Sunday, May 31, 2015

A. Merritt Art Gallery-Three Lines of Old French

"Three Lines of Old French" by A. Merritt in
All-Story Weekly, August 9, 1919

"Three Lines of Old French" is another of A. Merritt's fantasies about crossing over or passing through boundaries. It is an unusual story in that it is set in France during the Great War, which had ended not even a year before the story was published. I don't know of very many tales of fantasy, science fiction, or weird fiction that are set during the war and on the front lines. Maybe the war was too horrible to treat it in what many would consider non-serious genres of fiction. The cover story is "The Curse of Capistrano" by Johnson McCully. The cover art is unsigned and the artist is unknown.

"Three Lines of Old French" is too short for publication as a novel. Nonetheless, it took up all of one volume in a short-lived series called Bizarre. This is the cover of Bizarre #1 from 1937. 

The story was reprinted again in Famous Fantastic Mysteries for May-June 1940. The artist was Frank R. Paul.

The interior art was by Virgil Finlay. You might remember this image from my article called "Weird Tales and World War I" dated November 11, 2011, here.

In Observance of Memorial Day.

Captions copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Republic of the Future by Anna Bowman Dodd-Part Two

The Republic of the Future was first published in 1887. I have read it in an edition in which the author is uncredited (Rahway, N.J.: W.L. Mershon & Co., 1887). (The copyright is by O.M. Dunham.) It's a short book, only eighty-six pages in all. Each of the seven chapters takes the form of a letter from a Swedish nobleman named Wolfgang to his friend Hannevig back home.

The weakness in a utopian or dystopian novel is always that the author is so busy describing her perfect (or perfectly awful) society that she doesn't have time to tell a story. That's true of The Republic of the Future as well. The point isn't really to tell a story, though. Anna Bowman Dodd's point was that socialism is a recipe for misery, something we all ought to know by now but that we must seemingly learn anew with every generation.

Wolfgang the nobleman travels from Sweden, where people are free, to New York Socialistic City by way of an undersea tunnel. His first letter is dated December 1, 2050. He describes what he sees to Hannevig in epistolary form:
To connect the word enjoyment with the aspect of these serious socialists is almost laughable. A more sober collection of people I never beheld. They are as solemn as the oldest and wisest of owls. They have the look of people who have come to the end of things and who have failed to find it amusing. The entire population appear to be eternally in the streets . . . on the lookout for something that never happens. What indeed, is there to happen? Have they not come to the consummation of everything, of their dreams and their hopes and desires? A man can't have his dream and dream it too. (pp. 22-23)
One of the residents of New York explains to Wolfgang: "The State scientists now regulate all such matters [regarding eating]. Once a month our Officer of Hygiene comes and examines each member of the household. He then prescribes the kind of food he thinks you require for the next few weeks," after which prescription every person orders his or her food to be delivered by tube. (pp. 28-29) 
Some of the women are still pretty, in spite of their hideous clothes. But they all tell me, they wouldn't be [pretty] if they could help it, as they hold that the beauty of their sex was the chief cause of their long-continued former slavery; they consider comeliness now as a brand and mark of which to be ashamed. . . . I should say that the prettiness which has descended to some of the women fails to awaken any old-time sentiment or gallantry on the part of the men. There has, I learn, been a gradual decay of the erotic sentiment, which doubtless accounts for the indifference among the men. . . . (pp. 36-37)
The few men . . . whom I saw seemed to me to be allowed to exist as specimen examples of a fallen race. Of course, this view is more or less an exaggeration. But the women here do appear to possess by far the most energy, vigor, vitality and ambition. (p. 38)
A law was passed providing that children almost immediately after birth, should be brought up, educated and trained under state direction. . . . It has followed, of course, that with the jurisdiction of the state over the children of the community, all family life has died out. (pp. 39-40)
Break away from his past as hard as ever he may try, [the American] has still found himself heir to his past, and his heredity dominates him in spite of all his attempts to throw it off. (p. 46)
Well, if some of the ineradicable, indestructible principles in human nature could be changed as easily as laws are made or unmade, the chances for an ideal realization of the happiness of mankind would be the more easily attained. But the Socialists committed the grave error of omitting to count some of these determining laws into the sum of their calculations. (p. 56)
The longer I stay here the more I am impressed with the profound melancholy which appears to have taken possession of this people. The men, particularly, seem sunk in a torpor of dejection and settled apathy. (p. 58)
The race having been leveled to a common plane, there has been a gradual dying out of individuality. (p. 60)
. . . the entire population seems to have but one serious purpose in life--to murder time which appears to be slowly killing them. (p. 63)
All scholars, authors, artists and scientists who were found on examination to be more gifted than the average, were exiled. A strict law was passed . . . forbidding mental or artistic development being carried beyond a certain fixed standard, a standard attainable by all. (p. 66)
It is the State that directs all such ventures [involving trade and commerce]. But the State, for some reason or other, does not appear to be a success as a merchant or as a commercial financier. (p. 71)
The law of equality, with its logical decrees for the suppression of superiority, has brought about the other extreme, sterility. The crippling of individual activity has finally produced its legitimate result--it has fatally sapped the energies of the people. (p. 73)
. . . if men are to be made equal, such equality can only be maintained by the suppression of degrees of inequality. (p. 74)
An account from a history read by Wolfgang: ". . . for years the state penitentiaries were filled with men whose crime was their unconquerable desire selfishly to surpass their less fortunate brothers." (p. 75)
Wolfgang gives his assessment of socialist New York to one of the residents: "In attempting to make the people happy by insuring equality of goods and equal division of property, you have found it necessary to stultify ambition and to kill aspiration. Therefore a healthy, vigorous morale has ceased to exist. . . . Ennui is the curse of the land." (p. 84)
I have quoted at such length for a reason, for I think that these quotes and the book as a whole fairly describe our time, or as well as any bit of fiction from 1887 might. Friedrich Nietzsche's concept of the Last Man from Thus Spoke Zarathustra (published 1883-1891) sounds like Anna's socialist American. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., returned to the theme in 1961 with his short story, "Harrison Bergeron," which begins:
          The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren't only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else.
That equality is enforced by the United States Handicapper General, Diana Moon Glampers, who I imagine looks like Kathleen Sibelius. The title character is taken away from his family because of his superior physical and intellectual abilities. His father, also superior, has a "mental handicap radio in his ear." Every twenty seconds it goes off, thereby scrambling his thoughts and making him incapable of dissent or rebellion. Harrison attempts a revolution, but . . . well, you just have to read the story. In fact you should read the story, as soon as you can.

* * *

It's interesting to me that Anna Bowman Dodd, who was more remote from our time than was Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., set her story in 2050 vs. his setting of 2081--interesting in that she was more accurate in her prediction than he was. And before you say, "Aw, come on, that's not going to happen," consider the exact words of Adam Swift, a so-called philosopher of this very moment:
One way philosophers might think about solving the social justice problem would be by simply abolishing the family. If the family is this source of unfairness in society then it looks plausible to think that if we abolished the family there would be a more level playing field.
And on the issue of loving parents who read to their children, thereby bestowing upon them an advantage in life, Mr. Swift has this to say:
I don’t think parents reading their children bedtime stories should constantly have in their minds the way that they are unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children, but I think they should have that thought occasionally.
Oh, thank you, Mr. Swift, most high and exalted thinker, for this very special dispensation of allowing us to continue to read to our children.

* * *

Adam Swift's opinions remind me of a work written by another man named Swift. It was only a modest proposal when that Mr. Swift suggested that poverty and starvation in Ireland might be cured by eating children. Anyway, if you want to read about Adam Swift and his ideas, you can start with an article called "Is Having a Loving Family an Unfair Advantage?" by Joe Gelonesi, dated May 1, 2015, here. As for the question of happiness under a socialist regime, you might want to read "The Danish Don't Have the Secret to Happiness" by Michael Booth, dated January 30, 2015, here. A quote from that article from newspaper columnist Anne Sophia Hermansen of the daily Berlingske:
It is so boring in Denmark. We wear the same clothes, shop in the same places, see the same TV, and struggle to know who to vote for because the parties are so alike. We are so alike it makes me weep.
Here's another from Niels Lillelund of Jyllands-Posten:
In Denmark we do not raise the inventive, the hardworking, the ones with initiative, the successful or the outstanding; we create hopelessness, helplessness, and the sacred, ordinary mediocrity.
I don't know why they're complaining. These people live in a perfect society, one for which we should all be striving, one that we will have once we have laid waste to the past and have progressed into the glorious future. In fact you might even call that perfect society the Republic of the Future.

* * *

You can fairly say that I have cherry-picked from The Republic of the Future the quotes that best describe our current state of affairs. The book includes many predictions that have not come true or that are inaccurate. You might also say that the author, Anna Bowman Dodd, had a conflict of interest. After all, her father and husband were both merchants. Of course she would point out the flaws of a system that threatened her values and her way of life. That's what privileged people do. I would answer: Yes, Anna's father and husband were merchants, but people don't oppose socialism because it threatens to upset the apple cart of the current economy. They oppose it because socialism threatens human freedom and is destructive to the human spirit. And I would ask: How is economic freedom not freedom? Should we be content to give up our freedom of speech if all other freedoms are allowed to remain intact? How does that make any sense? I would say instead that a threat to any of our freedoms is a threat to all of our freedoms. Anna Bowman Dodd and people like her have pointed these things out. The people who today threaten those same freedoms don't like it. And that's why we hear all the name-calling and the whining about "reactionary" "attacks" on socialism. 

* * *

I'm still on the lookout for the first totalitarian in literature. The Republic of the Future doesn't provide him. But it does provide a prescient view of a future society, a society painfully like our own, and a warning that has gone unheeded by countless millions of people in this land of the free and home of the brave.

The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction for October of 1961. The cover is by the great Chesley Bonestell. The dream of science fiction was that this would be our future. "Harrison Bergeron," which first appeared in this issue, now seems closer to the truth.

Text and captions copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Republic of the Future by Anna Bowman Dodd-Part One

Awhile back, in writing about Francis Stevens, I mentioned a book called The Republic of the Future by Anna Bowman Dodd (1887), an early dystopian novel and maybe the first by an American woman or by any woman anywhere. There isn't much about Anna Bowman Dodd on the Internet. Unfortunately, I don't have access to the online resources that I have used in the past in researching and writing about writers and artists. I'll just have to go with what I have found.

Anna Bowman Blake was born on January 21, 1858, in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of a merchant. In 1883, she married Edward Williams Dodd (1848-1909), a Bostonian and a direct descendant of John Hancock. Like his father-in-law, Dodd was a merchant. He was also a clubman, and according to the New York Times (Oct. 1, 1909), the Dodds' home on Madison Avenue in New York "was the rendezvous for all that was most distinguished in the social world, in art, and in literature." In later years he and his wife lived in France. Dodd was in failing health for some time towards the end of his life. He died at his home, Le Manoir de Vasouy, in Honfleur, Calvados, Normandy, on September 6, 1909. His widow survived him by two decades, dying in Paris on January 29, 1929.

Described by the Encyclopedia Americana as "a voluminous writer for the magazines from her youth," Anna Bowman Dodd authored many books, most of which are travel books, including Cathedral Days: A Tour in Southern England (1887), Glorinda, A Story (novel, 1888), On the Broads (illustrated by Joseph Pennell, 1896), Castilian Days (1899), Falaise, the Town of the Conqueror (1900), In the Palaces of the Sultan (non-fiction, 1903), On the Knees of the Gods (novel, 1908), Heroic France (1915), Up the Seine to the Battlefields (1920), In and Out of Three Normandy Inns (1924), Tallyrand, the Training of a Statesman, 1754-1838 (1927), The Struthers, and An American Husband in Paris. She also wrote for The London Art Journal. The Republic of the Future, or Socialism, A Reality, from 1887, was her first book or one of her first. Though satirical, it is also a serious foretelling of a future society into which we seemed to have arrived, at least in part.

You would think that a long-forgotten writer would remain forgotten. Instead, Anna Bowman Dodd was recently (in relative terms) the subject of an article called "An 1887 Science Fiction Novel Predicted DeBlasio and Bloomberg’s New York" by Daniel Greenfield (Feb. 15, 2014). When it comes to predictions, I'm with Yogi Berra who said (perhaps apocryphally), "It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future." Science fiction writers aren't very good at making predictions, but we should remember that science fiction isn't about prediction. Instead, the idea is to extrapolate into the future, or into an alternate past or present, what we already know about ourselves and the world in which we live. That's where the predictive power comes from, and that was what Anna Bowman Dodd was able to do, to a really startling degree, in 1887. I should point out that Looking Backward: 2000-1887 by Edward Bellamy (1850-1898) was published the same year as The Republic of the Future, although I don't know which came out first. (See postscript below.) The fashion in academia and the penumbrae of academia is to call a work like Anna's "reactionary" or "an attack" on socialism or progressivism. I would say that once an effective observer pokes holes into a bloated gasbag of an idea, that idea can never really get off the ground. That's what Anna Bowman Dodd did with socialism, and in fewer than one hundred pages.

Postscript (June 4, 2015): I have just read a review of The Republic of the Future, a review published in the New York Times on August 1, 1887. I still don't know the date of publication of Looking Backward: 2000-1887, but I have read of booksellers placing the newly published volume on their shelves in January 1888. So, maybe Anna Bowman Dodd's book came first and beat Bellamy to the punch.

Next: Quotes from The Republic of the Future.

"The longer I stay here the more I am impressed with the profound melancholy which appears to have taken possession of this people." (p. 58)

"They have the look of people who have come to the end of things and have failed to find it amusing." (p. 23)

The other day, I closed with a painting from the 1940s, Lawrence's cover for Famous Fantastic Novels from September 1948. Here is a painting from that same era, "The Subway" by George Tooker (1920-2011), from 1950. The people in the picture don't seem to me to be melancholic so much as filled with anxiety and despair. Also, they aren't living in a socialist society, or not yet. Nonetheless, there is a feeling of dystopian conformity and of being caged without the possibility of escape. The painting could easily be a work of fantasy or science fiction, but maybe of a later period, for it is in strong contrast with the exuberant images of science fiction of its time. On the other hand, 1984 by George Orwell was published only a year before Tooker finished his painting.

Text copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley

Sunday, May 24, 2015

A. Merritt Art Gallery-The Complete Moon Pool

"The Moon Pool" (1918) and its sequel, "The Conquest of the Moon Pool" (1919), were extraordinarily popular. It was only a matter of time before they were reprinted in book form, and it was a pretty brief time at that. I don't know the exact date of publication, but The Moon Pool, combining the two magazine stories, came out in 1919. The author, A. Merritt, revised and updated his stories for the book. For example, in keeping up with the times, the nefarious German from the original version became a nefarious Russian. I believe this is the original dust jacket. The artist was Joseph Clement Coll (1881-1921). 

It's hard to follow the publication history of "The Moon Pool" and "The Conquest of the Moon Pool." The two were first published separately, then revised and combined into a novel-length story, also called The Moon Pool. I believe all the editions you see here are of the combined version. This was the second, from 1929, published by Horace Liveright with a jacket illustration by Lee Conrey (1883-1976), who also did illustrations for The American Weekly, the same Sunday supplement on which A. Merritt worked for many years. 

Here is what must have been the first softbound edition, a digest-sized book and number 18 in the Avon Murder Mystery Monthly series, from 1944. The art is unsigned and the artist is unknown.

The 1951 edition, an Avon mass-market paperback, has that classic 1940s/1950s science fiction look to it. Unfortunately, the artist is unknown.

The 1956 edition, also from Avon, is a step down in my opinion. Not that Art Sussman (1927-2008) created a bad cover, it's just that something was lost when science fiction tried to become serious or relevant in the 1950s.

The 1962 edition from Collier Books is far more subdued. It almost looks like a book in the social sciences. The cover design was by Ben Feder, Inc., a firm run by none other than Ben Feder (1923-2009), an artist, real estate developer, and winemaker.

In 1968, Collier Books issued an edition with a more science-fiction-like cover by Don Ivan Punschatz (1936-2009). I would buy a book like this, even if I had never heard of the story or the author.

You didn't have to tell me that the cover artist on Avon's 1978 edition is British. It just has that look. His name is Rodney Matthews, he was born in 1945 in North Somerset, and he is still at work. 

Everybody likes A. Merritt, including the French. In 1957, the publisher Hachette came out with Le Gouffre de la Lune, number 48 in its series Le Rayon Fantastique. The cover artist is unknown.

The artist on the 1975 edition from J'ai Lu was Philippe Caza (b. 1941).

Rowena Morrill (b. 1944) was on hand for the 1986 edition. 

Here's a German edition from 1981 entitled Der Mondsee. I don't know the name of the cover artist.

Finally, an Italian-language version, Il Pozzo della Luna, from 1998, again by an unknown cover artist.

I would like to acknowledge The Internet Speculative Fiction Database in the writing of this series.
Captions copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley

Friday, May 22, 2015

A. Merritt Art Gallery-The Conquest of the Moon Pool

"The Conquest of the Moon Pool" by A. Merritt in
All-Story Weekly, February 15, 1919

Eight months after publishing "The Moon Pool," All-Story Weekly came out with "The Conquest of the Moon Pool," described on the cover as "An Amazing Sequel to an Unparalleled Adventure." It was Merritt's fourth published story and his first to be serialized. For the next six weeks, readers thrilled to the adventures of Merritt's heroes in a world found underground and beyond the ken of ordinary existence. "The reaction that followed the last of the six weekly installments," wrote Sam Moskowitz, "verged on hysteria." (1) Before the year was out, G.P. Putnam's Sons issued a hardbound edition of the saga, combining "The Moon Pool" with "The Conquest of the Moon Pool." In the ninety-five years since, the two stories have more often been reprinted in their combined form than individually.

"The Moon Pool"--I believe in the combined version--was serialized for the first time in Amazing Stories from May to July 1927. Merritt's name landed on the cover below that of H.G. Wells, but the illustration seems to be unrelated to his or their stories. The artist was Hugo Gernsback's mainstay, Frank R. Paul. Gernsback was of course a pioneer in radio. It's no surprise that radio equipment would figure so prominently on the cover. I'm not sure what the narrative is here. It could be that the woman is saying, "Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope." Or this could be the male fantasy projected by Gernsback or by science fiction in general, namely: Through science, you will get a woman. It's as true now as it was then, only now the woman is--though still miniature--two-dimensional and digital vs. three-dimensional and presumably real.

The original story "The Moon Pool" appeared in the first issue of Famous Fantastic Mysteries in September-October 1939. "The Conquest of the Moon Pool" followed over the next six issues, from November 1939 to April 1940.

The March 1940 issue of Famous Fantastic Mysteries was the first with a pictorial cover. Virgil Finlay created the cover art. The April issue, in which the last installment of "The Conquest of the Moon Pool" appeared, had an uncharacteristic cover from Frank R. Paul. It seems to me that the publishers of pulp magazines had noticed the vast popularity of comic books and printed this and other covers in response.

Finally, "The Conquest of the Moon Pool" was reprinted in its entirety in Fantastic Novels Magazine in September 1948. The controversy over "The Shaver Mystery" had raged over the previous few years among readers of science fiction. It's likely that Raymond A. Palmer, in formulating the Shaver Mystery, drew some of his ideas from the scientific romances of the early 1900s, including "The Moon Pool" saga. The companion title to Fantastic Novels Magazine was of course Famous Fantastic Mysteries. Many fantasy and science fiction stories are essentially mysteries, "The Call of Cthulhu" for example. Even early superheroes were called "mystery men." So is it any wonder that Ray Palmer would call his new mythology of subterranean races of robots a mystery? That would have been a powerful attraction to readers. Unfortunately, the Shaver Mystery didn't pan out for Palmer and his sidekick, Richard Shaver. On the other hand, Palmer latched on to an even more powerful myth in the 1947 with the coming of the flying saucers.

The Woman of the Moon Pool
There are images from science fiction that stick in the head of every fan. This one--by the artist Lawrence--sticks. To me it represents a long-ago and utterly lost era in American culture, especially in art and science fiction. The draftsmanship and technique are flawless. They are the work of a master craftsman. The foreshortening of the arm, the handling of flesh and underlying bone, the shading, the positioning and rendering of the fingers--all are perfect. That takes nothing away from the figure as a whole or its accoutrements, which are beautifully and impeccably done. In our current age when everything is becoming miniaturized, weapons in science fiction and comic books have become ridiculously huge (as have breasts and biceps). The artists and designers of today could learn a thing or two in the economy of Lawrence's little derringer-like blaster.

The woman is of course beyond glamorous. She reminds me of those sweater girls from postwar Hollywood movies--Virginia Mayo, Janet Leigh, Ava Gardner. Not that she is an object, for the woman in Lawrence's painting is strong and determined. She represented a certain ideal of her time, I'm sure. Women like her worked in factories and flew airplanes during the war. The men who fought, fought in part for her and to return to her. Together they defeated tyrants and built the most prosperous society the world has ever known.

My feeling of nostalgia goes beyond the artist's ability or the woman's looks or femininity or strength. A pulp magazine is a magazine full of stories and art, but it's also an artifact of a previous era. (I have read a quote that magazines are the closest thing to a time machine we have.) In the 1940s, the future as represented in science fiction was going to be great. Having survived the onslaught of totalitarianism (a kind of science-fictional system of belief), Americans looked with confidence (though also with some anxiety) to the future. A cover of a science fiction magazine like this one is a kind of symbol of those prevailing feelings and of the era in which it was published. A movie from that time is called The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), an ironic title to be sure, but also true and un-ironic in its way. (The line is spoken by Virginia Mayo's character.) A history of the same period is called The Best Years: 1945-1950 by Joseph C. Goulden (1976). The titles are not boastful or prideful. There's more than a sneaking suspicion that they are true.

Now we have arrived in the future--an alternate future--in which we have stopped ourselves dead in our tracks. Science fiction, being essentially optimistic, is no longer our genre of choice. Fantasy, including the darkest kinds of fantasy, has taken its place. Instead of being an expression of her own life and character, a beautiful woman--so called--is now a concoction of Botox, collagen, silicone, artificial tan, and a plastic surgeon's skill with knife and suction tube. Depictions of beautiful women today are seen as symbols of patriarchy, oppression, sexism, and injustice. Men and women both seem to prefer ugliness to beauty. I won't linger over that. The ills of our society go far deeper. Instead I wonder, did the men and women of the 1940s fight and die and build and bring children into the world so that we could give up hope and the freedom they won, so that we could collapse in on ourselves and wallow in our most miserable self-indulgent and self-absorbed misery? I wonder, too, does it make any sense to feel a sense of nostalgia for a time of hope and optimism, in other words, to look backward to a time of looking forward, to remember so fondly a previous civilization that fought for freedom and was filled with hope but that, for all practical purposes and mostly by our own actions, now lies in ruins at our feet?

Text and captions copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A. Merritt Art Gallery-The Moon Pool

"The Moon Pool" by A. Merritt in
All-Story Weekly, June 22, 1918

"The Moon Pool" was A. Merritt's third published story and the tale that won him his fame. Like Merrit's previous stories, "The Moon Pool" is a romance of other worlds accessible from our own through some kind of extraordinary passageway. In Merritt's tale, the moon provides the passageway. His stories must have been a great influence on other writers, H.P. Lovecraft, C.L. Moore, Edmund Hamilton, and probably Nictzin Dyalhis among them. Raymond A. Palmer, who fashioned "The Shaver Mystery" from the scientific romances he read in his youth, also fell under Merritt's spell. Sam Moskowitz, in his book Explorers of the Infinite (1963), recounted how, after the publication of "The Moon Pool," "letters by the hundreds began to pour across the desk of Robert H. Davis, the Munsey editor who had discovered Merritt." Davis had paid Merritt $50 for "The Moon Pool." He offered forty times that for a sequel.

In 1939, the Frank A. Munsey Company began reprinting works from its old story magazines, Argosy and All-Story Weekly. The lead story in the first issue of Famous Fantastic Mysteries, dated September-October 1939, was none other than "The Moon Pool" by A. Merritt. Mary Gnaedinger was editor.

Editor Alden Norton made use of "The Moon Pool" in the Canadian pulp Super Science and Fantastic Stories for December 1945. The format appears to have been the same: old stories reprinted for a new generation. The cover illustration was recycled as well. It had previously appeared on the cover of the September 1945 issue of Famous Fantastic Mysteries, presumably illustrating "Phra the Phoenician" by Edwin Lester Arnold. The art was by Lawrence Sterne Stevens (1886-1960).

Mary Gnaedinger also edited Fantastic Novels Magazine, a companion to Famous Fantastic Mysteries. In the May issue of 1948, she reprinted "The Moon Pool" once again, and the cover artist was once again Stevens, who went by the name Lawrence.

Captions copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, May 18, 2015

A. Merritt Art Gallery-The People of the Pit

"The People of the Pit" by A. Merritt in
All-Story Weekly, January 5, 1918

A. Merritt's second published story, "The People of the Pit," appeared in All-Story Weekly for January 5, 1918. The cover story was the first chapter of a serial called "Trapped" by Ben Ames Williams. The cover artist is unknown. "The People of the Pit" is a tale of the Far North, written when there were still recent memories of the Yukon Gold Rush. It's also a kind of Lost Worlds story and a story of a subterranean city, like earlier stories of the Vril-Ya and later stories of the Deros. There are also similarities in H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness to "The People of the Pit." With his second story, A. Merritt was poised for his first great success.
Caption copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley

Saturday, May 16, 2015

A. Merritt Art Gallery-Through the Dragon Glass

"Through the Dragon Glass" by A. Merritt in
All-Story Weekly, November 24, 1917

Abraham Merritt was a thirty-three-year-old journalist laboring away in New York City when All-Story Weekly published his first story, an Oriental fantasy called "Through the Dragon Glass." It's no surprise that his was not the cover story. Instead, a long-established author, Julian Hawthorne (1846-1934), son of Nathaniel Hawthorne, earned his place on the cover with "The Cosmic Courtship." Merritt's story was also a romance, though not "inter-planetary." Inter-dimensional might be the right word to describe it, as the "Dragon Glass, " an artifact looted from the Forbidden City at the end of the Boxer Rebellion, allows its possessor to pass from one plane into another. The uncanny qualities of the Dragon Glass make me think of the green casket in "Claimed!" by Francis Stevens, from 1920. The story also mentions Iram, the many-columned city of the desert that showed up as Irem in "The Nameless City" by H.P. Lovecraft (1921). The artist is unknown. The medium looks like watercolor or gouache. The technique, especially in the handling of the female figure, reminds me of the work of Roy G. Krenkel (1918-1983) or some other American illustrator of the 1950s and '60s.
Caption copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley

Friday, May 15, 2015

A. Merritt (1884-1943)-Part Two

So the careers of A. Merritt and Francis Stevens have some similarities and possibly some connections. The two authors may have met early in their careers, when she was working as a secretary at the University of Pennsylvania and he was a journalist at the Philadelphia Inquirer and The Sunday Supplement and/or The Sunday American Magazine, forerunner to The American Weekly. (1) Both had their first stories published in All-Story Weekly in 1917, and both wrote almost exclusively for the Munsey magazines (Argosy and All-Story) for several years. There was even a time when readers thought that "Francis Stevens" was a pseudonym of A. Merritt. They were only half right, for "Francis Stevens" was actually the pseudonym of Gertrude Barrows Bennett. One difference between Merritt and Stevens is that he became well known and very wealthy. She was neither.

It's reasonable to assume that Merritt was in contact with Gertrude Barrows Bennett. His first story in Famous Fantastic Mysteries or Fantastic Novels Magazine--two titles that reprinted stories from the old Munsey magazines--was "The Moon Pool," the lead story in the first issue of Famous Fantastic Mysteries, dated September-October 1939. Stevens' first story reprinted in those magazines was "Behind the Curtain" in Famous Fantastic Mysteries for January 1940. I have lost track of the source that says Merritt persuaded Mary Gnaedinger, the editor of Famous Fantastic Mysteries and Fantastic Novels Magazine, to reprint Francis Stevens' stories. I wonder now if he let Gertrude Barrows Bennett know about these new markets for her stories or if he secured payment for her for their reprinting. In any case, A. Merritt died of a heart attack on August 21, 1943, at his winter home in Indian Rocks Beach, Florida. Gertrude Barrows Bennett followed him to the grave in 1948. Nonetheless, Mary Gnaedinger continued reprinting their work. Six of Gertrude's thirteen stories were reprinted in Famous Fantastic Mysteries, Fantastic Novels Magazine, or Famous Fantastic Mysteries Combined with Fantastic Novels Magazine from 1940 to 1950. At least thirteen of Merritt's stories were so honored. His were also reprinted in Amazing StoriesAvon Fantasy Reader, FantasticLeaves, Satellite Science FictionScience and Invention, Science Fiction Digest, and Super Science and Fantastic Stories, as well as many collections and anthologies over the years.

Both A. Merritt and Francis Stevens had just one story published in Weird Tales, both in the 1920s. Merritt's contribution, "The Woman of the Wood" (Aug. 1926), was voted by readers the most popular story in the issue in which it appeared, for the entire year of 1926, and of all stories published from 1924 to 1940. It was reprinted in January 1934 and was again voted the most popular story in that issue. (2) Stevens' lone contribution, "Sunfire" (July-Sept. 1923) was published before readers were polled for their favorite stories. With it, her writing career came to an end, while Merritt's continued to the end of his life, although his last story published in his lifetime was in 1936, shortly before he became editor of The American Weekly in 1937 (3).

As further evidence of Merritt's popularity, in 1938, Argosy polled its readers for their favorite story in the fifty-eight-year history of the magazine. The winner was "The Ship of Ishtar" from 1924. Argosy proceeded to reprint Merritt's story and confessed that it had paid him the highest word-rate of any its authors.  The editor wrote: "This only proves he was worth it!" (4) More than a decade later, in December 1949, Merritt had a magazine published with his name in the title, A. Merritt's Fantasy Magazine. Mary Gnaedinger was the editor for five issues dated December 1949 to October 1950, when the magazine came to an end. Vargo Statten Science Fiction Magazine (1954) and Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine (1977-present) later fell into the category of magazines named for authors.

A. Merritt was and is a very popular writer, and his stories have seldom if ever been out of print. According to Sam Moskowitz, Avon Publications estimated that its reprintings of Merritt's stories had sold four million copies as of 1959. (5) Merritt's stories have been reprinted many times in many languages, including English, of course, as well as French, Italian, and German. They have also been adapted to the movies in Seven Footprints to Satan (1929) and two adaptations of "Burn, Witch, Burn!", The Devil Doll (1936) and Muñecos infernales (1961). He is supposed to have been an influence on Francis Stevens and H.P. Lovecraft, or they were an influence on him, or each other, or some combination of influences, one upon another, for which no one seems to have offered very much evidence. (6) Suffice it to say, Merritt's stories "are among the most famous titles in the canon of fantastic literature." (7) A. Merritt was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 1999.

A. Merritt's Story and Essay in Weird Tales
"The Moon Pool" (Aug. 1926; reprinted Jan. 1934)
"How We Found Circe" (Winter 1973; originally in The Story Behind the Story, 1942)

A. Merritt's Letters to "The Eyrie"
Oct. 1929
Oct. 1934
Nov. 1935

Further Reading
There is much to read about A. Merritt on the Internet and in those ancient artifacts known as books, including:
  • "The Marvelous A. Merritt" in Explorers of the Infinite by Sam Moskowitz (Cleveland: The World Publishing Company, 1963), pp. 189-207.
  • Introduction by Sam Moskowitz to "The Moon Pool" by A. Merritt in Under the Moons of Mars: A History and Anthology of "The Scientific Romance " in the Munsey Magazines, 1912-1920 (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970), pp. 137-138.
  • A. Merritt: Reflections in the Moon Pool by Sam Moskowitz (1985)

(1) Gertrude Barrows Bennett had arrived in Philadelphia in 1909 or 1910, either newly married or newly widowed. A. Merritt left Philadelphia in 1912 for New York City, but I can't say that he cut ties to his former city. It's worth noting that one of the characters in Stevens' story "Sunfire" (1923) is a "war-correspondent and a writer of magazine tales." Named Alcot Waring, he is described as a "vast mountain of flesh . . . obese, freckle-faced, with small, round, very bright and clear gray eyes" (The Nightmare and Other Tales of Dark Fantasy, p. 348). I have seen two photographs of Merritt but have never read a description of him. He doesn't appear to have been a small man, but he may not have been Alcot Waring-sized either. Like Waring, Merritt spent some time in Latin America, at least as a visitor and maybe as an explorer.
(2) Merritt also had an essay in the magazine, "How We Found Circe," in a later incarnation, Winter 1973.
(3) At the time, The American Weekly, the Sunday magazine of the Hearst newspaper chain, claimed "the largest circulation of any periodical in the world" according to Sam Moskowitz. (Source: Moskowitz's introduction to "How We Found Circe" in Weird Tales, Winter 1973, p. 26.) Considering his new responsibilities, we can't blame Merritt for not writing in the field of fantasy after 1937.
(4) Quoted in "The Marvelous A. Merritt" by Sam Moskowitz in Explorers of the Infinite (1963), p. 190.
(5) Explorers of the Infinite, p. 206.
(6) In "The Moon Pool" by Merritt (published June 22, 1918), there is a "moon-door." In The Heads of Cerberus by Stevens (published August-October 1919), there is a "moon-gate." If these things are evidence of influence, one upon another, then Merritt would seem the influence in this case. But how far does anyone want to go with something like that?
(7) Sam Moskowitz in his introduction to "The Moon Pool" by A. Merritt in Under the Moons of Mars: A History and Anthology of "The Scientific Romance " in the Munsey Magazines, 1912-1920 (1970), p. 137.

Abraham Merritt (1884-1943)
Text and captions copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley

Thursday, May 14, 2015

A. Merritt (1884-1943)-Part One

Aka W. Fenimore
Author, Journalist, Editor, Poet
Born January 20, 1884, Beverly, New Jersey
Died August 21, 1943, Indian Rocks Beach, Florida

Abraham Grace Merritt was a contemporary of Francis Stevens--Gertrude Barrows Bennett--and he was her champion, the man who persuaded the editor of Famous Fantastic Mysteries and Fantastic Novels Magazine to begin reprinting her stories in the early 1940s. Born on January 20, 1884, A. Merritt was just four months younger than Gertrude Barrows. His first story in the field of fantasy, "Through the Dragon Glass," was published in the November 24, 1917, issue of All-Story Weekly. Francis Stevens' first story, "The Nightmare," had been published just seven months before in the same magazine, in the issue of April 14, 1917. Like Stevens, Merritt was not an extremely prolific author of fantasy. If I have done my research correctly, then I count his total output as seventeen short stories and serials published from 1917 to 1936. That list is short enough to appear here in its entirety:
All of those stories have been reprinted multiple times, and the serials have been reprinted as whole novels. "The Pool of the Stone God," from American Weekly, was Merritt's only story published under a name not his own. His use of a pseudonym is understandable considering that Merritt was at the time on the staff of American Weekly. In 1937 he became its editor.

In addition, A. Merritt contributed to two round-robin stories:
  • "Cosmos" (seventeen-part round-robin serial in Science Fiction Digest/Fantasy Magazine, July 1933-Jan. 1935) (1)
  • "The Challenge from Beyond" (five-part round-robin story in Fantasy Magazine, Sept. 1935)
And he wrote a number of stories, essays, fragments, and outlines that were published after his death or fleshed out by others and, again, published posthumously. These include:
  • "The Fox Woman," a story completed by Hannes Bok and published in 1946
  • "The Black Wheel," a story completed by Hannes Bok and published in 1947
  • "The White Road" and "When Old Gods Awake," two fragments published in The Fox Woman and Other Stories in 1949
  • "How We Found Circe," an essay reprinted in Weird Tales, Winter 1973
Finally, A. Merritt was the author of many poems and pieces of non-fiction published in science fiction and fantasy magazines over the years. These include three letters to "The Eyrie," October 1929, October 1934, and November 1935. I should warn you that if you begin looking into Merritt's writing credits, you could easily lose your way. If I have left out any stories or have made any mistakes, I hope someone will offer corrections.

To be continued . . .

(1) Merritt's chapter of "Cosmos," "The Last Poet and the Robots" (Part 11, Apr. 1934), was, according to a quote from Mike Ashley on Wikipedia, "voted the most popular [and] a gem of a story."

Text and captions copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley