Thursday, April 30, 2020

Katherine MacLean (1925-2019)

Aka Charles Dye, G.A. Morris
Author, Essayist, Artist, Teacher, Laboratory Technician
Born January 22, 1925, Glen Ridge, New Jersey
Died September 1, 2019, Arundel, Maine

Since the end of the world came, I have been cleaning, straightening, and organizing, including things on my blog. I'm still trying to catch up from last year, and I just learned that science fiction author Katherine MacLean died in 2019. She had just one story in Weird Tales. Called "Chicken Soup," it was a collaboration with Mary Kornbluth, and it appeared in the winter issue of 1973 under editor Sam Moskowitz. (1)

Katherine Anne MacLean was born on January 22, 1925. Her parents were Gordon Maclean, an engineer, and Ruth (Crawford) MacLean, both American-born but of English and Irish descent. Katherine was the youngest of three children. Although the MacLean family called Queens and Brooklyn, New York, home from as early as 1900 to as late as 1940, Katherine was born in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, and baptized at All Saints Episcopal Church in West Orange, New Jersey. Something of a prodigy, she declined a position at a neuroscience laboratory at age fifteen, instead choosing to pursue a college education. (2) She received a bachelor's degree in economics from Barnard College. Later, she and her family lived in Maine.

Katherine MacLean started writing science fiction in 1947 while working as a laboratory technician. Her first published story was "Defense Mechanism," which appeared in Astounding Science Fiction in October 1949. She averaged two or three stories per year for the next quarter century or so, and her work was and is widely admired. In 1972, she won a Nebula Award for her novella "The Missing Man," originally in Analog, March 1971. Two of her stories, "Pictures Don't Lie" (Galaxy Science Fiction, Aug. 1951) and "The Carnivore" (Galaxy Science Fiction, Oct. 1953), have been adapted to film. Audiences heard an NBC-radio version of "The Snowball Effect" (Galaxy Science Fiction, Sept. 1952) on the show X Minus One on August 14, 1956. You can hear it today by clicking here. Her short story "Contagion" (Galaxy Science Fiction, Oct. 1950) includes a warning for us:
But the likeness of Earth was danger, and the cool wind might be death, for if the animals were like Earth animals, their diseases might be like Earth diseases, alike enough to be contagious, different enough to be impossible to treat.
God help us if disease ever jumps to us from an alien animal here on Earth.

Katherine MacLean taught English and writing at the University of Maine and had about half a dozen novels and collections to her credit. Her stories have appeared in many anthologies, too, especially of stories by women authors. In 2011, she won the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award, "intended to honour [sic] notable sf [science fiction] and fantasy authors who in the view of the judging panel either did not receive or no longer receive as much attention as they deserve." (Quote from the online Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.) She was married three times, to science fiction authors Charles Dye and (Samuel) David Mason, finally to Carl West. She had one son, Christopher Mason, who announced her death, which came on September 1, 2019, in Arundel, Maine. Katherine MacLean was ninety-four years old.

Katherine MacLean's Story, with Mary Kornbluth, in Weird Tales
"Chicken Soup" (Winter 1973)

Further Reading
Introduction by Pamela Sargent to "Contagion" by Katherine MacLean in Women of Wonder: Science Fiction Stories by Women About Women (New York: Vintage Books, 1975), page 18.

(1) For my original article about her, dated July 1, 2013, click here.
(2) Katherine MacLean's interest in psychology may have led her to an early interest in L. Ron Hubbard's "new science of the mind," dianetics. Hubbard's first version of what became his book Dianetics was published in Astounding Science Fiction in May 1950; Katherine had three stories in the same magazine between October 1949 and June 1950. "For a time," wrote a science fiction encyclopedist, "dianetics created a furore among readers and many writers. Katherine MacLean became immersed in auditing. James Blish expressed enthusiasm, but later opposed the theory. Van Vogt abandoned writing to run a West Coast dianetics institute." From "04.09 Fringe Cults," the very last entry in The Visual Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, edited by Brian Ash (New York: Harmony Books, 1977), pages 341-342.

Katherine MacLean's novella "The Missing Man" first appeared as the cover story in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact in March 1971. It won her a Nebula Award. An expanded, novel-length version followed in 1975. Frank Kelly Freas was the cover artist here.

Her first book was The Diploids and Other Flights of Fancy, published by Avon Books in 1962. The cover artist is unknown.

Revised May 3, 2020.
Original text copyright 2020 Terence E. Hanley

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

The Mysterious Dolgov-Part Three and a Half

A month ago I wrote part three of this series on The Mysterious Dolgov. Then the world came to an end. Since then, my copy of Frederik Pohl's memoir The Way the Future Was has been sitting on the floor, waiting like a child to be picked up again. Like I said before, I have only a paperback edition of this book and there isn't any index in it. Today after finishing a job, I picked it up again and looked through it a little more closely than before.

And I still didn't find Boris Dolgov's name.

However, there are some clues scattered like breadcrumbs through the text. They may not lead to The Mysterious Dolgov, but they lead to a supposition. Here are the breadcrumbs, from the Ballantine Books edition of May 1979:

First, Pohl listed the names of the original Futurians, a science fiction fan club formed in 1937 in New York City. "As near as I can remember," he wrote, "[they] were:

Daniel Burford
Chester Cohen
Jack Gillespie
Cyril Kornbluth
Walter Kubilius
David A. Kyle
Herman Leventman
John B. Michel
Jack Rubinson
Richard Wilson
Donald A. Wollheim
Dirk Wylie

"Later additions," Pohl continued, "included Hannes Bok, Damon Knight, and Judith Merril [. . .]." (p. 67) (I have made bold the names of writers and artists who later contributed to Weird Tales. Click on them for links to other places in this blog.)

Second, on May 11, 1937, Frederik Pohl met a woman he described as "strikingly beautiful, and strikingly intelligent, too, in a sulky, humorous, deprecatory way [. . . ]." (p. 74) Her real name was Doris Marie Claire Baumgardt, but her friends--and her future husband, Frederik Pohl--called her Doë. Doë was a writer and artist. In 1940 and 1941, again in the 1950s, all under the name Leslie Perri, she wrote fiction and non-fiction and drew pictures for science fiction publications. Here are her professional credits, in their entirety, from the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDb):
  • Cover and interior illustrations for The Final Men by H.G. Wells, a seven-page chapbook published by Robert W. Lowndes in March 1940
  • "Fantasy Reviews: Fantasy Films," review published in Astonishing Stories (June 1940), with Forrest J. Ackerman, and under editor Frederik Pohl (1)
  • "Fantasy Reviews: Fantasy Music," review published in Super Science Stories (July 1940), under editor Frederik Pohl
  • "Space Episode," short story published in Future (Dec. 1941), under an uncredited editor and behind a cover illustration by Hannes Bok
  • "In the Forest," short story published in If (Sept. 1953), under editor James L. Quinn
  • "Under the Skin," short story published in Infinity Science Fiction (June 1956), under editor Larry T. Shaw (also appeared as "The Untouchables") (2)
So here we see some of the same names again: Pohl, Lowndes, Bok.

Third, Pohl became editor of two new magazines, Astonishing Stories and Super Science Stories, in the fall of 1939. (Both made their debut in 1940.) He had a budget of about a penny per word for fiction. "Art was something else," he remembered, continuing:
When I brought my budget to Aleck Portegal, the art director, he looked at me with compassion and disgust. Where the hell was I going to get artists to work for that kind of money? Writers, sure. Everybody knew what writers were like. But artists did a job of work for a dollar, and they wouldn't take less. That didn't worry me because I had a secret weapon. In fact, two of them. There were the fan artists, as eager as the fan writers for publication in a science-fiction magazine. And besides, my girlfriend, Doë, was an art student at Cooper Union. She had at her fingertips a whole school of striving newcomers to whom five dollars would look like a hell of a price for something they would gladly have bribed us to print. (p. 102)
Unfortunately, the art students proved "a disappointment," Pohl wrote, "and most of the fans were worse. But there were a couple who were competent, and one--Hannes Bok, whom Ray Bradbury had been touting at the World Convention not long before--who was superb." (p. 102) A few pages later, still recounting his travails as an editor strapped by a tight budget, Pohl wrote: "Hannes Bok, Doë, Dave Kyle, and others did illustrations for me, and I farmed out departments and columns to those who wanted to do them [. . .]." (pp. 110-111)

And that's it. No matter how hard I try, I can't get Frederik Pohl to say Boris Dolgov's name.

So, did Dolgov contribute to magazines edited by Pohl? Not according to ISFDb. But then I don't think we should rule out that Dolgov worked anonymously or under a different name. In any case, we know that Dolgov contributed to magazines edited by two other Futurians, Robert W. Lowndes and Donald A. Wollheim, and that these five drawings came in 1941. Three were collaborations with Hannes Bok. (3)

So again, I'm working on the idea that Boris Dolgov was born in about 1910, probably in New York City, and that he was peripherally attached to science fiction fandom in that city during the late 1930s and early 1940s. Like I said, Bok came out of fandom, too, and I wonder if that's where they met and where they decided to collaborate. But what if instead Dolgov was an art student at Cooper Union in about 1939-1940, and what if he was recruited into the science fiction field by Doë Baumgardt? Maybe a look at the student rolls from Cooper Union, if they still exist, would tell us something . . .

By the way, Doë Marie Claire Baumgardt Pohl Owens Wilson, aka Leslie Perri, was born one hundred years ago this week, on April 27, 1920. Happy Birthday, Doë!

To be continued . . .

(1) Pohl and Doë were married on August 31, 1940 (in a Presbyterian church of all places). See The Way the Future Was, pages 112 and following, for more on their short-lived marriage.
(2) Doë also contributed to fanzines during the 1930s and '40s.
(3) Dolgov's first illustration for Weird Tales was in the issue of September 1941. His last appeared in July 1954. In other words, after working very briefly for a couple of science fiction magazines in 1941, Dolgov found regular work with Weird Tales and stayed with it until the very end.

The Way the Future Was: A Memoir by Frederik Pohl (1978), with cover art by Joseph Lombardero (1922-2004). Ignore the -dero part: as far as anyone knows, Lombardero was not an evil, cavern-dwelling creature sprung from the imagination of Richard Sharpe Shaver.

Original text copyright 2020 Terence E. Hanley

Saturday, April 25, 2020

This Boring Apocalypse

I have been away for five weeks and now back again, I write.

The apocalypse has come and it's nothing like we thought it would be. There are no zombies clawing at the door, no gun-toting commies or Nazis in the street, no aliens in the skies above us, no radioactive particles in the air around us. There is no challenge, no struggle, no need to focus, no desperate decision-making, no discarding of unneeded things along the side of the road, no rushing or fleeing into storm and night. This is in fact the first apocalypse in which the only thing we have to do to survive is nothing at all. Setting aside all of the death and suffering in the world, the whole situation seems a little comic or ironic. If we all just watch TV for the next few weeks--which is what we have all wanted to do anyway--we'll be okay. Then it's back to the really unenjoyable part: again daily life.

There is actually a term for this in genre literature. It's called the "cosy catastrophe," and a science fiction author, Brian Aldiss (1925-2017), was the one who thought it up. Aldiss was referring to the works of fellow British author John Wyndham (1903-1969) when he wrote, but there are others who have penned cosy catastrophes. The best example I have, I think, is Alas Babylon by Pat Frank, from 1959. Another is Love in the Ruins by Walker Percy, from 1971.

You will see some hazy definitions and descriptions of the cosy catastrophe wherever you happen to look. Imprecision in thought and language seems to be a hallmark of our age--but then that started long before the current apocalypse and can't be attributed to it. Anyway, I'll let you go. You have a television show to watch.

Copyright 2020, 2023 Terence E. Hanley