A Quartet of Birthdays

Today, November 24, marks the birth of four individuals who had an impact on the field.  They are, in the order of their births, T. O’Connor Sloane, E. R. Eddison, Evangeline Walton, and Forrest J. Ackerman.

Of the four listed in the above paragraph, Sloane (1851-1940) is almost certainly the most unfamiliar to modern readers.  The reason for that is because he was an editor, not a writer.  Sloane’s involvement in the science fiction field began as an assistant editor at Amazing Stories under Hugo Gernsback.

Sloane had a Ph. D. in electrical engineering and for a time was the editor of Scientific American.  His son married Thomas Edison’s daughter.  Sloane became the editor of Amazing Stories in 1929.  He held the position until 1938, when Ziff-Davis moved the magazine to Chicago from New York and replaced Sloane with Ray Palmer.  This would prove to not be a good move, although sales went up when Palmer began publishing Richard Shaver’s tripe.

Sloane published the first stories of Jack Williamson, John W. Campbell, Jr., Clifford Simak, and E. E. “Doc” Smith.  Not too shabby a track record.

Next up is Eric Rucker Eddison (1882-1945).  Eddison is still remembered today, although he is not widely known outside of fans of classic fantasy.  Eddison is best known for his novel The Worm Ouroboros.  I read this one decades years ago when I was  in college.  It’s definitely due a reread.  Eddison also wrote what has come to be called The Zimiamvian Trilogy, although it was not intended to be a trilogy.  It was a work left uncompleted at Eddison’s death.  The volumes include Mistress of Mistresses, A Fish Dinner in Memison, and The Mezentian Gate (unfinished).  Eddison’s work was respected by both J. R. R. Tolkein and C. S. Lewis.

Evangeline Walton (1907-1996) is best known today as the author of the Mabinogian Tetralogy.  The first book, The Island of the Mighty, was published in 1936 under the title The Virgin and the Swine.  It sold poorly, and the other titles weren’t published until the 1970s.  Lin Carter brought out the first volume for the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, and the other volumes soon followed.  They are The Children of Llyr, The Song of Rhiannon, and Prince of Annwn.

Walton’s other works include Witch House and The Sword is Forged.  The latter is the first volume of a trilogy featuring Theseus.  The other two volumes are complete but remain unpublished.  There are several unpublished novels in her papers, and it would be nice if the executors of her estate would bring them out.

Forrest J. Ackerman (1916-2008) rounds out the four birthdays we’re recognizing today.  Ackerman has been many things in the field: fan, literary agent, anthologist, and publisher of Famous Monsters of Filmland.  He even collaborated on a Northwest Smith story with C. L. Moore.  (“Nymph of Darkness”; I intend to review it at some point as part of my posts on Northwest Smith.)

It’s primarily as an anthologist that I’m familiar with Ackerman’s work.  While I’ve picked up a copy of FMF, I’ve never been a regular reader.  Ackerman had an encyclopedic knowledge of the field, especially the early days before WWII.  When I read one of his anthologies, I knew I would find some lost treasure he had rediscovered.  And while the writing in those stories might not have met the highest literary standards, they would be entertaining.

You can find works by these authors online in electronic editions, so if you need a break from Black Friday, there is plenty of relaxing reading to choose from.

2 thoughts on “A Quartet of Birthdays

  1. deuce

    Lovecraft and Leiber were also big Eddison fans. Eddison himself was a huge Haggard fan. I tried to get into “Worm” in my early 20s and only made it a few chapters. I tried again a couple years ago and loved it for what it was. There is no other novel like it. You forgot STYRBIORN THE STRONG, by the way.

    I’ve really come to love Evangeline Walton’s work over the years. I read an interview once where she made it pretty clear that the Ballantines kind of stymied her career because she refused to write an LotR clone for them. They went out and found Terry Brooks.


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