tales, March 1937. Cover story: "Strange Orchids" by Dorothy Quick. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. Here the reaching hand is actually a shadow of a reaching hand. The shadow on the cover of Weird Tales is a theme for another day. The woman coated in gold showed up later in James Bond's bed in Goldfinger. Margaret Brundage made nice use of the three primary colors here.

Weird Tales, March 1938. Cover story: "Incense of Abomination" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. Look carefully for the reaching hands.

Weird Tales, May 1941. I believe the cover story is "There Are Such Things" by Seabury Quinn. The cover artist was Hannes Bok. Here the reaching hand imperils an effigy of the heroine instead of her real self. Bok's cover may fit into the reaching hand category only just barely.

Weird Tales, January 1951. Cover story: "The Hand of Saint Ury" by Gordon MacCreagh. Cover art by Charles A. Kennedy. Ten years went by before the reaching hand showed up again. I think it's a bad hand. Just look at those nails. Plus, it's green. But I'm not sure. Note the skulls in the woman's eyes.

Updated December 3, 2018.
Text and captions copyright 2014, 2023 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, April 14, 2014

John Giunta Update

A reader (also a writer), Christopher M. O'Brien, has kindly provided me with Sam Moskowitz's two-page personalized obituary of John Giunta from Luna Monthly No. 20 (January 1971). Sam Moskowitz may have his detractors, but to his credit, he wrote about people and events about which no one else has written. His obituary of John Giunta has as much personal information on the artist as anyone will ever know.

John Giunta did indeed pass away on November 6, 1970, at age fifty. Unless he was about to turn fifty-one at his death, that would make his birth year 1920. Maybe only the city or state of New York knows his birthdate. Giunta did not die alone, but he lived alone. As Sam Moskowitz wrote:
His death was in the all-too sad tradition of artists which has become almost stereotyped in fiction and moving pictures. He died nearly penniless, receiving public assistance and with art assignments rare and poorly paid. Though only 50, he looked nearly 65, and probably did not weigh much over 100 pounds at the time of his death.
Giunta suffered a stroke in his room at the Village Plaza Hotel in New York. He died eight hours later in the hospital.

"He was a gentle, soft-spoken, kindly, generous individual," Moskowitz wrote, "optimistically striving to better his fortunes throughout his entire life. He was always his own man, losing many important assignments rather than compromise his ideas."

 * * *

I listed Giunta's credits in my previous postings on him. There's one I missed however. In 1949, John Giunta edited a comic book called True Crime Comics. Among the contributors were Giunta's science fiction friends, Sam Moskowitz, Raymond Van Houten, and James V. Taurasi. Also among the contributors was Giunta's nephew, Aldo Giunta. Like his uncle, Aldo Giunta contributed to fan publications. He also had a story, "Jingle in the Jungle," published in If in June 1957.

* * *

In the same issue announcing the death of John Giunta, Luna Monthly also announced the death of the artist Steele Savage. Born in Michigan in 1900 (Correction: Dec. 21, 1898), Savage illustrated a number of books, including science fiction books by John Brunner and Robert A. Heinlein. He also contributed to Famous Fantastic Mysteries in the 1940s. Savage died on December 5, 1970. I was researching Savage's life well before I read of his death in Luna Monthly. My sense is that Steele Savage may have been another in a line of artists (or human beings in general) that is entirely too long: men and women who have lived lonely and very often desperate lives. The question is: Must the artist suffer so that he might create? There have been happy artists, artists with families. N.C. Wyeth is one who comes to mind (although he died suddenly and tragically). Even so, does the artist suffer so that the rest of humanity might gain some joy or pleasure from his work? Did H.P. Lovecraft practically starve himself so that we might have his stories to read? I'm not sure that such things are needful. It may be that the artist is a person who finds himself in a box of a certain kind (as we all do), and though he can escape one kind of box, he can't escape another. And so--despite his suffering and desperation, and very often by heroic effort--he creates.

The Rolling Stones by Robert A. Heinlein, with cover art by Steele Savage (1900-1970). Savage painted in a style that is at once dreamlike and hyperrealistic. That peculiar combination is sometimes referred to as magical realism and was popular in the 1930s, '40s, and '50s, especially in illustration and advertising. Simon Greco (1917-2005) was another practitioner of magical realism. If I remember right, The Rolling Stones has Tribble-like creatures, just in case you're putting together a list of influences on the TV show Star Trek

Thanks to Christopher M. O'Brien for providing the article from Luna Monthly.
Text and captions copyright 2014, 2023 Terence E. Hanley

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Tarleton Collier (1888 or 1889-1970)

Edward Tarleton Collier
Aka Georgia O'Keats
Reporter, Editor, Author, Poet, Public Speaker, Penologist
Born December 22, 1888 or 1889, Mobile, Alabama
Died June 4, 1970, Fulton County, Georgia

Edward Tarleton Collier was born on December 22, 1888 or 1889, in Mobile and grew up in Montgomery, Alabama. Collier graduated from Auburn University in 1907, presumably with a bachelor's degree. He also received a master's degree from Auburn and studied at the University of Chicago. Collier was a newspaperman for more than a quarter century: editor of the Selma Journalreporter for, then editor of the Atlanta Georgian; then with the Chicago American, International News Service (I.N.S.), and by the mid 1940s editor of the Louisville Courier-Journal. Collier also worked for the Farm Security Administration in Montgomery, Alabama. According to an anonymous commenter (below): "Tarleton Collier also wrote for many years for the Atlanta Journal Constitution under the pen name of Georgia O'Keats. It was political commentary in poetry form." Thanks to Anonymous for the added information. (Updated July 18, 2017.)

From 1914 to 1938, Tarleton Collier wrote for pulp and story magazines, including Baseball Stories, Breezy Stories, Brief Stories, The Midland, The Parisienne Monthly Magazine, The Smart Set, Snappy Stories, Telling Tales, and Young's Magazine. He wrote two stories for Weird Tales, "The Siren" from June 1923 and "Top of the World" from November 1935. Collier also wrote Georgia Penal System (1938), Penal System: A Reflection of Our Lives and Our Customs (1940), and Fire in the Sky (1941), a novel of the South. He died on June 4, 1970, in Fulton County, Georgia.

Tarleton Collier's Stories in Weird Tales
"The Siren" (June 1923)
"Top of the World" (Nov. 1935)

Further Reading
"Top of the World" was reprinted in 100 Wild Little Weird Tales, edited by Stefan R. Dziemianowicz, Robert Weinberg, and Martin H. Greenberg (1994). 

Thanks to Anonymous (comment below) for additional information.
Text and captions copyright 2014, 2023 Terence E. Hanley

Friday, April 11, 2014

Fiswoode Tarleton (1884-1931)

Author, Editor, Instrument Maker
Born August 14, 1884, Decatur, Georgia
Died April 2, 1931, near Bryson City, North Carolina

The 1929 city directory of Atlanta, Georgia, gives the following listings in exactly this order:
Tarleton Collier spl writer The Georgian Co
" Fiswoode r125 7th NE
The first man was newspaperman Edward Tarleton Collier, better known as Tarleton Collier and born on December 22, 1888 or 1889, in Mobile, Alabama. (1) The second was author and editor Fiswoode Tarleton, born August 14, 1884, in Decatur, Georgia (according to Fulton and Campbell Counties, Georgia, Cemetery Records, 1857-1933). The compilers of that city directory obviously made a mistake, listing a man with the first name Tarleton immediately above a man with the last name Tarleton. Both were writers. Both shared the name Tarleton. The first question that leaps to mind is this: Did they know each other? I'll tell you right now, that question is trivial. A far better question is this one: How did the names of those two men, both of whom contributed to Weird Tales, end up in juxtaposition in a 1929 city directory? Do you see what I mean when I say the world is very often essentially weird? I set out to write about Fiswoode Tarleton. Now I am obliged to write about Tarleton Collier as well. Fiswoode first.

Fiswoode Tarleton was born on August 14, 1884. I have been unable to find him in census records. However, a man by that name filled out a draft card in Boston in 1918. He was then working as an instrument maker. Tarleton's headstone gives a birth date of 1890. That date appears to be merely an approximation, rushed through upon the author's sudden and unexpected death. But is it possible there were two men in the history of this country named Fiswoode Tarleton? It's possible, but an article from Poetry, 1921, announced the arrival of a new magazine of verse, called Voices and published in Boston, with Fiswoode Tarleton as associate editor. I think it's safe to assume that they were one in the same and that Tarleton was born not in 1890 but in 1884.

By 1929, Tarleton was in Atlanta, Georgia, listed, if not living, next to Tarleton Collier. In addition to being associate editor of Voices, Tarleton was editor of The Modern ReviewHe also wrote short stories for Adventure, The American Magazine, The Bookman, The Century, Echo, The Golden Book Magazine, Good Housekeeping, McClure's Magazine, The Modern Review, Overland MonthlyPlain Talk, and Weird Tales. His story "Curtains" (or "Bloody Ground"), from McClure's Magazine (May 1928), won him an O. Henry Award in 1928.

Fiswoode Tarleton was a Southerner and loved the South and the mountains of the South, for he wrote a book, published in 1929, called Bloody Ground, A Cycle of the Southern Hills. The New York Times had this to say about Bloody Ground:
The book flames and writhes. The pictures burn into the brain. One will encounter few books as unforgettable as "Bloody Ground." Fiswoode Tarleton, a Chaucer of the Southern hills [. . .] has transcribed a speech that will soon be lost, transfixed in flight a vanishing race, and written a cycle of stories which are both powerful and distinctive. (2)
Tarleton wrote a second book, Some Trust in Chariots, published in 1930. Unfortunately, his very promising career was nearing its end.

About this time of year in 1931, Fiswoode Tarleton went to visit with another writer named Horace Kephart at Kephart's North Carolina home. On the evening of April 2, Kephart and Tarleton hired a taxi to drive them to a bootlegger's place near Cherokee. (This was still during Prohibition.) On the way back to Bryson City, the car overturned. The driver survived, but the two authors, Horace Kephart and Fiswoode Tarleton, were killed. Swain High School auditorium in Bryson City was full up on April 5 for the funeral, for Kephart (1862-1931) was a greatly admired writer and a lover of his adopted mountain home. He is remembered even today. And for some reason that may be lost, his guest, Fiswoode Tarleton, who was at the time of his death a resident of Decatur, Georgia, was buried with Kephart at Bryson City Cemetery. He was, then, once again placed next to a fellow writer.

(1) Collier died on June 4, 1970, in Fulton County, Georgia, and was buried in Fairburn, Georgia.
(2) New York Times, February 4, 1929, p. 63.

Fiswoode Tarleton's Story in Weird Tales
"The Blue Lizard" (June 1928)

Further Reading
If you do a  search for "Fiswoode Tarleton," "Tarleton Collier," and especially "Horace Kephart," you will find many articles of interest on the Internet.

A gallery of covers of Adventure, one of the premium pulps, with Fiswoode Tarleton's byline on the cover.  The first is from 1925, the last from February 1, 1931, two months before the author's death.
Updated on July 22, 2021.
Text and captions copyright 2014, 2023 Terence E. Hanley

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Marietta Hawley (1836-1926)

Pseudonym of Marietta Holley
Aka "Josiah Allen's Wife"
Poet, Author, Humorist, Music Teacher
Born July 16, 1836, near Adams, Jefferson County, New York
Died March 1, 1926, near Pierrepont Manor, Jefferson County, New York

I have pored through the list of writers who contributed to Weird Tales, and I thought I had found all of its writers of the nineteenth century. Now another turns up. I guess this is why it's called research.

The November 1927 issue of Weird Tales closed with a long poem called "The Haunted Mansion" by Marietta Hawley. That name would probably not have been familiar to the magazine's readers, for it was an old pseudonym of an author who had died the year before at age eighty-nine. Her poem would not have been familiar, either, for it was already six decades old, having originally appeared in 1867 in Peterson's Magazine as "The Haunted Castle." The author's real name, Marietta Holley, would likely have been unknown as well. And perhaps only a few readers would have remembered her nom de plume, "Josiah Allen's Wife." Nonetheless, at one time, Marietta Holley was one of the most popular writers in America.

Marietta Holley was born on July 16, 1836, near the town of Adams in Jefferson County, New York. Called "the female Mark Twain," she was younger than old Sam Clemens by just eight months. Like him and other American humorists of the nineteenth century ("Josh Billings," "Petroleum V. Nasby"), Marietta Holley used a pseudonym in her popular writings. She began as "Marietta Hawley," a poet, but with the publication of My Opinions and Betsey Bobbet's (1872), she became known as "Josiah Allen's Wife." Over the next four decades, Marietta Holley wrote more than two dozen books. Ten were in her very popular "Samantha" series, Samantha being Mrs. Josiah Allen and the narrator of the books.

The New York Times called the Samantha series "beloved" by readers of the 1880s through the early 1900s, yet Marietta was little remembered even late in her own lifetime. My library is small, but I have not found her in The Popular Book by James D. Hart (1950) or The Popular American Novel, 1865-1920 by Herbert F. Smith (1980). Nor have I found her in American Humor by Constance Rourke (1931), The Rise and Fall of American Humor by Jesse Bier (1968), or The Comic Spirit in America edited by John K. Massey (1969). Then I looked in the book Laughing Their Way: Women's Humor in America by Martha Bensley Bruère and Mary Ritter Beard (1934), and there she was--though only briefly (and, incidentally, in a section called "Feminists"). The point of all this is that the writings of Marietta Holley, so popular in their day, quickly passed from memory after her death. Kate H. Winter has helped to revive the memory of "Josiah Allen's Wife" in Marietta Holley: Life with "Josiah Allen's Wife", originally published in 1984 and more recently in a paperback edition.

Marietta Holley died on March 1, 1926, thus she lived into the Weird Tales era, though not long enough to see her poem published in the November 1927 issue. That poem, again, originally entitled "The Haunted Castle," was reprinted in Weird Tales as "The Haunted Mansion." I can't say why. In any case, here it is in its entirety.

The Haunted Castle
by Marietta Holley
(reprinted in Weird Tales as "The Haunted Mansion")

It stands alone on a haunted shore,
With curious words of deathless lore
On its massive gate impearled;
And its carefully guarded mystic key
Locks in its silent mystery
From the seeking eyes of the world.

Oft do its stately walls repeat
Echoes of music wildly sweet
Swelling to gladness high-- 
With mournful ballads of ancient time,
And funeral hymns--and a nursery rhyme
Dying away in a sigh.

Pictures out of each haunted room,
Up through the ghostly shadows loom,
And gleam with a spectral light;
Pictures lit with a radiant glow,
And some that image such desolate woe
That, weeping, you turn from the sight.

Shining like stars in the twilight gloom
Brows as white as a lily's bloom
Gleam from its lattice and door;
And voices soft as a seraph's note,
Through its mysterious chambers float
Back from eternity's shore.

In the mournful silence of midnight air
You hear on its stately and winding stair
The echoes of fairy feet.
Gentle footsteps that lightly fall
Through the enchanted castle hall,
And up in the golden street.

And still in a dark forsaken tower,
Crowned with a withered cypress flower,
Is a bowed head turned away;
A face like carved marble white,
Sweet eyes drooping away from the light,
Shunning the eye of day.

And oft when the light burns low and dim
A haggard form ungainly and grim
Unbidden enters the door;
With chiding eyes whose burning light
You fain would bury in darkness and night,
Never to meet you more.

Mysteries strange its still walls keep,
Strange are the forms that through it sweep-- 
Walking by night and by day.
But evermore will the castle hall
Echo their footsteps' phantom fall,
Till its walls shall crumble away.

"Josiah Allen's Wife"--Marietta Hawley (1836-1926).

Update with a photograph on June 3, 2023.
Original text copyright 2014, 2023 Terence E. Hanley