and Fangs for Reading
from Tellers of Weird Tales!
|Storm King Rides (1933)|
|Battling Buckaroos (1940)|
|Flyin' M Buckaroo, a British edition (date unknown). Observers and fans have asked the question Is science fiction dying?, but has anybody asked Are Westerns dying? Does anyone care in the same way that they care about science fiction? Put another way, why should science fiction hold a special place when other genres have fallen by the wayside? Why are there no more railroad stories, boxing stories, or Oriental adventure stories? Did those genres have their time and place, and should they now be relegated to the past? If so, why shouldn't science fiction also have had its glory, a glory now past?|
|Not at Night (1960), with Galen C. Colin's story "Teeth."|
|Two magazines with Valma Clark's byline on the cover, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine for November 1944 (top) and for August 1949, Australian edition (bottom).|
Science fiction already has tales of giant amoebas that have escaped from the laboratory of some mad scientist. (p. 247)
"Sweeney Todd . . . is the earliest psychopath that I have found in literature."
The earliest psychopath as the central character, perhaps. Quite a few of the "bad knights" in mediaeval Arthurian stories show psychopathic features. One very early candidate as a psychopath is Procrustes in Greek mythology.
He is known chiefly for a famous, or infamous, bed which he offered, in the guise of hospitality, to his victims. If they were too short for the bed, he stretched their limbs until they fit. If they were too long for the bed, he lopped off whatever was necessary to make them fit. Theseus killed him by shortening him to fit his own bed. (p. 244)
[Hence our adjective procrustean: = "tending to produce conformity by violent means."] (The brackets are in the original.) (1)
His [Theseus'] idea of dealing with justice was simple, but effective: what each had done to others, Theseus did to him. Sciron, for instance, who had made those he captured kneel to wash his feet and then kicked them down into the sea, Theseus hurled over a precipice. Sinis, who killed people by fastening them to two pine trees bent down to the ground and letting the trees go, died in that way himself. Procrustes was placed upon the iron bed which he used for his victims . . . . (p. 210).
|Richard Harris Barham, aka Thomas Ingoldsby (1788-1845)|
The essence of science fiction is that this is a changing world. . . .
If we are to survive into that Infinite Future that science fiction writers of previous decades have managed to insinuate into the mental background of the world's dreams, then we are going to have to pay close political attention to what we have done with the products of science and their undesirable biproducts [sic]: pollution, overpopulation, and atomic warfare.
Of course science fiction does not play solely the role of Cassandra. It cannot afford to. It must, in occasional stories, point to these evils, but to rely on its enlarging audience, to keep the contentment of its constant readers, it must continue in the main to maintain a belief in human infinity. . . . To do otherwise would very soon cause science fiction itself--as a marketable category--to disappear. A steady diet of foreboding and horrifics would be palatable only to the misanthrope.
|The 1972 Annual World's Best SF, edited by Donald A. Wollheim and with cover art by Frank Frazetta. The imagery comes from fantasy rather than from science fiction. The mood however, is hopeful, confident, forward-looking, and triumphant, all hallmarks of classic science fiction.|
Whether intentionally or not, Caligari exposes the soul wavering between tyranny and chaos, and facing a desperate situation: any escape from tyranny seems to throw it into a state of utter confusion. Quite logically, the film spreads an all-pervading atmosphere of horror. (p. 74)
Caligari was too high-brow to become popular in Germany. However, its basic theme--the soul being faced with the seemingly unavoidable alternative of tyranny or chaos--exerted extraordinary fascination. Between 1920 and 1924, numerous German films insistently resumed this theme . . . . (p. 77)
Among [these films], Nosferatu, released in 1922, enjoyed particular fame for initiating the fashion of screen vampires. (p. 77)
When speaking of Nosferatu, the critics, even more than in the case of Caligari, insisted upon bringing in E.T.A. Hoffman. However, this reference to the film's romantic antecedents does not account for its specific meaning. The horrors Nosferatu spreads are caused by a vampire identified with pestilence. . . . He is a blood-thirsty, blood-sucking tyrant figure looming in those regions where myths and fairy tales meet. (p. 79)
The Germans obviously held that they had no choice other than the cataclysm of anarchy or a tyrannical regime. (p. 88)
The German soul, haunted by the alternative images of tyrannic rule and instinct-governed chaos, threatened by doom on either side, tossed about in gloomy space like the phantom ship in Nosferatu. (p. 107)
|Robert C. Albright (1903-1973). Photograph from the Washington Post, colorized for posting here.|
|Two covers of Adventure with Davis' byline, from May 15, 1932 (top), and December 15, 1932 (bottom). The bottom cover is signed "A. Cucchi." Presumably that was Anthony Cucchi.|