Last week I quoted a scene from THE GOLDEN AMAZON RETURNS wherein our heroine sneaks into the bedroom of a Nazi mad scientist, digs her fingers into his windpipe and crushes the life out of him.
Here is the artwork Bill Book created to depict her entrance into the bedroom. Rather cheery scene isn’t it? The poor guy looks happily asleep and content. Not much fun to wake up merely in order to die. Oh well.
Since last week’s column stirred a lot of interest, I decided to report on THE PARASITE PLANET, a Golden Amazon novella published ten years into the series, to see if Violet Ray Brant had evolved or changed in any way.
I’ll say. It begins with the Golden Amazon in her personal spacecraft ‘Ultra’ just outside the solar system, along with her husband Abna, “seven feet of majestic strength, the metaphysical genius of Jupiter,” and her daughter Viona “of the copper-gold eyes and sapphire blue eyes.”
Possibly Abna may be rethinking the marriage.
“I was just thinking back to a time when you were a very different person, when your sole aim in life was to crush out the lesser factions and establish yourself as mistress of everything.”
Broods a lot, he does.
“You don’t have to go back over the past, do you?” replies Violet, embracing him and reminding him of other things. Before he can pursue his train of thought any further they are rudely interrupted by their daughter.
“Don’t mind me,” she smiled, lounging across. “I suppose it’s natural for husband and wife to get affectionate sometimes. I wouldn’t know. All I got for a husband was Sefner Quorne.”
“The Mention of the dead Sefner Quorne, once Viona’s husband, brought a grim silence for a moment…”
This piqued my interest. Was the Golden Amazon somehow responsible? I found the answer in THE AMETHYST CITY, a Golden Amazon novella published in 1951.
Seems lover boy Sefner turned out to be a bad guy. You know what the Golden Amazon does to bad guys don’t you?
Yet the Golden Amazon had become more civilized, her concept of justice more complicated, as witnessed by what happened when she found out the truth about her son-in-law.
An alien master mind also disapproves of Viona’s husband. He speaks to Violet about the cad.
“This Sefner Quorne. He hinders you. Do you wish I should translate him?”
“Translate him?” the Amazon repeated hazily.
“It is the supreme punishment. Those of our race who make mistakes are translated. They are converted into a mathematical postulation, left free to wander in time trying to seek completion. But they cannot. One figure in the total calculation is omitted, so completeness can never be achieved. It is anguish. Eternal striving to become whole again…”
The Amazon’s violet eyes were glowing.
There couldn’t be anything better for Quorne—turned loose in space, unable to understand what has beaten him. I like the idea immensely.
Then, as an afterthought, she adds:
“I don’t think Quorne has any relatives, but even if he has, they might as well be destroyed with him.”
She always did like to keep things tidy. I’m guessing she didn’t care much for in-laws, even after she became civilized.
Getting back to PARASITE PLANET, sheer boredom motivates the Golden Amazon to explore the Milky Way in search of Earth-like planets. They find one exactly identical to the Earth 60 years earlier, complete with a young Amazon seeking to conquer the universe. Amazon Mark I finds the existence of Amazon Mark II very peculiar.
Turns out the planet is inhabited by mindless mental parasites who happen to be picking up people’s thought waves amplified from Earth, thoughts which travel through space at light speed, much slower than the speed of the Amazon’s spacecraft, which explains how she got ahead of herself.
After a certain amount of confusion and a heck of a lot of treachery, the ‘real’ Golden Amazon triumphs.
She seized the front of Amazon II’s tunic, whirled her to her feet, then smashed up an uppercut that brought the sound of disintegrating bone. Her jaw fractured in two places, Amazon II dropped flat on the floor and lay there, completely knocked out.
“When she comes to,” the Amazon said, flexing her fingers. “I’ll keep my promise and take her apart by inches…”
Her husband objects.
“Have you forgotten that we’re crusaders, intent on spreading peace and happiness? Deliberate murder would entirely degrade the moral tone of our enterprise.”
“”Oh, stop talking from the heights of Olympus!” the Amazon snapped. “We have this mental parasite right here in our grasp—and you propose we should let her go free!”
Actually not, the mighty Abna has a better idea.
“She is only what she is because of her mentally parasitical ability to pick up the thoughts radiated by you in 1970… Destroy that capacity and she will still live—but as little better than an idiot…”
“I like it,” she said softly. “I like it immensely… It is infinitely crueler than actual killing.”
Hmm, where have we heard that before?
And, as always, an afterthought. What if one of these mental parasites eventually channels Sefner Quorne?
After receiving a grateful thanks from the people of the parasite planet for saving them from the machinations of Amazon II and for giving them the freedom to develop their civilization further, the Golden Amazon resolves to reduce all of them to mindless idiots ASAP. Better safe than sorry.
I did say she liked to be tidy.
Now, about the Author John Russell Fearn.
First, let me confess I avoid Wikipedia, despite its obvious advantage to any researcher. Far too easy to copy voluminous amounts of info verbatim. A kind of plagiarism really. What I like is giving my ignorant, uninformed ‘slant’ based on my reading (or experiencing) original material. Facts can be dull. Ignorance is exciting.
Back to John Russell Fearn. Never mind what posterity thinks of him. Never mind what literary scholars say about his lifetime’s work. Here is what the Star Weekly had to say about him in August of 1955.
Since 1934, John Russell Fearn has been writing futuristic stories, dipping into the world of scientific hopes and teaming them with imaginary plots and situations which give the whole production an aura of possibility. But if anyone thinks that after more than 25 years of this kind of thing, the imagination should level off, he is mistaken badly, for Mr. Fearn avows he has thousands more ideas for science-fiction which he has not yet even explored.
And no doubt thousands more ideas for the romances, westerns, mysteries and the adventure pulp fiction he churned out en masse. His literary technique may have been execrable, but evidently thousands, maybe millions over the course of his career, found his fiction readable and entertaining. Possibly they didn’t care HOW he wrote, they just liked WHAT he wrote.
Several years ago he brought out the Golden Amazon series of stories which have been featured in The Star Weekly whenever they become available. The heroine is an amazing woman, gifted with supernatural powers, who travels about the galaxy with the greatest of ease. Always, of course, her abilities are devoted to making not only this world, but all inhabited worlds, better places in which to live.
But as we know from last week, that wasn’t her original plan!
The author was born in Worsley, Manchester, and first tried to follow the career of his father, a cotton yarn salesman. That was a time of failure, however, perhaps because he cottoned to another kind of yarn, that of the stimulating challenge to the imagination which came as a by-product of his interest in science. He had educated himself in the sciences and continues to keep close tabs on scientific developments through the years. In his writing chores he has turned attention in recent years to detective stories and has published several western novels, all of which have been well received. He is interested in amateur films, one of his productions winning the 1951 Commended Award. Fittingly enough, it was a scientific film. The author now lives with his mother, at Blackpool.
Ahh, hmmm. Well, as late as the mid-1950s Britain was still trying to pay off its wartime debts and was a rather hardscrabble place to survive. Looking after dear old mum doesn’t necessarily imply a momma’s boy. But life was bleak, and I suspect turning to his imagination was a wonderful way for Fearn to escape reality. All the same, I can’t help but wonder if his mother was the inspiration for the Golden Amazon…
See what I mean by ignorance? I expect I could look up the pertinent data and find out what he was really up to. More fun to speculate, however, and motivate YOU to do the research to your own satisfaction. I’m just spending a few minutes filling in a mildly diverting weekly column. Ghu forbid I should give you the impression I know what I’m writing about. That would be silly. I prefer to let isolated quotes and anecdotes speak for themselves. I’m generous that way.
At any rate, the last Star Weekly Golden Amazon novella was published posthumously in 1961, the year after John Russell Fearn passed away.
But the Star Weekly’s literary editor Miss Cowling wasn’t going to let a gold mine like the Golden Amazon slip out of her fingers, considering that 24 novellas over 17 years had developed quite a fan base of (mostly) romance literature-inclined women. The Golden Amazon must live on!
Miss Cowling contacted the Scott Meredith literary agency to find out if they could get anyone to replace Fearn. One of the authors they got in touch with was Australian Bertram Chandler (of the famed John Grimes/Rimworld series). This puzzled Bertram greatly. He’d never heard of The Golden Amazon.
Someone loaned him issues of AMAZING which contained Golden Amazon stories rather different from those published in the Star Weekly, featuring “a sort of female Tarzan reared by the things of the Venusian swamplands.” He didn’t like her, or her friends, finding her “a horrid character—with even more horrid friends.”
Chandler informed Meredith he might consider taking on the job, but only if he could go back to the beginning of the series timeline so that “he could catch her young and bring her up properly.” He sent in a partial manuscript.
Miss cowling read it and responded “But this isn’t MY Golden Amazon!” A tad possessive, you might say.
She promptly sent Chandler several back-issues of the Star Weekly version to set him straight as to what the authentic Golden Amazon was supposed to be like. Chandler found the original concept marginally more acceptable, but not by much. He still hated her friends, for instance. Nevertheless he tried again. He submitted a First Chapter and a Synopsis.
“In the first chapter I killed off ALL Violet Ray’s (yes, that was her name) friends and in the synopsis made it clear that she was to be thoroughly brain-wiped and started again from scratch.”
Miss Cowling’s response?
“I don’t think that Mr. Chandler likes Mr. Fearn.”
Very perceptive was Miss Cowling.
Alas, she never did find anyone to carry on the series in the pages of the Star Weekly supplement.
Over the years The Golden Amazon series has been re-edited, abridged and/or rewritten in various paperback publications in a manner too complicated for me to figure out on short notice. Google and you shall find, if you dare.