The first and main pseudonym of UK civil engineer and author Francis Henry Atkins (1847-1927), who contributed widely to the pre-sf Pulp magazines, writing at least three Lost-World novels along with much else. The first and most successful of the three was The Devil Tree of El Dorado: A Romance of British Guiana (1896), which capitalized on the contemporary interest in the Roraima Plateau lying athwart the disputed border between Venezuela and the British colony; Monella, the mysterious giant who leads Europeans to their goal, turns out to be the 2000 year old ex-king of all they now survey, and a kind of Wandering Jew. He reappears in the prequel, A Queen of Atlantis: A Romance of the Caribbean (1898), which relates the discovery of a telepathic race living in the Sargasso Sea. In King of the Dead: A Weird Romance (1903), almost exactly the same cast of near Immortals under different names replays a very similar story, involving super science and supernaturalism and a Lost Race in the Amazon; eventually the dead are resurrected, to general revulsion.
Little is known about Aubrey/Atkins. He was involved in a scandal at the turn of the century and sentenced to nine months imprisonment for obtaining money by deception. After leaving prison he dropped the name Frank Aubrey and – in his early 60s, following a three-year hiatus – began writing as Fenton Ash. Publisher's files indicate that his son, Frank Howard Atkins Jr (1883-1921) – who wrote many popular nature stories as F St Mars – also used this name, perhaps in collaboration. Stylistic analysis suggests that a later story as by Fenton Ash, "Caught by a Comet" (May 1910 Red Magazine), may have been written exclusively by Frank Atkins Jr. Many sf stories as by Fenton Ash, all characterized by vividly imaginative but less than fully realized ideas, appeared in the Boys' Papers. The majority are lost-world adventures; e.g., "The Sunken Island, or the Pirates of Atlantis" (7 May 1904 Union Jack Library), "The Sacred Mountain" (1904), The Radium Seekers, or The Wonderful Black Nugget (1904 Boy's Realm; 1905), The Temple of Fire, or The Mysterious Island (1905; cut 1917) as Fred Ashley, "The Hermit of the Mountains" (1906-1907), By Airship to Ophir (1911), The Black Opal: A Romance of Thrilling Adventure (1906 The Big Budget; 1915), "In Polar Seas" (1915-1916 Nelson Lee Library) and The Island of Gold (1916-1917 Nelson Lee Library; 1918) as Fenton Ash. In two further works, A Trip to Mars (5 January-25 May 1907 The Sunday Circle as "A King of Mars"; 1909) and the book-length "A Son of the Stars" (1907-1908 Young England), the lost-world setting shifted to a war-torn Mars, preceding Edgar Rice Burroughs's use of the same idea by some years; the Spaceship which carries its young protagonist to Mars in A Trip to Mars is sentient.
In his chosen market Aubrey was extremely successful and influential. Although contributing little to the sophistication of sf, he played an important role in the History of SF. [JE]
see also: Boys' Friend Library; Elements.
Francis Henry Atkins
born Oxford, Oxfordshire: 6 July 1847
died Clapham, London: 21 October 1927
as by Fenton Ash or Fred Ashley
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