Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Long Time Ago . . .

(I wrote this article for my blog Indiana Illustrators and Hoosier Cartoonists and have posted it here for today's anniversary.)

Today's entry is eccentric. In its spinning and turning, it will catch a renowned artist, poet, and critic; a pop singer who cast herself as a witch; an actress who played a princess; two worldwide pop-cultural phenomena; a song about dreams; and the dreams themselves of countless young people--dreams of quest and conflict and a chance at becoming a hero in a battle that never ends. Among those who dream and who have dreamed were four boys who, on a day forty years ago, sat in a darkened theater in Indianapolis, eagerly awaiting the start of a movie that would prove unlike any before it, even if it was drawn from tales as old as storytelling. My older brother had seen the movie before. My younger brother, his friend Tom, and I had not, but we were excited in a way that only children can be excited to see a movie about which we had heard so much. Not long before that day at the Eastwood--a theater now laid low by the passage of time--the movie had opened across the country and had almost instantly become a sensation beyond any moviegoing experience before it. Nothing before and nothing after--not even Jaws from two summers before--would match what it became in the year and more following its release. It has since grown into a franchise, moreover, a worldwide phenomenon. The movie was of course Star Wars. It came out forty years ago today, on May 25, 1977.

Strange details stick in your head. I remember that as we waited to see Star Wars, a song played in the theater. (Those were the days before commercials were shown before the movie begins.) The song was "Dreams," by Fleetwood Mac, from the album Rumours. I didn't know it at the time, but Rumours was released on February 4, 1977, not long before Star Wars came out. It was a sensation, too, and became one of the biggest-selling albums of all time. "Dreams" reached number one on the pop-music charts on June 18, 1977, probably around the time the four of us went to see Star Wars. (Our seeing it was an early birthday present from my parents to my younger brother.) Another thing I probably didn't know at the time: "Dreams" was sung by Stevie Nicks.

Now comes the strange part--strange, then somewhat plausible, at least in my view. The heroine of Star Wars was of course Princess Leia, played by Carrie Fisher, who was only nineteen years old when filming began on Star Wars in March 1976--nineteen and completely convincing not only as a princess but also as an interstellar senator. Although she had been in movies before, Carrie Fisher became a household name with Star Wars. Millions mourned her death this past year. She was loved as few people in popular culture are truly loved. Stevie Nicks is also loved that way, by millions the world over. She who sang "Dreams" for us has, strangely enough, been named as a possible replacement for Carrie Fisher. This isn't just some lone fanboy's dream: it's actually a thing on the Internet. As soon as I heard about it, I thought That might actually work. Whereas some people seem to be saying that Stevie Nicks should just be a stand-in or a body double for Carrie Fisher, I think she could actually be Princess Leia. No one I can think of could fill the role, but Stevie is loved like Carrie was loved, and she has a similar stature, not just physically but also in pop-cultural terms. The pop culture of the 1970s is falling into pieces with age as all things do--sadly, neither Linda Ronstadt nor Steve Perry can sing anymore--but if you want to hold it up for at least a little longer, I say Why not? If she can act and if the deal can be swung, why shouldn't we have someone new in Stevie Nicks to play the forty-year-old part of Princess Leia? I realize that it's only a fantasy--a dream--to think that way, but what else is all of this but a dream and a fantasy?


So what does any of this have to do with Indiana and its artists? Well, as any Star Wars fan ought to know, Ralph McQuarrie (1929-2012), the conceptual artist behind the film and the franchise, was born in Gary, Indiana. He worked with director and screenwriter George Lucas as early as the spring of 1975, two years before the movie was released. He would go on to work on other films in the series. I would like to go beyond Ralph McQuarrie, though, and write about another Indiana artist who had nothing (or almost nothing) to do with Star Wars but by the turns of an eccentric idea can be caught in a discussion of the movie and its related phenomena.

A painting by Indiana illustrator Ralph McQuarrie for The Empire Strikes Back (1980). 

Kenneth Rexroth was born on December 22, 1905, in South Bend, Indiana. A home-schooled prodigy, then a teenaged orphan, he moved to Chicago to live with his aunt around 1919 or so. Although he is now known as a poet and critic, Rexroth studied at the Art Institute of Chicago in his youth. I would be surprised to find that any of his artwork survives. On the other hand, maybe there are drawings by Kenneth Rexroth hiding among his papers, wherever they might be housed.

Rexroth had a varied career as a traveler, friend, husband, lover, critic, essayist, poet, author, translator, activist, and associate of many famous people, including Beat Poets and other literary figures in San Francisco. You can read about him on the Internet and in those ancient artifacts known as "books." I'll note only that Kenneth Rexroth died in Santa Barbara, California, on June 6, 1982, at age seventy-six.

"Dorothy," a portrait by Andrée Dutcher (1902-1940), first wife of Kenneth Rexroth. 

Now comes a part about which I'm not sure, followed by some thoughts that I hope will stand on their own, even if I'm wrong about this connection to Kenneth Rexroth. And here is that connection, if it really is a connection: a long time ago, I read that there are only two kinds of stories, namely, the Iliad and the Odyssey. I think the quote was attributed to Kenneth Rexroth, but I can't be sure. As happens too often, when you lose a quote, it's hard to find again, even in this age of the Internet. But I have kept that thought in my head and have applied it to the analysis of books and movies over the years. It seems to hold up pretty well. Boiled down even further, the idea is that every story is either of a conflict--the Iliad--or of a quest or journey--the Odyssey. I would like to look into that idea in relation to two high-powered, pop-cultural franchises.

The cover (altered, I believe) of Poetry Readings in the Cellar (Fantasy, 1958), a spoken-word record with Kenneth Rexroth and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. I wrote that there is no connection between Rexroth and Star Wars. Well, that's if you stop too soon. If you don't stop too soon, you'll learn that Lawrence Ferlinghetti (b. 1919) was friends with Erik Bauersfeld (1922-2016), voice of Admiral Ackbar and Bib Fortuna in the Star Wars movies.

Before Star Wars, there was Star Trek. Since the former came out in 1977, the two have lived side by side. One is fantasy. It appeals or is meant to appeal especially to children. The other is science fiction, though not always of the highest order. It appeals to children but also to adults, as the best entertainment of the 1960s and '70s did. I'm sure there is some overlap in the fandom associated with each, but the stereotype is that there are just two kinds of people: Star Wars fans and Star Trek fans. I'm not sure what these fans think of each other. If you fall back on stereotypes, you might say that Star Wars fans think that Star Trek is boring and that Star Trek fans think Star Wars is childish and one-dimensional. But those are stereotypes. Anyway, consider their titles: Star Wars. Star Trek. Take away the word Star and you're left with what? Wars--a conflict, the story told in the Iliad. Trek--a quest or journey, the story told in the Odyssey. There are wars in Star Trek and quests in Star Wars, but each is essentially of its own type. (With that in mind, might Princess Leia be Helen of Troy, with the Millennium Falcon as the Trojan Horse and the Death Star as the fortress city of Troy itself?) 

So just by their titles, these two franchises bear out the idea I have attributed here to Kenneth Rexroth. If there are only two kinds of stories, each must cover a lot of ground. The possibilities for storytelling would seem vast. However, there are limits in each. War eventually ceases. The journey finally reaches its end. Wars and journeys without end can only mean misery and despair. So what does that mean for a pop-cultural franchise? I saw part of the results in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015). The moviemakers seem to have been recreating Star Wars for a new generation. That's fine. Star Wars is after all a story for children. Why shouldn't children now have the same chance we had--we four and millions more like us--in 1977 for an exciting fantasy of rushing from one star system to another towards a climactic battle against an evil empire?

But there's a crack in the Star Wars story. I say it as a fan, but there's a crack, for iStar Wars, there must always be an Empire and there must always be a Rebellion. The Empire can never at last be defeated, and the Rebellion must always be the underdog, even when it attains power. The Star Wars universe is vast and the possibilities for storytelling are theoretically endless, but the main action in every movie is the same: Imperial forces against Rebels, Sith against Jedi, the Dark Side against the Force. Without that conflict, Star Wars may well amount to nothing. So the war goes on, movie after movie, decade after decade, all with variations on a simple theme: the Empire or its equivalent always builds a big, impenetrable fortress and the Rebels or their equivalents always penetrate it and destroy it, often with what is seemingly the most powerful weapon in the universe, the X-wing fighter. Maybe Star Wars: The Force Awakens recapitulated the original trilogy not so much for a new generation of moviegoers but because it's the only story that can be told in the Star Wars universe. An entire universe and only one story to tell. And maybe Darth Vader returned in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) because of a further limitation: maybe only he makes a truly compelling villain and a suitable embodiment of the spirit of the Empire. One thing is for sure: he beats the heck out of his weak little tantrum-throwing emo grandson.

In Star Trek, on the other hand, there are always new horizons of outer space where no man has gone before. Storytelling in the Star Trek universe is far less limited than in the Star Wars universe if only because it isn't framed and delineated by war, which has, significantly, a classic narrative structure. There is always a Federation and the starships of the Federation, but beyond that, only the writer's imagination places bounds upon what stories might be told. Star Trek, as Kenneth Rexroth wrote of the Odyssey, "is a collection of adventures, of little melodramas." There are limitations even here, though. One is that in the Star Trek universe, there isn't the classic narrative structure as in a story of war. The story just goes on and on, with all parts being equal to all other parts. There isn't any growth or development in the characters. They simply live out their lives in stasis, returned at the beginning of each episode to where they were at the beginning of the last episode, despite anything that might have happened in between. Captain Kirk might have great adventures, but he doesn't grow. Luke Skywalker, on the other hand, might grow (in addition to being a story of conflict, Star Wars can be considered a Bildungsroman), but he can never have peace in a universe that must always be at war. Maybe that explains his retreat to a monastery on top of a rocky island off the coast of Ireland where he will forever look at Rey and she will forever hold out to him his lightsaber. At least it seemed like forever at the movie theater.

So which limitation is worse? I can't say. A better way might be to look at possibilities rather than limitations. Star Wars and Star Trek have both told great stories. When they have not told great stories, it hasn't been because of the limitations of their respective types. And I would say that neither franchise has reached the bounds of possibility. There are still more stories to tell, and it's nice to think that forty years from now there will still be excited children waiting in the dark, waiting for the words Space: the final frontier . . . or A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . .

Copyright 2017 Terence E. Hanley
Happy 60th Wedding Anniversary to My Parents!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Skilled Destroyers

It becomes more and more plain to me that genre fiction in America is descended mostly from conservative writers--not conservative in the contemporary political sense, but in an older, non-political or even anti-political sense. One exception among the various genres might be science fiction, which tends to be, in its purest or original forms, progressive, forward-looking, and optimistic. But then you could make a case that Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) was a founder of science fiction in America (maybe the founder), and Poe was no liberal or progressive.

In reading Poe and reading about Poe recently, I came across the following quote again, from Conservatism: From John Adams to Churchill by Peter Viereck (D. Van Nostrand Company, 1956, pp. 102-103):
Cultural Conservatives: Melville, Hawthorne. But, although a narrowly political conservatism in America may today require such a business élite [discussed in the previous section], conservatism need not be political at all. Instead, its characteristic American form may be a lonely soul-searching by American artists to transcend what Melville called "the impieties of progress." (1) Many of America's greatest literary figures have been cultural conservatives in their anti-optimism, their qualms about external reforms--for example, James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851), Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864), Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), Herman Melville (1819-1891), Henry James (1843-1916), [and] William Faulkner (1897-    ). Hyatt Waggoner's Hawthorne, 1955, represents the latest research of those scholars who see the real American cultural tradition as a conservative "tragic sense," affirming Original Sin and rejecting liberal illusions about progress and human nature. These liberal illusions, concludes Waggoner, "were useless for any artist who would not wilfully [sic] blind himself to the existence of tragedy. . . . The 'evolutionary optimism' of . . . nineteenth-century liberalism was affronted by anyone who concerned himself with the 'deeper psychology.'" [. . . .] The ideal inspiring America's cultural conservatives has been best expressed by a little-known quatrain of Melville:
.                    "Not magnitude, not lavishness,
                     But Form--the site;
                     Not innovating wilfulness, 
                     But reverence for the Archetype." (2)

My own notes:
(1) The quote is from Melville's epic Clarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land (1876), from Canto 21, "Ungar and Rolfe." In its original, the phrase is:
The impieties of "Progress" . . .
(2) That quatrain is the poem "Greek Architecture" in its entirety.

If you read a little more of "Ungar and Rolfe," you will find the following lines of dialogue. Ungar, a Catholic and a believer, speaks first. He is questioned by the more skeptical Rolfe, who is Protestant:


"True heart do ye bear

In this discussion? or but trim
To draw my monomania out,
For monomania, past doubt,
Some of ye deem it. Yet I'll on.
Yours seems a reasonable tone;
But in the New World things make haste:
Not only men, the state lives fast--
Fast breeds the pregnant eggs and shells,
The slumberous combustibles
Sure to explode. 'Twill come, 'twill come!
One demagogue can trouble much:
How of a hundred thousand such?
And universal suffrage lent
To back them with brute element
Overwhelming? What shall bind these seas
Of rival sharp communities
Unchristianized? Yea, but 'twill come!"
"What come? "
"Your Thirty Years (of) War."
"Should fortune's favorable star
Avert it?"
"Fortune? nay, 'tis doom."
"Then what comes after? spasms but tend
Ever, at last, to quiet."
"Know,
Whatever happen in the end,
Be sure 'twill yield to one and all
New confirmation of the fall
Of Adam. Sequel may ensue,
Indeed, whose germs one now may view:
Myriads playing pygmy parts--
Debased into equality:
In glut of all material arts
A civic barbarism may be:
Man disennobled--brutalized
By popular science--Atheized
Into a smatterer--"
"Oh, oh!"
"Yet knowing all self need to know
In self's base little fallacy;
Dead level of rank commonplace:
An Anglo-Saxon China, see,
May on your vast plains shame the race
In the Dark Ages of Democracy."
America!

I have written before--or maybe I have just passed on the observation--that conservatives, though their eyes be directed on the past, are far better at predictions and prognostications than are liberals with their "illusions about progress and human nature." (See what happens when you read classic literature? You start using the subjunctive mood.) Look what Melville foresaw and look what we have now as night falls on the Dark Ages of Democracy: A fast-breeding state . . . a hundred thousand demagogues leading rival sharp communities . . . a civic barbarism of men, myriads of them playing their pygmy parts, all existing at a dead level of rank commonplace . . . unchristianized, disennobled, brutalized by popular science, atheized, debased into equality, yet each knowing all the self need know in self's base little fallacy. And though we don't yet have war, there are at least rumors of war among us. And all of it new confirmation of the fall of Adam, as if we needed any further evidence that we are indeed fallen.


In reading further in Viereck's book, I came on a section on George Santayana (1863-1952) and liberalism:

In Dominations and Powers, 1951, Santayana pointed out the paradoxical consequences of idealistic nineteenth-century liberalism: it either ended in twentieth-century anarchy or, to avoid anarchy, imposed its will on an unliberal world. But by imposing its will, it ceased to be liberal, became despotic. Because of these equally deadly alternatives, Santayana pronounced the history of liberalism "virtually closed." (p. 105)
I have written before, too, about these two alternatives, anarchy (or chaos, or, alternatively, apocalypse) and despotism (or tyranny, or, alternatively, dystopia). In drawing further distinctions, I think you could say that anarchy and despotism are real-world conditions, while apocalypse and dystopia are more nearly fantasies. And because they are fantasies of the future, apocalypse and dystopia can be considered science fiction, and it is within that genre that stories of this kind ordinarily reside.

It occurs to me now that both apocalypse and dystopia are outgrowths of a Christian worldview. Apocalypse is of course another name for the biblical Book of Revelation, which describes, by some interpretations, Christian end times. That's easy enough. Dystopia is a little tougher, but once you realize that Utopia is Dystopia, and that Utopia is simply either a Heaven or a Garden of Eden on Earth (both are called Paradise), then you can see that Dystopia is just another variation on what seems to me a Christian notion that time is an arrow rather than a circle and that it is flying fast and straight, inexorably towards the Millennium. In other words, history is a chronicle of progress, with the benighted pre-Christian era in the past and a glorious Millennial future awaiting us. Science fiction may be an outgrowth of a secular age of reason, but would it have been possible without the Christian concept of progress and of a looking forward to a glorious (and earthly) future?


* * *

I know I have written a lot here, but I can't pass up the opportunity to quote George Santayana at length. Again, from Conservatism, pp. 183-184, originally in Dominations and Powers (1951):
The hope of a profound peace was one of the chief motives in the liberal movement. The traditional order, which was pregnant with all sorts of wars, civil, foreign, religious, and domestic, was to be relaxed precisely for the sake of peace. . . . When we have conceded everything that anybody clamors for, everyone will be satisfied. . . . Swimming in the holiday pond of a universal tolerance, we may confidently call our souls our own. . . . So, all grievances being righted and everyone quite free, we hoped in the nineteenth century to remain for ever in unchallengeable enjoyment of our private property, our private religions, and our private morals.
But there was a canker in this rose. The dearest friend and ally of the liberal was the reformer; perhaps even in his own inmost self was a prepotent Will, not by any means content with being let alone, but aspiring to dominate everything. Why were all those traditional constraints so irksome? Why were all those old ideas so ridiculous? Because I had a Will of my own to satisfy and an opinion of my own to proclaim. Relaxing the order of society, so as to allow me to live, is by no means enough, if the old absurdities and the old institutions continue to flourish. . . . No pond is large enough for this celestial swan . . . no scurry into backwaters will save the ducks and geese from annihilation. How should I live safe or happy in the midst of such creatures? . . . [Hence] the price of peace, as men are actually constituted, is the suppression of almost all liberties. The history of liberalism, now virtually closed, illustrates this paradox.
Again, a conservative writer and thinker foresaw the future, the future in which we now live, and one in which the liberal reformer, possessed of a "prepotent will," seeks not only to live free from traditional constraints but also to destroy traditional order and traditional institutions because he finds their continued existence so intolerable. There is peace in Dystopia and no freedom.
If Santayana was wrong about anything in the quote above, it may be that the history of liberalism is not yet closed. We see that every day, every time one among Melville's myriads playing his pygmy part throws a rock through the window of a person whose rights or property he covets . . . shoots pepper spray into the eyes of the woman who opposes his ideas . . . sets fire to a car or building at a protest against violence and hatred . . . silences by force the speaker with whom he disagrees . . . requires someone to labor for him under threat of legal penalty . . . revolts at any perceived contraction of the power of the State . . . and on and on. I suspect that the history of liberalism may never be closed, as liberalism as a state of mind is just one more bit of confirmation of the fall of Adam. If we exist in a fallen state, then we will continue to aspire to godhood and to order the universe in accordance with our own dark whims and desires. There will always be within each of us a skilled destroyer and a ruthless tyrant.

So that brings me back to Poe as a founder of genres of fiction. (I just finished reading The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, which is, in its final sequences, first, a story of Lost Worlds, then, a strange and mysterious dream-vision or apocalyptic fantasy.) If conservatism is in some apprehension of the truth about human nature, then the genres of fiction that tend towards a conservative worldview--weird fiction, supernatural fiction, horror, fantasy, historical fiction, romance--will go on easily enough. And if conservatism is right about the liberalism which rages against it, then the more liberal or progressive genres--namely, science fiction--will continue to struggle. You might consider the success or un-success of various genres to be a test of this hypothesis.

One alternative to a struggling science fiction is for there to be conservative version of the genre, a seeming contradiction, but not out of the question. There has been conservative science fiction before, and I imagine there is still some now, as well. Two examples from past and present are the very sub-genres about which I have written here, that is, apocalypse (or post-apocalypse) and dystopia. Both seem to be doing fine, and because the contemporary liberal or progressive in America has broken the mirror in which he might view himself, the latter--stories of dystopia--seem to be flourishing. Never mind that they tend to be descriptions of liberal rather than conservative excess, just as George Santayana implicitly predicted. The liberal or progressive reader likes them just the same and seems blissful to read them in his ignorance.
A picture illustrating the very last strange and mysterious words in the main action of The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket by Edgar Allan Poe (1838). Illustration by the British artist Arthur David McCormick (1860-1943).
 Copyright 2017 Terence E. Hanley

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Earl Pierce, Jr. (1910-1982)

Earl Monroe Pierce, Jr.
Aka Earl Pierce; Earl Peirce, Jr.; Earl Peirce
Born June 7, 1910, San Francisco County, California
Died March 14, 1982, Alameda County, California

Earl Pierce is a fairly common name. Locating him might not be easy, but I think I have the right Earl Pierce for this article. I base this on the fact that the Earl Pierce, Jr., in question here lived, like his collaborator Bruce Bryan (1906-2004), in Washington, D.C., as did Everil Worrell (1893-1969). All wrote for Weird Tales and all apparently knew each other and associated with each other in the nation's capital. Seabury Quinn was also in their group. With that in mind, I'll offer a very brief biography of the Earl Pierce, Jr., I have found with the assumption that he wrote for Weird Tales.

His name was Earl Pierce, Jr. I can say that with almost certainty, as I don't believe Peirce is at all a correct spelling. I wonder now if Pierce misspelled his own name to distance himself in some way from his family or his past. If I have the right Earl, and he was born in San Francisco, then Washington, D.C., is about as far as he could have gone from home while remaining in the United States. That's mere speculation. More likely, the misspelling of his name is a simple typographical error. The Earl Pierce, Jr., I have was Earl Monroe Pierce, Jr., born on June 7, 1910, in San Francisco County, California, to Earl Pierce, Sr., an interior decorator and furniture salesman, and Lizinette (Hoyle) Pierce. Earl Pierce, Jr., had one younger sister as far as I can tell.

In 1920, the Pierce family was in San Francisco. Earl, Jr., presumably graduated from Berkeley High School in 1928. In what would have been his senior year, or shortly after his graduation, he got his name in the papers by having a loud party at his parents' house, complete with wine, women, and song. That was in September 1928. In 1930, Pierce was still living in Berkeley with his family and working as a typist for a railway company. By 1940, he was on the other end of the continent, in Washington, D.C., and employed as the manager of an apartment building. Half of those years, 1935 to 1941, more or less coincided with his career as a fan and author of weird fiction and other popular stories. He had ten stories and three letters in the pulp magazines of the time. Seven of those stories and all of the letters were in Weird Tales. And then he fell silent. In later years, Earl Pierce, Jr., lived in the area of San Francisco and Oakland. He died on March 14, 1982, in Alameda County, California, at age seventy-one. With him died all of the hopes, dreams, and pleasures of his youth. His successes--his ten stories--remain for us to read today where we can find them.

Earl Pierce, Junior's Stories in Weird Fiction Magazines
"Doom of the House of Duryea" in Weird Tales (Oct. 1936)
"The Last Archer" in Weird Tales (Mar. 1937; reprinted in Startling Mystery Stories, Summer 1968)
"The Death Mask" in Weird Tales (Apr. 1937)
"The Homicidal Diary" in Weird Tales (Oct. 1937)
"The White Rat," with Bruce Bryan, in Weird Tales (Sept. 1938) 
"Satan Fills the Morgue" in Strange Detective Mysteries (Nov./Dec. 1938)
"The Stroke of Twelve" in Weird Tales (June/July 1939)
"Portrait of a Bride" in Weird Tales (Jan. 1940)
"Legacy of the Dead" in Terror Tales (July 1940) 
"The Shadow of Nirvana" in Strange Stories (Feb. 1941)

Letters to "The Eyrie"
Nov. 1935
Nov. 1936
July 1937, from Earl Peirce, Jr.

Earl Pierce, Jr., from the Berkeley High School yearbook, 1927.

Text copyright 2017 Terence E. Hanley

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Bruce Bryan (1906-2004)

Leslie Bruce Bryan
Author, Editor, Archaeologist, Anthropologist
Born January 16, 1906, Washington, D.C.
Died September 16, 2004, North Hollywood, California

Dudley S. Corlett's collaborator on the story "The Dancer of Quena" (Oriental Stories, Spring 1932) was another adopted Angeleno, writer, archaeologist, and anthropologist Bruce Bryan. Born Leslie Bruce Bryan on January 16, 1906, he was a native of Washington, D.C. His father was Paul M. Bryan, a government worker. His mother was Ethel (Hughes) Bryan. In 1947, Bruce Bryan earned himself some notoriety by throwing his mother out of their North Hollywood home, on Mother's Day no less. I'm not sure how that all turned out, but Bruce R. Bryan, son of Bruce Bryan, also evicted that day, later died in an automobile accident. You can read about the whole mess on the blog 1947project: The original Los Angeles time travel blog, hereBruce Bryan was first married to Charlotta R. Bryan, maiden name unknown. His second wife was (Mary) Katherine Fahrenwald, whom he wed on November 25, 1936, in Washington, D.C. Bruce R. Bryan, the son, was Charlotta's child, not Katherine's. That might have made the eviction a little easier on the boy, but hardly by much, I imagine.

Despite his successes as a writer, Bruce Bryan was known as an archaeologist and anthropologist. He started in his career as the first staff archaeologist with the County Museum of Natural History, Science, and Art (now the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History) in 1926. In that capacity, he carried out investigations on San Nicolas Island, one of the Channel Islands, in October-December 1926. Soon after that, he went to the Southwest Museum of Los Angeles, where he eventually became archaeological curator. In the 1930 census, he listed his occupation as staff writer for a trade magazine. That may have been for the magazine of the museum, called The Masterkey. Bryan was also editor of that magazine at some point. Further expeditions followed his first, to Carpinteria in about 1930 and to the Dragoon Mountains of southeastern Arizona in 1932. Bryan left the museum to return to Washington, D.C., and to work in public service. He was once again with the Southwest Museum from 1959 until his retirement in 1983. He carried out further archaeological explorations of San Nicolas Island in 1958 and 1960.

Bruce Bryan had a respectable career as a writer for popular magazines and newspapers. He had five stories in Oriental Stories and Weird Tales, plus a dozen letters in those two titles and in Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror and The Magic Carpet Magazine. All were printed in the period 1932 to 1939. Like his collaborator Dudley S. Corlett, Bryan wrote about movies for Art and Archaeology. His article "Movie Realism and Archaeological Fact" was published in that magazine in the October issue of 1924. I have also found a story, "Shakespeare Said It!", in Parade of Youth for June 26, 1938, and mention of an unpublished book called The Archaeology of San Nicolas Island. In 1970, Bryan published a version of his research in the book Archaeological Explorations on San Nicolas Island. Readers of children's literature will remember San Nicolas Island as the setting for Scott O'Dell's wonderfully good novel Island of the Blue Dolphins (1960).

After a very long life and career, L. Bruce Brian died on September 16, 2004, in North Hollywood, California, at age ninety-eight.

Bruce Bryan's Stories in Oriental Stories and Weird Tales
"The Dancer of Quena," with Dudley S. Corlett, in Oriental Stories (Spring, 1932) 
"The Ho-Ho Kam Horror" in Weird Tales (Sept. 1937)
"The White Rat," with Earl Pierce, Jr., in Weird Tales (Sept. 1938) 
"The Sitter in the Mound" in Weird Tales (June/July 1939)
"Return from Death" in Weird Tales (Aug. 1939)

Bruce Bryan's Letters to Weird Fiction Magazines
Oriental Stories, Spring 1932
Oriental Stories, Summer 1932
Oriental Stories, Winter 1932
Weird Tales, Feb. 1932
Weird Tales, Apr. 1932
Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror, Oct. 1932
The Magic Carpet Magazine, Apr. 1933
The Magic Carpet Magazine, Jan. 1934
Weird Tales, Nov. 1936
Weird Tales, Feb. 1937
Weird Tales, July 1937
Weird Tales, Oct. 1937

Further Reading
"History of Archaeological Research," Natural History Museum, here
Obituary of Bruce Bryan, here.

From the Los Angeles Times, October 14, 1969, part II, page 1. In the same crime, the burglars made off with poison darts. That sounds like the beginnings of a weird tale . . . 

Happy Mother's Day to All Moms!
(Including Mrs. Bryan)

Text copyright 2017 Terence E. Hanley

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Dudley S. Corlett (ca. 1880-1946)

Agricultural Expert, Public Speaker, Author, Playwright, Orientalist, Occultist
Born ca. Feb. 1880, Sutton, Surrey, England
Died January 25, 1946, 58 Rue el-Assa, Tangier, Morocco

Dudley Stuart Corlett was baptized on February 15, 1880, at All Saints Church in Benhilton, Sutton, Surrey, England. Presumably, he was born shortly before that, probably in the first half of February 1880. His parents were Stuart N. Corlett and Flora Corlett. His mother's name was fitting, for Dudley S. Corlett became an expert in tropical agriculture and an officer in the operation of botanical gardens in Ceylon and the United States.

Corlett traveled in Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States and served in the oriental service of the British army, attaining in his twenty years of service the rank of captain. He was stationed for a year in Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and knew Emperor Haile Selassie. Corlett also served in India, Egypt, and Sudan. For four years, he was director of the Economic Experiment Station at Peradiniya Botanical Gardens, Ceylon. An article from 1935 observed: "He was in close touch with eastern peoples, their religions, and customs, and made a special study of archaeology and ancient philosophies." (1)

From about 1920 onwards, Dudley S. Corlett lived in the United States, in southern California. There he worked as an author, public speaker, and secretary of the California Botanical Garden Association. He was also on the Board of Governors of that organization with William Randolph Hearst, Douglas Fairbanks, and Mary Pickford, among others. He may have lectured on tropical agriculture at the University of Southern California. He also gave lectures to clubs and other groups on botanical gardens, China, Egypt, Abyssinia (Ethiopia), the Mayan Indians, and so on. Among his other topics was the theory that the lost continent of Atlantis was the birthplace of mankind. A list of Corlett's articles and other works:
  • Experiments in Manuring of Cocoa, Department of Agriculture, Ceylon, Bulletin No. 26, with M. Kelway Bamber (1916)
  • "Notes on the Products of Harer Plateau, Abyssinia: A Report" (1917)
  • "The Charm of Chocolate," Los Angeles Times (Nov. 21, 1920)
  • "The Snare of Sugar," Los Angeles Times (Nov. 28, 1920)
  • "The Tragedy of Rubber," Los Angeles Times (Dec. 12, 1920)
  • "The Stars in Their Courses--A Contrast," Los Angeles Times (Jan. 1, 1922)
  • "The Gardens of Cashmir" Art and Archaeology (Nov./Dec. 1922?)
  • The Magic Art of Egypt (1923)
  • "The Ancient Land of Punt," Travel (Apr. 1923)
  • "The Kohl Pots of Egypt," Vogue (Sept. 1, 1923)
  • "Art on the Screen: or the Film of Tutankhamen," Art and Archaeology (Dec. 1923)
  • Article, Art and Archaeology (Oct. 1924)
  • "The Black Crucifix of Esquipulas," Los Angeles Times (June 28, 1925)
  • "Romance of Botanic Gardens," Los Angeles Times (Mar. 13, 1927)
  • "A Garden in Mandeville Canyon," Los Angeles Times (May 27, 1928)
Dudley S. Corlett was also the author of a play called Amber from about 1926 and one story (with Bruce Bryan) for Oriental Stories, a short-lived companion magazine to Weird Tales. He died of heart failure on January 25, 1946, at 58 Rue el-Assa, Tangier, Morocco.

Dudley S. Corlett's Story in Oriental Stories
"The Dancer of Quena," with Bruce Bryan (Spring 1932)

Further Reading
Numerous articles by and about Corlett are available on the Internet.

Notes
(1) Covina Argus (Calif.), Oct. 18, 1935, p. 6.

Dudley S. Corlett had an article in this issue of Travel, from April 1923 (the month after Weird Tales began). I have shown it here not only for art's sake but also to point out a similarity--namely, the two-color process--between this cover and those of Weird Tales from the same period. It was a cheap way to get color on a magazine cover without breaking your printing budget.


Text copyright 2017 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, May 8, 2017

Ethel Morgan-Dunham (1880-1960)

Née Edna Ethel Morgan
Author, Artist, Teacher, School Principal
Born December 12, 1880, Shreve, Ohio
Died September 14, 1960, Fairhope, Alabama

Edna Ethel Morgan was born on December 12, 1880, the seventh daughter of Hugh Morgan, a farmer, and Sarah (Weiker) Morgan, his wife. Edna graduated high school and continued her education with two years at a college unknown to me. In 1900, calling herself by then Ethel, she lived far from home, in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, at a place called Raceland.

Still in existence, Raceland is an old stagecoach tavern converted to a home for an old Virginia family. Originally called Rice's Tavern and built circa 1750 (more information at this link), Raceland was once owned by William "Racer Billy" Wynn (1784-1853), an owner and breeder of racehorses. There was a racetrack at Raceland (and slave quarters, too). Racer Billy passed the house on to his son, Marshall Ambler Moncure (1841-1900), once of the Ninth Virginia Cavalry, C.S.A. In 1900, when Ethel Morgan was living there, the head of the household was Elizabeth Imogene "Bettie" (Wynn) Moncure, widow of Marshall A. Moncure. Also in the house was Bettie's son, Ambler B. Moncure (1868-1933), and Ambler's wife, Rhoda (Morgan) Moncure (1875-1946), older sister of Ethel Morgan.

Ethel Morgan taught in the public schools of Iowa for many years. In 1910, she was at Stanton, Iowa, and in 1915, at Dunkerton. In 1921, in Cedar Falls, Iowa, she married Leroy A. Dunham (1886-1977), a U.S. Army veteran of World War I (1886-1977). By 1930, the couple were in Elgin, Iowa, where Dunham was a school superintendent and his wife was a school principal. The two shared a birthday, December 12. Upon his death in 1977, Dunham was buried at Biloxi National Cemetery in Mississippi.

The Dunhams moved to Alabama in the early 1930s. In 1935 and 1940, they were at Loxley in Baldwin County, Alabama. Ethel Morgan-Dunham had one poem in Weird Tales, "Magic Carpets," from July 1934. She preceded her husband in death, passing away at age seventy-nine on September 14, 1960. Ethel Dunham was buried at Colony Cemetery in Fairhope, Alabama, a place founded more than half a century before by Iowans.

Ethel Morgan Dunham's Poem in Weird Tales
"Magic Carpets" (July 1934)

Further Reading
There is much to read on Raceland and the Wynn-Moncure families. If you have access to Ancestry.com, you can read a little more on Ethel Morgan-Dunham and see a few images of her or related to her life, including the self-portrait shown below.

Ethel Morgan-Dunham (1880-1960), a self-portrait. Uploaded by a user of Ancestry.com.

Text copyright 2017 Terence E. Hanley

Friday, May 5, 2017

Kirke Mechem (1889-1985)

Baseball Player, Chess Player, Editor, Author, Historian, Poet, Playwright
Born December 20, 1889, Mankato, Kansas
Died June 5, 1985, Santa Clara County, California

Kirke Field Mecham was born on December 20, 1889, in Mankato, Kansas. Before the Great War, he was a stenographer for the Southwestern Journal in Kansas City, Missouri. On October 25, 1917, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served overseas with the 137th Infantry, 35th Division. Mechem's unit arrived on the front lines in France on June 18, 1918. Several months of heavy fighting and heavy casualties followed. After the Armistice of November 11, 1918, Mechem served as editor of The Jayhawker in France, a service paper. He also wrote poems and other pieces for papers back home. He was released from service on May 10, 1919.

Kirke F. Mechem was at various times in his life editor of The Legionnaire, a paper of the Thomas Hopkins Post of the American Legion in Wichita, Kansas; editor of The Price Current, a commercial newspaper; and author of poems published in Harper's Magazine, The Saturday Evening Post, Weird Tales, and newspapers in Kansas and elsewhere. He wrote at least two plays, Who Won the War? (1928) and John Brown (1938), which won the Maxwell Anderson Award. Mechem wrote John Brown while on a thirty-day vacation spent in a Santa Fe railroad caboose on Wakarusa Creek. Living on salmon, potatoes, and coffee, Mechem wrote out his play in longhand while he reclined in a caboose bunk.

From about 1930 to 1951, Kirke Mechem was secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society. He edited Annals of Kansas, publiched in two volumes in 1954 and after. His articles and other publications for the Kansas Historical Society included "The Bull Fight at Dodge" (Kansas Historical Quarterly, Aug. 1933); "The Mythical Jayhawk" (Kansas Historical Quarterly, Feb. 1944); and The Story of Home on the Range (booklet, 1950). Some other credits:
  • "Baulny Hill" (poem, Topeka Daily Capital, 1919)
  • "These Ageless Themes" (poem, Harper’s Magazine, Nov. 1922)
  • "A Bob Ballade" (poem, The Saturday Evening Post, Dec. 6, 1924)
  • "Night Specters" (poem, Weird Tales, July 1932)

Mechem's son, Kirke L. Mechem (b. 1925) is a well-known composer of choral music and other works. The elder Mechem's wife Katherine was a pianist.

Kirke Mechem died on June 5, 1985, in Santa Clara County, California, at age ninety-five.

Kirke Mechem's Poem in Weird Tales
"Night Specters" (July 1932)

Further Reading
Mechem's articles for the Kansas Historical Quarterly, listed above, are available on the Internet.


Text copyright 2017 Terence E. Hanley