Amazing Histories, April 1929: Goodbye Gernsback

Following the bankruptcy, Gernsback is forced to give up the helm. Here is a review of the last issue published under his editorship.

A yellow sky is dominated by a glowing silver sphere. Its appearance is clearly a cause for concern on the surface, as a vast vehicle – resembling a bizarre mixture of army tank and radio tower – is pointing right up at it; three more such vehicles are visible in the background, each brandishing a nondescript implement in the direction of the globe. Nearby, some small rural buildings are catching fire, a clear indicator of what will happen if the silver globe is not halted. It was April 1929, and Amazing Stories was back again.

This issue marked the publication’s third anniversary, but there would have been little celebration from founding editor Hugo Gernsback. After facing bankruptcy and losing control of his magazine, Gernsback was forced out of Amazing and would be replaced as editor by T. O’Conor Sloane in the next issue. All of this was going on behind the scenes, however, and the April 1929 issue gives the impression of business as usual.

Certainly, Gernbsack’s last ever editorial for Amazing has no sense of finality. Entitled “The Amazing Einstein”, it discusses a personage who had turned up multiple times in the magazine’s letters column, predicting correctly that Albert Einstein “will go down in history as a man as great or perhaps greater than Newton, Faraday and other equally famous scientists” and extrapolating his theories to make the rather more questionable suggestion that solar power may someday be used “not only to propel our giant aircraft of the future, but to give us power with which to nullify the gravitation of the vessel itself”.

After the editorial comes the final selection of stories to be published under Hugo Gernsback as Amazing editor…

“The Terror of the Streets” by George McLociard

This story opens with a university instructor arguing with a student, Daniel Stefenson, about whether it would be possible to become completely invisible. “Young man,” declares the teacher, “from appearances I’d venture that you have been absorbing more than you can hold of pseudo-scientific trash lately; that stuff may be passable for amusement, but it is not the thing to be brought up in a scientific laboratory, as it wastes too much valuable time which could be well put to more worthwhile matters.” The instructor ends up becoming so enraged by Stefenson’s “childish imagery” that he bangs his gavel on a table-top and snaps the head off, sending it flying across the room.

After this altercation, Stefenson’s fiancée is killed in a traffic accident and he is thrown into a fit of righteous indignation: “Are there no laws for this type of person, who commits murder as surely as one does with a revolver, and is immune from punishment just because he can claim that the machine got out of control? Isn’t a gun out of control the instant the trigger is pulled?”

“As soon as such measures are taken, some one arises with the age-old cry of personal liberty at stake” argues his friend Jack Malone.

“Then it follows that the only way to stop it,” concludes Stefenson, “would be for some force outside the law, outside the general run of life, if necessary, to eliminate those offenders.”

Later, Malone and his fiancée Annette Richards visit the laboratory where Stefenson is based. It initially appears that their friend is not at home, but he turns out to be have been present all along – he had simply turned himself invisible, in defiance of his teacher’s scoffing:

At first nothing could be detected, but, as age-long seconds plodded past, there slowly appeared a deep reddish mist which defined itself as a cone of red light whose apex was about seven feet above the floor. In the center of the cone a pillar of black grew, and as the crimson flowed into yellow and finally white, a human form could be distinguished. The figure had one arm upraised. The light faded away and Stefenson stood before them, a curious tripod arrangement with a small cone surmounting it strapped to his head.

The (somewhat erratically-paced) narrative jumps forward a few weeks, allowing Malone and Annette to visit the laboratory again and see another invention: a car covered with heavy steel plates. Later still, a peculiar notice appears in a Chicago newspaper…

MOTORISTS,

THE TERROR GREETS YOU!

Starting at noon to-morrow, the TERROR will stalk the streets! Use your common sense; be safe. Drive cautiously, stop at all designated stops and give your fellow motorists the considerations you would like them to give you.

WATCH YOUR SPEED! GOOD BRAKES?

This is followed by an enigmatic radio broadcast:

“Beginning to-morrow noon, there will be let loose upon the streets a machine such as no man has yet imagined. It will be recognized — soon, and the work it will do will become the interest of a nation… There is no need to go further into the conditions under which this machine will strike down offenders of common sense driving other than to say—Watch your speed. Undue haste will cause WASTE.”

Sure enough, the next morning sees a terrifying new vehicle arrive on the Chicago streets:

A machine, that is all it could be termed, for it bore but little resemblance to either motor car or bus, actually forty feet in length and having a slight resemblance to a squat coupe, had apparently come to grief. As the officer drew nearer, his eyes took in all details of the unusual vehicle. Of a length befitting a motorbus, the red colored leviathan had swung out too far as it attempted to turn into Michigan Boulevard from the west on Chicago Avenue. It had come in behind the center signal lights and jammed its pugnacious nose into the left side of a bus.

The Terror makes numerous startling appearances on the roads, smashing up cars it catches speeding and proving too powerful to be apprehended by the police. Finally, however, the authorities identify the culprit – who is, of course, Stefenson – and track him down at home.

Meanwile, in a bizarre twist, Stefenson reveals to Malone the existence of a remote region inhabited by “a race, which for the last three centuries, has been biding its time, planning and working to encompass this entire globe with their rule” and which “has been a controlling factor in world politics in the last hundred years” thanks to its incredible technology. Stefenson himself belongs to this race, hence his own engineering marvels. As the police surround his home, Stefenson escapes in an amphibious plane back to his own civilisation: “Out of the Unknown he had come and into the Unknown he had returned, leaving behind him a city whose motorists began anew their usual careless and thoughtless driving. For such is human nature.”

The third of George McLociard’s four known science fiction stories, “The Terror of the Streets” reflects the author’s interest in cutting-edge vehicles and the dangers they either pose or face, as also seen in “Smoke Rings” and “Monorail”. Compared to those slight stories, however, this one is bizarrely elaborate. Stefenson’s ability to turn himself invisible, and his connection to a hidden civilisation, are completely superfluous to the plot: the story could easily have been simply the tale of an inventor with a souped-up automobile.

In many ways, though, the story’s thrown-together oddness is a natural outgrowth of magazine science fiction circa 1929. Stefenson’s ability allows for plenty of Gernsbackian discussion about wavelengths (“It was said that every time he tried to go into the higher kilocycles, the plates and grids of the special fifty-watt oscillator faded from sight… The high oscillations, if carried on far enough, would have resulted in the actual disappearance of the elements”). The hidden-civilisation concept, meanwhile, adds a touch of fantasy and mystery recalling popular writers like Edgar Rice Burroughs and A. Merritt.

Holding it all together is the central character, whose tragic narrative of loss and vengeance allows the story to articulate social issue still relative today. He could easily turn up as an antagonist in a contemporary superhero comic.

“The Revolt of the Atoms” by V. Orlovsky

Here we have one of Amazing’s occasional forays into translated fiction, in this case a Russian story originally published in 1927. The story introduces us to Professor Flinder, a scientist studying atoms. His experiments result in disaster, as the atoms he probes begin spreading destruction in a chain reaction with no end in sight:

This was a catastrophe, the kind our Earth had not yet experienced. The breaking up of the atom, which he had caused in the minute volume of gas, had been so energetic, and the fragments were scattered with such force and rapidity, that, when colliding with the neighboring molecules, they, in turn, broke their constituent atoms, and now the process was spreading unchecked from one place to the other, liberating the dormant power and releasing light, heat and electric radiation.

He had set free the spark which was to cause a world conflagration! And there was nothing in all the world that could avert the destruction that was to follow. Nothing! Nothing! Certainly, we are powerless to exert any influence upon the process within those microcosms not yet known to us. None, whatever!

The Professor is found dead in what is ruled a suicide; his Russian collaborator Deriugin calls his death “a mutiny of the atoms, revolting against the man who dared to disturb them”. Meanwhile, the results of the experiments become evident in the form of a globe of fire emanating from the ruined laboratory:

Dazed and stunned, Eike fell down, stumbling over bumps. Lying there, his terror-filled eyes continued to follow the flight of the sphere. He saw how the trees, with which the fiery sphere collided, caught fire; how a sudden gust of wind flung it upon a group of people that tried to cross its path; how a shower of fiery rays poured down upon them and, without having had a chance to ever utter a cry, three of them dropped flat on the ground and remained motionless.

At first, the disaster is sufficiently localised to be ignored by the papers, but knowledgeable observers – including the late Professor’s son, Eitel – show concern:

“You mean to say, that the air is burning over there?” he queried, bewildered, wiping his forehead.

“Not burning,” nervously replied Hinez, twitching and twisting, as if on springs, “not burning, but destroying itself. Its atoms, broken up and exploded into their infinitesimally small bulkiness by your father, are drifting with their fragments, with such rapidity, that they are gradually destroying the neighboring atoms, thereby freeing the dormant energy that is hidden within them; they, scattered into hundreds of fragments, in their turn destroy new layers of gas, thus, a terrific gangrene is gradually hemming in more and more volumes of ether. . .”

“Does this presage anything serious?” asked Eitel confusedly.

“This presages a world conflagration!”

Sure enough, the fireball begins travelling across Europe, ravaging all in its way (“Cities and villages were burning, forests were aflame, day and night enshrouded the sky with curling clouds and asphyxiating smoke”). Clergyman plead for help from God; a millionaire financier is reduced to tearing up vast sums of paper money in desperation.

In the midst of the chaos, a fight breaks out between former associates of the dead Professor Flinder. Deriugin is visited by Eitel, who suddenly pulls a gun on him. But one of Deriugin’s assistants activates a vast magnet which pulls the weapon from the hand of Eitel, who turns out to be insane: “A cross-examination of Eitel proved beyond conjecture that they were dealing with a mentally-deranged person. He was one of those innumerable victims of the turbulent quarter of this century, whose fatigued and strained mind could not resist the powerful attacks of these frightful days.”

Meanwhile, vast engine-driven electro-magnets – one of them occupied by Deriugin – are deployed to confront the roving vortex. They eventually succeed in halting the sphere in the vicinity of Vesuvius; the volcano then erupts, triggering a chain of events that results in the vortex being blasted into Earth’s orbit to do no harm. The world is saved, albeit at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives lost to the volcanic eruption.

This is a stark and quite prescient depiction of nuclear devastation, even if some of the details now seem a little off – most notably, our era tends to visualise nuclear disaster as a mushroom cloud, rather than the ball lightning-like phenomena described here. The presence of Vesuvius in the narrative shows that the author was drawing to some extend upon the cataclysms of ancient history to imagine an anthropogenic apocalypse, but the story’s portrayal of volcanic destruction is chillingly close to the nuclear winter feared in later decades.

“Buried Treasure” by Miles J. Breuer

The year is 3008 AD, and six university students are studying the First World War. They find the society of their ancestors bewildering: how could people who thought of themselves as highly civilised have carried out such an atrocity? The students are also intrigued by their predecessors’ capacity for love and other emotions, which have since been driven from the human race:

“Today, marriages are made in the Vital Statistics Office. Emotions do not count. Only your medical history and your social reactions, and this gene and that gene. Why! We no longer have emotions. […] State rearing of children has cost us parental love; scientific mating has deprived us of romantic love; intellectual pursuits have supplanted all the ancient, highflung emotional amusements. Yes, we have worked hard to eliminate fear, anxiety, despair, hate, and we think we are blessed and happy. Well, our happiness never fails; but it never rises. Sometimes I think we’re a bunch of vegetables, living colorless lives!”

During the course of their research the students come across a rusty iron cylinder containing a document from 1924, written in a code. They decipher its message, which points to the location of buried treasure from the twentieth century. As they unearth the hidden cache, they speculate as to what it could contain – gold? Silver? Perhaps some sort of medicine? – and discover that the treasure is alcohol, a commodity long lost to the society of 2008 AD (at the time the story was published, prohibition was still enforced in the US).

“Buried Treasure” is a novelty piece, the gimmick being that the coded message is included so that the reader is able to solve it themselves As the editorial introduction explains:

When Dr. Breuer’s manuscript arrived, the symbol-chart, which will be found printed elsewhere, was drawn upon a piece of transparent tracing cloth. The editors had little trouble to place this chart over the key of the symbol, which is printed on page 43 and thus deciphered the code easily.

But how to present the story to our readers? It was impossible to print the symbol-chart on a separate piece of transparent paper, due to the high expense involved, so a brand new method had to be invented by the editor of this publication, and it was finally solved in a satisfactory manner.

If the directions are followed carefully, no trouble will be had in deciphering the code. Nor does it mutilate the magazine, because even after the sheet on page 41 has been cut out with a penknife, it can always be re-inserted in the magazine for keeping. It will, indeed, keep indefinitely in this manner.

Instead of a sheet of transparent paper, the chart is printed on an ordinary paper which – as a caption makes clear – can be rendered transparent by having oil rubbed over it.

Into the Green Prism by A. Hyatt Verrill (part 2 of 2)

The first instalment of this serial had the unnamed protagonist and his friend Professor Ramon Amador travelling to Ecuador; there they found a mysterious green substance which, when fashioned into a prism, can project magnifications of microscopic objects. In the second half, they hit upon an even more amazing discovery when the prism starts projecting not only microscopic objects, but also microscopic people:

Either I was suffering from dementia, from an optical illusion or else—no, that was utterly impossible—or else I was gazing upon a miniature human being, a fellow man who was less than one thousandth of an inch in height, who was smaller than an amoeba, who was microscopic in size! […] Beside the first figure there was a second. Both were men, both were perfectly formed, stalwart fellows, dark-skinned, with long floating hair, their bodies clad in elaborately-colored poncho-like cloaks, both with staffs or clubs in their hands.

“They are Indians!” I whispered, unconsciously lowering my voice as if fearing they might hear me. “What does it mean, Ramon? Do such beings exist? Are they really there? Or are we seeing something that is an illusion, a mirage, the reduced images of men somewhere else? What do you make of it?”

In terms of ethnicity, the tiny people appear to be the Manabi tribe that once inhabited the region. The narrator speculates that they might be “the wraiths of another world… the souls of long-dead Manabis” but the Professor declares that they must have physical form as they cast shadows: “Mirages, illusions, phantasms, ghosts, fairies cast no shadows”. The spectacle is bemusing indeed:

Had we suddenly discovered some minute beings of weird, monstrous or wholly new forms; if they had two heads or four legs; had they been green, blue or scarlet; had they been transcendingly beautiful and fairy-like or as repulsively ugly as Calibans, then, no doubt, we might have been able to convince ourselves that we were gazing at microscopic beings. But here we were, watching human beings, that were not only normal in every respect except size, but were, in addition, typical Indians.

While one of the strongest Amazing contributors in many respects, author A. Hyatt Verrill has shown severe shortcomings in terms of racial sensitivity. In his stories, non-white groups are often represented grotesque fantasy races like the upside-down people in “Through the Crater’s Rim” or the hominids in “The King of the Monkey Men”; the inhabitants of his lost worlds tend to be afforded more dignity and empathy if they are sapient invertebrates, as in “Beyond the Pole”.

Into the Green Prism, on the other hand, turns out to be comparatively nuanced, largely because of the Professor: he is himself of Native American ancestry, and so delighted that the microscopic people “are Indians – aboriginal Americans – people of my own race and blood.” At this point, the very idea of making a science fiction story’s resident savant anything other than a white man was novel indeed, although admittedly Verrill does draw heavily upon stereotypes both positive and negative in characterising Professor Amador:

Ordinarily, Professor Amador showed no least indication that he was Indian. When discussing scientific matters, when conversing with his equals, when mingling with white men and women, he was wholly, absolutely the educated polished white man. In fact, he was far more Anglo Saxon than Latin. He had no trace of an accent and, aside from the use of an occasional Spanish expletive or a Spanish expression now and then—such as his favorite “amigo mio” when talking to an intimate friend—no one who did not know him would have suspected that he was of Spanish descent. But often, when he was in uncivilized places, when he was among aborigines, when he was busied with some problem or when he was excited, his Indian blood came to the fore and, temporarily, at least, he would be entirely Indian. He would sit for hours, as motionless and silent as a stone statue, staring fixedly at some object or into space, oblivious of everything. He would assume the tone, voice, manner of the Indian; would speak in their poetic, oratorical, symbolic way, and would relapse into his ancestral Quichtja.

He could be as perverse, stubborn and determined as any aborigine, and he was as untiring, as immune to personal discomfort as any of his pure-blooded relatives. Not that I liked him any the less for this. My long association with Indians had taught me to appreciate many of their admirable qualities, and in some ways, I rather liked Ramon better as an Indian than as a Spaniard.

The Professor’s racial connection to the mysteriously-shrunken Manabis turns out to play a role in the plot. This first becomes evident when the narrator sees the microscopic people worshipping the sun in their miniscule temple, and then turns to see the Professor behaving the same way:

With fixed eyes, with transfigured features, like one in a dream, he was walking forward, hands outstretched. Before I realized what it meant, what had come over him, he dropped on his knees, lifted his hands, and, in vivid pantomime, placed an invisible object on an invisible altar. I understood. For the moment he had been transported back for hundreds, thousands of years. To all intents and purposes he was the reincarnated person of some aboriginal ancestor. In one brief moment, all the white blood, all the inheritance of civilized men had been swept from him. Only the Indian remained, the Indian worshipping his ancient gods.

The narrator theorises that this behaviour is evidence of reincarnation: “Was it possible that he, Professor Amador, the scientist, was the reincarnation of some long-dead Incan or pre-Incan? Had he or his spirit, his soul or whatever it is, lived in the dim past?” When the Professor becomes infatuated microscopic woman he calls Kora (a name that came to him in a dream) the protagonist wonders if the two may have been lovers in past incarnations.

In another revelation of the prism’s mysterious properties, the researchers learn that when a certain musical note is played, the object magnified by the prism will be physically enlarged. The narrator initially finds this hard to accept, but comes to view the concept as plausible:

Ramon’s theory was that the twang was the responsive note, and that it was this sudden, terrific vibration of the crystal, this abrupt exertion, this throe of the atomic structure, that disrupted the mineral itself and that, in its disruption, the atoms or molecules or electrons reformed themselves—together with those in the object exposed before the prism—in the precise form of the magnified image. In other words, the vibratory waves that—according to Ramon, for I am quoting him and make no claim to a profound knowledge of physics myself—the vibratory waves, that controlled the atomic structure of both the crystal and the object before it, were so altered in the speed of their vibrations that they vibrated in unison with the vibratory waves that produced the magnified image, and thus solidified it. Perhaps I may, in a manner, compare if to filling some thin receptacle, even a transparent object, such as a toy balloon, with water and then freezing it. Of course that is not an exact simile, but the result was more or less the same.

They find that they are unable to make a living creature grow in size; they do, however, find a way of shrinking live animals, with a dog and donkey serving as test subjects. This leads the Professor to theorise that the Manabis must have accidentally shrunk themselves down at some point in history during a sacred rite, but he is interested more in the personal implications: he decides to have himself reduced so that he can finally be united with Kora, even though this will be one way journey. In the poignant ending, Ramon disappears – and so does the prism, leaving the narrator with no way of checking on his friend and seeing if he made the journey intact.

Into the Green Prism is an interesting story from A. Hyatt Verrill, blending his flair for lost world fantasy with a more analytical form of science fiction. In an amusing detail, it directly refers to the events of another Verrill story, The World of the Giant Ants, and in the process implies that the unnamed narrator accompanying Professor Ramon is none other than Verrill himself: “And yet you do not doubt that Dr. Henclen lost his life in a district where ants and insects were as large and larger than human beings”, says the Professor to his friend. “You yourself secured his notes telling of his strange experiences. You yourself published the story.”

Discussions

The final letters section of the Gernsback era opens with an editorial comment on a controversy surrounding the magazine’s cover art:

For a long time, the battle regarding our somewhat lurid covers has been waxing hot and heavy. One faction contends that a more dignified cover will be better for the magazine, while the other, and equally strong faction maintains that the present covers are acceptable to them, and, as a matter of fact, first attracted them to become readers of the magazine.

The editorial goes on to note that the September 1928 issue, with its “highly dignified cover… [which] was strictly scientific and was done in good taste” was a disappointment in terms of sales, with the August and October issues selling 14% and nearly 16% better respectively, even though the September issue was given a 20% larger circulation to test out the new style of cover. So, as much as certain readers may have disliked them, the more extravagant covers won out on the newsstands:

The result as given above, reduced to percentages, proved conclusively that the public at large is not attracted by a dignified or more or less meaningless design, but on the other hand IS attracted to the newsstands by the more lurid designs, which may not be aesthetic, but which, after all, sell more magazines. […] In conclusion, until Amazing Stories reaches a net circulation of some 300,000 copies, which, at the present time, does not seem likely for some months, at least, it will be necessary to continue with the present colorful designs.

The August, September and October issues, by Frank. R. Paul, illustrating respectively The Skylark of Space (Smith), a symbol for Scientifiction and To the Moon by Proxy (Schlossel).

As it happens, a few readers are on hand to opine about the artwork. One is Harry H. Purcell:

I believe that if your covers were just a little less fantastic, you would have a much larger circulation. I have repeatedly had people, who had never seen the magazine before, take one look at the name and cover design, and immediately say, “What do you read that imaginative trash and bunkum for—what good is it?” I have even seen people on the buses look at a copy under my arm and openly give me a pitying look.

Another is 16-year-old Dick Pitts, who discusses the interior illustrations:

I’ll admit Paul cannot draw modern people very well, but when it comes to people of the future and people of some author’s imagination, I think Paul is a genius. He gives a fellow a better idea of how things really are in the story. And also his mechanical ability to draw all sorts of fantastic machinery and apparatus is incomparable. It would improve the magazine 50 per cent to have more illustrations throughout the stories, as in the Annuals and Quarterlies.

Still another is Roscor H. Sawyer, who strongly dislikes the cover art:

I’m a college instructor, in chemistry at that, and I wouldn’t dare be seen with a copy by one of my students. The flaming cover, the staring title, are too prejudicial; so much so that several of my friends have refused even to look over the pages within the cover, so thoroughly are they convinced that there can be nothing but trash to be found on them. Let us read and still retain our reputations.

Sawyer also criticises the portrayal of faster-than-light travel in The Skylark of Space, prompting the following editorial reply:

Can you tell us any way of writing interplanetary stories in which distant bodies are visited, unless the travelers are subjected to destructive acceleration? There must be some ‘‘poetic” license allowed. So if you want more of what you call “darn good stories” about interplanetary travel, you will have to overlook the acceleration question and enjoy them as much as you seem to have enjoyed the “Skylark of Space.”

C. N. Cook complains that the September issue (the one with the highly dignified cover) “had some rather obvious scientific mistakes in it that even a poor scientist like myself could perceive.” Again, he comes around to faster-than-light travel in The Skylark of Space:

The length of a body in motion is equal to the square root of its length at rest, minus the square of its velocity divided by the square of the velocity of light. According to this our adventurers would not only be several hundred feet tall, but they would also be turned inside out, hearts on the wrong side of their chests, thumbs on the wrong side of their hands and etc., which I imagine would be very uncomfortable. The Skylark itself I have no reason to doubt would also be rather distended. […] at the comparatively small speed of seven miles a second, there would be a weight of approximately fifty tons, on the human body; and imagine the pressure at more than a billion miles a second. It is no wonder that the various characters fainted away.

The editorial response pleads that “considerable latitude must be allowed to a writer of interplanetary stories” before arguing that the science in Skylark is not so far off anyway:

Speed in itself has no effect upon weight; it is change of speed or acceleration which changes weight. The trouble with the Skylark would be to get up to the high speed which it is supposed to have attained without too rapid an acceleration. Mere speed would not trouble its inmates. You, dear reader, travel 65,000 miles per hour, which is the speed of our earth as it travels along in its orbit.

The magazine’s defence of high-flying fantasy is echoed by a letter from P. H. Ecclestone:

The letters of certain people in the ”Discussions” columns remind me of a funny story 1 once heard. An old sailor was telling yarns, “the most exciting time I had,” he said, “was in the South Seas. It was very hot and I stripped and dived overboard. Suddenly I saw a huge shark coming at me, and, whipping out my knife, I stabbed him until he was dead.” “But,” said one of his audience, “how could you get your knife out when you were stripped?” “It’s not a yarn you want, it’s a blooming argument,” was the answer. If one looks, one can pick out many faults (or so called faults), but the authors are only human, and therefore imperfect.

R. A. Eades remarks on the distinction between stories that are amazing, and those that are merely impossible:

As I read a story from your magazine. I expect it to he amazing, but if on reading I come across impossibilities one after the other, the story just becomes a piece of writing at which I smile, with a feeling of disdain.

After making the common complaint that H. G. Wells’ Invisible Man would have been blind, the letter makes the unusual move of tying this detail to the grandfather paradox: “the grandson shoots the grandfather, incidentally committing suicide; therefore being unable to build a time machine. Therefore—the time traveler must he invisible. If he is invisible, by the same reasoning as that of the ‘Invisible Man’ he must be blind.” The letter also derides how the magazine has treated other dimensions:

Such stories as “Below the Infra-Red” and “The Blue Dimension” have a very weak base on which to stand. They not only take matter to consist of vibrations—which is unlikely—but they mix these vibrations up with light vibrations. What has the Infra-Red (which is light) got to do with the vibrations constituting matter? If there is such a thing as a blue dimension, what color is ours? When we take photographs with plates sensitive to infra-red rays, do we see pictures of giants on another “plane?”

S. E. Davis also comments on the fourth dimension:

Suppose, by some means this cube was whisked in, getting on the table and whisked out in one millionth of a second. Could you see it? So, it, the cube, has to remain on the table for a duration of time before you could see it. Anything has to have three dimensions and endure for a space of time. Whatever the size or description of an object, it has to be there for an instant or a million years, Have we not a “fourth dimension” here?

A number of letters in past issues objected to Amazing’s occasional detective stories, but this month we meet a reader who may well have approved of such material, William P. Keller: “I am a private investigator by profession and my work takes me to all parts of the world, but you can bet your last dollar that Amazing Stories is always with me, no matter where I am or what I am doing.”

William P. Keller should not be confused with regular Amazing contributor David H. Keller, who is the subject of a letter from Gerald Adams:

In the summer edition of the 1928 Quarterly, I find a group of stories written by a David H. Keller, M.D., which utterly offends my sense of decency and which are totally out of place in your magazine. There is a possibility that “David H. Keller, M.D.” is a great author, but those stories belie him the title. He has chosen a subject delicate at the best, and by his harsh and ofttimes brutal treatment of it, has built up a picture so repulsive as to be propagandatory.

Needless to say, a story built up on race feeling, and of such an agitative nature can have no place in a magazine devoted to science, a science of fiction, but science just the same; the incidental science contained is of no concern in such a story. If so, then behold the spectacle of science—sticking out its tongue and calling names—of wisdom—dabbling in gutter mud!

The stories in question are those that made up the four-part narrative “The Menace”, about an evil cabal of black criminal masterminds seeking to subjugate the white race; the story ends with all black people in America being either deported or placed in suspended animation. “We are quite certain that Dr. Keller had no race prejudice in mind when he wrote the stories”, runs the editorial response to this letter.

C. S. Stanworth discusses Einstein’s theory of relativity, also commenting on the life-forms depicted by the magazine: “Many of your authors seek the grotesque by using an insect or other forms for their new people, but as the interest of their tale is in the social or scientific development of the new world they portray, why use other than the human for the physical body?”

Oliver L. Davis objects to the magazine’s quality of paper: “I possess all the numbers of this magazine which have been issued and I find that the paper used is beginning to deteriorate badly in the first issues. This is a real loss to me as I wish to keep them all.”

Finally, Alanson Gray sends in a news clipping about a seven-month-old child with the ability to speak, which the reader connects to David H. Keller’s “Unlocking the Past”.

And so ends the Hugo Gernsback era of Amazing Stories.

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