Friday, October 05, 2007

Babes and Bems

The May 1941 issue of Startling Stories features a great pulpy cover by Rudolph Belarski (1900-1981) illustrating the novel The Water World.
The Ether Vibrates starts things off with a preview of next month's novel. "...look forward to Jack Williamson's smashing novel of a world without water..." From one extreme to the other it seems. Letters this time are from Billy Holmes of New York("Hooray for Hamilton); Messers. Sawyer and Long (first names not given) of Shreveport announcing SFTPACOBEMOCSFP, the Society For The Protection And Continuation of Bug-Eyed Monsters on Covers of Science Fiction Publications; Alfred Edward Maxwell taking Wesso to task for illustrating Odin with two eyes; Leigh Brackett speculating on future wars and praising Chris Barton's debut in Startling; Katherine Baum of Pittsburgh complains about Wesso seemingly monopolizing the interior illustrations; Gerry de la Ree, Jr. (1924-1993) lists his favorite stories from Startling to date; Robert Mastell of Hibbing, Minn. contributes a poem entitled "On With Science Fiction", Robert Frost he isn't; Langley Searles of New York closes things out praising Bergey over Brown.
A turn of the page brings us to the issue's "Complete Amazing Book-Length Novel", The Water World by Oscar J. Friend. "Fate Casts Up Orphans of an Ancient Storm on a Shoreless Earth, Where Deluge Drowns the Continents in a Single Sea-and Men Dredge Food and Clothing From the Depths!" World War II finally makes it into a Startling story! Our hero Jefferson Reade and a beautiful Nazi spy (or is she?) wind up in suspended animation and awaken in the year 6940. The only land is the topmost 400 feet of Mt. Everest and people live on a series of floating islands. But doom, in the form of a new Ice Age (Al Gore lives!!) approaches. Unfortunately, too much of the story is wasted, not on plot, but on continuing explanations of how things happend and how things work. One of Friend's lesser works. But, one interesting thing, whether typo or deliberate, Hitler is called "the furor". The signature of the interior artist is hard to make out but it could be Paul Orban and appears to be in his style.
The Guest Editorial is by P. Schuyler Miller, "Counterfeiting a Golden Age", pondering how futute archaeologists might interpret science fiction works as a true chronicle of our times.
"Superhuman" by John Russell Fearn (1908-1960) is the first short story. "He Was a Giant Among Men, Not Only in Stature But in Brain Power-and He Planned to Usher in a New Era!" The illustration is by Hannes Bok (Wayne Woodard, 1914-1964). This is "Honey, I Blew Up The Kid" taken to extreme and demonstrates why scientists are often viewed with suspicion.
Mort Weisinger's "Thrills in Science" comes next, featuring stories about Alexander Graham Bell, William Herschel and Marc Isambard Brunel.
Leigh Brackett (1915-1978) contributes the next story, "Interplanetary Reporter". "The System's Ruthless Wars Kill Barton's Ideals-Till a Martian Girl Makes Him Fight for His Dead Beliefs!" The illustration is by Marchioni.
Science Question Box deals with the human body, synthetic food and life on Venus.
Then comes the "Scientifiction Hall of Fame Story", this time selected by Julius Schwartz (1915-2004). "The Literary Corkscrew" by David H. Keller (1880-1966) first appeared in the March, 1934 issue of Wonder Stories. "The Amazing Case of an Author Who Was Pained When He Couldn't Write-and Could Only Write When He Was Pained". The illustration is by Paul.
This is followed by the Scientific Crossword Puzzle and "Review Of The Science Fiction Fan Publications". Reviewed this time are "Spaceways" by Harry Warner, Jr., James S. Avery and Walter E. Marconette (Hagerstown, MD); "Polaris" from Paul Freehafer (Pasadena, CA); "The Science Fiction Fan" by Olon F. Wiggins (Denver, CO); "Fantasia" by Lou Goldstone, George Cowin and Borrie Hyman (San Francisco, CA); "Centaur" by Philip A. Schumann and Donn Brazier (Milwaukee, WI); "Midwest News And Views" from Erle Korshak (Chicago, IL); and "Fantasy News" from Will Sykora (NY, NY).
"Meet The Author" features Oscar J. Friend, who discusses the ideas behind his latest novel and brings the May issue of Startling Stories to a conclusion.
All in all, not a great issue, but a pretty good one. Belarski's cover definitely helped and there is enough entertaining reading between the covers to make the reader of 1942 feel as though he got his fifteen cents' worth.
It is interesting sixty-five years later to come across the names of fans who were still active when I first got into fandom in 1972. Other names are familiar from the fannish histories of Moskowitz and Warner. It makes it all seem so cozy in a way, But enough of that. More is yet to come.


Blogger Gabriel said...

Love your blog. Pulp makes the world go around! Mind if I add your page to my list of links

7:43 PM  
Blogger Eric Jamborsky said...

Please do. And thanks for the good words.

9:13 PM  

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