Three gears are lined up against a starlit background. The gear on the left bears the word “fact”; the gear on the right, “theory”. Attached to the central gear is an implement half test-tube and half fountain pen, which writes a single word on the yellow surface below: “Scientifiction”. It was September 1928, and Amazing Stories had found its symbol.
In his editorial “Our Amazing Universe”, Hugo Gernsback takes aim at scientists who dismiss the idea of human-like lifeforms existing on other planets; as a rebuttal he points out, not entirely convincingly, that other stars and planets are made from the same elements as our sun. He then moves on to discuss how the vast distances in space would affect communication:
If we assume the existence of intelligent beings on Alpha Centauri; and if we had a radio transmitter and receiver and if the people on Alpha Centauri had the same equipment that could bridge this space, we would have the following strange experience:
We would call up a friend in Alpha Centauri on January 1, 1928, and the message traveling by radio—which has the same speed as light, i.e., 186,000 miles a second—would take four years and three-tenths to get to Alpha Centauri. It would, therefore, arrive sometime early in 1932. The friend would promptly answer over his radio telephone!, and his answer would be received by us sometime in 1936. And remember, this is our nearest star-neighbor in space. It is only a little over four short light-years away. The overwhelming greater portion of stars are thousands, hundreds of thousands, and millions of light-years away from us.
Yet all of this is merely a trivial distance as far as the visible universe is concerned — and as Gernsback reminds us, “the entire visible universe most likely is a very small speck of matter after all. He ties all of this to that favourite topic of his, the issue of believability in science fiction:
If we could imagine for a second that there is no such thing as our universe, and then read an account of a number of important facts about it, written like a story by a clever scientifiction writer, perhaps, instead of by an astronomer, we would probably greet the volume with jeers and disbelief.
The issue’s cover, meanwhile, is the winning entry for the April issue’s $300 contest to design a symbol for scientifiction. “There was a time when a Scientifiction book or novel was a scarcity”, runs the contest announcement. “Now, with Amazing Stories Monthly and Amazing Stories Quarterly championing the cause, Scientifiction has excited the attention of hundreds of thousands of people who never knew what the term meant before. More than that, it is a distinct departure from the sex-infested novels and books that are so prevalent today.” The rise of interest in the genre, so the magazine’s reasoning goes, meant that a symbol was needed.
The winning entry was that of Mr. A. A. Kaufman of Brooklyn, who came up with the idea of a gear to represent science alongside a pen to represent fiction. The contest organisers melded Kaufman’s design with the ideas pitched by the first two runners-up, Clarence Beck and A. J. Jacobson, to create the more complex image seen on the cover:
In substance, Mr. Kaufman’s prize-winning design is preserved in the strictest sense, except for a few additions. It was our aim to incorporate as much science as possible in the design, so the frame of the design, representing structural steel, suggests more machinery. The flashes in the central wheel represent Electricity. The top of the fountain pen is a test tube, which stands for Chemistry; while the background with the moon and stars and planet, give us the science of Astronomy. We believe you will agree with us, that this makes an ideal trade-mark for Scientifiction, and we also admit that we are happy to have had solved for us a difficult problem.
The magazine printed the entries of the winner, runners-up and honourable mentions:
The final design would begin appearing on the cover in smaller form with the November 1928 issue, before disappearing with the April 1928 instalment (Hugo Gernsback’s final issue). Whether science fiction ever really needed a logo is debatable; and Amazing‘s complex design, although no less intricate than some of the other logos from the era (consider Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer, for one) was never to have stood the test of time. Ironically, the Gernsback-Paul eye cover from earlier in the year has achieved a more lasting iconic status – being used on reprint volumes and the like – despite being intended only as a rough idea to inspire readers’ entries.
With the symbols covered, let us turn to the stories being symbolised…
“The Ambassador from Mars” by Harl Vincent
Frank Chandler is leading a successful career as an architect, but is tired of his demanding clients. While relaxing one day he is caught in a seeming explosion, and wakes up to find himself in a strange room. There, he encounters “a huge figure of a man, stripped to the waist, and with skin that glistened with the color of burnished brass” who “had the dignity of poise and the features of a Greek god”. This man introduces himself as Ky-lin, and explains that he and his people kidnapped Frank to save him from a breakdown.
Frank is also reunited with an old friend, Jack Conway, who reveals that Ky-lin and the other giants are an alien race called the Neloia, and that the two earthmen are currently on a vessel headed to the Neloia’s home world of Mars – or Uldar, as they refer to it. Jack has spent the last six years on Mars, and has grown to admire the Neloia, finding their civilisation superior to those of Earth (a planet known to the aliens as Visin):
They are a marvellous race; intellectually millions of years ahead of our most civilized races on earth; physically most beautiful, as you have observed in Ky-lin. Contrary to the popular superstition on Visin, they are most peaceful and kind. Of course there are other dwellers on the doomed planet, but these need hardly be considered as a race. We shall speak of them later.
It was Jack’s idea to abduct Frank, and while he was asleep, to give him a medical treatment that will condition him to life on Mars. Frank, having grown weary of Earth, has no objection to this plan.
The travellers arrive on Mars in time to see Ky-lin’s father, the Randenat (king) of the Neloia, die. This fits in with the general atmosphere, as Mars is a dying planet:
The landscape was seamed and scarred; bare; arid. Towering crags, of coppery hue, seemed about to crumble and fall. River beds and canals, long since dry, exposed strata of vari-colored rock—colors foreign to nature on earth. Not a sign of life or of vegetation was in evidence. Ruins of habitations which had once been pretentious in size and architectural beauty appeared here and there. Long unused roads, which had in past ages been smooth and heavily traveled, were now broken and twisted by the sub-surface convulsions of a planet in its death throes. Soon they approached the ruins of a large city, passed directly over it. This city had been walled, and still showed signs of a former high degree of organized civilization. Outlines of public squares, ruins of tall skyscrapers similar to those on earth, still remained. Some of the stone among the ruins gleamed with the myriad hues of mother-of-pearl. Over everything brooded the mystery of ages. The winds whipped up and sent into swirling clouds the dust of decay.
But not all of the threats faced by Ky-lin’s people are geological in origin The Neloia are menaced by a race of subterranean beings called the Breggia – the Morlocks to the Neloia’s Eloi:
He learned of the Breggia, the loathsome creatures who were the product of their underground environment, through ages of living near the sub-surface sea, where their ancestors, who had originally been Neloia, had fled in terror during an ancient period of quakes, landslides and other widespread surface disturbances which had, at one fell swoop, killed off half of the inhabitants of the planet. These creatures had degenerated through eons of time into amphibian monsters, retaining some of the features and brain capacity of the Neloia, but with bodies of reptiles and with eyes that could see only in darkness. Carnivorous they were, of necessity, feeding upon the fish and other creatures that abounded in the inner recesses of their realm. The Neloia feared them not in sunlight, but in darkness the raids of the Breggia were frequent and sometimes of serious consequence in the number of Neloia killed and in the destruction of considerable areas of the farm lands in the valley surrounding the city.
The Martians prepare Frank to serve as an ally, passing their scientific knowledge on to him using “mental impression laboratories”. Frank wants to help them fight the Breggia, and Jack looks on with admiration: “He had not spoken of this to Frank, but whenever memories came to him of the old days when his friend had led the Varsity eleven to victory time and again, stubbornly fighting against odds which would have discouraged anyone but Frank, he cheered up at once. Good old Chan, he thought, he seemed to be getting back to his old fighting form.” It is just as well that he is eager, as when Frank comes face to face with his first Breggia, he finds it a fearsome sight: “The creature was fully forty feet in length and its body reminded Frank of some of the antediluvian monsters he had seen in reconstructed skeleton form in the museum back in New York. This was a huge scaly lizard with a horrible and ferocious human head.”
The Breggia appear to be indestructible, but while exploring their caverns, Frank hits upon a discovery: he finds that the monsters can be poisoned with a particular weed. The Neloia go about weaponising this plant, and eventually succeed in routing the Breggia. However, they are still left with the issue of the planet itself dying.
Frank is sent back to Earth; landing on the same park bench from which he was taken in the first place, he wonders of his adventures on Mars were a dream, but then realises that he is carrying photographs of his time with the Neloia. He spends two years preparing to help the Neloia evacuate to Earth, and in the process is named Ambassador Extraordinary to the Martians. But it is too late: Mars explodes, and all Frank can do is watch from Earth as Ky-lin, Jack and his other friends on the red planet are killed.
However, the story’s narrator remarks that this may have been for the best, as it ensured that the Martians never saw “the terrible war of 1963 to 1966” as “the horrible slaughter and devastation wrought in that period would have caused a great deal more agony among them than did their sudden and quick destruction in their own homes.”
“The Ambassador from Mars” is a rather Burroughs-like tale, and one that demonstrates how a Burroughs-like tale really needs a Burroughs-like knack for romance and fantasy to work. Harl Vincent never really pulls it off, leaving his Mars a dull world populated by generic utopians and generic monsters. One of the story’s few surprising moments comes when Frank explores the cave of the Breggia and hears one of the monstrous beasts tending to its dying child, a moment that serves to humanise what were previously just mindless beasts:
Two voices were all that he heard, and when he caught the drift of the conversation, he thrilled with excitement. Evidently one voice was that of a mother Breggia and she was wailing her grief and berating a dying son for his carelessness. The son gasped excuses and apologies and was obviously suffering intensely.
However, the main purpose of this scene is simply as a means for Frank to learn about the poisonous weed and its effects on the Breggia, and any depth that it lends the story is seemingly accidental.
“The Invisible Bubble” by Kirk Meadowcroft
Dr. Sylvester, a brilliant physicist who became something of a recluse after the mysterious disappearance of his fiancée, gets in touch with an old aquaintance. He announces that he has been continuing the research of Curie, Ramsey and Rutherford, and invites his friend to see the fruits of his work.
After some musings about the cyclical nature of scientific enquiry (“The latest investigations into the structure of the atom have brought us perilously close to the old Greek doctrine of the essential identity of all matter. Our latest studies of electro-magnetic waves have brought us to repeat, with only the change of phrase, what Akhenaten nearly a thousand years before the Greeks, had known and felt in his worship of the Aten”) Dr. Sylvester unveils his invention, which bears a passing resemblance to a large x-ray tube. Using this device, the physicist creates a bombardment of rays (which “very nearly approach the magnitude of the ‘cosmic rays’ of Millikan”) with intriguing results:
As we approached the tube we saw forming in its centre a small bubble, black and with no trace of lustre. No light could pass the etherless space that had been blasted apart under such tremendous force. As we watched, it grew until it nearly filled the tube.
“What is it?” I exclaimed.
“You might call it the ‘Quintessence of Nothing,’” he replied. “It is a Hole in the Universe. Let us return to our shelters while I shut off the current.”
The tube remained dark. No flickering fluorescence passed over the room. Whatever rays were generated in the dark heart of the bubble were powerless to pass the space that was other than the space we know, and perhaps their titanic and struggling insulation hastened the disintegration of that three-foot portion of what had been our three-dimensional world.
The next day, the two scientists find a crowd gathered around Dr. Sylvester’s house, looking for a local boy: his voice can be heard, but he is nowhere to be seen. The crowd believes that he has simply crawled into some unseen cranny of the house — but Dr. Sylvester, having previously witnessed his fiancée vanish into thin air, has less mundane possibilities in mind…
Heading back to the invention, the scientists create another bubble, this time with additional safety precautions:
At its release the bubble, now only a shadowy gray, flattened suddenly,—assumed an amoebic form and motion and with a queer flowing, undulating movement, sent out strange pseudopodia (a sort of extension of the central mass) that seemed to feel and grasp.
Dr. Sylvester took a small tube of radium, fastened to a glass rod, and with this he drove, as it were, the strange, shapeless thing about the floor. Once he thrust the rod into its center and for a moment it assumed again its rounded shape and clung to the rod.
They experiment on the bubble by feeding it rabbits, only to find that they are unable to retrieve the unfortunate animals — although a photograph of the bubble reveals “a thing of horror—bizarre—contorted, grotesquely and agonizingly misshapen—writhing forms that filled the whole space of the bubble”.
As the narrator concludes, “I saw that the transfusion of objects into the strange universe was a reaction that could proceed in that one direction only—that some strong balance favored the unknown side.”
Disturbed by the implications of their discovery, the two scientists agree to destroy the apparatus and all papers. It is the narrator who finally does so — Dr. Sylvester having disappeared himself shortly beforehand.
Based on the idea “that the boundary lines, of space and hyper-space may not be so rigidly drawn as we have supposed”, the story fits in alongside Amazing’s other trans-dimensional stories such as Francis Flagg’s “The Blue Dimension” and George Paul Bauer’s “Below the Infra-Red”. “The Invisible Bubble” is more horrific than these, the ambiguity of the phenomena it depicts making it both more disturbing and more convincing. It is still a rather slight story, however, lacking the full-bloodedness that an author like H. P. Lovecraft might have brought to the subject matter.
“Unlocking the Past” by David H. Keller
“The psychologists have contended for years that there is such a mental process as inherited memory. Yet, since the days of Jung of Vienna, many of us have believed that everything a man and woman know is transmitted to their children and grandchildren and so on through the generations, increasing in intensity, as each pair of parents add their specific acquired knowledge to the previous store of inherited intelligence.”
The scientist and his colleagues have made a breakthrough by finding that the seemingly senseless noises made by babies are actually fragments from ancient languages such as old Coptic, Semitic, Grecian, early Latin and Chaucerian English. They take this as evidence that infants are born with ancestral memories which are obscured as their conscious minds develop; and if it were possible for the children to retain these memories, then they may be able to provide accounts of historical events. What’s more, the discovery could lead to evidence of inherited talents: “The son of an Edison or Ford could simply continue where the father had stopped when the child was created.”
All that is needed for this is “some method of tearing down the tremendous barrier between the past memories and the present consciousness”. The researchers have already had some success, by prompting an illiterate man to reproduce his grandfather’s signature, and now hope to experiment on a baby. “And after we had shown what we could do with one baby, with a dozen, we should be able to have a law passed that would give us the right to give every child such a treatment the day it was born.” He finds a suitable child in one Angelica Howes, and although Angelica’s mother is initially reluctant to consent to the experiments, despite the promise that they will benefit the girl (“Of course the child will be rather unusual for a few years, but when it reaches maturity it will at once assume a position of renown in a scientific and educational world”) the scientist wins over her and her husband by offering a pension to alleviate the family’s poverty.
After a process involving masks and tubes, the baby begins conversing fluently about a Spanish ancestor:
“Something happened to me and now it seems I can remember everything. I was her daughter and somehow I was great-great- grandmother also and a lot of other people I am just beginning to remember. But I remember her well. She was born in Sweden and her husband met her while he was Ambassador from Spain. She was a lovely lady though she always sighed for the snow-clad mountains of her native land.”
The baby turns out to have inherited the knowledge of a dictionary-writer and the speech patterns of a poet (“every year and every moment of the past comes vividly to me on the crest of the waves like driftage from the Sargasso Sea”). Meanwhile, the mother — who underwent the same process — becomes similarly perplexed by her memories:
Another psychic phenomena that puzzled her was her sex, for in some generations she had been a woman and in other periods a man, and as she tried to evaluate this, she realized that she was as much male as female, only for the time being her spirit was in the body of a woman, and stranger yet, there seemed to be a time when she was both sexes in the same body, only then she was some peculiar kind of reptile, and she prayed in her despair.
Together, mother and daughter discuss the anxieties that come from their newfound memories. They are forced to recall all manner of woes from war to poverty, and even their most peaceful recollections are filled with day-to-day arguments and annoyances. “There was no golden age in the past”, says the baby. “Our race is climbing heavenward but there is still mud on our feet and blood on our hands. I wish, Mother Dear, that I was just a little ignorant baby once more.” All the mother can do is pray:
She stole back to her bed and tried to sleep, and as she lay there she prayed for the thing she wanted most, and as she prayed she saw an enormous blackboard in front of her and on it was written all that her ancestors had ever known and done and thought, and as she saw the record, she closed her eyes and refused to look, yet through the closed lids the images burned into her mind.
Finally she looked again, and now the board was clean save only in one little corner, and she knew that record to be her own life; yet here and there on the board were little remnants of past centuries. Knowing that her prayer had been answered, she fell asleep.
“Unlocking the Past” is a story with an unusual premise and an effective execution. The result is an original, inventive and genuinely eerie science-gone-wrong narrative.
“The Great Steel Panic” by Fletcher Pratt
Authorities in New York are perturbed to find that the cables of Brooklyn Bridge have been severed: “It looked like the work of a maniac or some superior bit of Bolshevik frightfulness”, remarks the police commissioner. Officers are put on duty to guard the bridge, but somehow the cuts still keep occurring. And so the commissioner hires Walter Weyl, a consulting biologist who had previously helped the New York police to tackle a giant rodent problem, to look into the matter.
Weyl is sceptical about the commissioner’s talk of politically-motivated sabotage (“Hert thinks it’s radicals, but Hert sees red flannel bogies under every bush”) despite the police receiving a crank letter expressing support for the anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti – who, in real life, had been executed the year before the story was published. Meanwhile, disasters pile up across New York: falling elevators, subway crashes and chunks of buildings tumbling onto people below.
Finally, Weyl comes forward with the results of his analysis. He reveals that iron and steel objects have been damaged throughout the city, leading not only to major disasters but also to smaller mishaps such as broken typewriters or faulty cellar-gratings. Examining a specimen of the affected metal under a microscope, he found “a perfectly extraordinary number of a hitherto uncatalogued type of bacteria, ladder-like in form and perfectly amazing in activity.” He blames the police for being too caught up in hunting terrorists to notice a tell-tale sign of this metal-eating bacteria: that the metal continues to deteriorate even after the initial severance.
Furthermore, Weyl finds a possible way of dealing with the metal sickness. Noting that power cables, telephone wires and live subway rails are unaffected, he realises that the bacteria can be fought off using electricity.
“The Great Steel Panic” (which, like Fletcher Pratt’s previous story for Amazing, is co-attributed to Irvin Lester, actually a pseudonym of Pratt) is a strong variation on the scientific detective theme. Pratt keeps the mystery-solving structure but completely does away with issues of human motive, with successful results: this is a short but engaging story, let down only by a rather abrupt ending, where the characters brush away the question of where the bacteria came from in the first place.
The Skylark of Space by Edward Elmer Smith and Lee Hawkins Garby (Part 2 of 3)
After the earthbound instalment of the previous issue, the second part of The Skylark of Space takes flight as its colourful characters – both good and evil – begin a spacefaring voyage.
Richard Seaton and Martin Crane have succeeded in building their spacecraft, the Skylark, and powering it with the mysterious element known as X. However, the corrupt World Steel Corporation has built its own ship using stolen plans. Piloting this vessel, the amoral scientist DuQuesne and the burglar Perkins kidnap Seaton’s fiancée Dorothy, along with Margaret Spencer – daughter of a businessman swindled by the World Steel Corporation.
The ship has the capability of going faster than light (the characters show cavalier disregard for Einstein’s theories) and the high speed causes the villainous crewmen to lose their bearings, ending up adrift in space. Making the best of a bad thing, the captive women tuck into a zero-gravity meal. But then the ship gets sucked into the orbit of a dead star, and begins getting tugged towards its surface…
Fortunately, DuQuesne is planted with a tracking device, and so the heroes are able to fly the Skylark up to the villains’ ship and save the occupants – with the exception of Perkins, who is killed by DuQuesne during a scuffle. They are still left with the problem of getting back home, however.
The mismatched band of two heroes, two heroines and one villain begin to examine the uncharted planets around them, in the hopes of finding copper to use as fuel. The crew land on a world with plants and conclude that it exists in an equivalent to Earth’s Carboniferous age, too young to have evolved anything like humans. The planet is, however, home to an alien beast with four legs, a body a hundred feet long, and an extended neck culminating in a large mouth, like some sort of cross between a diplodocus and a lamprey. As the Skylark tries to escape it is attacked by various other alien dinosaurs, along with a tree that lashes them with barbed, tentacle-like vines.
The next planet the crew visit is inhabited by a psychic being that can control matter with its mind. It shapeshifts first into a clone of Seaton, then into Dorothy, and concludes that the Earthlings are too primitive to be worth hosting on the planet. It tries to kill them, but they fight back with an X-powered explosive that shocks the alien into its true form as a fanged, clawed creature. After a mental battle the alien is persuaded to let the travellers on their way.
Coming to the third planet on its voyage, the Skylark encounters an aerial battle between aircraft and winged, tentacled monsters. Seaton and crew help the latter to fight off the former, and are welcomed by the planet’s race: statuesque humanoids with green skin. At least, their skin appears to be green, although this may be a trick of the light, as the planet has a range of weird colours unknown on Earth. In what is possibly a piece of social commentary on Smith’s part, the skin colours of these people reflect their class: the elites have dark skin; the servants medium skin; and the slaves light skin. The instalment ends with the protagonists preparing to spend the night in the home of an alien chief, undecided as to whether they are guests or prisoners…
The issue also includes another poem by Leland S. Copeland, “Life”:
Dear Life, you come so very dear
To give your boon to me,
From primal cell and ancient worm,
And fish that ruled the sea;
Through saurian that drowned at noon
And mammal lodged in tree;
Through apish wight and troglodyte
You come so far to me.
Dear Life that came so very far
You must not leave too soon,
For I who find your presence sweet
Am loath to lose the boon.
But, Life, because your creatures fill
The earth and air and sea,
Too well I know that when you go
You cannot grieve for me.
In this month’s letters column, Ted Cameron objects to the magazine’s prophetic pretensions:
I am college trained, and so perhaps have acquired the unusual idea of obtaining my facts directly rather than second-hand. For instance, William Lowell is a far more instructive authority on Mars than is Baron Munchhausen. And Edgar Rice Burroughs is certainly more entertaining.
I read scientifiction, not as a prophecy of the future, but as entertainment. Why not stress that side of it more. Your present attitude smacks too much of attempting to justify yourself because your stores are not chronicles of fact. You aren’t conducting a personal tour through the pages of Euclid or anything of that sort. So please stop telling us to look upon these stories as prophesying the future and permit us to enjoy them as fiction.
The editorial response pleads of the magazine’s stories that “if you will look a little further, you will find a prophetic value in some of them, and we are sure that ten years from now many of them wdll be read like true prophecy.”
19-year-old John J. Kelly derides Amazing’s detective fiction (“it has no place in a publication which claims to be THE magazine of scientifiction”), calls for the title to be changed to Scientifiction Magazine (“Upon asking for a copy of Amazing Stories at the news stand, I was informed that it had not yet been received, and the newsdealer promptly told me that he bad Weird Tales and Ghost Stories. I was mortified. If there is anything that humiliates me, and I think that is typical of many people, it is anything that tends to give the impression that I am stimulated by superstitious hair-raising ghost stories, et cetera”) before listing a few more suggestions relating to the magazine’s formatting.
Also on the critical front, George Sanders (not, presumably, that one) splutters that “The editing and proofreading of your scientifiction magazine is simply fierce, misprints on every page, bad grammar, and worst of all, the most ridiculous contributions”; as examples of the last problem, he lists a number of self-contradictory statements from the June edition of Baron Munchhausen’s New Scientific Adventures.
16-year-old Harold Scott offers a set of “bouquets and cabbages”. His objections draw heavily upon the periodic table, as he complains about authors who invent imaginary elements.
14-year-old George Hudson says that Wells “is classed with Scott and Shakespeare” and disagrees with those who criticise the magazine’s covers: “The covers are masterpieces, of genius and imagination on the part of Mr. Paul – The one in the April 1928 issue should have a place in the Art Gallery”. Howard Campaigne is another who praises Paul’s artwork, even asking for additional illustrations (“At least one to every two pages”).
One letter praises Verne and Wells while disparaging A. Merritt (“I think that some of A. Merritt’s, such as The Moon Pool and The Face in the Abyss run a trifle too strong on the impossible order, with little or no science, and without even the redeeming feature of a happy ending”) before discussing the March 1928 issue, pointing out scientific implausibilities in Geoffrey Hewelcke’s “Ten Million Miles Sunward” and passing thought on Gernsback’s editorial on insect intelligence (prompting the editorial reply to recommend The Ant People by Franz Ewers and The Life of the White Ant by Maurice Maeterlinck) The long letter goes on to reply to another correspondent in the same issue:
Commenting on the letter of T. A. Netland of Oakland, California, published in the March edition—I believe that most of our fiction writers aim to make their stories true to life as they see it, and in line with public opinion. The spirit of selfishness and other inhuman characteristics which still seem to dominate the human race are traits inherited from our animal ancestors, without which evolution would have been impossible. The continual struggle for existence and the survival of the fittest, resulted -in the weeding out of the unfit, and was the means of bringing man up to the present standard. The human race is still far from true civilization. The martial spirit and other inhuman traits are relics of barbarism, and may take thousands of years yet to eradicate. The “Towers of Humanity” Mr. Netland mentions, such as Buddha, Jesus, Confucius, etc. were, I believe, born thousands of years ahead of their time, and may be considered as forerunners of what the human race may be in time to come; with the exception that superstition and fanaticism will he replaced in the new civilization by logic and good sound sense.
S. N. Moberley raises the question of how the ambulant bread in Keller’s “The Yeast Men” ended up marching in the right direction when the story indicates that their initial movements would have been random. Jacob Schwartz writes on a similar matter, asking why the enemy army didn’t simply turn the Yeast Men around. The editorial response suggests that there were simply too many for this to be viable.
Schwartz also praises the work of A. Merritt, as does Robert C. Schaller in the next letter:
I know not how your other readers may feel about it, but for myself, in view of his lyric and epic masterpiece, The Moon Pool—for it is evident to any who read it intelligently that Merritt has Miltonic visions, vast shadowy splendors, which he has the power to express in undeniably poetic prose with dashes of Keats and Shelley—as I say, in view of that achievement, as well as The Metal Monster, a pure epic poem, ’tis clear that if he is encouraged, he will produce an abiding contribution to the literature of imagination in the promised sequel to The Face in the Abyss.
14-year-olds Vivian Chudom and Lottie Pitman provide what is headed “A Charming Letter From Two Young School Girls”. “We read your Discussion section as well as the rest of the magazine with great interest every month, and have not noticed letters from many girls in the teen age”, they say. “This certainly cannot be because girls do not read Amazing Stories. Whenever we bring our magazine to school, everyone wants to borrow it at once.” They go on to question the scientific merit of “Pollock and the Porroh Man” (while also acknowledging it as “more interesting than most of H. G. Wells’ stories” and express interest in the often-discussed science club. M. M. Perelstein also brings up the science club, and outlines a possible way of structuring it.
Yet aother reader interested in the science club is 15-year-old Thaddeus Whalen, who praises the magazine for offering information as well as entertainment: “I think now that I can look the world more in the face and say “I know you and your secrets, and if you have secrets unsolved I will try and solve them in some of my wild dreams.” Indeed, as he goes on to say, “if my parents and neighbors call me crazy, ‘goofey’ and any other popular nickname I know some people that will stand by me, they arc the devout readers and editors of Amazing Stories. I feel no enmity or fear toward them because the age is fast coming where truth will dominate.” Meanwhile, a 14-year-old reader writes that “In my classes Amazing Stories has received severe comment. I uphold the magazine and can, always quiet a scoffer by asking him to prove ‘impossibilities’ in the stories or by showing — that the story under comment is written by some famous author”.
The topic of travel through other dimensions – including time – is a recurring one in the column. 16-year-old James Phelan enquires about the dimensional physics depicted in Bob Olsen’s “Great Four-Dimensional Robberies” and “The Blue Dimension” by Francis Flagg, and states that he wold like explanation from the magazine “because there is no one in my town that has the required knowledge to do so.”
Lester A. Maple hails David H. Keller as the magazine’s best writer (“I believe, are written by Dr. David H. Keller. He has the knack, which very few of your writers possess, of combining science, romance and pathos, all in the same gripping story”) and goes on to defend Wells and Verne from their detractors (“I like both, and anybody who doesn’t is probably not on a high enough intellectual plane to understand them with sufficient clarity”) before expounding — at considerable length — his contempt for time travel as a concept, although he acknowledges that it can make entertaining stories. The editorial response counters Maple’s criticisms with an excerpt from the book Gravitation- vs. Relativity by Charles Lane Poor.
Replying to an earlier letter disparaging time travel stories, Albet J. Hadvigar notes that “Glancing through the advances made in science, of electricity, chemistry and physics within the past few years, one is really dumbfounded at the rapid strides that have been taken. For just an example, The electron. It exists, it has almost no mass, its life defies all conception of time as we know time. It is there. Indisputably there. Unharnessed energy. What is it? It is there. It has been measured into our third dimension as far as its molecular construction is concerned. But the plane that it moves in has not been; when that is done I am sure that we shall be a great step nearer to the fourth dimension.”
13-year-old Leonard May also writes about the fourth dimension. “If you insist on there being a fourth dimension, why pick on time? You might as well use weight, temperature, and hardness, etc., all of which would be a lot of ‘bunk.’ True, all are factors, but they are not dimensions. Dimensions are concerned with linear measure.” He then moves on to a different topic — that of telepathy:
Mental telepathy is not impossible, as you think. Another boy and I came to talking about the subject. and we decided to give it a tryout, I closed my eyes and made my mind as complete a blank as I could, while the other tried to transmit a thought to me. I received the same thought that he sent, and that was a picture of a Yeast Man! We tried this out on each other about twenty times, using different thoughts, and six trials were successful. Try it out yourself, some day.
The editorial response to May’s comments on the fourth dimension once again includes an excerpt from Gravitation versus Relativity by Charles Lane Poor. As for telepathy, the editors are unimpressed: “Amazing Stories‘ sister magazine, Science and Invention, maintains that there is no such thing and that mental telepathy has never been proved. The magazine is willing to pay a large cash prize for absolute proof of mental telepathy.”
17-year-old Don H. Nabours takes the time travel discussion a step further, as his letter (run under the dubious header “A Very Amusing Letter; Suicide Threatened!”) is actually an impromptu piece of fiction on the topic. Don describes his science class being visited by an elderly professor who purported to be Don’s future self, outlining hoiw he invented a time travel process:
[B]eing an ardent reader of Amazing Stories my thoughts kept turning to time-traveling as the most worthwhile adventure of them all and so I set my talents along this line. I wasted six years trying to build a fourth dimensional machine but failed, then turned my attention to drugs. I have now developed a drug which does not kill the body, but allows the soul or spirit, that is, the intelligence which functions through the brain, to go free and leave the body completely, and as space and time are only encumbrances of the mortal, physical body, I can go any place and get there any time I wish.
Upon arriving in 1928, the professor’s spirit took over the body of “a healthy Idiot in the state asylum”, allowing him to visit his younger self in physical form. Young Don, however, is left distraught by the knowledge that he will become a chemistry teacher: “Now Mr. Editor, I have always planned to be an artist and thought I would be too, but it seems that I am to be a school teacher, and, as I have an artistic temperament and the weather is warm today, I think I’ll commit suicide as soon as I finish this letter.”
“Don’t you think that instead of committing suicide”, suggests the editorial reply, “you’d better form a partnership with your old friend and take a nice trip into the hereafter, and then come back and tell the readers of Amazing Stories what happened?”
15-year-old Kenneth R. Johnson argues that the controversy arising from “The Astounding Discoveries of Doctor Mentiroso” by A. Hyatt Verrill is evidence of the story’s merit: “Any story that induces so much original and constructive thought certainly deserves a place in your magazine”, defends humorous stories, praises Wells (while also deriding “Pollock and the Porroh Man” as insufficiently scientifictional), champions Baron Munchhausen’s New Scientific Adventures as the magazine’s best story to date, and wraps up by questioning the publication’s title and cover illustrations (“At present, these give the impression that the magazine is of the purely sensational type and therefore does not appeal to the better class of people.”)
C. H. Osbourne notes similarities between Cecil B. White’s “The Return of the Martians” and the second instalment of Baron Munchhausen’s New Scientific Adventures, before rambling about coincidences in general.
J. B. Dixon gives a personal ranking of the stories in the June issue, topped with Wells’ The Invisible Man (the, sequence of events is orderly, logical, and lifelike”) and tailed with David H. Keller’s “A Biological Experiment” (“Sex is one of the largest causes, of crime, and if it could be eliminated the race should be much happier instead of the opposite. As the author seems to advance the argument that it is God’s will, I refer him. to the words, of the Master, that “There will be neither marriage, nor giving in marriage in Heaven.”) The letter prompts a sardonic editorial response: “Your quotation about marriage, you will observe applies to Heaven. In spite of prohibition, the earth is far from being a heaven. If sex could, be eliminated, as you say, whether the race would be happier or not, it certainly would dwindle very rapidly.”