Science Fiction Studies

#36 = Volume 12, Part 2 = July 1985


NOTES AND CORRESPONDENCE

On Nils Frome and Blish, Lovecraft, et al.

I was particularly attracted to David Ketterer's review of Years of Light: A Celebration of Leslie A. Croutch in the March 1985 issue of SFS. Years of Light is an utterly unique project. It is a full-size professionally edited book on an SF fan well known during his period of activity among active scientifictionists, but not considered a major figure in North American random at his peak of achievement. He doesn't rate a single line in Peter Nicholls' Science Fiction Encyclopedia; and previous to Years of Light, 14 1/2 lines and a photo in Harry Warner's All Our Yesterdays was the most extensive background available on him in a general reference. Yet John Robert Colombo could not have given him greater VIP treatment if he were H.G. Wells or Olaf Stapledon. In the process, he has reaffirmed the fact that few lives are unimportant.               

Croutch serves as a pivot for the most comprehensive data published to date on Canadian SF, a good percentage of which was previously available only to those willing to do original research. The reviewer, Ketterer, finds material in Colombo's book about an earlier Canadian fan, Nils Helmer Frome, who was influential on James Blish, an author Ketterer happens to be engaged in researching at the moment.                

(The long review of Years of Light [though long overdue] is justified by the fact that SFS does have some obligation to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, from which it receives financial assistance. This is also to be interpreted as an obligation to search out and publish relevant material about Canadian SF history, even if the subject does not rear large on an international scale.)                

First, has Ketterer made the most basic effort to check out Frome, something as simple as checking the index in my book The Immortal Storm, A History of Science Fiction Random? I don't believe he has, for there is reference there to the use of Nils H. Frome's name by Blish which he is obviously unaware of. I also give an outline of Blish's fan career during the period the book covers: this involves his publishing and writing history, and would undoubtedly be useful to anyone evaluating the influence of early interests on Blish's more mature writing.                

By way of getting to the Frome-Blish connection (etc.), let me point out that there was a direct relationship between Croutch and Frome. The February 1942 issue of Light (eight pages, letter-sized, poorly hektographed) had a cover by Frome of a handsomely gowned woman done in a bluish green that either has faded with time or never properly "took." The April 1942 issue consisted of 14 mimeographed letter-sized pages with a cover by Frome featuring four women against an alien landscape. (The art was done on stencil.)                

Our story begins with the Science Fiction Advancement Association, organized in early 1936 by C. Hamilton Bloomer, Jr, a man believed to be a wine chemist with an interest in SF. It began to publish an official organ titled Tesseract in March of 1936, and in its second issue (Apr. 1936), it ran a short story by "Jim Blish," "Jungle of the Microcosm," about a man frightened by a group of horrifying monsters which prove to be Rotifers, paramecium in a bacterial culture. The idea is very similar to Edgar Allan Poe's "The Sphinx," which had been reprinted by Amazing Stories (July 1926), if Blish had not read it in one of Poe's collections. Even closer, The Inferiority Complex by Miles J. Breuer, M.D. (Amazing, Sept. 1930) had as its theme a laboratory man who believes he is surrounded by gigantic bacteria, including paramecia.

Of special interest is a two-part piece, "Notes on Writing Science Fiction" by Nils H. Frome, "Canadian Author," "Adapted by km Blish." This ran in two installments in the May and June 1936 issues of Tesseract. Blish, according to Frome, deliberately created in it the false impression that Frome himself was a professional author by supplying the build-up which ran: "Nils Helmer Frome is the author of `Strange Adventure,' `The Forgotten Invention,' `Living Shadows,' etc. He is also an artist." The piece  was completely written by Blish, unbeknown to Frome; and the transparent camouflage can be compared to Blish's writing under the name of William Athling many years later.                

Frome sometimes signed his drawings "Niles" Frome, but his real name was Nils. However, his last name had originally been "From" without the "e." He was born in June or July, 1918 (under the sign of Cancer). When I began corresponding with him in 1937, he was 19. He described himself as "blond, six foot two inches tall, 143 pounds—a characteristic nordic. I'm Swedish, and part Norwegian, but I think in English. Like drawing girls. Like movies, Jean Rogers and Nan Gray, tap dancing, singing. Don't step out for the main reason I don't have the money—having no job. Have not many friends and no pals. Have movie aspirations." His great ambition was to emigrate to the US. At least once he illegally tried to cross the border, but was caught and turned back. Hollywood was his big lure, but in 1939 he was hopeful of coming to New York to live with an aunt—apparently that did not mature.                

Frome collaborated with Jim Blish on "Empty City," which was rejected by Astounding Stories. A second collaboration, "Spacecast," was still making the rounds in 1937. At that period, Blish was 15 years of age and living at 91 Halstead Street, East Orange, NJ. That address was an old brick apartment house that appeared to have been built around the turn of the century. Blish was living in a first floor front apartment. It tended towards shabbiness. Blish himself was very small and slender for his age (he never got much bigger) and had an oriental cast to his features that strongly hinted that there had been at some time in the past Asian blood in his family. The slightness of his build was also more characteristically Asian than Caucasian. There also seemed the slightest trace of yellow tinting to his skin, even at that early age.                

During that period I ran a non-profit manuscript bureau supplying fiction, poetry, and articles to fan magazines. The big problem at that time was getting material to fill a magazine—any kind of material. Frome was among those who supplied me with material, which I placed in my own magazine Helios, or in Scienti-Tales, published by John Giunta, Cosmic Tales, published by Louis Kuslan, Science Adventure Stories, published by Oswald Train, The Science Fiction Collector, published by John V. Baltadonis, and The Science Fiction Fan, published by Olon F. Wiggins. I placed material by other would-be fan authors as well, but Frome was the most difficult because he did not own a typewriter and all of his submissions were written in a cramped style that made Lovecraft's script look like a bad case of elephantitis. They were written on the thinnest paper possible and on both sides (to save postage—though letters were only three cents an ounce in those years) with a generous number of corrections and revisions on the same sheet. His writing style was considerably above the average of the fans of that day and his leaning was towards the Lovecraftian. It has been 45 years since my last letter to him; but I still have in my files the following unplaced stories of his (not counting those that were never published and never returned): "The Enigma of Thought," "The Cloud People," "Ghoul of Selem" (sic), and "Into the Violet Flame." It should be realized that mine are the only copies that exist: since Frome did not own a typewriter, he made no duplicates.                

(The only other author as difficult to place as Frome was Cyril Kornbluth, whose material I handled at the same time [he had not been published previously]. One of his stories, "The Coming of a God," which he gave me in 1938, I printed myself in my Fantasy Amateur Press Association magazine (Different) for October 1958. It is a quite well done piece with elements of Lovecraft, Poe, and G. Peyton Wertenbaker [The Coming of the Ice]; but no one has seen fit to reprint it.)  

Frome was head and shoulders above most fan (graphic) artists, and with a little training his work would have been of professional quality. His style was patterned after J. Clement Coll and Austin Briggs—entirely line work with some cross-hatching in the background. When he sent me the short story "Spectrum Shift" (published in the Jan.-Feb. 1938 issue of my magazine Hellos), he included a very fine drawing to illustrate it; but the drawing was double the size of my magazine and done in hektograph ink. I therefore started a series called "Fantasy Artists," with the illustration on one side and a biography of Frome on the other. I sold out my 35 copies and received many letters of praise. I then published a second, which was much superior but was not inked heavily by Frome (time has rendered it almost invisible; on the back, Frome made me print a statement saying that he never wrote or saw a word of the two articles on "Writing Science Fiction" which Blish ran under his name in Tesseract). A little of his artwork appeared in Blish's Planeteer, and a story was scheduled for a forthcoming issue which never appeared.                

Frome had a short correspondence with H.P. Lovecraft, but the letters have not all surfaced. Lovecraft sent him two stories, "Nyarlathotep" and "What the Moon Brings." The first Frome published along with a poem by Clark Ashton Smith and a short story by Duane W. Rimel, both of which Lovecraft solicited for him. James V. Taurasi eventually published "What the Moon Brings" in Cosmic Tales, Apr.-June 1941; I have Lovecraft's original manuscript of it in my files. It should not be forgotten that three of these letters—and there must have been more because none of them mentions story submissions—were published in The Science Fiction Critic (Mar. 1938), where they occupy 6 1/2 very tight pages and include a list of books on the sciences recommended by`Lovecraft. The same issue contains three short letters to Jim Blish and William H. Miller, Jr from H. R Lovecraft. It is possible that either Blish or Miller had retained some of the Frome-Lovecraft letters.                

The most unusual and substantial contribution that Frome made to establish his permanence in the pantheon of Canadian SF pioneers was the publication of two issues of Supramundane Stories. It is important that I describe them, because if I do not, no one may ever do so again—and they do have special uniqueness about them.                

Tesseract had been printed by C. Hamilton Bloomer on a Multigraph. If it is not the only fan magazine published in that manner, it is one of a very few. The Multigraph is a registered brand name of a crank-turned machine—related in certain principles to the mimeograph—which has rollers slotted to receive moveable type. The latter was, as far as I have seen, always typewriter type, for one of the primary purposes of the device was to make multiple copies of a form letter that gave the appearance—much more so than a mimeograph—that they had been individually prepared. Each slug of type had to be set by hand and it was possible to use leading that would, unlike a typewriter, produce rectified margins if desired. Because the type was moveable, each letter could have the address removed and a new one set—which still was faster than typing the entire letter and enhanced the impression that the form letter had been individually made. Type-setting on the Multigraph, however, involved painstaking effort.                

James Blish had arranged to take over Tesseract and combine it with his own Planeteer, for which he had bought a tiny hand press. For fulfilling the subscription list, Bloomer had advanced him $10.00 (the equivalent of 100 of today's dollars in the depression year of 1936). Blish only partially finished the issue (during a visit in 1937, I personally parted him from all the unfinished copies he had and sold or gave them away over the next 10 years). However, in the process of printing Blish used up the $10.00 and couldn't repay it. He was called some unpleasant names by Bloomer, had a fist fight over the matter with his friend William Miller, and cooled his friendship with Frome still further. Bloomer had to revive Tesseract; and in doing so, he decided that a mimeograph would be much easier than a Multigraph. He made some arrangement with Frome in this matter, and the Fraser Mills' Nordic now had in his possession a device calculated to provide literary immortality.                

The first issue of Supramundane Stories was originally dated October 1936; but when an inexperienced typesetter is setting text one slug at a time, it is easy for that date to come and go with the magazine still unfinished. The date was advanced to December 1936, but that proved inadequate also. One advantage of the Multigraph was that you could always slip in a few extra slugs of type; hence, the issue eventually appeared dated Dec.-Jan. 1937 on 11 of its 24 pages in black ink, overprinting (but sometimes missing) "October" in blue ink. The rest of its pages bore only "December." The magazine was quarto size, printed on 16-pound mimeograph stock. The editorial is devoted to the "inexplicable lack of truth" in Blish for implying Frome was a professional writer; "nor have I ever implied I was" an "authoritative author, as he invents so easily."               

The lead story, "Cosmic Vampire" by Lionel Dilbeck would be interesting to Colombo since it has a Canadian locale. This initially led me to believe that Frome had written it, but I subsequently found a letter from Dilbeck in the pages of Wonder Stories (Mar. 1935). Frome himself used the pen name "Vacton Wells" for another story, ran a third under his own name, as well as a poem under the pen name of "Lionel N. Dwight," and another poem by Lionel Dilbeck.                

The most important item in the issue was "Written on a Bleak Asteroid ' a poem by J. Harvey Haggard, whose stories had appeared periodically in Wonder Stories and Astounding Stories. He was also a professionally published poet, having had several poems appear under the pen name "The Planet Prince" in Wonder Stories.               

The magazine was bound by stitching it on a sewing machine, which I might add is very effective if the publication is not too thick (Claire Beck's Science Fiction Critic was bound in a similar manner). Frome left white space wherever there was supposed to be an illustration or a design, including the cover. Then he would draw in by hand an illustration or title—no two the same—throughout the publication. I once owned six copies of this magazine, all widely different. On page three of one of my copies, a space has been left and the typed columns altered to accommodate it, apparently for an illustration (which isn't there). On the other copy, Frome has inserted a blurb and lengthened the text, completely resetting the page to make room for it. On page nine he announces "Into the Violet Flame" as coming up in the second issue (supporting H.R Lovecraft). It never appeared (I have the original ms.). On page 21 of one copy, he has a rather good line drawing of an eclipse as seen from the Moon to illustrate his poem "All Cold." On the other copy he has filled the page with "Fan News" by Charles Hastings, undoubtedly a pen name of Frome's: "According to C. Hamilton Bloomer Jr of the Science Fiction Advancement Association, Jim Blish, the editor of the 'Planeteer' is richer by $8.20 at the expense of the S.F.A.A. He is supposed to have stolen it. And has been expelled. Knowing both parties it seems incredible, and Blish has handled our money before, and has acted honestly." This column contains the only information about Bloomer's background published. It says he "is a member of the U.S. National Guard, is a wine maker and awhile ago attracted the attention of government research laboratories here thru his technical articles in asbestos. He is 22; Jim Blish is 15—He is bringing out six or more mags, but finally quitting the `Planeteer.'" The incredible thing about this item is that it contains important information which appears nowhere else—and is not even to be found in every copy of the appropriate issue of Supramundane Stories!

On page 25, there is the start of "The Flaming Sword of Yucatan" by Nils H. Frome. He has left a substantial white space for an illustration, which isn't there. On my other copy, Frome has written a completely new introduction to the story, which he prints in blue ink. There are two sets of page numbers, 17 and 25, and a blurb. There is a short column on page 26 (misnumbered 22) which has some importance since it obviously was supplied to Frome by Lovecraft. The column is called "STF. Intelligence" and it opens: "Lovecraft lately worked sixty solid hours on one of his stories, a feat of endurance without sleep." (It should be easy to figure out what 1936 story that would have been.)                

Because of the self-evident problems of Supramundane Stories, and because I was in constant touch with William H. Miller, Jr, Alex Osheroff, Morris Dollens, and others who were in touch with Frome, I gave credence to the spreading rumor that Frome was discontinuing the magazine. I wrote him asking what was to become of the scheduled material by H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Duane W. Rimel, and others which I would have loved to have for Helios. "Sorry," Frome replied in a letter of 7 August 1937, "but I'm not discontinuing `Supramundane'; I recently sent a drawing for the cover to be hektographed by Bill Miller and am now typesetting another page. However, I will be glad to give you some of my own stuff." Then, he proceeded to list the contents of the second issue, which was impressive for a teen-age fan of the '30s.               

I was a searcher after truth, even then, and I asked him for the reasons for the copy-to-copy inconsistencies I had noticed in the first issue. He got right back to me. "The explanation to why the variety of illustrations," he responded in his letter of 2 December 1937, "is I got bored doing the same drawing over many, many times, almost line for line. Try it yourself. I'll bet it will get under your skin, too. The reprinting of the first and second page was necessitated by my running out of first and second pages. I printed only about 40 of them—then changed my mind and decided on 70 copies—sooo."                

Frome had some very definite ideas on what constituted good drawing and illustration. He had received the Aug.-Sept. 1937 issue of Helios, previously letter-press, now hektographed with several very poor illustrations. This prompted him to paraphrase Lovecraft's famous notes on writing interplanetary and weird fiction, substituting "illustration" for "fiction." It was in this issue that I gave him a full page to talk about his magazine. He promised to reciprocate in the second Supramundane Stories.                

That second issue was dated Spring 1938, except for the pages where it is dated Feb.-Mar. 1938. On many of the pages, there is a title change to Supramundane Stories Quarterly and some pages have two different numbers on them. The purple cover illustrating Lionel Dilbeck's "The Strange Case of William York" is well done and is hektographed, as is the inside cover with the contents. This being the case, and knowing first-hand Bill Miller's hektograph and the staying power of hektograph drawing ink, I think it is inconceivable that Frome could have made more than 50 copies of Supramundane, and it would be no surprise at all if he made as few as 35.                

The lead story was "Nyarlathotep" by H.P. Lovecraft. Though this had previously appeared in the United Amateur for Nov. 1920 and the National Amateur for July 1926, it might just as well have been a new story, given the availability of those journals. I was unable to detect any difference between this printing and the one in the 1920 United Amateur or in Beyond the Wall of Sleep (1943). The issue also contained an article by H.P. Lovecraft entitled "Notes on Weird Fiction Writing—The 'Why' and 'How.'" This is fundamentally the same article that appeared in the May-June 1937 Amateur Correspondent under the title of "Notes on Writing Weird Fiction." (I have been unable to locate a place of previous publication, though there may may well have been one; segments of the "Notes.. ." appeared in Commonplace Book, published by Futile Press, in 1938. However, there are small differences in Frome's version, plus a paragraph added on to the end of the Lovecraft essay in Supramundane Stories that does not appear in Amateur Correspondent. (The former is the text that August Derleth collected in Marginalia [Arkham House, 1944].) Willis Conover, Jr, the first editor of Amateur Correspondent (when it was called Science-Fantasy Correspondent) has no memory of having personally secured the piece, nor is it mentioned in the exchange of letters between him and Lovecraft that make up his book Lovecraft Last (Carrollton Clark, 1975). It is not impossible that Corwin F. Stickney, who succeeded Conover as editor, may have made some changes in the piece, but it is conceivable that Conover did secure it in some manner which has slipped his mind (see, however, Lovecraft's letter to Conover of 23 Sept. 1936). Why Lovecraft would have sent fundamentally the same essay to two magazines at the same time is a puzzle. Frome certainly got his copy in 1936 (Lovecraft died 15 Mar. 1937) as he was already announcing material by that author in the (first) issue of Supramundane initially dated October 1936.                

The other big item in the second issue of Supramundane was Clark Ashton Smith's 12-stanza poem "Alienation," which shows the strong influence of George Sterling and Edgar Allan Poe, but is a distinctly superior, truly weird effort. (A lot of the Smith poems in fan magazines were from his previous books, but I have not been able to find this one from checking just contents pages. There is always a possibility, however, that Smith changed the title.)                

That issue also contains J. Harvey Haggard's "The Weird of Wolf Korloff," an excellent space-ballad that is at the same time a supernatural and horror tale, and Duane W. Rimel's "The Midnight Visitor," which its author sent to Frome at Lovecraft's instigation. (Though Rimel showed considerable promise, eventually selling to Weird Tales and having several detective novels published, this particular story of his was very weak.) In addition, Frome included one of his own stories, "Blurred Worlds," under his proper name; and the circumstantial evidence is overwhelming that Darne Lovelace's "The Mystery of the Mist" was also his; for in a letter to me dated 8 July 1938, he stated: "Lovelace himself typeset that story, thinking out all but the plot as he typeset." Since Frome had said he had few friends, it seemed—and seems—unlikely that a Darne Lovelace was visiting him in Fraser Mills. The "Lionel Dilbeck" story "The Strange Case of William York" might have been his as well, and he acknowledged authorship of a short poem, "The Sylvan God" by "Herkanos." On the same page, he wrote by hand: "S.S. will be discontinued, for awhile at least. In its place will be a magazine devoted to fantasy drawings, 10 cents, Fantasy Pictorial."                

The last three editorial pages of this issue contained seven captioned drawings by Nils H. Frome. This may have been a sample of his forthcoming publication, which did finally materialize—as I can prove.... On 29 May 1938, I organized the First National Science Fiction Convention to test the feasibility of a World Convention. In order to help finance it, I sent out an appeal to fans to come up with a special fan magazine for sale at the convention. In exchange, they would receive one copy of every other magazine submitted. They were asked to produce 50 copies. 14 special convention magazines were produced, one of which was Fantasy Pictorial by Nils H. Frome. It was six pages, hektographed in purple and green' and contained seven illustrations and an untitled poem. Like other Frome publications, it was stitched on a sewing machine; we sold it for five cents.                

In the process of writing this note, I consulted four atlases, none of which records a Fraser Mills in British Columbia—or anywhere else for that matter. Yet the back of my Supramundane Stories has a "Fraser Mills" postmark, so there evidentally is (or was) such a community. (There is a Fraser River in northeast British Columbia, and there are such towns as Fraser Lake and Upper Fraser as well as a Fraser Mountain and a Fort Fraser, all along the river but 100s of miles apart. If Fraser Mills was along the Fraser River, its location was an extremely remote and lonely one.)

The last letter I have from Frome was dated 1 March 1939: it mentions titles of writings of his that he sent me which are no longer in my files; without considerable research effort, I could not even determine whom I might have sent them to. They are: "The Bell," "Prof. Kane's Mistake," "Earth's Darkest Hour," and an article "Fantasy Pipe Dreams" (this last I faintly remember as being a short filler which was published somewhere).

When Canadian fan Beak Taylor (of St Andrews College, Aurora, Ontario) launched the half-letter-sized fan magazine 8-Ball with its February 1943 issue, the lead story in this hektographed publication, "The Box ' was by Nils Frome. It told of a housewife who receives in the mail a little black box that carries her off to other universes. The writing would have been good for a fan of the 1930s, but already it was too weak for the '40s, when the average fan was in his 20s, not in his teens. In the second issue, which was mimeographed and letter-sized, editor Taylor reported that the Frome story had been very poorly received. With the fourth (May 1943) issue, the title of the magazine was changed to Canadian Fandom, which would eventually become the leading fan magazine in Canada and also highly respected in the US.                

For the cover of the August 1944 issue, Frome did the artwork, depicting a handsome satanic face and nine naked women with butterfly wings gazing up at him. The drawing, approaching professional quality, was photo offset. He had also his first stenciled drawing for an anonymous poem, which may have been written by him: "What Time Hath Wrought."                

He again did the cover for the February 1945 Canadian Fandom: on it, a gigantic humanoid holds an earthmen in the palm of his hand, while the earthmen and a companion are firing rifles at him. His previous cover received mixed reviews, ranging from praise to condemnation. This second cover was welcomed by most letter writers, and the editor remarked that Frome had offered to do more. (It is important to note that a list of fans in the army overseas was published and Frome was not one of them.)                

The October 1945 issue had a Frome cover of a naked man riding a winged horse over New York City. It displays excellent balance and design, but falls a little short of professional standards. He also effectively used the stencil to show an exaggerated self-portrait in an interior illustration for his own "The Mirror ' a story in which a man, without realizing it, sees his death mirrored long before it occurs. Another superior fan artist of the period, Al Betts, highly praised this illustration of Frome's as did most other readers. His story ranked high in popularity also (it was reprinted in the 15th anniversary issue of Canadian Fandom).

For the cover of the July 1947 issue, Taylor took four Frome illustrations andarranged them in a montage with a poem by the artist at their center which seems to relate them. The September 1947 issue carried high praise for it. (It also contained a letter from Nils H. Frome, Camp 5, Bloedel, British Columbia—which seems to indicate he was then in the army. [Bloedel, on the east shore of Vancouver Island, is 150-250 miles northwest of Vancouver].)                

Some years past I heard rumors that Frome had died, but I have had no confirmation of this from any reliable source. When Frome corresponded with me, his greatest ambition in life was to get a good job, get married, and raise a family. Maybe that is just what happened to him.                

He was certainly a pioneer in Canadian random. Compared to other fans, he had an aptitude for writing fiction, but it never matured. His artwork was approaching professional quality; and he might, with practice, have achieved it. His taste in editorial material was in the right direction; and the second issue of Supramundane Stories (Quarterly), at least, would be a collector's item if more people knew about it or could find it. He was floundering, mostly because he was out in the middle of nowhere. He was generous of himself, and the lack of a typewriter in his early years hurt him gravely as far as getting more placements and recognition. Perhaps now that we are alert, we will find the rest of his story. Let us hope it is a happy one.               

Frome's activities shed light on other figures in the SF and fantasy field. He is unquestionably another link in the life of the late H.P. Lovecraft, and more of their correspondence may surface. His relationship with James Blish is of definite interest, not all favorable to Blish. There are also letters and other personal connections with Clark Ashton Smith.This raises the question of who is important and what is important. Was it importent to save Lovecraft material when he was grateful to get a story, article, or poem published in a 35-copy "print-run" fanzine produced by a teen-ager who couldn't even spell? A lot of us thought so. Was it important to save Ray Bradbury when he was writing for fan magazines in "fonetic" English, producing his own fanzine Futuria Fantasia, and writing material so bad that other fanzines rejected it—when he was writing material so bad that he did not hesitate to destroy a million words of it? Hardly anyone thought so. (It might be of interest that the Nov. 1941 issue of Light reprinted from Snide #2 [compiled by Damon Knight] a brief story by Ray Bradbury never published since: "A Tale of a Mangledomvritch.")                

If you are a scholar you may find it desirable to save everything related to your specialty. Someone refers to Nils Frome and you pull 48-year-old letters from the file, grateful that someone gave you a justification for saving them before you qualified for your great reward beyond social security. -- Sam Moskowitz. Newark, NJ
                                                                                                                                                                                  

Grateful as I am for the information that Sam Moskowitz provides, I must protest his assumption that I did not familiarize myself with the contents of his The Immortal Storm: A History of Canadian Random in researching the life and work of James Blish. If he should care to check my article "`Imprisoned in a Tesseract': Black Easter and The Day After Judgment by James Blish" (Missouri Review, 7 [19841 :243-63), he will discover that endnote 26 specifies five different (sets of) page references to The Immortal Storm in regard to information about the fanzine Tesseract. I have also made full use of the data provided in Moskowitz's book about Blish's fan career and his relationship with Frome in my just-completed study of Blish, Imprisoned in a Tesseract. It did not seem appropriate to rehearse Moskowitz's account of Frome in the context of my review-essay.                

I might also point out that there is unfortunately nothing in The Immortal Storm or in Moskowitz's remarks above that enables us to answer with certainty the big question: What became of Frome? As for the location of Fraser Mills (Frome's home town), Moskowitz's four atlases may omit it, but my Reader's Digest Great World Atlas (1963) places it at the eastern outskirts of Vancouver, near New Westminster, on the south bank of the Fraser River. -- David Ketterer, Concordia University

 

Ruddick on Rama: An Amplification              

Further mythological reference can be cited to amplify Nicholas Ruddick's interpretation of Rendezvous With Rama in SFS No. 35. Clarke also uses the myth of Icarus in this novel to turn the world of myth itself inside out.                

Not only is Jimmy Pak obviously a figure for Icarus, but the entire alien space probe also challenges the Sun according to the ancient pattern. Both Pak and Rama as a whole survive their flights, even thrive, unlike the fate of Icarus. This reversal seems to endorse a scientific, as opposed to a mythological, attitude towards truth and authority. They need to be tested even at the risk of melting wax, loss of face, failure, and death. The meeting of Human and Raman (the Egyptian pantheon also evoked, perhaps unconsciously) celebrates the emergence of humankind from the haze of mythological shadows into the sunlight of methodological science.                

The "gloom" remarked by Ruddick at the end of Rama may be actually in the nature of a postpartum depression. After all, the party of paranoid anthropocentrism, the Hermians, has been defeated, or at least thwarted. Humankind seems to have given birth to its own participation in the cosmic fraternity of expanding consciousness. Without waxing absolutely metaphysical, such a vision of open horizons can be appreciated. -- Steven Lehman, JohnAbbottCollege, Montreal

 

News from Various Quarters

Members of the Modern Language Association's Literature and Science Division have carried their plan to launch an interdisciplinary Society for Literature and Science to the point of electing its of ricers. The Society's President will be Lance Schacterle (Worcester Polytech); its Bibliographer, Walter Schatzberg (Clark); Publications Officer, Stuart Peterfreund (Northeastern); and Secretary-Treasurer, Carol Donley (Hiram). The formal inauguration of the Society will take place at the "International Conference of History of Science" to be held at the Berkeley campus of the University of California, August 1-8, 1985. (That Conference will include at least one session on SF, chaired by Professor George Guffey.) Those wishing to receive the new Society's newsletter should presumably write to Professor Peterfreund/English Dept./Northeastern Univ./ Boston, MA 02115.               

The Literature and Science Division is also sponsoring a session on Marxism and SF at the MLA's annual meeting in Chicago at the end of December. The scheduled participants include Samuel R. Delany, John Fekete, Bruce Franklin, and Carl Freedman.

Contributors are being sought for a Reader's Companion to Twentieth Century SF, which will contain "biographies of major sf authors and plot summaries of their major works." Those interested in participating in this project should send a vita to: Marilyn P. Fletcher/The Library/Univ. of New Mexico/Albuquerque, NM 87131.

Issue No. 26 of Imagine. . . contains three short stories, one each by Mercedes Nowak, Gilles Serdan, and Jacques Boireau. It also reprints an eight-chapter novella by Louis Champagne, "Les Hommes sphériques," originally published in 1949.—RMP, Line Maurel


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