Born Writing: The Unparalleled Career of Arthur J. Burks

May 24, 2019 by

Pulp writer Arthur J. Burks was fated to be better known for the quantity of his output than the quality of his fiction. A familiar name on many pulp covers, he was a highly effective storyteller who authored approximately 800 stories. On Saturday, August 17, at Pulpfest 2019, the 2004 recipient of the Lamont award, pulp authority John Locke will host a presentation, “Born Writing: The Unparalleled Career of Arthur J. Burks.” We’re all familiar with the amazing million-word-a-year men of the pulps. This talk will focus on how Burks became one of them.

Burks was born to a farming family in Washington state on September 13, 1898. During World War I, he enlisted in the Marine Corps as a private; after rejoining the Corps during World War II, he retired a Lieutenant Colonel. His real passion, though, was writing. While stationed in the Dominican Republic from 1921-24, he witnessed strange things which gave him material for his first professional sales, to a new magazine, WEIRD TALES. In the 1930s, his work seemed to be everywhere. He wrote countless adventure, aviation, boxing, detective, and weird menace tales for AIR STORIES, ASTOUNDING STORIES, FIGHT STORIES, GANGSTER STORIES, MARVEL SCIENCE STORIES, POPULAR DETECTIVE, SKY FIGHTERS, SPORT STORY MAGAZINE, STRANGE TALESTERROR TALES, THRILLING ADVENTURES, THRILLING WONDER STORIES, UNKNOWN, and many others. Burks’ series characters include deaf detective Ewart D’Strange, flyer The Winged Cavalier, New York Chinatown detective Dorus Noel, and gangland boxer Kid Friel.

His friendship with L. Ron Hubbard in the 1930s triggered Burks’s interest in the paranormal and metaphysics. By the 1960s, he was a popular fixture on the lecture circuit, sharing his knowledge with the curious and skeptical alike. Much of Burks’ fantasy fiction centers on the metaphysical. One of his best known works (and one of the few to be published in book form), THE GREAT MIRROR (1942), concerns Martian technology utilized by Tibetan monks to foster ESP and matter transmission.

A writer to the very end, Burks died at age 75 on May 13, 1974.

We hope you’ll join pulp historian John Locke — the world’s foremost Burkologist — at PulpFest 2019 for this very special hour-long presentation on the career of the highly prolific and vastly underappreciated Arthur J. Burks.

PulpFest 2019 will begin on Thursday, August 15, and run through Sunday, August 18.  Join PulpFest at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry, just north of Pennsylvania’s “Steel City” of Pittsburgh in Mars, PA. We’ll be celebrating “Children of the Pulps and Other Stories” — focusing on the pulp influences in popular culture — at this year’s gathering. Click our Programming button below our homepage banner to get a preview of all the great presentations at this year’s event.

To join PulpFest 2019, click the Register button below our homepage banner. To book a room at the DoubleTree by Hilton — our host hotel — click the Book a Room button, also found on our homepage.

(Arthur J. Burks was a prolific and successful pulp writer who usually wrote over one million words per year. He wrote hundreds of stories for the adventure, aviation, detective, fantasy, science fiction, sports, war, and weird menace pulps.

Burks wrote fourteen stories for ASTOUNDING STORIES and its later incarnation, ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION. Most of these tales were of novella or longer length. “The Mind Master” — a two-part serial featured in the January (with cover art by H. W. Wessolowski) and February 1932 issues — concerns a mad scientist who replaces the brains of several apes with human brains. It’s part of a short series that Burks began in 1931 with the story, “Manape the Mighty.”)

120 Years of Arthur J. Burks

Sep 10, 2018 by

Arthur J. Burks was born September 13, 1898. While his name may not be familiar to the more casual pulp fan, he was a prolific and successful pulp writer who authored more than 800 stories (and possibly as many as 1400 when his many pseudonyms are taken into account). Burks was one of a number of pulp writers who distinguished themselves by averaging more than one million words per year. Regardless of the precise amount of his output, he was a prodigious and highly inventive storyteller.

Born to a farming family in Washington state, Burks was a veteran of both World Wars and retired from the service at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. While stationed in the Caribbean, he witnessed voodoo rituals which inspired his second career as a pulp writer beginning in 1920. Burks wrote countless weird menace, adventure, detective, aviation, and boxing stories for WEIRD TALES, ASTOUNDING STORIES, THRILLING WONDER STORIES, STRANGE TALES, SCIENCE FICTION QUARTERLY, MARVEL SCIENCE STORIES, and many others.

Burks’ series characters included Chinatown detective Dorus Noel and boxer Kid Friel. Burks died at age 75 in May 1974. He remained a writer to the very end. He concentrated on the paranormal and metaphysics beginning in the 1960s and became a popular fixture on the lecture circuit sharing his knowledge with the curious and skeptical alike and offering readings. Much of Burks’ fantasy fiction centers on the metaphysical. One of his best known works (and one of the few to be published in book form), THE GREAT MIRROR (1942) concerns Martian technology utilized by Tibetan monks to foster ESP and matter transmission.

Burks married at age nineteen. He and his wife raised four children. While not one of the legendary names in the pulp world, his work in so many genres and under so many pseudonyms made him a fixture during the golden age of pulp and beyond.

Keep watching our website for more on the pulp greats. Then plan to attend next year’s PulpFest. We’ll be highlighting the many ways that pulp fiction and pulp art have inspired writers, artists, film directors, software developers, game designers, and other creators over the decades. PulpFest 2019 will take place August 15 – 18 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry.

(Arthur J. Burks penned some of WEIRD TALE’s best macabre stories during its early years, including “The Ghosts of Steamboat Coulee” and “Bells of Oceana.” His science fiction story,”The Invading Horde,” was published in the November 1927 number. The cover art for the issue was created by C. C. Senf, the artist who painted most of covers for”The Unique Magazine” from early 1927 through mid-1932.)