Smith, Thorne

Tagged: Author

(1892-1934) US author best known for his humorous fantasies, in which – rather as in the novels of F Anstey, with the added ingredient of Sex – some supernatural intrusion upsets suburban life to comic effect. Two of Smith's novels use nominally sf devices. The Night Life of the Gods (1931) opens with the Invention of a petrifying Ray which can convert flesh to stone, a process which is somewhat implausibly reversible, like the action of a Stasis Field. In Skin and Bones (1933) the sf element is a quirky variation of Invisibility. A photographic lab accident, of the convenient kind that grants powers to Superheroes, causes the protagonist to change intermittently into a "fluoroscopic man" whose bones are visible but whose flesh is not. Genial havoc ensues in both books, with a great deal of drinking – this was the US Prohibition era – and loss of inhibitions. Although the Identity Exchange between husband and wife in the mildly spicy Turnabout (1931) is effected by Magic, this could equally well have been an sf comedy. The Glorious Pool (1934) is a fantasy of magical Rejuvenation.

The lanky, boozy, irresponsible inventor Galloway Gallegher in Henry Kuttner's Robots Have No Tails (stories January 1943-April 1948 Astounding; coll of linked stories 1952 as by Padgett; 1973; vt The Proud Robot: The Complete Galloway Gallegher Stories 1983) closely resembles a typical Thorne Smith hero, and there is some clear stylistic homage to Smith. John D MacDonald's The Girl, the Gold Watch, & Everything (1962), though less slapdash in its plotting than Smith, knowingly imitates his mode of cheerful anarchy. [DRL]

see also: Dream World; Norman Matson.

James Thorne Smith Jr

born Annapolis, Maryland: 27 March 1892

died Sarasota, Florida: 21 June 1934

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