Saturday, 21 March 2015

George Allan England - The Mermaid

I read about this story (or so I thought) in Robert Sampson's book Deadly Excitements, Shadows and Phantoms. He talks about a story, "Mermaid", in Sea Stories magazine featuring Captain Leonidas Tripp as a mermaid impersonator and says this story is in the vein of the Jorkens stories by Lord Dunsany. Now I'm a sucker for these kind of tall tales, having gotten hooked on them after reading a similar series by P.G. Wodehouse, the Mulliner stories.

So I went looking for it and found this instead. Looks like George Allan England recycled plots, this one from 1908 becoming the new story in 1926. Now I don't know how his writing improved over the years, but this is an ok yarn. Nothing remarkable in 1908, but nothing bad either. If you have a copy of Sea Stories magazine dated November 1926, could you share the story with me so that I could compare the two and share them?

Enjoy the 1908 story, The Mermaid by George Allan England, here.

A muse on a mule

From Short Stories, January 10th, 1946 comes this poem from S. Omar Barker:

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Argosy reprints from Altus Press

Lately, it seems like we've been getting a lot of reprints from the general fiction pulps

Adventure - Talbot Mundy, Arthur O. Friel, Marion Polk Angellotti, Farnham Bishop and Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur, H.D. Couzens, Harold Lamb, Captain Dingle, Hugh PendexterGordon MacCreagh, Arthur Howden-Smith etc.

Blue Book - H. Bedford-Jones

Short Stories - James B. Hendryx, L. Patrick Greene

Argosy - George F. Worts, Theodore Roscoe, Arthur Leo Zagat

As you can see, we've had a lot of reprints from Adventure but less from the others. Today, Altus Press is working on changing that in part - with a series of reprints from Argosy magazine. The painful part of collecting Argosy is all the serials - you never get all the issues of a serial that you want to read. And more than half of any given issue is serials, which means it takes a long time to collect Argosy before you can read them. I have a few in a box waiting for gaps to be filled. So this is great news - you can read the stories without waiting ages.

The first set of reprints has stories by Lester Dent (better known as the man behind Doc Savage), W. Wirt, Otis Adelbert Kline, W.C. Tuttle, Charles Alden Seltzer, George F. Worts, Fred MacIsaac, Philip Ketchum, Victor Rousseau and Theodore Roscoe. A great selection covering the sword and planet, westerns, humor, crime, lost world and science fiction genres - it showcases how much variety there was in Argosy fiction. Enjoy.

Releasing from Altus Press today. So head over there and check it out. I'm going to get these as soon as I can.















Thursday, 12 March 2015

RIP, Sir Terry Pratchett. A sad day for all of us.

One of the best writers I've read has been taken away from us today. I can't count how many times I've read the Discworld series and found something new each time.  Satire, philosophy and comedy - what a blend to offer us. I'll raise a book to him tonight. Here's one of my favorite extracts from Hogfather:

All right," said Susan. "I'm not stupid. You're saying humans need... fantasies to make life bearable."

REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.

"Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—"

YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.

"So we can believe the big ones?"

YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.

"They're not the same at all!"

YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME...SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.

"Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what's the point—"

MY POINT EXACTLY.


RIP, Sir Terry. No one else could make sense of the world the way you did. Thank you.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Sidney Herschel Small - Author, Traveller



Sidney Herschel Small c. 1922
Sidney Herschel Small c. 1922
Sidney Herschel Small was a noted writer of stories set in Japan and China. Writing at a time when the Yellow Peril stories were a staple of the pulps, he created Chinese and Japanese characters that were good, bad and somewhere in between: in short, just like most people.

He was born on Feb 17, 1893 in Redwood City, California, just north of San Francisco. He was born at a time when the restrictions on the immigration of Chinese into the United States were just starting. His parents seem to have been engaged in a family business of which I cannot find any details, but which seems to have been connected with the Orient.

His mother’s family was descended from one of the miners who came to California after the Gold Rush that started in 1849. “My mother's people were as nearly '49ers as possible: my grandfather came across the plains, was a miner, kept store and slept nights under the counter; my grandmother came round the Horn a little later, and tells of the passengers' fears of the omnipresent shadow of the Alabama.” (The reference is to the Confederate ship Alabama, which was the most successful raiding ship of the Southern Confederacy in the American Civil War, capturing more than 20 ships in a short time between 1862 and 1864).

He grew up attending school in San Rafael, where he lived in a big house and read a lot of fiction including the authors Walter Scott, J Fenimore Cooper and William Makepeace Thackeray. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin after having taken courses in Money and Banking and Corporation Finance. He was supposed to go into the family business, but ended up a writer. In his own words:

A business man I was to be. Courses such as Money and Banking (now a total loss!) and Corporation Finance at Wisconsin headed me in that direction, but in between I managed to sandwich, as a sop, a good bit of the so-called cultural courses.

When the time came, I went to work, with what might honestly be called a very poor grace. held what our town paper called a responsible position with a great manufacturer. It was responsible. If I loafed, the stock became dusty. This in New York.

Next: married, salesman, advertising manager, advertising agency, which is certainly going down the scale of importance, you can see. The first was and is a success, the second not so bad, the third sort of lukewarm roast-pork, and the last defies adjectives. Mark Twain hits it: my thoughts would spoil the sale of any Sunday booklet. By mutual consent, I quit.

When it is considered that an exceptionally promising art career was given up by my mother when she married, and that every member of the family was art-loving and musical, it seems that the very thought of making of me a solidly-foundationed business man was—well, ill—advised, or possibly over-ambitious. I was well vaccinated with something else, and the serum had taken effect.

For anyone with an ounce of sense (which I haven't) and with two boys (which I have) to start writing for a living was considered—you say it. But, since I couldn't get me a job, why not?

And, writing, why not about something of which I knew? The ' 'family business" was in the Orient, trips were taken back and forth every two years or so. Oriental stories (if I may become professionally jealous a moment) were usually about “wily" Japanese who were always tricky, and "inscrutable" Chinese who were always wily, and "trusty" East-Indians, who were always inscrutable. Anything different? It simply wasn't done. Ergo: a short story or two or three, and then The Lord of the Thunder Gate; after that Kayama's fat fictional brother, Okyo, who will parade through the Purple Rings.

He started his career with stories in Collier’s and Adventure, and went on to write over half a dozen books, more than 500 short stories in pulp magazines (Adventure, Detective Fiction Weekly) and slicks (Collier’s and the Saturday Evening Post). The titles of these stories evoke the exotic and mysterious Orient -  “The Junk with One Eye”, “Gunpowder Tea”, “The Crimson Cord”, “The Camphor Jungle”, “Flowering Jade” among others.

He was active in the Author’s Guild, giving guidance to young authors. Notable among these was Robert Joyce Tasker, an inmate of San Quentin prison, who wrote the book “Grim Haven”. Tasker later went on to be a successful Hollywood screenwriter.

Sidney Herschel Small died on 20th or 23rd June 1958, at the age of 65, from lung cancer. He was survived by his two sons, Sidney H. Small Jr. of San Francisco and John Small, chief of the research section of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at California Institute of Technology. John Small was one of the people responsible for the launch of the first US satellite on 31 Jan 1958, which Sidney Small lived to see. And so ended the story of a man who had spoken to people who lived through the Civil War, grown up through two World Wars and lived to see the beginning of the space age.
Altus Press are planning to republish his Koropok story series from Adventure magazine. I'm looking forward to reading them.