Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Polar Fiction Database

Today begins December and before the month is out we can expect a visit or two from an inhabitant of a fantastic land at the North Pole. If you're from a German family, the first visit will come on St. Nicholas' Day, December 6. That evening, if you leave your shoes outside your bedroom door, Saint Nick will put candy in them for you. It's kind of a practice run for the big event, which happens, of course, on Christmas Eve, when Santa Claus, the same saint operating under a different alias, leaves gifts in your stockings and under your Christmas tree--but only if you have been not naughty but nice.

A few weeks ago, after having written about plants, I referred you to the Botanical Fiction Database. Last week, I wrote about two stories set in the Antarctic, At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft (1936) and Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell, Jr. (1938). Today I have a link to a similar database of Arctic and Antarctic fiction. Laura Kay, a professor of physics and astronomy at Barnard College in New York City, has compiled two lists of polar fiction: 1) historical/literary polar fiction, and 2) genre polar fiction, which includes stories of lost worlds, monsters, aliens, Nazis, Russians, nukes, viruses, eco-porn, etc. Click here for a link to Laura Kay's list of genre polar fiction. From there you can access her list of historical/literary polar fiction. There are also links to "'Tekeli-li' or Hollow Earth Lives: A Bibliography of Antarctic Fiction" by Fauno Lancaster Cordes, and to a list of polar lost world/hollow world fiction. Unfortunately, that last link is a dead end. Incidentally, Laura Kay spent thirteen months at the South Pole in 1984-1985. That was two years after the events of John Carpenter's movie The Thing, so we can be pretty sure that she is not possessed by an assimilative, shape-changing alien.

The first entry on Dr. Kay's genre polar fiction list is Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Frankenstein was serialized in Weird Tales in May through December 1932. The first (and only) entry that specifically mentions "The Unique Magazine" is "In Amundsen's Tent" by John Martin Leahy, from the January 1928 issue. (It was reprinted in August 1935.) Fauno Lancaster Cordes also listed just one story from Weird Tales in her bibliography. It is "The Polar Vortex" by Malcolm Ferguson, from September 1946. Ms. Cordes also pointed out that Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness was originally written for "The Unique Magazine" but was rejected by the editor, Farnsworth Wright. From there it went to Astounding Stories, where it presumably caught the attention of a young John W. Campbell, Jr. Fauno Lancaster Cordes, a medical technologist, hobbyist, and bibliographer, passed away--ironically--on Christmas Day 2009 at age eighty-two. Unfortunately her bibliography is no longer being updated.

Further Reading
Antarctica in Fiction: Imaginative Narratives of the Far South by Elizabeth Leane (Cambridge University Press, 2012).

Classics Illustrated No. 26, Frankenstein by Mary W. Shelley with cover art by renowned pulp artist Norman Saunders (1907-1989).

Text copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley

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