A version of this post originally appeared at the Boston Globe blog Brainiac, on 6/16/08.
The 1884-93 cohort (particularly Europeans) came of age in an era of "romantic anti-capitalism" (György Lukács's phrase) infused with cultural modernism, a certain apocalyptic vision, vaguely socialist aspirations, and a new philosophical spirit that stressed the moment of subjective experience. Lukács meant the phrase pejoratively: Though the note of conservative (medievalist, even) skepticism sounded in Carlyle's romantic-anticapitalist Past and Present (1843) may have been a genuine critique of the horrors of early capitalism, he wrote, in the years leading up to WWI, this attitude transformed itself into a quietist longing for a mythical golden age where everyone lived together in harmony and peace.
"Make it new," insisted Lukács's contemporary, Ezra Pound, known as a member of the "Lost Generation." It's true that Pound, T.S. Eliot, Waldo Peirce, and Sylvia Beach, for example, are members of the same generational cohort. But famous Losts like Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Dos Passos, and Malcolm Cowley are in fact members of the Hardboiled generational cohort (1894-1903), while Lost elders Sherwood Anderson and Gertrude Stein are actually Psychonauts (1874-83). Instead of the Lost Generation, then, let's call Americans and Europeans born from 1884-93 the New Kids.
"New," after Pound's modernist dictum, which represented a queer, self-contradictory admixture of reactionary and anarchic impulses. Why "Kids"? Disgusted by the world created by their elders, the New Kids looked to children as exemplars. Randolph Bourne, for example, lamented that the older generation ruled the world, "hence grievous friction, maladjustment, social war." In Europe, Ernst Bloch and Walter Benjamin noted that utopian socialism is nourished by the fairy tales and fantasies of childhood. And of course "dada," one of childhood's first words, became the moniker of a reactionary-anarchistic art movement, whose members were almost entirely New Kids.
Anarchists and reactionaries have little in common except for their illiberalism. Rejecting the myth of Progress, illiberal Modernists left- and right-wing alike preferred to dabble in mythopoeia, the creation of a new mythology based on motifs and characters mined from mythologies. (The term "mythopoeia" was itself coined by a New Kid: J.R.R. Tolkien.) European and American New Kids like Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka, Marc Chagall, Thomas Hart Benton, Milton Avery, Fritz Lang, F. W. Murnau, and Alban Berg, meanwhile, were also busy mining the collective unconscious for the "clear essence" of impressions and mental images, which they expressed in the form of simple short-hand formulae and symbols — hence the term Expressionism.
Is there something hopeful, even utopian in the New Kids' adolescent, backward-and-forward-looking, mythopoetic, romantic-anticapitalist, quasi-Expressionist SF, Horror, and Fantasy? Yes and no. New Kids rejected the Enlightenment project, the myth of Progress... yet an enlightened (non-positivistic, self-critical and ironical, unresolved and non-totalizing, even spiritual) Enlightenment seemed imminent. "[W]e drift unfamiliar to ourselves, immersed in darkness," writes Bloch in The Spirit of Utopia (1918), in a brooding passage that could have been lifted from Tolkien, H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Joseph O'Neill, or Seabury Quinn. "But the thought of [utopia] is at hand, for only we proceed slowly forward, darkly, atomistically, individually, subjectively, within everything moving or amassing, as the unresolved utopian tension constantly undermining everything shaped."
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 writers born 1884-93:
* Clark Ashton Smith (The Uncharted Isle)
* Seabury Quinn (The Phantom Fighter)
* Hugo Gernsback (Ralph 124C41+, editor of Amazing Stories, coined term "science fiction)
* Yevgeny Zamyatin (WE)
* Olaf Stapledon (Last and First Men, Odd John, Star Maker)
* Joseph O'Neill (Land Under England)
* Ray Cummings ("The Girl in the Golden Atom")
* Frigyes Karinthy (Voyage to Faremido, Capillaria)
* Thea von Harbou (Metropolis, The Rocket to the Moon)
* Miriam Allen deFord
* Karel Čapek (The Absolute at Large, Krakatit, R.U.R.)
* H. P. Lovecraft (SF includes At the Mountains of Madness, The Shadow Out of Time, The Whisperer in Darkness)
* E.E. Smith (The Skylark of Space)
* Edward Shanks (The People of the Ruins)
* F. Britten Austin (Battlewrack, By the Aero-Mail, On the Borderland, The War-God Walks Again).
* Otis Adelbert Kline (The Prince of Peril, numerous stories in pulp SF magazines)
* John Ernest Bechdolt (The Torch)
* Alexander Belayev (The Amphibian, The Struggle in Space)
* Eimar O'Duffy (King Goshawk and the Birds, The Spacious Adventures of the Man in the Street, Asses in Clover)
* Pearl S. Buck (Command the Morning, 1959)
* Sinclair Lewis (It Can't Happen Here, 1935)
NB: * A. Merritt (The Face in the Abyss, The Metal Monster, The Moon Pool) is an honorary Psychonaut.
Meet the New Kids.
1884: Harry S. Truman (33rd US President, 1945-53), Eleanor Roosevelt (Activist, First Lady under FDR), Damon Runyon (Journalist, Guys and Dolls), Norman Thomas (leading American socialist, pacifist, and six-time presidential candidate for the Socialist Party of America), Waldo Peirce (American painter), Roger Nash Baldwin (Founder of the American Civil Liberties Union), Sara Teasdale (Poet), Robert J. Flaherty (Film director, Nanook of the North). Elsewhere: Hugo Gernsback (influential SF author and editor, founded Amazing Stories in 1926), Bronislaw Malinowski (Founder of social anthropology), Walter Huston (Actor, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre), Ivy Compton-Burnett (Novelist), Georges Duhamel (Novelist, Civilisation), Theodor Heuss (President of Germany, 1949-59), Hideki Tojo (Prime Minister of Japan 1941-44), Max Beckmann (ex-Expressionist painter associated with Neue Sachlichkeit), Hugh Walpole (best-selling English novelist), Clement Davies (Leader of the UK Liberal Party, 1945-56), John Ernest Bechdolt (American SF writer), Alexander Belayev (Russian SF writer). Honorary Psychonauts: A. Merritt (SF author), Gerald Gardner (Founder of Modern Wicca), Emil Jannings (Actor, The Last Command), Max Brod (Novelist, Kafka's literary executor), Amedeo Modigliani (Cubist Italian sculptor and painter), Marie Vassilieff (Russian Cubist painter, atelier hostess), Jean Piccard (extreme balloonist).
1885: Ezra Pound (American poet, The Cantos), Leadbelly (American musician, "Goodnight Irene"), Sinclair Lewis (American novelist, Arrowsmith and Elmer Gantry), George S. Patton (American military leader), Will Durant (American historian, anarchist?), Ring Lardner (American journalist, Gullible's Travels), Charles Merrill (Founder of Merrill Lynch), Milton Avery (American modern painter), Theda Bara (American actress), Wallace Beery (American actor), Harry Blackstone (American magician), Jerome Kern (American composer), Edna Ferber (American novelist, Show Boat and Giant), Gabby Hayes (American actor, perennial sidekick), Billie Burke (American actress), Louis Untermeyer (American poet, anthologist). Elsewhere: D.H. Lawrence (British novelist, Lady Chatterley's Lover), Erich von Stroheim (Austrian actor, director), Emmy Hennings (German Dadaist performer and poet), Louis B. Mayer (Belarussian-American film and TV producer, the final "M" in MGM), György Lukács (Hungarian Marxist philosopher and literary critic, founder of Western Marxism), Ernst Bloch (German Marxist philosopher, utopian theorist), Alban Berg (Viennese composer), François Mauriac (French novelist), Allan Dwan (Canadian film director), Lionel Atwill (English actor), Niels Bohr (Danish physicist, Father of Quantum Theory), St. John Philby (British spy, Arabist), F. Britten Austin (minor SF writer, paranoid future-war novels).
1886: Van Wyck Brooks, Randolph Bourne, Ma Rainey, H.D., Aldo Leopold, Ed Wynn, Margaret Anderson, Willis O'Brien, Clarence Birdseye, Ty Cobb, Henry King, Edward Everett Horton, Joyce Kilmer, Alain Locke, Fred Quimby, Charles Ruggles, Rex Stout, Edward Weston, Nell Brinkley. Elsewhere: Hugo Ball, Martin Heidegger, Al Jolson, Raoul Hausmann, Olaf Stapledon, Karl Korsch, Oskar Kokoschka, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Jean/Hans Arp, Karl Barth, Paul Tillich, Diego Rivera, David Ben-Gurion, Michael Curtiz, Karl von Frisch, Frank Lloyd, Hugh Lofting, George Mallory, Kay Nielsen, Siegfried Sassoon, Charles Williams.
1887: John Reed, Sylvia Beach, Raoul Walsh, Robinson Jeffers, Chico Marx, Alexander Woollcott, Marianne Moore, Georgia O'Keeffe, Floyd Dell, George Abbott, Fatty Arbuckle, Ruth Benedict, Walter Connolly, Jim Thorpe, Jack Conway, John Cromwell, Norman Foerster, William Frawley, Conrad Hilton, Alvin York. Elsewhere: Marcel Duchamp, Juan Gris, Kurt Schwitters, Marc Chagall, Le Corbusier, Marcus Garvey, Arthur Cravan, Rupert Brooke, James Finlayson, Julian Huxley, Chiang Kai-Shek, Boris Karloff, Paul Lukas, Erwin Schrödinger, Edith Sitwell, Blaise Cendrars, Bernard Montgomery, Ernst Roehm.
1888: T.S. Eliot, Irving Berlin, Raymond Chandler, Eugene O'Neill, Harpo Marx, Maxwell Anderson, Beulah Bondi, Anita Loos, John Foster Dulles, Heywood Broun, Richard E. Byrd, Dale Carnegie, S.S. Van Dine, Joseph P. Kennedy, Robert Moses, Franklin Pangborn, John Crowe Ransom, Tris Speaker, Edgar Church. Elsewhere: Josef Albers, F.W. Murnau, Katherine Mansfield, Vicki Baum, Georges Bernanos, Nikolai Bukharin, Joyce Cary, Maurice Chevalier, Giorgio de Chirico, Barry Fitzgerald, T. E. Lawrence, Fernando Pessoa, Knute Rockne, Ernst Heinkel, Nestor Makhno (Ukrainian anarcho-communist guerrilla leader).
1889: Walter Lippmann, Thomas Hart Benton, Conrad Aiken, Seabury Quinn, Robert Benchley, George S. Kaufman, Ray Collins, W. S. Van Dyke, Waldo Frank, Erle Stanley Gardner, Alfred E. Green, Lambert Hillyer, Edwin Hubble, Shoeless Joe Jackson, William Keighley, Robert Z. Leonard, Donald MacBride, DeWitt and Lila Wallace. Elsewhere: Adolf Hitler, Charlie Chaplin, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Hannah Höch, Jean Cocteau, Arnold Toynbee, James Whale, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Anna Akhmatova, R. G. Collingwood, Carl Theodor Dreyer, Gabriel Marcel, John Middleton Murry, Claude Rains.
1890: Dwight D. Eisenhower, Man Ray, H. P. Lovecraft, Groucho Marx, Frank Morgan, E. E. "Doc" Smith, Marc Connelly, Robert Armstrong, Edward Arnold, Robert L. Ripley, Clarence Brown, Jelly Roll Morton, Katherine Anne Porter, Frederick Lewis Allen, Edwin H. Armstrong, Birdman of Alcatraz, Conrad Richter, Eddie Rickenbacker, Colonel Sanders. Elsewhere: Fritz Lang, Charles de Gaulle, Ossip Zadkine, Egon Schiele, Ho Chi Minh, Karel Capek, Agatha Christie, Stan Laurel, Michael Collins, Naum Gabo, Vyacheslav Molotov, Aimee Semple McPherson, Claude McKay, Adolphe Menjou, Boris Pasternak, Jean Rhys.
1891: Henry Miller, Cole Porter, Fanny Brice, Leo Burnett, W. Averell Harriman, George E. Marshall, Archie Mayo, Irving Pichel, Carl Stalling, Arthur Hays Sulzberger, Earl Warren. Elsewhere: Antonio Gramsci, Max Ernst, David Sarnoff, Otto Dix, Rudolf Carnap, Edward Bernays, Mikhail Bulgakov (Russian dramatist, author), Ronald Colman, Reginald Denny, Edmund Goulding, Pär Lagerkvist, Gene Lockhart, Osip Mandelshtam, Sergei Prokofiev, Erwin Rommel, Herbert Asbury (Novelist, The Gangs of New York), Otis Adelbert Kline (SF writer).
1892: Harold W. Ross, Grant Wood, James M. Cain, Janet Flanner, Maxwell Bodenheim, Oliver Hardy, Gummo Marx, Archibald Macleish, Charles Atlas, Djuna Barnes, William Powell, William Beaudine, Charles Brackett, Joe E. Brown, Pearl S. Buck, Eddie Cantor, William Demarest, Alfred A. Knopf, Gregory La Cava, Alfred Lunt, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Reinhold Niebuhr, Mary Pickford, Hal Roach, Frank Tuttle, Wendell Willkie. Elsewhere: Walter Benjamin, Ernst Lubitsch, Richard Huelsenbeck, J.R.R. Tolkien, Leo G. Carroll, J. Paul Getty Sr., Erwin Panofsky, Basil Rathbone, Haile Selassie, Manfred von Richthofen, Jack L. Warner, Rebecca West.
1893: Dorothy Parker, Lillian Gish, Anita Loos, William Moulton Marston, Helen Hokinson, Beatrice Wood, Clark Ashton Smith, Dean Acheson, Russel Crouse, Donald Davidson, Allen W. Dulles, Jimmy Durante, Edsel Ford, Harold Lloyd, Huey Long, John P. Marquand, Hattie McDaniel, Karl Menninger, Mae West. Elsewhere: George Grosz, Hermann Goering, I. A. Richards, Chaim Soutine, Dorothy L. Sayers, Leslie Howard, Victor Gollancz, Alexander Korda, Karl Mannheim, Mao Zedong, Eimar O'Duffy (Irish satirist, author). Honorary Hardboileds: Anita Loos, Edward G. Robinson, Charles S. Johnson, Walter Francis White, Joan Miró.
HONORARY MEMBERS OF THE NEW KIDS GENERATION: Walter Gropius, Lon Chaney Sr., William Carlos Williams, Benito Mussolini (all born 1883); Ben Hecht, Donald Ogden Stewart, James Thurber, Rudolf Hess (all born 1894).
MEMBERS OF THE NEW KIDS COHORT WHO ARE HONORARY HARDBOILEDS: Anita Loos, Edward G. Robinson, Charles S. Johnson, Walter Francis White, Joan Miró (all born 1893), plus Zora Neale Hurston (1891, but claimed she was born in 1901, so I think it's OK).
MEMBERS OF THE NEW KIDS COHORT WHO ARE HONORARY PSYCHONAUTS: A. Merritt, Gerald Gardner, Emil Jannings, Max Brod, Amedeo Modigliani, Marie Vassilieff, Jean Piccard (all born 1884).