(1910-1996) US author, whose name has been given, in error, as W Samuel Merwin or W S Merwin, son of the writer W Samuel Merwin (1874-1936); neither Merwin should be confused with W S Merwin (William Stanley Merwin, 1927- ), the US Poet Laureate for 2011 whose The Folding Cliffs: A Narrative (1998), a novel in verse, treats Hawaiian history in mythopoeic terms. Sam Merwin Jr's first sf story was "The Scourge Below" for Thrilling Wonder Stories in October 1939. He later went to work for the Beacon pulp chain, which published Thrilling Wonder Stories and Startling Stories, and was appointed to the editorship of both in 1944, succeeding Oscar J Friend; although he had contributed to Thrilling Wonder and had done some editorial work for the magazines, he claimed never actually to have read an SF Magazine before becoming editor of two of them. During his editorship he greatly raised the standard of both titles, abolishing the juvenile slant they had previously adopted, and making them the leading Pulp magazines in the field behind Astounding Science-Fiction. He contributed stories to both, using his own name and the pseudonyms Matt Lee and Carter Sprague. He also edited Wonder Story Annual and Fantastic Story Quarterly – additional companion magazines to Startling and Thrilling Wonder – before leaving in 1951 to freelance. Further editorial forays included editing the first issues of Fantastic Universe, a period as assistant editor for Galaxy Publications-working on Galaxy Science Fiction, Beyond Fantasy Fiction and Galaxy Science Fiction Novels – and editing the auspicious first two issues of Satellite Science Fiction. He later went to work in Hollywood. Two articles by Merwin – reminiscences of his pulp-magazine days – appeared in The Alien Critic #9 and #10. Although comparatively little known, Merwin's record shows him to have been one of the most capable of all sf magazine editors.
Merwin's fiction, some of it published as by Jacques Jean Ferrat, on the other hand, was unexceptional, though his first novel, Murder in Miniatures (1940), which is a detective thriller, now seems more readable than most of his sf. His best sf work is probably the The House of Many Worlds sequence – comprising The House of Many Worlds (September 1951 Startling Stories; exp 1951) and Three Faces of Time (August 1953 Startling Stories as "Journey to Misenum"; exp 1955 dos), both assembled as The House of Many Worlds (omni 1983) – a Time Police tale of considerable complexity involving several Parallel Worlds; less convincingly, Killer to Come (1953) moves into Changewar territory. The White Widows (October 1953 Startling Stories; exp 1953; rev vt The Sex War 1960) and Chauvinisto (1976) both treat female domination in Dystopian terms (see Women in SF). The February 1957 issue of Satellite contained Planet for Plunder (February 1957 Satellite; 2011), a novel written in collaboration with Hal Clement; this was actually a Clement novelette expanded by Merwin (who added alternate chapters from another viewpoint) in order to fit Satellite's novel-oriented policy. [MJE/JC]
see also: Alternate History; Spaceships.
Samuel Kimball Merwin Jr
born Plainfield, New Jersey: 28 April 1910
died Los Angeles, California: 13 January 1996
House of Many Worlds
collections and stories
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