Saturday, May 28, 2022

Joseph A. Winter (1911-1955)-Part One

Joseph Augustus Winter, M.D.

Aka J.A. Winter, M.D.
Physician, Surgeon, Author
Born February 17, 1911, Negaunee, Michigan
Died June 9, 1955, Englewood Hospital, Englewood, New Jersey

Joseph Augustus Winter was born in winter, on February 17, 1911, and in a wintery place, Negaunee, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. His father was Joseph H. Winter (1871-1956), a bank president and a mayor of Negaunee. His mother was Lucy MacKenzie Winter (1878-1949).

Joseph A. Winter attended the University of Michigan and the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. In 1937, he received his degree as a medical doctor from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Previous to that, on August 29, 1934, he had married Marjorie Roosen (1908-1999), a native of Ontonagon, Michigan. The place was Little Lake in Marquette County, Michigan. There is a chapel at Little Lake, established in the 1930s. I wonder if that could have been where the Winters were married.

Dr. Winter was a surgeon and a physician. He practiced medicine in Cheboygan, Michigan, for four years before serving in the U.S. Army, from June 24, 1942, to August 3, 1944. Winter returned to civilian life and again practiced medicine, this time in St. Joseph, Michigan, from 1945 to 1949. In January 1949, he moved himself and his family to Bayside, New Jersey, to take up a new endeavor.

Joseph A. Winter was an author, and that's where things get interesting for us, for he is listed in the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDb) with the following credits:

  • "Endocrinology in Tough" [sic] in Astounding Science Fiction (essay, Oct. 1948)
  • "Expedition Mercy" in Astounding Science Fiction (short story, Nov. 1948)
  • "Expedition Polychrome" in Astounding Science Fiction (short story, Jan. 1949)
  • Letter in Astounding Science Fiction (Aug. 1950)
  • "The General Adaptation Syndrome" in Astounding Science Fiction (essay, Nov. 1950)
  • "What is Psychosomatic?" in Astounding Science Fiction (essay, Aug. 1952)
  • "Thinking in Men and Machines" (essay, Aug. 1953)
  • "The Reference Library: One More World," with P. Schuyler Miller, in Astounding Science Fiction (essay, Mar. 1954)
  • Review of The Living Brain (1953) by W. Grey Walter in Astounding Science Fiction (Mar. 1954)
Note that all were published in Astounding Science Fiction. The ISFDb also lists two hardbound books by Dr. Winter that it calls non-genre works:
  • A Doctor's Report on Dianetics (Julian Press, 1951)
  • Are Your Troubles Psychosomatic? (Julian Messner, 1952)
Both were reviewed in Startling Stories.

There's that word again: Dianetics.

To be continued . . .

According to the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDb), J.A. Winter, M.D., had a grand total of two short stories published in the genres of fantasy and science fiction. Both have been reprinted in book form, "Expedition Mercy" in Great Science Fiction About Doctors (1963) and "Expedition Polychrome" in this book, Gates to Tomorrow, edited by Andre Norton and Ernestine Donaldy (1973).

"Expedition Polychrome" is set in the future on a distant planet where men from Earth have arrived in their expeditionary spacecraft. One of them is afflicted by a mysterious disease, which turns his skin an aquamarine blue, like "Lake Superior in July." (Remember that Winter was from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.) The main action in the story involves the crewman's treatment by onboard physicians, and there is a good deal of talk of medicine, chemistry, and even botany. Eventually the patient is cured not by Earth medicine but by the natives of the planet, who practice a kind of homeopathy. I wonder whether John W. Campbell, Jr., editor of Astounding, could have coached Winter in writing science fiction stories. Whether he was coached or not, Winter introduced a pseudoscience, homeopathy, into his story as a cure for the blue spaceman of the planet Minotaur, this from a medical doctor turned science fiction author. Interesting.

Cover art by Jack Gaughan.

Thanks to the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDb).
Original text copyright 2022 Terence E. Hanley

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Hubbard the Explorer

or, Expedition Dianetics

The first published version of Dianetics was not in Astounding Science Fiction nor in a hardbound book edition. Instead it was in The Explorers Journal, the organ of the Explorers Club of New York, in its issue of Winter/Spring 1950 (Vol. XXVIII, No. 1). Written by L. Ron Hubbard--but in the passive voice--this version is entitled "Terra Incognita: The Mind." You can read it yourself by clicking here. Hubbard's essay is only three and a half pages long, yet it includes some basics of Dianetics (the word is capitalized in the original). It also introduces the word and concept comanome, later to evolve into the engram.

Strangely, Hubbard was a member of the Explorers Club, his membership having dated to February 19, 1940. On June 27, 1940, he set off on what he called the Alaskan Radio Experimental Expedition. Sailing under Explorers Club flag number 105, he captained a yacht called--ironically or not--Magician. Hubbard was given to boasting and mock heroics. His great radio expedition turned out to be more or less a fiasco, and he returned stateside half a year after beginning.

Volney G. Mathison, who contributed to Weird Tales, was an oceangoing radio operator. I had thought that he and Hubbard might have crossed paths as early as 1940, on the West Coast or in Alaska. But what I have read since writing about Mathison leads me to think that he and Hubbard didn't meet until the early 1950s, or, at the earliest, the late 1940s. In any case, Hubbard went on to lead two more expeditions flying the flag of the Explorers Club (flag number 163), in 1961 for his Oceanographic-Archeological [sic] Expedition, and in 1966 for his Hubbard Geological Survey Expedition. By 1961, Mathison had long broken with Hubbard. By 1966, he was in his grave.

* * *

Dianetics is an old word. Originally spelled dianoetics, it was first used in print in 1677. Citing the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Jon Atack, author of the essay "Possible Origins for Dianetics and Scientology" (click here to read it), is the source of that piece of information. Mr. Atack also suggested that Hubbard derived dianetics from the name of the Greek goddess Diana, a prominent figure in Aleister Crowley's supposed magic. Hubbard went on to name one of his daughters and one of his vessels Diana.

Dianoetic was in newspapers before 1900. The first occurrences of the word dianetic in American newspapers that I have found are from 1923 and 1926. In these items, dianetic is used as an adjective and not a noun. The usage seems to me nonsensical and absurd, like someone is putting us on. It also seems to me that the spelling dianetic is just a simplification of dianoetic. It would have to wait until early 1950, as far as I can tell, for the word Dianetics as a noun to occur in print in reference to a kind of psychology or pseudo-psychology. Read on . . .

Newspaper columnist Walter Winchell gets the credit for breaking the story of a coming Dianetics. On January 30, 1950, he wrote:

     There is something new coming in April called dianetics. (1) A new science that works with the invariability of physical science in the field of the human mind. From all indications it will prove to be as revolutionary for humanity as the first caveman's discovery and utilization of fire. (2)

Note the phrase "the invariability of physical science." In that, I detect the influence of John W. Campbell, Jr., who was in fact a physical scientist and seemingly keen on applying scientific principles to "the field of the human mind." I have tried to figure out a possible connection between Winchell and Campbell, Winchell and Hubbard, or Winchell and science fiction in general but have come up empty. (3) It seems to me that in early 1950, Hubbard and Campbell were trying to hype their new invention. What better way than to drop a hint with one of the most widely read newspaper columnists in America? (4) And why wouldn't Winchell publish a bit of gossip? That was his coin. Better to be wrong than to lose a scoop . . .

Except that Winchell was scooped, for Dianetics was mentioned in a newspaper item published twelve days prior to his January 31 column. On January 19, 1950, an anonymous reporter wrote:

Move to New Jersey -- Dr. and Mrs. J.A. Winter and family left yesterday to make their home in Bayside, N.J., where Dr. Winter is to continue his work in dianetics. Their home at 1614 Forres [sic] avenue will be occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Phillip Malloy.

The source is The Herald-Palladium of Benton Harbor, Michigan, page 3.

And that's where my research for this series began.

To be continued . . .

(1) The publication of Hubbard's Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health was delayed a few days, until May 9, 1950.
(2) From the column "Gossip of the Nation" in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Jan. 31, 1950, p. 19. Winchell's column was of course in many other papers that day.
(3) Robert A. Heinlein later referred to a fictional gossip columnist as a "winchell" in Stranger in a Strange Land (1961). It seems to me that Heinlein was in the habit of trying to immortalize contemporary things. It didn't often work, and it makes him sound like somebody's old grandpa who talks about things from long ago that nobody now understands.
(4) There were newspapermen and broadcasters in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), but not Walter Winchell. These were: Kenneth Kendall, who was later in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968); Elmer Davis, previously editor of the pulp magazine Adventure; and H.V. Kaltenborn. Dorothy Kilgallen was also a gossip columnist. She wrote more than once about flying saucers. Some conspiracy theorists believe that her mysterious death is an example of the silencing of people who knew too much about flying saucers. On August 18, 1950, she wrote about Hubbard's brainchild:

     Dianetics, the new "scientific" parlor game which swept California recently, has begun to catch on in the Gotham set that likes to discuss its neuroses . . . (Ellipses in the original, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Aug. 18, 1950, p. 22.)

The Explorers Journal, Winter-Spring 1950. The photograph on the cover looks like it could have been taken in Alaska. Does it date from L. Ron Hubbard's radio expedition to that place in 1940? And could that be the silhouette of Polly Hubbard, first wife of the inventor of Dianetics? Or is it the silhouette of a man?

Original text copyright 2022, 2023 Terence E. Hanley

Friday, May 20, 2022

A Wretched Thing or Two

It was May 1950 and time to do a wretched thing or two. Astounding Science Fiction got the ball rolling by printing "Dianetics: The Evolution of a Science" by L. Ron Hubbard in that month's issue. On May 9, 1950, Hermitage House issued the book-length version, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. Astounding editor John W. Campbell, Jr., had a big hand in both of those works of pseudo-nonfiction. In 1949-1950, he and Hubbard had collaborated in the development of Dianetics, even if it was initially a product of Hubbard's diseased mind. Unlike inheritance or relativity, Dianetics was an invention--ultimately an artifice--rather than a discovery. Campbell might be considered Hubbard's co-inventor.

A few years before Dianetics arrived on the scene, Raymond A. Palmer had parlayed the Shaver Mystery into vastly increased sales for Amazing Stories. The publication of Hubbard and Campbell's new pseudoscientific bible led to a jump in sales for Astounding Science Fiction, too. In 1949, circulation was at 75,000 copies per month. In 1950, monthly sales neared 100,000 copies. (1) Maybe Hubbard and Campbell had paid attention while the Shaver Mystery raged in science fiction circles. Maybe they saw an opportunity in what they thought of as a far more significant discovery. Call it Dianetics as Mantong. In any event, Dianetics stormed into the popular imagination in 1950-1951.

In a chapter of his book Astounding (2018, 2019) entitled "The Dianetics Epidemic," author Alec Nevala-Lee writes that by the summer of 1950, the hardbound version of Dianetics was selling 1,000 copies per day. (2) Like our own coronavirus, it raced through the American populace. Some succumbed, like A. E. van Vogt. Others showed strong resistance. In a sort of colloquium published in Marvel Science Stories, May 1951, Lester del Rey began his con to Hubbard's pro position with this observation:

     The secret feeling that you're basically superior to your fellow man is probably more typically human than anything, except the related doubt that you're superior to anyone. Racism is based on the need to believe in superiority, and one of the basic factors underlying many neuroses is the doubt of even equality. (p. 116)

Philosopher and longshoreman Eric Hoffer--like del Rey writing just six years after the destruction of the Nazi regime--came to the same kind of conclusion in The True Believer, that the man who believes himself superior may hold in his secret heart a contrary feeling of crushing inferiority. That seems to have been a general feeling among certain readers, fans, and writers of science fiction from the 1920 and '30s onward. It became more specific in the Superior Man-type story so common in Astounding Science Fiction during the 1940s. Maybe by 1950 Campbell felt that what was needed was to move that concept from fiction into fact, thus Dianetics. Ten years later--in January 1960--Astounding Science Fiction became Analog Science Fact & Fiction. In explaining the name change, Campbell wrote: "The science fiction we run in this magazine is in actual fact a good analog of the science facts to come." (3) Never mind that he had moved on by then from one failed pseudo-quasi-science to another.

To be continued . . .


(1) According to a letter from Campbell to Eric Frank Russell, dated January 7, 1952, and cited in Astounding by Alec Nevala-Lee (2018; Dey Street, 2019), page 272.

(2) Ditto, page 272.

(3) Quoted in Mr. Nevala-Lee's book, page 326, from Analog, February 1960.

Original text copyright 2022 Terence E. Hanley

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

J. Allen St. John's Covers for Fate Magazine

I wrote the other day about Weird Tales and Fate magazine. Reader Carrington B. Dixon has reminded us that J. Allen St. John, who created nine cover illustrations for Weird Tales, also created two for Fate:

Fate, July 1950, with cover art by J. Allen St. John illustrating "Darius--Conqueror of Destiny" by Harland Wilson. Note the top title: "Lemuria Did Exist."

Fate, September 1950, again with cover art by St. John illustrating "The Ancient Rites of Pan" by Frank Patton. This could easily have been a cover for Weird Tales, but it was not meant to be a cover illustration at all . . .

According to Darrell C. Richardson (1918-2006) in his book J. Allen St. John: An Illustrated Bibliography (1991), the second piece of art shown above, then or later called "Áve Pan," was painted not for Fate but for the artist's own amusement. St. John told the late Mr. Richardson as much in 1949 when the latter visited the former in his studio. "The editor of Fate Magazine," Mr. Richardson wrote, "visited the studio some weeks later and was intrigued by the scene and bought reproduction rights." (p. 101) St. John's tableau was later reproduced as a poster by Russ Cochran.

So, one more connection between Weird Tales and Fate magazine.

Thank you, Carrington B. Dixon.

Thanks also to S.P., who was willing to part with Darrell C. Richardson's book, which may have come from the library of his late friend, Larry Ivie (1936-2014).

Original text copyright 2022 Terence E. Hanley

Friday, May 13, 2022

Piecing Together Separated Things

In his critique of Charles Fort, John W. Campbell, Jr., wrote that Fort had not done "the hard work of integrating [his data] and finding the pattern." Evidently that's what Campbell was looking for and what he tried to do in his own research: integrate the data and find the pattern.

Fort was a lifelong collector. His life's work consisted of collecting accounts of strange, unexplained, and anomalous phenomena from newspapers, magazines, journals, and other sources in print, then assembling them into four books published from 1919 to 1932. (His last, Lo!, came out two days after his death.) Fort may not have come up to Campbell's standards, but I'm not sure that he failed to integrate his data or to find a pattern, either. He famously concluded: "I think we're property." (The Book of the Damned, 1919, Chapter 12) That seems to me the result of an integration and the discovery of a pattern.

If we summarize the Fortean method, it might be that meaning, significance, or the establishment of patterns comes from the piecing together of data or information that is separated in both time and space. From "The Call of Cthulhu" (1926, 1928):
     The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. [. . .] The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.
But it is not from them [the Theosophists] that there came the single glimpse of forbidden aeons which chills me when I think of it and maddens me when I dream of it. That glimpse, like all dread glimpses of truth, flashed out from an accidental piecing together of separated things--in this case an old newspaper item and the notes of a dead professor. 
So it looks like Lovecraft's narrator availed himself of the Fortean method by piecing together "disassociated knowledge" and "separated things." And in examining these data, the narrator arrives at a correlation of contents, in Campbell's terms, perhaps, at integration and a discovery of patterns.

The novel Sinister Barrier was the headliner in the first issue of Campbell's fantasy magazine Unknown. The author was Eric Frank Russell, a confirmed Fortean. In his introduction, Russell in fact acknowledged Fort as a posthumous co-author of his story. He also acknowledged the Fortean Society of America and mentioned Lovecraft, Ambrose Bierce, and other "imaginative and enquiring minds" who had "been 'removed' with expedition, and with subtle cunning." (Oh, those disappearing Ambroses!) Then comes a second introduction, a description of and speculation on a seemingly insignificant journalistic account: eight dead starlings falling from the sky in New York City, and a ninth so frightened that it flies into a restaurant window. What killed the eight and frightened the ninth? Only the integration of data, the correlation of contents allows for an answer . . .

Campbell wrote his critique of Fort in the form of a letter to Russell, dated October 1, 1952. In it, Campbell called for a piecing together, an integration of separate things. And from that integration, he wanted the making of patterns. Earlier that year, in March 1952, Robert A. Heinlein's story "The Year of the Jackpot" had appeared in Galaxy Science Fiction. Heinlein's hero is statistician Potiphar Breen. Like Charles Fort, Breen collects data from newspaper accounts of seemingly unrelated phenomena. In other words, Breen employs the Fortean method, but he takes it one step further: he answers Campbell's call for integration and pattern-making. It is through Breen's integration and analysis that a pattern emerges, a pattern of cycles that just happen to come together in a single year, the year of the jackpot. And what a terrible jackpot it is! There is also a parallel construction to Fort's I think we're property: Breen tells his girlfriend Meade, "I think we're lemmings."

So did Heinlein answer Campbell's call directly, meaning, did Heinlein get the idea for his story from Campbell in regards to what Campbell thought of as Fort's shortcomings? I doubt it. For one, "The Year of the Jackpot" was in H.L. Gold's Galaxy versus Campbell's Astounding Science Fiction. More importantly, I doubt that Heinlein would have needed any hints or nudges or ideas from anyone else at that point in his career. He was his own man and his own writer. He had plenty of imagination and almost certainly didn't need anything from anyone else.

I didn't go looking for "The Year of the Jackpot." In an almost occult coincidence, I just happened to read it the other night. (I write on April 27, 2022.) I had read the story before, I think. This time I found it in Nightmare Age, a collection of unpleasant or even terrible futures, edited by Frederik Pohl and published by Ballantine Books in 1970. Not to take anything away from anyone else represented in this book--there are some very good writers and very good stories in Nightmare Age--but Heinlein was simply a step ahead of the others, in his style, in his way of putting together a story, in his dialogue and characterization, finally in his way of conveying real feeling and what it is to live as a human being. A story that begins lightly turns serious and heavy by the end. And those are the final words of "The Year of the Jackpot": THE END.

Anyway, the Fortean method made its way into both fiction and nonfiction, as early as "The Call of Cthulhu"; certainly by the time of Sinister Barrier, in which it was placed in full view of the reader; in "The Year of the Jackpot," in which it was no longer necessary to mention any Fortean background to a story; more obviously in all of the nonfictional or pseudo-nonfictional accounts of Fate and other Fortean studies published after midcentury. Behind the Flying Saucers by Frank Scully (1950) and The UFO Annual by Morris K. Jessup (1956) are good examples. We should remember that the short story that uses or refers to newspaper accounts has precedence in the work of the Amazing Disappearing Ambrose Bierce (1842-?). So maybe Fort followed Bierce.

None of this is to say that Lovecraft or Heinlein wrote their stories with an awareness of Fort and the Fortean method in mind. We don't know that they did. In fact, Lovecraft seems to have worked in the Modernist method of assembling his stories from the things he found around him, like John Dos Passos or T.S. Eliot. (I guess Fort did the same thing. So was Fort a Modernist?) The case of "The Year of the Jackpot" seems more equivocal. That single parallel construction--"I think we're lemmings"--seems to give the game away, though. Maybe Potiphar Breen is a cross between Charles Fort and John W. Campbell, Jr.

"The year of the Jackpot" by Robert A. Heinlein was the cover story in the March 1952 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction. H.L. Gold (1914-1996) was the editor, Richard Arbib (1919-1995) the cover artist. There are mentions of Flying Saucers and Rosicrucianism in Heinlein's story. There is also a quote from this quatrain by Nostradamus:

The Oriental shall come out of his Seat,
Shall pass over the Apennine Mountains, and see France,
Shall go over the Air, the Waters and Snow,
And shall strike every one with his Rod.

That sounds like a prediction of the coronavirus, which hit Italy and France hard before going by air, over waters and snow, to strike the United States and other countries. If the coronavirus were a rod-shaped bacillus rather than a virus, this would be a slam dunk for Nostradamus. Note that President Eleven's name is sandwiched between two Xs in the numerical designation of the quatrain. Xs mark the spot.

By the way, the endings of Melancholia (2011) and Star Wars: Rogue One (2016) are like that of "The Year of the Jackpot." Could the creators of those two movies have read Heinlein's story? Or did they arrive at their endings independently of him and each other?

Original text copyright 2022 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, May 9, 2022

Campbell on Fort-Part Two

Charles Fort's third book, Lo! (1931), was serialized in Astounding Stories in eight parts, from April to November 1934. It seems certain to me that, as a young writer and reader of science fiction stories, John W. Campbell, Jr. (1910-1971) would have encountered it. Just three years after Lo! was in Astounding, Campbell became editor of the magazine. In March 1938, the title went from Astounding Stories to Astounding Science-Fiction and the Golden Age of Science Fiction was off to a start. The hyphen was later dropped.

Weird Tales was still going strong in 1938, despite having lost two of its top authors, Robert E. Howard (1906-1936) and H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937). In March 1939, Campbell launched a magazine of fantasy as a companion to Astounding and in competition with Weird Tales. It was called Unknown, and the first issue, from March 1939, contained one of the most overtly Fortean stories that I know of, the novel Sinister Barrier by Eric Frank Russell (1905-1978). In August 1941, Campbell reviewed The Books of Charles Fort in the pages of Astounding Science Fiction. According to Sam Moskowitz, Campbell's review "heartily recommends it as a source book for plots." (1)

Thirteen years after the publication of Sinister Barrier, on October 1, 1952, Campbell wrote to Russell. His letter must have been in response to one by Russell, for Campbell addressed his correspondent:
    I'm trying to introduce the proposition of sciences beyond those currently known and accepted.
    But Eric PLEASE believe me; Charles Fort made a mistake. [. . .] (2)

Campbell then proceeded to explain just why and how Fort was wrong:

He insisted that the scientists understand him when he explained it all to them in Swahili. (p. 68)
Also, Fort began screaming at the scientists, and calling them names. (p. 69) 
Fort refused to take the trouble to translate his observations into coherent language--language of science. (p. 69) 
It counts when you can reach an understanding that is valid, and communicate that understanding to others. [¶ ] Fort couldn't. He did it wrong. He angered the best thinkers, the clearest, straightest-thinking minds who could have helped the most. His writing appealed largely to muzzy-minded people who went in for fortune telling, crystal-ball readings, and the like; they were the bulk of his audience. (p. 70) 
Fort's attitude was just as ineffective as Hubbard's; Hubbard angered the psychiatrists by his belligerence. (p. 70) 
Fort was insisting that someone else do the work of integrating them [presumably his data], and refusing to organize and interpret the data into intelligible stuff himself. [. . .] He was too lazy to do the hard work; he wanted it done for him [. . .]. (p. 70)

And then, after all of that, Campbell conceded:
     His data was valid. It contained important understandings, and important clues. In that, he was right. But why didn't he do some of the hard work of integrating it and finding the pattern, instead of frothing about how everyone else wouldn't do the work? (p. 70)

But maybe that concession was only towards Campbell's own extraordinary claim, which comes right after:

     For your information, Peg and I have done it. We have the basic understanding of what the psionic functions are, and how they work. It took us over two years of damned hard work. The reason why I'm now starting it in the magazine is that I do have some integrated understanding of what we're dealing with. I'm not yet ready to say a damned thing about it, either, because I recognize that Fort was wrong, and why he was wrong, and what the right answer is. Until I can demonstrate the phenomena myself, and communicate the exact nature of the mechanisms involved, with demonstrations of each step, I'm not ready to talk. When I've done that, though, by God the physical scientists will gladly pitch in and help. I know the general concept of teleportation, levitation, and a few other spontaneous psi phenomena--also telekinesis, etc. In addition, I know the general basic laws which can permit precognition, and an absolute barrier of pure force that will block passage of any force now known to physical science. The fundamental clues are to be found in many places; among the places are the sort of data Fort collected--but was too stinking lazy to dig into and integrate himself.

     I am not kidding.

     I am not cracked, either. (pp. 70-71)

I'll say it again: Extraordinary.

There are a few things to take from all of that:

First, I'm not sure that Campbell understood Fort very well. I'm not sure that I do, either, but it seems to me that Fort was a monist. To him, everything was already integrated. No process of integration was required. Also, it seems to me that Fort didn't want to speak the language of science. He dealt with data that were damned and excluded by science. Maybe he thought it was the scientists who had failed to communicate very well. He certainly had plenty of examples of their fumbling over explanations of his data. Put another way, maybe Fort took things on his own terms rather than theirs, for theirs seem to have failed.

Second, when I read what Campbell wrote about "muzzy-minded people who went in for fortune telling, crystal-ball readings, and the like," I thought of the advertisements in Weird Tales and one of its apparent successors, Fate magazine. I wrote about these things the other day. I also thought of a quote from The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell (1937):

In addition to this there is the horrible--the really disquieting--prevalence of cranks wherever Socialists are gathered together. One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words 'Socialism' and 'Communism' draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, 'Nature Cure' quack, pacifist, and feminist in England. (Chapter 11)

I think the phenomenon is the same, no matter when and where it occurs: Belief systems from the fringes attract believers from the fringes. A corollary: Custom and tradition, specifically traditional religion, can be replaced only by religions (such as socialism and communism) of an equal (and frequently opposing) intensity. Or so people think. In fact, these religions, quasi-religions, and pseudo-religions almost always fail.

Third, Campbell wrote in late 1952, just two and a half years after publishing L. Ron Hubbard's quasi- or pseudo-nonfictional article "Dianetics: The Evolution of a Science" in Astounding Science Fiction, in May 1950. In reading about Campbell and his involvement with Hubbard, I get the idea that, for a time at least, Campbell was possessed by a kind of craziness when it came to Dianetics. Maybe by 1952, he, like the rest of the country, had cooled off and was not so crazy anymore. It's interesting, though, that Campbell would compare Hubbard's belligerence towards psychiatry to Fort's gadfly attitude towards conventional science. It sounds like Campbell had drifted from Hubbard--if he had not actually broken from him--by late 1952.

Fourth, Campbell claimed that after two years and more of "damned hard work," he and his wife, Peg Campbell, had "done it." They had made their world-changing discovery. I guess that means they began their explorations around the time Dianetics was either in the works or already out there in the world. In any case, Campbell sounds almost manic in that final, long quote from above. Put in terms I have used in this blog, it sounds like Campbell had found his gnosis, his special knowledge regarding the true and previously hidden nature of the universe or of some aspect of the universe. It's no wonder he would be so excited. He had found the key to unlock the door that would open onto all-understanding. "I am not kidding," he wrote. "I am not cracked, either." And yet we have nothing from his world-changing discovery. Seventy years have gone by and we have nothing.

Farnsworth Wright never made such claims.


(1) From "Lo! The Poor Forteans" by Sam Moskowitz in Amazing Stories, June 1965.

(2) From a letter by John W. Campbell, Jr., to Eric Frank Russell, dated October 1, 1952, in The John W. Campbell Letters, Volume 1 (Franklin, TN: AC Projects, 1985), pages 68-74. The quote is from page 68. All of the other quotes from Campbell above are from that same letter, with page numbers in parentheses.

Original text copyright 2022 Terence E. Hanley

Saturday, May 7, 2022

The Valley Was Still

In our weird fiction bookclub, we have been reading stories by Manly Wade Wellman (1903-1986). One of them is "The Valley Was Still," originally in Weird Tales in August 1939. If you're a fan of The Twilight Zone, you will recognize this story, for it was adapted to that series as "Still Valley," first broadcast on November 24, 1961. Rod Serling wrote the teleplay.

"The Valley Was Still" is set during the Civil War, a conflict its author, a Southerner, might have called the War Between the States. (I have a friend from South Carolina whose father jokingly calls it "the War of Northern Aggression.") I think Wellman was a good writer in general. Some of his stories might be called merely serviceable. Others are inspired. I'm thinking here in particular of his tales of John the Balladeer, who wanders over his native land with his silver-string guitar in hand. "Sin's Doorway" (Weird Tales, Jan. 1946) isn't a John the Balladeer story, but you might call it a proto-John story. It's an excellent story in my opinion and one truly weird. The antagonist Levi Brett's "critter," called Parway, is a creepy and sinister monster. Being a forester, I will have to remember that a hazelnut branch makes an effective weapon against witches and other evil things.

The protagonist in "The Valley Was Still" is a Confederate cavalryman named Paradine. Leaving his spooked companion behind him on the hilltop above, he rides down into a town that has gone completely still. There he finds a large group of Union soldiers frozen in place. He also encounters the cause of this witchcraft, a sorcerer named Teague, who is a seventh son of a seventh son. Teague has cast a spell over the men. He is capable of far more. Teague offers Paradine, and by extension the whole Confederacy, a deal: if Paradine will sign his soul over to the devil (his name never spoken), the South may win the war. Paradine considers:

He imagined the Confederacy as a Faust among nations, devil-lifted, devil-nurtured--and devil-doomed.

And quickly reaches his conclusion:

Better disaster, in the way of man's warfare.

Paradine refuses the deal, and so his war will be lost.

In moral terms, "The Valley Was Still" is not a simple story. Some people might say that the South did in fact make a deal with the devil, that its cause was from the beginning immoral and unjust. Some might say that the Confederacy was not made up of godly men or of true Christians, that by continuing in the evils of slavery they allied themselves with the Enemy. But given a chance to make a true Faustian bargain, Paradine refuses, and so, again, the war is lost to him. (Instead of being a Faustian character, he becomes Quixotic.) In other words, Paradine has his guiding moral principles and moral constraints. He may go only so far and no farther. He proves himself in the end a Christian man and releases the frozen Union troops in the name of Christ "and through the word of God." He and they will soon war with each other once again.

* * *

Wellman's story was in the August 1939 issue of Weird Tales. A month after it appeared, Europe was at war. A year before--exactly a year before, in August 1938--William Butler Yeats wrote a poem called "Under Ben Bulben." The last lines of the poem would be Yeats' epitaph:

Cast a cold eye

On life, on death

Horseman, pass by!

In releasing the Union soldiers from their curse, Paradine echoes Yeats' words. I will convert Wellman's prose into verse form:

Ye horsemen and footmen,

Conjured here at this time,

Ye may pass on

In the name of Jesus Christ,

And through the word of God.

It's clear that Manly Wade Wellman was highly literate and widely read. I wonder if he could have read "Under Ben Bulben" before writing his story. The answer is probably not, as "Under Ben Bulben" wasn't published until July 1939 and then only in a limited edition. By then, William Butler Yeats had been six months in his grave.

* * *

I write about this today because of another moral issue that has come to the forefront in America this week. The difference between now and then--between 2022 and 1862--is that there no longer appear to be any moral principles or moral constraints on one side of this issue, which has so much in common with slavery. The people who oppose what is about to happen in our country have apparently made a pact with the devil, or they would if they could in order to keep it from coming about. They seem already to have signed their names in his book, literally in blood. They must fear that their lone, perverted anti-sacrament is at risk and that they will soon no longer be able to ride over the world, dealing death as they go and fully at will. In their words and actions, some of them would even appear demon-possessed.

It's ironic that these things would happen in the week leading up to Mother's Day. Or maybe it's happening at Mother's Day by intent. The people who array themselves against Life have their plans for this weekend. Call it an observance of the first Anti-Mother's Day, in which they will protest or disrupt the Catholic Mass on the true Mother's Day, and on the Sabbath. Maybe they will and maybe they won't. Maybe instead a light will go on before them, maybe the first of lights, maybe a beginning . . .

Original text copyright 2022 Terence E. Hanley

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Campbell on Fort-Part One

Ninety years ago today, on May 5, 1932, the last of Charles H. Fort's four books was published. Entitled Wild Talents, it arrived in bookstores too late for the author to have seen it there himself, for Fort had died two days before in a New York hospital. He was just fifty-seven years old.

In writing Wild Talents, Fort concerned himself with psychic powers, among other strange, unexplained, and anomalous phenomena. At around the same time at Duke University in North Carolina, there were other people looking into these things, a field they called--then or later--parapsychology. Leaders of Duke's group of researchers were Anglo-American psychologist William McDougall (1871-1938), and the founder of parapsychology, American botanist Joseph Banks Rhine (1895-1980). Yes, the founder of parapsychology was a botanist.

Somebody else was at Duke University during the early 1930s, somebody we know far better than those two men. His name was John W. Campbell, Jr. (1910-1971), and he spent two years at Duke, graduating in 1934 with a B.S. in physics. Before graduating, Campbell made runs on Dr. Rhine's ESP cards, called Zener cards after their inventor, psychologist Karl Zener (1903-1964). Writing to Dr. Rhine in 1953, Campbell remembered: "Later, for some years I lived across the street from the brother of your experiment designer, Dr. Charles Stewart." Campbell added, "I had a good many discussions with Charlie about your work." (1)

Campbell began as editor at Astounding Stories, soon retitled Astounding Science-Fiction, in October 1937. Already a published author by then, he went about assembling a circle of other young writers, including Lester del Rey, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. HeinleinA.E. van Vogt, Henry Kuttner, and C.L. Moore. He also fed these men and women story ideas from his very fertile imagination. As a consequence of these and other developments, Campbell's first dozen years at the helm of Astounding are now called the Golden Age of Science Fiction.

In the 1940s and '50s, Campbell and his circle worked on the Superior Man both as a concept and as a protagonist or hero in science fiction. Campbell also tried to scientify (my not-so-new-word) psychic powers, in other words to turn this nonscientific or at best quasi-scientific idea into something scientifically plausible, hopefully, I guess, into something measurable and quantifiable. There was even a sciencey (another not-so-new-word) kind of term for it, psionics, first used in print in Jack Williamson's story "The Greatest Invention," published in Astounding Science Fiction in July 1951.

John W. Campbell wrote to J.B. Rhine on November 23, 1953, telling him about some "private research on the mind" that he and his wife Peg had been conducting. (Peg Campbell is going to come up again soon. She's actually one of the reasons I started writing this series.) In his letter, Campbell wrote:

     The psionic functions exist in all of us--but use of them is violently (and I definitely mean violently!) suppressed by the Society. This is not without reason; a Society cannot exist if its individuals don't acknowledge a mutual commonality. The psionically gifted individual, however, tends to splinter off and go his own separate way. They [sic] tend toward egocentricity [. . .] . (2)

Campbell proceeded to refer to that "psionically gifted individual" as "the Genius" and "the psionically gifted genius," that is, a person quite obviously above the mind-level of his fellows. That "Genius," I think, showed up again and again in the Astounding--or Campbellian--brand of science fiction of the 1940s through the 1960s. I can't think of any better example than Jommy Cross, hero of A.E. van Vogt's story "Slan," serialized in Astounding Science-Fiction in September-December 1940. Alfred Bester's hero, Gully Foyle in The Stars My Destination (1956), also exercises psionic powers, most obviously in his (eventual) ability to teleport himself among the stars.

The psionic genius or psychically superior man appeared again and again under Campbell's influence. Sometimes when reading the science fiction of this period, I wonder: Wasn't there any other kind of science fiction story? Does every one of them have to involve psychic powers? But this appears to have been Campbell's obsession, and he seems to have been determined, like a cultist or an evangelist, to get his readers to share his obsession, to recruit them into his new religion of the uber-powerful psionic mind:

     But there's a sly trick here. If the reader is to enjoy the entertainment of the story, he must temporarily accept the validity of psionic powers. Never again can he be wholly opposed to the idea, for he has already accepted it in a certain degree. Accepting the idea is already associated with pleasure-satisfaction; that association makes it psychologically difficult for him to reject the idea flatly. [Emphasis is in the original.] (3)

Difficult to reject the idea flatly? Watch me.

Anyway, in The Stars My Destination, teleportation is called jaunting after the scientist who discovered it. Unlike "Slan," The Stars My Destination wasn't serialized in Astounding Science Fiction but in a competing title, Galaxy Science Fiction. Still, the concept of psychic powers--Campbell's psionics--moreover, of the Superior Man, showed that it had a deep and wide reach in the science-fictional imagination. (4, 5, 6) We actually still have in the real world a manifestation of the supposed psychically superior man, the Genius who strides over us all like a colossus. There will soon be more on that in this series . . .

By the way, one possible source of Bester's title for The Stars My Destination is a passage written in the 1940s by rocketeer, occultist, and L. Ron Hubbard friend, associate, and mark John Whiteside Parsons (1914-1952).

Oh, and one more thing: the inventor of jaunting is named Jaunte--Charles Fort Jaunte.

To be continued . . .


(1) From a letter by John W. Campbell, Jr., to Dr. Joseph Banks Rhine, dated November 23, 1953, in The John W. Campbell Letters, Volume 1 (Franklin, TN: AC Projects, 1985), pages 222-229. The quote is from page 222.

(2) Ditto, page 228.

(3) Ditto, page 229.

(4) One example of the reach of the Superior Man concept in science fiction: "Science and Superman: An Inquiry" by Poul Anderson in Amazing Stories, November 1959. Anderson's emphasis is on Darwinian evolution and genetic or physical superiority versus psychic superiority. Still, the lingo of superiority--Superman and Homo Superior--is in Anderson's article.

(5) There is jaunting or teleportation in the final installment of Jack Williamson's Humanoids trilogy, The Humanoid Touch, published in 1980. The first installment, entitled "With Folded Hands . . .", was in Astounding Science Fiction in July 1947. John Carter of Mars also jaunted between his native planet and Barsoom.

(6) Once George Lucas turned the Force into a material versus nonmaterial force, the Star Wars saga became, more or less, about the Superior Man/Psionic Genius as well, or the Superior Man/Psionic Genius as a kind of Chosen One, Savior, or Messiah.

An advertisement from the Richmond Times-Dispatch, January 26, 1958, a warning too late for Jack Parsons to heed.

Original text copyright 2022 Terence E. Hanley

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Fate Magazine and Weird Tales

Fate magazine was first published in the spring of 1948, seventy-four years ago this season. The publisher was Clark Publishing Company of Chicago, founded by Raymond A. Palmer (1910-1977) and Curtis G. Fuller (1912-1991). The first cover story was about the first sighting of flying saucers, made by Kenneth A. Arnold (1915-1984) less than a year before, on St. John's Day, June 24, 1947. Fate was preceded by Doubt, the magazine of the Fortean Society, first published in or about 1937. Whereas Doubt was a specialized title and had a small circulation, Fate was intended for the general reading public and was marketed as such. It was digest-sized from the beginning and looked for all the world like a science fiction/fantasy magazine. Palmer, after all, was a canny editor, publisher, and marketer. He had a pretty good idea of what would sell as the 1940s reached their end and the 1950s began.

Fate was also preceded by Weird Tales, which was first in print a quarter of a century prior to that first issue. If I have counted correctly, Weird Tales was in its 249th whole issue in the spring of 1948. Although it had come down in the world--that happened in general to pulp magazines during the 1940s--Weird Tales was still chugging along in the old pulp format. It finally conceded in September 1953 and switched to digest-size. Only half a dozen issues remained after that: Weird Tales finally came to an end--you could say it met its fate--in September 1954.

At first glance, Fate and Weird Tales have nothing to do with each other. That's where having a collection of early issues of Fate comes in handy. I won't claim that there is a strong connection between these two magazines, but from what I have seen, readers, writers, and even one artist seem to have migrated from Weird Tales to Fate in the 1950s. I think the two magazines must have served some of the same readership. In addition, there appears to have been a kind of continuity from weird fiction into Forteana. Or maybe it was the other way around. Or I guess it doesn't matter when you're dealing with continuities. As Charles Fort wrote, "One measures a circle, beginning anywhere." I should note that the words fate and weird--in its original sense as a noun rather than an adjective--are practically synonymous.

* * *

I'll start with the writers.

This isn't necessarily a complete list, but in the issues of Fate that I recently acquired from the collection of the late Margaret B. Nicholas and William Nicholas, I found stories and articles from the following writers who also contributed to Weird Tales:

  • Dulcie Brown (1899-1978)-Dulcie Brown made one contribution to the Weird Tales series "It Happened to Me." She was a Fortean and a writer of several letters to Fate. The magazine must have been right up her alley, and I can imagine her joy and pleasure once she discovered it, early or late. You can read more about Dulcie Brown in Joshua Blue Buhs' very interesting blog From an Oblique Angle, at the following URL:
  • Arthur J. Burks (1898-1974)-Arthur J. Burks wrote about Voodoo and other things in Weird Tales. A former U.S. Marine (if there is such a thing), he recounted an experience from his military days in "I Have Healing Hands" in the April 1957 issue of Fate. By coincidence, Fate reprinted William B. Seabrook's account of zombies in Haiti in that same issue.
  • Mary Elizabeth Counselman (1911-1995)-Despite the fact that she wrote more stories than almost anyone for Weird Tales, Mary Elizabeth Counselman is, I think, a neglected author. In September 1962, Fate published her article "I Saw Them Take Up Serpents," about snake-handling in Southern churches. Note the confessional title.
  • L. Sprague de Camp (1907-2000)-L. Sprague de Camp isn't quite in the same category as the other writers in this list. After all, he was only a minor contributor to Weird Tales but a very successful author of science fiction and fantasy, as well as factual, historical, and biographical works. For Fate, he wrote fairly often, mostly or exclusively on archeological subjects.
  • Vincent H. Gaddis (1913-1997)-Vincent H. Gaddis contributed one brief story for Weird Tales but, over the years, many articles for Fate. An early member of the Fortean Society, he in fact specialized in Forteana, and it was Gaddis who popularized the idea of a Bermuda Triangle that gobbles up ships and planes. The earliest articles for Fate that I have for him are "America's Most Famous Ghost Story" and "Hollywood Superstitions," from Fall 1948, the third issue of the magazine. There may have been others before that.
  • Donald E. Keyhoe (1897-1988)-Like Burks, Donald E. Keyhoe was a former military man. He contributed to Weird Tales before World War II. After the war, he became interested in--if not obsessed with--flying saucers. Fate published an interview with Major Keyhoe in August 1959, a year and a half after Mike Wallace had interviewed him on TV.
  • Everil Worrell Murphy (1893-1969)-Everil Worrell was a pretty consistent contributor to Weird Tales from 1926 to 1954. In April 1957, Fate published her short article "Million-Dollar Message" as part of its regular feature "My Proof of Survival." Arthur J. Burks was in the same issue.

Stories and articles by previous contributors to Weird Tales seem to have evaporated at the end of the 1950s. There may be some significance in that. Note that most of the writers I have listed here were of the same generation, one that reached retirement age in the early 1960s. Also, pulp magazines were coming to an end as the 1950s ended, too. Even magazines that had made the switch or had started out as digest-sized titles were having a hard time by the end of the decade. As for Fate, it made a switch, too, going from painted covers to mostly text covers in 1958-1959. I think the last painted cover was in November 1959, just in time for the decade to end. Was that to cut costs? Were cover artists moving on to paperback books, men's magazines, and movie posters? Was the competition with other genre-type magazines drying up as those titles reached their end? I can't say. (1)

* * *

Fate published what is supposed to have been non-fiction. Weird Tales on the other hand was a magazine of mostly fiction, poetry, and illustration. Still, there are some connections between the two. Most obviously, Fate continued in its publication of supposed non-fictional accounts written by readers. In Weird Tales, these were called "It Happened to Me." That series lasted for eleven installments, from March 1940 to November 1941. Fate had at least two confessional-type features, "My Proof of Survival" and "Report From the Readers." Of course, confessional magazines and features had been around for a long time before that. The 1950s had their confessional genre-movie titles, such as I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957) and I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958). Before that there was I Walked with a Zombie (1943), which was produced by Val Lewton (1904-1951), a onetime contributor to Weird Tales.

* * *

As you might expect from the title, a big part of Fate of the 1950s and '60s had to do with real-life strokes of fate. These accounts are brief but numerous. On page after page and in issue after issue, there are stories of how the cruelest of fates befall mostly undeserving people. There are so many of these accounts--moreover they are written in such a way--that you get the idea that the editors took real pleasure at other people's pain, suffering, and cruel deaths. (2) There's a name for stories like these. They're called contes cruels and they are a staple in weird fiction. Think "The Pit and the Pendulum" by Edgar Allan Poe. The popularity of the conte cruel in weird fiction may have something to do with what Jack Williamson called the Egyptian-Hebraic roots of the anti-utopian story. My plan is to get back to my series on Utopia and Dystopia in Weird Tales and to explore that idea further.

* * *

There is something shabby and squalid in weird fiction that doesn't as often obtain in science fiction. In looking over my new collection, I have noticed that the art on the covers of science fiction magazines of the 1950s is often clean, showing the clean machine-lines and machine-curves of spacesuits and rocketships; the topological flawlessness of toroid space stations and disc-shaped spacecraft; the pristine surfaces of planets and their deep, luminous, unpolluted skies; the spotless and uncluttered depths and vastnesses of outer space, illuminated by the crystalline light of myriad stars. This is the future after all. It's bound to be better--certainly cleaner and purer--than the present, especially once we escape this earth. Very often in these scenes, people shrink away to almost nothing. Being biological in nature, people are of course impure and messy and unclean, at least in the minds of the stereotypical physical scientist, mathematician, or engineer. The human element is therefore reduced in much of science fiction art.

Some of the covers of the Raymond A. Palmer-type magazines are like this, too, but many others are lurid, sketchy, violent, chaotic. Some are exploitative, almost to the point of being in bad taste--or beyond bad taste into new territories of badness and tastelessness. The shudder pulps of the 1930s and some cheaper weird fiction/fantasy magazines of the 1940s are like that, too. Weird Tales is far less so. I think "The Unique Magazine" strived to remain in good taste in fact. Despite the nudity so often depicted, Margaret Brundage's covers are harmless confections. They look like they are made of cake frosting and spun sugar. (Her medium was mostly chalk pastel.) I should point out that a lot of science fiction art was created using an airbrush, in other words, a machine. That tool renders a machine-like perfection to textures, curves, and contours, unlike the less well-controlled and more organic paintbrush, crayon, or pencil. This is not to take anything away from airbrushed artwork: I could look at Alex Schomburg's paintings all day long and into the night and never get tired.

* * *

Anyway, if you look at the advertisements inside Weird Tales, you will see what I mean by shabbiness and squalor. Those same kinds of ads continued in Fate. Ads about numerology, "ancient wisdom," Ouija boards and planchettes, mystic this, metaphysical that. Ads about Rosicrucianism, Theosophy, "startling revelations," astrology, palmistry, graphology, the Tarot, "psychic development," and every other kind of esoterica. There are office addresses and post office boxes where you can write to get yours today, whatever it happens to be. I imagine shabby and squalid places on the other end, places housing not only run-of-the-mill charlatans and conmen but also every kind of crank, crazy, and crackpot, some or many of whom, to their credit I guess, probably believed in what they were peddling. Men wearing turbans or toupees and dyed van-dyke beards, women with piled-up hair, hard with hairspray, their faces covered in pancake makeup, all of them dressed in cheap, fake, gaudy, or threadbare costume, wearing shoes with cracked leather and worn heels and soles, hoping to gain a few bucks by trying or claiming to be able to heal the equally cracked and worn souls of their fellow human beings. Maybe these are stereotypes I have gleaned from our vast popular culture, of all the cheap, fake, grasping, squalid psychics, mediums, soothsayers, and occultists in all of those old movies and TV shows and stories, for example Raymond Chandler's 1940 detective novel Farewell, My Lovely. In seeing these advertisements, my mind went right away to another example, the Starry Wisdom Temple in Strange Eons by Robert Bloch (1979) (pp. 94ff.), with its cluttered, musty interior, hung with old drapes and smelling like a funeral home. This shabbiness and squalor has since come back into the real world, in the cult-like lifestyle and squalor of the Manson family, the squalid and terribly tragic ending of so many people at Jonestown, and the equally squalid ending of the Heaven's Gate cult just twenty-five years ago this season.

* * *

In doing research on Dianetics/Scientology a few years ago, I looked at street views of that organization's branch offices. So many of them were cheap, rundown, practically abandoned. At around that time, I was approached by a Scientologist at an event. He was on crutches, his leg in a cast or wrappings. These were my thoughts after I had talked to him: I thought you people were able to cure such things. I thought you were able to make of yourselves superior men. Anyway, I can imagine ads for Dianetical and Scientological "products" and "services" of the 1950s as looking much like those I have seen in Weird Tales and Fate.

Speaking of that, you will find ads for Mathison electropsychometers in Fate but without any mention of Dianetics or Scientology. The inventor of these gadgets, Volney G. Mathison (1897-1965), was also a contributor to Weird Tales. He was briefly associated with L. Ron Hubbard (1911-1986) but broke with him in the early to mid 1950s. (Breaking with Hubbard seems to have been a theme back then, as we'll see.) Coincidentally or not, Scientology grew out of Dianetics in 1954, the year Weird Tales reached its end. More than one writer for Weird Tales became interested or involved in Scientology. We should remember, though, that Dianetics/Scientology was the offspring of a depraved writer of science fiction and not at all of weird fiction, at least not that appeared in Weird Tales. And in case you don't remember it, I'll remind you in a future part of this series.

By the way, Heaven's Gate was a science-fictional rather than a weird-fictional cult. So is the long-enduring quasi-cult of Flying Saucers, which are actually Fortean phenomena, even if Forteana seems to be more closely connected to weird fiction than to science fiction . . . I guess I don't have all of these things puzzled out just yet.

* * *

We're all searchers, and I don't want to hit anyone too hard with the foregoing sections or take anything away from others and their searching--from their endeavoring to persevere as the old Indian in The Outlaw Josey Wales says. We all have to search and find our way if we can. We all must do our best to persevere in this life that so often seems so incomprehensible, in which there is so much pain and suffering, much of which is or seems to be needless and meaningless.

What I'm trying to get at, I guess, is that maybe people read weird fiction and Forteana for reasons far different from the reasons they read science fiction. With science fiction, maybe the reader looks to the future and the things of the future--flawless science and perfect machines--for some kind of escape or salvation. (Are escape and salvation the same thing in some people's minds?) With weird fiction and Forteana, the past and the things of the past seem to be the attraction, even if they are--or maybe because they are--musty, dusty, threadbare, squalid, shabby, or falling into ruins. Charles Fort (1874-1932) spent his working life in libraries where old, dusty, worm-eaten books, journals, and manuscripts are kept. His personal life was squalid. His professional mission was the exhumation of the past. (The past as revenant.) Weird fiction, gothic fiction, horror, and fantasy are typically about the past and the things of the past, too. Very often, the setting in these genres is an old house or castle or abbey--lonely, desolate, run-down, decaying, falling into ruins. Like Fort, the weird-fictional hero discovers in his searching a grimoire or a whole library of such dusty tomes. Within their pages are the keys to all understanding . . .

Maybe the reasons for reading weird fiction and Forteana show through in the readers themselves and the things they want and buy and look for in the back pages of their favorite magazines. And maybe weird fiction and Forteana go together in continuity. Further still, maybe science fiction is discontinuous with those two genres--maybe with all others, too--a strange thing to consider, but maybe it's true after all.


(1) I read somewhere that the last science fiction pulp magazine was published in 1958. I don't know what that magazine was or whether the year is right. Keep in mind, too, that there was talk in the late 1950s and early 1960s that science fiction as a whole was dying.

(2) The 2021-2022 version of these stories is Covid death-porn, which so many people seem to revel in.

Virgil Finlay (1914-1971) created the art for the last issue of Weird Tales, published in September 1954. A month later, his artwork was on the cover of Fate. Fate wasn't exactly a successor to Weird Tales, but it seems to me that it served some of the same readership. Finlay's cover illustration is a simple, one-stop demonstration of that idea. Unfortunately, most of the art on the cover and inside of Fate is unsigned and no credits are given. Too often this is how the world treats artists. (Note the Florida Man blurb on the cover. Go, Florida Man!)

Text copyright 2022 Terence E. Hanley