A version of this post originally appeared at the Boston Globe blog Brainiac, on 5/27/08.
Gertrude Stein (b. 1874) referred to those American litterateurs — Ernest Hemingway (b. 1899), F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896), Ezra Pound (1885), T.S. Eliot (1888), Sherwood Anderson (1876), Waldo Peirce (1884), Sylvia Beach (1887), and herself — who lived in Paris between the end of World War I and the beginning of the Depression as the Lost Generation. But let's face it, out of that group, only Hemingway and Fitzgerald, plus fellow expats John Dos Passos (1896) and Malcolm Cowley (1898), belonged to the cohort of Americans who came of age during and shortly after World War I. Born between 1894 and 1903, these Americans were in their teens and 20s in the Teens (1914-23; not to be confused with the 1910s), and in their 20s and 30s in the Twenties (1924-33). There is no Lost Generation. Let's call 'em the Hardboileds, instead.
Fitzgerald described his contemporaries as "grown up to find all gods dead, all wars fought, all faiths in man [i.e., ideologies] shaken." Europeans born between 1894 and 1903 felt the same way: They modified Marxist ideology and gave us Western Marxism (Bertolt Brecht, the Frankfurt School) and Surrealism (Bataille, Breton, Aragon, Soupault, Éluard, Crevel, Desnos, Vitrac, Leiris, Artaud, Queneau, Tanguy, Buñuel, Masson, Magritte). Raymond Chandler, a member of an older cohort who didn't start writing fiction until he was in his 40s, and who therefore was afforded a certain amount of perspective on his juniors, explained that hardboiled fictions were a response to the postwar American world: "Their characters lived in a world gone wrong, a world in which, long before the atom bomb, civilization had created the machinery for its own destruction and was learning to use it with all the moronic delight of a gangster trying out his first machine-gun. The law was something to be manipulated for profit and power. The streets were dark with something more than night."
In the hardboiled fiction of the Twenties and Thirties, according to one critic, an "anxious sense of fatality is usually attached to a pessimistic conviction that economic and socio-political circumstances will deprive people of control over their lives by destroying their hopes and by creating in them the weaknesses of character that turn them into transgressors or mark them out as victims." This characterization allows us to perceive that other literature of the period — not just genre novels — is hardboiled, too: John Dos Passos' The 42nd Parallel, William Faulkner's Sanctuary, Erskine Caldwell's Tobacco Road, Nathanael West's Miss Lonelyhearts, John Steinbeck's Tortilla Flat, Ernest Hemingway's To Have and Have Not. T.W. Adorno, who may or may not actually be a Partisan, wrote his terse masterpiece, Minima Moralia, while living in hardboiled LA — and it shows.
In many of the most important Radium-Age SF novels and stories written by Hardboileds, all gods are dead, all wars fought, all faiths in man shaken.
I've identified the following 19th- and 20th-century European and American generational cohorts, each of which gave us important Radium-Age SF authors: Prometheans (1844-53) | Plutonians (1854-63) | Anarcho-Symbolists (1864-73) | Psychonauts (1874-83) | New Kids (1884-93) | Hardboileds (1894-1903) | Partisans (1904-13). I've also reinvented more recent generational cohorts: New Gods (1914-23) | Postmoderns (1924-33) | Anti-Anti-Utopians (1934-43) | Baby Boomers (1944-53) | OGXers (Original Generation X) (1954-63) | PCers (1964-73) | Netters (1974-83) | Millennials (1984-93)
Science Fiction authors of this generation include:
* Aldous Huxley (Brave New World)
* Charlotte Haldane (Man's World)
* J. B. Priestley (Adam in Moonshine)
* F. Scott Fitzgerald ("The Diamond as Big as the Ritz")
* Murray Leinster ("The Runaway Skycraper," the Preston-Hines series)
* Robert M. Coates (The Eater of Darkness)
* Laurence Manning"Man Who Awoke" series, "Stranger Club" series)
* Philip Gordon Wylie (Gladiator, The Murderer Invisible; with Edwin Balmer: When Worlds Collide, After Worlds Collide)
Honorary member of the Hardboileds: Edmond Hamilton (Across Space, The Metal Giants)
GOLDEN-AGE SF AUTHORS
* John Wyndham (The Day of the Triffids, The Kraken Wakes, The Chrysalids, The Midwich Cuckoos)
* Jorge Luis Borges (Ficciones, Labyrinths)
Meet the Hardboileds.
1894: Dashiell Hammett, E. E. Cummings, Harold L. Davis, Jack Benny, Donald Deskey, Jean Toomer, Norman Rockwell, Mark Van Doren, Walter Brennan, Isham Jones, Moms Mabley, Bessie Smith, Martha Graham, Paul Green, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Fred Allen, Stuart Davis, Harold Gray, E.C. Segar, James P. Johnson, Norbert Wiener, John Howard Lawson, Philip K. Wrigley. Elsewhere: Aldous Huxley, Meher Baba, Nikita Khrushchev, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, King Edward VIII, Isaac Babel, Joseph Roth, J. B. Priestley, Jean Renoir, Friedrich Pollock. Honorary New Kids: Ben Hecht, Donald Ogden Stewart, James Thurber, Rudolf Hess.
1895: John Ford, Edmund Wilson, Buckminster Fuller, Buster Keaton, Gracie Allen, Bud Abbott, J. Edgar Hoover, Lewis Mumford, Robert Hillyer, George Schuyler, Machine Gun Kelly, Babe Ruth, Michael Arlen, Robert Hillyer, Shemp Howard, Milt Gross, Dorothea Lange, Busby Berkeley. Elsewhere: Max Horkheimer, Paul Éluard, Gala Dalí, Ernst Jünger, F.R. Leavis, Robert Graves, Mikhail Bakhtin, Jiddu Krishnamurti, Rudolph Valentino, László Moholy-Nagy.
1896: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Howard Hawks, George Burns, John Dos Passos, Louis Bromfield, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Ira Gershwin, Robert E. Sherwood, Blind Gary Davis, Ethel Waters, Mamie Eisenhower, Jimmy Doolittle, Irwin Edman, Raoul Whitfield. Elsewhere: André Breton, Antonin Artaud, André Masson, Martin Niemoller, Wallis Simpson, Jean Piaget, Raymond Massey, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Oswald Mosley, Raymond Postgate.
1897: William Faulkner, Kenneth Burke, Bernard De Voto, Fletcher Henderson, Sidney Bechet, Rudolph Fisher, Frank Capra, Louise Bogan, Gene Tunney, Marion Davies, Thornton Wilder, Louis Lepke, Walter Winchell, Moe Howard, Amelia Earhart, Horace McCoy, Fletcher Henderson. Elsewhere: Lucky Luciano, Louis Aragon, Philippe Soupault, Georges Bataille, Joseph Goebbels, Anthony Eden, Wilhelm Reich, Douglas Sirk, Walter Pidgeon, Pope Paul VI, Vito Genovese, Eric Knight (Richard Hallas).
1898: Preston Sturges, Malcolm Cowley, Paul Robeson, George Gershwin, Stephen Vincent Benét, Lil Hardin Armstrong, Eric D. Walrond, Aaron Douglas, George Jessel, Armand Hammer, Scott O'Dell, Norman Vincent Peale, Thomas Boyd, Horace Gregory, Berenice Abbott, Alexander Calder, Peggy Guggenheim. Elsewhere: Herbert Marcuse, C.S. Lewis, René Magritte, Erich Maria Remarque, Bertolt Brecht, Hanns Eisler, Lotte Lenya, Golda Meir, Kenji Mizoguchi, Sergei Eisenstein, Alvar Aalto, Tamara de Lempicka, M. C. Escher, Henry Moore.
1899: Duke Ellington, E. B. White, Humphrey Bogart, Al Capone, Hart Crane, James Cagney, Ernest Hemingway, W.R. Burnett, Fred Astaire, Thomas A. Dorsey, Hoagy Carmichael, Allen Tate, Irving Thalberg, George Cukor, Léonie Adams, Vera Caspary, Gloria Swanson, Walter Lantz, Juan Trippe, Doc Barker, Norman Taurog, Louis Adamic. Elsewhere: Alfred Hitchcock, Vladimir Nabokov, Jorge Luis Borges, Leo Strauss, Weegee, Charles Boyer, Roger Vitrac, Erich Kastner, Charles Laughton, Noel Coward, Federico Garcia Lorca, Nevil Shute, Ramon Novarro, F.A. Hayek, Brassai, Jean de Brunhoff, Elizabeth Bowen, C.S. Forester, Bruno Hauptmann.
1900: Chester Gould, Adlai Stevenson, Spencer Tracy, Yvor Winters, Charlie Green, Don Redman, Thomas Wolfe, Aaron Copland, Stephen Bechtel, Natalie Schafer, Taylor Caldwell, Margaret Mitchell, Jean Arthur, Norman Foster, Lefty Grove, Mervyn LeRoy, Agnes Moorehead. Elsewhere: Kurt Weill, Luis Buñuel, Helene Weigel, Erich Fromm, René Crevel, Robert Desnos, Hans-Georg Gadamer. Yves Tanguy, Leo Löwenthal, Franz Leopold Neumann, Ignazio Silone, Jacques Prévert, Wolfgang Pauli, Martin Bormann, Ignazio Silone, Antoine de Saint Exupéry, Gilbert Ryle, Heinrich Himmler, Rudolf Hoess, Xavier Cugat, Adi Dassler, James Hilton, Geoffrey Household, Richard Hughes, Jean Negulesco, Nathalie Sarraute, Robert Siodmak, Charles Vidor.
1901: Walt Disney, Louis Armstrong, Zeppo Marx, Ed Sullivan, Gary Cooper, Clark Gable, Sterling Allen Brown, Carl Barks, Ed Begley Sr., Whittaker Chambers, A.B. Guthrie, Bebe Daniels, Brian Donlevy, Melvyn Douglas, Allen B. DuMont, Nelson Eddy, George Gallup, John Gunther, Granville Hicks, Ub Iwerks, Allyn Joslyn, Harry Partch, Linus Pauling, Rudy Vallee, Chic Young. Elsewhere: Robert Bresson, Marlene Dietrich, Jacques Lacan, Michel Leiris, Henri Lefebvre, André Malraux, Enrico Fermi, Fulgencio Batista, Maurice Evans, Alberto Giacometti, Werner Heisenberg, Emperor Hirohito, Louis Kahn, Lee Strasberg.
1902: John Steinbeck, Langston Hughes, Eric Hoffer, Ogden Nash, Tallulah Bankhead, Ray Kroc, Sidney Hook, Wallace Thurman, Gwendolyn B. Bennett, Arna Bontemps, Christina Stead, Wolcott Gibbs, Thomas Nast, Ansel Adams, Kenneth Fearing, Mortimer J. Adler, George Carol Sims (Paul Cain), Henry Steele Commager, Richard J. Daley, Stepin Fetchit, Larry Fine, Strom Thurmond, Margaret Hamilton, Corliss Lamont, Max Lerner, Charles Lindbergh, F. O. Matthiessen, Talcott Parsons, Richard Rodgers, David O. Selznick, Jessamyn West, Darryl F. Zanuck. Elsewhere: Karl Popper, Meyer Lansky, Anthony Asquith, Joe Adonis, Carlo Gambino, Albert Anastasia, Erik Erikson, John Houseman, Victor Jory, Ayatollah Khomeini, Max Ophüls, Oskar Morgenstern, Emeric Pressburger, Ralph Richardson, Leni Riefenstahl, Norma Shearer, Christina Stead, Alfred Tarski, William Wyler.
1903: Bing Crosby, Nathanael West, Eliot Ness, Rachel Carson, Walker Evans, Bob Hope, Countee Cullen, Roy Acuff, John Dillinger, Bix Beiderbecke, Arnold Gingrich, Erskine Caldwell, Vincente Minnelli, James Beard, Kay Boyle, Dorothy Dodds Baker, Arthur Godfrey, Edgar Bergen, Chill Wills, Ward Bond, Al Hirschfeld, Joseph Cornell, James Gould Cozzens, Lou Gehrig, Curly Howard, Estes Kefauver, Clare Boothe Luce, Anne Revere, Dr. Spock, James Michener. Elsewhere: Claudette Colbert, Evelyn Waugh, Hans Jonas, Mark Rothko, Herbert Spencer, Bruno Bettelheim, Kenneth Clark, Raymond Queneau, Victor Gruen, Malcolm Muggeridge, George Coulouris, Tor Johnson, Louis Leakey, Anaïs Nin, Alan Paton, Georges Simenon, John Beynon Harris (John Wyndham). Honorary Partisans: Cornell Woolrich, George Orwell, John Dillinger, Mark Rothko, maybe T.W. Adorno and Cyril Connolly (all 1903).
HONORARY HARDBOILEDS: Anita Loos, Edward G. Robinson, Charles S. Johnson, Walter Francis White, Joan Miró (all born in 1893), plus Zora Neale Hurston (1891; claimed she was born in 1901). Also: James T. Farrell, Graham Greene, Frank Gruber, Joan Crawford, Peter Lorre, Salvador Dali, Edmond Hamilton (all born in 1904).
HARDBOILEDS WHO ARE HONORARY PARTISANS: Cornell Woolrich, George Orwell, John Dillinger, Mark Rothko, maybe T.W. Adorno and Cyril Connolly (all 1903).
HARDBOILEDS WHO ARE HONORARY NEW KIDS: Ben Hecht, Donald Ogden Stewart, James Thurber, Rudolf Hess. (All 1894.)