Weinbaum, Stanley G

Tagged: Author

(1902-1935) US writer whose interest in sf dated from his youth (he published "The Lost Battle" in a school magazine, The Mercury, in December 1917; it forecasts that World War One will end in 1921) but who did not begin to publish sf professionally until the 1930s, after selling a romance novel – "The Lady Dances" (1934 in various King Features Syndicate newspapers) as by Marge Stanley – to a newspaper syndicate, and after a first sf novel, «The Mad Brain», had been rejected. Although he did not graduate from the University of Wisconsin, he turned his two years spent there studying chemical engineering to good stead from the beginning of his sf career with "A Martian Odyssey" in Wonder Stories, for July 1934; this broke new ground in attempting to envisage Life on Other Worlds in terms of strange and complex ecosystems with weird Alien lifeforms; there is a First Contact encounter. Told in Weinbaum's fluent style, it became immediately and permanently popular, having been reprinted dozens of times, and ranking behind only Isaac Asimov's "Nightfall" (September 1941 Astounding) as the favourite example of early Genre-SF short fiction. It was followed by a less successful sequel, "Valley of Dreams" (November 1934 Wonder Stories). Other Weinbaum stories in this vein include "The Lotus Eaters" (April 1935 Astounding), which features an interesting attempt to imagine the worldview of an intelligent plant, "The Mad Moon" (December 1935 Astounding), "Flight on Titan" (January 1935 Astounding) and "Parasite Planet" (February 1935 Astounding). He also contributed to the well-known round-robin sf story solicited by Fantasy Magazine for its September 1935 issue, "The Challenge from Beyond" with Murray Leinster, E E Smith, Harl Vincent and Donald Wandrei. In a series of comedies featuring the eccentric scientist Professor Manderpootz – including the Alternate-History story The Worlds of If (August 1935 Wonder Stories; 2007 ebook), The Ideal (September 1935 Wonder Stories; 2007 ebook) and The Point of View (January/February 1936 Wonder Stories; 2007 ebook) – he flippantly devised absurdly miraculous Machines. His "Brink of Infinity" (December 1936 Thrilling Wonder) is a rewrite of George Allan England's mathematical puzzle story "The Tenth Question" (18 December 1915 All-Story Weekly).

Weinbaum imported some of the methods and values of his early romantic fiction into sf in "Dawn of Flame", about a She figure named Margaret of Urbs, but could not sell it separately; it was first published as the title story of Dawn of Flame and Other Stories: The Weinbaum Memorial Album (coll 1936), a memorial volume put together by The Milwaukee Fictioneers (> Small Presses and Limited Editions) – a fan group (> Fandom) which included, among others, Robert Bloch, Ralph Milne Farley and Raymond A Palmer – to express a sense that Weinbaum's short innovative career had been of great significance in the growth of American sf. In the meanwhile, Weinbaum had also failed to sell a rewritten version with gaudier superscientific embellishments, "The Black Flame", which also appeared posthumously (January 1939 Startling); both tales were eventually combined in edited-down form as The Black Flame (fixup 1948; text restored 1995). He continued to produce pulp-sf stories prolifically, including an early story of Genetic Engineering, "Proteus Island" (August 1936 Astounding), and the female-Superman story "The Adaptive Ultimate" (November 1935 Astounding as by John Jessel), televised several times and filmed as She Devil (1957); he also collaborated on two minor stories with Farley. Almost all twenty-two of Weinbaum's short sf stories are assembled in A Martian Odyssey, and Others (coll 1949) and The Red Peri (coll 1952); A Martian Odyssey and Other Science Fiction Tales: The Collected Short Stories of Stanley G Weinbaum (coll 1975) edited by Sam Moskowitz, combines the contents of the two, and adds one previously uncollected piece; Moskowitz had previously edited a smaller collection, A Martian Odyssey and Other Classics of Science Fiction (coll 1962). The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum (coll 1974) contains twelve stories. Further collections resort the same material.

Weinbaum's premature death from lung cancer robbed Genre SF of its most promising writer of the 1930s, the full measure of his ability only becoming apparent when his longer works began to appear posthumously. The New Adam (1939) is a painstaking account of the career of a potential Superman who grows up as a kind of "feral child" in human society; it initiates into the pulp sf world the kind of superman story more commonly told in Scientific Romance form by J D Beresford and Olaf Stapledon and other English writers, the kind of story in which the superman cannot adjust to normal humans, and suffers fatal solitude. Another posthumously published sf novel, the psychological horror story The Dark Other (1950), is an early exploration of the Jekyll-and-Hyde theme (> Doppelgangers). The King's Watch (1994 chap) is a previously unprinted hardboiled detective tale. Weinbaum, like his contemporary John Taine, was occasionally slapdash in his work – which he produced at a very considerable rate – but the swift and smooth clarity of his style was strongly influential on the next generation of sf and fantasy writers. He was a central precursor of the Golden Age of SF. [BS/JC]

see also: Adam and Eve; Astounding Science-Fiction; Biology; Comics; Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award; Ecology; History of SF; Islands; Jupiter; Mars; Mythology; Outer Planets; Psychology; Publishing; Venus.

Stanley Grauman Weinbaum

born Louisville, Kentucky: 4 April 1902

died Milwaukee, Wisconsin: 14 December 1935

works

series

Professor Manderpootz

  • The Ideal (no place given: Gutenberg Project, 2007) [story: ebook: first appeared November 1934 Wonder Stories: Professor Manderpootz: na/]
  • The Worlds of If (no place given: Gutenberg Project, 2007) [story: ebook: first appeared August 1935 Wonder Stories: Professor Manderpootz: na/]
  • The Point of View (no place given: Gutenberg Project, 2007) [story: ebook: first appeared January/February 1936 Wonder Stories: Professor Manderpootz: na/]

Collected Science Fiction and Fantasy

  • Interplanetary Odysseys (United Kingdom: Leonaur Ltd, 2006) [coll: pod: Collected Science Fiction and Fantasy: hb/]
  • Other Earths (United Kingdom: Leonaur Ltd, 2006) [coll: pod: Collected Science Fiction and Fantasy: hb/]
  • Strange Genius (United Kingdom: Leonaur Ltd, 2006) [coll: pod: Collected Science Fiction and Fantasy: hb/]
  • The Black Heart (United Kingdom: Leonaur Ltd, 2006) [coll: pod: Collected Science Fiction and Fantasy: hb/]

individual titles

  • The New Adam (Chicago, Illinois: Ziff-Davis, 1939) [hb/uncredited]
  • The Black Flame (Reading, Pennsylvania: Fantasy Press, 1948) [fixup: incomplete version: see entry above for details: hb/A J Donnell]
    • The Black Flame (San Francisco, California: Tachyon Publishing Co, 1995) [fixup: original text restored: pb/Michael Dashow]
  • The Dark Other (Los Angeles, California: Fantasy Publishing Co, 1950) [hb/Jon Arfstrom]

collections and stories

Note that the contents of each collection listed below as A Martian Odyssey differs from all others so named.

about the author

links

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