A single eye stares out from a prismatic background that holds all the colours of the rainbow. Looking closer at the eye, we find entire worlds within. The iris holds a series of images including a submarine, military tanks, a surgical operation, an aeroplane and more. The pupil, itself shaped like a gear, shows an observatory pointing heavenward as an airship passes overhead. Below, along the white of the eye, we see the history of humanity in procession, from cavemen to modernity. The eyelashes are lightning bolts, and the whole of Earth is in the eye’s corner. It was April 1928, and Amazing Stories had reached its second anniversary.
More than two years after its first cover contest, Amazing Stories once again offers a competition to its readers. “When I coined the word ‘scientifiction’ in 1915,” writes Hugo Gernsback in his editorial, “I knew that sometime or other it was bound to become popular, and I even cherished a secret hope that some day it might appear in a standard dictionary.” But he is not content with the concept being signified by a word alone – he believes that it should also have a visual symbol: “an emblem, or a trade-mark, so to speak… its own crest”.
Gernsback himself had a go at coming up with such a symbol, his concept being fleshed out by house artist Paul to create this month’s cover. “The big eye represents the mind’s eye”, he explains. “Within that eye, you have, in a pictorial presentation, everything that is represented by scientifiction.” Graciously, he concludes that the readers could do a better job than him; and so the goal of the magazine’s contest of 1928 is to come up with a logo to represent scientifiction.
And here are the stories that the magazine’s readers would have been pursuing as they pondered their new mission…
“The Yeast Men” by David H. Keller, M. D.
In the fictional land of Eupenia, head of state Premier Plautz decides that it is time to wipe out a tiny neighbour, the similarly fictional Moronia. Colonel Von Dort, head of the Eupenian air service, points out a possible issue: Moronia has developed a weapon that can shoot deadly ultra-light rays, destroying any enemy aircraft that enter its airspace. Plautz labels Von Dort a coward and exiles him from Eupenia. After debating matters with his Chief of Staff, General Hurlung, the despot orders a land-based invasion of Moronia.
Von Dort flees to Moronia, where he alerts the government to Plautz’ intentions. Billings, an American inventor based in Moronia, announces that he has the key to the country’s salvation: Yeast Men!
He reveals that he has device that can turn two drops of ordinary yeast into a six-foot, roughly human-shaped lump of mobile dough; thanks to the power of radium, the Yeast Man will move in an amoeba-like fashion around twenty-five miles before dropping dead and rotting into a puddle of foul-smelling liquid. The King of Moronia reacts to this declaration with incredulity, but after Billings demonstrates the Yeast Man, his invention is adopted by the military.
Before long, waves of Yeast Men are shuffling upon Eupenia; although they are capable of causing no harm while moving, their rotting liquidated form emits a stench so repulsive as to send bystanders into bouts of uncontrollable vomiting. The sludge-ridden Eupenia loses all morale; its army overthrows Premier Plautz and makes peace with Moronia.
“The Yeast Men” has an irresistibly silly premise – and yet, its underlying mechanics are no more outrageous than those found in many of the straight-faced stories run in Amazing. It is therefore able to treat its ludicrous concept with total conviction, which makes the results all the more entertaining:
For the first time in his life, Premier Plautz was at a loss to know what to do. To him the entire situation was incomprehensible. At one side of his automobile a five foot abortion was slowly moving, its featureless face asking only one question. “Why was I made?” In the Premier’s hand was a watch crystal and on the glass was a new creation, barely a quarter of an inch high, in every respect the exact duplicate of its brother standing by the side of the car.
“What does this mean, Professor Owens?” the puzzled Premier asked the Chemistry teacher. “What kind of things are these? They cannot fight. They have no weapons, no brains, no blood. All they know is how to grow and move forward. Evidently they come from Moronia, but for what reason. Is it a declaration of war?”
The old Professor answered to the best of his ability and what he said was surprisingly near the truth. “They are just Yeast Men, Your Excellency. I have examined them in every way, chemically and microscopically and they are just peculiarly shaped masses of dough animated by some very active yeast. Their movements resemble dough overflowing a pan. I do not know what they mean but I do know what they are. I have had one cut up and baked in loaves and it tastes like a fairly good kind of whole wheat bread.”
“The Way of a Dinosaur” by Harley S. Aldinger
Amazing had previously reprinted H. G. Wells’ “A Story of the Stone Age”, which took readers back to the days of early man. Now, Harley S. Aldinger delves still further into prehistory in this tale about the age of dinosaurs.
“The Way of a Dinosaur” follows a tyrannosaurus rex named Cayna as he pushes his way through great trees and savages any plant-eaters that come his way. The story acts as a hall of paleontological fame, with Cayna encountering, in turn, a pterodactyl, stegosaurus, triceratops, brontosaurus and, finally, a school of ichthyosaurus. This final species proves to be Cayna’s undoing, as the aquatic beasts overpower the tyrannosaurus. “And thus Cayna, the king, went the way of a dinosaur, meeting the fate of all the bloodthirsty breed, sooner or later.”
“The Way of a Dinosaur” is a very short tale – were it not for the illustration, it would have filled only two pages of the magazine. Aside from giving the tyrannosaurus an individual name, Aldinger largely avoids anthropomorphising the wild beasts.
Even by the standards of 1928, the story’s palaeontology is dated: Aldinger gives his stegosaurus a tortoise-like shell, a conception that had already given way to the now-familiar row of plates by the end of the nineteenth century. Still, the story is atmospheric, and testifies to the magazine’s open-mindedness: as well as predicting the future, Amazing Stories was recreating the distant past.
“The Miracle of the Lily” by Clare Winger Harris
Written from the perspective of a futuristic historian named Nathano, this story depicts a long-running battle between human and insect. In the late twenty-first century, insects have grown to enormous size and laid waste to the world’s vegetation; humanity survives by consuming synthetic foods and building oxygen plants. The giant insects respond by waging direct war against human beings. They start by attacking individual people, before growing more sophisticated.
Using their advanced organisational skills, the insects start mounting raids on human establishments, destroying oxygen plants and plundering synthetic food laboratories. Humans fight back with poisonous gas, but the mere absence of vegetation means that the insects are living on borrowed time. By the 40th century, when Nathano lives, insects have been wiped out – at least, on Earth.
While Earth has reached global peace (leaving it “a soulless world… gradually dying from self-inflicted boredom”) the people of Venus are faced with an insect problem of their own. The Venusians need the help of Earth, but are unable to receive it until technology for communication between the two planets improves. “Television, though so common here on Earth and on Venus, has seemed an impossibility across the ethereal void,” says Nathano; “but if it becomes a reality, I believe it will be the Venusians who will take the initiative.”
Meanwhile, Nathano has uncovered a chest that once belonged to his ancestor; inside is a collection of tiny objects, comprised of an organic matter that he is unable to identify. He realises that they are seeds, and upon planting one, successfully grows it into a lily, the first plant to exist on Earth in centuries.
As the years pass, at the same time that Nathano develops his agricultural practice, interplanetary television finally becomes a reality. The people of Earth and Venus are able to see each other for the first time; and to the surprise of the watching humans, it turns out that the intelligent species of Venus is a race of giant ant-like beings, while their “insects” – the vermin that they expect Earth to help them to exterminate – are small humanoids.
The revelation ends the Venusians’ desire for a visit from humans, while Nathano starts to fear that world peace may be broken by a war between Earth and Venus. But as he soon finds, humans do not need to visit another planet to meet insects: he notices a small beetle amongst his plants, ready to begin the cycle anew.
Clare Winger Harris uses a format later adopted by Olaf Stapledon, her narrative skimming over great swathes of time and developing an epic scope within a confined space. In the end, the story settles into a variation of Jonathan Swift’s famous swapping of humans and horses in the final volume of Gulliver’s Travels, with Venus being infested by what are essentially little Yahoos.
“The Master Key” by Charles S. Wolfe
A man named Watson goes to the police with an embarrassing problem. Having read a detective story with a locked room mystery (“chap is murdered in a room to which there is no apparent ingress possible without detection—that sort of stuff”) he made a bet with his friend Fair that such a situation could never arise in real life. The two arranged for Fair to stage a locked room mystery of his own, Watson trapping him in a room with no apparent means of unaided escape; much to Watson’s chagrin, Fair succeeded in escaping, leaving Watson with 48 hours to explain how he did it – or else forfeit the bet.
Two police officers (including the story’s narrator) join in the wheeze by taking a look at the room and seeing if they can solve the enigma. Fenner, the narrator’s companion, solves the mystery:
“Easiest thing in the world.” chuckled Fenner.
“A cinch. He had the MASTER KEY.”
“A master key for a bolt?” I demanded incredulously.
“A master key for a bolt,” Fenner said quietly.
“A nice little electro-magnet and some lamp cord. Simple, wasn’t it. Hook right into the lamp socket and shoot the bolts about at will. He figured, and rightly enough, that the fact that all those bolts were found safely in their keepers would ward off all suspicion that he merely stepped into the adjoining room. He was right when he told Watson that things happen in every day life that are stranger than fiction. Maybe that worthy will believe him now.”
“Good night!” I murmured, dazedly. “I never thought of that method—never suspected the trick.”
By this point, a number of Amazing’s readers had written in complaining that the magazine’s occasional detective stories were insufficiently science fictional; this humorous mystery yarn seems unlikely to have changed their minds, hinging as it does on a single piece of relatively low technology.
“The Ancient Horror” by Hal Grant
The construction of a reservoir results in a cave-in, causing a chunk of nearby farmland to sink into a flooded depression. Wilson, the farm’s owner, tries and fails to sue the government; but Rutherford, a visitor to the area, eventually persuades him that the lake might be more desirable property than farmland: if it were to attract fish, it would be a good resort.
In time, fish arrive in the lake from subterranean waters exposed by the cave-in, and the fish are followed by fishers and other visitors. But disaster strikes the new resort when a boy disappears during a canoeing trip. Rutherford, Wilson and others help to drag the vast lake, but find no sign of the boy. Later, two more people vanish under similar circumstances.
At the same time, the lake is the site of mysterious nocturnal noises. Rutherford speculates that the sound might be connected to the disappearances, and so stays out one night with Wilson to investigate. The pair eventually catch sight of the culprit: a vast aquatic reptile, which Rutherford theorises is a prehistoric survival, or else a new hybrid that coincidentally resembles its ancient ancestors. Wilson ends up eaten by the monster.
Meanwhile, a torrential storm strikes, and detonates a cache of explosives left over from the reservoir’s construction. A vast chasm opens and drains both the reservoir and the lake, with the monstrous lizard sucked into the vortex. Rutherford survives to tell the tale – as the entire narrative is framed as a story he relates to an unnamed friend, after reading a news report about another prehistoric throwback allegedly sighted in Africa.
A solid and often atmospheric monster narrative, one that makes a good companion piece to “The Way of a Dinosaur” – the two stories offering nicely distinct variations on their paleontological them.
“The Return of the Martians” by Cecil B. White
Cecil B. White’s earlier story “The Retreat to Mars” depicted Martians visiting Earth in the distant past; now, this sequel deals with the question of whether Martians are still up there. The narrator, an astronomer and radio enthusiast named Arnold, gets a call from his friend Hargraves to help operate a new type of radio transmitter which can theoretically communicate with Mars. After some early fumbles, the pair successfully open conversation with the Martians – whose language they can understand, having studied the documents left on Earth.
The Martians fill the Earth people in on their planet’s history. It turns out that the colonisers who returned from Earth brought with them a disease that wiped out almost the entire species. The aliens then offer to take their Earthling correspondents on a trip to Mars; Hargraves and Arnold accept this offer, arranging for Arnold’s wife (“We should take a member of the gentler sex along with us”) and researcher Dr. Smythe to accompany them. The Martians send a torpedo-shaped craft to Earth, and the astronauts-to-be are greeted by their first Martian: a nine-foot-tall, barrel-chested but handsome-featured fellow with a head of curly chestnut hair. During the trip to Mars, the story dwells in detail on the workings of the Martian craft:
One of two periscope-like arrangements projected an image of the sun upon the slit of a spectroscope of very high resolving power. One of the sharpest and strongest spectral lines formed by the instrument fell upon two fine sensitive wires. If the line shifted one way or the other, the extra heating effect upon one of the wires caused a flow of electricity to pass through it, which, by an arrangement somewhat like the “Wheatstone bridge,” automatically recentered them. The wires were connected to an indicator. As the space flyer approached or receded from the sun, the spectral lines shifted toward the violet or red respectively—the well-known Doppler-Fizeau effect—thus indicating the velocity of the machine with respect to the sun. Knowing the angle between the path of the machine and the line joining the machine and the sun, the true velocity was easily found by an elementary trigonometric computation, which was automatically performed.
Once the travellers arrive on the red planet, the story shifts from technology to social science. The Martians have an immaculate work ethic, ensuring that each one does their bit for society with neither supervision nor punishment for shirking; marriage and reproduction are strictly controlled, with Martians undergoing unspecified tests before being permitted to marry; they live in virtual equality in terms of both social class and gender; and in large part due to their diets, they are capable of living many centuries, although the debilitation of old age prompts them to seek voluntary euthanasia.
The Martians give the travellers a tour of their science and technology. Arnold receives a medical procedure involving a device akin to an advanced X-ray machine, which shows his inner workings in minute detail; afterwards, he notes that he has been cured of multiple unspecified maladies. The group is later taken to see the famous Martian canals, as described by Percival Lowell, whose book Mars and Its Canals is quoted in the story.
The Earth people are reluctant to leave this utopia and return to their own troubled world. But Arnold takes comfort in the fact that they will be accompanied by Martians, who will help to uplift human society.
While “The Retreat to Mars” made intriguing use of its then-novel concept of aliens landing on ancient Earth, the sequel is more prosaic. Its narrative is extremely thin, existing as a vehicle first for nuts-and-bolts descriptions of space technology, and then for a travelogue of the Martian utopia.
“A Story of the Days to Come” by H. G. Wells (part 1 of 2)
With the first issue of Amazing Stories Quarterly having reprinted H. G. Wells’ future-satire When the Sleeper Awakes, the monthly magazine commences serialising an 1899 work where Wells explores similar ground. The story opens with a description of Mr. Morris, a rather self-satisfied Victorian gent with little concern for anything existing beyond his own period in time. The narrative then speeds into the future, by which point Mr. Morris is a figure of history – yet his descendent, Mwres, shows the same complacency. Newspapers have been replaced with phonographs and frock-coats with pneumatic garments, but as the outlook of Mwres demonstrates, people have not necessarily changed much in the intervening centuries.
Mwres hopes for his eighteen-year-old daughter Elizebe8 (or Elizabeth as she is referred to through most of the story for convenience’s sake) to marry a successful young man named Bindon; but alas, she has become consumed by outdated romantic fiction, and ended up with the idea that she should marry for love. Her preferred partner is a poet named Denton, despite him hailing from a lower social class. Mwres tries to change her mind forcibly with the of a hypnotist (an occupation that comprises a significant caste committed to the betterment of humanity; in this future, people look back with scorn on such barbaric institutions as lunatic asylums.)
When Denton next visits Elizabeth, he is aghast to find that she no longer recognises him. He deduces that her memories have been tampered with hypnotically, and confronts the man responsible. Through threats of violence, he compels the hypnotist to undo his action. The two lovers elope into the country, but face unanticipated hardships and eventually return to the city. They go ahead with their marriage, all pastoral dreams vanishing within an urban dystopia.
As this story unfolds, Wells’ narrator makes a large number of pointed comments on the state of the future – and, by extension, the state of Wells’ own era:
Prominent if not paramount among world-changing inventions in the history of man is that series of contrivances in locomotion that began with the railway and ended for a century or more with the motor and the patent road. That these contrivances, together with the device of limited liability joint stock companies and the supersession of agricultural labourers by skilled men with ingenious machinery, would necessarily concentrate mankind in cities of unparallelled magnitude and work an entire revolution in human life, became, after the event, a thing so obvious that it is a matter of astonishment it was not more clearly anticipated. Yet that any steps should be taken to anticipate the miseries such a revolution might entail does not appear even to have been suggested; and the idea that the moral prohibitions and sanctions, the privileges and concessions, the conception of property and responsibility, of comfort and beauty, that had rendered the mainly agricultural states of the past prosperous and happy, would fail in the rising torrent of novel opportunities and novel stimulations, never seems to have entered the nineteenth-century mind.
That a citizen, kindly and fair in his ordinary life, could as a shareholder become almost murderously greedy; that commercial methods that were reasonable and honourable on the old-fashioned countryside, should on an enlarged scale be deadly and overwhelming; that ancient charity was modern pauperisation, and ancient employment modern sweating; that, in fact, a revision and enlargement of the duties and rights of man had become urgently necessary, were things it could not entertain, nourished as it was on an archaic system of education and profoundly retrospective and legal in all its habits of thought. It was known that the accumulation of men in cities involved unprecedented dangers of pestilence; there was an energetic development of sanitation; but that the diseases of gambling and usury, of luxury and tyranny should become endemic, and produce horrible consequences was beyond the scope of nineteenth-century thought. And so, as if it were some inorganic process, practically unhindered by the creative will of man, the growth of the swarming unhappy cities that mark the twenty-first century accomplished itself.
Baron Münchhausen’s Scientific Adventures by Hugo Gernsback (Part 3 of 6)
The exploits of Münchhausen continue for two more chapters. Like a number of Gernsback’s editorials, “Münchhausen Departs for the Planet Mars” opens by ruminating upon the distinction (or lack thereof) between science fiction and science fact. Narrator I. M. Alier rants about the common expression that truth is stranger than fiction, first dismissing Lord Byron (from whose poem “Don Juan” the proverb is paraphrased) as “a grouchy young gentleman with a grievance for fiction writers, probably because they received more emoluments for their stuff than he did for his poetry” and then deriding the “coarse soul” who mutilated his words. Truth, Alier argues, is not so much stranger than fiction as we might have been led to believe:
Fifty-eight years ago when [Jules Verne] wrote “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,” no one took him seriously. It is doubtful whether he himself believed that the submarine which he invented in that story would ever become practical. It was just fiction. Yet forty-five years later, a submarine, almost exactly like the one his vivid and prophetic mind conceived, emerges from a German harbor and travels under its own power over a distance of 4,000 miles, through the North Sea, the English Channel, down the Atlantic, through the entire length of the Mediterranean and up through the Dardanelles to Constantinople!
After this introduction, Alier goes back to the story of Baron Münchhausen and Professor Flitternix’s spacefaring exploits. The pair begin the chapter on the Moon, which turns out to be hollow – looking down a crater, the Baron is able to see stars on the other side. They then decide to head off to Mars in their craft, the Interstellar, so that they can see Lowell’s famous canals.
The next chapter, “Münchhausen Lands on Mars”, has the Baron’s craft struck by the yellow ray of a Martian vessel, which guides the travellers to a city on the surface of Mars. There, they meet the locals, who match up with Flitternix’s predictive description of a race evolutionary suited to the low gravity and thin atmosphere of Mars:
“The Martian that I was gaping at, who was standing nearest to me, was between eight and nine feet tall, a veritable giant. He had an immense head with a straight forehead, at least seven inches high. His light blue eyes were about two inches in diameter and placed close together; moreover, they had a marvellously intelligent, as well as keen look in them, impossible to describe. Their hypnotic gaze held one spellbound and seemed to go clear through you.
“The long thin nose was enormous, but harmonized well with the rest of the face; the complexion was somewhat brown. The large ears stood out straight and looked like enormous oyster shells, with the inside turned towards me. However, what caught my eye particularly was the strange ‘caps’ all Martians wore. These caps looked as if they were made of a flexible metal. From their back dangled what I thought to be a flexible metal wire. We were soon to know their purpose.
“The chest, or rather the torso of the Martians, was simply out of all proportion to the rest of the body. It was enormous, and made him look strangely top-heavy. His arms appeared thin and emaciated, as did his legs. His hands had each two thumbs and four fingers, the extra thumb being between the thumb and index finger, as compared to the human hand. The hand itself was very small; in fact, it looked much like an Earth woman’s hand. “The feet were almost circular in shape and measured at least 18 inches in diameter. The base looked very much like an elephant’s foot, although the ankle was rather small and graceful, as compared to the big flat foot.”
In this month’s letters column, some of the readers criticise the magazine’s illustrations. Malcolm E. Humphrey comments that “Paul may be a good artist, but I am very glad that people do not have faces like those of some of the people in his pictures” while R. F. DeBritt condemns the magazine’s “outlandish” and “passe” covers:
Can you imagine a staid business man, middleaged, with a leaning toward the glamour of science, furtively going up to the newsstand, looking over the magazines till no one is watching, then quickly snatching a copy of Amazing Stories, tuck it under his coat, pay the girl and slink away with dread, lest some business acquaintance might see him and think he is reading “Nick Carter,” and thereby doubt his business sagacity? Well, my dear editor, that is just my predicament. Do you wonder that I am becoming a nervous wreck?
Time travel, apparently still an exotic concept to SF readers of 1928, turns up in the discussion once more. Malcolm E. Humphrey is open to the idea: “As it is possible to travel in the three dimensions that we know of, is there any plausible reason why we should not be able to travel in Time?”
D. L. Cumming, meanwhile, is less convinced:
I feel that I speak for the great majority of readers when I say that stories in which time is turned backward or forward are impossible. Time is something that cannot be tampered with; all that is with us is the present. The past has already gone, and the future is yet to come.
I believe the best proof that time-traveling will never be attained is the absence of travellers now. The future beings do not come back to this era, for we do not see them; and as no one has seen or talked with any, it means that this ambition will never be realized. If they recede in time at all. they will come back indefinitely, and we would see them. What better proof would one need?
Cumming argues that time “is not a dimension any more than mass, or weight is” and the idea of time as a fourth dimension is merely a fictional contrivance. “Length, height, and width are dimensions—we can see them, and measure them”, says the letter; “why bring in an abstract term—something which one cannot see, or touch?”
R. A. Eades likewise has no patience for time travel stories. “I cannot force myself to ‘swallow’ any fourth dimension-time-traveling story yet because it is absurd”, runs Eades’ letter. “Quite a number of people have proved conclusively that you cannot travel in time, because if you did you would not see your real past or at least the people in the past would not see you.” The letter also points out that time travel stories generally ignore the disruption that the Earth’s orbit would have on a time traveller – an observation that still stands today – and objects to humanoid aliens (“I wish the inhabitants of Mars, Venus or a comet would not always have a head on top a body underneath and the arms and legs at the same place as we have them.”)
John A. Stahlberg is another who trips up on time travel:
I am twenty-six years of age. I may live to be seventy-six. Let us suppose that a time machine could be invented which would enable me to travel fifty years into the future. I would then be seventy-six. If I traveled farther, I should die and be automatically incapacitated for further travel in time—or space. If my consciousness could live on and continue traveling after the death of my body, it is possible that I could reach that far-distant time of which Wells tells, but I would not then have any such adventures as those of which he tells.
Despite his low opinion of Wells’ The Time Machine, Stahlberg does defend Wells as a writer: “It is my opinion that the people who dislike his work are usually of the kind whose idea of a good story is a hectic melodrama glorifying action—preferably absurd action—and without a single worthwhile thought tocommend it to the intelligent reader.”
After deconstructing the science of Edmond Hamilton’s “The Comet Doom” at length, W. E. Moore points out slips in a few other stories – including Wells’ time-travel saga. However, the complaint this time is not to do with the fourth dimension, but something more mundane. “In ‘The Time Machine,’ if my memory is true, Wells has his hero depart into the future in a dinner coat. He arrives in ‘plus fours'”. The editorial reply proposes a simple solution: “it is quite possible that the trousers that went with his dinner suit were of the loose Oxford cut.”
A few readers send in clippings of interest. Daniel Fischman shares an Atlantic City Union newspaper clipping about one Robert Condit, an “obscure chemist and engineer” who claimed to be working on a craft that would take him to Venus; the editorial response is skeptical. Fred D. Scott submits a report on an “electric man” developed by the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company, which would light up and perform other functions in response to vocal commands; Scott compares this to “The Man With the Strange Head”. H. C. Schmidt sends a news report on an alleged invention from Denmark, named the “rotating poison gas typhoon”, designed to take out enemy aircraft – recalling George McLociard’s “Smoke Rings”.
Earle Floathe, meanwhile, submits a note from the F. M. Lupton edition of Münchhausen’s Travels discussing the author of the text (“it almost a certainty that the original author of ‘Münchhausen’s Travels’ was a learned but unprincipled scholar, of the name of R. E. Raspe”) Floathe also ranks his favourite stories from the February issue, giving a high place to Wells’ “Pollock and the Porroh Man”. The editorial response approves: “the story impressed us very vividly with a sense of horror, as it might be expressed, and it certainly develops a fine line of hypnotic effects and impressions.”
Similarly, Thomas R. Clark reviews the stories in the February issue including “The Revolt of Pedestrians” (“it holds an inkling of the future”) “Pollock and the Porroh Man” (“Pollock must be easily disturbed or slightly demented on this subject [voodooism] evidently not a seasoned hunter or traveler of the scientist class of explorers”); “The Disintigrating Ray” (“an appeal for greater researches and a gentle reminder of the martyrs of science”); “The Fighting Heart” (“a good tonic for doctors to practice, for there are many with the afflictions described here”) and others.
Edmund Perks pokes a hole in “The Comet Doom” (“The author states that after being led out of its orbit the earth slowly returned to its path around the sun. This is not true, for, if the earth should slow up, as stated in the story, it would lose part of its centrifugal force and the gravitation of the sun would pull at it with such tremendous power that the earth would plunge into that heavenly body”).
Florine E. Blount praises David H. Keller’s “The Revolt of the Pedestrians” as “the most interesting story I have read”, adding that “Many of the girls here have read the story, and all of them liked it so well, we decided to write to you and ask you to request the author to write more of that type.”
Benjamin Domingo joins the readers calling for an International Science Club to be formed around the magazine, and likes the word “scientifiction” so much that he wants it on the cover.
Grace Pearl Bronaugh praises Ray Cummings’ “Around the Universe”. “If the atom is ether surrounded by a shell of matter, it is possible, even probable, that the macrocosmic spaces are also, and that we are living in a stupendous atom”, she writes. “Your writers, some of them, are coming very near the inner secrets of the Cosmos.”
L. Cordenas defends “The Machine Man of Ardathia” from earlier criticism and praises the work of A. Merritt (“The probability of extrosenses is also a strong one—senses that even the Oriental Occultists are unaware of”) but gives a rather more mixed assessment of “Below the Infra-Red” (“Hypnotism is not known to ensue without the aid and co-operation of the recipient”).
James Shepard Klar reports on trouble getting his friends to read the magazine: “I am a senior in High School and of all my friends whom I have tried to get interested in your magazine I have succeeded with only four or five. Of course, these facts do not serve to show that Amazing Stories is not popular, it merely serves to point out the fact that so few people (in the ‘teen age’) are interested in science.”
John F. Macaloffer grumbles about the number of reprints in Amazing, and pleads that if the magazine is to reprint older stories, it should at least be less reliant on Wells and Verne – particularly Verne:
I like Wells fairly well but Verne is terrible. Undoubtedly he has an imagination and prophecied amazingly for his time and period, but outside of his ability to describe well and his gift of imagination he is a very dim bulb. His “Frycollin” in that last atrocity “Robur the Conqueror” would make a horse laugh. You can’t expect a dyed-in-the-wool Frenchman to have an Anglo-Saxon sense of humor and “Carrolesquc” Anglo Saxon attitude. The characters strike me as pathetic. Almost as bad as the slapstick humor in the funny (?) stories you have been running.
Macaloffer still finds time to defend Wells, however, in particular against complaints that The War of the Worlds lacked aeroplanes and gas masks: “that is on a par with the chap who wrote asking for the plans for a small ark when he read Serviss’ ‘The Second Deluge.’“
Arthur White writes in with a scientific question, which turns out to be a variation on the old chestnut about a tree falling in the forest when no-one is around:
Noise is made by the ear, am I not right? Now then suppose a .38-calibre pistol was fired off way out in the woods by means of a string or something else, and there wasn’t anything around to hear it. Did it make a noise? I brought this subject up to my friends and when I said it didn’t make a noise they all laughed at me.
The editorial response explains that this is a question of subjective or objective definition, and concludes on an impatient note: “do not say that the ear ‘makes sound.'”
Outside of its letters column, the magazine also includes a short piece by Professor W. J. Luyten pointing out flaws in Geoffrey Hewelcke’s “Ten Million Miles Sunward”, in which the characters alter Earth’s orbit by re-arranging bodies of water.
“To change the earth’s orbit would require a force coming from the outside”, he writes. “If the water flowed from the Black Sea into the Caspian at a tremendous rate of speed, it might for the time being slow down the rotation of the earth a little and make the day a few seconds longer, but would have no further effect.” The Professor offers a solution of his own: “If we were really in the predicament proposed by the author of ‘Ten Million Miles Sunward’ our only salvation would lie in shooting off enormous projectiles in the direction opposite to the way we wanted to go. This is essentially a force from outside”. The proposed usage of projectiles resembles the plot of Jules Verne’s The Purchase of the North Pole, where a vast cannon is used to move the North Pole toward the temperate zone.
The issue has another poem by Leland S. Copeland, “When Hearts Remember Home”:
Eternity is calling
Above the zigzag trail
That climbs the furrowed mountain wall,
High over brook and dale.
My child, if you are weary;
My life, if you are sad.
Look far, far up to cloudless blue
And let your heart be glad.
When darkness fills the valley,
And slopes and peaks are dim.
Infinity comes whispering
Above the mountain rim.
My child, if you are tired
Of earth, of toil or play.
Glance up and see the Universe,
Aglow with endless day.