Astounding Stories v20n06, February 1938

ISFDB link

Editor, John W. Campbell Jr.

The Degenerates • novelette by John Russell Fearn [as by Polton Cross]
Anachronistic Optics • short story by Moses Schere ∗∗+
The Fatal Quadrant • novelette by Arthur J. Burks
Galactic Patrol (Part 6 of 6) • serial by E. E. Smith, Ph.D.
Mercutian Adventure • short story by Raymond Z. Gallun
Wayward World • novelette by Otto Binder [as by Gordon A. Giles]
The Anti-Weapon • novelette by Otto Binder [as by Eando Binder]
Thunder Voice • short story by Raymond Z. Gallun [as by Dow Elstar]

Mercutian Adventure • cover by Howard V. Brown
Interior artwork • by H. W. Wesso (6), Charles Schneeman, Elliott Dold, Jr. (3), Jack Binder
In Times to Come
The Rainbow Bridge • essay by Herbert C. Mackay
Mercury • editorial by John W. Campbell, Jr.
Power Plants of Tomorrow: Harnessing Earth’s Heat • essay by Willy Ley
Science Discussions and Brass Tacks • letters

This review should have appeared a few days ago on the seventieth anniversary of the magazine’s publication (the copyright date is the 19th of January 19381) but it took longer than I expected to write. Anyway, the main event this issue is the cover, Mercutian Adventure, by Howard V. Brown. Although it is not that attractive the cover was an attempt at a sober and more scientific cover than that used on some of the other SF pulps of the time. Campbell discusses it in his editorial, Mercury:

The fiction leads off with The Degenerates by John Russell Fearn.2 It concerns Cambridge, a space pilot who is hired for an expedition to Jupiter’s moon Io, the purpose of which is to retrieve a type of tree that can produce a particularly tough form of iltuion, a material used for spacesuits.

The team includes the businessman funding the trip and his daughter Ada (businessmen in stories like this are always accompanied by their attractive daughters); Ludwig Reid, the expedition leader; Charteris, the co-pilot; Hu Ling, the Chinese cook (!); and, finally, the Ionian alien who made the discovery in the first place, Kiol. Cambridge takes an instant dislike to Reid and, sure enough, he turns out to be a rum ’un.
The ridiculous plot (so much so that I cannot be bothered going through its multiple idiocies) involves (spoiler) a lot of them getting killed on Io before a city full of degenerate Martians are wheeled out at the end.
I believe this was Fearn’s last story in Astounding, to which I can only say “good riddance” (although I should add there is evidence of this author’s inexplicable popularity in Campbell’s letters and in the letter column).
Anachronistic Optics by Moses Schere3 is about a town handyman who is digging a hole for a local builder when he comes upon a strange set of bones and an assortment of metal parts. The handyman takes the material home. Later, he and a retired college head put the metal parts together and realise they have a time-machine.
After they make a couple of short trips in it (which takes them four years into the future), the belligerent builder interrupts, demanding the return of the metal. The builder is a nasty piece of work, and manages to send himself into the future during an altercation—apart from his eyes that is, which stay in the present day, floating in mid-air. All the handyman and the college head can do is wait for his eyes to eventually catch up with his body.
The operation of the time machine is rather unconvincing but the story raises a smile or two, and its subtitle, ‘An unusually well-told light science fiction story,’ is an accurate description.4

The Fatal Quadrant by Arthur J. Burks5 is similar to the Fearn story in that the narrator (this time a newspaper editor) signs up for an expedition to the Antarctic with a millionaire inventor (this guy is younger so there is a sister that comes along and not a daughter). Once they arrive at the base, the inventor reveals his plans, which involve using robots to map the continent, but there is also talk about weather control, and melting the ice to reveal whatever is thousands of feet below.
The robots go off in due course on a radial survey, illuminating their path with eye headlights (a striking scene which Wesso chose to illustrate).

They send video back to the lab where two robots compile maps and charts. When the mapping robots get to a wide valley that looks like it was excavated by mechanical means, the sister suddenly gets the vapours :

Beside me Zora was breathing audibly. I glanced at her. Her eyes were wide. Her bosom was heaving. She couldn’t be afraid of what might happen to the robots, surely, for there were extras we hadn’t yet unpacked, and they were merely pieces of machinery, after all. No. it wasn’t that. I thought, and a moment later I knew I had been right.
For Zora whirled on her brother and screamed: “Bring them back, Sherm! Bring them back, for my sake. I can’t stand it any longer! I’m terribly afraid that—”
“Afraid?” said Geddes softly. “Of what? Nothing that might possibly trouble our robots can reach us here!”
“I’m afraid of— Please, Sherman, let’s call a halt. You can stop them, leave them right where they are! Do it for me. Let their eyes die, so that they can hide from—”
“Hide from what?” yelled Geddes. “Zora, you’re nuts! What can there possibly be to hide from? Rocks? Hills? Glaciers? Crevasses? I’ve never known you to be so childish, so imaginative.”
“I ought to be ashamed of myself, Sherm, I know. But I can’t help it. The feeling keeps growing on me that soon in those
—at least of the nine robots in the plain, maybe even in all the others—we’re going to see things that may be so tremendous—so maddening—”
“Nothing in this world can drive you mad.” said Geddes. “You’re my sister!”
“Jud! Jud!” said Zora, flinging herself into my arms. “Say something to him! You feel it, too; I can see it in your eyes—in the sweat on your cheeks and in your hair. Ask him to delay his investigations, even for an hour.”
“I agree with her, Sherm,” I said. “Let’s call a halt for a little while.”
“Nothing doing!” In his two words of refusal there was finality that I couldn’t gainsay. Well, there might be some other way. I put Zora aside, rose, stepped toward Sherman Geddes. “Sherman,” I said, “stop it, right now. Give the command, or so help me—”
“Sit down, Mr. Draper,” said a cold voice to my right rear, “or it will be my duty to force you to!”
I whirled, stared. Standing within two feet of me, radiating power against which I knew I’d be less than a babe in arms, was [Robot] Thirteen.
p. 52

Up until this point it wasn’t too bad—the remoteness and the then mystery of Antarctica is quite well done—but from this point on it all goes a bit megalomaniac super-scientist, and not in a good way.
The robots come to an ice wall and Geddes has the other machines join them. When they look down they see a perfectly ordered city buried deep in the ice. Geddes sees that the inhabitants are perfectly preserved, and uses some hand-wavey science to speculate that they are alive. The robots evaporate all the water and sink to the level of the city. Number twenty-one ignores an order to go into one of the buildings and his video relay screen goes white.
From this point on the story just becomes dafter and dafter: the ice that has melted starts causing floods and hailstones and worldwide climactic change; the three destroy the lab and head south to avert further catastrophe but, when they get to the city, it is even deeper in ice than before, an event that is unexplained (that, or I’d started skimming). Finally, Geddes kills himself on the ship home. The problem with all of this is that it isn’t a story, just an arbitrary succession of unlikely wonders.
I liked the last part of Doc Smith’s Galactic Patrol, even if it sometimes appears as if it is written in another language:

 “Um-m-m.” Crandall stared at Kinnison, new respect in his eyes. “I knew that unattached Lensmen were good, but I had no idea they were that good. No wonder Helmuth has been getting his wind up about you. I’ll string along with any one who can take a whole base, single-handed, and make such a bally ass to boot out of such a keen old bird as Helmuth is. But I’m in a bit of a dither, not to say a funk, about what is going to happen when we pop into Prime Base without you. Every man jack of us, you know, is slated for the lethal chamber without trial. Miss MacDougall will do her bit, of course, but what I mean is, has she enough jets to swing it?” p. 78

Not even the problems with child health and safety put me off:

In his hidden retreat so far from the galaxy’s crowded suns and worlds, Helmuth was in no enviable or easy frame of mind. Four times he had declared that that accursed Lensman, whoever he might be, must be destroyed, and had mustered his every available force to that end, only to have his intended prey slip from his grasp as effortlessly as a droplet of mercury eludes the clutching fingers of a child. p. 80

In this final instalment Kinnison goes to Helmuth’s base, only to discover that the latter has meanwhile worked out what Kinnison’s powers are, and has ordered thought shields for all personnel. Kinnison, stymied, goes back to Tellus and consults Admiral Haynes, who plans a huge attack to take place in ten weeks’ time. Meanwhile, Kinnison has an armoured suit constructed and has twenty thousand bullets fired at him to learn how to operate it under attack!

Kinnison then goes to Trenco, where he telepathically communicates with a ‘flat,’ a local turtle-like alien, and manages get them to agree to harvest and manufacture thionite, a powerful drug, in exchange for sugar.
Kinnison returns to the pirate base and hides in a cave. He gets a dog to disconnect a battery pack and takes control of an operative who lets him in. He releases the thionite into the air and then starts taking control of others, using them to disconnect others’ thought shields:

Thionite, as has been intimated, is perhaps the worst of all known habitforming drugs. In almost infinitesimal doses it gives rise to a State in which the victim seems actually to experience the gratification of his every desire, whatever that desire may be. The larger the dose, the more intense the sensation, until—and very quickly—the dosage is reached at which he passes into such an ecstatic stupor that not a single nerve can force a stimulus into his frenzied brain. In this stage he dies.
Thus there was no alarm, no outcry, no warning. Each observer sat or stood entranced, holding exactly the pose he had been in at the instant of opening his face plate. But now, instead of paying attention to his duty, he was plunging deeper and deeper into the paroxysmally ecstatic profundity of a thionite debauch from which there was to be no awakening.
p. 92

The Galactic Patrol attack the dome. Kinnison has a climactic superscience battle with Helmuth, who dies in the line of fire. This scene has a rather abrupt ending, but the instalment is a good end to an entertaining novel.

Raymond Z. Gallun has two stories in this issue. The first is Mercutian Adventure, this issue’s cover story. A newlywed couple buy a spaceship and head for Mercury, planning to run a business that sells photographs of the planet. While they are on the surface their fuel becomes unstable, but before it explodes they escape with oxygen bottles and a canvas sheet. They burrow into the topsoil and wait.
The science in this one is a mixture of (a) out of date (Mercury’s thin atmosphere) and (b) wonky (the canvas initially stops oxygen getting out but later allows it to diffuse in). At least the story is an honest attempt to put some science into science fiction and not the usual procession of unexplained pulp wonders.

The other Gallun story is Thunder Voice. This is a gimmick piece where a far-future Earth and Moon need to simultaneously activate their gravity beams to avoid collision, but cannot communicate due to etheric interference or some such. The chief scientist (spoiler) connects a telephone handset to one of the beams and points it at the moon, using variable gravity waves to vibrate their walls and send an audio message. Contrived, but it is a clever solution.
Otto Binder6 also has two stories in this issue. The first (under his Gordon A. Giles pseudonym) is Wayward World. This has a two-man spaceship whose drive malfunctions, causing a forced landing on a newly discovered planet between Saturn and Uranus. On the planet they discover metal based life, some of who attempt to drag their ship away. One of the crew enters a cataleptic trance to try and communicate with them, although that doesn’t work as expected.

The plot and the science are weak but it is written in an entertaining way, with some banter between the two pilots, Wade Welton and Archibald Quinsley Osgood, enlivening the story, such as when they first set foot on the planet and Welton exits the ship to do a recce:

Welton jumped the five feet to the ground and landed with enough of a jar to realize surface gravity was at least Earth’s equal. The gravity gauge in the ship had not been awry then. He swept his flash around. The ground was of a loamy texture, dark purple in color. He moved a few steps forward in his micro-mesh garment, to get out of the shadow of the Thunderbolt. He winced a little at the pain in his bruised hip. Then he glanced around. It looked much the same through his glassite helmet as it had from the ship’s ports—an endless, flat stretch of barrenness, without detail in the light of the somber stars.
Welton caught movement in the corner of his eye and turned swiftly. A tall figure loomed up in the dark. Welton limelighted it with his flash, then gasped and staggered back a step.
“Howdy, Columbus!” greeted Osgood cheerily. He was dressed in a Ganymedian parka, only the circle of his face exposed, but with his nose free to the atmosphere. He took a deep breath of air and thumped his chest while exhaling.
“Jumping Jupiter!” said Welton, gagging.
“Glorious to breathe fresh air for a change, Wade old stuff. Stuff is right, in that vac-suit. Why the devil are you wearing it?” Osgood doubled up in pantomime mirth.

It turns out that Osgood has spent the morning analysing the air, and it is breathable . . . .
The second of the two is The Anti-Weapon,7 which takes place during a future war on Earth. Elson is a pilot who has his plane damaged in a dogfight, but manages to land it behind enemy lines:

An hour later he felt better, though bruised and shaken. He looked around. The ruined city all about seemed utterly deserted; not a sound came from its battered environs. Alpha-charges, proton-blasts, neutron-beams, deuteron-flames and other agents of demolition had done a thorough job. Undoubtedly, electron-rays had swept the streets and byways to heap up the electrocuted dead.
Elson knew the city—knew where he was. This had been an enemy city, razed by His Side. But they had not succeeded in capturing this salient. He was about thirty miles back from the lines, in enemy territory. He would be shot on sight, when discovered. The Atom War was one stripped of all humaneness; a struggle to the finish between the world divided into two great camps, with fighting going on interminably on a dozen fronts.
Elson’s only chance of life was to get back to his own lines. A thirty-mile jaunt through the thickest of enemy forces was unthinkable. He must repair his ship.
p. 129

During his search for food he comes across a young woman called Lorna and, even though she is one of the enemy, he gives her some of the provisions he has found. He then accompanies her back to her father, Professor Davidson, who has perfected an anti-weapon in his basement laboratory.
Later, after some food and conversation, the Professor powers up the weapon, a wire globe that forms a sphere of ebony ultraspace which absorbs all forms of energy. After a demonstration showing the uselessness of Elson’s raygun, he agrees to fly the plans for the device to the Pacifist League in the north, before going to one of the conflict zones to demonstrate its power.

The science in this is rather fanciful, as is Elson’s readiness to commit treason, but it is an interesting story for its descriptions of the ravaged city and the resulting brutality, not to mention it contains what I suspect was then a widespread hope that another global conflict could be avoided.
The final scene (spoiler) has Elson attempting to land his plane while watched by the professor and his daughter, but he sinks below ground level before climbing up and away into the night: Elson has realised what the professor is explaining to his daughter—the anti-weapon has drained most of his substance, and he is now stranded in ultraspace.

The Interior artwork is mostly by Wesso and Jack Binder (Otto Binder’s brother) in this issue, although there are also illustrations from Charles Schneeman and Elliott Dold, Jr.
In Times to Come mentions that putting a magazine together is like working on a jig-saw puzzle—the reason why promised stories are sometimes left out of an issue after being promised. He then goes on to list the stories that will definitely appear in the next issue and those that may.

There are two short science articles: The Rainbow Bridge by Herbert C. Mackay is about the increasingly widespread use of spectroscopy, and Power Plants of Tomorrow: Harnessing Earth’s Heat by Willy Ley is about geothermal power.
I actually found parts of  Science Discussions quite interesting this time around. There is a letter on evolution from John D. Clark, Philadelphia, which has this at the end:

So here’s the final result of my cogitation—partly probabilities, partly wishful-thinking. In a million years or so Man will be larger, averaging perhaps six and a half or seven feet tall. He will be much more intelligent, making mental solutions of the three body problem. He will be able to see ultraviolet and infrared, and to see with much more detail than at present, due to an increased number of cells in the retina. His fingers will be perhaps twice as long as the present ones, with infinitely flexible joints. He will be quite capable physically, cleaned out as he will be. of the vestigial remains such as the appendix that clutter up our internal economy. And finally, he will be able to communicate telepathically with his fellows at will, and will be able to know the universe around him without the intervention of his other senses. But, he will still be a man, recognizable as one. Control over human heredity will very probably accelerate evolution to a considerable degree. As for the direction, as I said before—all bets are off.
If anybody has any ideas on the subject, let him bring them forth. Destructive criticism will be available in unlimited quantities.
p. 148

There are also interesting letters from John James Logue from New York, upbraiding Eando Binder for the science in The Time Contractor among other things, and D. C. Beere, a cadet at West Point, about nuclear particles and scientific theory in general.
Brass Tacks
has a letter from Sam Youd (the real name of the well-known writer John Christopher) from Eastleigh in Hampshire. He starts by criticising Wesso’s artwork, while praising Brown, Dold and Binder (Jack). After praising Smith’s serial and lambasting Schachner (‘Can’t you get rid of him, or is he under contract?’) he includes his top ten for the year:

1. “Forgetfulness”. [Campbell] Ranks with the superb “Twilight”. A grand plot.
2. “Galactic Patrol”. [Smith] Far and away better than ‘‘Valeron” or “Triplanetary”.
3. “Seeker of Tomorrow”. [Russell/Johnson] Entertaining, original and exceedingly well-written.
4. “Sands of Time”. P. S. Miller at his best.
5. “The Endless Chain”. [Macfadyen] An old plot, but I like the strain of mysticism.
6. “Fires of Genesis”. Gallun is now consistently good.
7. “Out of Night”. Stuart can do much better, nevertheless, good.
8. “Great Radio Peril”. [Russell] Good humorous satire.
9. “Saga of Pelican West”. [Russell] Blood and thunder, but reminiscent of Weinbaum.
10. “Frontier of the Unknown”. [Knight] Rather slow. Boring in places.
p. 155

The other letters includes plaudits for some stories and brickbats for others. Some of the comments are as blunt as Youd’s, such as the final one from Arthur B. Dawson from Plano, Illinois:

In closing let me repeat my appreciation of the improvement you have wrought, but you will be the first to admit that there is room for more. Please deliver us from the “one man whips the universe at the last minute” stuff. Williamson take notice for one. Get your authors to take a good course in English composition somewhere, and we will all be happier. p. 159

An interesting issue that illustrates the gulf between those writers who look likely to survive under Campbell’s editorship and those who won’t.8


1. The copyright dates for this and other issues of Astounding are here.
2. In Fantasy Commentator #59/60 (, Moskowitz mentions the Polton Cross story:

On the same date [27th January 1938] Campbell sent out a letter which concerned ‘The Degenerates’ by Polton Cross (Astounding Stories, February, 1938). He did not appear to know at the time that Polton Cross was a pen name for John Russell Fearn.
[. . .]
Campbell receives a letter from a reader claiming that he had read the identical plot some years past. Campbell writes to Swisher the following description for possible identification: “Tribulations of ye Ed. Remember “The Degenerates” by Polton Cross? Somebody says Argosy published a yarn some years back—four or six parts about an amphibian plane expedition to upper Amazon for untearable rubber. Hero hated villain on sight. Expedition of hero, villain, backer, daughter, cook and native. Hero and girl shot at. villain locks up weapons, backer gets fever and daughter kidnapped. Degenerates here descendants of Atlantians. Science-secret was statue of Poseidon and chariot with horses which had anti-gravity secret. Daughter to be sacrificed under hooves of horses.
“You may remember it, you may have a tear sheet of that yarn. If you kept it. I’d like to see it. At any rate, can you remember anything about it, or did you miss it completely too?” Underneath the letter Swisher had jotted
The Lost Land of Atzlan by Fred Maclsaac, Argosy, six parts, beginning August 2, 1933.
Campbell responded February 2, 1938: “The research department [Swisher]—and the system—slipped a bit that time. I got hold of all six copies of the
Argosy containing the Maclsaac’s yarn. ‘The Lost Land of Atzlan’, and it wasn’t the one.
“That story’s about a gang, bound for a Mexican city. Fog comes in, they’re lost, and sit down where they can in a valley, where Aztecs have maintained a slight civilization. “But not our gang at all. I want one that takes place in the Amazon country. Any more suggestions? If it is what our informant in California claims, take an outline of the plot of ‘Degenerates’, transform it to the Amazon country and Atlantians instead of Martians, and you’ve got the exact same story.”
[. . .]
That Campbell’s informant was able to so precisely remember the plot and not the title of the story, its author or place of publication is indicative of an entirely false lead. There is no question that the plot of the story could easily have been transferred to South America. Campbell never discovered the alleged ‘original’ but he did not use the name of Polton Cross again. He continued to appear in a variety of science fiction magazines until 1948. It is also a fact that John Russell Fearn was not a copyist. He had an immensely fertile mind when it came to plots, writing and selling literally hundreds of works of science fiction without once being accused of plagiarism.
Campbell was still searching for that elusive story February 7, 1938, when in response to a query by Swisher asking if he had read Maclsaac’s story he responded: “No, I didn’t read ‘Atzlan’, just the synopsis. We called in Julius Schwartz, and he didn’t remember the story referred to, either. So it wouldn’t have been in his
Fantasy column. I read ‘Balata’ myself, and I do not believe that that was the story. Right now, it’s vague and I can’t remember the details. Just an action story in the jungles and about a guy that had found a whole grove of balata trees. I’m gonna try to find one issue of the yarn—preferably one of the last issues—and see what the synopsis has to say.” p. 78-79

3. Schere sold another few stories to Astounding before ending his short career in a number of minor, late 1950s SF magazines. His page at ISFDB.
4. In Fantasy Commentator #59/60, Campbell had this to say about Schere’s story in a letter to Robert D. Swisher dated 11th November 1937:

We got a real nice little yarn from one Moses Schere—and it was titled ‘A Hot Time in the Old Barn’! Despite that handicap we bought it rejoicing, because it was good. We’re retitleing it ‘Anachronistic Optics’ p. 68

5. There is evidence that Burks (and Hubbard) were foisted on Campbell by the management at Street & Smith. Sam Moskowitz says this in Fantasy Commentator #59/60:

Some months before he had been discharged, Tremaine had taken Campbell aside and told him he thought the fiction in the magazine was getting to heavy. He ordered him to buy some fiction from L. Ron Hubbard, an author who had contributed to several of his other magazines, because he had a light touch. Campbell gritted his teeth at the order, but when he met Hubbard he rather liked him. He purchased from him ‘The Dangerous Dimension’ which appeared in the July, 1938 issue. p. 89

Hubbard describes what happened in greater detail in the introduction to Battlefield Earth:

It will probably be best to return to the day in 1938 when I first entered this field, the day I met John W. Campbell, Jr., a day in the very dawn of what has come to be known as The Golden Age of science fiction. I was quite ignorant of the field and regarded it, in fact, a bit diffidently. I was not there of my own choice. I had been summoned to the vast old building on Seventh Avenue in dusty, dirty, old New York by the very top brass of Street and Smith publishing company—an executive named Black and another, F. Orlin Tremaine. Ordered there with me was another writer, Arthur J. Burks. In those days when the top brass of a publishing company—particularly one as old and prestigious as Street and Smith—”invited” a writer to visit, it was like being commanded to appear before the king or receiving a court summons. You arrived, you sat there obediently, and you spoke when you were spoken to.
We were both, Arthur J. Burks and I, top-line professionals in other writing fields. By the actual tabulation of A.B. Dick, which set advertising rates for publishing firms, either of our names appearing on a magazine cover would send the circulation rate skyrocketing, something like modern TV ratings.
The top brass came quickly to the point. They had recently started or acquired a magazine called Astounding Science Fiction. Other magazines were published by other houses, but Street and Smith was unhappy because its magazine was mainly publishing stories about machines and machinery. As publishers, its executives knew you had to have people in stories. They had called us in because, aside from our A.B. Dick rating as writers, we could write about real people. They knew we were busy and had other commitments. But would we be so kind as to write science fiction? We indicated we would.
They called in John W. Campbell, Jr., the editor of the magazine. He found himself looking at two adventure-story writers, and though adventure writers might be the aristocrats of the whole field and might have vast followings of their own, they were not science fiction writers. He resisted. In the first place, calling in topliners would ruin his story budget due to their word rates. And in the second place, he had his own ideas of what science fiction was.
Campbell, who dominated the whole field of sf as its virtual czar until his death in 1971, was a huge man who had majored in physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and graduated from Duke University with a Bachelor of Sciences degree. His idea of getting a story was to have some professor or scientist write it and then doctor it up and publish it. Perhaps that is a bit unkind, but it really was what he was doing. To fill his pages even he, who had considerable skill as a writer, was writing stories for the magazine.
The top brass had to directly order Campbell to buy and to publish what we wrote for him. He was going to get people into his stories and get something going besides machines.

Hubbard would become a prolific contributor to both Astounding and Unknown.
6. From ISFDB:

Eando Binder stood for “Earl and Otto Binder” until Earl stopped contributing in late 1935-early 1936. See Otto’s letter to Earl “on Earl’s decision to no longer participate in the “Eando” pseudonym”, 20 January 1936.

Otto Binder would only contribute another few stories to Astounding.
7. In Fantasy Commentator #59/60, Campbell had this to say about Binder’s The Anti-Weapon in a letter to Robert D. Swisher dated 30th October 1937:

Binder’s new story ‘The Anti-Weapon’ [. . .] happens to have an inconsistent, but actually unimportant explanation—as motivation for an interesting story [. . .] I think you’ll find [it] a pretty decent yarn. p. 65

8.  As previously mentioned, Fearn would contribute nothing more to Astounding. Burks would contribute another half-dozen stories, and Otto Binder three. All of these appeared before the end of 1939. Gallun survived the longest, albeit at a reduced rate, contributing seven more stories to the end of 1939, and four more from then until 1952 (and he even appeared in Analog three times between 1977 and 1983).

2 thoughts on “Astounding Stories v20n06, February 1938

  1. Denny Lien

    Burks’ last work for JWC magazines was supposed to be a lead novel for UNKNOWN, but Campbell claimed the manuscript was so dreadfully unpublishable that he wound up extensively rewriting it and publishing it (as THE ELDER GODS, October 1939 issue) under his “Don A. Stuart” pen name. I recall seeing a Campbell letter (probably in that FANTASY COMMENTATOR collection) in which Campbell vowed never again to buy anything from Burks.

    And I see that Centipede Press is about to publish a massive (and expensive) “best of” collection of Burks stories in their hc line. Contents look to be all or almost all horror, which makes sense, as the memorable stuff I can recall reading by Burks was horror and not sf.

  2. Post author

    Thanks for the information about Burks. I should get to that story around the end of next year . . . . (The relevant pages for those that have Fantasy Commentator #59/60 are pp. 107, 110 and 112., but the short version is that Campbell rejected it, Burks threatened to sue for the $600, S&S paid him as it would cost less than possibly losing in court, and then got JWC to rewrite it for $100. Burks was subsequently blackballed.)
    I found a blog somewhere on the web which stated that Burks wrote/typed so quickly that his ms had parts of sentences missing between the bottom of one page and the top of the next. After reading the story above I can’t say I was surprised.


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