Visions of Mars: The Pulp Years

May 13, 2020 by

August 22, 2020 will be the 100th anniversary of author Ray Bradbury’s birth. With that occasion very much in mind, PulpFest 2020 plans to celebrate the centennial of the author’s birth as part of its salute to “Bradbury, BLACK MASK, and Brundage.”

So what better way is there to start the party than by talking about Ray Bradbury’s much lauded fix-up novel . . .

THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES

The first story to be published from THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES is the “The Million Year Picnic” (PLANET STORIES, Summer 1946). Appearing last in Bradbury’s book, the tale isn’t about Martians at all. . . . At least, not at first. Its readers eventually discover a whole new race of Martians. You’d recognize one of them if you looked in a mirror.

THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES constructs a complex pastiche of Mars, as imagined by Ray Bradbury. Many of the stories are melancholic, wistful. The book’s Martians are frequently dangerous, but not in ordinary ways. In “The Earth Men” (THRILLING WONDER STORIES, August 1948) the first humans to land on Mars are taken for madmen. They end up in a Martian insane asylum and are considered incurable.

Bradbury’s Martians are telepathic. This adds an unusual twist to their defense against colonization and invasion. In “Mars is Heaven!” (PLANET STORIES, Fall 1948), the Martians use telepathic trickery to convince the astronauts that they’ve returned home. The visitors are shown familiar sights and loved ones, long dead. This keeps the Earthmen off guard until it’s too late. They are killed. One wonders if Bradbury’s telepathic Martians are simply too sensitive to bear human contact.

In “Impossible” (SUPER SCIENCE STORIES, November 1949), a shape-shifting Martian is “caught” by the thoughts of the human settlers. The Martian is forced to change shape again and again, according to the whims of the nearest mind. Most of the humans, greedy for the apparent resurrection of their departed loved ones, care little for the being that is tortured by their thoughts. The Martian eventually dies from their callousness. The story was retitled, “The Martian,” for its appearance in THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES.

Ray Bradbury’s vision isn’t a simple or happy one. In many ways his stories are well ahead of their time, contemplative and complex, rather than seat-of-the-pants pulp adventures. Bradbury himself called them fantasies and not science fiction:

“I don’t write science fiction. Science fiction is a depiction of the real. Fantasy is a depiction of the unreal. So MARTIAN CHRONICLES is not science fiction, it’s fantasy. It couldn’t happen, you see?”

By this definition, most of the pulp era’s Mars stories should be considered fantasy. They are certainly unreal, encompassing everything from Bug-Eyed Monsters to sword and sandal epics. The red planet is a screen onto which dreams are projected, much like Edgar Rice Burroughs projected John Carter across space to take up his new life on Barsoom, his Martian’s name for Mars.

A Land of Myth and Legend

Many who wrote after Burroughs describe human-like Martians that are slightly different from Earthly humans. However, they are not so different that a love story can’t ensue. Sometimes, the resemblance is so close that a Martian may come to Earth and live as human.

Such is the case in Edmond Hamilton’s “The Prisoner of Mars” (STARTLING STORIES, May 1939). In this novel, a lost Martian prince, born on Earth and with no knowledge of his extraterrestrial heritage, ends up returning to his home planet and saving both worlds.

In “Shambleau” (WEIRD TALES, November 1933), Catherine Lucille Moore’s gun-for-hire, Northwest Smith, has a fateful encounter with a malevolent entity in a seedy Martian colony city. The ancient creature met by Smith is not a Martian, but resembles both a vampire and Medusa. It attacks in an appropriately chilling way.

In Leigh Brackett’s story, “Sea-Kings of Mars” (THRILLING WONDER STORIES, June 1949), Matt Carse unluckily stumbles into Mars’ distant past and becomes possessed by an ancient and powerful god. When published in paperback by Ace Books in 1953, Brackett’s story would be called THE SWORD OF RHIANNON.

In Bryce Walton’s “Man of Two Worlds” (SPACE STORIES, October 1952), the Earthman hero, Lee Thorsten, becomes trapped in a time loop on Mars that reveals him to be a hero from Earth’s ancient mythical past.

Unhuman Monsters

Not all Mars stories are sword and sandal adventures in the Burroughs tradition. Some follow the model established by H.G. Wells’s THE WAR OF THE WORLDS. In “The Human Pets of Mars” by Leslie F. Stone (AMAZING STORIES, October 1936), gigantic alien invaders — true Bug-Eyed Monsters — arrive on Earth. They have come to collect specimens (including a dog and a horse) to take back to Mars as pets. Whereas a more modern story might play this for laughs, Stone is quite serious in her commentary about human nature.

We also see unhuman Martians in both “A Martian Odyssey,” by Stanley G. Weinbaum (WONDER STORIES, July 1934), and Raymond Z. Gallun’s “Old Faithful” (ASTOUNDING STORIES, December 1934). In them, we see weird beings that are not at all human. However, the Martians in these two classics are helpful aliens and not hostile. In 1970, when the Science Fiction Writers of America voted on the best science fiction short stories to be published before the advent of the Nebula Award, “A Martian Odyssey” came in second behind Isaac Asimov’s “Nightfall.”

Death and the Afterlife

In several accounts, Mars is related to the afterlife. If not our Heaven, then a Martian version instead. In both “Seven Came Back,” by Clifford D. Simak (AMAZING STORIES, October 1950), and “The Mating of the Moons,” by Bryce Walton — writing as Kenneth O’Hara — (ORBIT SCIENCE FICTION, December 1953), we see a paradisiacal land only accessible to humans when access is granted through an act of service or by some other resonance with the Martians.

This connection to the dead and the dying leads us to back to Bradbury’s celebrated work, THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES. Although the stories are diverse, the overarching feeling is melancholia for a worn and tired ancient world, slowly crumbling to bits amidst the red planet’s cold desert sands.

Please join PulpFest 2020 on Thursday, August 8, as we welcome Sara to discuss these and other pulp visions of the planet Mars at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry in Mars, Pennsylvania. It’s the second part of our series exploring “Visions of Mars,” celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of author Ray Douglas Bradbury.

(Sara Light-Waller is a writer, illustrator, and avid pulp fan. Science fiction pulps are her favorites, especially space opera and thought variant stories. The Grand Prize winner of the 2020 Cosmos Prize — offered by First Fandom Experience for the best ending to the seventeen-part round-robin story that began in June 1933 — Sara has also published two illustrated New Pulp books with more to come. Catch up with her at Lucina Press where you can learn about her work and so much more.

Earle K. Bergey painted the cover art for the June 1949 THRILLING WONDER STORIES, one of many paintings he created for Standard Magazines’ science fiction line. Bergey’s art illustrates Leigh Brackett’s “The Sea-Kings of Mars.”

Although Robert Gibson Jones’s cover art for the October 1950 AMAZING STORIES is certainly not set on Mars, the issue features the Clifford D. Simak story, “Seven Came Back.” A reading of this exceptional short story suggests that it was inspired by Bradbury’s THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES and the P. Schuyler Miller story, “The Cave,” published in the January 1943 number of ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION. Simak’s tale was later reprinted in the May 1966 FANTASTIC.

For a look at our entire programming schedule, please click the Programming button below the PulpFest banner on our home page.)

PulpFest Profile — Eighty Years of CAPTAIN FUTURE

Jan 6, 2020 by

The Wizard of Science

Captain Future is a science fiction pulp hero with a very long reach. He’s appeared in more than two dozen stories, comics, cartoon and live-action television shows, and may yet appear in a big-budget movie. His origin owes much to Doc Savage, and some of his gimmicks were re-tooled for SUPERMAN and BATMAN. He’s even been written about by one of New York’s premier humorists, S. J. Perelman.

Brilliant, red-headed Curt Newton is one of Edmond Hamilton’s most famous characters and yet Hamilton neither created him, nor wrote all the stories. Captain Future has fans all over the world and new adventures are appearing today in books and magazines.

The Birthplace of Creation

The character of Captain Future was created by Leo Margulies and Mort Weisinger allegedly in response to early science fiction fandom at the First World Science Fiction Convention in the summer of 1939. The original idea was for a character called, “Mr. Future: Wizard of Science,” a space-age Doc Savage with three alien side kicks. Mr. Future was a genetic superman who battled evil in the 21st Century. (Ironic, as Weisinger would later edit SUPERMAN.)

Margulies and Weisinger hired Edmond Hamilton to write the series. Hamilton helped refine the characters and storyline and dubbed Future’s sidekicks, “The Futuremen.” These became Grag, a hulking mechanical man of great strength and good-natured loyalty; Otho, a white-skinned, emerald-eyed android of great wit and intelligence; and Simon Wright, an elderly scientist who, at death, had his brain encased in a transparent, life-sustaining box fitted with artificial eyes and mouth. During this early design process “Mr. Future” became “Captain Future.”

Calling Captain Future

After the initial drafts, Curtis Newton was no longer a genetic superman, but remained a brilliant young scientist, superb athlete, and brave, heroic crusader. He’s the son of gifted biologist, Roger Newton, and his wife, Elaine. Both of Curtis’ parents are murdered by Victor Corvo, who tracked them to their hidden sanctuary on the Moon to steal Roger’s secrets for the creation of artificial life.

Thereafter, infant Curtis is raised by Roger’s co-worker, Simon Wright, the brain, Grag, the robot, and Otho, the android. Curtis has a remarkable upbringing. His three unhuman guardians train the boy to unparalleled scientific knowledge, incredible strength and stamina based on a system of super-exercises, and unbelievable swiftness of physical and mental reactions. Curt and Simon Wright develop a super-ship, “The Comet,” and use it to travel around the solar system and visit the various worlds. When he’s grown, Curtis is told the details of his parents’ murders. He then chooses to become Captain Future,  “. . . implacable Nemesis of all oppressors and exploiters of the System’s human and planetary races.”

Besides the Futuremen, Curt’s team includes two members of the Planet Police force — Secret Agent Joan Randall and Marshal Ezra Gurney.

The Triumph of Captain Future

The first novel,Captain Future and the Space Emperor,” debuted in the premiere issue (Winter 1940) of CAPTAIN FUTURE: WIZARD OF SCIENCE. The story was good escapist fun and prompted humorist, S. J. Perelman, to write a NEW YORKER review entitled, “Captain Future, Block That Kick!” which, although tongue-in-cheek, is still a delightful read.

CAPTAIN FUTURE continued for seventeen issues and included novels, short stories and features such as: “The Worlds of Tomorrow,” “The Futuremen,” and “The Future of Captain Future.” It got a name change for the Winter 1941 number and became CAPTAIN FUTURE: MAN OF TOMORROW. The magazine was just hitting its stride when America entered World War II. Edmond Hamilton expected to be drafted and resigned from the series. Margulies hired two pulp writers to replace him —  Manly Wade Wellman and Joseph Samachson (pen name of William Morrison). A house name of “Brett Sterling” was attached to the series even before Hamilton stopped writing it. As it turned out, Hamilton wasn’t drafted and continued writing the series under the name of Brett Sterling.

Wartime brought some unusual problems to the magazine. In one case, U. S. Customs seized one of Hamilton’s manuscripts during a border crossing from Mexico. The agents were suspicious of the maps showing an imaginary planet called “Vulcan,” inside the orbit of Mercury. This caused a production delay until Hamilton got his materials back from Washington.

An editorial snafu with an unnamed editor caused Hamilton and Samachson to produce two novels with too-similar plots. This led to Hamilton re-writing “Outlaw World” and its eventual publication several years later in STARTLING STORIES.

Wartime paper shortages were disastrous for the pulps. Magazines implored readers to reserve copies as print runs were reduced. But even subscriptions weren’t enough to keep the presses running for CAPTAIN FUTURE. The Spring 1944 issue was the last and all remaining CAPTAIN FUTURE stories were added to their sister magazine, STARTLING STORIES. The character remained in STARTLING until Captain Future retired in 1946.

But not for long. Captain Future and his team returned to STARTLING STORIES in 1950 for a series of character-driven novelettes which are considered some of the best in the run. “The Return of Captain Future” led the way in January 1950. This was followed by six other stories which highlighted different members of the team — Simon Wright in “The Harpers of Titan” (September 1950), Grag in “Pardon My Iron Nerves” (November 1950), Ezra Gurney in “Moon of the Unforgotten” (January 1951), and “Birthplace of Creation” (May 1951) in which Captain Future, himself, is tested. In that story Curt discovers that even he is not immune to the corruption of power.

The Return of Captain Future

When Captain Future wrapped in May of 1951, readers thought they’d seen the last of Curt Newton and his friends. But it wasn’t the end. Twenty-seven years later, in 1978, Toei Animation of Japan produced a fifty-three episode cartoon (anime) series based on thirteen of the original “Captain Future” stories. The series was very well-received and had a global distribution. It remains popular to this day, but not in the United States where poor English translations and editing discouraged fans.

In 2017, German director Christian Alvart, inspired by the Toei animation series, began work on a big budget, live-action Captain Future film. His plan is to have it produced out of Europe with an international cast. The trailer looks promising and comments from fans are very positive.

Captain Future had succeeded in various media, but there were no new stories until the mid-1990’s when sci-fi writer, Allen Steele, got permission from Hamilton’s estate to pen a few new Captain Future stories. He began with “The Death of Captain Future” (ASIMOV’S SCIENCE FICTION, October 1995), then followed it up with “The Exile of the Evening Star” (ASIMOV’S SCIENCE FICTION, January 1999). Both of these are “satirical homages” to the original material.

“The Death of Captain Future” received both the Hugo and Seiun Awards in 1996 and was also short-listed for a Nebula Award.

in 2018, Steele had a new Captain Future novel ready to go with Tor Books. This time it was a modern reboot called AVENGERS OF THE MOON. The book brings the characters and technology up-to-date and pushes the stories forward in time to the late 23rd/early 24th centuries (as opposed to the early 21st century of the original.)

Allen Steele’s “Captain Future Novel” was part of a planned trilogy. Unfortunately, after a house editorial change Tor cancelled the second and third books. As luck would have it, Steele’s friend Steve Davidson was about to revive AMAZING STORIES as a print magazine and asked Steele for a story. “Captain Future In Love” (AMAZING STORIES Fall & Winter 2018) is the result, serialized in the first two issues.

Star Trail to Glory

When I started researching this article, I thought I was pretty well-versed on the subject. I’m a big fan of Captain Future, have read all the books, and watched quite a few of the anime. I’ve also written about him before. But this time I dug deeper and discovered a lot more to the story. From the hero’s creation to the twists and turns that followed, I was surprised by all that I found.

And then there are Allen Steele’s new stories. I admit that I’m a purist and wasn’t prepared to accept a rebooted CAPTAIN FUTURE universe. But then it occurred to me that Steele is doing the world a favor by adding new stories to the original catalog. His love of the characters might already have inspired a new generation of readers. And those readers, hungry for more, might look back at the original stories and enjoy them, also.

I have no idea what Hamilton, Wellman, and Samachson would think of AVENGERS OF THE MOON or “Captain Future In Love,” and it’s not my place to guess. What I can be sure of is that every writer wants their creations to last. This month, Captain Future turns eighty years old and what writer wouldn’t be happy with that kind of longevity?

Happy Birthday, Curt Newton! Long may “The Comet” fly.

(Dated Winter 1940, the first issue of Standard Magazines CAPTAIN FUTURE featured front cover art by George Rozen. The artist is best remembered for the many covers that he painted for the popular Street & Smith hero pulp, THE SHADOW. Rozen would paint one more CAPTAIN FUTURE cover — dated Fall 1941 — and two covers for Fiction House’s PLANET STORIES. In later years, he created paperback cover paintings for Popular Library and the “Ace Doubles” series.

Sara Light-Waller is a writer, illustrator, and avid pulp fan. Science fiction pulps are her favorites, especially space opera and thought variant stories. She has published two illustrated New Pulp books with more to come. Catch up with her at Lucina Press.

If you’d like to read more about Captain Future and his Futuremen, click here for a list of references that Sara used to prepare for this post.)

A Century Ago in a Galaxy Called California

Dec 14, 2015 by

Pardon the play on words in the title, but it was hard to resist with the seventh STAR WARS movie, THE FORCE AWAKENS, premiering in theaters across the world at the end of this week. But why write about STAR WARS on a website devoted to PulpFest, Summer’s AMAZING Pulp Con?

Two words: Leigh Brackett. Four more words: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Considered by many to be the best of the STAR WARS films, the original treatment for the fifth episode of George Lucas’ series was written by Leigh Brackett. Shortly after delivering her untitled screenplay to Twentieth Century Fox, the so-called “Queen of the Space Opera” passed away. THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK went on to become one of the highest grossing films of all time, and in 1981, received a Hugo Award for best dramatic presentation.

Born one-hundred years ago on December 7, 1915, Leigh Brackett was the wife of author Edmond Hamilton. Together, they were two of the many writers who helped to popularize the so-called “space operas” of the pulp magazines. Ed started first as the leading contributor of science fiction to WEIRD TALES during the 1920s. With stories about alien invasions, space police, and evolution gone wild, the author became known as “world-wrecker” Hamilton. In later years, he was asked by Standard Magazines’ Leo Margulies to work up something involving a “Mr. Future, Wizard of Science.” Eventually, the character evolved into Captain Future, a super-scientist headquartered on the Moon. In each issue of the pulp, Hamilton’s hero and his faithful assistants — known as the Futuremen — would save the solar system and, in later issues, the universe. When Mort Weisinger began working for DC Comics in 1941, he turned to Standard’s leading writers of science fiction — including Hamilton — to write the adventures of Superman and other comic book heroes.

Leigh Brackett came later to the pulps, selling her first story to ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION in late 1939. The bulk of her science fiction appeared in Fiction House’s PLANET STORIES and Standard’s THRILLING WONDER STORIES and STARTLING STORIES. A native of southern California, she began collaborating on screenplays during the middle forties. Supposedly, Hollywood film director Howard Hawks was so impressed by her crime novel NO GOOD FROM A CORPSE that he had his secretary call in “this guy Brackett” to help William Faulkner write the script for THE BIG SLEEP. Released in 1946 and starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, it is considered a classic of film noir. During the fifties and sixties, Brackett, Hawks, and actor John Wayne collaborated on several motion pictures, included RIO BRAVO, HATARI, EL DORADO, and RIO LOBO. Leigh Brackett died in 1978.

In 1972, Brackett and Hamilton served as the guests of honor at the first Pulpcon, the forerunner to PulpFest. Years later in 2009, the town of Kinsman, Ohio — where Brackett and Hamilton lived after they had married — began celebrating this famed couple of pulp history. The celebration evolved into KinCon, a convention exploring the worlds of Edmond Hamilton and Leigh Brackett. Although the event is currently on hiatus, KinCon continues to celebrate these two exceptional pulp fictioneers through its website on Facebook.

Like KinCon, PulpFest seeks to draw attention to the profound effect that the pulps had on American popular culture, reverberating through a wide variety of media — comic books, movies, paperbacks and genre fiction, television, men’s adventure magazines, radio drama, and even video and role-playing games. Planned as the summertime destination for fans and collectors of vintage popular fiction and related materials, PulpFest honors pulp fiction and pulp art by drawing attention to the many ways the magazines and their creators — people like Leigh Brackett and Edmond Hamilton — have inspired writers, artists, film directors, software developers, game designers, and other creators over the decades.

Join PulpFest 2016 to be part of this great celebration of American popular culture. Start making your plans right now to join the 45th convening of “Summer’s AMAZING Pulp Con” in 2016. It will take place July 21st through July 24th at the Hyatt Regency Columbus and the Greater Columbus Convention Center in the beautiful downtown of Columbus, Ohio.

(After studying art by correspondence, Allen Anderson worked as a staff artist for Fawcett Publications in Minneapolis from 1929 to 1939. He moved to New York City in 1940 and began painting covers for pulp magazines published by Ace Magazines, Fiction House, Harry Donenfeld, and Martin Goodman. He also painted comic book covers for Ziff-Davis from 1949 to 1953. From 1947 through 1953, he contributed about thirty front cover paintings to PLANET STORIES — including the Winter 1948 issue — a Fiction House pulp magazine best remembered for the many entertaining space operas that appeared in its rough paper pages. In later years, Anderson opened a small advertising agency and worked as a sign painter. )

Weird Editing at “The Unique Magazine”

Jun 24, 2015 by

Weird Tales 23-03Almost one-hundred and twenty-five years ago, on August 20, 1880, Howard Phillips Lovecraft was born in Providence, Rhode Island. According to the late Robert Bloch, author of PSYCHO, Lovecraft was, “A precocious child, he learned to read when he was four and soon experimented with writing. Poor health kept him from college and economic necessity eventually caused him to neglect amateur journalism in favor of ghostwriting or revising the work of others for professional publication. Gradually he began to produce poetry and fiction of his own.” His “career as a professional writer was largely compressed into a span of about sixteen years. He remained virtually unknown except to the limited readership of pulp magazines such as WEIRD TALES in which his work appeared. It earned only a pitiful pittance to supplement the income from a meager inheritance, and he continued his anonymous chores for other writers.”

Bloch continues: “Today Lovecraft is established as a major American fantasy writer, frequently ranked as the equal of Poe. His work is in print here and abroad and the mild-mannered, old-fashioned, conservative New England gentleman has become an acknowledged master of horror fiction.” What then should be made of this magazine that earned “The Copernicus of the horror story,” as author Fritz Leiber described Lovecraft, “a pitiful pittance to supplement the income from a meager inheritance?”

WEIRD TALES was the first periodical to be largely devoted to the fantasy genre. Premiering in early 1923, its publishers envisioned “The Unique Magazine” as a place for a writer to be given “free rein to express his innermost feelings in a manner befitting great literature.” It began to come into its own in late 1924 after Farnsworth Wright was named the magazine’s editor. In the years ahead, the pulp would become known for its fantasy and supernatural fiction, publishing the work of Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith. Other substantial writers included Bloch, E. Hoffmann Price, Carl Jacobi, Henry Kuttner, Frank Belknap Long, C. L. Moore, Seabury Quinn, Manly Wade Wellman, Henry S. Whitehead, and others. WEIRD TALES would also become noted for its artists: Hannes Bok, Margaret Brundage, J. Allen St. John, and Virgil Finlay all contributed tremendously to the fantasy art field through their work for “The Unique Magazine.”

In addition to publishing some of the best fantasy and supernatural fiction of the twentieth century, WEIRD TALES, like the Munsey magazines, featured science fiction in its pages, offering tales of interplanetary expeditions, brain transference, death rays, lost races, parallel worlds, and more. Edmond Hamilton was its leading contributor of science fiction. With stories about alien invasions, space police, and evolution gone wild, the author became known as “world-wrecker” Hamilton. Other notable science fiction authors to appear in WEIRD TALES were Ray Cummings, Austin Hall, Otis Adelbert Kline, Moore, Donald Wandrei, and Jack Williamson. In his later years, H. P. Lovecraft spun his own style of science fiction in his tales of cosmic horror.

Weird Tales 42-03The original run of WEIRD TALES began with its March 1923 number, with Edwin Baird as the editor, and ran through its September 1954 issue, for a total of 279 issues. During this period, it was perhaps the most important and influential of all fantasy magazines, providing an outlet for stories that probably would not have been published elsewhere. This was especially true during the Wright years when it published many of Lovecraft’s most influential works; introduced the sword-and-sorcery genre through Robert E. Howard’s stories of Kull, Solomon Kane, Bran Mak Morn, and Conan; shared Clark Ashton Smith’s wonderfully evocative stories of Hyperboria, Averoigne, and Zothique; and featured the early work of artists Hannes Bok, Margaret Brundage, and Virgil Finlay. As pulp scholar Robert Weinberg has written, “It was in WEIRD TALES . . . that traditions were broken . . . . that unusual writing and poetry was featured. The outrageous and the ordinary mingled side by side in the magazine . . . It was a magazine where anything might find a home.”

Although Wright did indeed publish some rather substantial stories during his editorship — including Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu,” “The Whisperer in Darkness,” and “The Haunter of the Dark;” Howard’s “The Tower of the Elephant,” “A Witch Shall Be Born,” “Pigeons from Hell,” and “Red Nails;” C. L. Moore’s “Schambleau” and Jirel stories; Clark Ashton Smith’s “A Rendezvous in Averoigne,” “The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis,” and “Genius Loci;” Henry S. Whitehead’s “Jumbee,” and many others — he was, at the same time, rejecting a great deal of fine work. H. P. Lovecraft was told that “At the Mountains of Madness,” was “too long,” “not easily divisible into parts,” and “not convincing.” “The Shadow over Innsmouth” was rejected for similar reasons. Both have since become recognized as classics. In a letter addressed to Lee Alexander Stone in 1930, Lovecraft wrote: “Henry S. Whitehead . . . says that Wright uniformly rejects his best stories. Very like Wright — whose bland dumbness transcends my utmost limits of comprehension.” In a letter to Richard Searight, written in 1935, Lovecraft summarized his feelings about Wright by stating, “His capricious editorial policy does give me a large-sized cervical pain! He has consistently turned down my best work . . . on the ground of length, while at the same time taking far longer things (for the most part utter tripe) from others. It is clear to me that he does not like my work, no matter what he says to the contrary.”

Howard, Smith, and others experienced similar rejections. In a letter mailed to Wright about a year before his tragic suicide, Robert E. Howard stated, “WEIRD TALES owes me over eight hundred dollars for stories already published and supposed to be paid for on publication — enough to pay all my debts and get back on my feet again.” Some scholars have suggested that Wright’s sometimes difficult stance taken with his best writers may have contributed to the early deaths of Howard and Lovecraft and the premature end of Smith’s writing career.

As part of its celebration of the 125th anniversary of the birth of H. P. Lovecraft, PulpFest 2015 is proud to welcome Don Herron, editor of the scholarly landmark, THE DARK BARBARIAN, and winner of the 2006 Black Circle Award for lifetime achievement in Robert E. Howard studies; Morgan Holmes, longtime member of  the Robert E. Howard United Press Association and a book review editor for THE DARK MAN; Professor Tom Krabacher of California State University, Sacramento and a member of the Pulp Era Amateur Press Association; 1979 Lamont Award winner and author of “The Wild Adventures of Doc Savage and Tarzan” Will Murray; and popular culture Professor Garyn G. Roberts, who was awarded the Munsey in 2013, for a presentation entitled “Weird Editing at ‘The Unique Magazine’.” Scheduled for Saturday evening, August 15th, at 7:55 PM, our panelists will discuss the editorial policies of WEIRD TALES, concentrating particularly on the reign of Farnsworth Wright.

Join PulpFest 2015 at the beautiful Hyatt Regency in downtown Columbus, Ohio, beginning on Thursday, August 13th and running through Sunday, August 16th, for a salute to H. P. Lovecraft and WEIRD TALES, just a few short days before the author’s 125th birthday. Although our host hotel is completely booked, there are still some rooms available at nearby hotels. Please visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/PulpFest and click on the post pinned to the top of the page. You’ll be directed to a list of hotels to choose from. If you are not from the Columbus area and want to attend PulpFest 2015, we urge to book your room now and not later. Rooms that are relatively close to PulpFest are disappearing fast during the time frame of our convention.

(The first issue of WEIRD TALES, dated March 1923 with a cover illustration by R. R. Epperly, is best remembered for publishing Anthony M. Rud’s “Ooze,” a story concerning a giant amoeba. Also featured in the issue were tales by Otis Adelbert Kline, Joel Townsley Rogers, R. T. M. Scott, and Harold Ward. The issue was put together by Edwin Baird, the editor of the magazine until the November 1924 issue, when Wright took the helm.

Hannes Bok created seven covers for WEIRD TALES. The last appeared on the issue dated March 1942. It was edited by Dorothy McIlwraith, who succeeded Farnsworth Wright following the March 1940 number. McIlwraith would publish Ray Bradbury’s first professional solo story, “The Candle,” in the November 1942 issue. She also helped to launch the careers of author Fritz Leiber and fantasy artist Lee Brown Coye.

Weird Tales 73-FAlmost two decades after its original demise, WEIRD TALES was revived in 1973-1974 for four issues, edited by Sam Moskowitz. The second issue, from the fall of 1973, featured cover art by Gary van der Steur after Hannes Bok’s cover from March 1940. A paperback series lasting four more issues, edited by Lin Carter, appeared from 1981-1983. The magazine was revived in 1988 by George H. Scithers, Darrell Schweitzer and John Gregory Betancourt and has, more or less, been published on a continuous basis since that time. in 2014, the 362nd  issue was released. It is currently published by John Harlacher with Marvin Kaye serving as editor. For more details, visit the magazine’s website at http://weirdtalesmagazine.com/.)

Thrilling Pulp Heroes of the Forties

Jun 20, 2015 by

Shadow33-08-01In the spring of 1931, THE SHADOW MAGAZINE was introduced to readers by Street & Smith Publications and proved an instant hit. Within a few short years, all of the leading pulp magazine publishers hoped to emulate its success by introducing their own hero pulps. The first to the starting gate would be Ned Pines’ Standard Magazines, the pulp chain that will be feted at this year’s PulpFest in Columbus, Ohio.

The first of the so-called hero pulps inspired by Walter Gibson’s “Dark Avenger” was THE PHANTOM DETECTIVE, launched in early 1933. Later that same year, Standard followed with the first air war hero magazine, THE LONE EAGLE. Next came G-MEN, the first pulp magazine to capitalize on growing popularity of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI agents. Thrilling closed the thirties by introducing the heroic adventures of the Black Bat to readers of BLACK BOOK DETECTIVE MAGAZINE, a pulp that had been around nearly as long as the company’s first hero pulp, D. L. Champion’s THE PHANTOM DETECTIVE.

In 1939, while attending the first World Science Fiction Convention in New York City, Standard Magazines’ editor-in-chief, Leo Margulies, “was so overcome by the sincerity of the fans,” that he and editor Mort Weisinger immediately began to work up an idea for a new kind of fantasy magazine. The result of those discussions was CAPTAIN FUTURE, a hero pulp that premiered at the beginning of 1940.

40-01 Captain FutureOr so the story goes. In actuality, the Thrilling Group’s editorial staff had been batting around ideas for a science-fictional single-character magazine for about a year, even asking long-time Standard author Edmond Hamilton to work something up involving a “Mr. Future, Wizard of Science.” Eventually, this character evolved into Captain Future, a super-scientist with laboratories and a residence on the Moon. In each issue of the pulp, Hamilton’s Captain and his faithful assistants pretty much would save the solar system from desolation at the hands of this villain or that. The novels were fairly juvenile space-opera. CAPTAIN FUTURE ran until the spring of 1944, surviving for seventeen issues with Edmond Hamilton at the helm for all but one. In 1945-46, three additional Captain Future novels ran in STARTLING STORIES, with Hamilton writing two of them and Manly Wade Wellman one. Seven shorter works followed in 1950, all written by Hamilton. Popular Library reprinted thirteen of the Captain’s adventures in paperback in the late sixties. Today, specialty publisher Haffner Press is collecting the entire series into quality hardbound volumes.

40-01 Ghost Super-DetectivePremiering around the same time as the good captain, THE GHOST, SUPER-DETECTIVE was a short-lived hero pulp that ran for just seven issues, even though, during its abbreviated life, it went through two title changes. It became THE GHOST DETECTIVE in the summer of 1940 and THE GREEN GHOST DETECTIVE in the winter of 1941. Whatever the name, this pulp hero was actually George Chance, a professional magician who decided to use his skills of prestidigitation to fight crime. As The Ghost, Green Ghost, or whatever, Chance took on the guise of a ghoul. As the late Robert Sampson wrote: “His face is bloodless white, the eyes sunk deep in blotched hollows. The nostrils gape wide. Yellow teeth fill a distended mouth. In short, he looks like a dead man, a staring corpse. These features appear by night, glowing with dim luminescence, to the confusion of the underworld.” After the pulp was cancelled in 1941, the character returned in a series of a six short stories that ran in THRILLING MYSTERY from 1942 through 1944. The entire series, both novels and short stories, was written by G. T. Fleming-Roberts. It has been reprinted by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box as part of its LOST TREASURES FROM THE PULPS library. A prolific author, Fleming-Roberts wrote other single-character adventures including Secret Agent “X,” The Black Hood, Dan Fowler, and Captain Zero. He also penned two other magician-detective series—the Diamondstone tales for POPULAR DETECTIVE and the Jeffery Wren yarns for DIME DETECTIVE.

Air War 1940-FallThe adventures of Captain Danger were told in AIR WAR, a companion to SKY FIGHTERS, THE LONE EAGLE, and other Thrilling aviation pulps. The magazine debuted during the fall of 1940 and ran for a total of nineteen issues. Credited to Lieutenant Scott Morgan, a house name, the tales of Allen Danger, a soldier of fortune who dedicated his life to helping the downtrodden, appeared in the first fifteen issues of the Standard pulp magazine. Described as a demon of the skies, his missions took him across the globe, delivering aerial justice against the Axis powers. According to pulp historian Don Hutchison, the series was created by Robert Sidney Bowen. However, at least seven of the stories–including the last yarn in the Spring 1944 issue–are known to be the work of Norman Daniels.

40-10 Masked DetectiveThe last of Standard Magazines’ line of non-western single-character pulps, THE MASKED DETECTIVE, also reached newsstands in the fall of 1940. The title character was the alter ego of crime reporter Rex Parker, a laid-back newshawk who worked for a New York newspaper. When not tracking down news for his paper, he battled crime as The Masked Detective. A student of kick-boxing, the detective “wore a neat black suit, gray shirt, dark bow tie, black hat, and a black mask covering his eyes, forehead, and nose. He wore specially built shoes with square, hard toes. He was also a master of ju-jitsu, a good shot, a trained boxer, a makeup artist, and a ventriloquist.” Author credit went to C. K. M. Scanlon, a house name. Norman Daniels is known to have written at least five of the stories. THE MASKED DETECTIVE ran for twelve issues, lasting into the spring of 1943.

Scattered throughout Standard’s anthology titles are other so-called pulp heroes including The Crimson Mask. Attributed to Frank Johnson, the series was largely written by the prolific Daniels. The Mask was the alter ego of pharmacist Robert Clarke, a man seeking revenge against the criminals who had murdered his father. Aided by a small group of friends, the Crimson Mask battled gangsters, kidnappers, and Nazi spy rings through sixteen stories. The series ran in Thrilling’s DETECTIVE NOVELS MAGAZINE, debuting in the August 1940 issue and running through the April 1944 number. The Mask’s stories usually alternated with Daniels’ own Candid Camera Kid yarns, introduced in the June 1939 issue. The first five Crimson Mask stories have been reprinted by Altus Press.

Exciting Detective 41-FallEXCITING DETECTIVE premiered during the fall of 1940, promising “fast-moving, dynamite-packed, up-to-the-minute novels, novelettes, and stories that carry a high-powered punch!” It ran for a total of fifteen issues, ending with its Summer 1943 number, a victim of wartime paper rationing. Appearing in four of its issues–beginning with the Fall 1941 number–was Miles Murdock, a plastic surgeon also known as The Purple Scar. Attributed to John S. Endicott, the stories are thought to be the work of pulp writer George A. McDonald. A “grim nemesis of evil,” The Purple Scar was a master of disguise who spoke in a “hoarse whispering, rather chilling, tomb-like voice.” He wore a purple mask to imitate his murdered brother’s features, scarred by acid and submerged in water. “Purple becomes black at night, which makes my face invisible instead of betraying it as a pale glow in the darkness.” All four of The Scar’s stories have been reprinted by Altus Press.

Debuting in the May 1941 issue of THRILLING ADVENTURES, Henry Kuttner’s Thunder Jim Wade was a short-lived character who is usually written off as a Doc Savage clone. Published under the house name of Charles Stoddard, Wade was raised in a lost colony of Crete where he developed various mental and physical abilities. A roving troubleshooter operating off of a secret island in the South Pacific, Jim is alerted to problems through agents scattered across the globe. Helped by two assistants–Red Argyle and Dirk Marat–Thunder Jim starred in five adventures published in consecutive issues of the Standard pulp magazine. All have been reprinted in a single volume published by Altus Press, entitled THUNDER JIM WADE: THE COMPLETE SERIES.

Thrilling Mystery 41-11Although the bulk of the Dr. Zeng Tse-Lin stories were co-written by W. T. Ballard and Robert Leslie Bellem and published in POPULAR DETECTIVE, the first story of the series–“Fangs of Doom”–ran in the November 1941 issue of THRILLING MYSTERY. An allegedly Chinese crimefighter who is actually the son of white missionary parents, Zeng was assisted by Lai Hu Chow, a Chinese man who wears an artificial leg in which he can carry weapons and other useful items. The entire series has been reprinted by Altus Press. Dr. Zeng will also be explored during our PulpFest presentation, “Thrilling Detectives,” taking place on Thursday, August 13th, at 8:40 PM.

As part of its celebration of the Thrilling Group, PulpFest 2015 is proud to welcome Altus Press publisher and 2012 Munsey Award winner Matt Moring; 1979 Lamont Award winner and author of “The Wild Adventures of Doc Savage and Tarzan” Will Murray; pop culture expert and 2014 Inkpot Award winner Michelle Nolan; and popular culture Professor Garyn G. Roberts, who was awarded the Munsey in 2013, for a presentation entitled “Thrilling Heroes of Standard’s Pulps and Comics.” Scheduled for Friday evening, August 14th, at 10:40 PM, it will examine the evolution of the Standard hero in both pulp magazines and comic books. Thrilling’s heroes of the detective and western genres will be dissected on Thursday, August 13th.

Our discussion of Standard’s heroes began on Friday, June 19th, to call attention to this “Thrilling Presentation!!!” You can read our previous post about the Thrilling pulp heroes of the thirties by visiting  www.pulpfest.com. On Sunday, we’ll turn our attention to the comic book heroes of Standard, Better, Nedor, and Visual Editions.

(George Rozen’s painting for the August 1, 1933 issue of THE SHADOW MAGAZINE is perhaps one of the artist’s most iconic images of Walter Gibson’s “Dark Avenger.” Born 110 years ago in October 1895, Rozen and his twin brother, Jerome, were both pulp artists. George’s first published assignments were covers and interior pen-and-ink story illustrations for Fawcett magazines. In 1931, he replaced his brother as the cover artist for Street & Smith’s THE SHADOW MAGAZINE. George Rozen became the pulp’s most renowned cover artist, while his brother branched out into the more prestigious fields of advertising and slick magazines.

As time passed, George Rozen continued to work for the pulp industry, selling cover art to all of the major publishers including Popular and the Thrilling Group. For Ned Pines, Rozen painted adventure, detective (such as the first issue of THE MASKED DETECTIVE, dated Fall 1940), western, war, and even science-fiction covers, including the first issue of CAPTAIN FUTURE, dated January 1940. As the pulp market began to contract, his work was increasingly found on paperbacks from Popular Library and Ace.

While training for the priesthood in his native Puerto Rico, Rafael de Soto began taking private art lessons with a local artist. He emigrated to the United States in 1923 and soon found work at an advertising company. He began to draw interior story illustrations for Street & Smith’s western pulp magazines in 1930. Two years later, he started to sell freelance cover paintings to all the major pulp magazine publishers including Clayton, Dell, Fiction House, Popular, Street & Smith, and the Thrilling Group. It was de Soto who created the cover art for the first issue of THE GHOST SUPER-DETECTIVE, dated January 1940. He continued to produce pulp covers up until the demise of the industry during the 1950s. He also sold freelance illustrations to slick magazines, many paperback book covers, and covers and interior story illustrations for men’s adventure magazines. Rafael de Soto retired from freelance illustration in 1964 and began teaching art at the State University of New York, Farmingdale. He taught art for the rest of his life and embarked on a very successful career as a portrait artist.

Although some have attributed the front cover art for the first issue of AIR WAR, dated Fall 1940, to Harold William McCauley, who primarily worked as a staff artist for the Chicago-based Ziff-Davis publishing house, the painting does not resemble the artist’s usual work. It seems hard to imagine that Standard Publications would launch a new title with an untried free-lance cover artist living in Chicago, who they had never worked with before. Unless proven otherwise, the cover artist for this particular issue of AIR WAR is not known.

Ernest Chiriacka provided the cover illustrations for both the Fall 1940 issue of EXCITING DETECTIVE (featuring the premier of The Purple Scar series) and the November 1941 issue of THRILLING MYSTERY (which featured E. Hoffmann Price’s “Fangs of Doom,” the start of the Dr. Zeng series). Chiriacka’s first published story illustrations appeared in 1939 in Street & Smith’s LOVE STORY MAGAZINE. During the 1940s, he began selling freelance pulp covers to a variety of magazines including ADVENTURE, BLACK BOOK DETECTIVE, DETECTIVE FICTION WEEKLY, DIME WESTERN, G-MEN DETECTIVE, THE PHANTOM DETECTIVE, STAR WESTERN, SWEETHEART STORIES, TEXAS RANGERS, and WESTERN ACES. In 1950, he joined the American Artists Agency and began a successful career as a slick magazine illustrator. He also painted many paperback covers up until 1965. Afterward, he retired from commerical illustration to concentrate on painting visionary landscapes of the Old West.)

 

Captain Future, Man of Tomorrow

Jun 9, 2014 by

Captain Future 40-WIn addition to the explosive growth of the science-fiction pulp market, 1939 was also the year of the first World Science Fiction Convention. According to a story related by science-fiction scholar Sam Moskowitz, Standard Magazines’ editor-in-chief, Leo Margulies and Mort Weisinger came up with “a new idea in fantasy magazines” at the convention. It was Captain Future, a science-fiction hero pulp that premiered at year’s end.

In actuality, Standard’s editorial staff had been batting around ideas for a science-fictional single-character magazine for months, even asking long-time pulpster Edmond Hamilton to work up something involving a “Mr. Future, Wizard of Science.”  Eventually, the character evolved into Captain Future, a super-scientist headquartered on the Moon. In each issue of the pulp, Hamilton’s hero and his faithful assistants—known as the Futuremen—would save the solar system and, in later issues, the universe. Although action-packed and entertaining, the novels were juvenile space operas.

Startling Stories 50-01Captain Future ran until the spring of 1944, surviving for seventeen issues with Edmond Hamilton writing fifteen of the lead novels. In 1945-46, three more Captain Future adventures appeared in Startling Stories. Hamilton wrote two of them and Manly Wade Wellman one. Seven shorter works followed in 1950, all of them written by Hamilton for Startling Stories. In the late sixties, Popular Library reprinted thirteen of the Captain’s adventures in paperback. Specialty publisher Haffner Press is currently collecting the entire series in hardcover.

To learn more about the images used in this post, click on the illustrations. Click here for references consulted for this article.

Captain Future has proved very popular throughout the world with an animated television series being produced in Japan and exported to other nations. Additionally, there have been hundreds of comic books featuring the characters published in both French and German. Captain Future figurines, models, board games, drinking glasses, and other merchandise have also appeared.

The Unique Magazine

Apr 19, 2014 by

Weird Tales March 1923Weird Tales was the first periodical specifically devoted to the fantasy genre. Premiering in early 1923, its publishers envisioned “The Unique Magazine” as a place for a writer to be given “free rein to express his innermost feelings in a manner befitting great literature.” In reality, the early issues of the pulp were filled with ghost stories, the choice of the magazine’s editor, Edwin Baird. Far more interested in Rural’s Real Detective and Mystery Stories, Baird had little interest in fantasy.

Weird Tales came into its own in late 1924 when Farnsworth Wright was named the magazine’s editor. In the years ahead, the pulp would become known for its fantasy and supernatural fiction, publishing the work of Robert E. Howard, H. P. Lovecraft, and Clark Ashton Smith. Later issues would feature substantial efforts by Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury, Carl Jacobi, Henry Kuttner, C. L. Moore, Seabury Quinn, Manly Wade Wellman, and others. Weird Tales would likewise become noted for its artists. Hannes Bok, Margaret Brundage, Lee Brown Coye, and Virgil Finlay all contributed greatly to the fantasy art field through their work for “The Unique Magazine.”

In addition to publishing some of the best fantasy and supernatural fiction of the twentieth century, Weird Tales, like the Munsey magazines, featured science fiction in its pages, offering tales of interplanetary expeditions, brain transference, death rays, lost races, parallel worlds, and more. Edmond Hamilton was its leading contributor of science fiction. With stories about alien invasions, space police, and evolution gone wild, the author became known as “world-wrecker” Hamilton. Other notable science fiction in Weird Tales included work by Austin Hall, Otis Adelbert Kline, Frank Belknap Long, C. L. Moore, Donald Wandrei, and Jack Williamson. In his later years, H. P. Lovecraft spun his own style of science fiction in his tales of cosmic horror.

Although science fiction was frequently found in its pages—particularly during its early years—Weird Tales was not the first science-fiction pulp. That was left for Hugo Gernsback, an immigrant from Luxembourg, to develop.

Weird Tales 42-03The original run of Weird Tales began with its March 1923 number and ran through its September 1954 issue, for a total of 279 issues. Edwin Baird, Farnsworth Wright, and Dorothy McIlwraith (beginning in May 1940) were its editors. It was revived in 1973-74 for four issues, edited by Sam Moskowitz. A paperback series lasting four more issues, edited by Lin Carter, appeared from 1981-1983. The magazine was revived in 1988 by George H. Scithers, Darrell Schweitzer and John Gregory Betancourt and has, more or less, been published on a continuous basis since that time. At this writing, the 361st issue had been released. It is currently published by John Harlacher with Marvin Kaye serving as editor. For more details, visit the magazine’s website at http://weirdtalesmagazine.com/.

To learn more about the images used in this post, click on the illustrations. Click here for references consulted for this article.