Monday, December 31, 2018

Guy L. Helms (1898-1932)

Soldier, Newspaperman, Editor, Author
Born September 8, 1898, Salisbury, North Carolina
Died February 21, 1932, Salisbury, North Carolina

Guy Liston Helms was born on September 8, 1898, in Salisbury, North Carolina, to Clarence E. and Emma B. Helms. He enlisted in the U.S. Army before the American entry into the Great War and served as a recruiter in his hometown of Salisbury in 1916-1917. Helms trained at Fort Caswell, North Carolina, and went overseas, to France, in late 1917 or early 1918. He served in the 4th Company, 2nd Trench Mortar Battery, 2nd Infantry Division, a division that fought in most of the major engagements on the Western Front from July to November 1918. Helm's division served in occupied Germany after the war and returned to the United States in July 1919. Helms attained the rank of sergeant during his time in service.

Guy Helms was gassed during the Great War, though I don't know when or where. That injury determined the course of the rest of his life and resulted in his early death. After returning stateside and being discharged in May 1919, he took up studies in electrical engineering in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. That didn't last long, for in October 1919, he had to give up his studies and repair to a hospital in Statsen (sic), Wisconsin. Helms tried again, entering Columbia University, in Missouri, in the summer of 1920. Yet again he was forced to give up his studies and return to a hospital in Milwaukee.

The third time may have been the charm. In late 1920 or early 1921, Helms began studying at the Marquette University School of Journalism. In 1922, while still a student, he worked as poetry and exchange editor at the Marquette Journal. That same year he was appointed chief of staff of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), department of Wisconsin. He had previously been editor of Legion-Airs, a monthly newspaper printed by the Sergeant Arthur Kloepful Post of the American Legion in Milwaukee. By 1925, Helms was back with the American Legion as the editor of The Badger Legionnaire and director of a news bureau, which wrote and distributed news stories of interest to Wisconsin veterans.

Guy L. Helms wrote just one story for Weird Tales, "The Dancing Partner," in the jumbo-sized first-anniversary issue of May/June/July 1924. Helms would have been at the time affiliated with veterans' organizations, probably the American Legion, which had its national headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana. Indianapolis was also the city in which Weird Tales had its editorial offices (perhaps a grandiose description of what must have been only one or two rooms in an ordinary office building). By late 1924, both Weird Tales and The American Legion Magazine were being printed by the Cornelius Printing Company of Indianapolis. The November 1924 issue of Weird Tales was the first in which Farnsworth Wright, another veteran of the war, was credited as editor. I write all of this to point out that, again as in the case of Orville R. Emerson, there's reason to think that veterans of the Great War were drawn to submit their stories to Weird Tales through some kind of connection to the American Legion. I don't know what evidence there might be in favor of such a supposition--maybe an advertisement or a bit of correspondence. More likely, any evidence of such a connection has long since disappeared.

Guy L. Helms returned to his hometown of Salisbury, North Carolina, late in life, and that is where he died, on February 21, 1932, from complications of having been gassed during the war. He was survived by his parents, his wife, and his two children and was buried at Salisbury National Cemetery in Salisbury.

* * *

This is how I will close out the hundredth-anniversary year of the end of the Great War, which was, as should be so painfully clear to us now, one of the most disastrous events in human history. Like Guy Helms and millions of other men and women, we are still paying a price for that war, and we will go on paying a price far into the future. I hope there will come a time when we and our civilization will recover, just as its veterans hoped that they would one day recover. There is so much that depends on it. Some of the alternatives are unthinkable. They may in fact represent a slow slide into ice. The fire of the past might have been preferable, despite all of the suffering, pain, destruction, and death it caused, for even as the fire raged, there was still a chance for a different outcome. Now we are left in the aftermath of the war, living closer to ice than to fire. But as Robert Frost wrote, "for destruction ice/Is also great/And would suffice."

Guy L. Helms' Story in Weird Tales
"The Dancing Partner" (May/June/July 1924)

Further Reading
I have assembled this biography from snippets of information appearing in newspapers in North Carolina and Wisconsin from about 1915 to 1932. There is otherwise little that I could find on Helms, his life, or his career. I have to wonder, though, whether he was related to Jesse Helms, the longtime senator from North Carolina.


(Despite the image above:)

Happy New Year to Readers of Weird Tales!

Copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Robert H. Leitfred (1891-1968)

Aka Robert Fleming
Stenographer, Soldier, Author
Born August 5, 1891, Syracuse, New York
Died August 16, 1968, Orange County, California

Robert Henry Leitfred was born on August 5, 1891, in Syracuse, New York, to Henry and Jennie (Bennett) Leitfred. The surname is unusual. Nonetheless, it's not easy to find information on Robert H. Leitfred in newspapers, public records, or the Internet. As a young man, he worked as a stenographer. On October 26 (or 27 or 28), 1914, Leitfred married another stenographer, Mildred Snyder, in Syracuse.

In 1918, Leitfred enlisted in the U.S. Army. He served in a motorcycle unit and was in France from 1918 to 1919 before returning to his civilian job as a stenographer. According to The FictionMags Index, his first published story was in Detective Tales in December 1923/January 1924. Detective Tales was a companion magazine to Weird Tales. (The first issue was actually published in October 1922, five months before Weird Tales.) We might take that as Leitfred's introduction to Rural Publishing Company and its magazine titles, but his first story in Weird Tales was not published until 1935. In the intervening years he had dozens of stories in war, aviation, Western, and other pulp magazines. From his start in 1923 to his finish in 1951, these included Aces, Airplane Stories, Black Book Detective Magazine, Breezy Stories, Detective Story Magazine, Over the Top, Short Stories, Sky Birds, Three Star Magazine and Three Star Stories, War Stories, Western Trails, Wings, and other titles. Leitfred's credits in the genres of fantasy, science fiction, and weird fiction include the following:
  • "The Vanishing Ray" in Detective Tales (Dec. 1923/Jan. 1924)
  • "Where Gravity Ends" in Air Wonder Stories #3 (Sept. 1929)
  • "Prisoners of the Electron" in Astounding Stories of Super Science (Oct. 1930)
  • "Prisms of Space" in Astounding Stories (Nov. 1933)
  • "Yellow Doom" in Weird Tales (May 1935)
  • "Seven Seconds of Eternity" in Weird Tales (Sept. 1940)
  • "Core of the Purple Flame" in Weird Tales (Nov. 1941)

Under his pseudonym Robert Fleming, he wrote:
  • "Thunder Over the Channel" in Battle Birds (Feb. 1942)
  • "Just About Eels" in Fantastic Adventures (Aug. 1942)

Leitfred also wrote short stories published in newspapers during the early 1950s, three hardbound crime-detective novels in the 1930s, and a paperback novel in the 1950s:
  • The Corpse That Spoke (1936)
  • The Man Who Was Murdered Twice (1937)
  • Death Cancels the Evidence (1938)
  • Murder Is My Racket (1952)

In about 1930, Leitfred moved to Laguna Beach, California, to be among the growing colony of writers there. He went to Laguna Beach with Robert C. Du Soe (1920-1964), formerly of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, then and later an author of adventure stories and children's books. I have names of other writers who lived and worked in Laguna Beach during the 1930s, but those will have to wait for another day and another entry.

Robert H. Leitfred died on August 16, 1968, in Orange County, California, less than two weeks after his seventy-seventh birthday.

Robert H. Leitfred's Stories and Letter in Weird Tales
"Yellow Doom" (May 1935)
"Seven Seconds of Eternity" (Sept. 1940)
Letter to "The Eyrie" (Sept. 1940)
"Core of the Purple Flame" (Nov. 1941)

Further Reading
See "Robert H. Leitfred-Author" on the website PulpFlakes, July 15, 2017, hereFor more on Robert C. Du Soe, see Clear Heart Blog by Joe Cottonwood, in an entry of September 6, 2012, here.

Robert H. Leitfred's story "The Vanishing Ray" was in Detective Tales in its December 1923/January 1924 issue. For a year or so, Detective Tales was a companion magazine to Weird Tales. You can see the connection in the cover designs for the two magazines in 1923-1924. All or most of these were two-color designs (usually red and black, as in this cover). Many of the artists did double duty as well, for instance, R.M. Mally, who created this design, as well as the covers for Weird Tales for most of the period June 1923-May/June/July 1924. As for Leitfred's story: I don't know what it's about, but the title makes me think there is some kind of proto-science-fictional theme or elements.

Without my intending to, this is becoming a series relating to World War I and a few of the tellers of weird tales who were also veterans of the war. Robert Leitfred was among them. I don't know in what unit he served and whether he saw combat, but Leitfred wrote war stories for years after his return to the United States in 1919. His story "The Fourth Squad," for example, was in Three Star Stories for July 1929 (#1). The cover art includes the artist's monogram, but I don't know who he or she was.

As the 1920s and stories of war gave way to the 1930s and a proliferation of crime and detective tales, Leitfred wrote more in those two genres. His story "The Devil Laughed" was the cover story for Detective Fiction Weekly for October 10, 1936. I don't know the name of the cover artist.

Leitfred had another cover story in Weird Tales in September 1940. It's called "Seven Seconds of Eternity," and the cover art, by Ray Quigley (1909-1998), is strange beyond belief.

After nearly thirty years as a professional writer, Robert H. Leitfred began to wind down in the early 1950s. Whether that was by choice or by the vicissitudes of the market, I can't say. In any case, he had a last hurrah as the author of a paperback crime-detective novel, Murder Is My Racket, a Harlequin book from 1952.

Text and captions copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Orville R. Emerson (1894-1945)-Part Two

I sense two possible connections between Orville R. Emerson and Weird Tales, connections other than his authorship of a story for the first issue of the magazine.

First, Emerson's father, Reverend Frank W. Emerson, was affiliated with the Prohibition Party prior to World War I. Emerson himself was a member of the American Legion, which was established in 1919. In the year of its founding, the American Legion moved its headquarters to Indianapolis, Indiana. That same year, a young man of Pennsylvania, recently out of the U.S. Navy, also relocated to Indianapolis to work on an organ of the Prohibition Party. The young man's name was Jacob Clark Henneberger. In 1922, he formed, with his friend John M. Lansinger, Rural Publishing Corporation. Although the firm was based in Chicago, the editorial offices for its new magazine of 1923, Weird Tales, were in Indianapolis. I think it possible that Orville R. Emerson learned of Weird Tales through his father's connections to the Prohibition Party, more likely through his own connections to the American Legion. Both connections eventually led to Indianapolis, home also of the magazine in which his first and only story was published. By coincidence, the Cornelius Printing Company, which effectively gained control of Weird Tales in 1924, were also the printers of The American Legion Magazine beginning that same year.

Second, Orville R. Emerson was married to Lila Strait, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J.H. Strait of Redlands, California. J.H. Strait was president of Mutual Orange Distributors of Redlands, which was in business for many years inclusive of the 1920s. Well, in 1920, a future teller of weird tales was working as an orange packer in Redlands, and it wasn't Orville Emerson. Rather, it was F. Georgia Stroup (1882-1952), who had her story "The House of Death" in Weird Tales, by strange coincidence the same month in which Emerson's story "The Grave" appeared. So did F. Georgia Stroup work at Mutual Orange Distributors? And did she know Orville R. Emerson? Could they have talked to each other about their stories and about this new magazine Weird Tales? The possibility is fascinating to consider.


Text copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Orville R. Emerson (1894-1945)-Part One

Teacher, Soldier, Author, Attorney
Born June 12, 1894, Burlington, Iowa
Died January 23, 1945, Los Angeles, California

Orville R. Emerson wrote just one story for Weird Tales. Called simply "The Grave," it appeared in the inaugural issue of the magazine in March 1923 and was selected by editors John Gregory Betancourt and Marvin Kaye for inclusion in their 1997 anthology The Best of Weird Tales: 1923. If there is such a thing as trench-art literature, "The Grave" might be an example. It's a simple but horrifying tale of the Great War. "The Grave" is set in Flanders in the final month of a conflict that ended one hundred years ago last month. The discovery of the manuscript that makes up the bulk of the story takes place on Christmas Day 1918. I would hardly call "The Grave" a Christmas story. Nonetheless, I have chosen to write about it today, Christmas Day 2018.

The author of "The Grave," Orville R. Emerson, was born on June 12, 1894, in Burlington, Iowa. His father was the Reverend Frank W. Emerson and his mother was Eva M. Anderson, both later of Bonham, Texas; Ontario, California; and Albany, Oregon. Orville R. Emerson graduated from the law school of the University of California with an A.B. degree and taught grammar at Page Military Academy in Los Angeles prior to the American entry into the Great War. Emerson received his commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army at the Presidio in San Francisco before moving on to Camp Lewis in Washington State. On December 9, 1917, he married Lila Strait in Tacoma, Washington. A student at the University of Southern California, she had left school unbeknownst to her parents to travel to Washington for the wedding. Her intention was to remain there for as long as her husband did. The wedding itself was a surprise to them.

During the war, Lieutenant Emerson served as regimental intelligence officer with Company I of the 363rd Infantry, 91st Division, in Belgium and France. He was at Saint-Mihiel and in the Meuse-Argonne campaign in September-November 1918. His story, "The Grave," mentions Watou and Mount Kemmel. Both places are in Flanders, and it seems certain that Emerson was near there as well. He may even have fictionalized himself in his own story.

Once returned to civilian life, Orville Emerson organized the Redlands, California, post of the new American Legion in 1919 and became its first commander. He was at the same time executive director of Mutual Orange Distributors, a company run by his father-in-law, J.H. Strait. In March 1923, when his first and only known genre story was published, Emerson was serving as press representative of the American Legion post Redlands. He later returned to the office of commander.

Emerson seems to have devoted himself to public and community service. He was an officer in his local chamber of commerce and a member of fraternal and service organizations, including Kiwanis and the YMCA. In 1932, he ran for state assemblyman. In 1934, he spent six months as a commander at the San Juan Capistrano Hot Springs CCC Camp in California. And in 1935, he moved to Pasadena, California, and took the position of deputy district attorney for Los Angeles.

Emerson served a second stint in the army in 1941-1944. That stint began when then Captain Emerson was recalled to active duty in June 1941 to serve as commanding officer at an army recreation area in Savannah, Georgia. Promoted to major, he went from Savannah to Hamilton Field, California, in January 1942. He later served as commanding officer of an army recreation area in Panama City, Florida. Honorably discharged for ill health in November 1944, Emerson died of a heart attack at a luncheon in Los Angeles on January 23, 1945. He was only fifty-one years old. Emerson was survived by his wife and two daughters.

Orville R. Emerson's Story in Weird Tales
"The Grave" (Mar. 1923)

Further Reading
There are many newspaper articles on Orville R. Emerson, including his obituary, "Orville R. Emerson Stricken in L.A.," San Bernardino County Sun (CA), January 24, 1945, page 9.

Next: Connections.

Orville R. Emerson, 1932.

Merry Christmas to Readers of Weird Tales!

Text copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Benjamin F. Ferrill (1897-1960)

Author
Born March 31, 1897, De Soto, Mississippi
Died April 1, 1960, Washington, D.C.

Benjamin Franklin Ferrill was born on March 31, 1897, in De Soto, Mississippi, and was educated by his grandmother, Mrs. Love Ophelia Day Saxon. Ferrill lived in Laurel, Hattiesburg, and Lumberton, Mississippi. He was in Cleveland, Ohio, when he was inducted into the U.S. Army. (His obituary says that he was a World War I veteran. Public records say that he served after the war, in 1920-1921.) Ferrill lived in Washington, D.C., for about forty years, and it was in that city that he married Grace Murray of Providence and Jamestown, Rhode Island, in 1924. The couple had just one child, who was also named Grace. These two women may very well have overshadowed Ferrill, for Grace M. Ferrill, the oldest of eleven children, was a yeomanette at the Naval Training Station at Newport, Rhode Island, during World War I and a grain market reporter for the U.S. Department of Agriculture for forty years. She lived to the century mark. Their daughter, Grace Cecilia Ferrill, nicknamed Bunny, earned degrees in law and psychology and worked for the U.S. Departments of Labor and Treasury, also for many decades, and she lived to be ninety-one. (I think I would still take the career of a pulp writer over that of a government employee.)

Benjamin F. Ferrill wrote dozens of Westerns from 1926 to 1943, for Ace-High Magazine, Action Stories, Cowboy Stories, Fawcett's Triple-X Magazine, Frontier, The Golden West Magazine, Lariat Story Magazine, North-West Stories, West, Western Rangers, Wild West Weekly, and other titles. He also wrote a couple of crime and detective stories, published in Street & Smith's Detective Story Magazine and The Underworld Magazine. His work for Weird Tales numbered exactly one short story. It's called "Dead Man's Vengeance," and it appeared in the December 1931 issue of the magazine. His story "The Black Cat's Eyes," originally in West for March 3, 1928, has more recently been reprinted in The Second Cat Megapack: Frisky Feline Tales, Old and New (2013). Ferrill also wrote short stories for newspapers, including "I'm Tellin' You," which was in the Boston Globe for July 24, 1942.

Benjamin F. Ferrill died on April 1, 1960, in Washington, D.C., and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Benjamin F. Ferrill's Story in Weird Tales
"Dead Man's Vengeance" (Dec. 1931)

Further Reading
You can read more in obituaries for Ferrill ("Ben F. Ferrill Dies in Capitol," Clarion Ledger [MS], Apr. 29, 1960, p. 16), his wife (here), and his daughter (here).

Copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley

Friday, December 21, 2018

H.F. Arnold (1902-1963)

Henry Ferris Arnold, Jr.
Public Relations Man, Author, Realtor, Businessman
Born January 2, 1902, Galesburg, Illinois
Died December 16, 1963, Laguna Beach, California

H.F. Arnold was the author of the short story "The Night Wire," one of the most popular to appear in the pages of Weird Tales between 1924 and 1938. It was voted second-most popular in the issue in which it appeared and was in the top 50 in popularity of all stories published during that period. The subject of Arnold's story is a real-time report of a creeping, malevolent fog that overtakes a city called Xebico, located in some unknown place in the world, out beyond the walls of a lonely night wire office. "The Night Wire" is an unusual, inventive, and very memorable story. Readers loved it at its first printing and still do. It was reprinted in Weird Tales years after its original appearance and has been anthologized nearly a dozen times since. It has also been translated into German and French. The 1980 film The Fog bears some similarity to H.F. Arnold's story.

Henry Ferris Arnold, Jr., was born on January 2, 1902, in Galesburg, Illinois, to Henry Ferris Arnold, Sr. (1868-1927) and Anna Pauline (Ward) Arnold (1869-1936). Arnold the younger graduated from Knox College, his father's alma mater, in 1923 with a bachelor of science degree. In summers he worked for the commission that fixed the Canadian-American border in the area of Glacier National Park. Arnold worked in public relations for the movie business, also as a realtor and as a businessman. He wrote just three published genre stories, two for Weird Tales, the third for Amazing Stories:
  • "The Night Wire" in Weird Tales (Sept. 1926; reprinted Jan. 1933)
  • "The City of Iron Cubes" (two-part serial) in Weird Tales (Mar.-Apr. 1929)
  • "'When Atlantis Was'" (two-part serial) in Amazing Stories (Oct., Dec. 1937)
The FictionMags Index lists three more pieces by a Henry Arnold and a Henry F. Arnold:
  • "The Cowgirl" (article) in Western Novel Magazine (Dec. 1929)
  • "Loco Weed: The Cowman's Foe" (article) in Western Novel Magazine (Jan. 1930)
  • "Out of Bounds" (short story) in Wings (Spring 1949)
I don't know whether this is our man or not.

Henry F. Arnold enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942 and trained for the tank corps at Fort Knox, Kentucky. He served with General George S. Patton's Third Army in France and was wounded in the advance in the Saar region of Germany. Arnold recuperated at a hospital in England and was returned to duty in Germany after V-E Day. He separated from the army at the end of 1947 as a first lieutenant. His last duty station was in the United States.

H.F. Arnold lived in Hollywood early in his career and spent the last ten years of his life in Laguna Beach, California. On December 16, 1963, he choked to death on a piece of meat, presumably in his home on Laguna Beach. He was survived by his daughter, three grandchildren, and a sister and was buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego, California.

H.F. Arnold's Stories in Weird Tales
"The Night Wire" in Weird Tales (Sept. 1926; reprinted Jan. 1933)
"The City of Iron Cubes" in Weird Tales (Mar 1929)

Further Reading
See the website Find A Grave for more on H.F. Arnold, including a photograph. "The Night Wire" is in the public domain, and you can read it on a number of websites. You can read about the story and its author on the blog Sepulchral Stories by E.B. Neslowe in an entry of December 27, 2014, here.

"The Night Wire" by H.F. Arnold was the cover story of the June 1965 issue of Magazine of Horror, edited by Robert A.W. Lowndes. The cover artist was Fred Wolters.

Text copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Fortean and Cthulhian Phenomena

In yesterday's entry, I tore down The Lurker at the Threshold, a pastiche written by August Derleth, supposedly based on fragments by H.P. Lovecraft, and originally published in 1946. My biggest complaint against this book is its extreme prolixity or verbosity. (And this is coming from someone who can really wear out a topic.) Derleth committed other literary offenses, but he also came up with what I think are some innovations. Whether these were original in The Lurker at the Threshold, or this was just an early example of concepts that had previously appeared in some other work or works, I can't say. However, I'm pretty sure that Derleth tried something here that neither he nor Lovecraft had tried before. By coincidence, the innovation of which I speak has to do with a series I have worked on recently in this blog but which is on hold for now.

I have the Ballantine paperback edition of The Lurker at the Threshold from 1971 and 1976. This book is 186 pages long, but only on page 172 does the author finally get to a point, what we might call a thesis, in other words, far too late for it to carry any great weight or significance. Nevertheless, there it is, towards the end of a sentence that runs to more than 120 words, the first mention in this book of:
"a very large, though usually suppressed, body of occurrences [. . .] contradictory to the total scientific knowledge of mankind [. . .] some of which have been collected and chronicled in two remarkable books by a comparative unknown named Charles Fort [. . . .]" (p. 172) (1)
As you know, Charles Fort (1874-1932) was a free thinker and iconoclast who compiled accounts of strange, anomalous, and unexplained events from history and published them in four collections, beginning with The Book of the Damned in 1919 and ending with Wild Talents in 1932. Fort's main thesis, stated in the first few pages of The Book of the Damned, is that all phenomena are continuous with each other and that the break imposed by science between scientific phenomena and non-scientific or anomalous phenomena is arbitrary and artificial. In short, it's not based in reality, and the persistence and widespread occurrence of anomalous phenomena throughout history demonstrates that fact. Authors of weird fiction were well aware of the work of Charles Fort. Some even drew from it in writing their stories. I don't think there's any better example than "The Earth Owners" by Edmond Hamilton, from Weird Tales, August 1931. Coincidently, Lovecraft mentioned Fort in the very next story in that August issue of the magazine, "The Whisperer in Darkness":
Two or three fanatical extremists went so far as to hint at possible meanings in the ancient Indian tales which gave the hidden beings a non-terrestrial origin; citing the extravagant books of Charles Fort with their claims that voyagers from other worlds and outer space have often visited earth. (p. 36) (2)
As far as I can tell, that's as far as Lovecraft went in his references to Fort. In The Lurker at the Threshold, though, August Derleth went all out, more or less making the case that Fortean phenomena are continuous with Lovecraftian--or what I have called in my title Cthulhian--phenomena. (How do you like the italics for effect?) For several pages following his first mention of Fort, Derleth made a catalogue of sightings, encounters, and events, in the process copying Fort's approach to writing rather than that of his master Lovecraft. There are reports of falls of stones and globular lights in the skies, as well as accounts of unexplained disappearances, including that of Ambrose Bierce, who "hinted at Carcosa and Hali" (p. 175). (3) These Derleth linked to the fictional events of his story. I can't help seeing this as Derleth's subordinating--intentionally or not--H.P. Lovecraft's oeuvre to that of his predecessor Charles Fort. In any case, like the rest of The Lurker at the Threshold, Derleth's catalogue of Forteana and his attempt at establishing continuity among all things, like Fort before him, fails. Despite his passing reference to Fort, Lovecraft never tried to do anything of the sort, and wisely so in my view. Whatever similarities he might have had to Fort as a man, Lovecraft's vision was bigger and more lasting than any of that. (4)

"I felt myself grasped; a tentacle of light wrapped around me." An illustration by C.C. Senf for "The Earth Owners" by Edmond Hamilton, Weird Tales, August 1931. 

Notes 
(1) I tell you, quoting from The Lurker at the Threshold will wear out your ellipses key.
(2) Keep in mind that Fort's third book, Lo!, was published in 1931, the same year in which Hamilton's and Lovecraft's stories went to print. Were these two authors directly influenced or inspired by the publication of Lo!? I don't know. Whatever the case, they were almost certainly aware of Fort's previous books.
(3) One of the main characters in the book is named Ambrose Dewart; Charles Fort had previously remarked on someone in the universe who seemed to be collecting Ambroses.
(4) Charles Fort plays a prominent part in the 2011 film adaptation of "The Whisperer in Darkness" by the way, but clearly out of character for a man who was notoriously withdrawn and decidedly unadventurous, at least late in his life.

Original text copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, December 17, 2018

The Lurker at the Threshold

As I was taking stock a few weeks ago, I found that the books I have started but haven't yet finished were really piling up. I counted them. There were a dozen in all, most bookmarked about halfway through. I realized then that if I were to keep at it, I might be able to finish all or most of them before the end of the year. I have read book after book now and have moved my bookmarks closer to the end of each like a counter. First came Count Zero by William Gibson (1986), the second in the author's series of what you might call Gothic science fictions that began with Neuromancer (1984). Next was Legends of Our Time by Elie Wiesel (1968), a powerful moral document and a model of literary style and clarity. In his style and voice, moreover in his treatment of serious and often transcendent questions, Wiesel reminds me of the American author Loren Eiseley. The most recent book I have finished is The Lurker at the Threshold, which is, according to the cover, by H.P. Lovecraft "with August Derleth." (That last part is in teeny tiny print.) I have the Ballantine paperback edition of 1971 and 1976. The cover design is great (see below) and includes an illustration by Murray Tinkelman. Another illustration by Tinkelman appears inside the front and back covers. That's about where the charms of this book end. Put another way, I have read The Lurker at the Threshold so you don't have to.

As I read The Lurker at the Threshold, I sensed that there was very little Lovecraft and too much Derleth in its pages. Now, after reading about the book, I find that's the case. Derleth based his novel on mere fragments by Lovecraft. It is otherwise a grand and failed pastiche. S.T. Joshi objects to The Lurker at the Threshold, writing "[it] begins well, but it rapidly deteriorates into a naive good-versus-evil struggle between the Old Ones and the Elder Gods." (1) We all have our areas of interest. Mr. Joshi is well known as an atheist. He and others have critiqued August Derleth for his Catholicism and for his attempts to turn Lovecraft's Yog Sothothery into a more nearly Christian conflict between good and evil. I would point out that you don't have to go that far in any criticism of The Lurker at the Threshold. Overlong, boring, lacking in any real human interest, and--worst of all in my mind--impossibly prolix, this book fails for a simple and avoidable reason: instead of using language to engage us and facilitate our understanding of the story, the author laid down clunky words, plodding sentences, and great, bulky paragraphs as obstacles before us. It's a wonder anyone has ever finished this book.

One of the flaws in The Lurker at the Threshold is that it reads as a kind of catalogue: all of Lovecraft's gods and beings are here, as are all of his place names, all of his fictional tomes, all of his fictional settings, all of his motifs, including arrangements of stones in the woods and the calling of whippoorwills. Even Lovecraft's patented language is here, though much reduced in its effectiveness in Derleth's iteration. It seems to me that in an attempt to bring Lovecraft back to life, Derleth inserted the names of everything or almost everything that his master ever created, as if the names themselves and some aping of style could bring about by some magical process a new story by Lovecraft. In my mind, it all falls flat. The second of its three parts is especially bad and seems interminable. On page 98 for example is a sentence--I won't bore you by transcribing it--of more than 140 words, and this is not Joycean or Woolfian, let alone Lovecraftian, prose. It's just plain dreck.

As another example of Derleth's innumerable literary offenses, there is a scene in which one of the main characters talks to an old woman of Dunwich, a scene that is at once unintentionally comic and annoying in the extreme. In her ridiculous accent, the woman sounds like Limpid Lizard from the comic strip Tumbleweeds. ("Yew might well ask. He was my grandfather. He come on tew some uv the secrets an' he thought he knew it all . . . .") Here is one of Derleth's more egregious attempts at Lovecraftian prose:
"And suddenly, as I stood there, feeling the freshness of the wind against my body, I was conscious with a rapidly mounting oppression, with a crushing sense of despair, of a horrible foulness, of a black, blasting evil of and around the woods-girt house, a cloying, infiltrating loathsomeness of the nethermost abysses of the human soul. . . . The apprehension of evil, of terror and loathing, settled like a cloud in the room [. . . .]" (The first set of ellipses is in the original.) (pp. 164-165)
Yeah, I know the feeling.

Anyway, I would not recommend that you read this book unless you want to punish yourself, or unless you're a Cthulhu completist. Read something else instead.

Next: More on The Lurker at the Threshold. Why? you ask. Just keep reading and you'll find out. 

Note
(1) Quoted in Wikipedia from "Cthulhu's Empire: H. P. Lovecraft's Influence on His Contemporaries and Successors" in Pulp Fiction of the 1920s and 1930s: Critical Insights (Ipswich, MA: Salem Press, 2013), p. 28.


Original text copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Weasels on the Cover of Weird Tales

Okay, so this a weird category, but I wanted to get at something and so here we are. There are two weasel covers for Weird Tales. They're actually ermine covers, but with weasel and weird, you get some alliteration and a snappier title. Anyway, here they are, both for the same story, "John Cawder's Wife" by P. Schuyler Miller.

Weird Tales, May 1943. Cover art by Margaret Brundage.

Weird Tales Canadian edition, September 1943. Cover art by an unknown artist.

This is what I wanted to get at: When I looked at this cover today, an image leapt into my mind, that of Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda in that famous, minutes-long, unbroken scene in the shipboard stateroom in The Lady Eve (1941). The woman in this picture looks like Barbara Stanwyck and the man looks like Henry Fonda, and they seem to be in the same arrangement, more or less, as in that scene . . . except that they aren't. I misremembered the scene, and so what I had thought was a discovery--that the unknown artist here worked from a movie still from The Lady Eve--actually isn't. Anyway, Margaret Brundage's cover design has its merits, chiefly its fine psychological portrait of a woman. The Canadian version, on the other hand, has a distinctly 1940s glamour and gloss. (It's what made me think of a Hollywood movie.) To me it's gorgeous, a portrait of hair as much as anything. (I have always wondered what the top of those 1940s women's hairdos looked like . . . )

As a bonus, here is Leonardo da Vinci's version of the lady with an ermine, from 1490, executed for Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milano, and now pretty well acknowledged as a portrait of his mistress, Cecilia Gallerani. I have never seen this painting, the real thing that is, but I have visited il castello Sforzesco in Milano more than once. It is one of my favorite places in that city of excitement and wonder.

Text and captions copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley

Friday, December 14, 2018

J. Schlossel (1902-1977)

Joseph H. Schlossel
Author, Tailor, Metal Plater, Dog Breeder
Born December 21, 1902, New York or Canada
Died December 1 or 4?, 1977, Schodack Landing?, New York

J. Schlossel was Joseph H. Schlossel, a Jewish writer who was born either in New York or Canada, lived in Canada for several years, and wrote just six published stories. Despite his small output, Schlossel has earned a place in the history of science fiction by being the first author known to have written about a trip to the moon monitored on Earth by way of television. His imagination and stories were expansive; he often assumed a cosmic viewpoint, treating whole star systems and vast swaths of time. He wrote an early science fiction story, "Invaders from Outside," for Weird Tales, a magazine otherwise known for fantasy and weird fiction. In fact, all but one of J. Schlossel's stories were published from 1925 to 1928, before the term science fiction even showed up in print. His last published work, "Extra-Galactic Invaders," the title of which echoed that of his first, appeared in print after he had ceased writing for pulp magazines. Sources on the Internet suggest that Schlossel stopped writing because of the coming of the Great Depression. I don't known the source of that claim.

Joseph H. Schlossel was born on December 21, 1902, in New York or Canada to Mr. and Mrs. Hyman Schlossel. Hyman Schlossel was a tailor. His son followed him in that trade. The first and one of the only records I have found on him shows that he crossed from Canada into the United States by way of Niagara Falls in early November 1921. He gave his previous address as Hamilton, Ontario, and his father's address as Buffalo, New York.

As a young man in his twenties, J. Schlossel wrote science fiction and fantasy stories, a half dozen of which were published in Weird Tales and Amazing Stories. The first appeared in January 1925, the last in the spring of 1931. Schlossel's six published stories: 
  • "Invaders from Outside" in Weird Tales, January 1925; reprinted August 1938
  • "Hurled into the Infinite" (two-part serial) in Weird Tales, June-July 1925
  • "A Message From Space" in Weird Tales, March 1926
  • "The Second Swarm" in Amazing Stories Quarterly, Spring 1928; reprinted in Science Fiction Classics, Summer 1968
  • "To The Moon by Proxy" in Amazing Stories, October 1928
  • "Extra-Galactic Invaders" in Amazing Stories Quarterly, Spring 1931
After the last, he fell silent as a published author. I would like to think that there are unpublished manuscripts by J. Schlossel still out there in the world.

Joseph Schlossel is supposed to have worked in the metal-plating business. He was also a dog breeder. Disaster and tragedy struck in March 1969 when thirty-seven of his French poodles were killed in a house fire in Schodack Landing, New York. At the time, Schlossel lived across the street from the 100-year-old house in which he had kept his dogs.

Schlossel married Ora Alpha Jarvis (1913-1990) of Charleston, West Virginia. She had earned a B.S. degree from the University of Buffalo in 1937 and an M.S. degree from Columbia University in about 1939-1940. She worked for the Farmers Home Administration (FHA) in Ocala, Florida, in the 1950s and as a civil servant, eventually as a senior accountant, for the State of New York. The couple had a daughter whom I believe is still working as a teacher and psychologist.

Joseph Schlossel died on December 1 or 4, 1977, presumably in Schodack Landing, New York, where he had lived for many years. He was seventy-four years old.

J. Schlossel's Stories in Weird Tales
See the list above.

Further Reading
See the entries on Schlossel in:

J. Schlossel hit the jackpot when his first published story, "Invaders from Outside," landed on the cover of Weird Tales in January 1925. It was an early science fiction story for the magazine, preceding Nictzin Dyalhis' "When the Green Star Waned" by three months. The image of the space alien with large, slanted eyes and pointed ears was prescient. I wonder whether this was the first such image to appear on the cover of a pulp magazine in America. Whether so or not, credit the artist, Andrew Brosnatch. 

Text copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Vikings and Medieval Subjects on the Cover of Weird Tales

When I was in college the first time around, I took a class in medieval history. Then as now, I liked cartoons and comic strips, so I pointed out to my professor, Dr. James Divita, that there were at the time at least three popular newspaper comics about the Middle Ages, H├Ągar the Horrible by Dik Browne, The Wizard of Id by Brant Parker and Johnny Hart, and Prince Valiant by John Cullen Murphy (originally by Hal Foster). There have been others. I would hazard a guess, though, that there may not be anymore new ones in the future, at least as we know newspaper comics. Anyway, I have found four covers of Weird Tales in which there are Vikings or other medieval subjects. Note that almost everybody has red hair. Red garments, too.

Weird Tales, January 1925. Cover story: "Invaders from Outside: A Tale of the Twelve Worlds" by J. Schlossel. Cover art by Andrew Brosnatch. I don't think this story is set in the Middle Ages, but it sure looks that way, judging from the costumes. However, there are three dead, pointy-eared, three-legged aliens on the ground between the two main characters, so probably not. Anyway, I don't know about you, but pictures of people pointing at things are generally not very interesting to me.

Weird Tales, December 1928, ninety years ago this month. Cover story: "The Chapel of Mystic Horror" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by Hugh Rankin. I'll have to check, but this might be the only cover of "The Unique Magazine" to include any kind of Christian imagery, in this case, the crosses on the shields and surcoats of the knights on the left. However, the crosses seem to be inverted, signifying what exactly?

Weird Tales, January 1941. Cover story: "Dragon Moon" by Henry Kuttner. Cover art by Harold S. De Lay. This is a "novelette of drowned Atlantis," not of the Middle Ages, but the artist has depicted the setting and characters in a conventional medieval sort of way. So here it goes.

Weird Tales, March 1943. Cover story: "Flight into Destiny" by Verne Chute. Cover art by Edgar Franklin Wittmack. There weren't any airplanes or aviators in the Middle Ages, but there were big, strong, spear-toting guys and beautiful women wearing breastplates, at least in our imaginations. We'll probably see this cover again.

I guess in summary that there is something wrong and not quite medieval in every one of these images. For whatever reason, though, more than one teller of weird tales drew on the Middle Ages for inspiration and imagery.

Text and captions copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, December 10, 2018

Meredith Beyers (1899-1996)-Part Four

After fleeing Chicago and his wife's suit for divorce, Joseph A. Sadony went to Michigan, and it was there that I believe he lived out the rest of his life. His story is tangled. Some of what he claimed was almost certainly made up. He was a called a psychic and a philosopher. Implications are that he was some kind of scientist, researcher, or inventor, too. We might just as easily say that he was a fraud, a scoundrel, a crackpot, and a fake who nonetheless may have believed in his own fakery. Sadony was also an occultist of one kind or another who lived at a time when the bounds between religion and science (or history), at least in the popular imagination, were fluid and uncertain. That mixture has yielded all kinds of pseudosciences, pseudo-religions, and pseudo-history. Thus we have Mormonism, Marxism, Theosophy, Christian Science, Lysenkoism, and later still Dianetics and Scientology--which bear, with their creator, some resemblance to Sadony and his beliefs. We can add to all of that, I think, Sadony's own Society of Psychological Science, Institute of Mental and Athletic Development, and Society of Psychical Research of Chicago and the many more brainchildren of his life's work in Michigan. The main thrust of all of this seems to have been to establish or describe (like Charles Fort) some kind of continuity between science and religion, between the material and the spiritual or supernatural. Did he ever succeed in his work? I'm not sure that anyone can say. Whatever he did or failed to do, Sadony created and shaped a world for and around himself and his family, a world from his own vision and his own efforts. In that, he might be called a great man, great in his qualities and accomplishments but also in his flaws and failings.

* * *

Joseph A. Sadony married Mary Lillian Kochem (or Kochems) on July 3, 1906. Having been born in September 1886, she was at the time of their wedding nineteen years old. Sadony's marrying Mary Lillian would have made him (like Joseph Smith and L. Ron Hubbard) a bigamist but his two sons by her legitimate (I think). In any event, Sadony, who lived in Michigan as a child, had acquired a place in or near Montague, Michigan, in April 1906. (It was purchased as a winter home for his society by a wealthy woman of Milwaukee.) When things fell apart in Chicago in 1908, he seems to have repaired to that place, and it was in Michigan that he was counted in the U.S. Census of 1910 with his wife, called Lillian; their two very young sons, Joseph A. Sadony, Jr., and Arthur J. Sadony; his daughter, who was called Stella (meaning star), aged eleven; and a servant, Florence Smith, aged thirty-two. Stella Sadony was almost certainly Mercedes Sadony, daughter of Sadony's first wife, Lola P. Sadony. Thereby hangs another tale of scandal:

From The Inter Ocean, Chicago, Illinois, April 26, 1908, page 2.
The encampment in Michigan, called "Camp Philosophy," must have, at some point, given way to a new, permanent home for Sadony, his family, and his followers. By 1909, they were living in "the Valley of the Pines," an 80-acre farm located southwest of Montague and not far from the shoreline of Lake Michigan. (The farm is still in the Sadony family, who have lent their surname to nearby Sadony Bayou and Sadony Road or Sadony Bayou Road.) In the 1920 U.S. Census, the Sadony household was more or less the same as it had been ten years before except that Pearl M. Smith had taken the place of her sister Florence. (Both had been followers of Sadony since his Chicago days.) By 1930, though, more were added to the household: Charles Abel, caretaker; Marie St. Claire, an elderly widow of Wisconsin (and perhaps the original benefactress of the Sadony society); and (finally, finally) Meredith Beyers, listed as a lodger and as a secretary and writer. The Sadony household was even larger in 1940. It included all of those who had lived there in 1930, as well as Edith Smith, cook (another Smith sister); and R. John De Fraga, an electrician, machinist, or machine operator.

In 1910, Sadony had given his occupation as farmer, in 1920 as machinist, and in 1930 as newspaper writer. (He wrote a newspaper column and other newspaper items for decades. He also wrote many books.) In 1940, though, he and his younger son were engaged in "educational research," and it was in this field that Meredith Beyers is supposed to have worked as well, for the elder Sadony's Educational Research Laboratories.

At some point, Beyers made the transition into more conventional research. Sadony's two sons seem to have done the same in their founding and operation of Sadony Brothers Boat Works, which later became Valley Research Corporation. But there are gaps in the record of Meredith Beyers' life, and I'm afraid I can't fill them. He attended and probably graduated from Northwestern University in the late 1910s and/or early 1920s. From as early as 1930 to as late as 1940, he lived and worked at the Valley of the Pines with Joseph Sadony. Sometime in the 1940s or '50s, he branched out into more conventional work at Convair and Ryan Electronics, located in California. In May 1925, though, he had had a poem, "The Golden Nail," in Volume 1, Number 1 of a journal called The Great Work in America, published by John E. Richardson of Hollywood, California. The lead article in that issue, after Richardson's introduction (or manifesto), is one by its associate editor, none other than Joseph A. Sadony. (1) And in his introduction, Richardson mentioned Meredith Beyers, or "Meredith Beyers," as his name appears, "a young man [. . .] who has come to fill a most important place in Joseph's life and work." (p. 6) By that, we can assume, I think, that Joseph Sadony was a formative influence on Meredith Beyers. Whether that influence held after Beyers left the Valley of the Pines and the state of Michigan, I'm not sure that anyone can say. Maybe there are answers buried in the papers left behind after Sadony's death in 1960. (Sadly, all things must pass.) Maybe the books on which Beyers was working late in life carried on in some way Sadony's researches. It seems certain to me that at least one likeness of Meredith Beyers is in the photo gallery on the official Joseph A. Sadony website, called The Valley of the Pines and reachable by this linkThe last gap in Beyers' life of course concerns his final years, from 1978 to his death on April 27, 1996, at age ninety-seven. It seems to me that he would have had voluminous papers, but if a man dies without children, siblings, nieces, or nephews, where do his possessions go? I suppose into the lost and irretrievable past, as all things eventually do.

* * *

The story of Joseph A. Sadony is immense and untellable in a blog, probably even in a book. It's nice to know a little of how things turned out, though, and so here some facts on a few of the principals:
  • Joseph Alexander Sadony, born February 22, 1877, Montabaur, Germany; died September 1960, Muskegon, Michigan; buried Valley of the Pines Cemetery, a place that may be hidden on his farm near Montague, Michigan. Sadony was married twice (I think), first to Lola Pauline Mielke, then to Mary Lillian Kochem or Kochems. These two marriages in fact overlapped. The first presumably ended in divorce, probably sometime in mid to late 1908. The second ended with his death.
  • Lola Pauline (Mielke) Sadony Lincoln, born August 1, 1879, New Ulm, Minnesota; died March 19, 1960, presumably in Chicago. She married William Henley Lincoln (1880-?), November 3, 1908, in Indiana, after her presumed divorce from Sadony. She was also known for some reason as Lizzie A. Mielke and Lizzie A. Sadony.
  • Mercedes P. Sadony Lincoln Bierbaum, aka Stella Sadony, born November 28, 1898, Chicago; died September 1978, presumably in Chicago. She was the daughter and only child of Joseph and Lola Sadony. She married Harold O. Bierbaum (1905-1982).
  • Mary Lillian (Kochem or Kochems) Sadony, born September 1886, Kentucky; died December 27, 1966, presumably in Michigan; buried Oak Grove Cemetery, Montague, Michigan. She was Joseph Sadony's second wife and mother of his two sons:
  • Joseph Alexander Sadony, Jr., born 1908, Michigan; died ?
  • Arthur Joseph Sadony, born April 14, 1909, Michigan; died May 29, 1998; buried Oak Grove Cemetery, Montague, Michigan. He served in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II and was married to Beatrice H. Sadony (1920-2004). Both he and his brother had children who I think own and operate the Valley of the Pines farm and the official Joseph A. Sadony website of the same name.

Meredith Beyers' Story in Weird Tales
"The Last Entry" in Weird Tales (May/June/July 1924)

Further Reading
There is abundant reading on Joseph A. Sadony on the Internet. The best source I have found on the life of Meredith Beyers is a newspaper article, "He Holds All the Cards as County Votes" by Nancy Skelton, in the Los Angeles Times, June 6, 1978, page 20+.

Note
(1) In the same issue of The Great Work in America is an article about prenatal influences upon the mind of a child, written by the wife of the editor, Noneta S. Richardson. (Like Joseph Sadony, the editor, John Emmet Richardson, ran away from his wife with a younger woman and established a place, in  California, for occult, spiritual, or philosophical activities. His brainchild, The Great School of Natural Science, is still in existence.) Researchers into the history of Dianetics and Scientology might want to have a look at Mrs. Richardson's article, moreover at the lives and works of John E. Richardson, Noneta S. Richardson, and Florence Huntley Richardson, and consider them as a possible precursors not only to L. Ron Hubbard's inventions but also to other West Coast wackiness, including George Adamski's yarns of contact and travels with aliens from outer space.

Professor Joseph A. Sadony, with his wife and associates, from the front page of The Inter Ocean, Chicago, Illinois, March 1, 1908, the day the scandal broke. Mrs. Sadony was Lola P. Sadony. Miss Pearl Smith was a longtime follower of Sadony and later a cook at his camp in Michigan. C.C. Christian was an officer, I think, in his society while in Chicago. Miss Bessie Brown was, I suppose, one of his votaries.

Original text copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley