A lion struggles as a figure, clad in the tattered remnants of clothing, grasps the beast’s head in its arms. The audience of a circus ring watches the battle, although the startled postures of the closest observers indicate that the spectacle is unplanned. The scene recalls the legendary exploits of such strongmen as Hercules and Samson, or perhaps the tarot depiction of Strength. Yet the figure that wrestles the lion is no human, nor even a demigod: it is a machine, albeit one forged in human shape. It was October 1928, and Amazing Stories was back for another issue.
Hugo Gernsback’s editorial for the month is entitled “New Amazing Facts”. As examples of current developments in technology, Gernsback cites television, colour cinema, and — the breakthrough combination of the two — colour television. “[F]ew of our scientifiction writers thought that it would ever be possible to transmit color television”, says Gernsback; “yet, recently this also has been accomplished by Mr. Baird of London, with a comparatively simple system… So here we have another great scientific triumph, which was not expected for at least fifty years.” The editorial goes on to outline other ways in which television is progressing faster than expected:
Again, our best scientists, who seem to know all about television, predicted only last Fall that outdoor scenes could not be transmitted by television for at least five to ten years. They contended that it would not be possible to transmit anything better than a human face or a moving hand by television impulses. Yet, only last July, the Bell Telephone Laboratories sent out television images of a tennis player, while he was playing in broad daylight. So the time is not distant when it will be possible for us to witness a ball game a thousand miles away.
Gernsback then moves on to Fritz von Opel and Friedrich Sander’s work with rockets, including a rocket-powered automobile dubbed Opel-RAK — an idea that, as we can see with the benefit of foresight, was destined never to become quite as popular as colour television.
Gernsback also talks about the proposed usage of rockets for intercontinental transport, but never gets as far as mentioning rockets as a means of space travel. This is a little ironic, as the latest issue of Amazing otherwise has its eyes fixed firmly on the heavens, with almost all of the stories involving alien worlds.
“To the Moon by Proxy” by J. Schlossel
Narrator Mat pays a visit to his inventor friend Emil Peters and is startled when Emil announces a plan to visit the Moon, thereby beating a rival inventor who has a similar plan. The prospect strikes Mat as outrageous, and Emil admits the seeming implausibility of his aim. After all, he has been paralysed from the waist down ever since a misguided attempt at parachuting at the age of ten, and the rigours of space flight would tax even an able-bodied traveler (“It has been computed,” says Emil, “that the gravitational pull on the occupant of an interplanetary ship would be just about the same as if a fifty ton weight dropped none too gently upon him, crushing his body instantly into a mass of unrecognizable pulp”). But the inventor has hit upon an idea to bypass these issues: instead of heading to the moon himself, he has constructed a mechanical body that will do the job for him.
Emil goes on to talk Mat through his thought processes. “It must be so built that it could climb over any obstacle. Instantly there flashed into my mind the creatures of the insect world to model my proxy after. A spider came to the forefront, a huge metal monster, standing some thirty or forty feet high, complete with eight legs, two of which could be used in lieu of hands.” However, Emil rejected this idea in favour of a human shape. The machine, once constructed, was designed so that it could be controlled by proxy, with Emil putting his knack for radio technology to use:
My proxy, thanks to radio, possesses both voice and hearing. Radio television provides it with sight; that is, it enables me, sitting here on the chair, to see through its artificial eyes. Radio telemechanics, or wireless control at distance, guides its legs, arms—in fact, every movement of the body. It now possesses all the endowments of a flesh and blood body, everything except the senses of smell and touch, which I have considered unnecessary.
Indeed, the mechanical man even receives its electricity though a vaguely-defined wireless method: “I solved the problem of wireless transmission of energy, and the motor received its power from a ‘wireless transmission of energy transmitter’”.
The story flashes back to Emil’s initial test-run of his invention. Making its way down the road at night, the proxy is attacked by two bandits but manages to drive them away through a show of superhuman strength and a terrifying, siren-like scream; it then heads to a circus, where it makes short work of an escaped lion – although the audience is not relieved, instead finding the entire spectacle nightmarish.
Back in the present, Emil shows Mat live feed from the proxy, which is currently in a projectile headed for the Moon. The machine arrives at its destination and Emil guides it, hopping through the lunar atmosphere before descending into a cave. Swept away by torrential water, the proxy passes through tunnels lit by luminous mushroom-like growths, and sees various animals: wormlike creatures crawling on the walls, beings that resemble gigantic centipedes, and finally a band of undescribed creatures that dislodge a large rock which lands on the mechanical man.
“To the Moon by Proxy” has obvious weaknesses in its plotting: its lack of any real closure (the proxy is destroyed but, as Mat points out, Emil can build another one) renders the narrative as a loose collection of vignettes rather than a story with a point. Yet, each individual scene works well enough, the most striking being the sequence with the mechanical man fighting the bandits and lion in a clear prefiguration of superhero comics – interestingly, the illustration of the robot lifitng a car above its head while a criminal flees bears a striking resemblance to the iconic cover of Superman’s debut issue, published a decade later. The story is unusually prescient in its portrayal of technology: almost all of the inventions it depicts has since come to pass in reality.
The story was possibly inspired by the alleged “mechanical man” Televox, a possibility backed up by the fact that the magazine runs a short piece on the subject toward the end. Constructed by Roy James Wensley in 1927, Televox was presented to the public as a mechanical man that obeyed spoken commands. In reality, it was an apparatus activated by sound vibrations – different sounds activating different parts of the apparatus. The humanoid appearance was just a cardboard cut-out; the idea that it could recognise specific commands, mere showmanship.
“The Menace of Mars” by Clare Winger Harris
Hildreth, an apprentice astronomer, has a relaxing moment in the countryside only to be caught in a sudden torrent of rain, the waist-high waters sweeping him off his feet. Looking up, he sees balls of fire appear in the sky. This is just the beginning of the bizarre and terrifying meteorological phenomena now besetting Earth:
The sun, increased to mammoth size, hung between the horizon and zenith, a veritable hell of blazing fury. Was Earth plunging into the fiery orb of day? Was this Earth’s ultimate doom, after the prediction of astronomers, myself included, that a frozen lifeless world would eventually swing around a rapidly cooling sun?
The flood is joined by earthquakes, while thousands of people are reported to have perished in the heat. Hildreth retreats to the cellar of the manor he inherited from his deceased uncle in 1958 — where members of the household are grateful to have found the uncle’s stock of alcohol.
The strangeness continues, as the people find that that Earth now has a lower gravity, while the stars and planets appear to be re-aligned (“All the starry and planetary universe had marched up to us during the cataclysmic events of the last twenty-four hours, or so at least it seemed”). The moon is no longer visible — while Venus now appears four times as large as a typical full moon.
But Hildreth’s mentor, Professor Aldrich, has an explanation. Before the phenomena began, the professor had already voiced a theory that “our own universe is an atom of infinite bigness in which atomic worlds and systems come and go and progress through space in orbital movement as do the electrons of infinite smallness in the atoms they go to build up” and that “[t]he proportional distances between the atoms (or solar systems, since we are contemplating the vaster cosmos) and their inconceivable speed, indicates a gaseous constitution”.
Now, over a radio message, Professor Aldrich explains that this gaseous substance to which our universe belongs is undergoing a change in state, passing through liquid on its way to solid; as a result, the celestial bodies are now closer together, like molecules in condensed matter. “Why has it never happened before? Simply because Time like Space, is purely relative, and a million years in the microcosmos may well be a second in the vaster universe, the macrocosmos, of which it forms so minute a part.” He closes by stressing that Earth’s new proximity to the sun will leave only the polar regions of the planet inhabitable.
The people of America scramble to escape in airships, and Hildreth is reluctantly forced to embark aboard the Icarus, a vessel that has just been retrieved from the sea after a disastrous initial launch.
Having migrated to the North Pole and settled in a new civilisation called Polaria, Hildreth searches for his fiancée Vivian and fears that she might have been on board an airship that sank. Then Polaria receives a radio message from Vivian’s father, Professor Harley, who declares that “a veritable Eden” now exists at the South Pole and has space for 200,000 more people.
But before Hildreth is reunited with his beloved, he finds that still stranger events are afoot. Now able to get closer looks at Earth’s neighbours, Hildreth and Professor Aldrich find that Venus was apparently inhabited, but its residents were killed in the universal configuration; Mars, meanwhile, seems never to have had aliens — the canals, still touted by various SF authors of this period, are revealed to be no more than natural fissures. Yet, to Hildreth’s bafflement, it is the red planet that fascinates the professor.
Eventually, Professor Aldrich explains his reason for interest: Mars, he reveals, is alive. “Mars is a living world vital, selfish, malignant! He is not vital in the sense that Earth is—(Earth, a huge ball of inert ash covered with human fungi). He is intelligent as a whole, as an entity.”
But since Mars has been “thrown off his poise, so to speak” by the changes in the universe, and took action to rectify matters. Mars’ first move involved “the expulsion of a protective ray against the rays of the sun” which “nullified to a correct degree the intensified heat from our luminary” and, as a side effect, hit Earth as it passed between Mars and the Sun, leading to a path of greenery sprouting up in South America. Next, Mars slowed Earth’s orbit so as to use the latter planet as a barrier against the sun’s rays — causing devastating earthquakes in the process.
And now, it appears that a third move from Mars is underway, as red patches begin appearing on the surface of Jupiter. The professor argues that Jupiter will soon become a reproduction of Mars, in a form of geological colonisation: “it can be considered as a form of conquest, for surely a planet is being conquered by another, when it is being made over into that other’s likeness. What capers will we be expected to cut, may I ask, if Jupiter chooses eventually to shift us about as he wills, and we become the bone of contention between two mighty worlds!”
Meanwhile, Hildreth is reunited with Vivian and the two marry. But as they embark on their honeymoon, their airship is pulled down toward the Great Lakes; a number of people on board fall into areas of red sand that now surround the lakes, where their bodies remain “transformed into red rock, retaining the postures they had unconsciously assumed upon landing on the mysterious substance beneath.” Even the ship itself, upon landing, ends up as “a conglomerate mass of—Martian consciousness.” Hildreth and Vivian are forced to escape the “red death” on foot, as the world around them is troubled by gales, floods, the burning sun and now the creeping red crystals (Clare Winger Harris prefigures J. G. Ballard in having the world threatened by each of the four classical elements). Fortunately, a plane arrives to carry them to Eden:
At a distance of a half mile south of the red line, the Lindbergh landed, and its crew proceeded cautiously toward the seemingly frozen waves of blood.
“I call this area the Red Sea,” I suggested, to relieve the awful tension of the situation.
“A frozen sea of blood!” cried Messer in an awed voice. “What if it is the life-blood of all the inhabitants of Mars from time immemorial, crystallized into an evil entity!”
In his laboratory, Hildreth analyses the red substance and finds it to be “pure protoplasm; the essence of life in matter!” The Martian blight turns out to have its limits, and – after a chilling moment when the protagonist finds that his dog has been taken by the Martian substance, leaving only a petrified red canine – the story reaches an abrupt conclusion. Hildreth is left contemplating the consciousness of Mars:
Is Mars, the planet, conscious of his inability to convert Earth to his state? Many times I ponder over the peaceful effectuality of his conscious existence as he swings in space like a world. Is he better off—that is, is he more in tune with his environment than we poor stragglers of Earth? I wonder.
“The Menace of Mars” is a curious story that builds a loose structure from elements seen before in Amazing, yet manages to to arrange them in a way that turns out to be quite engaging. The idea that our universe is but an atom or molecule in a larger cosmos had already become a recurring theme in the magazine’s fiction (see also Ray Cummings’ “Around the Universe” and G. Peyton Wetenbaker’s “The Man from the Atom”) but Clare Winger Harris takes the concept in a new direction by imagining what happens if our molecular universe is involved in a change of state – a logical extrapolation that feeds into another favourite Amazing theme, the apocalypse.
The concept of Mars acting as a planet-sized parasite had been used before in Austin Hall;s “The Man Who Saved the Earth”, which was printed in the very first issue of the magazine; Harris, once again, manages to keep the idea fresh. Her description of Earth’s fate draws on Biblical imagery of floods, fire in the sky and people being turned into lumps of mineral, bringing a mythic element that complements the scientific underpinnings of the story.
A smaller detail, but one that still deserves to be pointed out, is Harris’ handling of a matter that so many Amazing writers had struggled with: melding science fiction with a romantic subplot. Harris’ simple but effective approach is to work in a sort of Romeo and Juliet factor, as Hildreth hopes that Vivian will share his interest in astronomy – even though Vivian’s father is a professor of chemistry.
“Reprisal” by Thomas Richard Jones
Set in the near future of 1931, this story opens with a mysterious individual – identifying himself as “He Who Controls” – announcing that “the Thames will freeze over and Great Britain will become a bleak and almost barren country” in just two weeks’ time. The public dismiss the claim, with some suspecting that it is no more than an advertising campaign for a new type of refrigerator. But the prophecy comes to pass: not only does the Thames freeze but Britain’s surrounding seas are filled with ice floes, damaging the nation’s shipping.
“He Who Controls” turns out to be one Boric Hengsten, who holds the country ransom: he will ensure that the harsh weather continues, unless he is granted the million pounds he says will be necessary “to right a wrong once done me by the government”. Hengsten explains that, as an impoverished engineering student, he was falsely accused of stealing coal and wrongfully imprisoned. While his reputation was ruined, he continued his studies, and eventually found a means of manipulating the climate.
British authorities submit to his demands, and the temperature returns to normal. Before departing, Hengsten explains that he discovered a way to alter the temperature of the Gulf Stream — and by extension, the temperature of British waters — by operating an elaborate system of pumps at a specific point in the West Indies. However, having received both a million pounds and his revenge, Hengsten vows to keep his discovery a secret.
Like many other stories in Amazing, the brief “Reprisal” takes an intriguing scientific concept and builds only a minimal narrative around it – although, in fairness, it may have seemed more novel in 1928, when the stock character of the scientific supervillain was not quite as well-warn as it is today.
“The Voyage to Kemptonia” by E. M. Scott
Professor Theophilus, a wealthy and eccentric researcher, places a newspaper advert enquiring for a healthy young man aged from 25 to 30 who is familiar with Morse code. He receives an applicant for the post — and subsequently dies, the professor’s charred remains being stumbled upon by his household servants. The remainder of the story comprises a statement by the professor’s assistant, a telegraph operator named Edgar Lawton.
The story told by the new narrator begins with Lawton first meeting his secretive employer, and learning of the professor’s discovery: among the pieces of rock orbiting Earth is a satellite “infinitely larger than its fellows” which has its own atmosphere, being clouded with vapour. The professor hopes to examine Kemptonia (as he dubs it) for life, but the clouds are too thick for him to get a good look. However, as he explains to Lawton, he instead decided to attempt radio communication, and in the process became responsible for “the development of several new and wonderful rays, heretofore unknown”:
“I will not attempt to explain my discovery to you, in technical terms, but will simply state, that by the joint application of certain electrical rays, in connection with particular chemical reagents and under certain physical conditions, I am enabled to dissolve, transport and re-mold matter.
“In other words, my discoveries permit me to etherealize your body, transport it, as sound is transported by the ordinary radio, reassemble it at a fixed destination. and then return it, by the same means, unharmed, to my laboratory.”
The professor describes his invention as “a radio broadcasting machine, that allows me to send and receive, as it were, living matter, without any destruction of life”. The machine is not capable of sending living creatures to other planets in the solar system — but the relatively close world of Kemptonia is a viable target, and he has already experimented by sending guinea pigs there.
Lawton is equipped with “a cold-proof garment” that is “constructed much like a diver’s outfit, except that the helmet was permanently attached. The hands were covered by gloves and the helmet was fitted with transparent eye pieces and a breathing apparatus.” Also included are a transmitter and headphone, so that Lawton can communicate with the professor through Morse code.
Lawton steps into the transportation device (“a metal piece that resembled a shallow metal bath-tub, with a sort of a shower or spray attached at each end and a drain from the bottom”) and arrives safely on Kemptonia. Here, he finds the world to be “like the earth, but still in some manner, that I could not explain, it was subtly different”.
Before long, Lawton meets his first Kemptonian native, who turns out to be humanoid but oddly-proportioned by terrestrial standards: “His color was a washed-out, dirty yellow… The lower limbs and hips were thin and spindly… His head was the size of that of a boy of six years and was bald, except for a thin covering of yellow fuzz on the crown, apparently the only hair on his body… the strangest thing about the extraordinary creature was his chest, which, in comparison with the rest of the body, was enormous, bulging out both front and rear.” The being wears crude clothing made from grass or reed, and is equipped with a tomahawk and knife made of a flint-like material.
Lawton describes the Kemptonians and their culture, loosely sketching in subjects such as their farming practices (they feed on animals resembling goats, ducks and fish), clothes-making, family structure, marriage customs (“Monogamy is practised exclusively and divorce or unfaithfulness is apparently unknown. The marriages are arranged by the parents of the contracting parties and are simple in the extreme”) and their religion, which appeas to be a simple faith based around the worship of light.
As Lawton continues to explore the planet with his Kemptonian guide, the professor sends him a Morse message asking that he bring back a Kemptonian; Lawton is appalled by the suggestion, and returns to Earth alone.
Here Lawton’s account ends, and the story switches to the notes of Professor Kempton, documenting his reactions to Lawton’s transmissions (“11:00 A. M. Lawton reports that he is among a strange race of beings, having human characteristics but odd appearance”). These notes also show that the professor’s equipment had begun to malfunction, and the story’s final chapter details the official inquest, which ends with Kempton’s death being ruled an “act of God” and Lawton cleared of suspicion.
“The Voyage to Kemptonia” is a story that may have intrigued readers of the time, but in many ways was already becoming outmoded. The framing device of the professor’s death was something of a cliché by that point, and although the penultimate chapter with the professor’s notes is an interesting bit of formalistic experimentation, the device serves mainly to obscure the fact that Lawton’s exploits on Kemptonia reach no real climax or conclusion. In describing the Kemptonians themselves, the story avoids any opportunity to create a genuinely alien lifeform – aside from the minor detail of their bodily proportions – and instead falls back on the sort of generic native tribe who could have turned up in any number of imperialistic adventure stories (we are even told that “their dialect was somewhat similar to that of the South African Bushman”).
On the other hand, the technical details of the spacesuit and transportation device (the latter recalling Charles Cloukey’s “Super-Radio”) are handled well, and the idea of an inhabited world existing as a hitherto undiscovered satellite in Earth’s orbit is – if implausible – at least a novel image.
The Skylark of Space by Edward Elmer Smith and Lee Hawkins Garby (Part 3 of 3)
The concluding instalment of this pioneering space opera opens on the planet Osnome, where the crew of the Skylark – Seaton, Dorothy, Crane, Margaret and DuQuesne – have become embroiled in a war between two civilisations. The heroes are in the land of Mardonale, the rulers of which keep slaves from the nation of Kondal. The earth people decide to help the slaves in a revolt, led by one Dunark – who happens to be crown prince of Kondal. Aiding communication between the Earthlings and the Kondalians is a translation machine that causes the unforeseen side effect of trading memories between Seaton and Dunark.
The Osnomeans have no concept of mercy, and the fight ends with Dunark obliterating Mardonale’s capital as he departs with the crew of the Skylark. The ship reaches Kondal, where the royal family welcomes the return of Prince Dunark. The locals are intrigued by the culture of their new allies, but are bewildered by the fact that America has no monarch (although, in Dunark’s description, the United States does have “two classes which would rank with royalty—those who have attained to great heights of knowledge and those who have amassed great wealth”).
The Kondalians agree to conduct a dual wedding for the travellers from Earth; Seaton finally ties the knot with his fiancée Dorothy, while Crane marries Margaret, having fallen in love with her during their space travels.
Meanwhile, the Mardonalians and their despotic ruler Nalboon begin working on a new weapon. The Kondalians cite a quasi-Darwinian theory as evidence that their Mardonalian oppressors are evolutionarily inferior and can be justifiably wiped out. The protagonists are more than willing to go along with this genocide and, when the Mardonalians invade Kondal, Seaton leads the counter-attack, his inventions protecting him from even the most advanced enemy tech. The battle ends with the Mardonalians routed, and a generation of authors inspired to write space operas of their own.
Before this issue’s letters column, Amazing runs an afterword to Joe Klier’s story “The Head”, published in the August issue. “It seems strangely coincidental”, says the magazine, “that several weeks after the publication of this story, which tells of a scientist who has found a way to keep a severed head alive for some hours, the famous Dr. Pavlov, Russian scientist, should make public, in Moscow, the result of his successful experiments to do this thing.” The note is followed by a New York Times clipping about a Russian experiment witnessed by American physiologist W. Horsley Gantt:
That a decapitated head can live, that its eyes can blink and its throat swallow four hours after being severed from the body, savors of “black magic,” but that experiment was successfully carried out in the Moscow Brain Institute this week. The subject was a dog, but Professor Chichulin, who accomplished the miracle, declares it equally possible with a man.
In the letters section proper, Howard J. Hewton provides some general scientific questions (“Why are there no trees on the prairies of western Canada when they will grow there so well?” “Would you weigh anything if you went to the center of the earth?” “Can an image be seen more clearly in a mirror if a light shines on it without reflecting to the image?”) and associated musings (“I think dogs do more thinking than any other animal, with monkeys second. These, in my opinion are about the only animals which think”) alongside thoughts on the magazine’s contents (“Please get your artists to draw pictures which do not give away the story. This spoils them. I enjoy the pictures and always study them.”)
C. S. Stanworth offers some belated thoughts on the debate spawned by “The Astounding Discoveries of Doctor Mentiroso” and its eccentric vision of time travel. J. F. Murphy, meanwhile, is perplexed by Francis Flagg’s “The Blue Dimension”:
The Blue Dimension by Mr. Flagg sounds a bit impossible, since all matter must occupy space regardless of other vibrating phases. What I mean is that a building in this “Blue Dimension” occupies a space that would be the center of Broadway. Anyone crossing the street there would collide with it, because they could not see it.
Paul H. Miller praises Baron Münchhausen’s Scientific Adventures while criticising H. G. Wells (“His ‘stuff’ in Amazing Stories is what static is to radio music… If you must print his stories, print the short ones. I would suggest that you give him a five years’ vacation”) before posing a question about train-related physics (“But tell me, bow can the western rail of a railroad that runs north and south, wear out quicker on account of the motion of the earth from west to east, since the inertia of the train has been overcome by the earth’s motion, and, since it requires as much power to stop a moving body as it does to start it. How can an object “lag” behind?”)
G. N. Garrson delivers a long and extremely sarcastic response to Harold S. Farnese’s letter in the July issue calling for correct English in fiction: “If you aspire to be really useful, go sit on the bleaching board and watch an amateur game of baseball, bestride a dry goods box and save the country, spit at a mark, preach prohibition, play croquet with a bevy of old maids, switch a cane—do anything, except play grammar sharp.”
Mrs. L. Silberberg expresses surprise at having seen Mrs. H. O. De Hart’s letter in the June issue: “For more than a year I have been a reader of this magazine, and this is the first time I have seen a letter from a woman reader. In fact, I was somewhat surprised as I had believed that I was the only feminine reader of your publication. However, it is with pleasure that I note that another of my sex is interested in scientifiction.” She goes on to attribute her love of speculative fiction to having been encouraged to play with imaginary animals as a child (“When I tired of my dolls, she would suggest that I play with imaginary kittens, dogs and children of my age, and you can see how easy it was for me to progress from kittens to more imaginative subjects”) and criticises the magazine’s covers (“Why not design a more subdued illustration in more sober colors, one that could be used monthly, somewhat in the manner of the Golden Book”)
Ransom Wells, M.D. writes of his turmoils in getting hold of the magazine in Newfoundland before praising Lovecraft’s “The Colour Out of Space”, Merritt’s The Moon Pool and the work of Burroughs (“With somewhat the guilty feelings of an adult caught enjoying a circus, I will admit that I also get quite a kick out of Edgar Rice Burroughs at times”)
Russel S. Hughes passes some judgements about the magazine’s contents (“The Golden Girl of Munan in the June issue was more in the classification of weird stories, I think, than it was scientifiction. But it was interesting”) before descibing his practice of cutting out and binding the serialised stories, and ends his letter with a request for stories about hypnotism (“I myself have hypnotized hysterical persons by telling them to focus their concentrated attention upon a revolving mirror which I have”) but the editorial response firmly discouraging any attempts at amateur hypnosis.
But perhaps the most interesting contributions to this month’s letters column are two missives from teenagers. One is from a 19-year-old who suggests another story-writing contest, this time with a title being used as a writing prompt rather than an illustration; defends the magazine’s cover illustrations and choice of paper stock from detractors; expresses interest in the proposed science club; requests a few stories to be reprinted (A. Merritt’s “The Ship of Ishtar”, Poe’s “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym” and J. Allan Dunn’s “The Thunder Beast” – the last of which he’d “read in Boy’s Life seven or eight years ago”) and muses about the nature of the fourth dimension:
It is quite conceivable to me that the phenomenon of time is caused by the motion of our plane through the fourth dimension. But if it moves in the fourth dimension it is probably revolving around some central body. If it does that time would be an endless cycle of cause and effect, repeating itself again and again. Every man would have lived the same life an endless number of times. Tomorrow would be a part of the infinitely distant past. The idea is as bewildering as The Astounding Discoveries of Dr. Mentiroso.
The other letter is from a 17-year-old who offers some positive comments about the magazine, particularly on the topic of Frank R. Paul’s artwork (“I will admit that Paul’s conception of the human physiognomy is rather strained, but as I mentioned before, Paul is a scientifiction, not a collar-ad artist”) before making some more negative observations touching upon palaeontological accuracy in Hal Grant’s “The Ancient Horror” and Harley S. Aldinger’s “The Way of a Dinosaur” and the portrayal of gravity in Baron Münchhausen’s Scientific Adventures. He concludes with some thoughts on how the magazine is perceived:
Although I am but seventeen years of age and have not the honor of a business acquaintance, still I feel that others comment on the “trash” I read when they see the cover of the magazine. That is the chief reason why my grandparents do not like the idea of my reading it.
Several months ago I had the opportunity to induce a friend to read Amazing Stories, but he was forced to discontinue it by reason of his parents dislike of the cover illustrations. He thought It was “trash.” Also I think it would be a good idea to change the name Amazing Stories to Scientifiction Magazine.
The 19-year-old was Jack Williamson, who would make his debut in the December 1928 issue of Amazing and become a prolific author whose career lasted until his death in 2006. The 17-year-old, meanwhile, was Ray Palmer, who would eventually take over as Amazing’s editor – and although he died in 1977, he maintains a degree of notoriety as a promoter of writings on UFOs and the Shaver Mystery.